Today's Fair Shots - May 23, 2017

1-John Patrick: House Version of 'Bathroom Bill' Still Sends Discriminatory Message

2-Other Key Bills Near the Finish Line

3-Washington Post Headlines 'Discrimination Sunday' in Legislature; See Rep. Senfronia Thompson on Video

4-'Low-paying, Grinding, Unhealthy Work': Times Profiles Truck Drivers

5-Credentials Deadline Hits Tomorrow for Texas AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention


1)  The so-called "bathroom bill," completed passage in the House yesterday in the form of an amendment to another "school safety" measure that was otherwise innocuous. 

  While this version of the bathroom language is not remotely as wide-ranging in substance as the provisions in SB 6, which was approved by the Texas Senate, its message is toxic, Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick said in a statement:

2) I wish I could tell you the weekend brought no other bad news, but I'd be lying. Among other late developments:

--The Texas Senate approved a version of HB 21 that includes private school vouchers for special education students. While the contemplated scope of the vouchers is limited, the idea remains rotten to the core, steering tax dollars from your neighborhood public schools to private schools that are not accountable to taxpayers. Moreover, the school finance provisions in HB 21 that prompted the United Labor Legislative Committee to endorse the bill in its original form have been rendered much weaker. The House had proposed to add $1.5 billion to the school system - an amount that would have put almost every school district in the position of receiving more funds - but the Senate cut the proposal to about half a billion dollars, which only goes so far when it comes to the public school budget. The key votes on vouchers were 21-10, with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, joining Republicans in support. The measure, which ULLCO opposes in its current form, now goes back to the Texas House, which is expected to reject the Senate changes.

--The Senate approved an alleged fix for a federal court finding that Texas intentionally discriminated against minority voters in enacting the so-called "voter ID" law. Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, inserted SB 5, which was declared an "emergency" last night by Gov. Greg Abbott, into HB 2691, an omnibus election bill that otherwise has the approval of both major political parties. SB 5 has a third-degree felony provision for voters who intentionally use a non-photo proof of identity when they have a photo ID available; use of the non-photo ID involves signing an affidavit. That penalty, which has nothing to do with eligibility to vote, seems calculated to prevent voters from using the alternative forms of ID even when they really have no other form of ID. The vote on the measure was a party-line 20-11.

-- The Senate approved HB 3976, which shores up the Texas Public School Retired Employees Group Benefits Act, a law that provides health care to retired teachers. The bill is absolutely necessary and passed 31-0, but the debate took note that a) It will cost retirees more; b) It will cost retirees who are younger than 65 still more; c) Enhanced contributions by the state and school districts are inadequate; and d) In two years, the Legislature will be looking at large deficits in the program yet again. 

--On a positive note, HB 62 - the statewide prohibition on texting while driving (with exceptions) - won final approval of Senate amendments in the House and is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk.

3) The Texas House debate over the "bathroom bill" amendment made the Washington Post, suggesting the measure will join SB 4 ("sanctuary cities") in the national field of vision.

  The Post quoted Equality Texas, which referred to "discrimination Sunday" and highlighted a stirring floor speech against the House version of the measure by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston: 

  Though the legislation is much narrower, it drew comparisons to the contentious North Carolina bill that spurred boycotts and protests, marring the state's image and ultimately forcing at least the appearance of a retreat.

  And that's not all Texas lawmakers did Sunday night. The Senate voted to advance another bill decried by LGBT advocates as discriminatory, a measure that would allow publicly funded foster care providers and adoption agencies to refuse to place children with non-Christian, unmarried or gay parents because of religious objections.

  It was a frenzied night for Texas Democrats and civil rights groups, who fiercely protested both measures across social media into the early hours of the morning.

  Equality Texas shared a tweet from one critic who summed up the day in one post: "Let's just call today discrimination Sunday."

  In an act of protest, a small group of Democratic women legislators went to the men's restroom just off the House floor before the debate...

  Democrats called the bill "shameful" and compared it to Jim Crow-era laws that established separate but equal facilities.

  "White. Colored. I was living through that era ... bathrooms divided us then, and it divides us now," said Democratic state Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston, a black woman who has served in the House since 1972. "America has long recognized that separate but equal is not equal at all."

    Read more and see the video of Rep. Thompson: http://wapo.st/2q4i8yy

4) Our Brothers and Sisters in the Teamsters may take a special interest in a New York Times article on how the life of a truck driver isn't what it used to be (at least if no union contract is in the picture), but the content is relevant to all who value labor. A reporter and photographer went to thePetro truck stop in Effingham, Illinois to speak to drivers about their livelihoods. 

  The sub-headline of the article includes this remark: "Truck driving, once a road to the middle class, is now low-paying,

grinding, unhealthy work."

  Here's an example of one of the interviews:

'The Clock's Ticking, the Clock's Ticking'

Greg Simmons, 54, Hastings, Fla. Driving 27 years. 

  We're throwaway people. Nobody cares about us. Everybody's perception of a truck driver is we clog up traffic, we get in the way, we pollute the environment.

  We're just like cops. Everybody needs us, but nobody wants us.

  Before trucking, I did electronics, but there was no pay in it. What I did not know is, when you do this for a living, you can't go to night school and train for something else. This sucks up so much of your time.

  Truckers are paid mostly by the mile, not the hour. Federal rules say they can drive 11 hours within a 14-hour window, and then they must stop for a 10-hour break. Many resent the 14-hour rule.

  Everybody's constantly looking at the clock. If you get caught in a traffic jam for four hours, that's four hours of your productivity gone. Or if you go to pick up a load and these people take five and a half hours to load you, they've killed five and a half hours of your day. The clock's ticking, the clock's ticking. Got to go, man, got to go! The 14-hour rule has created an unnatural amount of pressure. For the young fellows, after two or three months, they say the hell with this.

Photo from New York Times - Ayisha Gomez

Photo from New York Times - Ayisha Gomez

  Why do you keep driving?

  Because at 54 years old, nobody wants me. I can't retrain for anything else. For older people, you kind of get trapped. For every one that does well, there's 30 that it destroys.  

  Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/22/us/trucking-jobs.html?_r=1

5) Here's another reminder from Sister Emily Speight of the Texas AFL-CIO on upcoming deadlines related to the Texas AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention:

  Credentials for the Texas AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention are due tomorrow.  The convention will take place Friday, June 23rd, to Sunday, June 25th at the Hilton Americas Hotel in downtown Houston.  The cut-off date to get the discounted hotel rate is Wednesday, May 31.  The rate is $146.25 including tax. 

  Themed "Building a Workers' Movement in Texas," the convention will, as always, develop a plan of action for the state labor federation in the next two years. The convention will feature interactive workshops, issue panels and speakers.

  We encourage unions to send a full complement of delegates, including, as available, younger Brothers and Sisters who have not had the chance to participate in a convention before. 

  If you are an affiliated union member, contact your local for information on becoming a delegate.  If you have questions, please contact our office at (512) 477-6195 or emily@texasaflcio.org.

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