Billy Gribbin

Alliance for Worker Freedom Opposes LaTourette-Costello Amendment to FAA Bill


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Wednesday, March 30th, 2011, 3:09 PM PERMALINK


Originally posted at the Alliance for Worker Freedom

Christopher Prandoni, Executive Director of the Alliance for Worker Freedom, has written a letter to U.S. Representatives urging them to oppose the LaTourette-Costello amendment to the pending FAA Reauthorization bill. The amendment seeks to strip the FAA bill of its Title IX provision, which was included to directly rein-in the radical National Mediation Board, reversing last year's inexplicable "minority rule:"

"The three-member National Mediation Board (NMB)—two of whom are former union officials—ruled in 2010 that a majority of voting members were required to certify a union at airlines and railroads, not a majority of all members of a workforce. This move to facilitate unionization and overturn seventy-five years of labor law, supported by both parties, encapsulates concerns about federal overreach.

"Included within FAA reauthorization is a necessary provision—Title IX—to check the NMB, overturn their radical rulemaking, and return the to the original, longstanding election rules which were in place for decades. The LaTourette-Costello amendment looks to strip Title IX from the FAA bill, thereby codifying this Administration’s explicit attempts to subvert the will of Congress and legislate via regulatory fiat.   

"Furthermore, transportation unions already enjoy immense privileges under the Railway Labor Act. Due to the NMB’s arcane, pro-union rules, union certifications continue indefinitely, and while one union can replace another, no large airline or rail workgroup (with more than 400 members) has ever been able to vote to eliminate union representation. That is why, even under the traditional voting rules, the percentage of employees subject to union representation at airlines (60%) and railroads (84%), has been so much higher than the average in the private sector (7%). With no imminent election, it becomes impossibly difficult for workers to hold their union accountable.

"Compounding workers’ problems, state right-to-work laws are not applicable under the Railway Labor Act. Thus, unions require workers to pay dues as a condition of employment. If the worker does not comply, well, they are fired.

"This vote is not about labor unions, but rather who should determine and legislate significant changes in labor law, Members of Congress or unelected bureaucrats."

Click here to read the full letter.

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Action Alert: Support McConnell Amendment to Stop EPA Power-Grab


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Tuesday, March 29th, 2011, 4:52 PM PERMALINK


The Energy Tax Prevention Act, introduced by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) in the House and as an amendment to the Small Business Reauthorization Act by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate, would pre-empt the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of greenhouse gasses.  Since losing the debate on Cap-and-Trade, as well as control of the House, Democrats are turning increasingly to the EPA and other federal agencies to implement their agenda through regulatory fiat.  Such plans would eliminate thousands of jobs while adding a huge burden to American industry. Some politicians, such as Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), are trying to sweep these issues under the rug with delays and toothless restrictions.  The Energy Tax Prevention Act, however, prohibits the EPA from using the Clean Air Act as a vehicle to regulate greenhouse gases, and reaffirms the right of Congress alone to author our nation’s laws.

We encourage you to write to your Senators and Representative and urge them to vote “YES” on the McConnell amendment and Upton bill.  It's easy and it only takes one minute.

Christopher Prandoni, Federal Affairs Manager for Americans for Tax Reform, gives an in-depth look at the issue in this piece (originally published at Townhall.com):

"Sen. Rockefeller is back at it again, this time trying to scuttle the McConnell amendment. Next week, Reid is expected to hold votes on the two amendments so some Democrats can vote for the McConnell amendment and some can vote for the Rockefeller amendment, but neither will pass. Given that the EPA debate has moved to the forefront of voters’ minds, this is a risky strategy for Democrats up in 2012.

"Substantively, the two bills couldn’t be farther apart. The McConnell Amendment prevents the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, unless Congress explicitly tells them to. The Rockefeller amendment only delays a handful of EPA regulations for two years, implicitly endorsing the EPA’s cap-and-trade scheme.

"The Rockefeller proposal has serious flaws. As of January 2011, the EPA has already begun regulating greenhouse gases so a delay bill will no longer have a meaningful impact. It does not touch the EPA’s impending National Air Ambient Quality standards, regulations which independent estimates fear could cost $1 trillion per year in compliance costs and would lead to the loss of 7 million jobs [pdf]. It does not prevent the EPA from creating carbon standards for vehicles or from withholding construction permits."

Click here for the full article.

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Senator Rockefeller Play-fights with the EPA


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Thursday, March 24th, 2011, 10:49 AM PERMALINK


Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has introduced an amendment to S. 493, a bill dedicated to funding R&D for small businesses.  The legislation, ostensibly introduced to combat the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory implementation of Cap-and-Trade, competes with a more stringent amendment introduced by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

As Americans for Tax Reform has previously reported, the last few years have seen the power of the EPA expand through a litany of invasive and economically disastrous rulings, not the least of which has been its long-awaited scheme to regulate greenhouse gasses (GHG). In an effort to reaffirm Congressional control of the Agency, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced a Resolution of Disapproval under the Congressional Review Act early last year. Intended to prevent the EPA from co-opting the Clean Air Act for regulation of GHG, the Murkowski resolution failed, 53-47. This was due in large part to legislation introduced by Sen. Rockefeller, which proposed a two-year delay for the EPA’s plan but otherwise left the Cap-and-Trade structure intact.  The promise of the neutered Rockefeller bill gave weak  Democrats an excuse to oppose Sen. Murkowski’s legislation while assuring their constituents that they would address the situation.  This turned out to be an empty promise, as Sen. Rockefeller’s bill, mild though it was, never saw the light of day.  This was intended from the start.  In the end, Sen. Rockefeller gave his vote to the Murkowski resolution, but only after his own bill had siphoned off the winning votes.

Fast-forward one year to the exact same situation playing out in the Senate, right now.  The Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, co-written by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), stands to achieve everything for which the Murkowski resolution aimed, and more. Introduced as an amendment to S. 493 by Sen. McConnell, the initiative is in danger of defeat under the same circumstances as Sen. Murkowski’s: Sen. Rockefeller has announced his intention to reintroduce his “nerf-gun” legislation, hoping to again stall the issue in congress.  Some Senators will vote for his bill, some for McConnell’s, and everybody gets to tell the folks back home that they stood tough against the federal bureaucrats in Washington.

That Sen. Rockefeller is playing to lose should be all the more galling to his constituents in West Virginia, a state whose vast coal industry stands to be ruined by the EPA’s stated goals.   In his own words, I have long maintained that the Congress - not the unelected EPA - must decide major economic and energy policy... I believe we must send a strong message that the fate of West Virginia's economy, our manufacturing industries, and our workers should not be solely in the hands of EPA.” Sen. Rockefeller is well aware that a mere two-year delay will do nothing to stave off the effects of regulatory Cap-and-Trade: businesses will still be forced to raise prices, lay off workers, and waste massive sums in anticipation of the end-game.  Adding insult to injury, the Senator is presumptuous enough to attack the McConnell amendment, saying This is more of a political ploy, rather than a genuine effort to come up with a solid energy policy." You’d think a man who has lived so long in glass houses would know better.

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Undecided Senators for Energy Tax Hike Prevention


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Wednesday, March 16th, 2011, 2:06 PM PERMALINK


To the best of our knowledge, the following Senators are undecided on whether to support Sen. McConnell's initiative:

  • Mark Pryor, Ark.
  • MaryLandrieu, La.
  • Ben Nelson, Neb.
  • Claire McCaskill, Mo.
  • Debbie Stabenow, Mich.
  • Sherrod Brown, Ohio
  • Mark Begich, Alaska
  • Jon Tester, Mont.
  • Max Baucus, Mont.
  • Michael Bennet, Colo.
  • Bob Casey, Penna.
  • Jim Webb, Va.
  • Mark Warner, Va.
  • Kent Conrad, ND
  • Tim Johnson, SD

If any of these Senators represent your State, please take a minute to call and urge their support for Energy Tax Prevention. US Senate switchboard: (202) 224-3121

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ATR Supports McConnell Amendment to Stop Backdoor Cap-and-Trade


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Wednesday, March 16th, 2011, 1:56 PM PERMALINK


ATR has sent the following letter to US Senators:

"Americans for Tax Reform urges you to vote yes on the bipartisan McConnell amendment—introduced separately as S. 482, the Energy Tax Hike Prevention Act—to the Small Business Innovation Research Act re-authorization bill. The McConnell amendment looks to return the obligation of setting America’s climate policy to Congress from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Apart from encroaching on the duties of Congress, the EPA’s policies would exacerbate America’s economic woes. If left unchecked, the EPA’s onerous regulations could:

• cost up to 1.4 million jobs by 2014 and 2.5 million by 2030
• decrease capital investment by as much as 15 percent by 2014, or more than $75 billion
• reduce Gross Domestic Product by $500 billion by 2030
• increase the cost of gasoline by 50 percent, electricity by 50 percent, and natural gas by 75 percent over the   next 20 years
• reduce worker compensation by $700 per year

"If the EPA continues on its current course, unelected federal bureaucrats will continue to unilaterally dictate ruinous economic policies. We should hold President Obama to his stated commitment to reassess America’s regulatory system in the name of economic growth and fiscal responsibility. The President should be reminded that the EPA’s initiatives to regulate greenhouse gasses would raise energy prices, destroy businesses, and ship jobs overseas."

Click here for the full letter.

Click here to see if your Senator is undecided.

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Walker Gives Proof of Harmful Gov. Collective Bargaining


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Wednesday, March 9th, 2011, 5:20 PM PERMALINK


Governernor Scott Walker of Wisconsin has released his fourth report in a multi-part series entitled "Collective Bargaining is a Fiscal Issue," a theme which Americans for Tax Reform and the Alliance for Worker Freedom have both covered extensively in recent weeks. In his reports, Gov. Walker provides a laundry list of needless taxpayer-funded benefits and projects brought about by public-sector collective bargaining.  Those looking to save Wisconsin from fiscal ruin would do well to arm themselves with some of these astonishing facts:

  • Only three years ago, the Milwaukee school district cut Viagra from its health-benefit plan for teachers: the move saved $786,000 a year. The Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association went to court over the matter.
  • The Madison Emeritus Program doles out almost $10,000 to participating public school teachers. Required days of work? Zero.
  • Certain Wisconsin employees, due to the nature of their work, must carry a pager while off duty. For this, they get payed for an extra 5 hours of work a week. This averages out to 6,000 dollars a year for carrying a small square of plastic.
  • A county employee union filed a greivance against Racine County for using prison inmates to mow grassy public areas as a cost cutting measure.
  • Megan Sampson was named "outstanding first-year teacher" by the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English. She was promptly fired because her union had rejected a taxdollar-saving health care agreement, and layoffs are based on seniority, not quality of work.

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AWF Supports Arizona Paycheck Protection


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Tuesday, March 8th, 2011, 5:44 PM PERMALINK


Originally posted at the Alliance for Worker Freedom

The Arizona state legislature is considering SCR 1028, a Paycheck Protection bill. Christopher Prandoni, Executive Director of the Alliance for Worker Freedom, has sent a letter to each state senator urging them to support this important initiative:

"A Heritage Foundation report found that nearly 70 percent of union dues are spent on political activity and staff compensation. SCR 1028 would prohibit unions from using member dues to fund political activity without the written consent of the individual worker. Allowing workers the option of withholding their dues from the support of a radical Big-Labor agenda protects their basic right of free association, and greatly reduces the money spent by labor organizations in support of their often problematic ideology. Under the current convoluted rules, Arizona workers unknowingly financially support political candidates they strongly disagree with.

"The same Heritage study also found that in states with Paycheck Protection in place, union campaign donations fell by nearly 50 percent. This fact proves that, when given the choice, workers by-and-large do not side with their union’s political persuasions. Coupling the requirement for written consent with the refund mechanism also included in SCR 1028 will put Arizona on the fast track to curbing the power of these organizations, which are more concerned with their political power than the well being of their members.

"Finally, this Paycheck Protection initiative compels increased accountability and transparency within union political activities.  SCR 1028 creates an environment in which union bosses are more responsive to the will of their members and gives workers the information they need to make an informed decision regarding how their dues are spent."

Click here for the full letter.

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Manhattan Institute Releases Brief on Public-Sector Collective Bargaining


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Tuesday, March 8th, 2011, 10:27 AM PERMALINK


Originally posted at the Alliance for Worker Freedom

The issue of collective bargaining as allowed or forbidden to public servants has exploded into the national consciousness over the last few weeks.  The Wisconsin state senate, standing on the brink of revoking collective bargaining for public sector workers, last week instructed its Sergeant at Arms to arrest Democrat members who fled the state rather than suffer defeat.  The self-exiled senators have been joined in Illinois by their counterparts from Indiana, who employed the same tactic to avoid passage of “Right-to-Work” legislation. The Ohio state senate has passed a bill similar to Wisconsin’s, and other state legislatures plan to broach the issue in the near future.

Leaving aside, for the moment, arguments based on political principle, these recent battles should prompt us to go back for a refresher on how exactly collective bargaining for government employees has been fiscally ruinous. Josh Barro, a Walter B. Wriston fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, has just released a comprehensive “Issue Brief,” laying out the numbers and processes which served to push this emergency into the public eye.

The overarching theme to Barro’s analysis is simple: altogether, public sector workers enjoy higher overall compensation—salary plus retirement and health benefits—than their private sector counterparts, which has incurred untenable costs to state and local governments (read: taxpayers). 

Regarding government pensions, Barro notes that “some 84 percent of state and local government workers have access to a defined-benefit pension plan (compared with just 20 percent in the private sector), and roughly 90 percent of retirement benefits earned by public workers come in the form of defined-benefit pension accruals.” Defined-benefit plans rely on government handouts based on years of employment with little-to-no employee contributions.  (This system also has a side-effect of mechanically rewarding individuals for time-served rather than on a merit basis, often creating an unenergetic or incompetent class of permanent civil servants.)  Further, “defined-benefit pensions also have strongly pro-cyclical effects on state budgets and have therefore exacerbated the depth of state budget crises. The typical state pension fund invests a large majority of its assets in equities. When these assets underperform, actuaries direct the participating governments to increase their pension contributions in order to replace the lost value.”

Similarly, government workforces have health benefits that are on average greater than those received by many in the private sector: “The average government worker earns $4.65 per hour in health benefits, compared with $2.10 per hour in the private sector. Part of that difference is attributable to higher coverage rates in the public sector (73 percent of state and local government workers receive health insurance through work, compared with 51 percent of private-sector workers). But part is attributable to the higher value of benefits per employee.”

Added all together, Barro says, 43% of state and local spending goes to 19.4 million employees (as of September 2010), totaling over $1.2 trillion in compensation.  Reform and payroll reduction would seem like an easy fix but for groups like the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union.  Public sector unions have ensured deluxe packages for their members regardless of the economic cost: “By influencing the political process, unions are able to sit on both sides of the negotiating table. Some states enact laws that make this situation worse—for example, by allowing binding arbitration that does not properly account for taxpayers’ ability to pay.”

As Mr. Barro correctly concludes, the nationwide fiscal crisis can be ameliorated by reforming binding arbitration, prohibiting public employee strikes, limiting collective bargaining for these workers or banning it altogether.  These are the battles that are being fought right now, in Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere.  The opposition of labor versus management, long espoused by radical progressives, has been turned on its head: the terms have been replaced by “the government” versus “the people”.  If fiscal responsibility and economic freedom finally win out against union intransigence, then the people will have truly won again.

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ATR Supports Rep. Upton's Energy Tax Prevention Act


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Monday, March 7th, 2011, 1:42 PM PERMALINK


Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has introduced the Energy Tax Prevention Act, legislation that would pre-empt the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of greenhouse gasses. Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, has written a letter to members of congress urging them to support this vital initiative:

"Since losing the Cap-and-Trade debate, Democrats have turned to the EPA to impose their radical environmental agenda on this country. The impetus behind Cap-and-Trade was to force Americans to move towards less efficient, more expensive sources of energy. Similarly, the EPA is attempting to achieve this end through the regulation of greenhouse gases.

"Standing on legally precarious ground, the EPA is citing the Clean Air Act as justification for its dubious agenda. Employing the Clean Air Act for objectives it was never intended to realize, the EPA has infringed on the legislative responsibilities of Congress.  

"The Energy Tax Prevention Act has been introduced to put a stop to such regulatory overreach and abuse. Addressing one of the most pressing problems facing this country, the Energy Tax Prevention Act bars federal regulators from co-opting the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases.  

"If the EPA continues on its current course, unelected federal bureaucrats will continue to unilaterally dictate ruinous economic policies.  We should hold President Obama to his stated commitment to reassess America’s regulatory system in the name of economic growth and fiscal responsibility.  The President should be reminded that the EPA’s initiatives to regulate greenhouse gasses would raise energy prices, destroy businesses, and ship jobs overseas. These policies are motivated not by science, and not out of concern for American industry, but by ideology alone. 

"Rep. Upton seeks to restore the role of the U.S. congress in the development and implementation the nation’s climate and energy policy. Their bill is not a referendum on climate change or greenhouse gases but rather who will set our country’s energy policy—elected Representatives or unaccountable political appointees."

Click here for the full letter.

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AFA Pushes Violation of Federal Mediation Regs


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Friday, March 4th, 2011, 5:00 PM PERMALINK


Originally posted at The Alliance for Worker Freedom

As the Alliance for Worker Freedom has previously reported, the Association of Flight Attendants has tried and failed, on multiple occasions over several years, to unionize groups of Delta airlines employees.  Time and time again, Delta workers have voted to reject the union’s advances, repeating the process as often as the AFA runs crying “foul!” to the National Mediation Board. The NMB, for its part, has bent over backwards to assist the AFA tilting the playing field towards unionization through regulatory fiat.

Even in collusion with the feds, the AFA’s shenanigans have yet to net them new members; it seems that when companies like Delta treat their employees decently, the unions discover—to their horror—that a free market with worker protection laws is rendering them obsolete.  No more members means no more dues, and no more dues means no more fat cat packages for union bosses.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so the AFA has launched an attack on Delta management meant to further divide employees while going against longstanding AFA and NMB policy. Below is a video of AFA president Veda Shook explaining this newfound complaint: 

It's amazing that Shook can keep a straight face while claiming that Delta "illegally inflated" voter turnout.  It was at the behest of the her organization that the NMB threw out over 75 years worth of precedent last year in instituting a "minority rule" for union elections: now that a tiny minority of employees can force collective bargaining upon their peers as long as an opposing majority remains silent, it's no wonder that Delta would make every effort for its employees to be cognizant of the election (which in no way violates the law).  It seems that AFA's president explicitly opposes workers participating in the democratic process, if the results are not to her liking.

The meat of Shook’s argument, namely, that Delta viciously discriminates against pre-merger Northwest Airlines employees (former AFA members) by withholding their Profit Sharing Plans sounds damning, but carefully omits some crucial facts.  For 60 years it has been the policy of the National Labor Relations Board that “voting is to occur in a ‘laboratory’ in which an experiment may be conducted, under conditions as nearly ideal as possible, to determine the uninhibited desires of employees.” [General Shoe Corp., 77 N.L.R.B. 124, 127 (1948)] Extending profit sharing benefits to pre-merger Northwest Airlines workers would heavily taint “laboratory conditions,” a fact which the AFA had previously recognized. In the words of Andrea L. Bowman, General Attorney for Delta:

“This new position is inconsistent with the positions AFA has taken not only in other recent communications from you and from AFA attorney Peter Swanson, but also in AFA’s challenges to the flight attendant elections at Delta in 2002 and 2008. For example, in both the 2002 and 2008 challenges AFA asserted, ‘[A]ny conferral of benefits on employees seeking representation during this critical period [i.e., when laboratory conditions apply] raises the spectre of carrier interference that is designed to dissuade support for the union.’”

The AFA has spent years employing good old Bolshevik tactics against Delta and its employees: vote, vote, and vote again, and when you get what you want, stop voting.  Veda Shook is simply attempting to scare workers by citing a situation which the AFA itself has caused through repeated unionization campaigns and the attending longstanding application of “laboratory conditions.” It’s a good window into the soul of Big Labor: AFA would rather keep on fighting Delta than back off and allow American workers to prosper.

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