Today's Fair Shots - Oct. 10th, 2017
1-Dally Willis's Three Rules of Lobbying: Be Nice, Be Nice and Be Nice
2-EPI: Tax Cuts for Wealthy Aren't Needed and Don't Enter Economy Readily
3-Coastal Bend CLC Joins in Wage Theft Protest
4-White House Announces Atrocious Terms for DREAMer Deal
1) D.L. "Dally" Willis, a member of the Texas Labor Hall of Fame who showed generations of labor lobbyists how to win friends at the Texas Legislature, died over the weekend at the age of 97.
A long-time member of the Texas AFL-CIO Executive Board and President of the Permian Basin Central Labor Council, Willis had been in a nursing home for years and finally entered hospice care, but his mind remained strong. He attended the 2017 Labor Day picnic in Odessa. He had been integral in organizing that annual event 60 years earlier. No Labor Day celebration in Texas has received more consistent or deeper news coverage than the one held each year in Odessa.
Brother Willis's labor career began with the origins of the Texas AFL-CIO in the late 1950s. A contemporary of legendary Texas AFL-CIO President Hank Brown, he was for decades the friendly face of the United Labor Legislative Committee (ULLCO), lobbying for the Communications Workers of America and the state labor federationand becoming an institution at the Capitol.
The density of the labor movement in the Permian Basin doesn't quite reach the level of popcorn, but for more than 50 years, Willis made sure the Central Labor Council popped loudly. Willis chartered the organization in 1961. The Permian Basin CLC has punched above its weight and continues to do so to this day in large part because Willis gave the organization his heart and soul on a daily basis while preparing multiple generations for leadership.
I saw Willis for the first time in 1984 on my initial day covering my first legislative session for the San Antonio Light. It was the start of a special session that led to House Bill 72, a major education reform bill, and the first time I ever walked into the House as anything but a tourist. I have never forgotten that while I was still trying to match the names of the San Antonio delegation to the people inside, Willis called me out by name to say hello. I thought at first he was an amazingly well-briefed doorway greeter for the House, because he was there every day wishing lawmakers and reporters well on a first-name basis. I learned before long that Willis was the official eyes and ears for ULLCO. Years later, when the television feed for the Texas House became widely available, union members across the Capitol complex took note that the camera in the rear balcony confirmed Willis was practically always in the same seat watching House proceedings after an hour or so of greeting entrants. His reports to ULLCO on what had transpired in the House had an eye for both legislative and political detail.
Willis was also often in House offices, at virtually every labor action related to the Legislature and, on at least a few occasions, in the Cloak Room to wind down. A plain-spoken labor advocate, the word "ubiquitous" may have been invented to describe Willis, but he never would have used it. Willis was also part of a special Texas tradition that holds that a handshake is worth more in sealing a deal than any piece of paper could be; he lived by his word and he expected others to do so as well.
Because the Texas Legislature formally works a part-time schedule, Willis also found time to go to Washington, D.C., and help CWA and the AFL-CIO lobby Congress.
Willis punctuated his friendliness toward lawmakers by recognizing special occasions. On Valentine's Day, if you were walking into the Texas House, you got a cloth heart sticker. He gave out shamrock stickers on St. Patrick's Day, bunnies ahead of Easter and bluebonnets when the wildflowers bloomed.
"Dally Willis lived union solidarity every day of his life," Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy said. "Dally taught us that no matter how right you may be or think you may be on a legislative issue, the human ingredients often make all the difference in the outcome."
Willis was a yellow-dog Democrat (and delegate to the 2000 Democratic National Convention), but he lobbied on a bipartisan basis. The goodwill he generated proved valuable again and again to labor's program. Willis was honored on several occasions by the House, and was recognized more than once by Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, during and after Craddick's speakership.
Every legislative session, the United Labor Legislative Committee holds an organizing session ahead of its daily meetings on any day lawmakers meet. Willis was always the first to offer instruction, and his spiel invariably began with these words, or slight variations thereof: "The best advice I can give you on how to lobby the Texas Legislature is to remember three things. First, be nice. Second, be nice. And third, be nice." That fundamental advice - which in Texas labor circles is similar to the story about Vince Lombardi's starting every Green Bay Packers football camp with the remark, "Gentlemen, this is a football" - was accompanied by a deep well of practical knowledge on how to work issues effectively. Scores of ULLCO participants were introduced to lobbying skills at Willis's knee.
"Dally Willis was nice," Levy said, "but he could also be tough and tenacious in promoting better livelihoods for all workers. He set a standard for our organization that will never go away. We are proud to have known him."
Born in Cleburne in 1920, Willis became a Marine after high school and served in the Pacific theater during World War II. Willis worked for AT&T and its successors, joining CWA Local 6127. He and his wife Margaret reared three sons.
A funeral service for Willis has been set for 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Westside Church of Christ, 4410 W. Ilinois Ave., in Midland. Visitation will take place 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11 at Nalley-Pickle & Welch Funeral Home & Crematory, 3800 N. Big Spring St., in Midland.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to Westside Church of Christ or to Midland Hospice.
2) If you are reading this newsletter, chances are very high that if a tax cut bill becomes law, you will see very little of the benefit.
As with your bank account, so goes the nation, the Economic Policy Institute reports. In an explanation of why tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy do little for ordinary Americans, EPI argues that at the top of the list, the wealthy don't need the breaks and won't spend them to stimulate the economy.
On the other hand, putting money into the hands of the working poor, as with an increase in the minimum wage, tends to send every penny toward economic stimulus:
Should tax cuts be today's policy priority?
No. Tax cuts provide no durable solution to any genuine economic problem for America's working families, but do make some genuine problems even worse.
Most Republican plans, including the new "Big 6" framework released at the end of September, prioritize cutting top income tax rates and rates paid by corporations. These rate cuts would lead to huge benefits for the already-rich, but provide just crumbs to low- and middle-income families. For example, the Tax Policy Center estimates that about 50 percent of all benefits from the Big 6 proposal would accrue to the top 1 percent. This top 1 percent has seen income growth of 160 percent since 1979, compared with growth of 13.6 percent for the middle 20 percent of families. In short, the top 1 percent doesn't need a tax cut, yet this is exactly the group that Republican tax plans aim to help.
Importantly, the problem for vast majority of American households has not been what taxes have taken out of their paychecks in recent decades, but what employers have not been putting into these paychecks.
Taxes are not the reason why low- and middle-income households have seen weak income growth in recent decades. Effective federal tax rates for the bottom 80 percent of households have fallen dramatically since 1979. Despite these lower taxes, income growth has been anemic because of a range of intentional policy decisions that have shifted economic power away from low- and moderate-wage workers toward capital-owners and corporate managers. Tax cuts for the rich would just further direct resources to the top of the income distribution, and would also provide even greater incentive for capital-owners and corporate managers to rig the economic rules to send more income their way. Solving the problem of degraded economic leverage leading to near-stagnant pay for the broad middle class should be the economic priority of Congress.
Read more: http://bit.ly/2g7qQIx
3) The Coastal Bend Central Labor Council joined in a protest alleging wage theft against a subcontractor working at the Mainstay Suites hotel in Ingleside, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports.
The newspaper reports a construction company is pointing its finger at a subcontractor on the matter, but in any event, workers have not been paid for their labor.
Hat tip to former Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller for calling this to our attention:
A group of demolition workers took to civil disobedience to collect about a month's worth of pay.
A protest was led by a handful of workers and labor rights advocates Fridayafternoon outside the Mainstay Suites hotel in Ingleside, the site where about 100 laborers racked up the hours for which they say they are owed.
Members of the labor rights advocacy group Fuerza del Valle Workers Center traveled from the Rio Grande Valley to lead the demonstration. Members of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or the AFL-CIO, and the Coastal Bend Labor Council also picketed alongside the workers.
Andres Fernandez Chacon, 32, attended the Friday protest, during which they demanded pay from Welco Construction, a Dripping Springs-based subcontractor that was hired by San Antonio-based contractor LSDG Roofing and Construction to conduct the work at the Mainstay hotel.
Fernandez Chacon said the work at the hotel consisted of cleaning up post-Harvey damage. He said he worked at the site from Sept. 3 to Sept. 22 and has yet to be paid.
"They robbed us," Fernandez Chacon said.
Welco officials issued a statement to the Caller-Times on Friday, saying LSDG is to blame for the workers being shorted of their pay.
"Welco has not worked at that location since Sept. 7 because LSDG became uncooperative with timesheets and invoicing," the statement says. "This has nothing to do with us. Another subcontractor took over the site and LSDG did not pay Welco."
LSDG project manager Jarod Hill declined to comment Friday on the workers' accusations and did not confirm a second contractor was hired to finish the work.
Welco's statement also specifies that 106 checks were issued for the work at Mainstay and 14 checks have yet to be claimed. Workers can claim their checks with Welco by calling 210-212-0586.
4) President Trump is proving himself to be the most unreliable occupant of the Oval Office in our lifetimes.
After announcing a deal in principle with Democrats to help DREAMers, Trump's White House has now announced its conditions for extending eligibility for DACA participants to stay in the U.S., and it's a toxic mix that U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, pronounced "dead on arrival."
The New York Times reports the demands include funding for a border wall, limits on admission for family members of those who are here legally, blocks on admission of young people seeking asylum, and federal penalties against so-called "sanctuary cities."
Earlier this year, Trump had expressed sympathy for the plight of DREAMers. But he folded like a piece of origami when several states, including Texas, threatened a federal lawsuit against President Obama's Executive Order establishing DACA.
This is a bad place to start negotiations, and the six-month clock before DREAMers lose legal status continues to tick:
The demands were developed by a half-dozen agencies and departments, officials said. But among the officials behind the demands are Stephen Miller, the president's top policy adviser, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, both of whom have long advocated extremely aggressive efforts to prevent illegal entry into the country and crack down on undocumented immigrants already here.
The demands represented a concerted effort to broaden the expected congressional debate about the Dreamers to one about overhauling the entire American immigration system - on terms that hard-line conservatives have been pursuing for decades.
"The administration can't be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans," Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leaders in the Senate and the House, said in a joint statement.
Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi, who declared after a White House dinner last month that they had reached a deal with Mr. Trump to protect Dreamers, denounced the president's demands as failing to "represent any attempt at compromise." They called it little more than a thinly veiled effort to scuttle negotiations even before they begin in earnest.
"If the president was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good-faith effort to do so," they added.
Read more: http://nyti.ms/2kzOOxM