Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A crosswalk!

It's about darn time.

I love running along the bayou trail (in fact, I'm about to head that way now.) However, it's considerably less lovely playing live-action Frogger crossing 45 mph five-lane Allen Parkway at Dunlavy St. with no crosswalk, signal or median.

This will increase usage of the Bayou, which is looking a lot more inviting after $58 million in renovations.

Both the renovation and the stop light (and the coming speed reduction on Allen) definitely makes the half-marathon training more pleasant and safer.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

West Virginia about to fall to "Right to Work"

It looks like West Virginia's new Republican majority is about ram through a Right-to-Work (for less) bill.

It's not a surprise, that's what GOP majorities always do with anti-labor legislation. (See Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Michigan, oh, and Michigan again.) Once these bills surface, they rocket through the ledge to stop opposition and minimize the public discomfort their backers have to face.

West Virginia's legislative majority could use a visit
from these nice ladies.
In West Virginia, they're drawing on Orwellian inspiration to call it the "Workplace Freedom Act" Guh. Like all (so-called) Right to Work laws, it would give employees the right to stop paying dues to the labor union that represents them, but forces those unions to continue to represent the workers. The goal is to defund the unions, leaving workers out in the cold.

I've always been of the belief that if workers don't want to work in a union shop, they should quit and find an employer without a union. I mean, that's what management tells employees when they demand healthcare or higher wages or better working conditions, right?

Anyhow, back to West Virginia.

Proponents, backed by the usual third-rate think tanks, push the usual bad arguments about RTW improving West Virginia's economic prospects (because gutting workers' rights always improves things for residents). And anti-labor legislation debates always come with a few gratuitous shots at pro-labor protesters .

It was only a matter of time. I thought the GOP would wait until they elected one of their own as governor,  but the state's weak gubernatorial veto (simple majorities of the legislature can override as long as the legislature is in session) made it too tempting to not get done this year.

Kentucky is likely next up, with Missouri, New Mexico, Montana and Ohio potentially on the chopping block depending on how 2016 elections go.

Yes, I am depressed about this.  I'm doubly so because the battles in West Virginia's coal fields rocketed the United National Mine Workers to prominence. But the group has lost more than 90 percent of its membership in the last half century as coal-mining has died and the remaining operators rely on cheap bankruptcy tricks to undercut the few union minors left.

John Cole over at Balloon Juice has more on this and the other predictable horribleness that results when you let vandals take over your state legislature (like apparently now $100 for a five-year gun permit is an unconstitutional infringement on your right to pack heat).

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Exploring potential legislative ways to limit the damage of Friedrichs

Public sector labor unions across the country have been grimily preparing for the likely negative results  from the Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association case heard two weeks ago. The opinion in Friedrichs (undoubtedly 5-4, written by a super smug Samuel Alito, with a vicious dissent coming from Elena Kagan) will likely ban union agency fees on the grounds of free speech.  
Previously, I have outlined why this opinion shouldn’t be conflated with the end of public sector unionism. Here, I outline a legislative step unions and workers might be able to lobby for to blunt some of the impact of yet another depressing Alito majority opinion.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The likely outcome of Friedrichs will hurt labor -- but it won't destroy it

Two weeks ago, progressives had their days ruined by oral arguments in the Supreme Court in the case Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association. The case has led to numerous breathless headlines declaring that this will be the end of public sector unions in the United States, comparing the case to what happened to unions in Wisconsin, where organized labor has been in a depressing tailspin since the passage of Act 10 in 2011, which eliminated collective bargaining rights for most public sector unions.

Those comparisons are far overblown: Freidrichs will hurt public unions, but they still will retain most of their rights. Here, I’ll discuss what the likely decision against the unions will do to hurt worker’s rights, but I’ll also emphasize that it’s important to remember that workers will retain considerable rights to bargain – unlike in Wisconsin.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Supreme Headaches

What Linda Greenhouse says.  The Friedrichs case is atrocious on so many levels.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Today in counterproductive posturing, LA edition

I fail to see how stopping the construction of housing will make housing more affordable.

Granted, I do live inside the loop in Houston and I recognize from here and my experiences in Ann Arbor concerns about only building super-fancy housing for rich people. But the solution is mandating affordable housing or thinking about clever ways to subsidize housing for working class people, or better zoning rules like cutting parking minima. 

But simply stopping the construction large apartment projects in dense areas only drives up rents in the existing housing stock, which forces out working class and poor people. Or just as badly, it forces the development to the outer rim of the community -- which induces more sprawl, traffic, pollution, wasted time etc.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Good news from Louisiana

This is long expected, but it is good news all the same. Louisiana's new Governor, John Bel Edwards (D) just made it official: the state is expanding Medicaid.  Edwards estimates that the expansion will get 300,000 uninsured residents  coverage. 

One of the biggest immediate bureaucratic hurdles left is the result of former governor Bobby Jindal (R) gutting staffing in the state health department, but the incoming director thinks she has found a way to hire the 200 + staffers needed to help process new Medicaid applications.

There may be a few other hiccups, but most of the pieces are in place: this is now primarily an administrative task, not a legislative one.

Let the good times roll!