Archive for February 19, 2011
Quad City Federation of Labor Supports Wisconsin Workers
Open Letter to the Quad City Times
We the Officers and Executive Board of the Quad City Federation of Labor stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin who are fighting to preserve their basic rights as workers.
As Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts, so let us be clear about the facts. Wisconsin Governor Walker’s move to eviscerate public sector unions is politically not economically motivated. Wisconsin’s own fiscal bureau reported on January 31st that the state would have finished the fiscal year on June 30 with a $56 million surplus (http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/Misc/2011_01_31Vos&Darling.pdf).
Wisconsin’s current budget crisis was manufactured and is a direct result of tax cuts pushed through in Gov. Walker's first days in office. Prior to the new round of tax cuts 2/3 of Wisconsin corporations did not pay any taxes. Last month, Governor Walker passed additional $117 million in corporate tax breaks. This tax vacation was not extended to working families who, more and more, are having to foot the bill for corporate welfare.
Governor Walker would have you believe that generous union pensions somehow are bankrupting the state. But the facts are that the average union pension is $24,000 a year, and the state’s pension system is in excellent fiscal health and over 97% funded according to the Center of Retirement Research, a non-partisan think tank.
Wisconsin’s public servants earn less than what their counterparts in the private sector earn, but when they negotiate wages, they are willing to earn less in order to preserve their pensions so they may retire with dignity. In the case of firefighters, this ability to retire is a public safety issue as well. Who wants to risk having 60 year olds climbing ladders to put out fires?
Wisconsin unions have stepped up in this fiscal crisis and have taken furlough days and accepted other wage concessions in order to balance the state’s budget. They are willing to continue to do what is necessary to maintain the fiscal health of the great state of Wisconsin – but at the bargaining table where they have successfully negotiated for decades.
But instead of negotiating in good faith, Governor Walker notified the unions last Friday that he would dissolve their current contracts and remove their right to collectively bargain. Governor Walker then tried to ram through legislation in a matter of days, without allowing the people of the state to understand the implications and debate its wisdom. Imagine if instead Governor Walker told all business owners and corporations that he was dissolving all state contracts and increasing their taxes 300% overnight?
We keep hearing from politicians and pundits that in this fiscal crisis we all must learn to live in our means and that everything is on the table. But we must ask, if everything is on the table, why are they only chomping at policies that reduce worker wages and benefits? Last year saw record profits in corporate wealth and stock market gains, but instead of dipping their forks in some of that fat, the working people of this country are being told they have to tighten their belts more and more.
Enough is enough. We salute our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin, and Ohio and other states pushing radical agendas that hurt working people. And we call on our local politicians and the good people of the Quad Cities to stand with them.
Jerry Messer, UFCW 431, President
Dino Leone, AFSCME, Illinois Vice President
Tom Moritz, UFCW 431, Iowa Vice President
Jackie McClintock, AFSCME, Financial Secretary
John White, IBEW, Recording Secretary
Erma Wiszmann, CWA
Rene Dinneweth, Machinists
Marshall Douglas, Operating Engineers
Walt Knapper, SEIU
Chris Brase, IAFF
Randy Donnelly, AFGE
Ernie Hill, IAFF
Skip McGill, USW
Rory Washburn, Tri-City Building Trades
Scott Verschoore, IBEW
Bonnie Carey, USW
Mike Wilcher, Ironworkers
Brad Long, Laborers
Mark Myers, Painters
Sergeant of Arms:
Gene Rome, Painters
State Capitol News – Weekend Recap
State Capitol News – Weekend Recap
by Paul Deaton
Note: Following is a weekly recap of stories from Des Moines that
came through the Weekend Editor's in-box in the sixth week of the
legislative session. Check out the House Democrats page for a
different take on the week here.
Senate Democrats are here.
Watch for this feature every Saturday while the legislature is in
Tobacco Lobby Hard at Work
When asked what is the difference between the tobacco companies and other multinational corporations on Wednesday, Dr. Christopher Squier, an oral pathologist at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, answered that there is no difference, except that their product and methods are immoral. Squier, an outspoken advocate for tobacco use cessation, indicated that members of the current House Majority accepted $450,000 in contributions from tobacco interests during the 2010 midterm elections. First you are hearing about it? The money was laundered through third party organizations as the tobacco interests prefer to hide in the shadows. While their money and influence can be expected this session, their physical presence will likely not be found on the capitol grounds. In the target zone this session are programs that benefit Iowans like Just Eliminate Lies (JEL) and Quitline Iowa. In the meanwhile, partly through the efforts of Squier and the coalition he helped build, the percentage of smokers in the state has dropped from 18% to 14% during the last 6 years.
Governor Branstad Announces Preschool Plan, Dems Counter
On Valentine's Day, Governor. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds joined Education Director Jason Glass to unveil their preschool proposal. House Democrats were prompt to point out that the governor's plan reduces preschool quality, eliminating a requirement that preschool be taught by a certified teacher. Branstad's voucher plan will also serve to restrict access to preschool and end existing partnerships with private, local preschool providers in some communities. House Democrats made an alternative proposal and were voted down in a straight party line vote.
HF 153 to Legislate Culture of Life Percolates in Subcommittee
During his appearance on Iowa Press last week, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen responded to a question from Radio Iowa's Kay Henderson, “…you have some key legislators who are among your fellow House republicans who…want to ban all abortions. How are you being the moderator of this internal discussion?” Paulsen said, “Right now we're letting it percolate.” What percolated up on YouTube was a video of a subcommittee meeting on HF 153 in which Representative Kim Pearson (R-42) and Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-45) engaged in a colloquy over the purpose of the bill. Said Pearson, “The purpose of the bill is to turn our culture away from that of death to life.” Representative Pearson has had this opportunity to assert her position that abortion is murder and according to the legislature web site, the bill remains in the Human Resources subcommittee where Representatives Heaton (R-91) and Pearson are expected to vote for and Wessel-Kroeschell against, referring HF 153 to the full committee. House Democrats are calling for a public hearing on the matter. Read Des Moines Register coverage of the subcommittee here.
Senate Debates HF 45 and Amends
In a debate that stretched out for most of Thursday's session, the Iowa Senate debated about 20 amendments to HF 45, The Taxpayers First Act, and passed the amended legislation 48-1. HF 45 was messaged to the House of Representatives where Speaker Paulsen will get another at-bat to see if he and his caucus are ready to focus on governing, something that has been missing in that body during the first 6 weeks of the session. For the legislative addicts, read more in the Senate Journal for Thursday here.
First Funnel March 4
The Senate and House have two weeks to advance bills out of committee for consideration by the bodies according to Joint Rule 20. For your information, April 29th is scheduled to be the last day legislators are paid per diem, and therefore likely to be the last day of the session. Governor Branstad has discussed calling a special session to work on education issues this summer.
Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend
editor of Blog for Iowa. E-mail