EDITOR: Jamakaya, Executive Director, Wisconsin Center for Pluralism

Conservatives Hold "Future Wisconsin" Conference

WEST ALLIS . . . A veritable "Who's Who" of Wisconsin's conservative establishment assembled in West Allis on March 12 for the first ever "Future Wisconsin Conference." The event was sponsored by the Wisconsin Conservative Leadership Coalition with support from the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. Approximately 250 people attended the conference.

The day's discussions were dominated by economic issues, especially the need to reduce taxes and government spending, with the proposed Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) seen as the silver bullet to achieve those ends. But several social conservatives were on hand to attack the lack of personal and moral responsibility they see as the root of many social ills.

Although the hot button topics of gay rights and abortion were absent from the agenda, the most elaborate table displays and literature were provided by Pro-Life Wisconsin, Wisconsin Right to Life and the Family Research Institute of Wisconsin, which is leading the charge against civil marriage and unions for same sex couples.

The first session on "Taxes and Spending" saw State Sens. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) and Tom Reynolds (R-West Allis) and State Rep. Frank Lasee (R-Bellevue) lamenting Wisconsin's alleged status as a "tax hell," a contention methodically debunked in a recent report by the Institute for Wisconsin's Future. (Please see "Exposing the Wisconsin ‘Tax Hell' Hoax.") All panelists supported passage of Lasee's TABOR proposal, a constitutional amendment which would severely restrict state and local government spending, and require a public referendum to exceed those limits.

Lasee ripped former Republican Governors Lee Dreyfus and Tommy Thompson for being fiscally irresponsible and urged the audience to support the Club for Growth, a national group of corporate-connected fiscal conservatives who contribute millions to defeat "RINOs" (Republicans in Name Only) who veer from the pledge to cut taxes and spending.

EDUCATORS: ‘LIARS' AND "DRAIN"

Educators, public schools and public employees were scapegoated throughout the discussion as a "drain" on state coffers. Rep. Lasee was the most vituperative, saying about pleas for greater educational funding: "Most of the educational community is just flat out lying."

Steve Loerhke, President of the Weyauwega-Fremont School Board, said that reduced funding for education would force local districts to make "wiser choices." He complained that teacher salaries "greatly exceed" the wages and benefits of most taxpayers and said that the QEO capping teacher pay should only be eliminated if binding arbitration is also eliminated, a sentiment that drew audible support from the crowd. Loerhke endorsed performance-based pay for teachers (without specifying what kind of criteria can be established), standardized curriculum and testing, and said that Milwaukee's school voucher program – taxpayer money used for private, often religious schools with little accountability to the state – should be expanded statewide to provide "competition" for public schools.

In addition to supporting TABOR, Reynolds, who insisted that "external constraints are necessary," proposed a constitutional change that would allow citizen signatures on petitions to override gubernatorial vetoes. Reynolds, who heads the Senate Labor Committee, also called for "reforms" in collective bargaining and arbitration for public employees, in his words, to "roll back" the advances of organized labor.

COLORADO'S TABOR

The lunchtime speaker, Barry Poulson, a professor of economics at the University of Colorado who publishes pro-TABOR briefs for several think tanks, praised the impact that a 1992 TABOR has had in Colorado. Absent from Poulson's presentation was the news that very week that Colorado officials had called for a costly public referendum to obtain permission to raise funds for a record deficit brought on by the TABOR restrictions. Republican Gov. Bill Owens, a former TABOR proponent, says the state needs to raise at least $3 billion to cover this year's deficit and to make up for shortfalls of previous years.

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and Colorado Forum, a group of corporate CEOs, alarmed at underfunded schools and deteriorating infrastructure, have called for revision of the law. The Colorado Springs Business Journal editorialized: "It doesn't take an advanced degree in economics or mathematics to see the train wreck that is certainly looming."

"PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY"

A second panel called "Personal Freedoms, Personal Responsibilities and Property Rights" was led off by Libertarian Ed Thompson lambasting "government controls over every aspect of our lives." At one point, he yelled at the audience: "Who controls my body?" "God," came a few sheepish replies from the audience. "I DO!" he bellowed back angrily.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke spoke as he often does about the need for discipline, stronger paternal authority and adherence to the Ten Commandments. Asking wearily "Where did we go wrong as a nation?" Clarke blamed the 1960s, specifically "Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Great Society," which in his estimation did not try to alleviate conditions of the growing underclass but actually created it. He referred to the ‘60s as a time of "rampant abortion on demand" (abortion was not decriminalized nationally until the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973). Clarke repeatedly referred to people of faith being "stigmatized" and demanded that the alleged "stranglehold of liberal orthodoxy" on college campuses be "destroyed."

Michelle Litjens, chair of the Winnebago Republican Party, exhibited a disturbing lack of compassion when she complained bitterly about the costs of the Medicaid and BadgerCare program in Wisconsin and expressed resentment that up to 17% of Wisconsinites collect some form of Social Security or Supplemental Security Income. She was particularly unforgiving toward those who are obese or mentally ill. "If you're depressed, go out and take a walk!" she cried. "Responsible people should not be forced to pay for irresponsible people!"

Attorney Michael Dean of the First Freedoms Foundation in Waukesha, gave a dense, rapidly paced commentary decrying what he called "radical individualism" and "moral relativism." Of court decisions allowing abortion and civil marriage for same sex couples, he declared, "We have to defy the law," to which the audience whooped and applauded.

In one of the few moments of open disagreement that seemed to be aimed at Ed Thompson's libertarian ideas, Dean said angrily that "There's no such thing as ‘living life the way I want to' and not hurting someone else. Moral behavior does have consequences." Thompson had actually said that he believed individuals have the right to live as they please as long as their actions do not harm others, but he did not respond to Dean's challenge.

VOUCHER SCHOOLS

The third panel, "The Importance of Education in Urban Affairs," promoted Milwaukee's Parental School Choice Program (PSCP). It was moderated by State Rep. Scott Jensen (R- Brookfield) who consults for the Alliance for School Choice, encouraging other states to adopt voucher programs. Jensen touted the PSCP and former Gov. Tommy Thompson's Wisconsin Works welfare experiment as akin to the progressive reforms championed by Robert M. LaFollette almost a century ago, a claim that no one disputed.

Susan Mitchell, President of School Choice Wisconsin, described the Milwaukee voucher program as a great success. She argued that voucher schools were experiencing graduation rates at twice the level of the Milwaukee Public Schools for only half the cost per student. Deflecting the arguments of voucher opponents that the program detracts from MPS schools, she said that overall enrollment in MPS has risen since PSCP was initiated in 1991, that per pupil spending has increased, that selected tests scores for MPS pupils have risen and that the drop-out rate has declined. She seemed to imply that voucher schools, not a multiplicity of other unmentioned factors, were responsible for this.

Mitchell and Jensen claimed the voucher program has attracted $100 million in private and state aid to rebuild neighborhood schools and infrastructure, evidence, said Jensen, that good schools are anchors for economic development. Applications to establish new choice and charter schools increase each year, a sign, Mitchell said, of public satisfaction with the program.

When an audience member asked: "Why aren't we going after the Democrats who oppose this?" Mitchell said, "That's our game plan for 2006," leaving little doubt that voucher proponents will be mounting campaigns against Milwaukee politicians who have tried to limit the program.

The fact that these private and religious schools, funded with tax dollars, are not required to hire certified teachers or to disclose academic performance data was not discussed. Nor did anyone mention the growing incidents of voucher school closures due to financial mismanagement and fraud, drug use by instructors, inadequate staffing, ramshackle facilities and lack of supervision of students.

MARKET-BASED HEALTH CARE

A final panel on "Market-Based Solutions to Health Care Costs" underscored many of the problems in our current free market health care system: high costs, lack of price transparency, excessive hospital building, duplication of services and technology, skyrocketing insurance rates, etc. The panel, which included Richard Blomquist of Blomquist Benefits LLC, State Rep. Curt Gielow (R-Mequon) and Peter Farrow, CEO of the Group Health Cooperative of Eau Claire, offered few solutions, and none of the panelists addressed the crisis of the millions who are uninsured and lack access to health care altogether.

Blomquist decried the "adversarial" relationships between providers, payers and patients, said the new integrated health systems have not reduced costs ("Bigger isn't always better, the smallest system has the lowest rates") and called for greater price transparency. Gielow said that government intervention is not the answer and that consumers needed to take more personal responsibility for healthy lifestyles.

Other speakers at the conference included right-wing commentator JJ Blonien, State Rep. Leah Vukmir, State Sen. David Zien (whose conference bio included his motto: "Pro-God, Pro-Flag, Pro-Family, Pro-Life and Pro-Gun"), US Rep. Tom Petri, and former US Rep. Mark Neumann. Neumann, who narrowly lost a bruising Senatorial battle against Russ Feingold in 1998, owns a home building company. He remains something of an icon to conservatives, some of whom urged him to consider running for office again.

The Future Wisconsin Conference ended with a "Top of the Ticket Dinner" featuring Republican candidates for state office, including Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and US Rep. Mark Green (running for governor) and State Rep. Gregg Underheim (R-Oshkosh), who lost his bid to unseat Elizabeth Burmaster as Superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction in April. Underheim didn't address many educational issues other than costs, and the teacher and union bashing that had gone on all day continued unabated.

— reported by Jamakaya

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The Right Wing, Religion and Labor

This paper by Joanne Ricca of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO was presented at a panel called "Politics and Religion: What is the Proper Separation?" at the Milwaukee County Labor Council on October 24, 2004.

The fact that people of faith are involved in politics is something that we in the labor movement value and respect. Many union members are active in their churches, synagogues and mosques, because they are well aware that when it comes to being your brother's or sister's keeper, labor and religion have much in common. There are many examples where faith communities have worked together with labor unions in a mutual quest for a more humane and just society.

However, there is something very different about the direction of the political activism promoted by certain religious leaders today. That is because a political movement hostile to workers' economic interests is using religion to both advance and conceal an economic agenda that serves corporate interests. That movement is led by the American right wing.

NEW STRATEGY FOR THE RIGHT

We have always had a right wing in this country to serve the economic interests of corporations and the wealthy, but it had long been frustrated with an inability to gain power. Its ideology, which promotes the survival of the fittest, advocates for unregulated capitalism, and holds contempt for democracy, gave the right a nagging problem. How do you get your candidates elected when your ideology is a threat to the interests of most of the people? How do you develop an electoral base that goes beyond wealthy voters and members of the extremist John Birch Society?

In the 1970s the right solved that problem. Paul Weyrich, a key leader of the secular right, developed a new strategy to reach out to some ministers in the white, fundamentalist Christian churches. Although a few fundamentalist Christian ministers have a history of right-wing activism, the vast majority of fundamentalists had not been involved in politics prior to the 1970s, and their beliefs are not any different today than in the past. In the past, fundamentalists were told that the road to salvation lay in the Bible, not in the ballot box. They were to practice a personal morality, not a political one. That has changed.

Paul Weyrich began in the 1970s by creating an organization called Christian Voice (now defunct) which was housed at the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank based in Washington, D.C. Christian Voice designed a so-called "morality rating" for members of Congress based on certain votes they cast. This morality rating included the following issues that the right opposed at the time: the Panama Canal Treaty, voting rights for the District of Columbia, the Salt II Arms Treaty and collective bargaining rights for teachers. It also included some issues the right supported: recognition of Taiwan as the real government of China and elimination of the Federal Election Commission. Clearly this is a rating of right-wing ideology, not Christian theology. And it resulted in some interesting morality ratings.

Robert Drinan, a Catholic priest who was a Democratic member of Congress at the time, received a 0% morality rating. However, Richard Kelly, a Republican who was indicted in the ABSCAM bribery scandal, received a 100% morality rating. The AFL-CIO Voting Record at the time showed Father Drinan with a strong 88% pro-worker record; Richard Kelly had only an 8% pro-worker voting record. This 0% morality rating for Father Drinan can be explained only if you look at the real agenda, which was politics, not piety.

ENTER JERRY FALWELL

In 1979, the right's strategy to create a religious front took another major step forward. Rev. Jerry Falwell was invited to a meeting with Paul Weyrich, Howard Phillips and other secular new right leaders. Falwell was upset because the IRS was looking into the Christian academies that were being created in the South and reports that these schools were denying admission to children of color. If that were the case, they would lose their tax-exempt status.

Weyrich convinced Falwell that they had a mutual interest in "getting government off their backs" and that fundamentalist Christians could gradually be redirected to help achieve that political goal. Falwell agreed, even though he had previously criticized members of the clergy who became involved in politics through the civil rights movement.

Out of that meeting came an organization called the Moral Majority — the idea, the name, and the executive director all supplied by Paul Weyrich, even though it was Jerry Falwell who was on the cover of Time magazine in a feature on this supposedly "spontaneous" new outpouring of Christians in politics. The New York Times noted the rise of the new "religious right" and reported in 1980:

"The new political activism of conservative Christians arises in large part from the growth of TV evangelists – but the organization of the movement largely took shape in Washington, in the hands of men like Mr. Weyrich — a small group of tacticians composed of former businessmen, (private) schoolmasters and professional strategists from the far-right hallways of politics." ("Christian New Right's Rush to Power," New York Times, August 18, 1980.)

WEYRICH SPEAKS FRANKLY

As Paul Weyrich said: "This alliance between religion and politics didn't just happen. I've been dreaming and working on this for years." (The Right Wing Assault on Tolerance and Pluralism in America, Anti-Defamation League publication (1994), p. 93.)

Weyrich again: "We are sort of operations people. It has been our job to tell them [religious leaders] ‘Okay, here is what to do.'" ("Christian New Right's Rush to Power," New York Times, August 18, 1980.)

Now corporate interests could use scripture to mask right-wing ideology. Now they could convince sincere religious people to vote against their own economic interests by manipulating their religious faith. Now they would be beyond criticism. They could attack anyone who tried to expose the real pro-corporate and anti-democratic agenda as being anti-Christian.

During the 1980s and the Reagan administration when the right continued to target many pro-worker members of Congress for defeat, including Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Paul Weyrich spoke openly about the use of religious issues in elections:

"Let me tell you, frankly, there are those rural people in West Virginia who don't underderstand Reaganomics and who are being hurt by Reaganomics and who wouldn't like it if they did understand it. If those people aren't hearing the issue of prayer in the schools in the West Virginia Senate race, then Bobby Byrd is going to be back in the U.S. Senate."

Sen. Byrd is still in the U.S. Senate and, in this case, the people of West Virginia did not fall for a manipulation of their faith. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

The Moral Majority is no more, but other organizations have evolved that operate as a religious front for the corporate right, such as the Traditional Values Coalition, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America. Another is the Christian Coalition which Rev. Pat Robertson helped to organize.

ROBERTSON AND REED

Pat Robertson insists that any candidate who supports abortion rights must be defeated, because being pro-life is a fundamental moral principle. During an appearance by Robertson on CNN, he was asked about his support for a stronger trading relationship between the U.S. and China, even though that country has been said to promote forced abortion as a means of population control. Robertson responded that he would not agree with such a policy:

"But at the same time, they've got 1.2 billion people, and they don't know what to do. If every family over there was allowed to have three or four children, the population would become completely unsustainable. So I think that right now they're doing what they have to do." ("Pat Robertson Remarks on China Abortions," New York Times, April 18, 2001

The real pro-business agenda of the Christian Coalition is revealed. Abortion is used as an issue when it serves the real purpose — to defeat pro-worker candidates — and it is conveniently overlooked when it serves the global trade interests of corporate America.

Ralph Reed served as executive director of the Christian Coalition for a number of years. Before that he worked for members of Congress who had strong anti-worker voting records, such as Rep. Newt Gingrich (10% right/Lifetime AFL-CIO Record) and Senator Jesse Helms (10% right/Lifetime AFL-CIO Record). When questioned about the use of issues such as school prayer and abortion in elections, Ralph Reed said: "They are the bridge that gets you to constituencies that aren't with you on the economic issues." ("Mobilizing the Christian Right," Campaigns and Elections, October/November 1993)

This is yet another bold admission that the most important issues for the right are economic issues and that the right tries to manipulate the sincere faith commitment of many middle and working class voters.

(ED. NOTE: Ralph Reed left the Christian Coalition in 1997 and formed his own political consulting firm. He was an advisor to President Bush's re-election campaign in the southeastern states and is currently running for the office of lieutenant governor in Georgia. A recent article in the New York Times indicated that some of his long-time Christian conservative allies, including Pat Robertson, are dismayed by his high-priced lobbying and his relationship with Jack Abramoff, a major figure in the investigation of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. "Ralph Reed's Zeal for Lobbying is Shaking His Political Faithful," New York Times, April 18, 2005.)

We must respect the faith of any individual and their views on any issue, but to cast a vote for any candidate based on a single issue – or based on the recommendation of certain religious leaders who claim that only they truly represent family values – is dangerous for working people.

Even religious organizations that are not part of the political right can inadvertently aid its strategy, further its ideology and expand its power by adopting a narrow focus on single issues in the electoral process. There is more going on between religion and politics than meets the eye.

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State Audit Says W-2 Clients Languish in Low Wage Jobs

MADISON . . . A comprehensive report about the much praised Wisconsin Works (W-2) welfare "reform" program by the independent Legislative Audit Bureau concludes that the majority of W-2 clients who left the program in 1999 were still earning incomes below the poverty level four years later.

The federal poverty level in 2003 was $15,670 in annual income for a family of three, and W-2 clients averaged just $11,577. By 2003, only 27% of W-2 clients earned incomes above the poverty level. Of the 2,279 W-2 clients hired in 2003, 41.8% found work through temporary staffing agencies while almost 50% found jobs in the low-paying service and retail sectors.

The W-2 program, launched in 1997, is frequently cited by conservatives as a great success and as an example of "compassionate conservatism." Among its strongest proponents is its founder, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.

The audit acknowledged what other studies have revealed: that a larger percentage of African American clients are slapped with monetary sanctions for infractions of rules than are white clients. The ACLU of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee chapter of the NAACP have begun working with a committee of the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to eliminate this bias.

And although the overall number of Wisconsin families receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children fell from 35,000 to 11,000 between 1997 and 2000, the number has since risen back to 15,000. Caseloads are rising at the same time that participants are approaching the limits of their eligibility for the program.

The findings give ammunition to critics of the program who charge that little job training occurs, that former welfare recipients – mostly women – are forced into low wage, dead-end jobs, and that the state has little to show for its $1.5 billion expenditure (as of June 2004).

The audit cited the inconsistency of services offered at W-2 agencies around the state and urged the DWD to monitor the agencies more closely for consistency and effectiveness of services. In 2003, the state of Wisconsin extended the contracts of 67 agencies that manage the W-2 program despite evidence that 93% of those agencies did not meet the state's performance standards.

The Bureau's audit criticized the lack of financial oversight which resulted in the improper use of W-2 funds by several agencies. Maximus Inc. and Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) in Milwaukee spent W-2 money improperly, Maximus on parties. Employment Solutions Inc. spent several hundred thousand dollars in W-2 funds to promote its welfare-to-work services in other states. OIC and Employment Solutions have since closed.

--- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel , Lesgislative Audit Bureau Report

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Many Wal-Mart Workers Require State Aid

MADISON . . . Here's a reality check for Wisconsin residents who think they're getting great deals at Wal-Mart: The state of Wisconsin provides health insurance for 3,765 Wal-Mart employees and their dependents who are not covered by Wal-Mart benefit programs and make too little money to afford their own health coverage. More than 1,700 are enrolled in BadgerCare and almost 2,000 are covered by Medicaid. According to the Department of Health and Family Services, the total cost to taxpayers is $4.75 million annually, with Wisconsin paying $1.8 million and the federal government $2.95 million.

The numbers in other states are even more astonishing. Georgia covers the health care needs of 10,000 children of Wal-Mart workers at a cost of $10 million annually, while California pays a whopping $86 million a year in health care and other public assistance to Wal-Mart employees and their families.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists the 2005 federal poverty line for a family of three as $16,090; for a family of four it's $19,350. Full-time workers earning $8 per hour at Wal-Mart therefore subsist at or below the poverty line if they are supporting a family of three or four. Some full-time Wal-Mart employees are eligible for food stamps in many states.

--- Capital Times, Wal-Mart Watch, www.aflcio.org

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Battle Intensifies Over Minimum Wage

MADISON . . . The long battle over the proposed increase in Wisconsin's minimum wage intensified as we went to press with this newsletter.

The city of La Crosse joined the cities of Madison and Milwaukee in raising the minimum wage in their respective jurisdictions, and a Dane County Circuit Court judge upheld the Madison ordinance against a challenge brought by business interests opposing the wage hike. Republican legislators then responded by introducing a bill that would prohibit local governments from adopting minimum wages that exceed that of the state.

The current minimum wage in Wisconsin (and the US) is $5.15 per hour ($2.33 for those who receive tips) — a rate that has been static since 1997. At $5.15 per hour, a full-time worker grosses $10,712 a year, poverty level wages if they are supporting a spouse or children. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that "if the minimum wage of $1.60 an hour in 1968 had been adjusted for inflation, it would be approaching $8.50 an hour today."

In 2004, Gov. Jim Doyle convened a Minimum Wage Advisory Council made up of representatives of both business and labor which recommended (by a vote of 16-2) that the wage be increased to $5.70 in October 2004 and $6.50 in October of this year. Republican legislators blocked the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) form implementing the change last year and then used a parliamentary maneuver to put off any action on an increase until the end of 2006.

The DWD estimates that 200,000 workers would directly benefit from the minimum wage increase, and another 110,000 workers who earn slightly above the new minimum could expect increases as well. Nearly 80% of these low-wage workers are over 18 years of age, 65% are women, and over one-third are heads of households.

A pro-labor group called the Greater Wisconsin Committee is funding radio ads around the state targeting four Republican legislators opposed to the raise who will be running for re-election next year. They are: Sen. Tom Reynolds (West Allis), Joe Leibham (Sheboygan), Cathy Stepp (Racine) and Ron Brown (Eau Claire).

--- DWD web site and media reports

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Are Voucher Schools Cheating Their Workers?

MILWAUKEE . . . A search of court records reveals that at least four schools in Milwaukee's Parental School Choice Program were slapped with federal tax liens for non-payment of employee taxes in February and March of this year. The schools were: Learning Enterprise of Wisconsin, Shiloh Evangelical Lutheran School, Texas Bufkin Academy and Medgar Evers Christian Academy. The liens, for unpaid income, Medicare, Social Security and unemployment taxes for employees, ranged from $4,819 to $36,431.

The private schools are funded with taxpayer funds, or vouchers, of $6,000 per student per school year. The program has been wracked by scandals related to misuse of funds, drug use and lack of supervision of students.

--- Milwaukee County Court Records

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NATIONAL NEWS BRIEFS

Two Governors Rescind Bargaining Rights

In January, newly elected Republican governors in Indiana and Missouri eliminated the collective bargaining rights of some 50,000 workers by signing executive orders rescinding workers' bargaining rights and contracts.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Bush administration, issued an executive order that repealed 15 years of collective bargaining rights supported by the state's past three governors. His action eliminated the bargaining rights of some 25,000 members of AFSCME, Unity Team (an AFT/UAW alliance) and the International Union of Police Associations. He also rescinded contracts set to run through 2007.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt's order took away the bargaining rights of about 25,000 AFSCME and SEIU members, including 9,000 who had reached contracts with the state. Blunt said he believes his action canceled those contracts, most of which were set to run through 2006.

These attacks on workers' rights are "not a coincidence," says AFSCME President Gerald McEntee. "They are a coordinated assault by right-wing forces on a part of the union movement that is growing." The unions may seek legal action.

--- New York Times, www.aflcio.org

Web Site Monitors NLRB

American Rights at Work has launched Workers' Rights Watch: Eye on the NLRB to publicize how the laws enacted to guarantee the right to organize a union are no longer working.

The site features summaries of rulings by the National Labor Relations Board and the courts and enables visitors to join an email alert list. It shares the stories of workers who have been fired, demoted, passed over for promotion or otherwise discriminated against because they supported a union during an organizing campaign – like Verna, a 72-year-old Michigan woman fired for organizing 12 years ago and still waiting for her back-pay award.

--- www.americanrightsatwork.org

Social Security Opponents Unmasked in Online Report

A huge web of wealthy financiers and right-wing think tanks are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the ongoing campaign to undermine the public's faith in the Social Security system and to promote private accounts which will ultimately destroy Social Security. A detailed discussion of these groups, their relationships, leaders and funding sources is available at www.aflcio.org/issuespolitics/socialsecurity/ wallstreetgreed/.

Fox in the Hen House?

President Bush has appointed Gerald Reynolds to replace civil rights activist Mary Frances Berry on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Reynolds, an energy company lawyer with no experience in civil rights law, is an outspoken opponent of affirmative action, the Title IX act guaranteeing gender equity in education, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

CEO Pay Goes Up Again

In 2004, the average CEO of a major company received $9.84 million in total compensation, according to a study by compensation consultant Pearl Meyer & Partners for the New York Times. This represents a 12% increase in CEO pay over 2003. In contrast, the average worker's pay increased just 3.6% in 2004.

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