In Florida, a regional outreach manager for StudentsFirst sent out an email blast offering gift cards as a reward for comments on blog posts. Not on StudentsFirst blog posts, but on newspapers and other sites—the email included a list of suggested places to comment. One recommended article was about ALEC's growing influence in Florida education policy. So basically, StudentsFirst was astroturfing in support of ALEC in Florida.
Next, former CNN anchor Campbell Brown wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing teachers unions, without disclosing that her husband, former George W. Bush staffer and current Romney campaign adviser Dan Senor, is on the board of StudentsFirstNY. Responding to critics of her nondisclosure on Twitter, she made clear that she doesn't see a problem with that.
And in Sacramento, California, the Democratic Party of Sacramento County is asking for an investigation into the use of City Hall resources, such as office space, by Democratic Mayor Kevin Johnson's various nonprofit initiatives. Johnson's education nonprofit in turn shares office space with StudentsFirst. Oh, and by the way, Johnson is Michelle Rhee's husband.
(Continue reading below the fold for more about the war on education, overworked veterans home staff, The Daily Show, and trash and recycling drivers.)
A fair day's wage
- Technical workers like camera operators and audio technicians at The Daily Show now have their first union contract with the show, after the show's producers voluntarily recognized the union.
- Workers at King Veterans Home in Wisconsin are stretched to the limit, working insane amounts of forced overtime.
- Paging Alanis Morissette: Unemployment offices are laying people off as unemployment declines and budgets get cut.
- It's illegal to fire people for supporting a union, yet the government keeps having to tell employers to stop doing it. This week, a Los Angeles trash hauling and recycling firm.
- Speaking of trash hauling and recycling, Seattle recycle and yard waste drivers are ending their strike after approving a new contract with Waste Management.
- Businesses that misclassify employees as independent contractors—not paying unemployment insurance, workers' comp, payroll taxes, and more although the workers' hours and working conditions are set by the employer—can save big money from this form of wage theft. In fact, according to Virginia's General Assembly Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, misclassification may cut payroll costs by nearly 26 percent. Illegally, and putting honest contractors at a disadvantage.
- Protesters supporting striking Houston janitors were arrested Tuesday. SEIU is targeting JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who, when challenged by a janitor on why the people cleaning JP Morgan Chase buildings are paid so little, told her to call his office to set up an appointment. Needless to say, her call was not returned. Meanwhile, supporters of the Houston janitors have rallied in 17 cities.
- Texas A&M is outsourcing more than 1,600 jobs to a private contractor. The workers are being forced to resign from the university and reapply for their same jobs with the contractor; they're told they'll get comparable pay and benefits, but you don't have to be a hardened cynic to question the long-term truth of that.
- More unemployment stories.
- The decline and rescue of the American auto industry as seen from the shop floor.
- Let's keep listening to Hyatt workers on why they're calling for a boycott of the hotel chain. Cathy Youngblood says:
“I would love to have a meeting with (Hyatt family heir, board member and Chicago philanthropist) Penny Pritzker, but then I’m a woman of color and I’m lower wage, maybe she thinks I don’t have enough education,” says Youngblood. “They’re a billionaire company, they have a different mindset. I think it’s ignorant. They should know by now there is worker dissatisfaction within the Hyatt family. They could get on a plane and come in here and say ‘Ok ladies, what’s going on?’ But instead they just talk about all their awards and accolades and diversity, and don’t want to hear the real story.”Fitted sheets are one of the things she and other housekeepers say would make their jobs less physically taxing. But Hyatt won't even do a thing as simple as that.
State and local legislation
- Wording for ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage and cap payday loan interest rates was upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court. The signatures to qualify the measures for the ballot haven't yet been certified, but organizers say they have a generous margin.
- Atlanta-area Teamsters are distributing food to seasonal school workers who lost their unemployment benefits thanks to the Georgia Department of Labor.
- New Hampshire unions are trying to keep the state from being the latest to use Chinese steel on a taxpayer-funded project.
War on Education
- Diane Ravitch points out a particularly blatant, but not especially surprising, example of charter school abuse of the concept of public education for all:
The Minneapolis School Board closed down Cityview, one of its public schools whose test scores were too low, it replaced Cityview with a charter school, Minneapolis School of Science. The charter school has told the families of 40 children with special needs–children with Down Syndrome and autism–that they are not wanted at the school. Clearly the schools is bouncing these children to improve their test scores.Picking and choosing which kids they can be successful educating is a choice traditional public schools don't get. They have to try to do their best by every child. So if this charter school succeeds, it does so by refusing to even try to educate special needs students that the public school it replaced did educate. And those kids, for whom stability is especially important, are now forced to relocate on short notice.
- Parents in Los Altos, California, are organizing against preferential treatment for an extremely litigious charter school that charges a de facto tuition of $5,000 and is discriminating against special education students, English language learners, Latinos and poor students.
- Sen. Tom Harkin has released his report on for-profit colleges, which paints the industry in a predictably and deservedly bad light.