Today's Fair Shots - Cinco De Mayo 

1-Union Retirees: 'Transfer of Wealth From the Sick to the Wealthy Is Unconscionable'

2-Texas House Puts Texas in Column of States Calling for Dangerous Rewrite of U.S. Constitution

3-Ratcliffe: Business Community Didn't Fight 'Sanctuary Cities' the Way They Are Fighting 'Bathroom Bill'

4-Report: Non-Compete Clauses, Once Reserved for Key Strategic Managers, Now Affect 30 Million U.S. Workers

5-IATSE, Other Entertainment Unions Seek Funding for Texas Film Incentives Program at Capitol

1-The 217-213 vote yesterday in the U.S. House to repeal the Affordable Care Act and substitute a "TrumpCare" proposal that would cuts tens of millions of Americans out of coverage is a disgusting reversal of course that merits the anger of everyone who believes in health care for all.

  People will die if this bill becomes law. Billionaires will prosper. 

  A political reckoning lies ahead, but for now, prospects for the House bill in the Senate are weak. Yet who knows what alternative horror the Senate leadership will concoct in the name of "repeal and replace?" It is time for the Resistance to shine.

  In the Texas delegation, all Democrats voted against the measure, along with U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, while remaining Republicans voted for it. 

  This was as defining a vote as ever occurs in Congress, and will be a key subject of campaigns in districts across the nation. 

  "TrumpCare" drew the condemnation of Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans.: 

 "Retirees and older Americans who are not yet eligible for Medicare are simply appalled by today's American Health Care Act vote.

  "This bill decimates Medicaid, with more than $800 billion in cuts. Medicaid pays for the nursing home care of millions of seniors and health care for people with disabilities. The $8 billion that the GOP added to their plan at the last minute is a mere drop in the bucket compared to their cuts.

  "It also robs the Medicare Trust Fund to pay for tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. That transfer of wealth from the sick to the wealthy is unconscionable.

  "The House leadership's decision to rush the floor action means that lawmakers voted on the bill without even obtaining updated figures from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

  "CBO estimated that the original bill would leave 24 million more Americans without health insurance after a decade, due to repeal of the subsidies and the rollback of the ACA's Medicaid expansion in states that adopted it. We cannot rule out the possibility that more than 24 million people would lose coverage under this version of the bill.

  "Despite the wheeling and dealing and vote trading, the GOP repeal bill still drops the coverage guarantee for people with pre-existing conditions, strips coverage from millions and drives up costs for millions more.

  "Among people ages 55 to 64, 84 percent had at least one pre-existing condition in 2014. That has not changed since the last vote.

  "It is difficult to say what the cruelest aspect of this vote is, but raiding Medicare and cutting Medicaid surely remain at the top of the list."

2-The Texas House yesterday voted to count Texas in on a Convention of States that could rewrite the heart of the U.S. Constitution, giving Gov. Greg Abbott a key priority that had been designated an "emergency."

  The United Labor Legislative Committee OPPOSED the resolution, which won approval 94-51, mainly but not entirely along party lines.

  As envisioned by Abbott, a Convention of States would reallocate the balance of power from the federal government to the states. But the "limitations" in SJR 2 might not stop a runaway majority from doing anything and everything to the nation's fundamental document. 

  It would take 34 states to hold a convention (and 38 to ratify any proposals). Texas becomes No. 11, the Dallas Morning News reports.

  Backers didn't even bother to put a patina of modernism on the debate, backing "states' rights," which was a key slogan during the Civil War:

  "We believe that the federal government is out of control, and we're standing up for our states' rights," said Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land... 

  In a moment of levity, Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, made a reference to the nation's first, and only, convention of states, the one that produced the U.S. Constitution the bill seeks to change.

  "Will the delegates to this convention be required to wear white wigs?" Rodriguez joked...

  On Thursday, Republican legislators rushed the front podium on the House floor to add their names to the list of cosponsors of the constitutional amendment calling for a convention. As they did, a sizable audience in the gallery gathered to support the measure cheered.

  Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, reminded the audience that last week lawmakers approved the so-called "sanctuary cities" bill, which requires local governments to enforce federal immigration law. He questioned how supporters of the convention plan could decry federal overreach while supporting the sanctuary bill.

  "Your own party just last week suggested to all of us that we want to have more federal government in our backyard," Gutierrez said...

  Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, questioned the need to change the Constitution.

  "Our constitution has been in effect for 240 years. Most of us agree we live in the greatest country in the world," he said. "Why now do we need to convene a national convention which has never been done before?"

  Read more:

3) R.G. Ratcliffe of Texas Monthly took note of the difference in how the business community responded this year to "sanctuary cities" legislation compared to the time former Gov. Rick Perry promoted similar legislation in 2011.

  In 2011, business interests led by Bob Perry, a powerful home-builder, and HEB scotched similar legislation, believing it was not in the interests of Texas, Ratcliffe reports. The same push was nowhere to be found as the House and Senate finalized SB 4, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Greg Abbott.

  Ratcliffe cites the strong Texas business opposition to this year's "bathroom bill," which caused a more recent loss of incoming jobs and prestige in North Carolina. But he also notes that Arizona's earlier immigration law, which was even harsher than SB 4, cost that state dearly in coin and reputation. (The law has since changed.) 

  SB 4 is one of several situations this legislative session in which the Texas Association of Business and the Texas AFL-CIO arrived at the same ultimate position, if not necessarily through the same reasoning.

  From Ratcliffe's article:

  While the sanctuary cities bill can affect family relationships in the Hispanic community and raises the specter of racial profiling, the undocumented community in many ways is unable to turn its economic clout as labor into a political strength because any activism risks deportation. Undocumented labor's economic clout is powerful, though. Immigrants sent $2.4 billion in remittances to Mexico in 2014, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. That's money Mexican laborers in Texas have earned above and beyond their own living expenses. They work in construction, agriculture, and the hospitality industry of hotels and restaurants.

  At the moment, the home-building industry is feeling a pinch because many undocumented workers went back to Mexico during the economic downturn. The Dallas Morning News recently reported the city's housing construction is the hottest in the nation. "Dallas is undersupplied by 10,000 to 20,000 construction workers," Scott Davis, with housing analyst Meyers Research, told a meeting of local builders. "We should have about 99,000 people employed in the building industry." And these missing workers, are mostly Mexicans. "Texas has been a job magnet for immigrants because of close ties with Mexico and the amount of work available. But the flow of people has slowed significantly-first, as a result of the housing bust and deep recession, and more recently with the focus on immigration laws and border security."

  In 2011 Houston home-builder Perry, who has since died, was motivated to keep construction workers in Texas, and the sanctuary city legislation threatened to make them flee. But Mexico's economy recovered from the recession faster than the U.S. economy, wages have grown there, and it is unlikely that many will be lured back to the United States anytime soon. From reading various reports, my best guess is about 200,000 Mexicans have returned to their native land from Texas in the past several years.

Ratcliffe also takes note of the law enforcement problem that SB 4 creates in stepping in on the lines of authority...

  Texas law enforcement agencies in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio have opposed the Legislature's sanctuary city bill because it means the immigrant population will be less willing to report crime or serve as witnesses. Also, the mere fact an immigrant is arrested for a crime does not mean that person will be automatically turned over to federal authorities for deportation. As of December 31, 2016, ICE had detainers on 8,923 inmates in the Texas prison system.

  Unlike the original Arizona law, Texas law enforcement officers will not be required to ask for citizenship status when they stop someone, but law enforcement agencies will not be able to prevent that from happening, either. At a news conference this week, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said that policy will keep him from properly directing his officers.

  "We cannot prohibit officers from doing what they want to do in regard to immigration enforcement, which means that small percent of our officers who decide to become ICE agents and want to stop a jaywalker and they start asking for their papers, I as a chief can't do anything to explain to that officer, 'Hey, we've got calls for service backed up. We're taking five or six minutes to get to armed robberies, home invasion robberies, kidnappings. We've got MS-3 running around and you want to go play ICE agent with the day laborers?'"

Read more:

4) A vexing issue that has been discussed in this space before - expansion of "non-compete" provisions to ordinary workers - gets an update on today's New York Times op-ed page.

  The Treasury Department now estimates 30 million Americans are covered by such clauses, which forbid them from going to work for a competitor or starting a business that would compete with the company. The bans have even been applied to front-line fast food workers, who often earn poverty wages.

  Orly Lobel, a professor at San Diego School of Law, reports that in many cases, a non-compete clause may be more about holding down any incentive for industries to raise wages - see Silicon Valley engineers - than to guard company secrets. Indeed, she reports wages are lower in states that enforce non-compete clauses: 

  Once reserved for a corporation's most treasured rainmakers, noncompetes are now routinely applied to low-wage workers like warehouse employees, fast-food workers and even dog sitters. One out of every six workers without a college degree have signed one. By including them in employee contracts, employers can use the threat of litigation to constrict wages and employee mobility.

Noncompete agreements, like other anti-competitive practices, poison our economy in larger, less tangible ways. There is strong data showing that they reduce employee motivation, entrepreneurship and sharing of knowledge, the fundamental building blocks of innovation and economic growth.

At a minimum every state should ban noncompetes for all low-wage workers, for all workers in occupations that promote public safety and health, such as physicians and nurses, and for all workers who are laid off or terminated without cause. Looking forward, the research suggests that noncompetes should be banned for all employees, regardless of skill, industry or wage; they simply do more harm than good... 

Workers bound by noncompetes cannot rely on outside offers and free-market competition to fairly value their talents. Without incentives to increase wages in-house, companies can allow salaries to plateau. And while noncompete restrictions impose hardships on every worker, for women these restrictions tend to be compounded with other mobility constraints, including the need to coordinate dual careers, family geographical ties and job market re-entry after family leave.

California and Massachusetts offer a case study within the high-tech industry. California strictly voids all noncompete agreements. Massachusetts, like most other states, enforces noncompetes. Both California and Massachusetts enjoyed an early boom of economic growth within the high-tech market, but California's Silicon Valley has continued growing, while Massachusetts has sputtered.

Unlike in Silicon Valley, the employees of the Massachusetts tech companies were bound by noncompete agreements, and the enforcement of those agreements kept out new businesses by preventing people most likely to start new businesses - experienced former employees - from staying in the region. Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, entrepreneurial activity flourished; thanks to California's refusal to enforce all noncompetes (including those from other jurisdictions), it remains the tech center of the world.

Some states, including Colorado, Oregon, Illinois and New York, have recently introduced reforms. Hawaii passed a law in 2015 prohibiting noncompetes in the tech industry.

Federally, Congress introduced two bills last year - the Limiting the Ability to Demand Detrimental Employment Restrictions Act (Ladder Act) and the Mobility and Opportunity for Vulnerable Employees Act (MOVE Act). 

Read more:

5) Our Brothers and Sisters in the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees organized a Lobby Day today to seek funding for the Texas film incentive program.


  Members of IATSE and other unions fanned across the Capitol to discuss the state budget with lawmakers after the House zeroed out funding for the program. The matter will finally be decided by a House-Senate conference committee. Among other union reps working the issue at the Capitol: Trish Avery, Executive Director of the Screen Actors Guild local in Dallas.

  Among the facts presented: 

  • The Texas incentive program had brought in $5.55 for every dollar invested;

  •  The program has helped generate about $1.25 billion in productions in the last 10 years;

  • The program helps fund film, tv shows, commercials and video games; and

  • All Texas Senate districts and 90 percent of Texas House districts have had at least some production under the program since 2011.

  The United Labor Legislative Committee has been a long-time supporter of the incentive program, which augments an industry that provides solid middle-class jobs.