Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lessons From a New Retiree

Personal finance advice with a twist--it’s to your own benefit to join a union. Wotta concept!
Cash Flow
By Albert B. Crenshaw
Washington Post, Sunday, May 28, 2006; Page F12

. . . It’s no coincidence that union membership is falling and so are average workers’ wages in many industries.

Business groups like to pin the troubles of lots of companies on their unions, but the truth is that the big problems are in industries where there has been some fundamental change in the economic climate, in many cases wrought by the government.

In most companies with organized workforces, unions not only fight for better wages and working conditions, they help prevent management from mistreating individual workers.

Many young workers today think of themselves as too sharp, too desirable as employees to need union protection. Don’t delude yourself. You maybe a boy wonder today, but I’ve seen a lot of former boy wonders wishing they had joined, or belatedly joining a union they once thought themselves too good for.

The newsroom at The Post is unionized, and I have belonged to the union here and at an earlier job for almost 40 years. I have never needed its protection, but I have seen it prevent firings and demotions -- some possibly deserved but many arbitrary and brought on by a someone getting on the bad side of someone else. And I have seen it negotiate decent severance packages for workers who joined moments before the ax fell.

If you go to work for a company with a union, join if you’re in its jurisdiction. This isn’t a matter of great principle. It’s simple self-interest.
Read more here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Stabbing yourself in the back

We have created a working class is so open-minded that it won't even take its own side in an argument:

“It’s a wonder that American workers support the 18th century robber baron agenda of the Republican Party, a party that constantly votes against their interests: tax cuts for the rich; judges who support monopolies and always rule in favor of corporations; destruction of the environment; deregulation of rules that protect consumers and workers; support for an avaricious military-industrial-pharmaceutical complex; rampant business and Congressional corruption; and a Congress that refuses to raise the minimum wage, while raising it’s own pay seven times in eight years.”

Labor, the Media and the Protests in France
The Strange Case of the American Worker
by Don Monkerud in CounterPunch

Read more here

Friday, March 31, 2006

Who speaks for you?

AFSCME Council 92

Pay Raises Coming!

The House and Senate Conference Committee on the Budget completed its work. The budget includes a Cost of Living Raise for all employees as follows.

Salary below $45,000 $900

Salary between $45,000 - $70,000 2%

Salary above $70,000 $1400

AFSCME has argued that the 2% pay raise submitted by the Governor was too low for low paid state employees and pushed for an equal dollar amount for all employees of $993. This plan represents a compromise that is still better for the average state employee:

For a $20,000 salary this means a 4.5%

For a $30,000 salary this means a 3%

The legislature also adopted a new minimum salary of $20,447 for employees in the State Personnel Management System. This will particularly assist classifications such as Food Service Workers, Grounds Keepers and Human Service Aids.

In addition, the legislature approved:

Step increases in January and July.

Deferred Comp Match of $600 effective July 1.

Correctional Officers will see their upgrade effective April 12.

Much thanks goes to the AFSCME members who spoke out loud and clear about the need for MORE MONEY for State Employees.

Not resolved yet are key issues of the prescription drug benefit roll back and an improved pension system. Stay tuned for further developments.

AFSCME Council 92

Legislative Office: (410) 269-1817

To the unionists who worked for us in Annapolis

Psalm of the Non-Unionist

The dues paying member is my shepherd. I shall not want.
He provideth me with rest days and vacations
So that I may lie down in green pastures
Beside the still waters.

He restoreth my back pay
He guideth my welfare without cost to me.
I stray in the paths of the non-righteous
For my moneys sake.

Yea, though I alibi and pay no dues
From generation to generation
I fear no evil, for he protects me.
The working conditions which he provides
They comfort me.

He annointeth my head with the oil of workers compensation
Sick pay, holidays, and a pension.
He represents me in grievances.

And my cup runneth over with ingratitude.
Surely his goodness and loving kindness
Shall follow me all the days of my life
Without cost to me.

And I shall dwell in his house forever
And allow him to foot the bill.

Thanks and a tip o the mortarboard to Saul.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Rally Monday in Annapolis

Get Active with AFSCME

What: Statewide AFSCME Rally (indoors) in Annapolis
When: Monday, March 13 at 6:30 PM
Where: Joint Hearing Room, Legislative Services Building, Annapolis
(behind the Thurgood Marshall Statue in Lawyers Mall)

Your elected representatives are about to vote on legislation that will benefit you and your family for years to come:
  • Pay Raise
  • Pension Benefits
  • Health Insurance
  • Strengthening Collective Bargaining
. . . but passage of these bills is NOT A SURE THING!

Attend this rally and have an impact on Maryland legislation that will better your life.
It is both your right and responsibility as an American citizen to speak out now.
This is not the time to sit on the sidelines and hope others will take care of this for you.

Remember, AFSCME is YOU!

For more information, directions, or transportation arrangements, contact:
  • The AFSCME legislative office at (410) 269-1817, or
  • The AFSCME Council 92 office: 190 W. Ostend St. Baltimore, MD 21230
  • 547-1515 or 1-800- 492-1996

Big-league political football

“Facing budget deficits, Mr. Ehrlich slashed colleges’ budgets, and tuition levels soared to among the nation’s costliest. This year, the state is flush, so it’s politically convenient to try to make colleges whole and dampen tuition increases. Now Democrats would put in even more state money and freeze tuition. Then what happens when state budget deficits very soon return, as predicted? More university system cuts and more 10 percent tuition increases?”

We can understand this. Football has always been good to the gov. It got him out of Arbutus and into Gilman prep, then to Princeton, and now the metaphor serves him well in Annapolis.

Unfortunately, his 12.5-percent UMS budget increase does not
“ . . . make colleges whole and dampen tuition increases.” The increase returns the budget to the level of a year ago. You can bet that his 40-percent tuition increase will not be rescinded.

This year's paltry 2-percent staff wage increase is all the more galling when UMS squandered much of the gov's 12.5 percent on pet projects. Yes, I'm talking about UMS buying the Ward Decoy Museum among other idiocies.
“A firm and farsighted state commitment to funding higher education is absolutely critical to the long-term health of Maryland’s economy. Unfortunately, as recent history shows, Maryland’s commitment is uncertain and shortsighted. State leaders need to get serious about figuring out how to pay for the kind of university system this wealthy, educated state deserves.”

. . . but first, the gov’s gotta go watch the Terps.
Read more here

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Below decks at the flagship institution

The current federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour is of course, a national disgrace. Despite our gov’s protests that America (well, his America anyway) will collapse if the minimum wage is raised, the Maryland legislature is currently debating House Bill 55 that would raise our state’s minimum wage to $6.15.

What's to debate? You’d think that the political risk of adding a dollar to the minimum wage is on a par with assuming a courageous moral stand against drunk driving and spouse abuse. Particularly since the Maryland Department of Budget & Management (DBM) estimates that the total yearly cost for the one-dollar increase is $847,500—approximately what Halliburton charges the taxpayer to deliver today’s lunch to one soldier in Iraq.

As if there isn’t enough shame to go around, the University of Maryland admits that 2400 of their employees would be covered under the new minimum wage law (see Extract from Fiscal Note below). If you or anyone you know currently works for the University at less than $6.00 an hour, call AFSCME Council 92 in Baltimore today! Email or phone: 1-800-492-1996

Extract from Fiscal Note

The bill would require that the State pay its employees $6.15 per hour effective July 1, 2006. As a result, State expenditures could increase by approximately $847,500 in fiscal 2007 due to additional wages and mandatory payroll taxes paid on behalf of State employees. The estimate provided by DBM did not include employees at the University System of Maryland (USM). USM advises that approximately 2,400 contractual employees who are covered by federal or State minimum wage requirements are paid a wage of less than $6.15 per hour. Based on information provided by DBM and USM, Legislative Services estimates that wage and payroll tax expenditures would increase by approximately $600,000 in fiscal 2007. In addition, St. Mary’s College advises that increasing the minimum wage would increase its expenditures by approximately $128,000 in fiscal 2007, which represents increased wages for approximately 600 student-employees. Morgan State University advises that the bill would have no impact, as the university currently pays its employees a minimum of $6.25 per hour.

Monday, February 27, 2006

That heady sense of entitlement

Not that these shenanigans don't cross party lines, but this from our Light Gov, one of the avatars of the "We need to get government off our backs and out of our wallets" Maryland Republicans.

Steele Should Refund Taxpayers for Out of State Political Travel
Steele’s Spanish Holiday Cost Maryland Taxpayers $13,500;
Almost $50,000 in Taxpayer Funds Used for Political Functions

Annapolis, MD – The Maryland Democratic Party is calling on Lt. Governor Michael Steele to refund nearly $50,000 in state taxpayer funds spent on partisan political travel, including a six-day summertime holiday to Madrid in 2005. According to the Washington Post, the Lt. Governor has spent 128 days – over 4 months – in out of state travel, including numerous trips for purely political purposes. A front page report in the Baltimore Business Journal details how Maryland taxpayers paid at least $13,500 to cover the cost of a political getaway for Lt. Governor Michael Steele and at least one government staffer to gather with a Republican political club in Spain.

“George Bush’s handpicked candidate for the Senate race in Maryland has every right to travel abroad but he has no right to make the taxpayers fund his Spanish vacation or his forays on behalf of fellow Republicans,” says Derek Walker, Executive Director of the Maryland Democratic Party.

“The $13,500 price tag for the Spanish trip covers just his security detail,” adds Walker. “It’s obvious from pictures published on the internet by Republicans Abroad in Spain that Steele took members of his official government staff along with him. So, how much did Maryland taxpayers really pay for a six day excursion to Spain?”

The Baltimore Business Journal details nearly $50,000 worth of taxpayer funded expenses for Steele’s political efforts: “Lt. Gov. Michael Steele took more than 20 political trips in the past year, billing Maryland taxpayers each time for his security protection to places as far away as Spain. From July 2004 through December 2005, the lieutenant governor traveled to 21 cities in the name of the Republican Party and two additional destinations in the name of his campaign for U.S. Senate.”

“Robert Ehrlich and Michael Steele have increased the burden on taxpayers by over $3 billion since coming into office, and that doesn’t even include the egregious misuse of public funds for partisan political purposes,” said Walker. “The money Steele raised while arm-in-arm with George Bush and Karl Rove should more than cover the costs of these political junkets.”

The Washington Post article can be viewed here.

The Baltimore Business Journal article can be viewed here.

-- A tip o' the hat to Derek Walker

Friday, February 24, 2006

Frame up

"Republicans: You can’t trust them. You can’t trust them to run a country, you can’t trust them to live up to their claims of “smaller government,” you can’t trust them to fund their promises of a secure nation or to rebuild New York after Sept. 11 or New Orleans after Katrina. You can’t trust them to get you into a war or out of one. And you certainly can’t trust Dick Cheney with a gun."


Political Animal | Columns

Frame Up

By Brian Morton

If there is one thing Republicans are good at, even better at than creating deficits or cutting rich people’s taxes, it is defining their opponents. Many people in America who might be considered “liberal,” if you ask them a series of questions about their beliefs, will never own up to the word, preferring to call themselves “independents” or “moderates.” Because, for the last 25 years, the right has made “liberal” seem as welcome as “rapist.”
Read more here

The party of true fiscal responsibility

Democrats Fighting to Stem the Tide
of Ehrlich's Tuition Increases


Democrats in the Maryland legislature are fighting to keep college affordable for Maryland families in the face of Ehrlich administration policies that have forced a 40% rise in tuition at some colleges and universities during the Governor's tenure.

Tuition would not rise at Maryland's public universities in the fall, under legislation introduced yesterday by Democratic leaders of the Maryland Senate.

The Democrats said the bill is needed to ensure that the University System of Maryland remains affordable after a string of tuition increases that have raised the cost of higher education by more than 40 percent at some campuses since Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) took office.

The Board of Regents has approved a 4.5 percent increase at most campuses that would take effect in the next school year.

Read more here.

Thankfully, the Democrats are willing to fight the Ehrlich administration on these back-door tax increases on the middle class.

I am sure Ehrlich feels that students and parents should feel lucky with only a 40% increase in tuition. After all, early in Ehrlich's term, Richard Hug, Ehrlich's finance chair, and an Erhlich appointee to the Board of Regents, tried to set a course to double tuition. "Only a 40% increase? What a deal!"

--A tip o' the hat to Roy Temple