USC Report: Inequality Threatens San Diego’s Future

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By Doug Porter

A report by the University of Southern California’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) says long term prospects for San Diego’s economy are challenged by widespread inequality.

I could dazzle you with charts and figures (and there are plenty in the report), but here’s the bottom line: the way public policy is and has been made in San Diego benefits a few at the expense of the many. Trading short term greed for long term growth would be better for the overall economy and the environment.

The authors of the report point to metropolitan areas around the country where public and private entities have opted to work together on economic and environmental issues and are building platforms for sustainable growth. They also point to emerging data demonstrating that “greater economic and racial equality in regions corresponds with more robust growth in terms of employment, output, productivity, and per-capita income.”   [Read more…]

How San Diego Is a Petri Dish for the ALEC Agenda

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By Brendan Fischer / Center for Media and Democracy

This week, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) descends on San Diego, California for its annual meeting of lobbyists and legislators.

In many ways, San Diego is an appropriate setting for ALEC’s conference. Beyond the walls of the Manchester Grand Hyatt, where ALEC members convene under heavy security and behind closed doors, the city known as “America’s Finest” has been a major battleground in the corporate-backed resistance to local control over paid sick days and the minimum wage.

It was at ACCE’s last meeting, held in Washington D.C. in December, where an ALEC task force director claimed that “the biggest threat comes from the local level” when it comes to grassroots efforts to raise the wage and enact paid sick days, and warned that “we are seeing a number of localities that have increased their minimum wage.”

San Diego is one of them.   [Read more…]

The Complicated World of Having Your Boss Decide What Kind of Birth Control You Can Use

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By Joan McCarter / Daily Kos

Too bad Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy decided to wait until this session to not be insane about Obamacare. Not only did their Hobby Lobby decision make it okay for bosses to deny their employees health insurance plans that cover birth control (because that has everything to do with your job), they opened up the floodgates for all sorts of “religious freedom” claims in which people declare they won’t do something that their job requires them to do and they think is icky because God. But back to the birth control part, the Kaiser Family Foundation has a helpful explainer of the newly complicated world of trying to plan your family with health insurance.   [Read more…]

Confronting ALEC’s ‘Everybody Does It’ Defense

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By Doug Porter

Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz. How can you lose?

If the spinmeisters at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) hoped media coverage would focus on the three GOP presidential candidates genuflecting before their annual gathering of corporate lobbyists and state legislators this week in San Diego, they may be proved wrong.

A barrage of press releases and public statements from a wide spectrum of public interest organizations combined with the growing certainty that San Diegans would actually show up in large numbers to protest the closed-door right wing strategy meeting has begun to shift coverage away from the celebrity angle to questions about just what might be going on inside the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel.

Although there will always be plenty of stenographers willing to be dazzled by celebrity, a slow but steady drumbeat of dissent aimed at ALEC’s real agenda has forced that group’s defenders to go to Plan B, also known as ‘everybody does it’.   [Read more…]

San Diego Activists Go All In for Anti-Alec Protests

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Labor, Environmental and Community Groups Plan Multiple Actions

By Doug Porter

A wide range of organizations, some of whom rarely get involved in non-electoral politics, are calling upon San Diegans to put on their protesting shoes during the upcoming annual meeting of the American Legislative Council (ALEC).

Protests, press conferences, teach-ins, rallies and guerrilla theater will be happening throughout the coming week commencing on Tuesday, July 21st as ALEC delegates are checking in. Buses will coming in from the Los Angeles/Long Beach areas on Wednesday for what organizers expect will be the largest events of the week.

Today’s column will focus on the already-announced activities (there are more coming, I’m told).   [Read more…]

Help Save Our Public Postal Service

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By Dave Johnson / Campaign for America’s Future

The Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service is calling for support of two House resolutions that urge restoration of overnight mail service standards and a continuation of six-day delivery.

The alliance consists of more than 70 national organizations. The coalition is asking people to contact members of Congress in support of House Resolutions 54 and 12. H. Res. 54, from Reps. David McKinley (R-W.Va) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the U.S. Postal Service “should take all appropriate measures to restore service standards in effect as of July 1, 2012.” H. Res. 12, from Reps. Sam Graves (R-MO) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA), says that the USPS “should take all appropriate measures to ensure the continuation of its six-day mail delivery service.”

These resolutions are in response to a new attempt to manufacture a crisis in postal delivery.   [Read more…]

Chargers Stadium Financing Plan: Sell City Owned Unicorns and Fairy Dust

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By Doug Porter

This whole deal with using public money to build a stadium for a privately owned football team just keeps getting stranger.

Yesterday we learned the idea of using funds from developments adjacent to the Mission Valley site to fund the project was off the table. Ancillary development has been part of every stadium plan proposed over the past 15 years. That’s $225 million just vanishing. Gone. Poof!

Then where’s the stadium construction funding coming from? Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s spokesman, Craig Gustafson, emailed Scott Lewis at Voice of San Diego: “The plan the City/County team is developing is based on negotiations and discussions with the Chargers and the NFL.”   [Read more…]

The Persuaders: California Restaurant Association

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By Bobbi Murray / Capital & Main

“Something always seems to be starting in California,” Angelo Amador, an attorney and vice president for the National Restaurant Association, told Bloomberg News.

It was 2012 and his remark was prompted by a California state Supreme Court decision favoring an employee’s right to have defined meal-break times. The association—dubbed “the other NRA” for its lobbying muscle, with annual revenues of $71 million in 2013–had vigorously opposed policy that required employers to ensure that workers take rest and meal breaks rather than leaving it to the employees to push back against managers to enforce break provisions.

Amador’s NRA is perhaps the largest trade group that you have never heard of, and supports an “institute” run by a PR firm that churns out opinions and papers to shape policy debates.   [Read more…]

Anti-Vaxxers’ Tactics Fail to Sway Legislature

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By Doug Porter

Gov. Jerry Brown signed off yesterday on legislation giving California one of the most far-reaching vaccination laws in the nation. Religious and personal-belief exemptions for schoolchildren will be phased out, starting next year.

Getting this bill passed turned out to be a major political battle. The combination of paranoia about government (on the right) and corporate greed (on the left) mixed with a solid dash of unfounded health concerns ended up being a recipe for political passion rarely seen on the legislative floor.

The anti-vaxxers, as they are popularly called, viewed this legislation as a battle for the lives of their children and the liberties of the nation. They’ve indicated that litigation will be their next step.   [Read more…]

Report: Border Patrol Union Officials Working with Hate Groups

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By Doug Porter

A newly released report from the Center for a New Community (CNC) says there is a systemic pattern of behind-the-scenes collusion between officials of unions associated with the Border Patrol and prominent anti-immigrant hate groups.

Last year’s protests in Murrieta, California are cited in “Blurring Borders: Collusion between Anti-Immigrant Groups and Immigration Enforcement Agents” as an example of Border Patrol agents coordinating with anti-immigrant forces. On July 1st, 2014, anti-immigrant activists used civil disobedience to block federal buses carrying refugee women and children to a Border Patrol processing center.   [Read more…]

Paid Sick Leave for California Workers Starts This Week

Assemblywoman Gonzalez with Paid Sick Leave supporters at rally  Photo by Rich Kacmar

By Francine Busby / San Diego Democratic Party

We’ve all been sick. I have been flattened by illnesses that have rendered me completely useless. I have had to miss work to stay home with a sick child when they can barely get out of bed, let alone function in a classroom. I have received those dreaded phone calls informing me of a family member with a medical emergency. Sometimes life just gets in the way, and our health or the health of our families has to take priority.

When we think of man’s inhumanity to man, we don’t usually think of employees who risk losing wages or even a job if they are too sick to go work or if they need to care for a sick child. At the moment, 40 million workers (38% of the American workforce) lack any paid sick leave, according to a study by the Center for American Progress. The United States is the only developed country in the world without laws requiring access to paid sick leave.

But we’re making progress. On July 1, California will join the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts in guaranteeing paid sick leave.   [Read more…]

In-Home Care Recipients Cautiously Applaud New Budget

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By Steven Mikulan / Capital & Main

The 467,000 Californians who receive assistance from the state’s In-Home Supportive Services are breathing a little better, if not easier, now that a new budget has restored care cuts to the agency. The program typically assists elderly, blind and disabled people on low incomes with housework, meal preparation, personal hygiene and other services; by paying individuals through the state to perform these tasks, the care recipients are able to remain in their homes and avoid being institutionalized – which also saves taxpayers millions of dollars.   [Read more…]

Mayor Looks to the NFL in Chargers Stadium Dilemma

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By Doug Porter

The chickens are coming home to roost for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, whose PR-centric program aimed at resolving the local football team’s quest for a new facility has been called out by Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani.

Calling the city’s latest plans “misguided” and “doomed,” Fabiani made the rounds of the local media yesterday, making it clear that there was nothing left to negotiate.

The mayor’s surrogates have also been active, assuring people that the city did have a viable course for getting to a new stadium and suggesting that Mr. Fabiani was the real problem.   [Read more…]

It’s Not Right: San Diego Life Guards Do Not Receive the Same Health Coverage as Firefighters

OB lifeguard returning after a rescue. Photo by Annie Lane

Lifeguards Deserve Presumptive Coverage

By Ed Harris / The OB Rag

When a San Diego Firefighter or Police officer is injured or contracts an illness while performing their job, the City provides them with presumptive health coverage. Presumptive coverage includes meningitis, tuberculosis and hepatitis, to name a few.

Since San Diego Lifeguards are part of the San Diego Fire Department, one would think they’d be provided that same presumptive coverage. They are not.

  [Read more…]

A Blow to the Contract Labor Economy: California Says Uber Drivers Are Employees

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By Doug Porter

A claim filed by a San Francisco woman against the ride-hailing service Uber has led to a determination by the California Labor Commission that drivers for the company are employees rather than independent contractors.

The decision could be a major blow to what economists are calling the “1099 economy,” a business model wherein companies rely on armies of low-cost independent contractors, setting the terms and conditions for employment without having to absorb costs like social security, health care and workman’s compensation.

The California Labor Commissioner said they’d determined Uber to be “involved in every aspect of the operation,” meaning that it’s more than just an app handling logistics. The driver who filed the complaint was awarded $4,000 in expenses.   [Read more…]

SDSU/CPI Study Finds Wage Theft, Labor Law Violations and Discrimination in Local Restaurants

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By Doug Porter

A study by San Diego State University Department of Sociology and the Center on Policy Initiatives found persuasive evidence of widespread wage theft, labor law violations and widespread discrimination in restaurants throughout San Diego.

If you went in to a grocery store and took something without paying, you’d face arrest. If you robbed a bank you’d be eligible for jail time. Both are thefts. Both are crimes.

But if you’re an employer in the restaurant industry and fail to pay an employee’s wages –also a crime–, chances are good to excellent that you’ll get way with it. So this morning we’re learning  there’s a crime wave going on in San Diego. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.   [Read more…]

Representatives Peters, Davis Disappoint on Trade Bill

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By Doug Porter

On Friday the House of Representatives used a legislative maneuver to block President Obama’s path to fast track legislation on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

One good thing about Friday’s vote is that we now know where Representatives Susan Davis and Scott Peters stand on the issue. Both voted to advance the measure despite weeks of intensive citizen/grassroots/labor lobbying for a no vote. Both did so knowing they’d face the wrath of the coalition opposed to TPP in future elections.

For Davis, this may not mean much; for Peters, the consequences look to be serious–a labor-backed search committee is already looking at alternative candidates to run in the June 2016 primary. The word is that there’s a million dollar war chest to be spent defeating him.   [Read more…]

How California Drivers Get Screwed at the Pump

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By Doug Porter

Corporate greed on the part of fossil fuel companies in the era of trickle down apparently knows no bounds. If you live in California you’ve undoubtedly heard the stories about why we pay more for gasoline at the pump than elsewhere: our eco-conscious gas blend, higher taxes, yada, yada.

Research from Consumer Watchdog shows just how much these claims are exaggerated. Californians are paying more for gasoline because we’re being gouged, plain and simple.

The group points to abnormally large profits in the first quarter of 2015, with Valero, one of the state’s largest refiners, reporting $82 million in West Coast profits, compared to a $25 million per quarter average.   [Read more…]

Report: One in Four Jobs in San Diego at Risk with Trade Deal

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By Doug Porter

On the eve of what observers are calling a close vote in the House of Representatives over fast track legislation, the coalition of labor, faith and environmental groups released a shocking report on the potential impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on service sector jobs in the metro San Diego area. One in four jobs in the region spanning over 150 occupations are being placed at risk.

San Diego has two of less than a dozen House democrats who remain undecided on this issue – Representative Scott Peters (CA-52) and Representative Susan Davis (CA-53).

Republican House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan is seeking to stifle opposition in his own party by promoting an amendment to a customs and trade law enforcement bill being considered alongside the fast-tracking legislation prohibit the U.S. Trade Representative from negotiating climate change elements as part of any trade dealing over the next six years.

As bad as that news is for the environment, the news for local employment is even worse.   [Read more…]

Showdown! Trans Pacific Partnership Fast Track Authority Vote Set for Friday

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Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have set a Friday deadline for a vote on a bill giving the President fast-track authority on commercial treaties currently being negotiated.

The legislation would allow the executive branch to submit trade agreements to Congress for an expedited, up-or-down vote without amendments was passed by the Senate last month. President Obama has said he wants to complete a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and send it for approval under that procedure.

House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have reportedly agreed to replace a plan, opposed by Democrats, that would have funded some trade programs with about $700 million in Medicare cuts.   [Read more…]

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Vote: A Character Defining Moment

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A couple of weeks ago, Bill McKibben penned a very sharp editorial in the New York Times in response to the Obama administration’s choice to allow drilling in the Arctic noting that, “The Obama administration’s decision to give Shell Oil the go-ahead to drill in the Arctic shows why we may never win the fight against climate change. Even in this most extreme circumstance, no one seems able to stand up to the power of the fossil fuel industry. No one ever says no.”

Indeed, it is precisely this kind of political cowardice that may very well cost us far more dearly than we can imagine. In his defense, Obama went to Twitter and had little to offer other than red herrings and equivocation about the limitations of existing regulations.

But the bottom line could not be clearer: in the face of a stark moral choice, the President punted.   [Read more…]

Bad Omens for Democrats Dave Roberts and Scott Peters

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Things are looking iffy for two of San Diego’s elected Democratic officials.

San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts has gone on the offensive, responding to allegations about inappropriate behavior and misuse of public resources made by former employees.

Congressman Scott Peters may well be about to incur the wrath of organizations that worked hard to elected him in a close contest last year. Although he says he remains undecided about his vote on an upcoming trade bill, there are serious concerns from environmental and labor groups.   [Read more…]

‘We Will Win': McDonald’s Worker Protests Stretch Into Second Day

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By Deidre Fulton / Common Dreams

Less than 24 hours after 5,000 workers marched on McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, the fast food giant’s cooks and cashiers returned on Thursday morning to bring their call for $15 an hour and union rights directly to the company’s shareholders at their annual meeting.   [Read more…]

A Disastrous Oil Pipeline Break in Santa Barbara

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While clean up crews in protective suits are removing oil from a nine mile stretch of coastline in Santa Barbara County, investigators are assessing the impact and causes of a ruptured pipeline owned by Plains Pipeline. The company failed to shut down the flow of oil for more than three hours after local beach-goers reported the leak, according to a spokesperson with the National Resources Defense Council.

Current estimates say 105,000 gallons may have leaked out, with 21,000 gallons reaching the sea. Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in Santa Barbara County. Federal, state and local officials are looking at both civil liabilities and criminal infractions.   [Read more…]

ACLU Challenges Escondido Racism

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The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against the city of Escondido, claiming racial discrimination and anti-immigrant sentiment were responsible for its refusal to allow a temporary residential facility for undocumented children operate in various parts of the city.

Southwest Key Programs, the nonprofit that sought permits for the facilities is asking the court to overturn the city’s rejection, and to award for unspecified damages. The case has the potential to highlight the racism permeating government and the white community in the North County city.

After all, it’s not like hating on brown people is anything new to Escondido, no matter what kind of rhetorical gymnastics are used for justification.   [Read more…]