Saturday, March 3, 2018

Strike Up The Band One Last Time

The New York Times finally pays attention to the ongoing West Virginia teachers' strike, which now enters its second week after the deal last weekend with GOP Gov. Jim Justice fell through.

Home from a long day teaching English last month at Mingo Central High School, Robin Ellis told her husband the latest talk among the teachers. They were tired of low pay and costly health benefits — and they were mulling a “rolling strike,” in which teachers in a few counties would walk out each day.

“You don’t want to do that,” Donnie Ellis, her husband, said. As a veteran of strip mines and the intense labor conflicts that often came with them, he knew what made some strikes succeed and others crumble.

“It’s got to be all-in or nothing,” he said.

It has definitely been all-in in West Virginia. For seven days now, teachers have refused to work in all 55 counties, shutting down every school in the state.

Every school day since last Thursday, thousands of red- and black-clad teachers, bus drivers and cooks have descended on Charleston to fill the halls of the State Capitol, chanting and singing defiantly in one of the few statewide teachers’ strikes in American history.

On Saturday, teachers and superintendents crowded back into the Capitol, where the Senate Finance Committee was expected to consider a 5 percent pay raise, which has support from the governor and the Republican-controlled House.

Senate leadership had previously suggested using revenue that would be set aside for a pay raise to shore up the public employees’ much-criticized health insurance plan. But striking teachers are adamant that they want both matters addressed.

The teachers disregarded their own union leaders’ advice to return to work earlier this week, opting instead for a thunderous showdown with members of the state’s increasingly conservative leadership. The direction in the next few days is anyone’s guess.

“If there’s no deal,” said Katrina Minney, 44, a high school English teacher in Kanawha County, “we’re not going back.”

Frustration at the state of pay and health insurance — in addition to proposed changes to rules governing hiring, firing and the payment of union dues — had been building for a while.

Smaller walkouts began in early February, organized by the sons and daughters of coal miners who had stood on the picket lines themselves.

“When I was in diapers, he was involved in a mine strike,” Justin Endicott, 34, a fourth-grade teacher in Mingo County, said of his father.

“Southern West Virginia’s often forgotten, and if we were not loud, we would be completely forgotten,” said Mr. Endicott, who traveled to Charleston on Feb. 2 with teachers from neighboring counties to take part in the first of the school walkouts.

Public employee unions are on their last legs.  Membership is down, more states are passing union-busting legislation, Trump has all but dismantled the NLRB, and the Supreme Court is expected to soon rule on the end of fair-share requirements.

That's why this strike is especially important, because it could basically be the last major public employee union strike in America.

Here's hoping I'm wrong about that.

The Petty Punitive Prez

Donald Trump has always been one of those people who has demanded respect, not commanded it. As I've pointed out numerous times over the last 14 months, Trump never forgets or forgives a slight, real or perceived, in the end he will always exact some kind of revenge.

He's always wanted respect in the Big Apple especially, but he's been an asshole to everyone in the city for decades and everyone knows it.  But now that he has the power of the White House, the kind of revenge he can wreak on millions of Americans for failing to recognize his "greatness" is potentially deadly.

President Trump is pushing congressional Republicans not to fund a crucial infrastructure project — a long-delayed plan to build a new rail tunnel between Manhattan and New Jersey — setting up a confrontation that could complicate passage of a massive government spending bill this month. 
Trump personally appealed to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) this week to target federal funding for the $30 billion Gateway project, which would construct a tunnel into New York’s Penn Station to supplement two aging tubes that are at risk of failing in the coming years. 
The project is widely considered to be among the most pressing and most expensive infrastructure needs in the country, and state and local leaders have long sought federal funding to jump-start work on it. But the Trump administration threw the project into doubt late last year by casting aside an agreement reached during the Obama administration that would have the federal government pick up half the project’s cost. 
And now, according to four officials familiar with the discussions, Trump has taken a personal interest in making sure no federal dollars flow to a project that is considered critical to his hometown’s long-term economic prosperity
Trump delivered his message to Ryan on Wednesday during a meeting at the Capitol, three people familiar with the conversation said. Trump was on the Hill for a ceremony for the late Rev. Billy Graham, who lay in honor in the Rotunda. Ryan seemed surprised that Trump brought up the project in their conversation, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

A spokesman for Ryan declined to comment. A White House representative did not respond to a request for comment.

This is how Trump operates.  Millions here voted against him, thousands protest his tower, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Gov. Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and state AG Schniederman regularly attack him.

Trump wants to destroy the place now.  He's going to make NYC bleed.

But the Gateway project also has had powerful Republican backers, including former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who represents thousands of suburban constituents who rely on the Hudson River rail tunnels for their daily commutes to and from Manhattan. 
Congressional appropriators, with Frelinghuysen’s backing, are looking to spend at least $950 million in federal funds on the Gateway project in the coming omnibus spending bill. Lawmakers are expected to pass the legislation ahead of a March 23 government shutdown deadline.

A spokeswoman for Frelinghuysen did not respond to a request for comment.

I'd feel bad for New Jersey Republicans, who are going to get wiped off the face of the map in November, except they chose to enable the party of Trump every step of the way.

At this point, Trump no longer cares who knows about his plans for petty tyranny.

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