Saturday, December 31, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- "There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children." -- Nelson Mandela

According to President Obama, a highly-educated and skilled workforce will be the key not only to individual opportunity, but to the overall success of our economy as well. We cannot be satisfied until every child in America has equal access and the same chances for a good education-- the same opportunity afforded every one's children.

We at the Voice Reporter believe that the two most important indicators of a child's future success in life is the ability to read and having access to educational opportunities.

A child's attitude toward and patterns of reading, learning and even expectation for success in life are set as early as grade four. We can not fail our children. As we embark on the New Year, let all citizens of the world place the value of education and our children's future front and center-- right where it should be.
Video slideshow by Ove Overmyer.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


photo: Ove Overmyer
Rochester, N.Y.-- Both The New York Times and The Washington Post have separate reports yesterday about the widening wealth gap between members of Congress and the people they represent. Almost half of all Congresspeople are millionaires and their median net worth has climbed to $913,000, compared to $100,000 for the rest of America households. According to the Post, that number drops to $725,000 when excluding home equity (and adjusting for inflation), but the same median figure for American families is just $20,500. And that gap has only grown wider in recent years.

The biggest reason for the disparity is the sheer cost of running for office, which is both a full-time job and an expensive undertaking. The average successful House race costs $1.4 million to stage (the average Senate campaign is almost $10 million), and candidates are allowed — and often need — to donate as much as they want to their own effort. The costs of advertising and travel make it increasingly difficult for anyone who doesn't already have money to get their name out there. There have also been concerns raised recently about the ability of politicians to profit from their position, both through contacts made and the ability to trade stock based on privileged information.

The net worth of Congress has risen 23.6 percent since 2008. Even putting aside the questions of influence and corruption, the biggest concern is that those who elected to Congress are more out of touch with the world of their constituents than ever before. How can they be expected to look out for the interest of citizens when the biggest issues facing them — unemployment, health care, wages — are unknown to most of those who are supposed to be looking out for them?

Or, even worse, when addressing those issues directly contradicts their own interest, as when millionaires are asked to vote on a "millionaire's tax"? The biggest political movement of the last year, Occupy Wall Street, has been devoted almost exclusively to addressing the gap between rich and poor, but it's hard to see how any change becomes possible when that gap is greatest among those in a position to do something about it.


Albany, N.Y.--A coalition of CSEA, PEF, UUP, NYSCOPBA, NYSTPBA, NYSPIA, and AFSCME Council 82, unions representing virtually all of New York State employees have filed lawsuits in federal court challenging the Cuomo Administration's unilateral increase in the percentage of health insurance contributions required of state retirees.The legal challenge applies to changes made by the administration this fall and covers state employees who have retired and seen their share of health insurance premium increase beyond the level at which they retired.

Retirees have long contributed 10 percent of individual coverage and 25 percent of family coverage for their health insurance coverage in retirement based on the percentages included in the state contracts when they retired. The changes imposed by the Cuomo Administration increase the percentage of contribution 2 percent for both individual and family coverage. The changes have severe and unexpected consequences on retired employees. The coalition of unions asserts that it is illegal for the state to increase those rates for already retired members. The unions did not negotiate such increases.

Contrary to popular perception, most public employee retirees have contributed to their health insurance and retirement costs over decades of service and receive only meager to modest benefits. For example, individuals who retired prior to 1983 receive an average pension benefit of $8,760. Those who retired between 1983 and 1990 have a retirement benefit of $13,786 annually.

Out of their fixed income, retirees must pay rising food, fuel, and gas prices along with all other living costs. A retiree on fixed income covered under the Empire Plan would pay about $150 more annually for individual coverage and about $460 more for family coverage. Costs for other health insurance options would vary according to the plan. Making matters worse, the Cuomo Administration has indicated that it will unilaterally impose a 6 percent increase for retirees who retire on or after Jan. 1, 2012, these changes will result in a 60 percent increase in contribution costs for individual coverage and a 24 percent increase for dependent coverage.

All of the employee groups appealed to the Cuomo Administration not to impose this change on retirees before its imposition. The state must now respond to the legal filing in the next month.

photo: Ove Overmyer
"CSEA is disturbed and disappointed that the Cuomo Administration can be so heartless about imposing higher costs on people who have devoted their lives to the service of New Yorkers," said CSEA President Danny Donohue. "Nobody bargained for this and these increases will hit retirees hard – it's not right and they don't deserve this treatment."

"What the Cuomo Administration is trying to do is pull the rug out from under state retirees many of whom planned their retirements based on when they felt they could afford to retire. These decisions were based on a promise and expectation of what their health insurance costs would be. Changing the rules after the fact is outright wrong," said PEF President Ken Brynien.

"Our members selflessly work to protect New Yorkers in some of the most dangerous environments in the state. They have earned these benefits, and they are entitled to the coverage that the state agreed to when they retired," said NYSCOPBA President Donn Rowe. "Not only is this change unconstitutional, it's just unfair. The Cuomo Administration should recognize its legal obligations to its retirees and not shift its financial burdens on those least able to absorb the hit."

"The New York State Troopers PBA will continue to fight for the well-being of our retired members. It is imperative that the active members of the PBA protect those members who came before us and proudly wore the gray uniform while sacrificing so much in the name of public safety," said PBA President Thomas H. Mungeer.

Joseph Barrett, president of the New York State Police Investigators Association (NYSPIA), stated: "It is unfortunate that, after risking their lives for the citizens of the State of New York during their careers, that same State of New York now chooses to impose unprecedented health care cost increases on its retired State Police members and the widows and widowers of its deceased members. The State's decision to force this cost increase on our retirees in these years when they live on a fixed income is particularly disturbing."

"The hardworking public safety professionals of New York State are particularly outraged by the Cuomo administration's targeting of retirees," said Council 82 Executive Director James Lyman. "Council 82's retirees are men and women who dedicated their lives to providing a safer New York and deserve to be respected and honored for their service, rather than have the state turn its back and break its promise to its retirees."

Contact Information:

CSEA: Stephen Madarasz – 518 257-1271
PEF: Darcy Wells – 518 785-1900, x274
NYSCOPBA: - Morgan Hook – 301 801-6949
NYSTPBA: Michelle Crisafulli – 518 462-7448
NYSPIA: - 518 436-0120
AFSCME Council 82: Kevin Hanes – 412 330-9930



This video was published December 28, 2011. The article below was originally posted here at the CSEA Voice Reporter on May 6, 2011.

Rochester, N.Y.-- It might have taken a near-historic recession for many Americans to notice our country's rapidly rising levels of income inequality, but the gap between rich and poor has finally gone mainstream, with bloggers, economists and policymakers of all stripes spouting theories on why we should or shouldn't care.

And while the debate continues over cause and consequence, that central claim has proven unshakable: the void between the wealth of America's richest and poorest is widening, and few signs show any indication of it slowing anytime soon.

ThinkProgress reports that income inequality in the United States equals that of Uganda, and is worse than in countries like Pakistan, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast.

Statistics from the CIA Factbook show that income inequality is also higher in the United States today than at any other time since the Great Depression.

Meanwhile, the American Human Development Index recently reported that, partially due to income inequality and the decline of unionization in America, there is now a 30-year gap in life expectancy between the deep South and New England.

"Economists are not sure how to fully explain the growing inequality in America," according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. In an article published in Vanity Fair, he said, "One big part of the reason we have so much inequality is that the top 1 percent want it that way."

While it's unclear whether Stiglitz is correct about the intentions of the super-wealthy, what's certain is that the rich have emerged from the rubble of the last 30 years as indisputable winners.

Since 1980, middle-class wages have largely stagnated and lower-class wages have declined, while the upper echelons of American society have seen a windfall.

A study by University of California, Berkeley professor Emmanuel Saez found that, as of 2007, the top decile of American earners pulled in 49.7 percent of total wages, a level that's "higher than any other year since 1917."

Not all economists agree income inequality is a bad thing. Perhaps, argues George Mason professor of economics Tyler Cowen, inequality is less an indication of struggling workers at the bottom than the result of a small section of brilliant businessmen at the top. This type of thinking is exactly what eats away at the core of who we are as a nation.

Here are some simple truths:

•Income inequality is extreme and increasing: The top 1 percent of Americans control 23.5 percent of all the country's income, the highest share controlled by the top 1 percent since 1928.

•The U.S. is exceptionally unequal: The U.S. ranks #3 among all the advanced economies in the amount of income inequality.

•The poverty rate is extremely high: The U.S. poverty rate, according to the new National Academy of Science index, is estimated at 15.8 percent. Only one advanced economy, Mexico, has a higher relative poverty rate.

photo: Ove Overmyer
We at the Voice Reporter believe the root cause of income inequality, viewed in the most general terms, is extreme human ingenuity, albeit of a perverse amoral kind. No economy will grow or survive without a strong middle-class. That is why it is so hard for us to wrap our minds around how some, not all, with unspeakable wealth and their complicit puppet lawmakers could care less about the welfare of others in a time of immeasurable suffering. Individual materialism and wealth now heavily outweigh any sense of civic self sacrifice.

How can lawmakers continue to promote legislation to benefit 2 percent of Americans? Just yesterday, House Republicans unanimously voted down a motion from Democrats to consider legislation to end subsidies to oil companies, making sure they will continue to receive our tax payer dollars above and beyond as long as they are in office. To say that "This is just the way things are," or "that's capitalism," is just not acceptable nor is it a reasonable answer. That's not the America we know. The America we know has its sights set on the greater good.

-Commentary by Ove Overmyer.
The opinon expressed here are the authors only and do not reflect the views of CSEA as an organization.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011



Washington, D.C.-- The NLRB's internal battles are heating up, reports Tim Mak: "Business and labor are at war over the troubled National Labor Relations Board, a site of many such previous clashes but now the flashpoint for unprecedented contentiousness."

About 200 cases, many of which would expand the power of unions, will be stalled in 2012 when an appointment expires and the five-member board loses a quorum and with it the ability to take action - unless President Barack Obama makes a controversial recess appointment sometime in the coming weeks. However, from the perspective of anti-labor and business groups, recent NLRB decisions have been so harmful to their interests that they probably prefer a non-functional board.

Without a functioning NLRB, workers who are illegally dismissed or disciplined for union activity will not be able to seek a remedy before the board, a number of employers can’t recognize unions, since there is no force of law without the NLRB, and no new labor rules will be issued. Let's hope the President takes a leadership role to protect worker rights by keeping the NLRB whole.

Monday, December 26, 2011


Rochester, N.Y. -- Never has this nation seen one of its two major parties so utterly bankrupt of any positive vision-- so devoid of any concept of how to make a better America. Instead, their consistent dedication is to blocking the efforts that others make to provide solutions to the nation's biggest problems-- even when the ideas used to be their own. The GOP is systematically dismantling what America has already achieved to make a more whole and just society, like gutting the Clean Air Act, supporting anti-equality legislation, abolishing the EPA and assaulting Social Security.

And, it seems the list of 2011 policy initiatives launched by Republicans to address problems that don't exist keeps growing. House GOP officials are passing measures to combat voter fraud, without instances of actual voter fraud. House Republicans voted to eliminate a proposed EPA farm-dust regulation, despite the fact that the EPA has no proposed farm-dust regulation. GOP officials recently passed a resolution to affirm "In God We Trust" as the national motto, but "In God We Trust" was already the national motto.

Now they're tackling restoration of tax benefits for millionaires. So, the party that shows its true nature by its complete lack of any positive vision, attempts to hide its moral bankruptcy by making a phony show of solving imaginary problems. In retrospect, how can they go back to their home districts and say they were fighting on behalf of their constituency? It’s laugh out loud funny that the only thing they have attempted to accomplish in the first year of the 112th Congressional Session is solve problems that don’t really exist.

It’s reprehensible. In 2010, they campaigned on jobs and have not delivered one jobs bill through the House of Representatives. That is just pathetic. Let us hope the American people see through this thinly disguised ploy to protect the 1 percent while putting the rest of America’s working class in jeopardy. Even though this sounds like an oversimplification of our complex world, it seems as if the GOP is crying out, “Every Man for Himself.” Heaven help us all.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka with President Obama.
photo provided by Huffington Post
Friday, Dec. 23, 2011

As you may have heard by now, John Boehner and his caucus of Tea Party obstructionists in the House of Representatives finally accepted political reality. Yesterday, they announced they'd join with 89 out of 100 senators from both political parties who’d already voted to renew unemployment aid for two months—with no cuts and no strings attached.

This is an enormous victory. Thanks to you, 2.8 million jobless Americans will have a brighter holiday season—and a helping hand over the next two months. Not an easy time. Not a handout or a free ride. But a lifeline and a chance that you made possible.

In the fight to extend aid for the jobless, the 99% went on the offense against the 1% politicians. And we won. And if working people keep it up, we’ll score more victories and build a better future. Not every time—two steps forward, one step back. But look around. People all across the country are saying our economy and our democracy are out of balance. And they’re winning the public debate.

I hope you’ll take some well-deserved time this holiday season to rest, reflect and recharge. Because in 2012, huge challenges will keep on coming. And we’ll need you ready to start early, act often and work harder than ever.

I wish all the best for you and your family, for our unions and for our nation this holiday season and in the year ahead.

Thank you for all the work you do.

In Solidarity,

Richard L. Trumka
President, AFL-CIO

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Washington, D.C.-- The House Tuesday rejected a plan backed by President Barack Obama to extend a 2 percentage point payroll tax cut for two months to buy time for talks on a full-year renewal.

Republicans controlling the chamber are instead demanding immediate talks with the Senate on a year-long plan. The Senate has already left Washington for the holidays.

The House’s procedural vote fell short of actually voting down the Senate bill, which extends President Obama’s payroll tax cut, and other measures, for two months.

House Republicans chose the procedural path because many are uneasy with going on record as voting against the compromise package, a move that could leave them ultimately responsible if no other deal is reached before the tax break expires Dec. 31.

If Congress doesn't pass a bill by the end of the year, payroll taxes will go up for 160 million workers on Jan. 1. Almost 2 million people could lose unemployment benefits in January as well.

The House vote, 229-193, kicks the measure back to the Senate, where the bipartisan two-month measure passed on Saturday by a sweeping 89-10 vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says he won't allow bargaining until the House approves the Senate's short-term measure.

The vote caps a partisan debate on Obama's jobs agenda, which has featured numerous campaign-style appearances but little real bipartisan negotiation, other than Senate talks last week that produced the two-month extension.

The Senate's short-term, lowest-common-denominator approach would renew a 2 percentage point cut in the Social Security payroll tax, plus jobless benefits averaging about $300 a week for the long-term unemployed, and would prevent a 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors.

The House passed a full-year extension last week, containing many spending cuts opposed by Democrats.

House Republicans, however, have erupted in frustration at the Senate measure, which drops changes to the unemployment insurance system pressed by conservatives, along with cuts to President Barack Obama's health care law.

Also driving their frustration was that the Senate, as it so often does, appeared intent on leaving the House holding the bag — pressuring House lawmakers to go along with its plan.

Both sides were eager to position themselves as the strongest advocates of the payroll tax cut, with House Republicans accusing the Senate of lollygagging on vacation and Senate Democrats countering that the House was seeking a partisan battle rather than taking the obvious route of approving the stopgap bill to buy more time for negotiations.


Ezra Klein

From Ezra Klein: Congress is ending the year with an approval rating of 11 percent. That's the lowest they've dipped in the 30 years that Gallup has been asking Americans to rate them. And this isn't some one-time drop. As Gallup notes, it's been going on all year: "This earns Congress a 17% yearly average for 2011, the lowest annual congressional approval rating in Gallup history."

That's all the more extraordinary because 2011 hosted a new congress following a wave election. Tired of Democrats, Americans ushered in Republicans. Tired of career politicians, they opted, in many districts, for outsiders. Tired of establishment Republicans, they looked for Tea Party conservatives. Fast forward a year and Americans are tired, historically tired, of this congress, too.

Part of that is the grinding recovery from the financial crisis, of course. But check the headline leading the Washington Post today: "House Republicans intent on killing Senate payroll tax cut deal." That sort of thing isn't helping. And, increasingly, I'm hearing from sources who think the payroll tax really might expire, at least for a month or two. That's really not going to help. That's when the 112th Congress stops being bad at its job and becomes an active impediment to the recovery. That's when it literally begins taking money out of people's paychecks because Republicans refused to extend a tax cut -- a tax cut! -- unless they also got an oil pipeline.

This sort of gridlock is bad for the president, too, of course. 

Obama's job approval, according to Gallup, is 42 percent. That's low. If the Republican strategy is to break Washington so badly that voters want to throw everyone out, they're well on their way. But there are a lot of incumbent Republicans included in that "everyone." Right now, InTrade gives Democrats a 30 percent chance of retaking the House in 2012. If money begins disappearing from paychecks next month, expect that to skyrocket. It will be, for ordinary voters, the most painful in a long list of failures that includes August's debt-ceiling debacle, March's near-government shutdown, and, by November 2012, any number of other items. That's going to be a hard record for majority legislators to get reelected on. 

For a year now, House Republicans, working off their experience in 2010, have legislated as if they have more to fear from conservative primary challenges than from the frustrated, moderate voters who decide many general elections. That strategy has left them the most disliked Congress in the history of polling. If they keep it up for another 11 months, they may well come to learn they were wrong.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Washington, D.C.-- Here’s the latest out of our nation's capital: After the Senate -- including 39 Republicans who voted for a middle class tax cut -- Tea Party Republicans in the House rebelled this weekend to kill the bill.

With a tax cut for 160 million U.S. workers set to expire in less than two weeks, Republicans and Democrats in Congress on Monday were mired in a last-ditch battle over extending it.

Now, House Republicans are scheduled to vote tonight to scrap the compromise and sock the middle class with a $1,000 tax hike on January 1st.

House Republicans initially opposed renewing the tax break, which expires on December 31, after expressing skepticism that it would boost the economy as the White House claimed. The Tea Party is mugging working families and the middle class with a tax increase because they don't think millionaires and corporations should pay their fair share.

They also want to destroy any resemblance of good governance-- and make sure they foil the President under any circumstance. The problem is-- this isn't about the President. It's about the American people and saving our economy but the GOP doesn't seem to care about the citizens they represent. They would rather stick it to the President and see working families suffer-- any progress would put Obama in a much more favorable light entering his reelection bid in 2012. Growing our economy is secondary to ousting Obama. "We the People" are just collateral damage and political pawns in their twisted game of one-upmanship. It's pathetic.

The truth is that Tea Party Republicans oppose anything and everything under the sun that might help the middle class or force their millionaire benefactors to pay their fair share.

As news reports trickled in about Republican Members of Congress facing the heat this weekend when they returned home, any progress on the tax holiday or funding unemployment insurance looks bleak. However, the GOP is known for unprincipled "noodle-boned" strategy and may cave under the weight of their constituents.

We can’t let up now. Putting additional pressure on Congress now could push them to the tipping point. The clock is ticking and we need your urgent support for this campaign to extend a tax break for working families and extend unemployment insurance benefits for tax-paying citizens who are presently out of work. Contact your representative now.

We need you to stop what you’re doing, pick up the phone and dial 1-888-245-3381. Tell the person who answers the phone: “Please pass the Senate’s bill to extend unemployment aid and middle-class tax cuts immediately.”

You can also call House Speaker John Boehner at 202-225-0600. Tell him, “ You and your Tea Party supporters can’t keep hurting the American people just so you can get what you want. Stop this temper tantrum and pass the Senate’s bipartisan bill to extend unemployment aid and middle-class tax cuts now.”


Monroe County
DA Mike Green
Washington, D.C.-- Senate Republicans are taking steps to try to block President Barack Obama from using his power to make appointments while lawmakers are away for the holidays. This is what you get when you elect the most extreme ring wing radicals Congress has ever seen. However, the president could hold a trump card or two-- we'll see how he plays his hand.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took the first shot on Saturday, saying he would allow Senate votes on Obama nominees only if the president dropped the idea of using his recess appointment powers.

Republicans also moved to keep the Senate technically in session through late January, when senators plan to return to Washington, the same tactic they used during a break in May. By keeping the session open, the president can't make recess appointments. The main target has been former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, the president's pick to head the new--and contentious--Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

In local news, Monroe County District Attorney Michael Green will not be renominated for a Rochester vacancy on the federal court, White House spokesman Brandon Lepow said Sunday.

The Senate returned Green's nomination to the White House on Saturday and left Washington for a month-long break.

The decision means President Barack Obama will have to find another candidate to fill the nearly 3-year-old vacancy in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.

The vacancy dates back to March 2009, when Rochester-based U.S. District Judge David Larimer turned 65 and declared himself as having "senior status."

Once Obama names a new nominee, it will set in motion a process that could take months as the new candidate's background is investigated by the FBI and the Senate Judiciary Committee then schedules a confirmation hearing.

Green was nominated by Obama in January of 2011, but it was not until May that the committee held his confirmation hearing. The committee approved his nomination in a mid-June voice vote, but Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah voted against his nomination.

Green could not be reached for comment. In a statement to the press on Sunday, New York Senator Chuck Schumer directed his aim at Republican obstructionism and "politics" for blocking the Green appointment.

Labor laws in limbo

Unless something changes in Washington, American workers will, on New Year’s Day, effectively lose their right to be represented by a union. Two of the five seats on the National Labor Relations Board are vacant. And on Dec. 31, the term of Craig Becker, a labor lawyer whom President Obama named to the board last year through a recess appointment, will expire.
Without a quorum, the Supreme Court ruled last year, the board cannot decide cases. What would this mean? Workers illegally fired for union organizing won’t be reinstated with back pay. Employers will be able to get away with interfering with union elections. Perhaps most important, employers won’t have to recognize unions despite a majority vote by workers. Without the board to enforce labor law, most companies will not voluntarily deal with unions.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Mario Cilento
Albany, N.Y.-- Our state’s largest labor group has a new president, promoting the chief of staff to take over as our next leader.

Mario Cilento is officially the New York State AFL-CIO’s new president after he was unanimously elected to the post by our umbrella group’s executive council, the group announced on December 16.

Cilento takes over for Denis Hughes, who announced his retirement last month. He takes over immediately.

“I am honored, humbled and feel incredibly privileged to have been elected President of the New York State AFL-CIO,” Cilento said a statement. “The labor movement in this state has always risen to the challenges laid before us. Together, as one movement, we will once again meet those challenges, and provide a brighter economic future for all working men and women.”

His elevation comes at an interesting time for our labor movement in New York. Earlier this year, the state’s top two public employees union — the Civil Service Employees Association and the Public Employees Federation — agreed to contract terms with the state, which included pay freezes and higher health care contributions.

The labor unions also had taken aim at Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his position on the state’s expiring millionaires’ tax, but those concerns were largely alleviated when Cuomo brokered a deal to change the state’s tax code and raise rates on the wealthy.

Cuomo has pushed for a less generous pension tier for new state employees, though he hasn’t signaled if he will continue that push in 2012.

In the AFL-CIO’s press release, Cilento said he will work to get the labor movement on the same page. He had been Denis Hughes’ chief of staff.

“Make no mistake about it, this is a statewide movement,” Cilento said. “From Buffalo to Montauk and everywhere in between we will create a groundswell of activism to educate our members on the issues of the day, and as a result, be better able to mobilize them.”

Saturday, December 17, 2011



Washington, D.C.-- In a tumultuous year of last-minute, half-baked federal legislation, the Senate voted overwhelmingly today to extend a payroll tax cut for two months, with the chamber’s leaders and the White House proclaiming victory, even as they pushed the issue of how to extend the tax cut and unemployment benefits into the new year.

Who is paying for the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut working its way through Congress? Nope-- it's not the uber-rich. According to the Washington Post, the cost is being dropped in the laps of most people who buy homes or refinance beginning next year.

In an unusual vote, the Senate approved a $30 billion package to extend unemployment benefits, a payroll tax holiday for millions of American workers and to avoid cuts in payments to doctors who accept Medicare through February, when Congress will once again be locked in battle over whether and how to further extend those provisions. It seems that our elected officials are more concerned about going home for the holidays rather than doing the people's business.

The agreement-- should it get through the House-- mirrors a series of last minute deals devised by the 112th Congress that appear to solve nothing to an impending crisis, but simply kicks the can down the road. Most notably, the non-agreement last summer to raise the debt ceiling still looms large over this Congress. That created a 12-member Congressional committee whose job was to complete the deficit reduction goals that Congress failed to achieve on their own. That group achieved absolutely nothing, necessitating this legislation that Congress is wrangling with now. It's ridiculous. Pardon us if we seem to be underwhelmed by their so-called, "progress."

A failure to even extend a modest tax break for 160 million Americans for a single year — something both sides would love to accomplish with an impending election year coming up — is particularly remarkable in a Congress charged with avoiding far more significant items like job creation and easing unemployment. The second and last year of this session in 2012, coupled with a presidental and congressional elections, will no doubt be a nightmare for good government groups. As far as we are concerned, the 112th Congress has already proven that they are the WORST.CONGRESS.EVER.

The measure, which passed 89 to 10, would also speed the decision process for the construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

The temporary payroll-tax measure would include a House-passed provision requiring a White House decision on whether to allow the controversial Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days. Absent would be a provision delaying regulations on industrial boilers – the so-called Boiler MACT rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. President Obama last week said he would not accept the Keystone provision but Democrats said they will argue, as Republicans have, that it does not actually bind the White House, allowing it to put off the project if the president declares it not to be in the national interest.

Environmentalists carry a giant faux pipeline across from the North Lawn of the White House on Sunday Nov. 6, 2011. photo: Richard A. Bloom
While this pipeline provision is necessary to win over Republicans who opposed the tax break, the White House moved furiously to portray that concession, which President Obama threatened to veto just a week ago, as a boon for Democrats. What the freakin' pipeline has to do with a payroll tax holiday is any one's guess-- it's just political calisthenics from the mindless GOP hoping to paint the President into a corner.

However, the White House wants to spin the developments this way. “This is an important step towards enacting a key provision of the President’s American Jobs Act and a significant victory for the American people and the economy, said Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director, late Friday. “Because as independent analysts have said, failing to extend this tax cut would have had a damaging effect on our recovery and job growth.” Whatever.

Some Democratic aides said this concession would have the effect of killing the pipeline project because the Obama administration has said it would not grant approval on a truncated timeline-- something the GOP was politically strategizing.

Republicans, who have spent much of the year being obstructionists say that tax breaks for Americans should not require offsets, also celebrated the deal as a "political win" and showed they really could care less about working Americans.

We believe they were referring to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office, which states the bill should reduce the deficit by about $3 billion.

With House members back in their districts and not expected back in the Capitol until sometime next week, it was not clear that the legislation will even pass muster in the Senate. And, many Republicans hate the idea of giving President Obama another few months — overlapping his state of the union address — to beat up on their party over the extension of the payroll tax cut, which many rank and file members dislike in principle. Another weapon for Obama is the fact that Republicans openly support the 1 percent, saying a surtax on the wealthiest Americans is a non-starter in negotiations that would provide a must needed revenue boost during a down economy.

While House Speaker John A. Boehner and other Republican leaders in the House were briefed on the Senate plan Friday, they could not commit the support of the Republican conference. “We have not signed off on anything at this point,” said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, “and no decisions will be made until we talk to our members.” The 112th Congressional saga continues.

Friday, December 16, 2011


photo: Bess Watts/Voice Reporter
Rochester, N.Y.-- Jan. 21, 2012 will be the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Citizens United vs. FEC, which infamously granted First Amendment rights to corporations, allowing them unfettered access when it comes to financing elections.

President Obama stated that the decision "gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington — while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates." Obama later elaborated by saying, "this ruling strikes at our democracy itself" and "I can't think of anything more devastating to the public interest."

We at the Voice Reporter continue to believe that our political system is awash in money and needs reform. With the advent of such civil unrest and the Occupy movements dominating the national narrative, the public is increasingly more aware of the immediate threat to democracy under this horrible ruling.

We believe that the court has, in effect, legalized foreign governments and foreign corporations to participate in our electoral politics.

Our campaign finance reform wish list

After review of several proposals that already have been filed in Congress to address the way elections are funded, we came up with a few that highlight our wish list to be enacted for 2012. They include:

*A measure stating that corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as persons. This Senate measure is sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and is similar to a House measure called OCCUPIED – the Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy Amendment. That proposal is sponsored by Rep. Deutch, a Florida Democrat.

The Constitution of this country has served us well, but when the Supreme Court says that attempts by the federal government and states to impose reasonable restrictions on campaign ads are unconstitutional, our democracy is in grave danger. Consequently, we at the Voice Reporter are delighted that Sen. Sanders recently introduced a resolution in the Senate calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

*A measure to publicly finance Senate campaigns. Pending in both House and Senate committees, this measure has 13 Senate cosponsors and 79 House cosponsors.

*A measure that would require publicly held companies to inform shareholders before making political donations. This measure has nine cosponsors in the Senate and 47 cosponsors in the House.

*A measure that would clarify the authority of Congress to regulate and restrict the political activity of corporations of any sort, including contributions in support or in opposition to a candidate for public office. This House measure, sponsored by Rep. Donna Edwards, a Maryland Democrat, has 27 cosponsors.

*A measure to directly reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United. This resolution has eight cosponsors in the House and 18 cosponsors in the Senate.

These bills are just a start and the language of some of these efforts need improvement. However, we feel that if the labor movement and our coalition partners focus it's collective energy on these proposals, it will be a fight worth the investment and pay dividends to working families down the road.

-The opinion expressed here reflects the views of the Voice Reporter only and does not represent CSEA as an organization.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


New York-- On December 8, the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced they would be adopting a non-discrimination policy that covers sexual orientation as part of their collective bargaining agreement.

The announcement came on the same day that HRC released the 2012 Corporate Equality Index, which scores U.S. employers on their policies and practices pertinent to LGBT employees. Earlier this year, the National Football League and Major League Baseball added sexual orientation to their nondiscrimination protections as well.

Historically, the NBA has been widely known to be a hostile workplace, evidenced by a string of homophobic rants and tirades by the some of the more visible basketball stars, including Tim Hardaway and Kobe Bryant. Other sources close to the NBA culture say that homophobia is still rampant, and in some instances, unapologetic and encouraged.

Because there are no legal protections for workers at the federal level, many private employers have adopted policies to protect their LGBT employees against unfair employment practices. HRC called on the NBA to adopt non-discrimination policies that cover sexual orientation and gender identity, and will continue to advocate for the inclusion of gender identity in their nondiscrimination policy.

Over the last year, a number of professional athletes have worked with social justice organizations to promote LGBT equality in America. Most recently, NBA great Steve Nash, Sean Avery of the NHL, and the NFL’s Michael Strahan, Brendan Ayanbadejo and Scott Fujita all participated in video ads speaking out in favor of marriage equality. With some encourgement, the arc of justice seems to be bending toward workplace equality.

Adopting policies to protect all NBA workers, whether they are clerical staff, front office workers or even players, is a step in the right direction-- or should we say, a "leap forward."

Monday, December 12, 2011



Rochester, N.Y.-- It's time we get America working again. The AFL-CIO is partnering with Working America in the 9 Demands of the 99% campaign. Here’s your chance to make your voice be heard.

Americans are tired of being part of the 99% in a country that only works for the 1%. Join the movement and tell Wall Street and corporate America it’s time for a change.

What do you think needs to be done to make America work for the “other” 99%? Here are 8 demands being made by the AFL-CIO and Working America on half of working families. Add your own 9th demand at the end.

Demand #1: Tax Wall Street for gambling with our money. Pass the financial speculation tax.

Demand #2: Support education. Put teachers back in classrooms and ease the crippling burden of student debt.

Demand #3: Keep working families in their homes. Pass a mortgage relief plan that puts the needs of homeowners above the greed of mortgage bankers.

Demand #4: End too big to fail. Rein in the big banks and hold the people who caused the financial crisis accountable.

Demand #5: Fair share of taxes from the 1%. End the Bush tax cuts for the 1% and close corporate tax loopholes.

Demand #6: Businesses should invest in jobs. Corporations must stop sitting on their profits and start hiring again here in America.

Demand #7: Extend unemployment insurance. Millions of Americans are still out of work, and unemployment insurance is a vital lifeline.

Demand #8: End corporate control of our democracy. Abolish "corporate personhood” and restore full voting rights to real people.

Sign the petition and add your own 9th demand.

Saturday, December 10, 2011



Rochester, N.Y.-- Do you ever ask yourself, "Where do those great protest signs come from?" You know, the ones you see every day on the streets, in the newspaper, television news and all over the web? Well, this video slideshow is your answer. Take a peek.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Albany, N.Y.-- New York's second major income tax increase in two years will charge millionaires more, and give 4.4 million middle-class residents a well deserved break worth $200 to $400 a year.

Under the plan backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which the state Senate passed 55-0 late Wednesday night and the Assembly approved 130-8 early Thursday morning, those tax breaks will go to most households with annual earnings of $40,000 to $300,000, or single filers making $20,000 to $150,000 a year.

To pay for it, the state will rely on households making over $2 million or single filers making $1 million to pay higher taxes. Their income tax rate will increase from 6.85 percent to 8.82 percent on Jan. 1.

"This was a function of an economic reality and deteriorating economic conditions," Cuomo said after the Senate vote. He said it should help stimulate jobs with some of the tax cuts and construction spending, while closing about $1.5 billion of a projected $3.5 billion state deficit next year with higher revenues overall.

The tax increase will raise $2 billion to pay for the middle-class tax break, a break in the New York City transit tax for small businesses, a public-private infrastructure repair fund, a tax break for manufacturers, and $50 million in aid to upstate communities trying to recover from historic flooding in the late summer. The funding is also expected to avoid another year of cuts to education and health care.

Meanwhile, households making $300,000 to $2 million -- or single filers making $150,000 to $1 million a year -- will pay the same 6.85 percent rate they would have paid come Jan. 1, when a temporary tax surcharge expires.

The three-year package agreed to by Cuomo and legislative leaders provides a new tax structure that continues to focus on the disparity between New York's rich and poor. A 2009 bill at the beginning of the state's fiscal crisis created a temporary surcharge that increased the income tax rates for New Yorkers making $200,000, hitting millionaires with the highest rate just 0.15 of 1 percentage more than the new rate approved by Cuomo, Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

NYS Assembly Leader Silver exiting the
Legislative Chamber on Dec. 6, 2011.
photo provided
For over a year, Silver has pushed for a millionaire tax. But he was strongly opposed by Skelos who said it conflicted with basic Republican values, and by Cuomo who promised in his campaign to freeze taxes in what he called one of the most heavily taxes states in the country.

"I think we were able to put together a good package and showed that government in New York is functioning, that we are different from what is happening in Washington," Silver said. "We are facing the same economic climate and we are trying to do something about it ... and we will not be faced with the severity of cuts that we would otherwise be faced with next year. We're putting fairness and equity into our tax code."

Until last week, a millionaire tax was officially dead in Albany, according to both Cuomo, Skelos and most labor officials. It's almost "shocking" to most insiders that something like this tax reform package could pass so quickly and with so little theatrics-- Albany insiders also say it would of never happened under previous administrations.

But in the last few days, Cuomo instead led the Legislature toward Silver's top priority. Cuomo made the case that the world and national economies continued to be unstable, while weak revenues created an unexpected $350 million deficit this year and a projected $3.5 billion deficit for 2012-13.

"While I am against higher taxes and I believe our long-term economic future for this state is enhanced by in fact lowering taxes to make us more competitive ... If I were to close the entire gap by budget cuts it would decimate essential services doing real harm to the state's economy and strangling local governments all across this state," Cuomo told reporters.

Some critics of the tax reform, like the OccupyAlbany group, say the bill didn't go far enough. While taxes may decrease for some in the middle-class, the overall impact leaves a 3 billion dollar bump up for the wealthy when you figure in the millionaire's tax expiring on December 31.

One AlbanyOccupier tweeted, "Is that really fair taxation?" Other progressive groups suggest that besides adjusting personal income tax rates, more could be done to fix corporate tax loopholes and create higher tax brackets for the super-rich to create more revenue in a down economy.


Albany, N.Y.-- Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that $785 million has been awarded through the Regional Economic Development Council initiative, continuing the Governor's efforts to redesign the way state government works in order to drive economic growth and create jobs.

Announced in July, Regional Councils represent a fundamental shift in the state's approach to economic development from a top-down development model to a community-based, performance driven approach which empowers individual areas to develop comprehensive strategic plans that invest in regional solutions to create jobs and economic growth. As part of the Regional Council process, a Strategic Plan Review Committee was chosen to analyze and rank the strategic plans for each region competing for $200 million in specially targeted economic development funding.

Strategy for Investing in Educated Workforce and Advanced Manufacturing

The Finger Lakes' strategic plan built on existing natural resources, a talented and educated workforce, and a commitment to innovation and philanthropy. It also built off the area's standing as the state's top agricultural region, its national leadership in per capita intellectual property and degrees in higher education.

The plan focused on the region's existing collaborations between public and private institutions to optimize performance in advanced manufacturing, the arts, tourism, and basic and applied research in medicine, science, engineering, and technology.

Encouraging Innovation

$5 million will help expand a partnership between the University of Rochester and IBM and will support a new Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation. The partnership will continue to work to create the world's most powerful computer system dedicated to health research. The center will also enable the university to grow its research funding and accelerate the development of the region's life sciences sector.

Enhancing Strategic Industries

$3.5 million will go to NYBEST Battery and Energy Storage Product Commercialization Center. This funding will help renovate and equip a facility to build, test and characterize batteries and energy storage devices at the Eastman Business Park in Rochester.

$2.5 million will help construct a new business incubator at High Technology Rochester to ensure better coordination among fledgling tech-sector startups.

More than $1.5 million will be used for advanced manufacturing projects, including $1.25 million for e2e Materials, Inc. to establish a full-scale production facility. This new facility will manufacture sustainable bio-composite products that replace high-volume wood/wood composite materials in applications such as cabinetry, furniture and automotive components in Geneva.

Tourism & Arts

$2.28 million will support the development of a new Finger Lakes Cultural and Natural History Museum located at Keuka Lake State Park.

Geographical Breakdown

The approved Finger Lakes regional plan includes 93 funded projects totaling $68.8 million. Here’s the complete breakdown of who is getting what:

•Western: $100.3m

•Southern Tier: $49.4m

•Finger Lakes: $68.8m

•Central NY: $103.7m

•Mohawk Valley: $60.2m

•North Country: $103.2m

•Capital Region: $62.7m

•Mid Hudson: $67m

•NYC: $66.2m

•Long Island: $101.6m

For a full appendix of these projects, go to this link.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Photo: Ove Overmyer
Albany, N.Y.-- It looks like all this lobbying is finally paying dividends. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders on Tuesday announced that they had reached an agreement to raise taxes on New York State’s wealthiest residents as part of a deal to overhaul the tax rates. However, critics would argue that it doesn't go far enough. Considering the dire straits we are in, this is better than no action at all. At best, this effort is like putting a band-aid on a broken leg.

The leaders, seeking simultaneously to make the state’s income tax system more progressive and to increase tax collections during a down economy, announced their agreement as lawmakers began to arrive at the Capitol for an expected special session of the Legislature later this week.

The tentative agreement would not only raise taxes for the wealthy, but also cut taxes for the middle class, by creating four new tax brackets and tax rates. The officials said the tax rate changes would generate $1.9 billion in annual revenue for the state.

“This would be lowest tax rate for middle class families in 58 years,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “This job-creating economic plan defies the political gridlock that has paralyzed Washington and shows that we can make government work for the people of this state once again.”

The state’s current income tax rates are relatively flat, taxing any individuals who earn $20,000 or more, as well as couples who earn $40,000 or more and file joint tax returns, at the same 6.85 percent rate.

For the last three years, individuals who earned more than $200,000 a year, and couples who earned more than $300,000, have also been subjected to a tax surcharge called a “millionaires’ tax.”

Under the proposal announced Tuesday, for married couples filing jointly, income from $40,000 to $150,000 would be taxed at 6.45 percent; from $150,000 to $300,000 at 6.65 percent; from $300,000 to $2 million at 6.85 percent, and over $2 million at 8.82 percent.

It is important to realize that changing the tax rates and brackets would allow the state to replace some, but not all, of the revenue to be lost when the so-called millionaires’ tax expires on Dec. 31.

Cuomo has come under increasing pressure from Democrats and labor unions in recent weeks as the sluggish economy weakened the state’s financial picture, widening next year’s projected state budget gap to as much as $3.5 billion, and as the Occupy Wall Street movement directed more attention to the issue of income inequality. We are encouraged by these developments, but we stop short by saying that all is well. In fact, it would be prudent to make these tax changes permament-- this proposed plan would expire at the end of 2013.

We would like to thank anyone and everyone who has contributed to this effort-- however, we are not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination. Our state still faces huge challenges in the coming budget year. The fight for dignity and respect for the working class rages on.


Albany, N.Y.-- This weekend we learned that Governor Cuomo is calling the Legislature back into session to talk about tax reform. With Governor Cuomo’s unprecedented special session set to start in just a matter of hours and backroom discussions already underway your State Senator, Assembly member and Governor Cuomo himself need to hear from you right away!

We need our elected officials to make choices we can be proud of and fight for tax fairness. We must have the necessary revenue to protect public safety, maintain essential public services, and keep our schools safe.

Please call 1-877-823-4343 right now and ask Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to make sure the $5 billion budget hole is filled and jobs and essential public services are protected.

For months, you have helped put pressure on the Governor and the Legislature to stop trying to win this fight with one hand tied behind their backs. You told the Governor that New York’s wealthiest didn’t deserve yet another tax break-- and now it's time to seal the deal.

Call 1-877-823-4343 right now and let your Assembly member, Senator, and Governor Cuomo know that we need them to build a better New York for all and make sure whatever deal is reached protects public services and fills the $5 billion hole created by the expiration of the Millionaire’s Tax.

Please forward this e-mail to your friends, family, co-workers and e-mail lists. If you click here to send a fax, you can also print out a flier you can share at your workplace. Our elected officials need to hear from all of us, so please help spread the word.

In Solidarity,

Cris Zaffuto
Ove Overmyer
CSEA Monroe County Political Action Committee

Monday, December 5, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- CSEA is asking members to support a fair-share tax plan and attend a press conference or make the call to your legislator.

Elected officials, community leaders, grassroots activists and everyday New Yorkers will join together all this week to speak out in favor of keeping the Millionaires Tax. We are supporting a tax revenue plan that serves our state’s needs: fairer budgets and real job creation.

As part of this effort, we are spreading the word through press conferences and calls to our representatives in Albany. Please join the press conference in your area:

Rochester & Monroe County
Wednesday, December 7 at 11am
NYSUT, Rochester Teachers Association
30 North Union St, Rochester, N.Y.
For more information about 99% New York, you can here.


Sunday, December 4, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- The only thing that remains the same is change itself. Rochester, N.Y. has a rich labor history. For more information about our labor community, you can visit the Rochester Labor Council website or visit the Rochester & Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation homepage.

Special thanks to Linda Donahue, Marilyn Anderson and John Garlock for their assistance in the making of this video slideshow. Video production by Ove Overmyer.


Rochester, N.Y.—Hey! Sterling here at my favorite coffee stop-- Equal Grounds on South Avenue. All this ridiculous GOP presidential crap has got me thinking. Are we still a country of big thinkers?

I am real worried that our inability to match the achievements of the 1960s space program might be symptomatic of a general failure of our society to get big things done. My parents and grandparents witnessed the creation of the airplane, the automobile, nuclear energy and the computer to name only a few.

Scientists and engineers who came of age during the first half of the 20th century could look forward to building things that would solve age-old problems, transform the landscape, build the economy, and provide jobs for the burgeoning middle class that was the basis for our stable democracy.

There was a time when Republicans were not all that bad. After all, they used to be the party of Lincoln. Republicans historically were the progressive visionaries! Republicans gave us the transcontinental railroad, the interstate highway system, the purchase of Alaska, and the Panama Canal.

Today, they don't even want to repair the very infrastructure they helped create. They have no ideas. They are just puppets on a string orchestrated by the corporate elite. They even took an oath to a tax zealot and have lost any sense of moral obligation to the majority of Americans. What a shame.

And the same is true here in Rochester, New York. It was Republicans like Gordon Howe and Lucien Morin that gave us our County water system, county parks system, county sewer system. None of that would even happen today! Most of our local GOP delegations are small minded divisive pawns—incapable of creative or independent thinking.

The question remains, are we still capable of doing big things?

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Rochester, N.Y.-- Facts are facts-- and the American Labor Movement needs to get into gear right away. The President has shown real leadership and is taking aggressive steps to put Americans back to work. He is working to restore middle-class security for decades to come. He deserves our support.

For years before the economic crisis, middle-class security had been slipping away. Wages stagnated while health care costs soared. We’ve added back 2.6 million private sector jobs as of September 2011, but there’s more work to do.

When President Obama took office, he both addressed the immediate economic crisis and laid the foundation for a U.S. economy that can out-innovate and out-build the world.

FACT: President Obama successfully fought for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act to provide benefits and retraining to workers who have seen their jobs move overseas.

President Obama also created the National Export Initiative, a government-wide effort to help small businesses compete in the global marketplace and double our nation’s exports by 2015.

FACT: President Obama provided tax incentives and made investments in clean energy technologies such as wind turbines and advanced car batteries to grow high-technology U.S. manufacturing capacity and supply clean energy projects with American-made parts and equipment.

FACT: President Obama launched the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a national effort to invest in technologies that will create high-quality manufacturing jobs and enhance America’s global competitiveness.

FACT: President Obama signed the America Invents Act, historic patent reform legislation that will help American entrepreneurs bring inventions to market sooner, helping to create new businesses and new jobs.

FACT: President Obama made the tough and politically unpopular decision to extend emergency rescue loans to the American auto industry, saving 1.4 million jobs and preventing an economic catastrophe for communities across the country. GM and Chrysler were required to cut labor costs and overhaul their business models in exchange for government loans, guaranteeing their accountability to taxpayers. Today, GM and Chrysler have repaid the loans they received and are rehiring thousands of workers.

To level the playing field for American businesses and workers, President Obama signed trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. Together, the agreements are estimated to increase exports by over $11 billion and support over 70,000 American jobs.

FACT: President Obama passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to hold Wall Street accountable and end taxpayer-funded bailouts. Wall Street reform ensures that if a financial company fails, it will be Wall Street that pays the price—not the American people—and sets ground rules for the riskiest financial speculation.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established to protect consumers from unfair financial practices and make sure that credit card companies and mortgage and payday lenders have to follow the rules. We need to hold Wall Street accountable. President Obama is definitely on the side of the middle-class consumer.

This is just a short list of accomplishments. Go to for more details.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Washington, D.C.-- The National Labor Relations Board voted Wednesday to move forward with a new labor rule that Republicans and business groups charge would restrict the ability of employers to bring concerns about union elections to the regulatory agency. Score one for the good guys.

A 2-1 vote was along party lines, with the two Democratic members backing it and the lone Republican voting no. The rule will now be drafted into final language for a subsequent NLRB vote before it goes into effect.

Democrats says the new rule will eliminate delays between when employees file for a vote on whether to start a union and the day the ballots are cast.

“Today an election can be held up by pre-election appeals to the Board, which in the end are rarely granted and even more rarely result in a changed outcome. An election can also be delayed by raising irrelevant issues in pre-election hearings, which are intended to be quick and non-adversarial,” the Democratic chairman of the NLRB board, Mark Gaston Pearce, said in a statement before the meeting.

Much of the tension on the politically divided NLRB is the result of the fact that the board is not fully constituted. Though the NLRB should be made up of five members, it currently only has three - 2 Democrats, board chairman Pearce and member Craig Becker, as well as 1 Republican, member Brian Hayes.

GOP member talked of "walking out"

The board requires three members to form quorum and issue new rules on labor regulations. The GOP has been playing the devilish role of the obstructionist since, well-- forever.

Until the meeting occurred, it remained an open question whether Hayes would even attend Wednesday’s session. If Hayes had chosen not to show up or had resigned, he might have denied the NLRB the quorum to make new rules on labor relations.

Hayes said he decided against quitting, explaining during the board meeting that he felt his resignation would not only deprive the board of the views he represents, but also tar the image of the agency.

“It is not my nature to be obstructionist,” he said at the meeting. “I believe resignation would cause the very same harm and collateral damage to the reputation of this agency.”

Craig Becker
photo provided
The Obama administration has had problems confirming new members to the NLRB board. In fact, Becker was a NLRB nominee whose Senate confirmation failed in early 2010, leading the Obama administration to recess appoint him in March 2010.

Becker’s appointment will expire when the Senate adjourns for recess sometime at the end of this year, meaning that the NLRB would no longer have the minimum three members needed to make rules regarding labor relations.

Because of this impending deadline, the NLRB, ahead of Wednesday’s vote, stripped its proposed rule on union elections of the more controversial aspects that had previously been proposed. For example, providing employee email addresses and phone numbers in the voter list and the facilitation of online petition-filing had been in the original proposed rule but has since been removed for future consideration.

In predictable partisan fashion, yesterday the U.S. Chamber of Commerce criticized the NLRB’s move, arguing that the proposed rule would lead to “ambush elections” that don’t allow employers adequate time to discuss unionization with their employees.

Meanwhile, the anti-labor House passed by a 235-188 vote a bill that would roll back the NLRB rule. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), was drafted in response to the NLRB’s more sweeping earlier proposal and was the second whack at the labor board this fall by the GOP-led House, which in September approved a bill that would ban the NLRB from forcing companies to close or relocate jobs.