Left In Lowell

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February 8, 2014

Shot Across Whose Bow?

by at 9:42 am.

I’ll get to the whole Council agenda later on, for BotW purposes, but meanwhile, I wanted to examine some of the new motions a bit in detail. There’s some doozies…

Let’s start with a couple of related ones from Elliott, shall we?

M. Elliott – Req. City Council discuss ordinance pertaining to accumulated annual vacation and sick leave policy and refer matter to Personnel SC.
M. Elliott – Req. City Auditor provide report on costs of accumulated annual vacation and sick leave for employees who have resigned or have retired since January 1, 2014.

First of all, these motions are unlikely to be about any union position, since those have to be negotiated under terms contract when a contract with a union is up. That is negotiated by the City Manager as the taxpayer’s representative. This means this little discussion of Elliott’s would have to be about the few city positions governed by ordinance, not union contracts.

Positions like…say…City Manager, mayor’s aids, HR Director, or other department heads. Put this together with the second motion - and we can narrow down who Elliott is going after here. There’s several people who’ve resigned positions since Jan 1 of this year…the Manager himself, the former Mayor’s Aide, the head of DPD and assistant CM, the Auditor… I have my specific suspicions but suffice to say, I believe this is aimed at one or two individuals.

Now, a little history: the ordinance governing non-union positions in city government was already revised…and then subsequently, died in subcommittee. Meeting minutes from April 30, 2013:

Ordinance - Amend Ch. 56 (Personnel). In Council, Given 2nd Reading and hearing held. No Remonstrants. Hearing closed. Motion by C. Mendonca, seconded by C. Lorrey “To waive the full reading”. So voted. Manager Lynch gave a synopsis of the proposed ordinance which outlined sick pay, sick buy back, grid, vacation, ethics, code of conduct, pay, parking and travel expenses. Manager noted he corrected the position of the parking commissioner [editors note: supposed to be Parks not parking] to reflect a department head. C. Mercier noted sick pay option and vacation time for new employees. C. Mercier noted she could not vote in favor of the ordinance until she saw the proposed pay grid. Manager noted that the grid would have to be approved by Council every year. C. Mendonca commented on vacation time and personal days after Thanksgiving. Manager noted that as a cost savings measure City Hall would be closed the day after Thanksgiving. C. Mendonca requested some clarity on medical leave language. C. Martin outlined his understanding of medical leave language. C. Lorrey commented on parking language and also noted that organ donor pay should be included in the ordinance. Motion by C. Elliott, seconded by C. Kennedy “to refer matter to Personnel Subcommittee”. So voted. C. Elliott noted the correction for the Commissioner of Parks and commented there are some improvements in the ordinance but that it should be given more attention.

The proposed changes streamlined the ordinance, as well as cut back on sick leave, and eliminated sick-leave buyback for all new non-union employees. (The Sun wrote about the discussion here along with another item on the agenda.) It also put the Parks and Rec Director back as a dept head (something Mercier heartily approved).

Rita Mercier wanted the pay grid in front of her before approval. But..the ordinance as it currently stands (unrevised) does not have the pay grid in it, either, for the record. It is something the Council has to approve every year. So Mercier’s objection was full of it. (You know what “it” is.) She also complained that some employees got more vacation time under the revised ordinance - however, there are ordinance employees who get a very minimal amount of vacation and this was to correct that. (The union positions get plenty.)

So, to recap, this already was hashed out by the administration and presented to the Council last year, addressing this exact issue of sick leave policy and eliminating sick leave buyback, which was promptly sent by Elliott to the Personnel subcommittee, from where it never rose again. Elliott’s complaint was that the revision still gave too much to non-union employees (vis a vis step pay) and he felt “there are some improvements in the ordinance but that it should be given more attention”…but lo and behold, it was never given more attention.

Now, if Elliott seeks to revive these changes, with or without tweaks, I’m all for that. It is, apparently, a ball that was dropped by the previous Council. But he’s the one that sent it to die and never asked for it to come up again, last year.

However, the second motion he put on the agenda makes me very wary, because I think he is going after specific people with it, and I am not good with personal vendettas by weak mayors and a petty City Council, all of whom have demonstrated a flagrant disregard for open meeting laws, advice from their own council on lawsuits, and who have produced a mostly chaotic, inconsistent set of votes thus far. I think this is being used to embarrass someone Elliott doesn’t like, and I think he should be called out for it.

November 19, 2013

Piece of the Pie [Updated]

by at 4:51 pm.

Update: This has passed the Senate and heads for the state House! Cue the gloom and doom conservatives, or, if you are a realist, cue the celebrations for a stronger economy for all. This bill includes increases in the tipped worker minimum wage.

There’s a reason Massachusetts has a strong economy compared to much of the country. We care more about workers, we care about education, and we want to make sure everyone gets a piece of the growth pie, not just the wealthy.


Today, the state Senate debates raising the minimum wage (as well as considering an amendment to include tipped workers in the increase) and indexing it to inflation.

Here’s why this is a no-brainer:

The top income earners are doing really, really well. While nationwide, the unemployment rate stagnates, and wages adjusted for inflation have gone down over the decades, rich people are doing fabulously great. Many companies are seeing record profits, and the CEO-to-worker pay gap has never been wider. We’re at crazy pre-1929-crash levels. This article on BMG highlights the problem with our minimum wage.

Raising the minimum does not destroy an economy. In fact, in this country, in our years of greatest economic domination in the world, workers at the bottom could live, pay for food and shelter, and raise families. This is not true any more, even in MA, which has a higher minimum wage than the federal level.

Putting money into the hands of the people who have the most need to spend only helps the economy, by creating demand for more widgets, which in turn increases profit. It’s why Henry Ford paid his workers well - if they could afford his cars, he would sell more cars. We seem to have totally forgotten this simple economic principle post-Reagan.

The minimum wage will likely have zero effect on my personal household income. We’re not in the bottom 20th percentile. But a better economy and more demand, and in turn, more tax revenue and more money for our schools, services, and infrastructure, certainly does make us all stronger, from the 1% on downward.

Since the state Senate is debating this today, I strongly suggest you register your views with our state Senator Eileen Donoghue. PS - we’d be INSANE not to include the wages of tipped workers, who have been stuck at a disgusting $2.63 since 1999.

We’re better than that in this state. We’ve shown the world how to prosper - our economy is already better than most states, our unemployment lower, and our wages higher. Isn’t it time to make sure that a minimum wage and the closely-related low wages (which will also adjust themselves accordingly) are wages that don’t force families to starve or go on public assistance? Isn’t it time for the government to stop subsidizing WalMart and other big companies like them with our tax dollars and social safety net?

You can call Senator Donoghue at 617-722-1630. Now is your chance! Time once again for Massachusetts to lead the way!

May 31, 2013

Let’s Ask Teddy Panos (Updated)

by at 11:34 am.

Hey, Teddy.

Your ass is in a knot over welfare fraud. (Yes. I do listen.) And, you are a proponent of the big government intrusion of mandating citizens present photo identification when they go to exercise control over government, via ballots. As social engineering is an incrementalist’s game, whether progressive or classic liberal, you should be happy as a clam to hear this:

From the Boston Dead Tree Rag:

It’s time to slap photos on EBT cards and crank up oversight of the state’s “broken” welfare system before more dead people can collect benefits, an incensed House Speaker Robert DeLeo told the Herald yesterday.

“Why do we have to let the wound fester? We have to stop this fraud, and we have to stop it now,” DeLeo said, adding he was “appalled” by a state audit released Tuesday that showed $2.4 million paid to more than 1,100 dead people and $27 million to live recipients collecting EBT benefits out of state, including in Alaska and Hawaii.

DeLeo said House proposals to put photos on EBT cards, create a Bureau of Program Integrity and allow the Inspector General to monitor the embattled agency “are needed now more than ever,” and promises by the Patrick administration that they are addressing the problems aren’t enough.

No?

For sure, if EBT cards are printed with a photo id of the benefit holder, an idea I fully support; then this will be a valid id. Thus, should the photo id intrusion into our ballot system of checks and balances move forward, those of us guarding against voter suppression will be partially relieved.

I love ‘checks and balances.’ It’s the wisest creation of The Founders.

Update: David Bernstein, of Boston Magazine, did a nice job sorting through the spin factor around the Auditor’s report. Such revelations will not help Teddy regain his composure. Maybe, it will help you, as it did me. Please proceed below the fold for an outtake.
(more…)

March 7, 2013

Scabs Pout over “Force Account” Preference at LHA

by at 12:45 pm.

Did you ever, for a minute, think the kerfuffle around LHA was about public health, or any of the touted altruistic motives that were puked up by the Blog of Record?

It was always about UNION BUSTING!
(more…)

October 5, 2012

Rove-Driven Scott Brown

by at 10:29 am.

By now, you’ve probably seen all three lying scumbag ads from Scott Brown tripling down on the Cherokee heritage thing. In it, he outright lies, since there is evidence that Warren did NOT get ahead because of her listing herself in a lawyer’s directory as having Native blood, and there no evidence whatsoever that she did get ahead. Yet the ads say over and over “she got ahead” because of it. (The ONLY argument you can make is that Harvard, for a time, “got ahead” by listing her a female minority briefly. However, Warren was hired by then, and she had nothing to do with that. To accuse her of “lying to get ahead” is to A) assume she is lying about her heritage that was passed down by her parents, and B) that everyone and everything that has come out about how she never used this to get her jobs is lying. Occam’s Razor, people.)

You might have also seen the latest ad where Brown attacks her work on the asbestos case he has been bringing up over and over at debates. He selectively pulled out quotes from the Globe which were seriously out of context, and distorted the truth to the point of lying again.

This is the result of having a Karl Rove acolyte running your campaign. Everyone remembers the swiftboating of John Kerry - lying about his war record, taking what is a big strength of Kerry’s and making it an albatross around his neck. It became so synonymous with Karl Rove tactic it became its own verb.

I think the voters of Massachusetts deserve way better than Karl Rovian, swiftboating lying scummy campaigns. And so do the people affected by the asbestos lawsuit against Travelers…not a one of the victims, workers, or any other person on the victim’s side of that lawsuit from Travelers has said anything but positive things on Warren’s role in the case, preserving future victims’ rights to sue and get compensated. The “disastrous results” Brown quotes in his ad are from long after Warren left the case, in a decision that Warren utterly disagrees with (vacating the payments).

So also say the Asbestos Workers Local 6. If Warren indeed was on the side of wrong on the asbestos case, these are the people you would think would be applauding Brown for his attacks and highlighting of this issue. Instead, they are calling on Brown to pull his ad immediately for being a lie. Via BMG, their open letter (bold mine):

Dear Senator Brown:

At your first debate with Elizabeth Warren, you accused her of siding with Travelers Insurance Company to deny people with asbestos poisoning their benefits and added, “I hope all the Asbestos Union Workers are watching right now.”

As the Business Manager of Asbestos Workers Local 6 – which represents 450 asbestos workers in Massachusetts – I can attest that many of us were watching and were shocked and upset by your mischaracterizations and politicization of this serious issue. We were also disappointed to see your totally unsupported and unsupportable subsequent allegation that asbestos victims “have died as a result of her efforts,” as well as to see you repeating these false attacks in your second debate and in a new false, misleading, and offensive television attack advertisement.

The truth is that Elizabeth Warren represented Travelers at a time when the company was on the same side as a vast majority of asbestos victims. Elizabeth fought for a principle that most asbestos victims agree with strongly: that settlement trusts are an important part of the law and should be continued to be used. To say otherwise is either ignorant of the facts or a cynical lie designed to trick people to vote for you.

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. There is no cure for mesothelioma and the average life expectancy from diagnosis is generally from six to eighteen months. In our union, many of us have watched family members and or friends suffer and die painful deaths from this horrible disease.

We think it is inappropriate of you to use misleading personal attacks to distract people from your record against working families in Massachusetts, and we think it is offensive for you to campaign on the backs of suffering mesothelioma victims to win votes.

We would like to request a meeting to discuss this issue with you further as soon as possible and certainly before the next debate on Oct. 10, and before you make more false attacks. We are indeed watching your comments on this and other issues and have a keen interest in them.

Sincerely,
Francis C. Boudrow
Business Manager
International Association of Heat & Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers Local #6
303 Freeport Street
Dorchester, MA 02122
(617) 436-4666

Anyone wanna take the bet that Brown will meet with them or pull his ads? Didn’t think so.

September 5, 2012

Scott Brown - Wall Street’s Water Boy

by at 3:54 pm.

You guys with the man crush need to know, he just LOOKS like the Captain of the football team. Scott is the water boy, … for Wall St.

Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman’s Labor Day Op-Ed

In 2008, Scott Brown sought and received the endorsement of the AFL-CIO in his campaign for re-election to the state Senate. Brown did not try to hide his Republican leanings, but he did stress his support for the issues important to the working people of Massachusetts. He mentioned he was a member of two unions — dating back to his time as a magazine model.

But after two short years in the U.S. Senate – manipulated by extremist Republican colleagues – Brown has changed. He has become much more K Street, Washington D.C. than Main Street Wrentham. He is Wall Street’s favorite senator.

His votes are now consistently against the interests of working class men and women, and he prioritizes the issues of the privileged class. He favors the doubling of student interest rates, which benefits his wealthy banker friends, who donate generously to his campaign. He doesn’t vote to extend unemployment benefits for out of work Americans until the Senate approves tax breaks for millionaires.

This is not the Scott Brown we thought enough of to give him our endorsement four years ago. This time around, he has refused to acknowledge our requests for his positions on important issues. As a former colleague and friend for nearly a decade, I worked closely with him on a number of important matters. Party affiliation did not matter to him then. Now it clearly does.

Do not believe what you are hearing about Brown being an independent voice. He has turned his back on his Massachusetts constituents, regularly siding with the archconservative leaders of his party to the detriment of those of us back home.

(bold mine)
(more…)

June 28, 2012

Open Thread: Mandate Edition

by at 10:46 am.

Update: “Those who have sought to demonize health reform need to put an end to their scare tactics. This needs to begin a new day, where the test is not what you can oppose but what you can propose.” - John Kerry

At a press conference held on March 6, 2006, Mitt Romney said he’s “very pleased with” the individual mandate.

(more…)

May 25, 2012

Protect Employers Who Value Workers

by at 9:23 pm.

This popped up on Facebook, from Councilor Lorrey:

I will be on Warren Shaw’s radio show on WCAP at 7 am tomorrow. The discussion will center around my motion to have the proper department (law dept.) report on the feasibility of drafting a home rule petition to exclude out of state companies from being the successful bidder based solely on being the lowest bidder.

This topic was covered in the last City Council meeting (2:01:16).

I want to commend C.Lorrey for starting this converstation, locally. It would serve us well for it to find it’s way, through our delegation, to Beacon Hill. A quick Google of “resident bidder preference” & “reciprocity” will clearify any confusion that this doesn’t have a shot of passing in Boston. This sort of thing is growing across America, state by state.

Why?

Because some states value workers, thus “encouraging” the business community to invest in them. Other states, don’t.

If you own a business in a state that requires your employees to be professionally licensed, safety trained; insured for health, unemployment and disability, your cost of business will be higher than one that does not. If your state has good schools, homes with value, public safety services, taxes are higher. As the saying goes, good things don’t come cheap.

If work is bid out to companies that live in states that have lower median incomes, don’t value their workers and generally coerce worker to race to the bottom against other workers; then cost for the project is lower. The project cost is depressed on the backs of the workers and their qualilty of life.

Currently, companies from states like KY & TN are sending crews to build small ,private retail projects. These crews will spend over a year living in a hotel. IN A HOTEL and it is still cheaper. We have crews coming in from NH. The “NH Advantage” is a disadvantage to local firms. What should we do?

We should not mimic those states that seek to devalue labor. We do NOT want to race to the bottom. Let’s listen to what C.Lorrey and others have to offer on this issue.

April 9, 2012

When Jack Attacks!!!

by at 4:40 pm.

Everything you ever thought you knew about politics could be turned upside down!

Head over to Gerry Nutter’s Lowell. He has proposed so many scenarios, something he said has gotta be correct.

Why the Call for Transparency / Public talks in Teacher’s Union Bargaining?

After listening to their arguments, I have to agree with the teachers. Their Union is being targeted. The question is by who and why? It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense that a democratic operative who supports many candidates that the Union also backs would on his own try to do this or is he trying to lay some political capital of his own?

Why is it that only the UTL here in Lowell is being called on to negotiate in public?

Here is a crumb trail:
Can Lowell’s School Committee Do This?
Transparency in Union Bargaining
Charter Schools - Odds and Ends
Molloy P loy Backfires
Public School®
Lashing The Leak *Bubble Alert*
Open Thread: Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing Edition
Sigh…
Muddying the Waters Unethically

SC Executive Meeting Minutes

Some hints:
It’s not personal.
This is happening outside of Lowell.
The School Committee depends on Union voters to get elected.(9,946) The City Manager does not. Scratch City-side Unions off the list.
The Teacher’s contract is the template that most all others follow. It is the “flagship” contract.

Comment on Gerry’s blog, please.

January 21, 2012

Where Are We Going?

by at 4:04 pm.

My eagle-eyed friend Tim (who does comment here on occasion) spotted this “Communities with the lowest median income” list on Boston.com which I didn’t have time yet to remark on, but thought I would now. Lowell is #17 on the bottom 20 lowest median income list, which given our demographics and history is actually pretty all right, considering.

However, what troubled me was the median income over the decades (one assumes adjusted for inflation).

2009 median income: $56,494
1999 median income: $59,212
1989 median income: $60,789
1979 median income: $53,108
30-year change: 6.4 percent

I was left wondering, how much of the loss of buying power that the median income in Lowell saw since 1989 is part of the overall erosion of the middle class in the entire US during that time, and how much of it is a local phenomenon of job losses, or a shift in of types of jobs offered here, or something else entirely.

I don’t need or want Lowell to be a rich man’s haven (not a big fan of “Mills to Martinis”). I like that our status as a not-so-wealthy small city attracts immigrants and artists, and that it is a place for a business to get its start. But the loss of income over time is a disturbing trend, and one we need to try to understand better as we move into another decade.

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