Governor Carcieri Challenges Nurses to Unionize

In today’s Providence Journal — Nurses hoped the Governor would support a bill to ban mandatory overtime, but they were looking in the wrong place, as he instead promised a veto.

‘I think we’re all feeling kind of crushed’,said Barbara Hunger, a registered nurse at Women & Infants Hospital. Hunger said she and a group of nurses had met with the governor’s policy staff a day earlier to urge him to sign the bill rather than merely letting it become law without his signature, as he does with the vast majority of bills. Hunger said they knew a veto might be in the cards, but had remained optimistic.”

I don’t know why the nurses are so surprised. Gov. Carcieri ran as a businessman. There’s a big audit he’s supposed to do sometime that’s going to solve all our problems. If he could run the state like a business he’d just lay off Providence and give a raise to East Greenwich. Why would he sign a bill that would give more power to workers and put pressure on management? Nurses, get real, he’s a Republican.

Republicans have a philosophy of individual responsibility, (unless you’re born rich), and the Governor actually had some good advice for nurses and other health care workers – organize.

“Carcieri wrote in his veto message that forced overtime is something that ‘should be negotiated through the collective-bargaining process.’

There are no workers more skilled, smart and essential than health care workers. We are the part of the labor force best equipped to unionize.

For those who don’t like the idea of a union, I have to point out that no matter how good you are, your individual voice won’t carry very far against a large corporation. Over and over nurses discover that while love motivates a lot of what we do, money talks. Countless programs that provide excellent and necessary medical care are cut or dispersed when the budget needs trimming. We know what we do, and we can sleep at night because we give good care, but as workers we are a commodity. That’s why they call it, ‘Human Resources’.

If you are cynical about unions, that’s good. Unionizing is only the first step. You have to participate and hold your union accountable. Self-government is a lot of work. That’s why only 40% of us vote and no one knows who’s on the Supreme Court. Your government, local and national; and your union, is as good or bad as you let it be.

Nurses, don’t take this lying down. The Governor has thrown out a challenge because he thinks you are too nice, and too tired to take him up on it. Another Governor tried to ‘kick butts’ and despite his muscles and superpowers got his own butt kicked instead. California nurses beat the Terminator. Let’s see what Rhode Island can do.

Jametta Alston Fights for Children in Foster Care

Jametta Alston was our city solicitor here in Cranston before she was ousted due to a city charter rule stating that the city solicitor must live in the city. Now she is our Child Advocate here in Rhode Island, and she is doing a bang-up job of calling attention to the issue of children’s safety while they are in state care. From the Projo:

PROVIDENCE  Children in state foster care are being neglected, molested, beaten, burned with cigarettes and, in one high-profile case, killed, according to a sweeping civil rights lawsuit filed in federal court by the state child advocate, backed by a national watchdog group.

Child Advocate Jametta O. Alston is pursuing class-action status on behalf of the 3,000 children now in state custody, aiming for nothing less than an overhaul of Rhode Island’s child-welfare system, which the suit portrays as overburdened and mismanaged.

Lupino Proposes Law to Require Big-Box Impact Studies

Tony Lupino has proposed legislation in Cranston which would require potential developers to pay for impact studies on how big-box stores would impact the local community and environment. The Projo article stated:

With opposition to a “big-box� proposal for the site of the Mulligan’s Island golf complex surging, the City Council is weighing an ordinance that could make it more difficult for developers to build large-scale retail projects in the city.

The measure, which would require developers proposing a project larger than 75,000 square feet to pay for a study of the potential impacts on the local economy and environment, is part of a nationwide push to curb the influence of Wal-Mart, Home Depot and other giant retailers.

Last week, Maine became the first state to require impact studies, like those contemplated in Cranston, in every municipality. Legislators in California, Oregon and New Jersey have proposed similar measures. And cities and towns across the country have passed their own local laws aimed at big-box stores.

Westerly officials are weighing a “dark store� ordinance designed to prevent chains from leaving big boxes empty when they go out of business. And in Middletown, developers must pay for an independent consultant, selected by the town, to review possible effects on traffic, town services, the environment and community character.

“I think there’s a lot of concern across the country and in a number of Rhode Island communities about the impact of big-box stores,� said Sheila Brush, director of programs for Grow Smart Rhode Island, a public interest group fighting sprawl.

Anthony J. Lupino, the City Council member proposing the Cranston ordinance, said he was inspired by a flood of calls from Mulligan’s Island neighbors opposed to the retail project proposed by Providence developer Churchill & Banks.

The question of what is going to become of the American suburbs is an interesting one. Jim Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency, argues that along with peak oil, we may now be experiencing the onset of peak suburbia, and that we may not need to worry about the specter of further development for very long. Soon it will be obvious that there is no need for more retail development. Home sales continue to slow. Durable goods orders are weaker than expected. First quarter growth for 2007 is the weakest in 4 years. Americans already have 20.2 square feet of retail space per person, compared with 3.3 square feet in Sweden and 2.5 square feet in England. If you believe Jim Kunstler, we can stick a fork in the suburbs — they’re done.

Michael Moore’s “Sicko” Available Online

I just watched “Sicko,” which is available here at Michael Moore provided the following statement with regard to how he views “sharing” his film:

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, I don’t agree with the copyright laws and I don’t have a problem with people downloading the movie and sharing it with people. As long they’re not doing it to make a profit off it, as long as they’re not, you know, trying to make a profit off my labor. I would oppose that. But um, you know I do quite well and I um…I don’t know, I make these books and movies and TV shows because I want things to change, so the more people that get to see them the better, and um, so I’m, I’m happy when that happens, OK? Should I not be happy I don’t know? It’s like if a friend of yours has the DVD of my movie, gave it to you to watch one night, is that person doing something wrong? I’m not seeing any money from that. But he’s just handing the DVD to you so that you can watch my movie. A DVD that he bought, but you’re not buying it, yet you’re watching it without paying me any money. See I think that’s OK, and it’s always been OK, we share things with people. And I think information and art, ideas should be shared.

Sicko is a frightening trip on the nightmare ride of American health care. It made me wonder if one day we will need to take up residence in Canada in order to get decent health care. Anyone who has ever received a “denial” from their insurance company for a health issue will certainly relate to the unbelievable situations of the people featured in the film. I also experienced “socialized medicine” envy, watching people in Canada, England and France talk about their positive and free health care experiences. Even Cuba, where the 9/11 workers end up getting health care after Gitmo turns them away, gave them more than they got in America. is doing a “Pledge to see Sicko” drive, if you want to stop by and pledge to see the movie. This is supposed to be for seeing it on the big screen, but whatever way you end up seeing it, the point is to take in the message and figure out what you can do to improve health care — or just improve your own health, so you can avoid this broken corporate-profiteering-perverted system as much as possible.

h/t for the link.

Al Gore Cancels Trip to Taiwan

From the Taipei Times:

Former US vice president Al Gore will not be able to make it to Taiwan this September to address the issue of global warming, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said yesterday. Tien, who invited Gore to visit Taiwan to promote awareness on global warming, told reporters yesterday that she received an e-mail from the Harry Walker Agency, which has the exclusive right to arrange Gore’s speeches, saying that Gore had canceled all his scheduled events in the next six months. The visit to Taiwan had been postponed to next year, she added. Tien said the reason for the cancelation was that Gore was considering a presidential bid.

So it’s looking like Gore is going to enter the race after all. May the best man (or woman) win, or else join in political matrimony as a wholly new and more feminine ticket for Clinton/Gore.

Paris Hilton’s Cranston Connection

Sometimes you get the best news from The Globe. I’m not talking about the Globe and Mail, or the Boston Globe. I’m talking about the small, square Globe you read in the checkout line. The Globe is the only paper that covers the Bush’s impending divorce, which may be impending for the rest of their lives if they stay married, but no matter.

The Globe had the story the Journal didn’t find fit to print– Paris Hilton’s half-aunt is a graduate of Cranston University. If you pursue sex and drugs and the wild life and you don’t have mega bucks you might end up like the Hilton black sheep, Elizabeth Avanzino, who didn’t get special treatment at the A.C.I., and is not being interviewed by Larry King.

I could get snippy about the values of obscenely rich people who let one of their family live on the street, but money doesn’t cure everything. Families break their hearts and bank accounts trying vainly to save loved ones from self-destruction, so who knows? It doesn’t look like the Hiltons tried, but maybe they did.

I’m just glad Paris didn’t run anyone over. I hope they don’t let her have the car keys.

Whitehouse Supports Employee Free Choice Act

This bill is being discussed on the Senate floor today. Here is Whitehouse’s statement:

For more than one hundred years, organized labor has been a strong voice, and a powerful advocate, for the working men and women of America in their fight for fair treatment, safe workplaces, and honest pay for an honest day’s work. But in recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for workers to organize and gain that voice.

Today, the Senate has an important opportunity to begin to reverse this trend: by voting in support of the Employee Free Choice Act, which takes several critical steps to ensure that all American workers have the right to form and join a union.

When a majority of workers wish to organize, they should have that right. This legislation would require the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to certify a bargaining representative if a majority of the employees sign authorization cards. The bill would also direct the NLRB to issue guidelines for selecting a bargaining representative via majority sign-up – including model language for authorization cards and procedures to verify the validity of authorization cards.

Newly-formed unions shouldn’t face stalemates and stall tactics as they advocate for their members. The Employee Free Choice Act would set a waivable timeline for reaching a first contract agreement once a representative has been certified and bargaining has commenced. Parties would be required to meet and begin bargaining no later than ten days after receiving a written request from the newly certified bargaining representative.

And this bill would strengthen existing penalties for unfair labor practices, making it easier for workers to organize without fear of reprisal or backlash.

The Employee Free Choice Act is good for American workers – and for our economy. As a group, union members make 30 percent more per week than their non-union counterparts. They are 63 percent more likely to have health insurance, and they are a staggering 386 percent more likely to have a guaranteed pension. At a time of growing income inequality, when everyday families in this country are stretched to the limit just to afford health care, or the mortgage, or gas to drive to work and to school, we can’t let this opportunity slip by. The Senate must pass this bill.

The Employee Free Choice Act would allow workers to choose a union without fear, facilitate contract negotiations, and prevent the anti-organizing scare tactics that, unfortunately, still exist today.

Mr. President, the Employee Free Choice Act is the first step towards realizing the dream of fairness for every American worker. I am proud to support this legislation, I ask my colleagues to do the same, and I yield the floor.