Monday, July 8, 2013

Last Call For The Company Store

If you recall last week's article on corporate pigs forcing working-class Americans to get paid solely through debit cards rather than paychecks or direct deposit (because really, payroll is so much cheaper if you make your employees pay for it through crushing fees and you get to pocket the profits) you'll be glad to know that New York AG Eric Schniederman is less than happy with this, and has opened an investigation.  Natalie Gunshannon, a McDonald's employee in Pennsylvania, has sued McDonald's over the cards too:

Under the onslaught of negative press, there have been steps in the right direction—theMcDonald's franchise where Gunshannon worked has now said that it will offer all its employees the option of a paper check or direct deposit, in addition to the card. Previously, according to the lawsuit, only managers had that choice. The decision covers some 800 workers at 16 stores. “We didn't hear any complaints. Many employees have been using these cards without complaint for many months. When it became apparent there were some employees who may want the choice, we're going to give them the choice," a company spokesperson told the Associated Press. (Gunshannon isn't dropping her lawsuit, though, saying that the company's actions are “damage control.”)

In New York, the political battle over a bill that would allow the cards is heating up. Michael Kink, executive director of Strong Economy for All, told Working In These Times, "In New York, workers need protection against both unscrupulous employers who rip them off with payroll debit cards and shady lawmakers in Albany who want to blow the doors wide open for even more ripoffs. Right now Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is digging into current abuses, and unions and community groups—with great work by the New York State AFL-CIO—are fighting hard to stop bad bills in the Legislature."

As Kink noted, perhaps the biggest impact of the heightened scrutiny has been the announcement by New York Attorney General Schneiderman that he would look into the use of the cards. The attorney general's office sent letters to 20 large employers, including McDonald's, Walgreens and Wal-Mart, asking about their use of the cards. He's investigating whether businesses that use the cards may have broken state labor laws, and whether workers are forced, as Gunshannon said she was, to use the cards as a condition of their employment.

Good on both counts here, folks.  There are people working to fight corporate nonsense like this, as few and far between as they are, but they do exist.

The Lukewarm Option

I'm sorry, but WIN THE MORNING pointing out that Harry Reid has 51 of 54 Democratic senators lined up for the filibuster "nuclear option" is complete hogwash.

How this all plays out will be determined behind closed doors at Senate Democratic Caucus lunch meetings, the first of which is on Tuesday. After huddling with his membership, Reid will determine which nominee comes to the floor first to face a likely GOP filibuster.
Reid has refused to answer questions on the topic even as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continues his campaign on the Senate floor to see if Reid will “keep his word” on not changing Senate rules in January — which Democrats are only too happy to turn on McConnell for promising “to work with the majority to process nominations.”
It’s still unclear whether Reid has the votes to change the rules, although the Sierra Club, Communications Workers of America and top Senate aides are confident Reid can marshal 51 members of his 54-member caucus to support at least easing the path for executive nominations such as Cabinet members.
There’s far less certainty on whether the caucus would like to tweak rules for judicial nominees as well.

Savvy readers will note this isn't even the "nuclear option" where the filibuster is mercifully done away with, more like the "lukewarm option" where President Obama's Cabinet nominees are the only up-or-down votes that would be affected by this.  And even this weak tea, as Greg Sargent points out, has little chance of surviving the "comity" of the Senate.

It’s simple math. Lautenberg’s passing means Dems now only have 54 votes in the Senate. (His temporary Republican replacement can’t be expected to back rules reform.) Aides who are tracking the vote count tell me that Senator Carl Levin (a leading opponent of the “nuke option” when it was ruled out at the beginning of the year, leading to the watered down bipartisan filibuster reform compromise) is all but certain to oppose any rules change by simple majority. Senators Patrick Leahy and Mark Pryor remain question marks. And Senator Jack Reed is a Maybe.
If Dems lose those four votes, that would bring them down to 50. And, aides note, that would mean Biden’s tie-breaking vote would be required to get back up to the 51 required for a simple Senate majority. That’s an awfully thin margin for error.

Which means every single Dem other than Levin, Leahy, Pryor, and Reed could blow it.  (Yes, I'm looking directly at you, Joe Manchin, Mark Begich, Mary Landrieu, etc.)   The bottom line is we've heard all this before, and each and every time Harry Reid and the Dems gleefully blow it because they perversely benefit from the Senate's inaction on the tough issues as much (or more at times) than the GOP does.

And no, I don't even think Harry Reid and the Dems can even get this done correctly.

The Sunset Of Ultrasound Bob

Rumors are flying furiously -- and mind you, these are still rumors until confirmed -- that Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell will resign as part of a plea bargain deal over revelations involving gifts from a wealthy donor.

A Democratic state senator on Tuesday called on Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) to detail and return all gifts given to members of his family by a prominent donor — or resign from office.

State Sen. J. Chapman Petersen (Fairfax) became the first elected official in either party to raise the possibility that the governor should resign over the gifts.

In a letter to the governor, Petersen wrote that revelations about gifts provided by dietary supplement manufacturer Jonnie R. Williams Sr. gave “the strong impression that your family was materially and systematically benefited by this person and his company.”

“In return, it appears you allowed this person to use the Governor’s Mansion and the Governor’s Office for the purpose of giving unique credibility to his company,” Petersen wrote in the letter. “That is unacceptable.”

Petersen wrote that if the governor can’t explain or deny the reports or return the items, he would “humbly suggest” that McDonnell step down.

That gave way to the story from a Virginia tea party website that McDonnell is cutting a deal, something loudly being denied by McDonnell's office.

Responding to questions posed late Saturday on social networking site Twitter, Gov. Bob McDonnell’s communications director denied a report posted by conservative blog Bearing Drift that the governor is resigning.

“It is false,” Tucker Martin wrote.

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, also took to Twitter early Sunday morning in response to rumors that swirled there, writing: “Gov. Bob McDonnell is NOT resigning. I have checked. That is official. Irresponsible rumors are wrong.”

He also posted: “I normally ignore a rumor. But it's so widespread tonite I sought and received official permission to post this.”

On Saturday, Bearing Drift published a post claiming McDonnell would resign, citing two unnamed sources.

Now the story is getting interesting.  McDonnell's in no small amount of trouble here, and given that the race to replace him is heating up big time and Republican candidate (and current state AG) Ken Cuccinelli may have ties to the same donors, well, the longer this story stays front and center in Virginia, the better it is for the Dems.  Any plea deal would have to be run by Cuccinelli too as the state's top prosecutor.

We'll see how it goes.  Personally, I think the wild card here is current Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who Cuccinelli beat out for the shot at his boss's office.  Should be an interesting couple of days in the Commonwealth.


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