State news roundup for August 18, 2012


Montana – Supreme Court rules LR 123 unconstitutional

MEA-MFT praised the decision by the Montana Supreme Court which ruled Legislative Referendum 123 (LR-123) unconstitutional and removed it from the November general election ballot.

“We are grateful the Court decided not to waste voters’ time with a measure that is so blatantly unconstitutional,” said Erik Burke, executive director of MEA-MFT. MEA-MFT is a plaintiff in the court case, along with the Montana State AFL-CIO; Montana Public Employees Association; Montana Association of Area Agencies on Aging; and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Montana Council 9.

MEA-MFT is also a partner in the coalition that formed to oppose LR-123, called Montanans for Fiscal Accountability. The coalition is composed of 26 Montana organizations including business groups, faith leaders, AARP Montana, the Montana Nurses Association, labor unions, conservation groups, the Montana Public Health Association, MEA-MFT, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and many others.

“Montana weathered the recession better than most states because we saved during the good times,” said Burke. “LR-123 would have left no grain in the bin for hard times, even if it meant slashing funds for our kids’ classrooms, healthcare for low income kids, or laying off firefighters and police. Montanans don’t want that, and they would have voted against it in November.”


Illinois – We Are One Illinois labor coalition takes Gov. Quinn to task during state fair

Leaders of the We Are One Illinois labor coalition held a press conference in Springfield Wednesday where they outlined their concerns regarding Gov. Pat Quinn’s actions regarding labor, collective bargaining and pensions.

“In an era when collective bargaining rights are under attack by Republican governors across the country, it is essential that the Democratic Party stand up for union rights. Yet here in Illinois, we have a Democratic governor who is undermining fundamental collective bargaining rights for employees,” said Michael Carrigan, of the AFL-CIO, speaking on behalf of the coalition.

We Are One Illinois held a press conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield at the same time a legislative breakfast was being held in the same building. In addition, members of the varying labor groups protested Gov. Quinn’s actions during Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

“In an era when jobs are the primary concern of so many citizens — and when Illinois’ unemployment rate remains disturbingly high — Gov. Quinn is leading a one-man crusade to lay off thousands of state workers — jeopardizing vital services on which so many citizens depend, destroying decent-paying union jobs, and decimating the economic vitality of communities throughout the state,” Carrigan said.

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Pennsylvania – PSEA President: Proposed pension changes will have to beat the current ’3 percent solution’

Any proposed changes to Pennsylvania’s public employee pension systems will have to measure up to the savings already achieved in reforms enacted two years ago, with the passage of Act 120 of 2010.

That’s the message delivered from PSEA President Michael Crossey, commenting on the joint hearing of the House State Government and Finance committees on pension legislation, held August 14 at the state Capitol.

“It all comes down to simple math,” said Crossey. “The cost to the taxpayers for new public school employees subject to the provisions of Act 120 of 2010 is 3 percent for the Commonwealth and school districts combined.

“Any changes to the current pension plan must be lower than 3 percent, or they will not offer long-term cost savings to taxpayers or the Commonwealth,” Crossey said. “Current proposals to put new employees in an alternate type of retirement plan will actually increase the cost of retirement benefits to taxpayers.”

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Wisconsin – For Milwaukee educators, union membership is personal

For teachers and support staff, joining a union is personal. It signals another step in an educator’s mission to improve our profession for students and schools – now and into the future.

In Milwaukee, thousands of educators are receiving word that changes in law may mean we’re doing things differently – but the union remains a trusted source of information and support. To get that message out, members of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association are reaching out to friends and colleagues to let them know how to sign up to stay union strong. Through member letters and personal phone calls educators like Millicent Smith, a WEAC member and paraprofessional at Milwaukee’s Hartford Avenue Elementary School, are reminding us all that it’s about counting on each other.

“It is better to know where you can go to find people you trust when you’re talking about your livelihood,” said Smith. “It’s important to be informed by people who are on your side. Even in hard financial times, it’s better to be part of the union rather than not. I can give personal testimony where the union has helped me.”

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