That’s Not Fair

My parents are republicans. I don’t argue with them about politics anymore because they’re in their 80’s and I love them, and, frankly, there’s just nothing good that will come of it.

But when I was home recently, ironically enough for a memorial for a union man known to the family, my Mom started to talk about Scott Walker, right to work, etc, and how she thought it was only fair that workers not be forced to join a union. Keep in mind that my folks, God love them, are not particularly sophisticated when it comes to such things. They’re working class people who really ought to be voting democratic but somehow think voting republican is, well, just more American.

So I let my Mom make her case while my Dad sort of nodded in agreement quietly, and when she was done with all of the reasons she’d heard on Fox News about why right to work was about worker freedom, job creation, and so on and so forth, I quietly made my case.

I said, ” look, Mom, all this bill will do is prohibit employers from automatically deducting dues from workers paychecks, which is what an employer agrees to in contract negotiations after an election in which the workers have voted to join the union. It means that workers who benefit from the better wages, benefits, and working conditions that come with union representation don’t have to pay their dues. ”

My Mom stared at me for a minute as if she didn’t believe me, and then started once again talking about forcing people to join a union, so I mildly interrupted her and said, ” Mom, no one is forced to join a union, whatever that means. There’s an election held and if 51% of the workers who vote want to join the union then the employer agrees to deduct dues automatically from their paychecks. This bill will just allow workers to opt out of paying their dues even though they get all the benefits the union provides. ”

She looked at me in amazement. ” Why would the government get involved in that? ” she asked. ” I don’t know ” I replied. ” Good question ”

She stared just a bit longer and finally said, ” Well, that’s not fair. ” ” No, it’s not ” said my Dad.

If this right to work bill passes the Assembly, and there’s almost no doubt it will, I hope Labor runs a long term public education campaign in Wisconsin about fairness. Not how Governor Walker wants to destroy unions, or the Democratic Party, or how ALEC wrote the bill, or how this bill will lower wages for everyone, all things a lot of average people simply don’t understand.

But average Americans, like my parents, still understand what’s fair and what isn’t.

Ronald Reagan: Collective Bargaining = Freedom (VIDEO)

I’m sure I’ve shared this here before, but it seems appropriate given efforts by Republicans here in Wisconsin to weaken labor unions.

Oh look! It’s an open thread!

Here’s your chance to share what’s on your mind.

Have at it!

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout: “You have got to be kidding!” Advocate Respond to Privatizing Family Care and IRIS

Here’s Democratic State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout’s latest newsletter discussing the changes to Family Care and IRIS proposed by Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial state budget.

“You have got to be kidding!”
Advocate Respond to Privatizing Family Care and IRIS

“You have got to be kidding!” a Chippewa Valley advocate responded when I told her about a plan to potentially turn Family Care over to a for-profit insurance company.

Family Care and its fee-for-service sister, IRIS, provide thousands of Medicaid-eligible frail elderly and disabled people the help they need to remain in their homes. Services could include help getting places; keeping a job; managing money; preparing meals; keeping healthy; bathing and dressing.

People who benefit from Family Care or IRIS might easily end up in an expensive institution. Personal care and other workers help them stay in their own home – and many times – stay gainfully employed.

If the current version of the governor’s budget becomes law, it will mean big changes to care for frail elderly and disabled people of modest means. For the rest of us, it could mean many more of our neighbors and family members end up in expensive institutions. Worse yet, folks could be stranded at home without the services they need to independently live and work.

Buried in the mammoth state budget is the elimination of IRIS as we know it. IRIS serves more than 11,000 people statewide. The philosophy of the program is in its name: Include, Respect, I Self-direct. People hire their own workers who perform many tasks including meal preparation, bathing, and getting people to work.

As Jason Endres of Eau Claire told me, “Without these services, the way IRIS provides, it would prevent us from being part of our community.”

Also eliminated are local centers to assist elderly and disabled people find services. Known as Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs), these publically run centers would close and their citizen oversight boards disband. They could be reopened by a private company but with no requirement to be conveniently located or to tell people about all the services for which they may qualify. For example, the woman I wrote about in last week’s column who is served by SeniorCare, said without the help of local ADRC staff she would not have known about SeniorCare.

Family Care is a managed care program serving over 40,000 elderly, physically disabled, and developmentally disabled folks. A large number of developmentally disabled people use Family Care in the Chippewa Valley because of the closure of Northern Center. Services such as residential homes, mental health services and job coaches help folks stay in the community. Local providers work with non-profit Managed Care Organizations that oversee service delivery.

Services are tailored to the needs of the individual as determined by an independently completed functional assessment. This way services are based on the needs of the individual and not on what the provider has available.

Changes in the budget would eliminate most of the Managed Care Organizations. Their job could be taken over by a very large for-profit insurance company. Budget language gives the state Department of Health (DHS) authority to hire the insurance company in a no-bid contract and removes any legislative oversight of the contract between DHS and the insurance company.

This new insurance company could become the gatekeeper for all medical, rehabilitative, personal living and employment services for over 50,000 people (DHS enrollment numbers from 2014).

In essence, every service needed by the disabled or frail elderly person of modest means would need approval by potentially one for-profit insurance company.

“This takes the personal choice right out of it,” an Eau Claire woman told me.

It also makes it more likely people will not receive the care they need. Insurance companies are very good at denying care and shifting the cost of care to patients and families.

Jason said to me, “One for-profit, national insurance company in a no-bid contract? It makes me very sad. It’s no longer about local choices. It’s about big business making decisions about very personal things.”

Advocates are working hard to save these important programs. People can learn more at Jason reminded me to thank Amber and Nancy for this awesome website. Check it out. You’ll see Amber, Jason and read many more amazing stories.

Guest Blog: An Open Letter to Sen. Steven Nass

What follows is a guest blog written by Joanne Brown.

An Open Letter to Sen. Steven Nass

Dear Sen. Nass:

I attended the hearing of the Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform, from its beginning until about 4:45 p.m. I witnessed your conduct of the hearing, heard your comments to those testifying and to your colleagues, and read about the abrupt end of the hearing.

You did a disservice to all who testified and those unable to testify with this show hearing. What happened to all the prepared testimony that was offered? I saw clerks bringing copies to you and to other committee members, and I heard you tell Sen. Larsen that the debate would occur during executive session.

Yet you called a vote immediately upon gaveling the hearing to an early end, so you clearly had no opportunity or, dare I say, inclination to pay attention to the data that was offered.

No executive session, no debate. A total disregard for the hours of work people put in to prepare for the hearing.

If you have such contempt for information brought to you by the residents of the state of Wisconsin, why do you serve in the State Legislature? You certainly are not serving your constituents when you do not listen to them.

Scott Walker’s budget calls for an end to universities reporting sexual assaults

Among the more mind-blowing policy provisions of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed biennial budget is a provision that would eliminate the requirement that universities report the number of sexual assaults that take place on their campuses.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget—which would cut $300 million dollars out of the state’s beloved public university system—has a non-fiscal bombshell tucked in between its insane pages.

Under Walker’s budget, universities would no longer have to report the number of sexual assaults that take place on a campus to the Department of Justice. Under Walker’s plan, university employees who witness a sexual assault would no longer have to report it.

There are no policy recommendations in Walker’s budget how or what would replace these reporting mechanisms. The Governor simply instructs that they should be deleted.

I’d say Scott Walker should be ashamed of himself, but it’s clear at this point that the man has absolutely no shame at all.

Guest Blog: You Want My Vote?

Last night, President Obama held a town hall meeting with Hispanic voters during which he chastised the Democrats for not going to the polls. I guess he didn’t get the memo, but I found a copy.

Dear Mr. President, Democratic Representatives, State and National:
Your constituents are going on strike. Almost as far back as President Johnson, on the national and state levels, you have failed to come up with a single new, bold idea. Rather, you have told us repeatedly why we shouldn’t vote for the Republicans. And, you’re right.
All Republican policies support corporations/the wealthy because that’s where their campaign financing comes from. But, guess what? We already knew that.
And, you knew that because that’s where much of your financial support comes from. All the money in the world, however, isn’t going to help you if we don’t vote.
You need new ideas. You need a new way of messaging. Stop using the Republican message to argue against them. All you’re doing is reinforcing what they are saying. Use your own words. Be consistent. Peat and repeat! And, for the love, listen to the people that elected you. We’re tired of watching you getting kicked around like a poor puppy. Stand up for us. Stand up for yourselves.
Democratic Voters Everywhere

A perfect example of what this memo is talking about happened beginning in January 2015. Most of us knew that the 5% education bill and the right-to-mooch bill would be up as soon as the new session started. We are talking about two issues that are the heart and soul of this country, getting an affordable, quality public school education and giving all workers a voice in their workplace. We assumed that you were working hard to block their passage. Unfortunately, we didn’t hear you. Every one of you should have constantly been in the press talking about these issues long before the bills were introduced, motivating the public to action. There should have been thousands and thousands of people gathering on the steps of the Capital. There should have been as many Republicans calling their legislator to voice their opposition. While there’s still some hope for the education bill, sadly right-to-mooch is a reality.
It’s up to you. If you want us to vote, then give us something to vote FOR.

Polls, Democracy and Right To Work:

Over the past several days a number of proponents of the Right to Work legislation currently sailing through the Wisconsin legislature have been touting polling figures provided by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. As a matter of fact, Mike Nichols, the president of WPRI was touting them just this morning in his op-ed piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel supporting RTW.

These figures are discussed on the WPRI under the title Wisconsinites Support Right-To-Work Legislation. Their poll suggests that 62% of Wisconsinites would vote in favor of RTW. And since the poll is so overwhelming in favor, well naturally proponents say the legislature needs to pass this bill.

But it’s just a poll. And although politicians like to use polls to get a feel for the climate…they aren’t always reliable. And just because something polls strongly still doesn’t make it the right thing to do. But since the majority of those polled support RTW…well my gosh we should just have it.

Except when the poll runs gob smack into democracy. Unions weren’t thrust upon the earth in a cataclysm of epic proportions. They came into being over a period of decades with the blood and sweat of several generations of American workers.

And the union in the factory…or at that construction site…wasn’t created by royal decree. It came about because workers requested an election…and workers voted for/against the union…and the fors won. And there is a union. And guess what? That election was actually certified. And the majority ruled.

But now we are being told that democracy in the workplace be damned. When someone decides they don’t want to belong to a union…a union voted on by the majority of his or her co-workers…well he or she doesn’t have to belong…or pay dues…but by golly they get the same pay and benefits of participating union members.

But the lesson here…despite what President Obama arrogantly stated years ago…elections matter…and as the GOP has arrogantly gloated since the 2014 mid-terms…elections matter…except when they f*cking don’t. Union elections don’t f*cking matter when you don’t want them to.

So my personal lesson here is I don’t like the results of the 2014 elections…so I’ll just use those state highways but I am not going to pay my taxes. I’ll use the state parks…and not pay my fees. I’ll use the university…and not pay my tuition. State trooper hands me a speeding ticket…not paying it…etc…etc…etc.

Oh I know I can’t actually get away with that…but that’s the lesson I am being taught here.

By comparing protests to terrorism, Walker affirms his perpetual victim status

2tyu3Zach posted the video earlier of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker answering a question about how to deal with ISIS–without question, the single most dangerous regime on the face of the planet right now–by saying he managed to face down 100,000 protestors in Madison when he and the WisGOP pushed through Act 10 in 2011.

Walker said it this time at CPAC, the far right-wing’s annual love-in and by far Walker’s largest audience since he officially unofficially launched his 2016 presidential campaign, but he’s been using the line for a while now, including notably in Iowa in January.

People all over the internet, left, right, center, whathaveyou, have already explained how every aspect of what Walker said was a bad answer to the question. For one, he never, ever actually faced down the protesters in any way, opting instead for the tunnels under the capitol and chili with Tonette on Idol night.

And for another, Walker’s own spokesdroid walked back the sentiment moments after it was uttered, to reassure the kindergarten teachers of America that no, Scott Walker was not really saying that he believed they were as bad as an apocalyptic death cult.

I don’t know why people haven’t learned this already, though: Walker was not talking to the kindergarten teachers of America, or the foreign policy wonks who take the threat of ISIS seriously, or even to the person who asked the question on stage at CPAC.

He was talking to the the right-wing’s most abundant class: perpetual victims. And he was saying to them: I’m one of you, so it’s okay to make me your leader.

I’ve written about this before. Walker understands as well as, or better than, anyone about the power of narrative bias. And he tells the same story over and over and over and people eat it up and vote for him.

There’s a reason why the signs all said “I Stand With Walker” and his effing book was called Unintimdated: He plays to conservative voters’ deepest id, the personal narrative they all weave about how it is they who are truly the victims.

“‘Those people‘ are mooching off my tax dollars.” “‘Those people‘ are taking my place at the law school.” “‘Those people‘ are taking the Bible out of schools and forcing me to say ‘Happy Holidays.'” “‘Those people‘ are making me join a union.” “I was on food stamps and nobody helped me.” 

At CPAC, Walker wasn’t even trying to say, as his spokesperson offered, that he knew how to stand strong in the face of adversity. He was trying to say, Look at me. I am a victim, too! Now make me your king.

There’s not another candidate out there right now who can play that card the way Walker can, so believe me, every opportunity he has he will drop that sucker every chance he gets. For a man born to such privilege and so long living on a government paycheck, he is the biggest, whiniest victim there is–and the GOP primary voters are going to eat that schtick up.

UPDATED TO ADD: All the criticism Walker’s taking on this is going to 1) let the statement get replayed over and over to reach more primary voters’ ears and 2) let Walker keep playing the victim, now adding “lamestream media” to the list of people victimizing him today.

A Profound Disconnect

As noted by long time Blogging Blue commenter CJ McD, Mike Tate wasn’t the only DPW official raising money while rank and file union members were protesting right to work at the Capitol building in Madison.

Nation Consulting Senior Associate Jason Rae, a candidate for DPW Chair, held a fundraiser at the Hotel Metro in Milwaukee from 5-7 PM, just about the time that debate was probably really heating up on the Senate floor in Madison some 80 miles to the west. God almighty, wouldn’t you think that a senior associate in a consulting firm that routinely handles political campaigns would, at the very least, consider the optics?

Can you think of a more vivid, clear cut example of the profound disconnect within the Democratic Party of Wisconsin? Working class Wisconsinites fighting to salvage their union, their wages and their dignity in the Senate chambers while the pin stripe suits sip cocktails, chat, and write checks to the man they think should be the next DPW Chair.

No wonder we’re losing at every turn.

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