Today's Fair Shots - August 2, 2017

1-Police, Firefighters, EMS and Even Charities Are in Sights of Promoters of SB 7

2-ULLCO Endorses Bills Aimed at High Rate of Maternal Mortality in Texas

3-Texas House Uses Rainy Day Fund to Advance Bills Helping Retired Teachers

4-Nissan Unloads Against UAW in Momentous Attempt to Organize Mississippi Factory

5-York: Corporate Culture at Southwest Airlines Has Changed for the Worse


1) Leaving no doubt the right-wingers promoting SB 7 see the measure as only a first step, a policy analyst for the Texas Public Policy Foundation said in a Fort Worth Star-Telegram column that the organization wants payroll dues deduction banned not just for most state and local public employees, but for police, firefighters and EMS workers. TPPF also is calling for a ban on charitable donations through payroll deduction.

  The ideal TPPF version of SB 7 would, in the service of a particular ideology, take away the freedom of all public employees to spend their own paychecks through voluntary payroll deduction - a commonplace benefit in workplaces across the nation. The United Labor Legislative Committee strongly opposes SB 7 as written and as contemplated.

  Bankrolled by a who's who of the right wing in Texas, TPPF has worked alongside Empower Texans - funded by West Texas oilman Tim Dunn - and other groups to promote SB 7. 

  SB 7 has passed the Texas Senate and is pending in the Texas House. The current version of the bill exempts firefighters, police and EMS, as well as charities. First Responders have nevertheless opposed SB 7 strongly and in solidarity with working people who would be affected, including teachers, correctional officers, child abuse investigators, parole officers, nurses and others in state and local government.

  The bill is up for consideration by the Texas House as the special legislative session passes the halfway point of the 30-day maximum. From today's column by TPPF Policy Analyst J.D. Rimann, which echoes the testimony of the TPPF's Bill Peacock in a Senate committee:

  Of note, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, and police officers were all exempted from the provisions of SB 13 because they serve with "great honor and distinction." This is true - first responders are among our bravest citizens, and the men and women who put their lives on the line for us daily deserve honor, respect, and acclaim. However, that does not mean that government should engage in behavior outside of its scope in order to honor these heroes, including exempting them from the legislation.

  Some point out that the government also offers to deduct money for charity contributions, and union fee deductions are not different. Agreed. Government is acting outside of its role in this area as well. Charitable non-profits do amazing and wonderful work in all sorts of different ways, but they do it as what they are, charitable non-profits.

  Many argue that because automatic union dues deductions costs the government - and thus taxpayers - very little money it is therefore reasonable. The cost is immaterial, though, and beside the point. Even if automatic deduction programs cost taxpayers no money they are still outside the proper role of government and indirectly facilitating political activity...

  The answer to all of these arguments is as simple as it is proper: it is not the role of the government to act as the middleman and dues collector for private organizations, including unions. Prohibiting the government from acting as a dues-collector for unions, or other organizations, puts both government and unions in their proper place.

  Read more: http://www.star-telegram.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/other-voices/article164645612.html

2) The United Labor Legislative Committee today ENDORSED four pieces of legislation that offer steps toward addressing the unacceptably high rate of maternal deaths in Texas.

  Each bill passed the Texas House unanimously. A version of one of the bills has already made it through the Texas Senate. 

  ULLCO endorsed: HB 9 by Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, identical to SB 17 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; HB 10 by Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston; HB 11 by Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston; and HB 28 by Rep. Lina Ortega, D-El Paso.

  Texas Monthly offered this explanation of the bills: 

  The Texas Lege took another step toward addressing the statewide maternal mortality crisis on Monday, when the House tentatively approved four bills related to the task force investigating the issue, according to the Texas Tribune. The biggest of the bills, House Bill 9, will keep the state's Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force, which has been studying Texas's maternal mortality rate, up and running for another six years. According to the Austin American-Statesman, HB 9 also would add some new responsibilities to the task force, like studying and reviewing "rates, or disparities in pregnancy-related deaths," "health conditions and factors that disproportionately affect the most at-risk population," and "best practices and programs operating in other states that have reduced rates of pregnancy-related deaths," while also looking at the relationship between pregnancy-related deaths and the socioeconomic status of the mothers. House Bill 10 further expands the task force's marching orders, requiring it to "develop evidence-based best practice recommendations" for keeping mothers healthy. House Bill 11 requires that the task force specifically focus on African-American women-recent studies have found that black women have a much higher maternal mortality rate. And House Bill 28 adds a nurse specializing in labor delivery and a doctor who specializes in critical care to the fifteen-member task force.

  http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-daily-post/house-passes-bills-addressing-maternal-mortality-texas-roundup/ 

3) The House today also gave preliminary approval to two bills endorsed by ULLCO (and Texas AFT) last week that offer a boost to retired teachers: HB 20 by Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin; and HB 80 by Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo. HB 20, which would reduce deductibles for health care for retired teachers via a $212 million infusion from the Rainy Day Fund, advanced on a 130-10 vote. HB 80, which makes a one-time adjustment toward rises in the cost of living, advanced 139-2.

  The Texas Tribune reports the House and Senate approaches would have to be reconciled for the bills to become law:

  In its own legislation, the Senate proposed using an accounting maneuver to borrow $212 million from health care companies providing Medicaid, instead of dipping into the Rainy Day Fund. Both bills would help cut deductibles by half for retirees younger than 65, lower costs for retirees with adult disabled children and reduce premiums for retirees 65 and older. Many retirees would not get any relief through this bill.

  Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, who authored the Senate's version of the bill, has said using the Rainy Day Fund is a "false promise" and short-term solution.

  Ashby said Tuesday he was open to "working with the other team" on how to finance the health care program's improvements during the special session. But he also said of the Senate's accounting trick: "I just don't think that's a fiscally prudent thing to do." He likened the House's plan to paying with cash, and the Senate's deferral to putting $212 million on a credit card.

  Read more: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/08/01/texas-house-approves-212-million-retired-teachers-health-care/

4) In the United Auto Workers' effort to organize workers at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, journalist Mike Elk reports the company is pulling out all the stops in one of the nastiest anti-union campaigns in memory.

  Writing for The Guardian, Elk says the National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint against the company. UAW, meanwhile, is keeping its eye on the prize. While the company may hold as many "captive audience" meetings as it wants during work hours, the union must contact potential members in off-hours and away from the plant. The Governor of Mississippi is campaigning, too - against the desire of working people to speak up together.

  No one ever said it would be easy to Organize the South:

  In the closing days of the campaign, which has attracted support from the former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, UAW officials and their allies have become increasingly confident of victory even as managers have pressured workers to vote no. "People are rallying," says Frank Figgers, co-chair of the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan.

  The UAW is undertaking an extensive door-to-door campaign to visit workers in their homes to discuss the union. The UAW has shipped in staff from all over the country to help in the effort.

  Other unions from around the south have shipped in organizers from across the country to assist in the outreach to the plant's nearly 4,000 workers.

  Nissan has responded with fierce opposition. The company has blitzed local TV with anti-union ads and stands accused of both threatening and bribing workers to vote no. It requires workers to regularly attend anti-union roundtable group meetings as well as one-on-one meetings with their direct supervisors, some of whom have worn "vote no" T-shirts to work.

  The Republican governor, Phil Bryant, has also come out hard for Nissan. "If you want to take away your job, if you want to end manufacturing as we know it in Mississippi, just start expanding unions," Bryant said last week. 

  Washad Catchings, a Nissan worker, said: "There is no atmosphere of free choice in the Canton plant, just fear, which is what Nissan intends."

  Late Friday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the independent US government agency responsible for enforcing US labor law, filed the latest in a series of complaints against Nissan.

  The NLRB alleged that Nissan had violated the law in these anti-union sessions by warning that workers would lose wages and benefits if they supported the union.

  The NLRB also found that a supervisor at the plant told workers that if they spoke out against the union, he would personally ensure that they received increased wages and benefits.

  "Nissan is running one of the nastiest anti-union campaigns in the modern history of the American labor movement," said the UAW secretary-treasurer, Gary Casteel, in a statement regarding the most recent NLRB charges. "The company's investors as well as socially conscious policy makers in the US and around the world need to understand what's happening in Mississippi and join local civil rights leaders in calling for a halt to Nissan's illegal and unethical behavior."

  Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/01/nissan-mississippi-union-vote

5) In a collective bargaining agreement, as in any relationship, sometimes the clouds arrive. We hope that isn't the case at Southwest Airlines, but Mark York, Secretary-Treasurer of the Dallas AFL-CIO, posted a letter he sent to the CEO raising basic questions about the company's recent workplace behavior. 

  The Texas AFL-CIO stands in solidarity with any union that might need support with regard to the facts in the letter:

Letter to Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly from the Dallas AFL-CIO Central Labor Council:

Mr. Kelly,
  We have read a letter addressed to you from Transport Workers Union International President John Samuelson dated July 19, 2017. The letter details the drastic shift towards a confrontational and combative corporate culture at Southwest Airlines. At the Dallas Central Labor Council in Dallas, Texas we have delegates who are passionately loyal employees of Southwest and we have... delegates who are passionately loyal customers of the "Love Airline".
  As President Samuelson wrote, the corporate culture at what used to be the family airline is heartbreaking and downright disgusting. When your management disciplines three workers per day and fires one worker every other day the statistics indicate a work environment that must be called out for what it is- a vindictive and full frontal attack on the Southwest employees and their families that are on the ground in the sweltering heat as well as subzero temperatures making sure your airplanes are safely in the air and therefore securing your record profits.
  While your middle management's actions indicate that generations of hard working brothers and sisters at Southwest have somehow suddenly become employees that demand these types and amounts of disciplines, reality tells us that those same brothers and sisters are a critical part of a very intricate machine that keeps your airplanes in the air, on time and most importantly, safe.
  The Dallas AFL-CIO is made up of over fifty union affiliates representing 35,000 union members and has built strong working relationships with community partners in Dallas who we join with every day to fight for social and economic justice.
  Please have NO DOUBT the Dallas Central Labor Council stands at the ready to bring down our full weight and influence to protect these working families. We only await the nod from President Samuelson to do so.
  We encourage you and your management team to restore the "Love Airline" corporate culture that built the best and most beloved airline dynasty the world had ever seen.
  Respectfully,
  Mark York
  Secretary-Treasurer Dallas AFL-CIO