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Archive for April 2nd, 2011

Balancing the budget on the backs of public sector workers?

Posted by Juanita Bratcher On April - 2 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Commentary

 

By Juanita Bratcher 

 

“Is this what democracy looks like?”, a frustrated protester asked.

 

Democracy failed most public sector workers in Wisconsin when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican allies in the Wisconsin Senate and House stripped them of collective bargaining rights, denying them a future voice at the table through union representation.

Tens of thousands of public workers and supporters of workers and unions, many of which were non-residents but in staunch opposition to Walker’s intentions to scrap collective bargaining trekked to Wisconsin from across the spectrum in protest of his actions. They took their dismay to the state capital and to the streets. It was all about having a level playing field, an equal voice at the table, and a collective voice in solving disputes (between management and labor unions); not a one-sided scenario where management (state government) would be the sole player.

Subsequently, the Bill passed by an 18-1 vote without any Democrats present, and was subsequently signed into law by Walker. For the moment, Walker and his Republican allies had successfully scuttled collective bargaining rights for most public sector workers.

When hearing of the decision, a frustrated protester asked, “Is this what democracy looks like?” The decision quickly set the stage in mobilizing those in opposition. Those in opposition went into a new phase; efforts were soon underway to take recourse in the courts and circulate petitions for a “Recall” of Walker and other state legislators responsible for ramming the Bill through in a parliamentary maneuver, and eventually signed into law by the governor. While Walker is not subject to recall until after a year in office (January 2012, he is three months into his first term), there is rapid preparedness by opposition forces toward that goal.  

Fourteen Democrat legislators early on in the debate fled the state and found refuge in Illinois as a means to delay or block efforts to quickly ramrod the legislation through. Obviously, Republican legislators had the votes needed for passage since they are in the majority.

President Barack Obama noted that Walker’s proposal for change “seems like an assault on unions.” It certainly appears that way. And in several polls conducted on the issue, participants overwhelmingly supported bargaining rights of public employee unions.

From my perspective and analysis, it appears to be straight out union busting going on in Wisconsin and Ohio by two Republican governors with backup from the Republican House and Senate.

What Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have initiated in regards to phase out collective bargaining rights for public-sector employees hinges on the very essence of trying to balance the budget on the backs of public employees. And it appears that they will win in their battle to strip away the rights of thousands of workers and power from public-sector unions.

Obviously, it appears that these two governors’ actions (and perhaps more governors will follow in their footsteps) are to balance their budgets on the backs of public employees.

There are many state and city governments besides Wisconsin and Ohio that are faced with financial budget deficits and are finding other creative ways and means to solve their deficit problems, but it appears that Walker and Kasich found it appropriate to balance their budgets on the backs of public employees.

The measure (Bill) in Wisconsin forbids many government workers from collective bargaining with the exception of wage increases that don’t go beyond the rate of inflation. However, police and firefighters would be exempt.

Under Ohio’s Bill, public workers would be banned from striking (something that is already prohibited) and there would be established penalties for workers who participate in walkouts. However, unionized workers in Ohio would be in a position to negotiate wages, hours and certain other work conditions void of sick time, health care and pension benefits. It would also put an end to automatic pay raises, and future wage increases would be on the basis of merit. Ohio’s Bill passed and was signed into law March 30, 2011. Those in opposition of the law have 90 days to collect 230,000 signatures for recall.

Did Walker and his Republican allies go too far in trying to quench collective bargaining rights for public sector workers? What price will Walker pay one year down the road? Will his governorship be short-lived if opposition gets their way? Will his controversial actions cost him a re-election bid? It might cost him if a recall is effective. While government workers (state workers) were willing to take pay cuts and contribute more for health and pension benefits, that wasn’t enough for Walker. He had other plans. Surely, if sought, Walker could have found more creative ways and ideas to balance the budget.

Pure and simple: It appears to be an assault against working-class Americans. Workers should always have the right to union representation. For American workers or working men and women anywhere collective bargaining is a part of the American dream and elsewhere. This should be a shared effort, a negotiable effort between management and unions whether at the state or corporate level. No open and shut one-sided decision. They must sit at the table together with a collective voice in solving disputes and come up with workable solutions.

Collective bargaining is as much American as apple pie. But it seems the urge to kill-off collective bargaining rights tends to be part of a growing trend. And most working Americans, regardless of ethnicity, age or Party affiliation – Democrat or Republican – want fairness in the workplace. That’s something you can bank on! They have seen controversial happenings in the workplace regarding employees that took union intervention with management to get things back on track.

As a News Reporter/Journalist, I have penned a wide-range of articles on labor unions. I have also penned numerous articles on politics and government. I’ve been a union member at every job where I worked if there was union representation. I was the wife of a labor union executive. I am a strong supporter of collective bargaining rights. I fret to think in the least that unions not be part of the process in the scheme of things to represent working class men and women.

My late husband, Neal A. Bratcher, Sr., was the Executive Director of Council 19 (American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME, AFL-CIO), an umbrella union consisting of several local unions in Chicago, including Local 1657. He was also a Vice-President on the International Board of AFL-CIO. His efforts were overwhelming in serving and servicing his union clientele. I’m well aware of the history of unions in this country. However, I do not see management as the enemy, but prefer that management and union meet at the table and share a collective role in solving disputes that exist at the moment.

After being on a winner’s high, Walker’s Administration came to a squeaky halt in implementing the law when a Dane County Circuit Court Judge issued an order to block implementation due to a challenge to the measure’s legitimacy. There are also other lawsuits challenging the new law.

Judge Maryann Sumi had issued a ruling on the issue but Walker’s Administration continued efforts to let the law go into effect. A state office published the law online even though Sumi had issued the order. Sumi issued another ruling stating that anyone in violation would face sanctions.

At the moment, democracy now rests in the court. Let’s hope democracy prevails for public sector workers and that the level playing field remains intact for government, corporate  and unions.

The Sentencing Project calls for an overhaul of the criminal justice system

Posted by Admin On April - 2 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

 

Blames government for high recidivism rate

 

By Chinta Strausberg

 

Calling for a complete overhaul of the U.S. criminal justice system, Kara Gotsch, Director of Advocacy for The Sentencing Project, Friday blamed government policy for allegedly creating the high rate of recidivism coupled with elected officials who don’t want to be viewed as being soft on crime.

Reached in Washington, D.C., Gotsch pointed an accusatory finger at the government for the high number of blacks and people of color currently incarcerated in prisons and jails.

According to a study published by The Sentencing Project, it is the changes in the sentencing laws and policies and not an increase in crime that is blamed for most of the “six-fold” increase in the nation’s prison population.

It is also blamed for the racial disparities of prisoners coupled with the use of “one size fits all” mandatory minimum sentences that prevents judges from using their own discretions in individual cases.

The Sentencing Project reported that more than 60 percent of those in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. “For black males in their 20’s, 1 in every 8 is in prison or jail on any given day.”

“These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the ‘war on drugs,’ in which three-fourths of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color,” the study stated.

Agreeing, Gotsch said the government’s inaction to give existing prisoners a life line needed to help them in their transition and reform is a major contributor to the prison industry’s revolving doors syndrome.

“The whole criminal justice system needs to be evaluated,” she said including law enforcement, arrest policies, what happens in courts, failure to provide adequate defense counselors and the sentencing policies.

“We have extremely long sentences for relatively low-level and in many cases non-violent offenses, people going into prison for inordinately long periods of time.” Gotsch said even when they leave prison “there are consequences that follow them throughout their entire life.

“It’s definitely government policy that has created this policy of continued recidivism and the cycle of crime, but it is not just what’s happening at the back end…but also how we choose to enforce our laws and what laws we criminalize and the punishment you associate with those crimes.”

When asked if part of the problem is some politicians pass strict laws to appear they are not soft on crime, Gotsch agreed. “That certainly is. I think politicians feel they are responding to public incentive, and I think the public has come a long way on the issue of crime and punishment.

“There is a growing recognition particularly for low-level drug offenses and particularly for non-violent crimes that there are better ways to address those offenses other than incarceration….”

She said alternative sentencing like community, drug treatment, intensive supervision, and community-based punishments are much more appropriate. “Even though progress is being made, there is still the mentality as a politician I need to be tough on crime and if I don’t I will lose elections. Ultimately, that set of old mindset is what is holding large scale reform back,” Gostch said.

“Racial disparity in the criminal system has been plaguing this country for a long time. We have a disproportionate impact on who is incarcerated and the consequences of that incarceration and the subsequent record that people maintain for the rest of their lives have had a disproportionate impact on people of color and even after you leave incarceration; it makes it very difficult to become successful as contributing members of society.

“In some states, a felony drug conviction can permanently bar you from ever receiving food stamps or welfare benefits,” Gotsch said.

“If someone is coming out of incarceration, they don’t have a lot of options. It is very difficult to find employment. It’s very difficult to find employment…housing.” She said all too often they come from impoverished communities.

“If there isn’t some sort of government assistance provided to people, how can someone coming out of prison get back on their feet and successfully re-enter our communities.

“That is what contributes to the cycle of crime where individuals come in and out of this criminal and prison justice system. It sorts of criminally stigmatizes them and prevents them from getting out of poverty, getting an education and moving on with their lives,” said Gotsch.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host.

Jason Roberts elected to Better Business Bureau Board of Directors

Posted by Admin On April - 2 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

 

Chicago, IL – Jason Roberts, Vice President and General Manager of Advantage Chevrolet, has been elected to a one-year position as a member of the Board of Directors with the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois. 

 

As member of the Board, Mr. Roberts will help guide the Better Business Bureau in its mission of advancing marketplace trust and promoting ethical business practices. 

 

“We are very pleased to have Jason with his extensive business knowledge and experience on our Board,” said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “His experience working with customers will greatly assist us in advancing a community of trustworthy businesses that both consumers and businesses throughout northern Illinois can rely on.”

 

Mr. Roberts has been in the automobile business for the past 16 years and has held a number of management positions leading up to his current assignment.  As General Manager he oversees the day to day operations of Advantage Chevrolet with 85 full-time employees.

 

Mr. Roberts stated: “I’m honored to be selected by the Better Business Bureau to help it assist both consumers and businesses as a member of its Board of Directors.” He noted that, “Ethical business operations has always been the highest priority in my business. I’m pleased I can take lessons I’ve learned to continue to help others in the northern Illinois business arena.”

New study estimates $21.3 billion food budget shortfall for Americans at risk of hunger

Posted by Admin On April - 2 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

 Over one third of Counties with both the highest food insecurity and food costs are majority African American

 

Chicago, IL (BlackNews.com) — Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, today released a landmark study, “Map the Meal Gap,” providing insight for the first time about the number of meals missing from the tables of America’s hungry each year – an estimated 8.4 billion nationwide.

The findings of “Map the Meal Gap” are based on statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and food price data from The Nielsen Company. The study was funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and Nielsen.

Map the Meal Gap shines a light on food insecurity at the local level in the United States, revealing new information about how food insecurity, food costs, and ethnicity interact at the county level. A key finding of the report is that among the 44 counties in the United States that fall into both the highest food insecurity and the highest food costs categories, over a third have a majority African American population.

“We know that African Americans in this country struggle with hunger at a disproportionately high rate,” said Brian Banks, Director of Public Policy and Community Outreach, Capitol Area Food Bank. “What this study does is help us focus our response to this overwhelming issue. With the first county-by-county data, we can tailor our response to each community.”

According to USDA data, people struggling with hunger estimate they would need about $56 more each month on average to address the shortages in their food budget. On a national level, “Map the Meal Gap” shows this shortfall represents an estimated $21.3 billion on an annual basis.

African American Communities & Hunger

African Americans experience food insecurity and poverty at a higher rate than the general population, in part because they have lower than average median income and higher than average unemployment. In turn, African Americans are also more likely to participate in federal nutrition programs.

On average, 1 in 4 African American households are food insecure, including 1 in 3 African American children , 1 in 4 African Americans live in poverty , and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics more than 1 in 7 African Americans are unemployed as of February 2011 .

Among the adult clients who come to emergency food program sites, like Feeding America, 5 million (34 percent) are non-Hispanic African American, the second largest racial or ethnic group served . While African Americans make up only 12.4 percent of the U.S. population, 22.5 percent (7.4 million) of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) participants are African American . Similarly, African Americans make up 19.6 percent of Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) . 90 percent of African American children will receive SNAP benefits at some point before age 20, compared to 49 percent of all American children .

“The Map The Meal Gap” Study

In a departure from the standard of measuring meals in pounds, “Map the Meal Gap” estimates the relative cost of a meal, adjusting the national average of $2.54 per meal that food secure people report they usually spend on a meal according to food prices in each county.

“Map the Meal Gap” also provides critical information that has never been previously available — food insecurity rates for each county and Congressional District. Previously, food insecurity data was only available at the state level in the USDA’s annual report. The study further analyzes each county’s food insecure population to determine their income eligibility for federal nutrition assistance. This data has the potential to redefine the way service providers and policy makers address areas of need.

“We know hunger exists in every state across the nation, but it looks different from county to county, and therefore, so do the solutions. The results of this study show that the best way for us to help people facing hunger is to understand who is hungry and why they are hungry at the community level,” said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America.

“Together, the emergency food system and critical federal nutrition programs weave a comprehensive nutrition safety net reaching at-risk Americans at different income bands and in different settings, with special focus on vulnerable child and senior populations.”

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for hunger. For example, in Pulaski County, which is at the southern tip of Illinois, more than 20 percent of the population is food insecure. Of those individuals, 63 percent are potentially eligible for enrollment in the SNAP program (formerly known as Food Stamps). This sample alone shows just how significant the SNAP program can be for many communities in this country,” said Escarra.

“But in Lake County Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, 54 percent of the food insecure population does not qualify for food stamps or other government programs, so they often must rely on Feeding America and other charities to help feed themselves and their families.”

“‘Map the Meal Gap’ provides the following data for each county in the United States in an interactive map format available online:

* The percentage of the population who is food insecure.

* The percentage of the food insecure population who qualify based on income for SNAP (Foods Stamps) and other federal nutrition programs.

* The percentage of the food insecure population who do NOT qualify for federal nutrition programs and often must rely on charitable food assistance programs and who also need better wages and employment opportunities to help them meet their basic needs.

* The average price per meal in each county, based on new research by The Nielsen Company, using the USDA’s “Thrifty Food Plan.”

“The interactive map will, for the first time, allow policy makers, state agencies, corporate partners and individual advocates to develop integrated strategies to fight hunger on a community by community level,” said Escarra.

“Map the Meal Gap” was conducted using well-established, transparent methods. Data provided by the US Census Bureau, the USDA, and the Nielsen Company were analyzed by Feeding America in partnership with Dr. Craig Gundersen, Associate Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois, Executive Director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory and member of Feeding America’s Technical Advisory Group.

The executive summary of the report features additional information that describes how various ethnic groups are disproportionately affected by high rates of hunger and high food prices.

A summary of the findings, an interactive map of the United States, and the full report are available on Feeding America’s web site at www.feedingamerica.org

Tweet about Map the Meal Gap using #MealGap.

Join the national conversation on hunger and learn more about Feeding America:
http://blog.feedingamerica.org
About Feeding America
Feeding America provides low-income individuals and families with the fuel to survive and even thrive. As the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity, our network members supply food to more than 37 million Americans each year, including 14 million children and 3 million seniors. Serving the entire United States, more than 200 member food banks support 63,000 agencies that address hunger in all of its forms. For more information on how you can fight hunger in your community and across the country, visit www.feedingamerica.org. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FeedingAmerica or follow our news on Twitter at www.twitter.com/FeedingAmerica.

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Ross Fraser
Feeding America
312-641-6422

Paula Thornton Greear
Feeding America
312-641-5663

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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