Today's Fair Shots - August 17, 2017

1-John Patrick: 'Time to Pass the Baton'

2-Abbott Doesn't Rule Out Another Special Session

3-Defeat of SB 7 the Product of Thousands of Working People Making Voices Heard

4-Education Package Has Some Decent Features, But Overall Is a Minor Step With a Bad Precedent

5-Trump Dissolves Two Manufacturing Councils After Cascade of Resignations; Trumka: It Became Clear Promise of Councils Was Broken

6-Take Note: It's Still Possible to Buy a U.S.-Made - Yea, a Texas-Made - Baseball Glove

1) John Patrick: 'Time to Pass the Baton'

  I won't add much to Brother Rick Levy's quote in the news release for now. I have led a charmed career, getting to work alongside some of the best bosses imaginable, in varying styles. John is the latest in that line. If you can't get along with John Patrick, the problem simply isn't John Patrick. Beyond his exemplary observance of union brotherhood, John is as authentic as it gets, living and breathing a no-nonsense mission of improving the lives of working people and standing firmly for civil rights for all. He is going out on a high note and all of us wish him the best of days ahead. 

  The Texas AFL-CIO posted this statement:


2) Gov. Greg Abbott said yesterday he has not ruled out calling lawmakers back for another special session on issues that did not get to the finish line over the 29-day session that just concluded.

  Abbott also offered politicized criticism of House Speaker Joe Straus to the Texas Tribune:

  "I'm disappointed that all 20 items that I put on the agenda did not receive the up-or-down vote that I wanted but more importantly that the constituents of these members deserved," Abbott said in a KTRH radio interview. "They had plenty of time to consider all of these items, and the voters of the state of Texas deserved to know where their legislators stood on these issues."...

  "There is a deep divide between the House and Senate on these important issues," Abbott said in the interview. "So I'm going to be making decisions later on about whether we call another special session, but in the meantime, what we must do is we need to all work to get more support for these priorities and to eliminate or try to dissolve the difference between the House and the Senate on these issues so we can get at a minimum an up-or-down vote on these issues or to pass it."

  In the interview, Abbott contrasted the House with the Senate, which moved quickly to pass all but two items on his agenda. The lower chamber started the special session by "dilly-dallying," Abbott said, and focused on issues that had "nothing to do whatsoever" with his call. 

  Asked if he assigned blame to Straus, a San Antonio Republican, Abbott replied, "Well, of course." 

  Straus was very open in his opposition to at least one item on Abbott's call: a "bathroom bill" that would regulate which restrooms transgender Texans can use. Its failure during the regular session was one of the reasons Abbott called an overtime round. Just as during the regular session, the House never took a vote on a "bathroom bill" during the special session. 

  "The speaker made very clear that he opposed this bill and he would never allow a vote to be taken on it," Abbott said. "He told me that in the regular session. And he told me during the regular session that if this came up during the special session, he would not allow a vote on it, and there's no evidence whatsoever that he's going to change his mind on it, and that's why elections matter."

  Read more:

3) Yesterday's theme on the defeat of SB 7, the payroll dues deduction bill: You did this. 

  Thousands upon thousands of teachers, firefighters, police, correctional officers, parole officers, nurses, child abuse investigators and sundry other categories of state and local workers contacted their lawmakers to let them know that it's their paycheck, their choice. Thousands more allies sided with public employees even though they had no personal stake in the debate. I have never seen any issue that developed more union solidarity than the quest by the likes of Empower Texans and the Texas Public Policy Foundation to take away the freedom of public employees to voluntarily support the labor organizations of their choice through payroll deduction.

  "If this vote had occurred in January or February, it might well have come out differently," Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick said.

  "I could not say with a straight face that SB 7 was at the top of the list for Texas in a special session that included issues like school finance, civil rights and the fundamental relationship between the state and our cities. The low profile meant our members and our friends had to explain the bill carefully to lawmakers and to one another. Our members - the folks who go out and do their work every day of the year and can't normally show up for legislative hearings because they have everyday responsibilities - spoke with one voice. They spoke eloquently. It is gratifying to know that union members not affected by SB 7 nevertheless fiercely opposed it. The labor movement honored the fundamental union adage that an injury to one is an injury to all."  

  After rocketing through the Texas Senate, SB 7 died in the Texas House after the Senate zipped the bill through its process in less than a week. The Texas AFL-CIO did not expect a test vote in the House, but got one in the waning hours of the special session in the form of an amendment to a bill setting up the umpteenth study of school finance in Texas. That test proved dramatic, suggesting a bipartisan House majority sees paycheck deception for what it is: An unwarranted intrusion on the freedom of working people. As we have said again and again, and as has been acknowledged even by authors of the bill, payroll dues deduction does not cost taxpayers money. In fact, testimony out of Houston suggested that ENDING payroll dues deduction would cost that city's taxpayers substantial money.

  There is no constituency for SB 7 other than those who have a problem when members of labor organizations, union or non-union, speak up together. That group includes Gov. Greg Abbott, who made the bill a priority in his State of the State speech, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who made the bill a top priority. 

  Sadly, SB 7 or other bills in the same family will surface again in the future - maybe even a nearer future than we imagine based on Item 2. We cannot incur a celebration penalty. Working people must do everything possible to make sure, on a bipartisan basis, that the opposition to SB 7 stays together.  

  For those of you wondering how your state representative voted on the payroll dues deduction amendment, go to: The 49-78 vote is on Amendment #20.

  If you want to witness the debate on SB 16 as it occurred - a highlight of the special session for working people - go to this link: This is the full debate on the bill. The debate on the amendment happens a little after the 1 hour and 43 minute mark. The moment of truth occurs a little after the 2 hour and 26 minute mark.

4) Our Brothers and Sisters at Texas AFT offer an account of the education package that the Legislature agreed on.

  It doesn't have private school vouchers. An extended excerpt:  

  The Texas House voted 94 to 46 this evening to accept a stripped-down Senate version of HB 21 on school funding. The Senate amendments to HB 21 eliminated $1.5 billion of the $1.8 billion in the House-passed version, completely eliminating the main sources of any new aid to cash-strapped urban districts--a proposed increase in the basic allotment and in bilingual-education aid. Removing these two funding streams means the bill does nothing to ease burdens on the vast majority of local property-tax payers, who have been forced by the state to shoulder an ever-rising share of the cost of public education.  Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) spoke for many when she said this bare-bones version of HB 21 is a "pretend" fix for school finance.

  What sold a majority of the House on this bill was the Senate's insertion of health-care cost relief for TRS retirees into HB 21. In effect, the Senate gave the House an ultimatum:  Approve this urgently needed aid for retirees along with the rest of HB 21 or risk losing it in a last-minute tussle over a separate bill pending before the House, SB 16. The TRS-Care portion of HB 21 will provide $212 million to reduce the increase in retirees' outlays for health-care deductibles and premiums in the TRS-Care health plan.

  The school-funding elements of HB 21, now on its way to the governor's desk, add up to $351 million. Some $150 million will go to smaller school districts to continue above-formula aid that they have come to depend upon even though it was supposed to be phased out by now. Another $41 million also will go toward reducing a small-district funding penalty that small, sparsely populated districts have been trying to get rid of for decades. Some $40 million more will pay for two years' worth of grants to school districts for services to students with autism or dyslexia.

  The final piece of the HB 21 package is the most controversial. It splits $120 million for facilities costs evenly between traditional school districts and charter schools. What's so controversial about that? Well, regular Texas public schools that educate five million students get no more new money than the charter schools that enroll 250,000 or so--just 5 percent of Texas students. Charter schools have never before received facilities aid from the state, in part because they already have a substantial advantage over traditional public schools in operating funds--an advantage averaging more than $700 per pupil statewide, ranging as high as $1,300 in some major urban districts. Charter schools now will receive facilities aid on a preferential basis, while the state fails to reverse a steep decline in the state share of facilities funding for traditional school districts from 30 percent to less than 10 percent over the past 16 years.

  Having accepted the Senate's shrunken school-finance package, the Texas House adjourned a day early, shutting down the special session for good as far as the House is concerned... 

  Meanwhile, it should be noted that several of the worst ideas on the governor's and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's agenda in this special session fell by the wayside thanks to intense opposition among the 150 members of the House--reflecting the resistance of grass-roots constituents like you back in their home districts. The special session ends with no private-school vouchers, no transgender-bathroom discrimination, no infringement on your freedom to have your organizational dues voluntarily deducted from your paycheck--and thus no suppression of your voice at the Capitol. And that voice is needed now more than ever.

  You can view the online version of this item and share it from:

5) President Goofus, er, Trump might not be able or willing to sort out the distinctions between neo-Nazis and counter-protesters, but both organized labor and corporate America are having no difficulty.

  Trump has even lost the CEO of Wal-Mart as business becomes its own version of a resistance.

  A day after AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka and Thea Lee of the AFL-CIO joined CEOs in departing from a presidential economic advisory council, in the wake of the President's response to the tragedy in Charlottesville, Trump reacted to a cascade of resignations by dissolving two of his advisory councils rather than go through the embarrassing exercise of trying to find business leaders who might be okay with Trump's comments. 

  Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick passes along word that Scott Paul, the President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing who also resigned from the manufacturing council, has close ties to the United Steelworkers and other unions.

  The New York Times offers details on developments that may well be unprecedented in the annals of presidential buffoonery:

  Members of the advisory group had stood with the president in recent months even as he advanced policies they vehemently opposed, including tough immigration policies and withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate accord.

  But the president's equivocating in the wake of the outburst of white nationalist violence in Charlottesville was too much for the C.E.O.s to bear.

  "He had put them in a very difficult position," said Anat R. Admati, a professor of finance and economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. "This has ruined his relationships with some of them."

  On Monday, after Mr. Trump's initial response to the violence, Kenneth C. Frazier, the chief executive of drugmaker Merck, resigned from the manufacturing council. For much of the day Mr. Frazier was alone in his opposition, but that night, two more C.E.O.s, from Under Armour and Intel, left the same group.

  Then on Tuesday, three leaders of labor and nonprofit business groups left the council. And in a rebuke to the president, the chief executive of Walmart made public a letter to employees in which he explicitly criticized Mr. Trump's leadership.

  Read more:

  Meanwhile, Brother Trumka published a column in The New York Times on why he resigned from the Council:

  Unfortunately, with each passing day, it has become clear that President Trump has no intention of following through on his commitments to working people. More worrisome, his actions and rhetoric threaten to leave America worse off and more divided. It is for these reasons that I resigned yesterday from the president's manufacturing council, which the president disbanded today after a string of resignations.

  To be clear, the council never lived up to its potential for delivering policies that lift up working families. In fact, we were never called to a single official meeting, even though it comprised some of the world's top business and labor leaders. The A.F.L.-C.I.O. joined to bring the voices of working people to the table and advocate the manufacturing initiatives our country desperately needs. But the only thing the council ever manufactured was letterhead. In the end, it was just another broken promise.

  Read more:

6) I believe my baseball and softball gloves were made in the U.S., but that is a function of age and not recent reality.

  Bloomberg News reports on the lastAmerican manufacturer of baseball gloves, and it's near Dallas. No doubt Nokona charges a premium price, but this particular premium is worth it.

  The last time I played in a softball league, I knew the end was nigh when I was on second base, the hitter sent a ball between two outfielders, I steamed around third with all I had and by the time I got to home plate, the batter was practically stepping on my ankles. But if all I can do is play catch with my daughter, I still may have to buy one of these:

  After the Civil War, ranchers drove longhorn cattle through Montague County to livestock markets in the north. The town of Nocona, located some 100 miles northwest of Dallas and named after a Comanche chief (hence the Native American-in-headdress logo on Nokona gloves), developed a reputation as a leather-goods hub.

  The company's name is spelled with a "k" because it was told in the 1930s that the town's name couldn't be trademarked. Today, Nocona is home to about 3,000 people and a few stoplights. "God Bless America" banners line the street, and locals wish you a "blessed day."

  Founded in 1926, the company originally made wallets and purses. It was a former Rice University baseball player named Roberts Storey who steered Nokona into ballgloves.

  In the early days of baseball, it was considered unmanly to use a glove. Broken bones were common. The first mass-produced gloves had little padding and no fingers. In the 1920s and '30s, companies started producing gloves with a web between the thumb and forefinger, to create a pocket.

  The shift to Asia in the 1960s nearly put Nokona out of business. Storey wouldn't budge. "It hit him all wrong that we would have to go to Japan," said his grandson Rob Storey, now the company's executive vice president. "One of his favorite sayings was: 'If I have to tell my employees we're closing up and they don't have jobs any more, I may as well get a bucket of worms and go fishing'."

  It hasn't been an easy faith to keep. The company went bankrupt in 2010, but kept producing after a Phoenix-based maker of football gloves bought a majority stake. And cracks are starting to show in Nokona's claim to be all-American. It recently started importing partially assembled gloves from China, made of Kip leather, a luxury cowhide.

  Still, 98 percent of its gloves are made at the factory in Nocona. The nutty scent of leather fills the place. In the lobby, samples of the company's work over the decades are displayed on the wall, from wallets to football pads. When you buy a glove, the cashier Helen - who's worked there for 55 years - writes out a receipt by hand.

  Making a glove involves about 40 steps and can take four hours. Hides, mostly from Chicago or Milwaukee, are tested for temper and thickness. Workers lower presses onto metal dies to cut the leather. The pieces - some models require 25 of them - are sewn together, joining the inner and outer halves. The product is turned right-side-out and shaped on hot steel fingers. A grease used during World War II to clean rifles is lathered under the pocket, to keep it flexible.

  The company emphasizes the craft that goes into each glove, and that's reflected in the bill. Rawlings has gloves for all budgets: Its top-end models cost plenty, but you can get a 9-inch children's version for less than $8. Nokona's equivalent-sized mitt costs $220, and its pro model runs to $500.

  Read more: