Sunday, September 30, 2012

Today in Labor History—September 30

September 30, 1885 – The Knights of Labor won their strike on the Wabash Railroad. (from the Daily Bleed)
Public Enemy #1 in 1892, Henry Clay Frick, Responsible for the Homestead Massacre

September 30, 1892
 – Strike leaders were prosecuted for the crime of treason for the first time in U.S. history. Henry C. Frick, chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company, convinced the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to issue warrants for the arrests of every member of the advisory board of the striking steel union for treason against the state. The 29 strike leaders were ultimately charged with plotting "to incite insurrection, rebellion & war against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." (from the Daily Bleed)
Illustration from the Industrial Worker, 1911
 September 30, 1909 -- The "Industrial Worker," mouthpiece of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), issued its first call for footloose hoboes and Wobblies to hop the freights for Missoula, to join in the free speech fight taking place there. From 1907-1917 the IWW carried out more than 30 Free Speech fights across the US, generally to demand the right to organize workers in public places and to agitate from street corners. As police arrested one Wobbly for public speaking, another would take his or her place, resulting in thousands of arrests, as well as mass beatings by vigilantes. However, their civil disobedience often succeeded in clogging the jails and court systems to the point that cities were forced to back down and allow public speaking and agitation.  (from the Daily Bleed)
Militiamen Surround Peaceful Textile Strikers, Lawrence, 1912
 September 30, 1912 – The Lawrence, Massachusetts “Bread and Roses” textile strike was in full swing. On this date, 12,000 textile workers walked out of mills to protest the arrests of two leaders of the strike. Police clubbed strikers and arrested many, while the bosses fired 1,500. IWW co-founder Big Bill Haywood threatened another general strike to get the workers reinstated. Strike leaders Arturo Giovannitti and Joe Ettor were eventually acquitted 58 days later. (From Workday Minnesota)

September 30, 1916 – IWW headquarters were raided in Australia and union leaders were arrested because of their opposition to World War I. In December, seven Wobblies were sentenced to 15 years in prison for anti-war activism. Others received five and ten year sentences. In August, 1917, the IWW was made illegal. Nevertheless, the IWW still helped lead the General Strike of 1917. (from the Daily Bleed)

September 30, 1962 -- The National Farm Workers Association (predecessor to the United Farm Workers) was created during a convention called by Cesar Chavez in Fresno, California. (from the Daily Bleed)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Today in Labor History—September 29

September 29, 1931 - Three members of the United Mine Workers of America were shot to death by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Saskatchewan. The RCMP had fired into a miners’ parade. During the course of the strike, 400 miners and their families clashed with police. (From Workday Minnesota and the Daily Bleed)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Rich Getting Richer, Still—Forbes 400’s Wealth Rose 13% in 2012

The majority of Americans may still be suffering from declining wages, unemployment, speedups, downsizing, foreclosures and a drop in personal wealth, but the richest Americans had another banner year in 2012, with their net worth rising 13%. The richest 400 had an average net worth of $4.2 billion, according to Reuters. Together they had a cumulative net worth of $1.7 trillion. In stark contrast, the median net worth of the average American household dropped 40% between 2007 and 2010, according to the WSWS, while the net worth of those on the Forbes 400 list has grown 15-fold since 1982.

However, it was not all peaches and cream for the nation’s oligarchy. Poor Mark Zuckerberg saw his net worth cut in half, from $17 billion in 2011 to $9.4 billion in 2012, as a result of his company’s lackluster IPO. Other social media moguls also saw their net worth decline from really obscene to obscene levels. Groupon chair Eric Lefkofsky and Zynga’s chair Mark Pinkus fell off the Forbe’s 400 list entirely (though they won’t be joining the Occupy movement any time soon).

Together, the net worth of the 400 wealthiest Americans is equal to one-eighth of the entire U.S. economy—though their 13% increase in wealth last year far outpaced the growth of the U.S. economy, which rose an anemic 1.7%.

Bill Gates topped the list for the 19th year in a row. His net worth is now $66 billion, up $7 billion from last year. His total net wealth, the WSWS reports, is just a little less than half the entire U.S. budget for the Department of Education and 100 times more than the estimated $700 million deficit facing the Chicago Public Schools, where his foundation has been pushing for the expansion of charter schools.

Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, came in second at $46 billion, followed by Larry Ellison, head of Oracle Corp, with $41 billion. Ellison, California’s wealthiest resident, now has a total net wealth that is nearly equal to the amount budgeted by the state of California for health and human services for 2012-2013, according to WSWS, and more than its entire education budget.

The Koch brothers were tied for fourth with $31 billion each. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg rose to the number 10 slot, with a personal wealth of $25 billion, a fortune equal to the entire annual budget of New York City’s public schools. There were also 45 women who made the list, up from 42 last year. California topped the list again, with 87 billionaires, up from 80 last year, while New York had the most billionaires of any city with 53. (The entire list can be seen here).

While Mitt Romney and other Republicans have tried in vain to paint Obama as a socialist who wants to redistribute the wealth of the country, it is actually the richest of the rich who have been succeeding at it by paying their employees less and by demanding greater tax breaks and government subsidies that help them earn greater profits or that bail them out of their failed gambles. 60% of their income comes from capital gains, which is taxed at the extremely low rate of 15% (comparable to the income tax rate on some of the lowest-wage workers). This is income that does not come from hard work (or any work, for that matter), but from being fortunate enough to possess the preexisting wealth necessary to speculate on stocks and real estate.

Today in Labor History—September 28

Karl Marx

September 28, 1864 – The International Workingmen's Association (IWA), the first Communist International, was founded on this date in London.

September 28, 1917 - Federal agents arrested 165 Wobblies (members of the Industrial Workers of the World) for their resistance to World War I. Over 300 IWW leaders were arrested in September and their offices raided throughout the country. Of course their real crime was continuing to engage in labor strikes and slowdowns, despite the war propaganda. (From Workday Minnesota)

September 28, 1920 – Eight members of the Chicago White Sox were indicted by a grand jury for conspiring with gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series in what became known as the Black Sox Scandal. The players were acquitted by the jury, but they were still banned for life from professional baseball. (From the Daily Bleed)

September 28, 1920 -- Throughout September there were widespread occupations of Italian factories by workers. The actions originated in the auto factories, steel mills and machine tool plants, but spread to many other industries, including cotton mills, hosiery firms, lignite mines, tire factories, breweries & distilleries, steamships and warehouses in the port towns. (From the Daily Bleed)

September 28, 1971 – After years of corporate plunder, the Chilean government expropriated Anaconda and Kennecott copper mines, pissing off American capitalists and setting the stage for the CIA supported coup of 1973, which lead to the brutal Pinochet dictatorship and 17 years of repression and violence. (From the Daily Bleed)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Schools, a Deadly Scourge--Stick a Child and Save Lives!

Monster at the Door? Seed of the Next Pandemic? (Image from Flickr, by Olaf)

Flu season is quickly approaching and, as usual, only a small fraction of Americans will get vaccinated. Yet seasonal influenza continues to be one of the deadliest diseases in the world, killing an average of 35,000 people per year in the U.S. alone, while every 20-40 years, a particularly deadly new pandemic variety of influenza evolves killing far more than this. The 1918 pandemic was the worst, with worldwide mortality estimated at 50 million.

A similar deadly outbreak could happen again at any time and scientists predict that such an outbreak is inevitable. Some believe it could be far worse than in 1918, as it is much easier to travel long distances to spread the disease and there are far more large crowded slums in which germs can easily spread from person to person and far more malnourished individuals with weakened immune systems. There are also more people selling and buying at “wet markets” where highly infectious avian strains of influenza sometime proliferate. Furthermore, there are several deadly avian strains still circulating among wild birds for which we have little or no immunity. Scientists have recently shown that it would only take a few random mutations to make one of these strains (H5N1) easily transmissible between people.

With seasonal flu, the majority of deaths occur among the elderly, infants and immune-compromised (including the malnourished). However, even for the majority of those who get the disease and survive, the consequences are serious, including costly hospital and doctor’s visits, lost income and missed school days. It is estimated that the U.S. alone loses $10 billion per year due to influenza.

There is no reason why so many people must die from this disease or even be sickened from it. Contrary to the delusions of the anti-vaccination movement, seasonal flu vaccines are generally quite effective, especially when 70-80% of community members are vaccinated, as this leads to “herd” immunity which protects those who have not been vaccinated as well as those who received the vaccine but still did not get immunity. Furthermore, serious side effects from flu vaccines are rare, while mild side effects are generally quite mild (e.g., soreness, headache, fever).

While the oldest and youngest members of our society are the most vulnerable to influenza deaths, school-age children continue to be the most fertile incubators of the virus, spreading the germ at school and day care centers with their peers and then bringing the germ home to share with their families and neighbors. Not only do small children tend to put their fingers in their own (and each other’s) noses, eyes and mouths more often than adults (and wash less frequently), they are also “super-spreaders,” according to a recent piece in Scientific American, since they “shed” more virus particles for longer periods of time than do adults.

Consequently, the most effective way to protect seniors, as well as the rest of us, is to vaccinate children. According to the Scientific American article, studies indicate that immunizing 20% of children in a community is more effective at protecting seniors than immunizing 90% of the seniors, while immunizing 70% of schoolchildren may protect everyone in the community (including the elderly).

There is actually hard evidence for this. One of the last deadly flu pandemics occurred in 1957 (there was another deadly one in 1968 that killed 500,000 worldwide). In response, the Japanese launched a mandatory vaccination program for all schoolchildren that lasted for the next ten years. During this time, excess deaths from influenza and complications related to influenza fell by half. Once the program ended, vaccination rates declined and death rates increased significantly, Scientific American reports.

Requiring mandatory flu vaccines is not likely to happen in the U.S., even though other vaccinations (e.g., measles, mumps, polio) are required before kids can go to school and despite the fact that so many lives could be saved by initiating such a program. Anti-vaccination propaganda and misinformation continue to fuel a hysteria that has resulted in a powerful lobby against vaccinations. Furthermore, flu vaccines must be reconfigured each year, which means that, unlike polio and measles vaccines, one must receive a new flu inoculation each year. Lastly, only a couple of companies are currently producing flu vaccines in the U.S. and few are willing to start because of fears of liability and profitability (they must produce the vaccine well in advance of flu season based on scientific predictions and models and then hope that enough consumers will later purchase the vaccine).

Nevertheless, sufficiently high immunization rates can be obtained through voluntary community programs centered on schools, particularly with an effective outreach program. Some schools already offer FluMist nasal spray free of charge to students. In one district in Florida, vaccination rates have reached 65% as a result of their free immunization program, while the incidence of influenza over the last two years has been reduced to nearly zero. The consequences for kids are far fewer absences and more time in school learning. For the rest of us, it means fewer days lying in bed with fevers and chills, and fewer hospital visits and deaths for our infants and grandparents.

Researchers Discover Antibody That Fights Multiple Flu Strains

In a major new discovery that could help prevent or treat influenza, researchers have identified an antibody that blocks the flu virus from entering its hosts’ cells and that can be used to cure already infected animals. The findings were reported in the most recent edition of the journal Nature.

Before a virus can make us sick, it must first adsorb (bind) to the surface of our cells and then get its DNA or RNA into our cells. Influenza A viruses use a protein on their surface called Hemagglutinin to attach to their hosts’ cells. Hemagglutinin is abbreviated “H” and the particular variety of Hemagglutinin forms part of the strain’s name (e.g., H1N1 or H5N1).  The “N” comes from an enzyme the virus produces called neuraminidase, which it uses to lyse (burst) its hosts’ cells in order to release newly formed virus particles.

The antibody discovered by lead author Ian Wilson (Scripps Research Institute) and colleagues at Scripps and Sea Lane Biotechnologies, binds to hemagglutinin thus preventing infection. This discovery may help in the development of more effective vaccines against the flu virus, which kills an average of 35,000 people per year in the U.S. alone. It could also help avert a deadly pandemic of avian influenza.

The research began by creating a library of antibodies from thousands of flu survivors from around the world by mining their bone marrow, which acts like a repository for all the antibodies they have ever made, the Bay Citizen reports. From this library, they were able to narrow their search to just the ones able to bind to influenza A. From this subset, they came upon the C05 antibody which protected cells growing in a Petri dish from influenza A infection. They also tried the experiment in vivo and found that C05 prevented mice from being infected. Furthermore, they discovered that mice already infected with a deadly strain of influenza were 100% cured when exposed to C05.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this research is that C05 binds to hemagglutinin, which is highly conserved genetically and used by many different strains to infect their hosts. Consequently, C05 is effective against several different varieties of influenza, including H1, H2, H3 and H9 strains. If C05 proves effective in preventing or treating human infections, this could be a major breakthrough, as we currently have little or no natural immunity to H9 strains and there is at least one highly pathogenic avian influenza H9 strain that has already wreaked havoc on some poultry flocks. This deadly strain could acquire person to person transmissibility through gene exchange with other flu viruses, as several H1 and H3 strains have already done, thus becoming the next deadly pandemic strain.

Today in Labor History—September 27

Lowell MA Textile Girls, c1870 (public domain)

September 27, 1875 - Textile workers struck in Fall River, Massachusetts, demanding bread for their starving children. Approximately one in six children between the ages of 10 and 15 was working during the second half of the 19thcentury, primarily in textile mills, print shops, coal mines and factories. (FromWorkday Minnesota)

September 27, 1940 – FDR met with A. Philip Randolph, president of Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Walter White, executive secretary NAACP, and T. Arnold Hill, acting secretary of the National Urban League, to demand the desegregation of the armed forces. (From the Daily Bleed)

September 27, 1950 – President Truman ordered the U.S. Army to seize the nation's railroads to prevent a General Strike. The railroads were held by the military for two years. (From the Daily Bleed)

September 27, 1954
 - A U.S. Senate Committee censured Joe McCarthy, bringing to an end the witch hunts (not). (From Workday Minnesota)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Let Them Eat Ballots: Unions’ Obsession With Political Action

California’s Proposition 32, on the November ballot, has been dubbed the Stop Special Interests initiative. In reality, it is targeted at the state’s unions, with the goal of preventing them from using payroll deductions to fund their political campaigns and lobbying. The bill would have virtually no effect on private businesses or corporate lobbying, as private businesses do not raise political funds through payroll deductions.

The campaign in support of 32, not surprisingly, has been heavily funded by corporate interests that hope to stifle unions’ political involvement, which is already miniscule compared with theirs. Yet even their small involvement in politics is unacceptable to the wealthy, who would like to see the unions, as well as any workplace and environmental protections, disappear completely.

One of the major funders of Prop 32 is the American Future Fund, a Super PAC affiliated with the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove, which recently contributed $4 million from secret donors to the campaign. Prop 32 is also backed by Democrats for Education Reform (DfER), an anti-union and anti-teacher organization that is funded by hedge fund managers and Wall Street brokers.

While the backers of 32 have been very deceptive in their promotion of this legislation, inaccurately suggesting that the bill would stop all special interests from influencing politics, the unions themselves have engaged in a deceptive, top down and undemocratic campaign to defend themselves. For example, representatives of the California Teachers Association (CTA) have told members the bill would end collective bargaining rights for them. However, Prop 32 says nothing about unions’ right to collectively bargain and if it passes it would have no direct effect on collective bargaining. Nevertheless, it is safe to assume that the bill’s backers would like to end collective bargaining, and that passage of the bill would facilitate this goal by stifling unions’ ability to lobby in defense of collective bargaining.

It is also probably safe to assume that most union members would oppose 32 if educated about it and that they would support their unions’ efforts to resist it. However, the CTA’s decision to prioritize the anti-32 campaign (and the pro-30 tax increase campaign) over virtually all other activities was essentially made from the top-down, with very little input from the rank and file. This approach has the potential to alienate and anger members, rather than encourage their support and participation.

Furthermore, the way the CTA engaged the locals to participate in their campaigns has been autocratic and coercive. In my local, for example, our CTA representative told us we “had to” participate in the CTA activities around these two initiatives and we “did not” have a choice in the matter. To make matters worse, we were expected to carry out some of these activities during the same week we had to vote on a new contract, adding an unnecessary degree of confusion, anxiety and frustration to our members, who were already overburdened with their normal teaching responsibilities, and to our organizers and representatives responsible for carrying out these two unrelated union duties.

Of course it will be devastating to students and teachers if 30 loses and 32 wins. K12 and higher education will lose $6 billion in funding, while the corporate education reform movement will gain considerably more political power to further gut public education. Yet one the reasons why corporate interests have gained so much political power in recent years is that unions have relinquished their most powerful weapon—direct action—in favor of going toe to toe with the wealthy in the political arena. Even without Citizens United, corporations were able to outspend unions by large margins. And even without outspending them, policy will almost always come down in favor of the wealthy and their businesses because the politicians are members of the same class and their economic interests lie more with their corporate friends and allies than with the rest of us.

The unions argue that their funding of political campaigns and lobbying have led to important gains for teachers and this is partly true. However, this does not mean that political action is the only or even most effective tactic. And despite these gains, real wages and benefits have been declining steadily for decades. Class sizes have been soaring. Programs continue to be cut. Working hours have increased. And perhaps most devastating to teachers’ living conditions, the unions have completely failed to do anything substantive about rising health care costs, with the result that workers must pay more and more out of pocket for health coverage each year, a cost that further erodes take home pay.

Workers’ real power lies in their ability to withhold their labor, and this is only effective when workers are well-educated and organized. Ironically, a well-organized and educated membership can also easily be mobilized to engage in canvassing, phone banking, letter writing, fundraising and other political activities, potentially with greater effectiveness than can be achieved through union-hired lobbyists and campaign managers. However, the ultimate goal should always be job actions, including General Strikes, as these have the greatest potential to force bosses and politicians to buckle to workers’ demands. This sort of organizing  needs to be initiated from the bottom up and, to be effective, must empower workers, not make them feel like minions of their unions.

Today in Labor History—September 26

Daniel Shays and Job Shattuck, the Two Rebel Leaders

September 26, 1786 – Former Continental Army captain Daniel Shays led a group of farmers in an armed uprising against taxes imposed by the state of Massachusetts, known as Shays' Rebellion. Many farmers were destitute as a result of the depression that following the Revolutionary War. The rebels shut down the courts to block judges from foreclosing their farmland. The rebellion was quickly suppressed by the government, but the rebels did not give up. Instead, the next year they switched to electoral politics. (From Workday Minnesota)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

NFL Fans and Players are a Bunch of Crybabies

By now everyone who follows football has heard about the terrible call that gave Seattle an undeserved victory over Green Bay on Monday. Some are calling it the worst call ever, which it wasn’t. But it was made by a scab referee who is part of the army of scab referees that have been hired by the NFL owners to ensure that the games go on in spite of the referees’ strike and that they can continue to bring in billions of dollars in profits.

Yes, the strike is terrible for the players, whose credibility, salability and post-season bonuses depend on their won-lost record, which could be undermined by the plethora of bad calls that have been made this season by the scab refs. Several of them have been complaining publicly in interviews and tweets. Sure, it is frustrating for fans, who depend on their team’s victories (or noble struggles and defeats) to provide excitement and entertainment to their otherwise stressed our lives. And it is expensive for the gamblers who are losing millions because of the bad calls. (The Seattle-Green Bay call is said to have altered $150-$250 million in bets).

Yet the players are union members. By continuing to play during a referees’ strike they are crossing a theoretical picket line. If they don’t like the bad calls and the amateurish refs, they can (and should) walk off and refuse to play. Without the stars, there would be fewer viewers, thus weakening the owners’ bottom line and their resolve to quash the referees’ strike.

If fans want the strike to end they can refuse to watch the games and refuse to buy tickets. Season ticket owners could demand a refund. This would also weaken the owners’ bottom line and willingness to ignore the referees’ demands.

As for the gamblers, perhaps they should just put more money on the underdogs and pray for bad calls in their favor.

Parasites Unite! America’s Entitlement Problem

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
Mitt Romney was recently embarrassed by a leaked video in which he wrote off the “47% of Americans who don’t pay taxes,” accusing them of feeling victimized and expecting the government to take care of them. NPR’s Planet Money says that it is actually just over 46% of Americans and it is primarily just the federal income tax that they do not pay and they don’t pay it because they receive tax credits or untaxed income like Social Security, Earned Income Tax Credits, child care tax credits and disability payments. The overwhelming majority of these people are poor or low income working people and retirees.

The biggest reason why so many people pay no federal income tax is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which was established in 1975 for low and moderate income working Americans, particularly those with children, as a way to offset social security taxes and to provide an incentive to work. The idea was that if you were working full time, you shouldn’t be starving, too. So the feds established this tax credit to put more money in the pockets of the working poor by taxing them less. The result was that many working poor no longer had any income tax liability. Thus, they paid no taxes.

Romney’s disparaging of these Americans, most of whom have worked hard all of their lives, belies his disdain for the rabble who he and his ilk have exploited to enrich themselves. Yet, in reality, the EITC has contributed to this exploitation, as it subsidizes low wages. The credit is only available to full time workers. So if you are willing to work for low wages, you will be rewarded with a tax credit. This helps ensure that there will always be a pool of workers willing to take on the lowest paying and most degrading, stressful and dangerous jobs out there and that bosses can continue to make millions of dollars per year by paying them so poorly for their toil.

Consequently, the EITC has received widespread support from both parties throughout most of its existence. The program was expanded under Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and again under Obama, with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Clinton’s expansion of the program resulted in nearly 25% of Americans paying no federal income tax. Under George W. Bush, the percentage of Americans paying no federal income tax rose to 36% as a result of a child tax credit he added to the program. And as a result of high unemployment and temporary tax breaks, the number of Americans paying no federal income taxes under the Obama administration has risen to nearly 50% of all American households, according to NPR’s Planet Money.

So what’s wrong with this?

From Romney’s perspective, the beneficiaries are just a bunch of crybabies and self-entitled brats who will never vote for him anyway or do anything to end their dependency on government aid. From the perspective of anti-Big Government activists, like Romney, the only role of government is to provide subsidies and tax benefits to the wealthy and their businesses and provide military and police services to protect their property and investments. Any government spending that provides assistance to the rest of us is wasteful and irresponsible.

While this is not true (the EITC actually benefits the wealthy by encouraging them to continue paying poverty wages), this rationale is consistent with their never ending quest to lower taxes for themselves, something that requires a concomitant reduction in government services (for the majority of Americans, but not themselves).

One problem with the EITC is that if 50% of Americans aren’t paying any federal income taxes, the middle class is forced to cover the difference, leaving the rich effectively off the hook. Most of the wealthy do pay some income tax. However, they pay a far smaller percentage of their income than do middle class wage earners, since the majority of their income comes from capital gains, which are taxed at a much lower rate than regular income. And some wealthy Americans in fact pay little or no income taxes. (For the years he actually provided data, Mitt Romney paid an effective federal income tax rate of around 15% on all income, far less than what middle class people pay. This is because the bulk of his income was capital gains and because of all the extra deductions available to wealthy investors and businessmen that are unavailable to the rest of us). Thus, this system allows the wealthy to retain a greater percentage of their income than middle and lower class wage earners, further enriching them and increasing the wealth gap.

As for the beneficiaries of the EITC, it has not ended (nor can it end) poverty. Rather, it encourages it by subsidizing low wages. This is not to say it should be abolished—it does provide some relief for low income wage earners. However, everyone should have the basics for survival, including sufficient food, housing, healthcare, leisure time, as well as access to the good things in life. The primary reason why we do not all have these things is that we are dependent on the wealthy to provide us with jobs and decent wages and they are dependent on our low wages for their profits and wealth. If we do not work, we cannot put food on the table. Thus, we have no choice but to continue selling our labor to them for whatever price we can get (a price that has been diminishing yearly since the 1970s when adjusted for inflation).

Until wage slavery itself is abolished, wages will continue to be the biggest influence on living conditions. Therefore, rather than simply giving a tax credit to the poor that lets the bosses off the hook and that encourages low wage work, the entire wage-based system must be ended and the quality of life needs to be unlinked from the type of work we do.

Today in Labor History—September 25

September 25, 1789 - The first Congress of the United States adopted the amendments to the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights, including the first amendment, which “guarantees” freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble, the legal basis for most workplace rights. (From Workday Minnesota)

September 25, 1894 - Playwright John Howard Lawson was born on this date in New York City. Lawson wrote several plays about the working class, includingThe International (1928), which depicts a world revolution by the proletariat, andMarching Song (1937), about a sit-down strike. In the late 1940s, Lawson was blacklisted as a member of the “Hollywood Ten” for his refusal to tell the House Committee on Un-American Activities about his political allegiances. (FromWorkday Minnesota)

Monday, September 24, 2012

CSU Considering Large Fee Hikes Regardless of November Tax Initiative

California voters will have a chance in November to vote for Proposition 30, which is predicted to bring in more than $7 billion to temporarily bail the state out of its now perennial budget deficits. Governor Jerry Brown has threatened extreme austerity measures should the bill fail in November, including large across the board cuts to K-12 and higher education. This would trigger an automatic $250-million cut to the California State University system (CSU) system, leading to a 5% tuition hike for in-state students, plus a 7% increase in supplemental fees for out of state students.

Yet, even if the bill passes, the CSU system will not be able to close its budget gap. Consequently, the governing board for CSU is considering numerous fee increases that would go into place even if Prop. 30 does pass. These would include a per unit supplement of $372 for seniors who have already accumulated 150 semester units, the Los Angeles Times reports, as well as a $100 per unit fee for students who want to repeat a class. Official estimates suggest that roughly 40,000 class spots are filled with students who are repeating classes. They also want to add a $200 per unit fee for any units over the usual 16 per semester. This is intended to discourage students from enrolling in large numbers of classes and then dropping them later.