Today's Fair Shots - May 17th, 2017

1-Lawsuits May Fly Soon From All Angles to Challenge 'Sanctuary Cities' Law

2-With Clock Ticking Late Hour, Canada Swoops in to Try to Stop 'Buy American' Bill

3-ULLCO Switches Position on School Finance Bill After Senate Panel Turns It Into Voucher Vehicle 

4-Times: Spread of Non-Compete Agreements Rigs Rules Against Working People


1) A growing number of Texas cities plan to file lawsuits challenging the validity of SB 4, the "sanctuary cities" bill, the Texas Tribune reports.

  City leaders from Dallas, Austin and El Paso joined in a news conference at the Capitol yesterday to confirm they intend to move ahead with litigation.

  The United Labor Legislative Committee OPPOSED SB 4, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law. The measure, which takes effect Sept. 1, allows police to inquire about immigration status when they arrest or detain an individual. It also requires local officials under penalty of law to honor all federal immigration detainer requests for anyone who is jailed. Such detainers, which add major costs to running jails, are mere requests that need not be honored under federal law. 

  Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick said last week in a statement that SB 4 will bless the bad behavior of employers who threaten immigrant workers with deportation if they speak up for workplace rights. Patrick also said SB 4 would pave the way for discrimination against people of color, including both citizens and immigrants, and would be detrimental to Texas on a larger level.

  Abbott asserted today that SB 4 would not result in racial profiling, but he did not account for the power the bill places in individual law officers to inquire about immigration status without fear of disciplinary action. Many police chiefs and sheriffs have said SB 4 will harm their relationships with immigrant communities. 

  Labor unions and allied organizations were well-represented at the news conference:

  On Tuesday, which organizers said was the beginning of a "summer of resistance," Austin City Council member Delia Garza said the city will move this week to take formal action to stop SB 4 in the courtroom.

  "I am proud to announce today, with much gratitude for my colleagues, this Thursday we are poised to approve a resolution that directs our city legal team to take any legal action necessary to challenge this awful law," she said at Tuesday's rally, which was organized by the Austin City Council, Texas Organizing Project and United We Dream.

  The announcement comes after the League of United Latin American Citizens, Maverick County and the city of El Cenizo filed suit to stop the bill.

  Austin and Travis County are defendants in a lawsuit Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed as a pre-emptive measure. His lawsuit specifically asks a U.S. District Court to rule that the law is constitutional and does not violate the 4th or 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution and is not pre-empted by federal law.

  On Tuesday, Austin and Travis County welcomed an ally on that fight.

  "I have to preserve the work of these brave leaders in Austin," said Philip Kingston, a member of the Dallas City Council. "We will be discussing intervening in the case, coming to the aid of Austin because we have a large city attorney's office and we have lots of legal resources."

  Later, El Paso County Commissioner David Stout said the Commissioners Court there voted 4-to-1 to move forward with a federal lawsuit in the Western District of Texas.

  "We feel that it's discriminatory and unconstitutional, but also we have a settlement agreement ... from back in 2006 that basically states we're not able to have our law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law," he said. "So [SB4]will in effect put us in noncompliance."

  Stout was referring to a 2006 legal settlement that El Paso County agreed to after a local resident sued, accusing sheriffs' deputies of conducting unlawful immigration checks at roadside checkpoints. The parties reached an agreement: The sheriff's office had to "memorialize in writing its policies that prohibits Sheriff's Department Deputies from enforcing civil immigration law."

  Paxton has since said that El Paso County would be in compliance, but local leaders disagree. The El Paso Times reported that County Judge Veronica Escobar said the county would allocate about $150,000 for litigation costs.

  The list of litigants could grow. Leaders from other local governments hinted they are also considering taking local action.

  "The fight is now in the courtroom and San Antonio stands shoulder to shoulder with Texas cities in that fight," San Antonio City Council member Rey Saldaña told the crowd.

  Read more: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/05/16/list-local-governments-fighting-sb4-courtroom-continues-grow/

  See the full news conference on the live Texas AFL-CIO Facebook feed (hat tip to Texas AFL-CIO Digital Strategist Mark Maldonado): 

2) If you haven't yet contacted your state senator to urge him or her to vote "Yes" to concur with House amendments to SB 1289 - the "Buy American" bill for U.S. iron and steel - here's a new reason to do so: Quorum Report reports the government of Canada is trying to kill the bill.

  Personally, I love Canada, a great nation and a long-standing ally. Still, Canada's 11th-hour move to stop SB 1289 from becoming law appears to be not just disingenuous, but a confirmation that SB 1289 would be effective in bringing jobs back to the U.S.

  First, do something! Once again, here's a link to put you in touch with your senator: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-your-senator-to-support-buy-americansb1289-legislation. The decision on what to do next on SB 1289 is on the Senate calendar and could take place as soon as tomorrow.

  Second, here's an excerpt from the QR article by Scott Braddock:

  In a last-minute lobby effort, representatives of the Canadian government rushed to the Texas Capitol Tuesday afternoon to lobby members of the Texas Senate against concurring on House changes to the bill mandating the use of American iron and steel in government construction unless a certain threshold is met.

  So, depending on how this plays out, the Senate could be poised to buck President Donald Trump's position on "America first" policies when it comes to manufacturing and labor. 

  As QR readers who have followed this are aware, the bill by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, would require the use of domestic iron and steel in taxpayer-funded construction unless the cost of the entire project would rise more than 20 percent. 

  Lawmakers have been genuinely conflicted about whether to make exemptions for water infrastructure projects, with the Senate adopting an amendment by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, to delete Buy America provisions from the Water Code. The House rejected Perry's language, which some called "un-American," and the bill, SB 1289, has been sent back to the Senate to either concur or request a conference committee. 

  "If the bill cannot be sent to conference, we believe it should not be passed until an amendment can be added excluding Canada can be inserted," wrote Sara Wilshaw, Consul General of Canada in Texas. The letter was also signed by representatives of Ontario and Alberta, Canada.

  "The long-standing relationship between Canada and the United States is truly exceptional and serves as a model for the world. We are stronger because we make goods together," Wilshaw said. "The United States consistently has a trade surplus with Canada in steel and articles of iron and steel," Wilshaw noted. "In 2016, the U.S. surplus amounted to $2.3 billion in this sector. Texas's surplus was $106 million."

  "The bill, if passed, would close off access that Canada currently has to Texas procurement markets and the provisions of compliance with the international trade agreements included in the bill will not change that," she said...

  The Alliance for American Manufacturing, which is fighting Canada about this issue in a number of states, pushed back against our neighbors to the north...

  Among other arguments, the industry said that "U.S. Businesses do not have access to much of Canada's Procurement Market" and that Buy America requirements are "an important and legitimate lever for opening foreign procurement markets for U.S. products and the businesses that manufacture them."

  "Under our current trade agreements with Canada the U.S. suppliers have access to procurement of only seven of Canada's more than 40 Crown Corporations," the industry said. "Crown Corporations are government organizations that operate following a private sector model, but generally have both commercial and public policy objectives."....

3) Because of action taken by a Senate committee, the United Labor Legislative Committee yesterday switched positions from SUPPORT to OPPOSE on HB 21.

  HB 21 passed the Texas House as a much-needed school finance reform bill that provided more than $1.5 billion for public schools and improved the state's rickety funding mechanism. But in the Senate Education Committee, the bill has been transformed into a voucher bill, now technically known as the Committee Substitute for HB 21, or CSHB 21.

  The Coalition for Public Schools, which includes Texas AFT and the Texas AFL-CIO, reports that unlike the strong House bill, CSHB 21 provides no additional state funding for public schools, creates "Education Savings Account"-style vouchers (limited, for precedent-setting purposes, to special education students) and steers tax dollars to private schools that need not account to the state for quality, finances or much of anything else.

  The Center for Public Policy Priorities posted an analysis of the voucher component of the measure:

  Last month the Texas House of Representatives approved HB 21, a bill that takes important steps toward remodeling our neglected school finance system. But under pressure from school voucher zealots, the Senate Education Committee changed the bill to eliminate funding for the much needed school finance remodel and to add a misguided voucher program.  The House version of HB 21 was the best chance Texas has had in over 30 years to remodel our school finance system without a lawsuit hanging over us. It would have provided adequate funding to ensure the 5.2 million Texas children in public schools receive a high quality education that prepares them for the workforce Texas businesses need. The Senate version of HB 21 should be rejected because it is a voucher bill and not a school finance bill. Recommendation: CPPP urges the Senate to vote no on HB 21 because - unlike the version passed by the House - the bill: Ø Fails to provide the $1.5B needed to remodel Texas' school finance system. Ø Includes a voucher provision that would drain millions annually from public schools while failing to protect the rights of children with special needs...

  CPPP strongly supports policy solutions that ensure students with special needs in Texas obtain the quality education, services and support they need to reach their full potential. Unfortunately, the Senate version of HB 21 would establish education savings accounts vouchers, which are the wrong solution for Texas children. The voucher provisions would: * Lead to a loss of rights and quality educational opportunities for children with special needs. * Offer no real choice to low-income families, because the high cost of private tuition would not be fully covered by the vouchers. * Reduce the amount of funding per student that the state currently provides to students with special needs in public schools. * Divert significant public resources from Texas' already under-funded public school system to subsidize private school tuition. * Enable the use of tax dollars without adequate accountability to ensure the quality of education and services.

  Beginning in the second year of operation of the voucher program, Texas school districts stand to lose over $37.4 million annually if 1 percent of eligible students opted for vouchers; over $74.9 million annually if 2 percent opted for vouchers; and over $112.4 million annually if 3 percent opted for vouchers. See more details at http://bit.ly/2ppqelh

Read more: http://forabettertexas.org/images/EO_2017_vouchers_may_15_2017.pdf

  ULLCO also OPPOSED SB 1786, which would make open-enrollment charter schools "public schools" for the purpose of barring collective bargaining. The measure by Sen. Bob Hall, R-Canton, passed the Senate yesterday 20-11 on a pure party-line vote, but should face a steep uphill climb in the Texas House.

4) The New York Times posted a fine editorial to go with its recent news story about the rise of non-compete agreements among ordinary workers.

  About 28 million Americans - or approximately one in five workers - are subject to such agreements, which are employed even by the likes of fast-food companies. As The Times points up, such deals were traditionally for executives, inventors and others who had special value to a company, knew trade secrets and, by and large, were under personal contract. Now, they are being used to prevent working people from moving to better jobs within their industry:

  State and federal lawmakers should adopt reforms like those the Obama administration recommended last year. For instance, state legislatures and Congress can make non-compete agreements unenforceable when they are applied to employees who earn less than, say, $56,500 - the median household income in 2015 - or to workers who do not have access to trade secrets. They can make contracts unenforceable when businesses lay off or fire workers without cause. States can also require employers to present non-compete agreements before candidates accept jobs.

  The spread of non-compete agreements is one of many ways in which the workplace has been rigged against workers and why household incomes have stagnated in recent decades. Other examples include the use of mandatory arbitration clauses in employment contracts and concerted efforts by businesses to diminish the role of labor unions. All elected leaders, especially those like President Trump who claim to represent the interests of working people, need to fight such unfair and unjust practices.

  Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/opinion/noncompete-agreements-workers.html?ref=opinion