Friday, March 31, 2006

Immigration and New York

If you've been following the fight over the anti-immigrant bill in Congress, the Drum Major Institute blog has a post up about the New York City Council's Wednesday immigration hearing.

Follow the Rat

(via Gothamist)

A new web tool to follow the giant inflatable rodents that highlight workplaces with bad labor practices: Check out this flickr stream.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sweeney's Meltdown

After all the skiing and the sledding, spring has come and the snow is melting ... and so is Sleddy's re-election campaign.

The T-U blog reports on the buzz that Congressman Sweeney may bow out.

Fossella Was Robbed

The New York Press has published its annual list of the 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers (thanks to Gothamist for noticing). There's a lot to disagree with there, but this stood out as an particularly egregious mistake:



Republican Congressman Vito Fossella is actively bucking any tradition of Italians putting family before everything else. As the U.S. representative from Staten Island and Bay Ridge, he has assembled a horrible record on LGBT issues, especially gay marriage—despite the fact that his sister is a lesbian in a long-term, committed relationship with children. Fossella, however, has an even-larger “family” to worry about: the national Republican Party. No one has done more to march in lockstep with the Bush administration than Fossella, who has become one of the most reliable toadies to the Bush agenda anyone could have ever asked for. Fossella has a zero rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America on issues of choice, another zero rating from the American Civil Liberties Union on civil liberties issues. He continually is thrilled with the warrantless wiretaps of American citizens, but he has never dared to utter a critical word on the Iraq war, even though many of his Republican colleagues have. He has been hand in glove with Bush on Social Security “reform.” Fossella is the timid pup to George Bush’s dog-walker. Sure, he has a mean bite, but he’ll only go as far as his master’s leash will allow him.

47?!?!?! Vito was robbed. He's easily top 20 material in our book.

STATEMENT: WFP State Chair to Giambra: "You Gotta Be Kidding"

For Immediate Release: March 30, 2006

Deflates Erie County Exec's Congressional Trial Balloon

BUFFALO -- Sam Williams, state co-chair of the Working Families Party, said today that Erie County Executive Joel Giambra had no chance of beating Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, and urged Giambra to think of other pursuits. According to a Rochester Democrat & Chronicle story today, Giambra is considering just such a move. Williams said:

"You gotta be kidding. Giambra is probably the most unpopular politician in Western New York. And Louise Slaughter's constituents know that she has been fighting hard for working families. I know Giambra has $800,000 burning a hole in his campaign treasury, but he should find somewhere else to spend it rather than wasting his time running for a congressional seat he can't win. I suggest he give the money to the County to help us balance the budget."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sleddy Sweeney's Wipeout

Want to hear the sound of a sled crashing? It sounds something like this: The Times Union blog reports that a state investigation has been launched into Rep. John "Sleddy" Sweeney's publicly-subsidized sledding trip to Lake Placid.

Kirsten Gillibrand's campaign is all over it.

From today's Glens Falls Post-Star, here's a list of guests that accompanied Sleddy:

Traveling independently to Lake Placid: U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, Gayle Sweeney (the congressman's wife), Angela Sparks, Wayne Beddoe, Dan Gage, Phil Oliva (former Sweeney aide), Jim Clark (Sweeney aide), Chris Nedwick (Sweeney aide), Jim Adler (Sweeney aide), Tony Scannella.

Traveling to Lake Placid via Southwest Airlines flight from Baltimore

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, Nete Sessions (the congressman's wife), Sean O'Shea, Geoff Gleason, Matthew Trant, Ian Musselman, Bill Teator (aide to former U.S. Rep. Gerald Solomon who later worked in Solomon's lobbying firm), Joe Reiss, Louise Perkins, Bob Bissen, Deborah Bissen, Shawn Smeallie, Ian Steff, Mike Johnson, Garrett Johnson, Thurgood Marshall, Teddi Levy, Steve Bull (USOC government representative), Sherry Turner, Amanda Cernik (Sweeney aide), Sean O'Neill (Sweeney aide), Melissa Carlson (Sweeney aide), Bill Rayball (Sweeney aide), Meredith Curcio, David Taft (Sweeney aide), Vickie Sanville (Sweeney aide), Anne McGuire, Peter Goelz, Maureen Dwyer, John Epting, Bob Okun, Jennifer Taylor, Brad Card (former Sweeney chief of staff, now a lobbyist), Scott Schloegel, Luci Gikovich, Dan Crane, Amanda Parsons, Lisi Kaufman, Robert Van Wicklin, Tim Powers, Ellen Powers, Don McGahn, Creighton Schneck
Sounds like quite a party. Wonder if the gang will be getting together for a game of Eight Ball at the next Sweeney bash. It's a lot safer than sledding.

How Sweeney Rakes It In

One of the WFP's favorite Albany bloggers, Democracy in Albany (a/k/a DIA), did some digging to explore ways besides skiing and toboganning that the Congressman enjoys fun-raising and fund-raising with Washington lobbyists. DIA discovers events on a yacht and on St. Patrick's Day.

Here's another. Turns out the Congressman likes a good game of Eight-Ball with the K Street crowd:

April 5, 2006
7:00 p.m.
Congressman John Sweeney's 3rd Annual Eight-Ball Tournament
Buffalo Billiards 1330 19th Street NW Washington, DC
Casual Attire $1,000 PACs $500 Personal
Enquiries: 202-302-7678 (Phone) 202-986-5319 (Fax)

Sigh. At least taxpayers aren't paying for this one.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Rep. Sweeney Goes Sledding

U.S. Rep John Sweeney went sledding recently. But the Republican Congressman who represents a 200-mile long district stretching from Poughkeepsie up to Lake Placid didn't take his children.

Rather, it was taxpayers that Rep. Sweeney took for a ride.

As the Syracuse Post-Standard first reported on Sunday:
The New York Power Authority used public money to pay for a $25,000 ski weekend for Rep. John Sweeney, of New York; a Texas congressman and his wife; at least a dozen lobbyists; and other D.C. staffers in Lake Placid. New Yorkers paid the way for the congressmen and other invited guests to ski, skate and toboggan like real Olympians for three days this winter.
Needless to say, Rep. Sweeney said that the trip received advance blessing from the always-rigorous (not) U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee.

However, according the Times Union Capitol Confidential blog when asked whether it was appropriate for NYPA, a State agency, to pick up the tab for the Congressman's tobaganning with lobbyists, Sweeney's spokesperson "took a pass: 'I don’t think it’s the congressman’s place to tell the state how to spend it’s money.'"

What!?!? It's for Sweeney to take the State's money, but who knows if it was okay for the State to give it to him?!?!?!

The Congressman's sledding adventure comes shortly after it was reported that he flew out to Utah for a fundraising-cum-skiing trip with Capitol Hill lobbyists. One of Sweeney's opponents, Kirsten Gillibrand, posted this vacation video.

The WFP's members look forward to interviewing Gillibrand and the various other challengers to the ethically bewildered Congressman.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Deirdre Schifeling talks health care on WBAI

The Working Families Party's own Deirdre Schifeling was on WBAI today at 1 PM (play download) talking about the Fair Share for Health Care Act. It starts at the 9 minute mark and lasts 22 minutes; give it a listen.

Friday, March 24, 2006

71 Fair Share for Health Care Act Assembly cosponsors

We're up to 71 cosponsors in the Assembly - the list is on our site - for the Fair Share for Health Care Act.

Take action.

Questions the Business Council Doesn't Ask

The Business Council of the State of New York, a vocal and ideological (anti-tax, anti-regulation) voice for the state's business interests, recently released a survey of state employers. The New York Post ran a brief story summarizing the findings, which predictably mirrored the Business Council's political agenda:
  • More than 90 percent of respondents strongly agreed (71 percent) or agreed somewhat (20.8 percent) that New York's combined state and local taxes hurt their companies' ability to compete. New York's state and local tax burden is the nation's heaviest.

  • Nearly 90 percent of respondents also strongly agreed (64.2 percent) or agreed somewhat (25.4 percent) that business taxes hurt competitiveness.

  • More than 85 percent of respondents strongly agreed (62.4 percent) or agreed somewhat (24 percent) that other state taxes, including personal income taxes and the state's estate taxes, undermine their competitiveness.

But here are some questions the Business Council didn't ask.
  • Does a state public education system that the court have ruled is constitutionally inadequate affect your ability to recruit a competitive workforce?
  • Does a failing physical infrastructure of roads and bridges and an over-priced, under-serviced mass transit system affect your ability to move people, goods and services?
  • Does a dysfunctional health care system that permits hugely profitable large corporations to shift their health care costs to responsible employers threaten the competitiveness of local employers, especially small businesses?
Maybe next survey, the Business Council could take a broader look at some of these questions.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

63 Assembly cosponsors and counting

Last week, over 1000 people emailed the Assembly in support of the Fair Share for Health Care Act. That work paid off - the bill was introduced by Assemblymember Gottfried with 63 Assembly cosponsors (a list will be on our web site soon).

Now, in one day, more than 700 people have already emailed their State Senators to support the bill.

Let's keep it going - first take action and then tell your friends.

This Time, the Business Council is Right

It must be Odd Bedfellows Day. First we give props to Gov. Pataki for the Contract Disclosure bill.

Now, we're forced into rare agreement with the Business Council of New York State, the ideological knee-jerk lobbying arm of the state's more conservative business interests.

Eliot Spitzer's comparison of the upstate economy to Appalachia was fair and justified. As Daniel Walsh, CEO of the Business Council, writes in an op-ed in the Rochester D&C today, "Is upstate really like Appalachia? The uncomfortable truth is that, in some ways, it is in even worse condition than the region that has symbolized American poverty for decades."

The WFP's prescription for recovery and growth varies sharply from the Business Council's, but our basic diagnosis is pretty similar.

In contrast, State GOP chair Steve Minarik seems to put his party in a state of denial and places politics ahead of policy -- arguing in another op-ed that glass is half full.

The truth is a decline in public investment and the absence of a real strategy to strengthen good jobs over the Pataki era has worsened economic conditions in the region.

Rare Props for Gov. Pataki

Fresh out of the hospital (continuing wishes for a strong recovery), Gov. Pataki has signed the Contract Disclosure bill. The legislation requires the state to disclose the true costs of government consulting contracts.

As the bill's Senate sponsor, Joe Robach said:
State agencies annually contract for consulting services that involve hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds. However at present, these contracts are subject to relatively little public disclosure or oversight. In many cases state agencies are hiring consultants for long periods of time and are paying them fees far greater than the amount that it would cost to hire state employees to do the same work.
Donna Lupardo was the the prime sponsor of the bill in the Assembly.

From an administration that has been racked by contracting scandal after scandal, enactment of the Contract Disclosure bill is a strong blow for the cause of good government.

And kudos, of course, to the WFP's affiliate, the Public Employees Federation, and allies that led a strong lobbying effort.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Friends with benefits takes on a whole new meaning

A story on the front page of today's Wall Street Journal (sorry, subscription required) gives a whole new meaning to the "Sex in the City"-era expression "friends with benefits."

Health insurance is expensive, complex and bureaucratic. These days, it's also sexy. Right up there with washboard abs, a steady job and a fun-loving personality, health coverage is emerging as a hot selling point among online daters. It's especially the case among suitors of a certain age who need, and prize, good benefits the most.

Those who have it sometimes flaunt it as an asset, a sign to potential mates that they are serious, professional and grounded. Others troll for partners with blue-chip policies because they need coverage themselves, or want evidence -- short of asking for a credit report -- that a prospect isn't a slacker.

Funny, yes, but not surprising. This is really just another cultural bellwether of the crisis in coverage.

Expand your horizons in online dating by supporting passage of the Fair Share for Health Care Act. The legislation would ensure that large employers provide decent and affordable benefits to their employees.

For more details, New Yorkers should send an urgent message to your legislator, visit

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bush has got nothing on Robert Burns

From the AP story on Bush's news conference speech today:
"Listen, every war plan looks good on paper until you meet the enemy," Bush said, acknowledging mistakes as the United States was forced to switch tactics and change a reconstruction strategy that offered targets for insurgents.
Indeed, the best-laid plans of mice and men...

It would be funny if it weren't so tragic. Trouble is, these plans didn't even look so hot on paper.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Fair Share for Health Care Act text

We've got a copy of the Fair Share for Health Care Act on our web site, check it out and post your comments.

Talking Back to the Post

Some good letters in Sunday's New York Post, responding to the tab's unintentionally ironic editorial on "Bruno's Betrayal," i.e., supporting the WFP's Fair Share for Health Care bill.

One local business owner writes:
The Post is wrong to claim that Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno is betraying New York's businesses by supporting legislation that would require companies that employ 100 or more workers, like Wal-Mart, to provide at least some health-care coverage for their workers ("Bruno's Betrayal," Editorial, March 12). Far from betraying anyone, the legislation would protect New York taxpayers' wallets and large businesses that do provide health-care coverage from unfair competition from companies like Wal-Mart.
And WFP Manhattan chapter member Shirley Littman writes:

Is The Post suggesting that public programs should continue to shoulder the burden of workers' health care? If so, you're barking up the wrong tree, because Bruno is absolutely right. He's saying that, for a little bit of money, an employer who has over 100 employees can give his employees health-care coverage. Taxpayers like me think it's about time.

Finally, a single-payer advocate wonders why the legislature is considering Fair Share rather than immediately implementing a universal health care solution. The WFP's policy director, Josh Mason, considered that question here a few days ago.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Boehlert retires

It's official, Sherwood Boehlert has announced his retirement.

Level the playing field

Strangely absent from the conservative response to the Fair Share for Health Care Act has been any discussion of leveling the playing field for responsible businesses.

Most businesses already provide the health care coverage called for in the Fair Share for Health Care Act. So why push for the bill? Because it's the right thing to do. It levels the playing field and gets rid of the penalty on businesses that do provide health care coverage, and it means 450,000 New Yorkers working for profitable companies will get health care.

A better question is why are supposedly conservative papers shilling to have favored companies get anti-competitive government subsidies. Any explanations?

Will Boehlert retire?

Sherwood Boehlert has scheduled a press conference today at 3 in Utica where he's expected to announce whether he's running for the U.S. House again this year or retiring.

If he retires, it'll set off a ripple effect where 2 Republican state senators, James Seward and Raymond Meier, run for his open seat, and then state reps start running for the state senate.

Smart money says Boehlert will retire; if so, it should be interesting.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

850 and counting

We passed 850 emails to the Assembly earlier today, cosponsors are signing on and the bill's being introduced soon. More news as it happens.

Jeanine's geography goof

AG candidate Jeanine Pirro is in the news again - this time for sticking her foot in her mouth when she tried to talk about upstate New York's geography. Pirro's explanation didn't help much, from the same article:
"Pirro later offered up another malapropism after acknowledging her geography mistake: 'Am I better than that? Absolutely not.'"
Maybe it's time to switch races?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

584 and counting

On day 1 of our push to get emails in to the Assembly in support of the Fair Share for Health Care Act, we're already at 584 people taking action.

Get involved.

Sirota Gives Props to the WFP

David Sirota's got a great piece about the Working Families Party in today's San Francisco Chronicle; there's more on his blog and at the Huffington Post. Read it and share your thoughts in the comments section.

100 emails to the Assembly

It took a half hour to get our first 100 emails asking Assemblymembers to cosponsor the Fair Share for Health Care Act. That's great!

Keep them coming - and tell your friends!

Fair Share for Health Care Assembly cosponsors

The Fair Share for Health Care Act is being introduced next week, and we're making a push now to get cosponsors. We're starting with the Assembly, so everyone who supports the bill should email their Assemblymember and ask them to sign on.

Take action now. Then spread the word to your friends.

And I'm definitely interested in hearing what your Assemblymember says if you hear back from them - just leave a note in the comments.

The Wal-Mart Tax

The AFL-CIO came out with a new study (pdf) yesterday that shows that in 19 out of 23 states for which the authors had data, Wal-Mart had more employees enrolled in state public health insurance programs than any other employer in the state. (That doesn't include New York, where preliminary data compiled by the WFP (pdf) would make that 20 out of 24 states)

And in exchange for taxpayer subsidies for its workforce, what does Wal-Mart give back in terms of economic development? Well, um, er ... Here's what the AFL-CIO study says:

On top of its health care subsidies, Wal-Mart has wrung at least $1 billion in economic development assistance from state and local governments over the past 20 years. [citing research by Good Job First]
Wal-mart: the company that keeps on taking, and taking, and taking.

Reason # 687 to make employers pay their fair share for health care.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Buffalo News shills

The Buffalo News came out with an editorial yesterday arguing that multi-billion dollar corporations should dump their employees on to Medicaid instead of providing health care, and raising the laughable spectre of businesses only "sell[ing] to New Yorkers online." Apparently, the Buffalo News' biggest fear is that New Yorkers may start finding out about this "internet" thing and buying things online. Bad news, but that ship has sailed.

Who exactly are they looking out for here? Obviously not working families, since they're basically arguing that no one should get health care from their employer.

This study may shed some insight into who the Buffalo News is trying to protect.

Monday, March 13, 2006

NY Post editorial makes for strange bedfellows

We don't often agree with the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, but they have more on the New York Post's recent discovery that they support government provided health care - as long as it lets some favored businesses gain an unfair advantage over responsible businesses by not giving their employees health care and instead dumping them on to Medicaid.

The New York Post's Betrayal

In an editorial on Sunday titled "Bruno's Betrayal," the New York Post lines up agaist the the WFP's Fair Share for Health Care initiative.

I wouldn't expect the Post to be swayed by the WFP's first argument for Fair Share: that it's simply wrong for an employee of hugely profitable, multi-billion dollar companies to be forced to go without medical care.

But one might think the state's most conservative tabloid would have some concern for the burden that some freeloading, low-road big businesses place on taxpayers. The Post's editorial page is one of the loudest and usually most consistent anti-tax voices in the state.

Faced with a conflict that must create some internal dissonance, the tab sides with the Wal-Marts of the world over the taxpayers of New York.

Call it the Post's Betrayal.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Providers Give Fair Share a Boost

The WFP's Fair Share for Health Care campaign got a boost yesterday when the Greater New York Hospital Association endorsed the proposed legislation. GNYHA, a trade association representing more than 250 not-for-profit hospitals and continuing care facilities, is considered one of the strongest voices for sound health care policy in the state. From the press release (no link available yet):

"Hospitals in the New York metropolitan area would welcome this important proposal to expand health insurance coverage to hardworking New Yorkers," said GNYHA Kenneth E. Raske. “The Fair Share for Health Care Act will level the playing field and create a more equitable system that will ensure more working New Yorkers have the health care coverage they need and deserve.”

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Fair Share for Health Care Act launch gets 50 press hits

With three more hits today - one in the Kaiser Family Foundation Daily Reports and the AP story in the The Citizen in New York state and the Star Tribune in Minnesota - the launch of the Fair Share for Health Care Act is up to 50 press hits!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Fair Share for Health Care blog coverage

Following on the press coverage that the launch of our Fair Share for Health Care Act got, we've been getting blogged about as well. Here's a roundup:
That's 6 posts, bringing us up to 47 press hits. If you see any posts I missed, let me know in the comments section.

Why not universal coverage?

The consensus on the blogs is that universal public health care (aka single-payer, Medicare for all, or what have you) is the only solution to the health care crisis. What we have to do, say our friends on the left, is eliminate the connection between health care and employment. Yet here we are at the WFP, proposing a Fair Share plan that reinforces employer responsibility for health care. What gives? Do we think Kevin Drum, Ezra Klein, Matthew Yglesias and the rest of them are all wrong?

Not at all.

There is no question that in the long run, the only way to control healthcare costs and guarantee universal coverage is through a greatly expanded role for the public sector. The WFP has been on record in support of universal public health insurance since our founding, and we still are.

But, we think Fair Share is the right proposal for New York State, for this year. Here’s why:

There is a healthcare crisis now. Progressives – including us! – have been pushing for single-payer for years. Realistically, it will be years more before we win. Meanwhile, 3 million New Yorkers are going without needed healthcare because they lack insurance. We believe that – with a lot of work and a little luck – a broad employer mandate can pass this year. If that extends health benefits to half a million uninsured New Yorkers, that's a big step, even if it doesn't solve the larger healthcare problem.

We need to defend existing coverage, until we win real reform. Over the past 15 years, New York has greatly expanded public health programs, yet the number of uninsured has hardly budged. As fast as we add people to public programs like Medicaid and Child Health Plus, we lose them from employer coverage. Meanwhile, those who do have insurance face skyrocketing contributions and out-of-pocket costs. Fair Share will prevent big businesses from further shifting costs to workers while we move toward real reform.

Fair Share creates a constituency for further reform. Our current crazy-quilt system rewards businesses that are able to shift health costs to their workers, other businesses and the public. As long as these businesses can freeload, they will be implacable opponents of reform. but once they are paying their fair share, they will have the same interest in a rational health care system as the rest of us.

We need to prove that healthcare is a winning political issue. As Mark Schmitt says, "universal health care is universally supported by people who don’t have to win elections and universally feared by people who do." If we can mount a winning campaign on Fair Share, it will make it much easier to convince politicians to take a chance on broader reform.

Fair Share is an idea whose time has come. All across the country, people are excited about the idea of requiring employers to pay more for healthcare. 35 states are considering some form of fair share legislation. Labor wants to make it harder for low-wage businesses to undercut union employers. Living-wage advocates are looking for the next step beyond regulating wages. Anti-Wal-Mart campaigners are looking for a winning issue to challenge the big-box goliaths. The media is waking up to the social costs of the low-road model. Fair Share taps into this energy in a way that, at the moment, single-payer does not.

In the long run, we need to fight for universal healthcare. And the WFP is going to do just that. But we think the immediate crisis is too pressing – and the immediate opportunity too promising – to pass up the chance to pass the Fair Share bill this year. Yes, our employer-based healthcare system is in need of major surgery. But first let’s stop the bleeding.

Fair Share for Health Care launch coverage

Yesterday's launch of the Fair Share for Health Care Act was big news. You can read about it in The New York Times, The New York Sun, the Times-Union, the New York Post, and Crain's Health Pulse [no link].

Here's what Crain's had to say, under the heading "STATE BILL FOR UNINSURED":
"Meanwhile, the Fair Share for Health Care Act was introduced yesterday by the Working Families Party. The bill - which the party says would aid 450,000 full-time workers statewide who don't get insurance from their employers - would require companies with 100 or more workers in the state to spend at least $3 per hour per employee for health benefits. Manufacturing and agricultural businesses are excluded. The bill's prime sponsors are Nicholas Spano in the Senate and Richard Gottfried in the Assembly. The WFP says it has more than 10,000 signatures endorsing the plan, and it intends to collect another 50,000."
We also got an AP story that ran in New York in The Buffalo News, WNBC, WSTM, Newsday, and the Poughkeepsie Journal. The AP story went nationwide, running in the Washington Post, ABC, CBS, the Times Daily in Alabama, the San Jose Mercury News and The Monterey County Herald in California, DC coverage on ABC and WTOP, the Miami Herald and The Ledger and The Herald and Ocala Star-Banner in Florida, Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky, in Michigan, the Duluth News Tribune and the Mankato Free Press in Minnesota, Sun Herald in Mississippi, WRAL in North Carolina, Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota, Enid News in Oklahoma, Ledger-Enquirer in Ohio, Centre-Daily and Times Leader and in Pennsylvania, The Sun News in South Carolina, Aberdeen News in South Dakota, Star-Telegram in Texas, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Columbian in Washington state,, and the Pierceland Herald up in Saskatchewan, Canada.

That's 41 hits, let me know in the comments section if you see any I missed.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Fair Share for Health Care reading: 3/7/06

Joe Rossi in the Post-Standard lays out why we need to pass the Fair Share for Health Care Act in New York this year and, at the national level, Bernie Horn in lays out how Fair Share for Health Care moves us closer to health care for everyone.

Fair Share for Health Care launches in Albany

We have liftoff! At a press conference today in the State Capitol, the newly-named Fair Share for Health Care Act launched.

Working Families Party state co-chairs Bertha Lewis and Bob Master, SEIU/1199 Executive VP Jennifer Cunningham, and WFP Executive Committee members Peter Colavito, Patrick Gaspard, Pat Purcell, Richard Kirsch, Jane Thompson, Dwight Loines and George Albro joined Assemblymember Richard Gottfried and Senator Nick Spano, who are the bill's prime sponsors, and a number of other legislators to show their support for Fair Share Health Care.

Everyone listened to Mike Kellogg, the CEO of Century Direct, a printing and mail services firm, talk about why his high-road business provides decent health care for his employees and to Sharlett Cummings, who works at a senior living facility, and Joseph Schiraldi, a security guard at the Empire State Building, talk about how they've both had to sign up for Medicaid because their low-road employers refuse to provide decent benefits.

Wal-Mart also sent a lobbyist to speak out against solving the problem represent the company, and they've hired Albany powerbroker Pat Lynch to make sure Wal-Mart keeps an unfair advantage over local businesses protect the company's bottom line.

After the press conference we went to ask legislators to sign up as cosponsors - more on that soon.

Health Care Bill name poll results

The poll results to pick a name for our Health Care Bill are in! In less than a week, 719 people voted, and the winning bill name is the Fair Share for Health Care Act. Here are the vote results:

Fair Share for Health Care Act240 votes33.38%
Health Care Security Act206 votes28.65%
Employer Health Care Responsibility Act153 votes21.28%
Corporate Accountability for Medicaid Spending Act56 votes7.79%
We also got 64 write-in votes.

Thanks to everyone who voted! Together, we'll pass the Fair Share for Health Care Act this year.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Will Maltese blink?

There's been more movement in the fight to win full funding for New York schools. Endangered Senate Republicans are indicating they might break ranks with Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and join with Democrats on the issue. Bruno's been trying to cover for his endangered incumbents, but his caucus is inching closer to splitting.

The Assembly Democrats support fully funding the schools, so Republican Senators like Serphin Maltese are the next hurdle to clear.

And Maltese - Bloomberg's #1 target - is feeling the heat. The Politicker quoted Maltese as saying, "The fact of the matter is we are now attempting to work closely with the Mayor and his people to get as much additional funding for the schools as possible." How truthful Maltese is being when he says that may determine how this all plays out.

One thing's for sure, Bruno doesn't help himself achieve his top goal - holding onto his majority - by first saying there isn't $7.4 billion to fund the schools and then saying there's $8.4 billion available for a tax cut.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Jeanine's pig won't hunt

AG candidate Jeanine Pirro is trying to reinvent herself as a rural candidate by claiming her Vietnamese potbellied pigs "reflect the rural, small-town roots that Pirro says put her in touch with the needs of Upstate New Yorkers."


I guess there's nowhere for Pirro to go but up. All the same, I'm not sure trying to redefine barnyard animals to include a family pet that can do tricks and use a litter box is the way to go.

Special election wins send a health care message

In Sylvia Friedman's special election race, over 12% of the votes cast were on the Working Families Party line, up from 3.9% in 2004. And in Linda Rosenthal's special election race, over 6% of the votes were cast on the Working Families Party line, up from 3.56% in 2004.

That increase sends a message to Albany that we want health care reform now.

Next week, we'll take that message to Albany as we launch our health care campaign. Watch the blog for details.

Until then, there's still time to vote for a name for our Health Care Bill. 650 people have cast a vote, and "Fair Share for Health Care Act" is still narrowly leading "Health Care Security Act".

Fair Share: can they afford it?

The five surviving family members of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton are worth $15 and half billion each, holding spots 6 through 10 on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. Let’s leave aside for now (but only for now!) the questions of whether such concentrations of wealth are compatible with democracy, or what the fact that so many of the country’s largest fortunes are inherited says about our economy. Instead, let’s ask a simpler question: how much would it cost the Waltons to provide health insurance to all Wal-Mart workers?

Wal-Mart’s annual profits are a bit over $10 billion -- $10.3 bill in 2005. The Walton family owns 40 percent of the company, so their share of its profits comes to $4.1 billion.

Meanwhile, 15 percent of Wal-Mart’s 1.3 million workers have no health insurance at all. It costs Wal-Mart $3,500 per worker to provide individual coverage, so to cover all their uninsured workers would cost the company $680 million. That’s about 15 percent of the five Waltons’ share of Wal-Mart’s profits.

So the next time someone says corporations like Wal-Mart can’t afford health benefits, keep these numbers in mind. The cost of covering every one of Wal-Mart’s uninsured workers would come to less than a fifth of what the Walton family collects each year just for being born (or in the case of Helen Walton, marrying) lucky. Healthcare for Wal-mart workers or an extra yacht (island? small nation? what do you buy with $15 billion?) for the Walton family -- that is the choice.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

CAFTA's reception in Central America

The Nation's got a new article up on CAFTA (the Central American Free Trade Agreement), which narrowly passed the House in a 217 to 215 vote. Turns out CAFTA isn't any more popular in Central America than it is in the United States. You'll recall that back in August 2005, the Working Families Party and some of our allies held one of the first press conferences attacking the CAFTA 15 (the 15 turncoat Dems who voted in favor of CAFTA).

Makes you wonder why anyone in Congress voted for it (here's looking at you, Edolphus Towns).

Anyone want to defend Rep. Towns voting for it?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Name our Health Care Bill update

Over 350 people have voted for a name for our Health Care Bill! "Fair Share for Health Care Act" is in the lead, followed by "Health Care Security Act" and then "Employer Health Care Responsibility Act". "Corporate Accountability for Medicaid Spending Act" is doing a little more respectably than it had been but is still way behind.

The comments section is open for you to make the case for the bill name you like best.

Keep voting!

200 votes and counting!

Over 200 people have cast a vote to name our Health Care Bill! It's still neck and neck, but "Fair Share for Health Care Act" has pulled seven votes ahead of "Health Care Security Act" with "Employer Health Care Responsibility Act" fading but still in striking distance of the two leaders. "Corporate Accountability for Medicaid Spending Act" is way back with only eight votes.

Make your case in the comments section for the bill name that you picked then tell your friends to vote at

Vote today!

First 100 votes are in!

The first 100 votes to name our Health Care Bill are already in! It's neck and neck, with "Health Care Security Act" two votes ahead of "Fair Share for Health Care Act." "Employer Health Care Responsibility Act" is trailing slightly and "Corporate Accountability for Medicaid Spending Act" is way behind with five votes. If you've got a favorite, tell your friends to vote too at

Go vote!

Name our Health Care Bill

Next week we're introducing a Health Care Bill in the State Legislature. Before then, we're giving you a chance to weigh in on the bill.

Our bill levels the playing field for responsible local businesses that struggle to compete against large corporations like Wal-Mart that don't pay their fair share for decent health benefits for their employees. It will ensure secure health coverage for more than 450,000 workers and stop free-loading corporations from putting their workers on Medicaid where taxpayers pay for coverage.

You have the chance to vote to decide what the bill will be named. Take a second to vote, and then come back to the blog to see how the voting is going and share your thoughts and what you voted for.

Rosenthal and Friedman win

Linda Rosenthal and Sylvia Friedman - both endorsed by the Working Families Party - won their Assembly races yesterday. Congratulations to both of you, we've got high hopes for what you'll get done in Albany.

Thanks also to everyone who cast a health care vote for them on Row E - you sent Albany a message that we want health care reform now.

A Get Well Card for Gov. Pataki

Dear Governor Pataki,

I’m glad to hear that you’ve started to recover. You must really be getting tired of being in the hospital; after all, it’s been nearly two weeks since Feb. 16th, when you first went in for your appendectomy at the Hudson Valley Hospital in Westchester. When you were transferred to New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical School on the 21st, that was probably been the only time you’ve gotten out since your operation.

But now, the doctors say things are starting to look up, and you should be released pretty soon. I bet you’re excited to get back to work, up in Albany. After all, I’m sure all that time lying in hospital beds has given you time to think.

You’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking just how lucky you are to have such comprehensive health coverage, to allow you a two-week hospital stay when you need it – and in two of the finest hospitals in the state. After all, nearly 3 million New Yorkers have no health insurance coverage at all. Most of those nearly 3 million (2.1 million, or 72%) are employed, full-time.

We have a safety net for the elderly, the unemployed and the very poor; but more and more working families in New York are being left uninsured or underinsured by big employers looking to cut corners. Sometime, the uninsured fall into the over-burdened public health care system, (and we tax-payers have to pick up the slack). Sometimes, they simply go without, paying out of pocket for medical expenses. That’s why medical emergencies are the single largest cause of bankruptcy in the country.

So you must be excited to get back to work and begin to address the state’s health care crisis, aided by your new perspective on just how crucial health coverage is. That’s why I know you’ll decide to support Fair Share for Health Care, and force large employers to pay a minimum amount of their employees’ health coverage, and cover 450,000 working people in New York. While you’re at it, I’m sure you’ll also support the Prescription Drug Purchasing Pool—this will allow us to negotiate collectively with pharmaceutical companies, saving money for working people across the state, as well as all the state’s taxpayers.

I’m as excited for you to get better, get out of the hospital and back to Albany as you are. Please, Governor, help show that health care policy can be humane, fiscally sensible and, at the same time, level the playing field for responsible local businesses struggling to compete against large profitable corporations like Wal-Mart. And show us all that when you’ve gotten out of the hospital, you really have gotten better.

Joe Dinkin
WFP College Club Coordinator