Friday, October 30, 2009

Major League Baseball Stars Pitch The Employee Free Choice Act – 10/30/09

Submitted by Doug Cunningham on October 29, 2009 - 3:17pm

A dozen star baseball players are appearing in ads supporting the Employee Free Choice Act labor law reform. The players are all members of the Major League Baseball Association. And they say all workers should have the same opportunity they had to freely join a union and negotiate with their employer without being penalized. The major league baseball stars are urging that we all “hit this one out of the park” and pass the Employee Free Choice Act. AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka says baseball is a defining American tradition ad so is the freedom of workers to bargain together for a better future

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Is Paul Ryan Out of Touch with his Constituents?

The Washington Post is tracking the voting records of Congressional members including the number of missed votes and how often they vote with their party. Paul Ryan continues to vote against the interests off his District with 93% of his votes following the GOP party line. This compares to the voting records of Representatives Petri at 89.6% and Sensenbrenner at 90.2%, who represent far “redder” districts than the 1st District. Ryan’s voting record is also a sharp contrast when viewed in light of the fact that his district went for Obama 51% to 48% according to Swing State Project. If the 2,600 residents of his district who signed a petition asking for a public option are a sample of what’s wanted there, he’s even more out of touch.
Given the recent Washington Post/ABC poll as reported by Chris Cilliza of the Fix “Less than one in five voters (19 percent) expressed confidence in Republicans’ ability to make the right decisions for America’s future while a whopping 79 percent lacked that confidence”, it is curious why Ryan continues to vote his party rather than his constituents.
My conclusion after doing some research, is that his votes are based on satisfying his contributors, on his personal ambitions and his beliefs rather than on serving his District and the State of Wisconsin. Let’s look into this a bit more.

So why does he continue to vote this way? It appears that Mr. Ryan feels that his giant war chest gives him the freedom to vote his way rather than to represent his district. In his quest for national fame and higher office as a conservative Republican, he votes against his district’s interests. His war chest and name recognition makes it difficult for relatively unknown and less-funded opponents from within or outside his party to gain traction in the 1st District.

According to Open Secrets he has an amazing $1.441 million in cash on hand, results that place him at the 21st highest ranking among congressional candidates (see Open Secrets rankings).
So where is Ryan collecting his seemingly impregnable war chest? In the 2008 election cycle, Mr Ryan collected $875,065 or 52.9% of his total contributions from Political Action Committees and $655,264 or 47.1% from individuals according to Campaign Money. Of these individual contributions, 77.8% came from within WI, although not necessarily in his District.

How about today? Larry Everhart, his Campaign Treasurer, filed his most recent report on October 2, 2009 according to the Federal Elections Commission. You can see a PDF of the 170 page filing here.

In the election cycle to date, he has reported net contributions of $829,770.81 according to the report. Of these contributions, $343,396 (41.2%) were from corporate PACS and $489,337 (58.8%) from individuals, both those itemized and un-itemized. I did not analyze the location of his donors, but in a Janesville Gazette article from July 15, 2009 following the prior period’s report, Paulette Garin, an unsuccessful 2008 Democratic opponent said that “Of the money contributed for the 2010 election cycle, 40.5 percent was itemized contributions from individuals, and only 12 percent came from within the 1st District” according to reporter Frank Schultz.

Open Secrets revealed that Paul Ryan’s major contributors (both PACs and Individuals) for this election cycle when categorized by industry were: Insurance, Health Professionals, Retired, Securities and Investments and Misc Finance.

How about his legislative record?According to Open Secrets, he ranks 272nd out of 441 as a sponsor of a bill, at 7 bills and 417th as a co-sponsor at 76th. It looks like he’s been too busy raising money and hobnobbing with his party’s leadership to get much done.
Meanwhile provides a means for you to see his votes for this year and for prior periods.

Given his 93% following of the GOP Party line, it isn’t too surprising to see that he was on the losing side of the vote in voting against a number of significant pieces of legislation that benefit his district including the following:

H.R. 2749 Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 – 283 yes, 142 no
H.R. 1622 R&D on Natural Gas Vehicles – 393 yes, 35 no
H.R. 1728 Mortgage Reform and Predatory Lending Act – 300 yes, 114 no
H.R. 1 American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (Stimulus) – 244 yes, 188 no
H.R. 2657 Defense Authorization Act 281 yes, 146 no

(This act is the one that finally brings the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill into law once it is signed by the President. Paul Ryan voted against funding the military in an effort to assuage the right wing of his party’s hatred and fear of gays and lesbians.)

While I’m not a resident of the 1st District, I’d encourage informed voters to look behind his blow-dried good looks and articulate speaking style to the substance and implications of his votes when you decide who should represent your District. From all indications it isn’t Paul Ryan. I’d recommend that you retire him to K Street where he belongs.

Read full story here

Milwaukee County to lay off up to 200 Employees

Temporary job cuts to address budget shortfall, Walker says
By Steve Schultze of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Oct. 28, 2009
Temporary layoffs of 150 to 200 Milwaukee County employees will be done to avoid a 2009 year-end shortfall now projected at $3 million, County Executive Scott Walker said Wednesday.

The layoff news came just before the County Board's budget committee recommended its version of a 2010 budget that called for creation of a new $20 motor vehicle registration fee, or "wheel tax," to pay for transit. That fee would raise nearly $9 million and would be in addition to state and City of Milwaukee registration fees.

The county budget approved by the committee also included a tax levy increase of $1.1 million, a rise of just 0.4%, to $258 million.

Walker proposed a tax levy freeze for 2010 at this year's $257 million level.

The layoffs will likely be spread across most county departments, Walker said. Notices could go out as soon as Friday, he said. Under union contracts, most employees must be given two weeks' notice before layoffs are done.

The layoffs became necessary after a new tally that showed sales tax receipts lower than anticipated over the summer and a lower-than-expected state Medicaid reimbursement, Walker said.

If the County Board had agreed to the 35-hour workweek he tried to impose on county workers in May to avoid a year-end deficit, the layoffs may have been avoided, Walker said.

The layoffs will likely last through the end of the year. "Merry Christmas from Scott Walker."

Most county employees must take four furlough days before the end of the year, saving an estimated $1.5 million. That still leaves this year's county budget with a $3 million hole, he said.
Walker said other steps were being taken to tighten county spending further, including purchasing restrictions.

The county also faces a potential $80 million shortfall for 2010 that Walker has proposed filling through employee concessions and outsourcing.These could be AFSCME jobs.

These are our brothers and sisters of Council 48. Is this the beginning of the end if Walker becomes our next Governor? We need to help save our jobs, so we will have to vote responsibly next November to protect all AFSCME jobs.

Parents' health insurance could cover children under 27

By Rick Romell and Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Oct. 29, 2009 12:34 p.m.
Madison — Parents soon will be able to put adult children as old as 26 on their insurance plans, Gov. Jim Doyle announced Thursday.

The change places Wisconsin among a growing number of states that require insurers to offer parents the option of covering adult children in their 20s - a requirement decried in the industry as adding to already soaring costs.

Many insurance plans here allow some adult children to stay on their parents' plans if they are in school, but a provision in the state budget, passed in June, significantly extends the benefit.
Starting Jan.1, plans will have to allow most children under 27 to stay on their parents' coverage even if they aren't students. Doyle on Thursday announced an emergency rule from the Office of the Insurance Commissioner clarifying the new law.

The governor said the change was needed to help parents whose kids are unemployed, work at jobs that don't offer benefits or take a year off from school. Most parents won't pay more for insurance if they are on family plans because insurers usually offer a flat rate no matter how many children a couple have, Doyle said.

But James R. Mueller, a longtime insurance industry executive in the Milwaukee area, said the change would drive up rates, as have other state-mandated coverage requirements.

"Whenever you insure somebody whom you didn't insure before there's some additional risk," said Mueller, executive vice president of the Wisconsin unit of Willis Group Holdings Ltd., one of the world's largest insurance brokers. A state requirement that insurers cover autism and mental health has added 3% to the premium rates of employer-sponsored plans that renew on Jan. 1, when those mandates also take effect, Mueller said. Extending coverage is good, he said, but doesn't come free.

"The problem with all these good ideas is there's funding necessary," Mueller said.

About 20 states require insurers to offer parents coverage of adult children through what are sometimes called "slacker plans," according to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, an advocacy group whose membership includes insurers, health-care providers, actuaries and insurance brokers. About 10 states have enacted such laws in the past few years, said J.P. Wieske, the organization's director of state affairs.

President Barack Obama also has proposed a federal requirement that children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through age 26.

Insurers haven't lobbied aggressively against the measures because young adults tend to be healthy and don't add heavy costs to the insurance companies, Wieske said.

But Mueller said that, while that's the commonly held view, young adults can be high risks for such things as car accidents and pregnancies. In any event, he said, employers who sponsor plans are increasingly frustrated about rising costs for coverage.

"Employers do not have the appetite right now or the means to take on additional risk, no matter how noble. . . . People are stretched to the max," Mueller said.

Insurance Commissioner Sean Dilweg said his agency has not yet analyzed how the changes would affect insurance rates.

Under the new rules, unmarried children under 27would be eligible to sign onto their parents' plans. Children who are eligible for insurance through an employer could sign onto their parents' plan if the cost of their employer's plan was more than the added premium of their parents' plan.
If the adult children are unmarried and have kids of their own, the youngsters also would be covered.

Parents who put children who are 25 or 26 onto their plans would pay about $1,600 more a year in income taxes because of federal tax rules, Dilweg said.

The new law will not apply to parents who work for private employers with self-funded insurance plans. It would apply to government workers who participate in self-funded plans, however.Rick Romell reported from Milwaukee and Patrick Marley in Madison.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wisconsin Senate approves bill to require teaching about unions in schools

MADISON — The state Senate has approved a bill that would require public schools to teach students about the history of labor unions and collective bargaining in the United States.

The bill passed the Senate in 1997 and again in 2001, but it never got through the full Legislature.

But Democrats now control both the Assembly and the Senate. The Assembly passed the measure in April. The Senate passed it 20-12 on Tuesday, October 27, 2009.

The bill now goes to Gov. Jim Doyle, who can sign it into law or veto it.

as reported on

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Council 40 Education Conference

This year's conference is scheduled to be held at the Hotel Mead in Wisconsin Rapids November 6th thru the 9th.

I am a scheduled presenter along with John English (Council 48) and John Grabel (Council 11) at the first workshop on the 6th at 10:30A to discuss CDL'S and State/Federal Budgets. It would be great to see a good turn-out from the 1st CD!

Click here for the link for agenda and registration materials

Hope to see you in the Rapids!

(Don't worry about the deadline - they are still accepting registrations, any questions contact Council 40 in Madison)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Have Your Car Insurance Premiums Increased?

This is a letter to the Editor in a Shell Lake newspaper. I would like to know if you or someone you know has experienced an increase in car insurance premiums. Please e-mail with before and after premium prices because this is an issue we can take up with our representatives, if what this article states is truthful. Thanks for your help.

Letter to the Editor:

During the budget negotiations in June, the insurance industry warned state legislators about the dramatic premium increases that would be experienced by Wisconsin motorists if several proposed insurance mandates were enacted as part of the budget process (i.e. increased liability limits, stacking of policy liability limits, mandatory and increased uninsured motorists coverage and more). Insurance agents from across the state asked the Legislature to not adopt these proposed mandates that were sure to increase auto-insurance policy premiums.
Gov. Doyle and Democratic leaders in the state Legislature chose to instead to play politics by adopting these insurance mandates to placate the trial lawyer’s lobby, who strongly advocated for the mandates in order to allow higher damage awards for insurance claims. As a result, motorists across the state are now stuck with insurance premium increases upon renewal that are 10 to 20 percent higher than the previous year’s premium. The mandates included in the state budget bill are the sole cause of any insurance premium increases. Insurance companies are simply not to blame and had actively warned the Legislature about the forthcoming premium increases if the mandates were adopted. Motorists are upset and some are falsely placing the blame for premium increases on the insurance agents and companies.
We need to redirect our displeasure with the premium increases to the state Legislature. When making the call, motorists should provide specific examples of premium increases and ask the legislator to revisit the changes that were made to Wisconsin ’s insurance law in the state budget. Motorists can find information on how to contact their legislators at:

Dave Schraufnagel
Lake Insurance Agency
Shell Lake

Thursday, October 22, 2009

AFSCME Nurse on Labor Today

This Saturday morning, Oct. 24, on the Racine Labor Today radio program on WRJN, 1400 on the AM dial, at 9:30 a.m., the guest will be Registered Nurse Sue Conard, talking about the various types of flu, virus' and vaccines available. Listeners will have the opportunity to call in (634-WRJN) and ask the nurse questions about the H1N1 flu and vaccine availability and any other flu type questions.

If you would prefer to listen on your computer click this link at 9:30. Look in the righthand corner of the screen and click the link.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Brother Hand Receives an Award

I've got pictures just have to get home tomorrow to post them. Brother Hand received a well deserved award for his 30+years of service to Council 40.

Brother Weeks

As many of you may remember Brian Weeks moved to Washington DC two years ago. He addressed the Delegates this morning - Great to see him back in Wisconsin. He is doing a great job in Washington supporting all of our jobs.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lenny Hand Represented the 1st CD District with his usual Flair and Professionalism

Today, Brother Hand unanimously endorsed the Leadership of our 1st CD. He did an excellent job representing all of us today. Brother Vandenhooven was not nominated off the floor for 1st CD Chair so there will be no election in the 1st CD tomorrow. The CD Chair position stays in Racine County. 1st Vice-Chair is new to Racine County, Secretary and Member at Large stay in Kenosha.

Scott Sharp, 1st CD Chair (Local 67)
Ernie Schlegel 1st Vice-Chair (Local 67)
Ramona Dodge 1st CD Secretary (Local 1392)
Linda Ingram 1st CD Member at Large (1392)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

PEOPLE Convention Starts Friday

Looking forward to seeing everyone this weekend in Green Bay. Will report back to all of you next week on all of the activities and election results. If anyone is interested in handouts or materials that I collect - please let me know and I will scan and e-mail them to you.

For everyone driving have a safe trip.