Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hold your nose - Part II

First Karl Rove, now this. Who's next, Ken Lay?

George Bush is coming to Maryland


George Bush is coming to Maryland to raise money for Michael Steele's U.S. Senate campaign.

Shockingly, Steele eagerly associates himself with Bush's misplaced priorities, scandal-ridden Administration, dismal response to Hurricane Katrina and failed Iraq policy. ". . . It is an honor, and we look forward to it," says a Steele campaign aide.

The event is next week, November 30th, at the M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The special interests clamoring to attend will give $5,000 each to have their photograph taken with Bush and Steele!

This is only Steele's second public fundraising event. The first Steele event was at Republican headquarters in Washington, D.C., hosted by Karl Rove - proving that Steele's only hope is to tie his fortunes to Bush, Rove and the "swift boat" tactics of the RNC. Rove and the national Republicans have promised to import into Maryland $15 million from their national right-wing allies in an attempt to buy a U.S. Senate seat in Maryland.

Read more.

Bush's coattails

November 22, 2005--Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich trails two potential challengers in his bid for re-election according to the latest Rasmussen Reports Election 2006 poll.

Ehrlich (R) 40 (46)
O'Malley (D) 46 (41)

Ehrlich (R) 39 (43)
Duncan (D) 48 (44)

More here.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

We have a scarcity of knowledge

"The university is bracing for a maintenance worker shortage"?
How, exactly? The choices seem to be limited by economic elitism - -

  • Continue the ten-year policy of increasing the ratio of managers to line workers?
  • Contract the work out?

Wait! there may be a better way . . . You might ask the line workers for their ideas. No, that's too obvious!

University faces dearth of maintenance employees
Department struggles to retain workers in the aftermath of budget cuts

by Megha Rajagopalan
The Diamondback
November 11, 2005

The university is bracing for a maintenance worker shortage that over the next five years will hurt the university’s ability to maintain campus buildings, officials said.

Budget cuts several years ago forced the university to slash its maintenance staff nearly in half even though the university continues to grow both in size and population, said Director of Operations and Maintenance Jack Baker. The expected shortage of maintenance workers comes in the midst of a looming half billion dollars needed to repair and maintain campus buildings.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Who speaks loudest?

Why would Wal-Mart, a major American corporation fight so hard against the proposition that all employees have a right to health care insurance?

Note the use of words like "battle" and "showdown." Wal-Mart's "ammunition" in Annapolis is money--it sure isn't reason or ethics. They think only money talks.

As Ambassador Joseph Wilson has demonstrated, stopping this kind of crap depends on you standing up to power.

All it requires is a letter, email, or phone call. Active citizens can overcome spending any day of the week.


Wal-Mart Girds for Battle on Maryland Bill

Benefits Measure Spurs a Buildup Of Lobbying Force

By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 17, 2005; Page A01

Preparing for a showdown with organized labor in the Maryland legislature, Wal-Mart has deployed at least a dozen Annapolis lobbyists and is making strong overtures to black lawmakers, including a $10,000 donation to help them pay for a recent conference.

The retail giant hopes to derail legislation that would effectively force the company to boost spending on employee health benefits.

Thank a state employee today

With all that is going on in Annapolis concerning the costs of state employees (health insurance, pay raises, etc.), this would be good time to send letters to the editors of papers about the fact that state employees are not an expense - they are a vital benefit to the well being of our state.

With Thanksgiving coming up, this is a perfect time to say - Have you thanked a state employee this year?

Here is an outline for such a letter.

SAMPLE LETTER TO THE EDITOR

As we approach the holidays and think about all that we are thankful for, have you thanked a state employee? While at first you may think this is strange but we are more than an expense to the state. We provide vital service that Marylanders rely upon every day.

I’ve worked for the state for ___ years as a _____. My job is important to the citizens of Maryland because ___________.

I’m sure you’ve seen state employees portrayed as a mere line item in the budget, but I can tell you that my job is more than just an insignificant expense. My co-workers and I provide vital services to the citizens of Maryland. Asked them what they would do if our jobs were eliminated?

When you’re counting your blessings this year, don’t forget to thank a state employee for his/her service to the

Thanks.

If you would like further assistance on drafting something, or finding our where to send the letter, please contact Sue.

Sue Esty
Legislative Director
AFSCME Council 92
190 W. Ostend St.
Baltimore, MD 21230

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

You have the Worst Pension Plan in the U.S.

It's official:

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said,‘‘I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interests, especially with the worst pension plan in the country, to take away anyone’s benefits.”

--from an article by by Douglas Tallman in the Gazette papers.
Read the full article here.

In case you wondered why your copays and prescription costs have doubled--Last year the Gov tried to shift $120 million in health care costs over to state employees. And why not, we didn't vote for him. We are supposed to be grateful because the legislature managed to cut that increase to "only" $60 million.


So what's next in the Gov's house of budgetary horrors?

Why, deliberately underfund your pension, of course.


"'This administration has not been reluctant to significantly increase employees’ burden on health care costs. We are taking the possibility (of deliberately underfunding pensions) extremely seriously and doing everything we can with our members and retirees to talk to their legislators about this,' said Sue Esty, legislative director for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees."

Go get 'em Sue!

Call or write your Maryland State Legislators (find contact info here) and tell them that state employee benefits ARE A BUDGET PRIORITY! not an afterthought.


Monday, November 14, 2005

UPDATE on AFSCME - UM wage negotiations

Please forward this information to your friends and coworkers.

Based on the February 2005 member survey, AFSCME presented a simple wage proposal to the University of Maryland System on November 2, 2005.

This is it:

1. A $4000 cost of living increase (COLA)
2. A $2000 merit increase across the board, or a 3.5 percent increase (whichever is greater).

The February survey results stated loud and clear that AFSCME members believe that a flat dollar increase would help our lowest paid employees while still providing the higher paid employees with a meaningful increase.

In the second wage reopener bargaining session on Thursday, November 10th, the University System Vice Chancellor of Administration & Finance responded to our proposal as follows:

"We are not interested in a flat dollar amount for either the merit or the cost of living adjustment. We are not negotiating pay equity."

Well, he was half right--we are NOT negotiating "pay equity." For proof, read this.

AFSCME's flat dollar increase of $4000 aims to provide a meaningful raise for the least among us--those employees of Maryland Higher Education who are paid less than $20,000 per year. When the raise calculated as a percentage instead of a flat rate, low-paid workers get the shaft.

We are all ashamed that some housekeepers, dining service and facilities maintenance workers at UMCP are eligible for state assistance. That shame is clearly not felt in the UMS Office of Budget Analysis.

In addition, the Vice Chancellor went on to say that it would serve no useful purpose to bargain with AFSCME again until December.

Why?

Before the UMS Office of Budget Analysis presents their "Asking Budget," they want to see how much money will be granted to us by that great friend of Maryland higher education--our Governor. Then, "business as usual" the UMS Office of Budget Analysis will divide up the state dollars among pet projects, construction, and other money pits. Staff raises are low on their priority list.

If you believe that the UM System has turned their backs on staff and that blocking our legitimate wage request is wrong, here are two simple tasks you can do to change things:

1. Call or write your Maryland State Legislators (find contact info here) and tell them that Higher Education staff pay IS A BUDGET PRIORITY! not an afterthought.

2. Call or write the University System Vice Chancellor of Administration & Finance, Joseph Vivona and tell him to pass along our pay request to the legislature. No interference, no footdragging, just do it!

Your voice matters. Don't wait for permission. Do it today!

FYI here is the mission statement of the UMS Office of Budget Analysis:

"The Office of Budget Analysis coordinates with the institutions in developing and presenting the annual operating budget to the Regents, the Department of Budget and Management, and MHEC. As part of this task, the Office collects, collates, analyzes, and presents data relevant to the budget, including priorities and the resource requirements of the institutions and the System. The Office also represents the institutions and the USM in budget matters to the Department of Fiscal Services and the General Assembly."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fixing the mess they made

One year from today we will go to the polls to elect a Governor, a United States Senator and a whole host of state, county and local leaders. Every vote will help chart the direction of our State for years to come. There is a lot at stake, but one thing is for certain: we can not afford to continue moving backwards due to the failed leadership of Robert Ehrlich and Michael Steele.

Our State is suffering the consequences of the Ehrlich/Steele “give us a chance and we’ll give you a choice” administration. Well, the citizens of Maryland gave them a chance, and here’s what we got in return:

  • A veto of the $1 increase in the minimum wage, which at only $5.15 an hour is one of the lowest in the U.S.
  • A 40% increase in tuition at Maryland’s public colleges and universities
  • Nearly $2 billion in new taxes and fees, including an historic property tax increase
  • Public lands being sold to wealthy contributors
  • The bare minimum funding required by law for K-12 education
  • 3,000 sick children kicked off Medicaid
  • $42 million in cuts for nursing homes
Marylanders are already expressing their disapproval of Ehrlich and Steele – not to mention their vehement disgust with their good friend and ally, President George W. Bush.

Please also consider getting involved, if you are not already, with a Democratic organization or campaign in your area. A list of Democratic organizations can be found here, and an ever-expanding list of Democratic candidates can be found here.

Next November 7, the voters of Maryland will take back our State. The work we do together in the next year will not only result in a resounding Democratic victory up and down the ballot, but will help usher in a new era of progress and prosperity for our State.

Terry Lierman
Chair
Maryland
Democratic Party

Monday, November 07, 2005

Badges? We don't need no badges

Two items that should concern every University of Maryland employee:
  • The FBI's use of "National Security Letters" to authorize the examination of your email, web browsing, online purchases, library and book reading habits, etc.. National Security Letters are issued by FBI field supervisors and do not require clearance by a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. In addition, recipients are permanently barred from disclosing the receipt of these letters. Read more here
  • The August 5th Federal Communications Commission decision that the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) that makes it easier for federal agents to tap computer networks should cover broadband networks like the one on campus. UMCP is now mandated to install $18 million in network hardware approved by the FBI to facilitate the execution of "National Security Letters." Read more here
"The innocent have nothing to fear." - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (quoting Lenin)


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Too bad we had to learn from experience

Potomac Inc. 10/27-11/1.
Likely Voters. MoE 3.2% (4/17 results)

Ehrlich (R) 33 (39)
O'Malley (D) 48 (45)

Ehrlich (R) 37 (44)
Duncan (D) 42 (38)

Democratic Primary

O'Malley (D) 42 (45)
Duncan (D) 23 (25)

Hey, the Gov's numbers are better than his role model's in the Big er, White House.

Training the next generation

Planning to participate in a political campaign next year? Involved in community, union or issue organizing? Thinking about running for office yourself?

Then Camp Wellstone is for you! A dynamic weekend-long training program that teaches progressives how to win on issues and elect good candidates Camp Wellstone is being brought to Montgomery County November 18-20 by the Metro Washington Council, Progressive Maryland and Wellstone Action!

Find out more or sign up now at: the Databank

The program is fast-paced and highly interactive. Sessions are led by grassroots organizers and campaign professionals from across the United States and the local community. Many have run successful campaigns, consulting firms, unions, or advocacy groups, electing Senators, members of Congress, Governors, and other elected officials across the country and championing issues and causes across the political spectrum.

More info: Cietta Kiandoli cietta@grassrootssolutions.com or 202-419-1040.