Friday, June 30, 2006

WFP endorsements for 2006

Our local members and activists have interviewed candidates from around the state, asking questions on living wage jobs, affordable housing, better health care, investment in our schools and many other issues important to working families.

Here are the 2006 WFP endorsements. Congratulations to all the endorsed candidates!

And another round of thanks and congratulations to our members for all the time and effort they put into the endorsement process.

Here's more from Working Families Party state co-chair Bob Master:
"The WFP endorsement is like a seal of approval that says, 'these candidates have pledged to fight for the issues that matter most to low-income, working and middle-class New Yorkers – good jobs, good schools and good government.'

The WFP endorses candidates based on members' evaluations of their record of accomplishment and positions on the issues that matter most to working families.

Over the last two months, 206 candidates completed our issue questionnaire, and more than 350 members conducted 182 in-person interviews to make 138 endorsements.

In elections where members were unable to recommend a single candidate as preferable as an advocate for the WFP's issue agenda, no endorsement was made."
The comments are open for your thoughts and questions.

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Vito Fossella hearts Tom DeLay

No wonder Republican incumbent Vito Fossella thought it was ok to use $53,000 in campaign contributions to pay for luxury trips. (Those trips are the subject of a possible FEC investigation.)

Fossella also abused his taxpayer-paid Congressional mailing privileges to promote his reelection bid. Why spend your own campaign contributions to get reelected when you can spend taxpayer money, right Vito?

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Union Organizing or Social Justice?

This line in today's Post caught our attention:
Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, called yesterday's protest "more about union organizing than social justice."
Spinola was reacting to a protest at the Empire State Building where seven protesters, including State Senators Tom Duane and Kevin Parker were arrested " while staging a protest for better wages and benefits for security officers there." The owners of the Empire State Building contract out security for New York's most important landmark building to a private firm called Copstat, that Pays $9 per hour, and doesn't offer decent, affordable health benefits.

But back to Spinola. He draws a distinction that eludes this blog because, quite simply, union organizing builds an on-ramp to the highway for social justice. In the words of Dr King, comparing the civil rights movement to the union movement:
"Our needs are identical with labor's needs: Decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community."
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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Schaeffer Says: Urstadt Repeal Necessary for a Sustainable New York

WFP Manhattan chapter leader Kenny Schaeffer writes in with a valuable observation on Tuesday night's NYC Rent Guidelines Board hearing.
The Times got it right: the hundreds of angry tenants from across the city who packed Cooper union to Tuesday's vote for further steep hikes were focused as never before on the need to restore NYC home rule over rent and evictions. When Rockefeller took away local control in 1971, the median rent in the city was $215/month. We can't sustain a city with only the very poor and the very rich, because neither groups pays enough taxes [to sustain a society that lives up to our values].
Absolutely right. From that Times story:

Tenant organizers contend that legislators in Albany are insensitive to the interests of New York City renters and are beholden to landlord interests. Tenant leaders said the current escalation of rents stemmed in part from an erosion of tenant protections since the state began taking greater control in the 1970's. With city control, they say, they could lobby their own elected officials.

"At least we would be dealing with local officials who have rent-regulated tenants in their districts, not some state senator from Plattsburgh who doesn't have a single rent-regulated apartment in his district but gets a lot of money from New York City landlords," said Michael McKee, the treasurer of Tenants Political Action Committee.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wrapping up Fair Share

From Bertha Lewis, Bob Master and Sam Williams, Working Families Party Co-Chairs, and Dan Cantor, Executive Director of the WFP:

We didn't make it. Wal-Mart and its allies beat us back. But we are not gloomy. Here's why . . .

Over the last 6 months, the Working Families' leaders, members and staff have been hammering away at the Fair Share for Health Care Act.

It was a simple but profound idea: If you're a large employer in New York, then the cost of doing business in our state would include an adequate contribution toward health care coverage for your workers. A simple proposal based on the Golden Rule, really. Unless you're willing to live without health insurance, you shouldn't ask someone else to do so. Nothing more, but nothing less.

Business went nuts. Despite good faith efforts by a few to work with us to refine the legislation, most employers took the low road and just said "No." And we could not overcome their lobbying against the bill.

Fair Share was not a comprehensive solution to the health care crisis in New York state. But it would have done two very important things. First, several hundred thousand people in New York state would have seen their lives improved. The anxiety that comes from living without health coverage - at least for the 450,000 actual human beings who would have been covered - would have been lessened. So, in terms of improving the conditions of everyday life, this was a bill worth passing.

Just as important, the Fair Share bill would have underlined in bold the principle - and it's a crucial one - that corporations exist to serve people and not the other way around. Passage of Fair Share would have said that, in New York at least, large profitable corporations would be allowed to neither rip off the taxpayer nor undercut responsible employers who do provide good benefits.

There are, after all, only three sources of money for the health care system: taxes, individuals and employers. The trend in America is towards a greater individual burden as a way to reduce costs (via rationing, really). Our view is that we should not let Wal-Mart, Home Depot or McDonald's off the hook. That's what the Fair Share battle was about.

So, we couldn't get it through. But we did elevate the issue enormously. People will still be getting sick next year. And the fact that nearly three million New Yorkers don't have health insurance will still be a disgrace. In 2007, the state will release a study showing to the dollar the cost that large low-road employers are shirking. Our task is to make sure that our new Governor understands that it is long past time for a comprehensive approach to health care, and such an approach will necessarily require an end to freeloading by large employers.

"The folks at the Working Families Party should pat themselves on the back for putting the plight of the uninsured on the agenda."
--Daily News, Editorial, 6/19/06

Onto some thank yous. A lot of people worked hard on this campaign. Doors were knocked, letters were written, emails were sent, rallies and press conferences were organized, lobbying and legislative hearings were held, memos and reports and white papers got written, and state legislators got a flood of emails and calls. The struggle for a better society takes work. Chapter leaders, affiliate leaders, online activists and staff put our hearts and souls into this. So while it's disappointing to declare defeat, there is, as a great writer once said, sometimes a "victory in defeat." That's how we feel, and we want to thank everyone who worked on and contributed to this effort. In the end, together, we will prevail.

Meanwhile, we now head towards the electoral season. It's going to be an intense and exciting four months. Our focus will be on Congress. There are races all across the state - upstate and down - and we need your help. The WFP is poised to provide the margin of victory against some really bad Republicans, but only if everyone does their (fair) share.

Look for an update on the Take Back Congress - New York campaign soon. In the meantime, read the Village Voice interview with our "Director of Congressional Repo Operations." (That's right, we've got our own "Repo Man").

We need volunteers, ideas, money and energy. If you already know you're ready to help financially (and why wouldn’t you!), please donate today.

You can make a donation here:
http://www.workingfamiliesparty.org/support

That's it. Read the papers, pay your dues, and . . . organize.

Sincerely,

Bertha Lewis, Bob Master and Sam Williams
Working Families Party Co-Chairs

Dan Cantor
Working Families Party Executive Director
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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Trouble for Fossella

A series of stries in the Daily News (here, here and here) may spell serious trouble for Staten Island Congressman Vito Fossella. Words and phrases like "Jet-set Vito," "ski schools and lift tickets," and "Gabino crime family" are direct mail-ready for Democrat/WFP candidate Steve Harrison.

The WFP has made the fight to take back Congress its top electoral priority in 2006. No decisions have been made yet about which races will be targeted, but the vulnerability of the Republican candidate will certainly be a factor.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Press Release; State legislature Passes 'Fair Share' Disclosure Bill

State Legislature Passes 'Fair Share' Disclosure Bill
Shame Will Provide Impetus To Reform, WFP Says

How much does Wal-Mart's failure to provide decent, affordable health benefits cost New York taxpayers? How many building service employees in the Empire State Building are enrolled in Family Health Plus because their employer doesn't provide health coverage?

New Yorkers may soon know the answers to these and similar questions. Both houses of the state legislature passed legislation (S6682 – Maziarz/A10637-Gottfried) requiring disclosure of:

  • The number of employees of the state's largest employers (200 or employees) enrolled in state-funded public health insurance programs.
  • The cost each of these employers imposes on the state.
The Senate passed the bill on Thursday. The Assembly acted on Friday.

Earlier this week, the WFP announced that the Fair Share for Health Care Act would not pass this legislative session and called for passage of the disclosure bill that passed. "We were disappointed that the legislature was not ready to expand access to health care by reconstructing the social compact between workers and employers," said Dan Cantor executive director of the WFP.

"However, this year's disclosure bill - requiring the State to disclose how many employees of Wal-Mart and other large businesses are gaming the system by shifting their health care costs to taxpayers - is a start towards ensuring that large businesses pay their fair share," said Cantor. "The disclosure bill sets the stage for concrete action next year. Shame can be a useful prod towards taking responsibility. New Yorkers will be able to make a stronger case in 2007 for legislation that establishes employer responsibility as a necessary principle in comprehensive health care reform."

The WFP is urging Gov. Pataki to sign the legislation.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Hatch-et Man

"As New Yorkers' ire over the Bush agenda rises, the Working Families Party is upping the ante against the president's friends in Congress with a fresh game plan for the midterm elections."
That's the lede from a nice interview with the WFP's latest and greatest helping hand, Peter Hatch, over at VillageVoice.com. Here's a highlight:
[Q] If I were a Democratic candidate in a tight congressional race, why would I going to seek out the Working Families Party's endorsement over another third party's?

[A] Low-income voters, working families, middle-class voters all share a core set of values, and those, for example, could be an honest day's pay for an honest day's work. These values have just been trashed by this Republican Congress. Other parties have sometimes narrow agendas; other parties sometimes more broad agendas, which can include hot-button social issues, but this is what we focus on - these pocketbook issues that really, really matter to voters.
And here's the WFP press release announcing Peter's role:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 23, 2006

WFP HIRES PETER HATCH TO LEAD HOUSE CAMPAIGN EFFORT
Operative Will Be "Director of Congressional Repo Operations"

The Working Families Party (WFP) has hired Peter Hatch to head up its congressional campaign efforts. The WFP has added a campaign to help take back Republican congressional seats to its 2006 priority electoral agenda. Hatch, an experienced operative, will hold the title of Director of Congressional Repo Operations.

"The Working Families Party has been instrumental in the last two congressional takeaways in New York State," said Hatch. "Votes on the WFP line provided the margin of victory for Tim Bishop (D/WFP-Suffolk County) in 2002 and Brian Higgins (D/WFP-Western NY). The mission of our Repo Operations program is to do that again, two or three times over in 2006."

"I'll be guiding a significant operation to move independent voters to vote for Democratic/WFP candidates in the most competitive House districts in the state, and collecting the resources to support that effort," said Hatch.

WFP State Co-Chair Bob Master said winning congressional seats in November has become a co-equal priority with the party's other fall goals: collecting 200,000 votes on its line for Eliot Spitzer and defending State Senator Dave Valesky’s seat (D/WFP-Central NY). "This November may be the moment when New York becomes the battleground for taking back our country, a moment for us to draw a line in the sand that protects working families from a final two years of Republican rule," said Master.

Hatch's resume includes work for John Edwards (NH, NY), Kerry-Edwards (FL), New York City Councilman Bill de Blasio, and Mark Green '01 (NYC Mayoral).

And as an activist, he has raised money to help progressive groups like Downtown for Democracy and Americans Coming Together (ACT).

The Working Families Party is a grassroots, community and labor based political party. The goal of the party is to make elected officials focus more on issues like jobs, health care and education that affect low-income, working and middle class voters who work hard to make ends meet.

###

Update: If you want to interview Peter (bloggers welcome) contact Steve and he'll be in touch as we move forward.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

State Senate passes Disclosure Bill

How much does Wal-Mart's failure to provide decent, affordable health benefits cost New York taxpayers? How many building service employees in the Empire State Building are enrolled in Family Health Plus because their employer doesn't provide health coverage?

New Yorkers may soon know the answers to these and similar questions. The New York State Senate today passed legislation (S6682 - Maziarz) requiring disclosure of:
  • The number of employees of the state's largest employers (200 or employees) enrolled in public health insurance programs.
  • The cost each of these employers imposes on the state.
Earlier this week, we announced that the Fair Share for Health Care Act would not pass this legislative session and called for legislation that would provide more information on the burden placed on taxpayers by employers that don't provide benefits.

Working Families Party Executive Director Dan Cantor had this to say:
"If the legislature is not ready to expand access to health care by reconstructing the social compact between workers and employers, then we hope that they will start by using shame as a tool: requiring the State to disclose annually how many employees of Wal-Mart and other large businesses are enrolled in Medicaid and other public health insurance programs.

This year's disclosure bill sets the stage for concrete action next year. We believe this legislation will enable concerned New Yorkers to make a stronger case in 2007 for legislation that establishes employer responsibility as a necessary principle in comprehensive health care reform."
The WFP urges the Assembly to pass the bill and Gov. Pataki to sign it.

More trouble for Sleddy Sweeney

There's renewed attention of the investigative variety focused on Sleddy Sweeney's ski junket. You'll recall this particular ski junket for Sweeney and his friends and favorite lobbyists was paid for with $25,000 in taxpayer dollars.

No wonder Sweeney is refusing to debate Kirsten Gillibrand - he doesn't want to answer for his questionable ethics.

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Problem with comments fixed

We've been having a problem with comments not getting posted, but it should be fixed now and everyone's comments are up. Let me know if you have trouble commenting.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Wal-Mart 1, Working Families 0 after the first inning

Our work on the Fair Share for Health Care Act is forcing an honest discussion about health care in New York and lays the groundwork to push for comprehensive health care reform as this discussion moves forward under a new administration.

But it's now apparent that the state legislature will adjourn this year without taking action on the bill. It's a temporary victory for businesses like Wal-Mart that don't provide decent, affordable health benefits. And it's a setback for responsible employers that do the right thing but struggle to compete, for taxpayers who are forced to continue to subsidize Wal-Mart's low-road business model, and for nearly 500,000 working families here in New York who will continue to rely on emergency rooms for their health care.
"The folks at the Working Families Party should pat themselves on the back for putting the plight of the uninsured on the agenda."
- Daily News Editorial, 6/19/06

We've done a lot to push Fair Share Health Care forward, and we got farther than any of the pundits predicted. We've elevated the issue of employer responsibility for the uninsured. And the fight is not over. Now the stage is set for action in future years.

Rome wasn't built in a day. It took us six years to win the fight to increase the state's minimum wage. And a new Governor with a commitment to comprehensive health care reform will take office on January 1, with a mandate for progressive change from the WFP.

"[A] single piece of legislation, the Fair Share for Health Care bill, could shake the state out of denial and force an honest discussion about health care . . . . [The Working Families Party] makes the credible case that state taxpayers are paying for the health insurance that should be provided by employers . . . It would be good to use the legislation as a tool for all of the state's "stakeholders" to come together and try to figure out how to insure all New Yorkers."
- Syracuse Post-Standard Editorial, 6/20/06


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"Lie and Die"

-- John Kerry's synoposis of the Bush administration's Iraq plan (on Imus this morning, via The Note)

Press Release: WFP's Legislative Priorities: Fair Share Plus Four

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 19, 2006

WFP Reiterates Legislative Priorities

Fair Share for Health Care Plus Four

ALBANY -- The Working Families Party today reiterated its end-of-session legislative priories in an open memo to state legislators reproduced below.
An Open Memo to State Legislators:
With five days left in the legislative session, we would like to remind you of the five most important priorities for working families among proposals under active consideration by the State Assembly and Senate:
  • Fair Share for Health Care (S.7090/A.10583): No employee of a multi-billion dollar company like Wal-Mart should be forced to go without medical care.
  • The Right for Home Day Care Workers to Organize (A.10060/S.6758 – Veto Override). Follow the example of Illinois, California and other states, and recognize that home healthcare and childcare workers paid for public funds are public employees, and should be treated as such under law.
  • Healthy New York Amendments (A.11099/S.7796). Amending Healthy New York would increase employer-based health insurance coverage for low-wage workers by reforming the existing Healthy New York program.
  • IDA Reform (S.7391/A.10787). New York's corporate subsidies are wasteful, poorly targeted, encourage competition between localities, lack a track record of creating jobs, and do not impose any meaningful standards on businesses that receive them. Industrial Development Authorities are one of New York’s main economic-development tools, but there is no evidence that they actually create jobs. State law should be reformed so that the public can gauge the effectiveness of subsidies, and to impose stricter standards on subsidy recipients.
  • Telecommunications Regulation (S.5910/A.8979; S.6864/A.9808). The legislature should ensure universal access and strengthen consumer protections for local telephone service.
Thank you for your consideration of these bills, each of which is important to the working families of New York state.

Bob Master, Bertha Lewis and Sam Williams
State Co-Chairs, The Working Families Party

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Call the Senate for Fair Share

I want to thank everyone who has called the Senate in support of the Fair Share for Health Care Act. There's still time to call your Senator and demand that they take action to make sure that no employee of a multi-billion dollar company like Wal-Mart is forced to go without medical care.

The Senate switchboard is 518-455-2800, or go to the Fair Share site for more details.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Good election news in New York's 20th district

Kirsten Gillibrand, the WFP candidate for Congress in CD-20, got some good news - from a poll commissioned by her Republican opponent.

The poll shows Republican incumbent Sleddy Sweeney polling at just 51% in their Congressional race. Sweeney had tried to hide the poll internals (in violation of state law), but was forced to release them.

Gillibrand's favorable rating is at 22% and her unfavorable is at 8%, with 69% of the district not recognizing her name. This early in a campaign, it's expected that the challenger will have low name recognition and it means there's huge growth potential. As more people hear about Kirsten Gillibrand, Sweeney's 51% poll number will drop and she'll move into the lead.

The Times-Union has more on the poll (warning: the article's got a heavy dose of pro-Sweeney spin).

It's going to be an exciting year, will you be with us as we take back the U.S. House?

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Good election news from Ohio

In Ohio, Sherrod Brown leads Republican incumbent Mike DeWine 48% to 39% for U.S. Senate, and the same poll shows Ted Strickland leading Republican Ken Blackwell 53% to 37%. If Democrats in Ohio can win big then we should clean up here in New York.

Will you be with us as we take back the U.S. House?

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I Bet Grover Norquist Doesn't Like the Minimum Wage Either

Under the charming headline, "Die, Fair Share, Die," the New York Press's blog reports the comments of radical right-wing anti-government strategist Grover Norquist:
"When the government tells businesses what to do and how much to do it for, workers and consumers bear the brunt by losing jobs and facing higher prices. The 'Fair Share' bill is like prescribing leeches to cure a fever. [?!?] In removing the 'problem' of having some part-time jobs without health care, you also remove the 'problem' of having jobs, the lifeblood of economic growth," said ATR President Grover Norquist.
Yeah, don't you just hate it when government tells businesses that they have to keep safety equipment on hand, provide an honest day's pay for an honest day's work and begins to think about providing decent, affordable health benefits.

Poor Grover must really hate America.

Bob Master's Fair Share testimony to the Senate

Bob Master is the Co-Chair of the New York Working Families Party and the Legislative and Political Director of CWA District 1

Good morning Chairman Hannon, Chairman Seward, and distinguished members of the Senate Health and Insurance Committees. I am here on behalf of both the Working Families Party and my union, the Communications Workers of America.

In my view, the only viable solution to the problem of the uninsured in the near term is a requirement that large businesses spend a reasonable amount on health benefits.

My colleague Josh Mason will explain in more detail why we think Fair Share is the solution in a moment. But first, I want to make two fundamental points.

First, our current system of employer-sponsored health insurance is collapsing. The question is not, keep our current system or change it. If we don’t take positive steps to shore it up, it will change - and almost certainly not for the better.

Second, Fair Share is the conservative solution to our health care crisis. The goal of Fair Share is simply to preserve the existing division of responsibility between employers, workers and the public. It will halt the race to the bottom and preserve employment-based health care as we know it - which right now is going the way of the dinosaurs.

There is not a business in the state that is not looking for ways to reduce its health care costs. And right now, the easiest way for them to reduce their costs is to pass them off to someone else - their workers or the taxpayer.

Even businesses with long histories of good benefit packages, and good relations with their workers, businesses that prize loyalty and encourage long-term commitments from their workers - even these businesses are being forced by competitive pressure to cut back on health benefits. The "high-road" business model cannot survive under the perverse incentives our current health care system creates.

I was at Macy's recently, and I noticed a plaque on the wall honoring employees who had been with the company for 50 years. This is not the model in retail today.

If the government doesn't put a floor under benefits, just like it puts a floor under wages, every business will make a rational decision to rush to the bottom. They will stop creating good jobs like Macy’s, or like older industrial employers. Because right now, there is no reward for the business that provides good benefits. In fact, they are forced to not only pay for their own workers' health insurance, but to subsidize those businesses that leave their workers uninsured.

Let me end with this thought. The health care system is not standing still. If you want to preserve employment-based health insurance - if you do not want to pass a much more radical reform down the road - then you need to pass something like Fair Share this year.

Josh Mason's Fair Share testimony to the Senate

Josh Mason is the Policy Director of the New York Working Families Party

Good morning Chairman Hannon, Chairman Seward, and distinguished members of the Senate Health and Insurance Committees. Thank you for giving the Working Families Party the opportunity to testify here today on behalf of the Fair Share bill introduced by Senator Spano.

Traditionally in the United States, most working-age people have gotten health insurance through their employer. For four or five decades after the Second World War, the system of employer responsibility worked well. But in recent years, it has begun falling apart.
  • In 1990, 75 percent of New Yorkers had private health coverage. Today, barely 60 percent do.
  • Over those same 15 years, the proportion of New Yorkers on Medicaid and Family Health Plus nearly doubled, from 12 percent to 21 percent.
  • But despite that huge expansion in public programs, the number of uninsured New Yorkers increased by half a million, from 2.2 million to 2.7 million.
  • Most sobering of all, just five years ago, in 2001, 28 percent of people with incomes between $20,000 and $40,000 were uninsured at some point during the year. Last year, 41 percent were.
In short, a large and increasing proportion of working New Yorkers can no longer rely on their employers for health insurance. I don't think I have to tell you how frightening it is to be without health coverage, and how devastating it can be to family's finances and if they need serious health care while uninsured.

When we are talking about the uninsured, we are talking about working families. 80 percent of uninsured New Yorkers are workers or the dependents of workers. Eighty percent of uninsured workers in New York work full-time. Ninety percent have household incomes over $20,000. Our safety net does a reasonable job providing health care for the very poor. It is those in the middle who fall through.

Today, in New York, we spend $100 billion per year on health care. Approximately half of that is spent by government, and that proportion is rising each year. And of the half that is still spent privately, an increasing proportion comes from workers rather than businesses. Without anyone planning it, we are already moving from a system of employer sponsored insurance to a semi-public system - but an exceptionally inefficient, spotty and unreliable one.

Over the past dozen years, New York has in many ways been a leader in health policy. You and your colleagues in the Assembly have passed a number of important reforms, expanding eligibility for Medicaid, creating new public programs like Child Health Plus and Family Health Plus, encouraging employer coverage through Healthy New York, passing one of the nation's first Managed Care Bill of Rights laws, deregulating hospital and insurance rates - the list goes on. For the most part, these have been solid, well-designed reforms, and they have significantly expanded New Yorkers'’ access to health care, especially to public health programs. Yet at the end of the day, not only have they not solved the problem of the uninsured, we have half a million more uninsured than we did 15 years ago.

The reason is simple: you cannot fix the problems with an employment-based health system if the employer is not part of the equation.

Health care reform in New York has yet to address the central paradox of our system. We rely on employers as the primary source of health benefits, but we do nothing to ensure that employers actually provide them.

Without a floor on employer spending on health benefits, further reforms of the public and private health insurance systems will not be able to reduce costs or expand coverage, but will simply facilitate the continued shift of health care spending away from employers.

Let me talk briefly about Fair Share.

As you know, it is a requirement that businesses with over 100 employees spend at least $3 per hour on health benefits.

To most businesses, Fair Share says, "Keep doing what you'’re doing." Forty percent of New York businesses already pay at least $3 per hour for health benefits. They will not have to pay anything under Fair Share - in fact, they will benefit, because their competitors will have to come up to their level, and they will no longer bear as much of the cost of Medicaid recipients and the uninsured.

Another 30 percent of New York businesses pay between $2 and $3 per hour. For them, Fair Share would involve a modest cost increase.

Finally, there is the relatively small group of employers we call "low-road" businesses, which have a low-skill, high-turnover, poverty-wage business model. These businesses will have to significantly increase their spending.

We have worked with a number of economists to quantify the impact of Fair Share. One of them is Ken Thorpe, the chair of the department of health policy at Emory University and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Policy in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He is a widely respected health economist who has done work for the Pataki administration among many other clients across the political spectrum.

Professor Thorpe found that the Fair Share bill would require $4 billion dollars in additional health care spending by businesses, resulting in an estimated 510,000 currently uninsured workers gaining coverage and 300,000 workers currently enrolled in Medicaid and Family Health Plus shifting to employer plans.

Based on current Medicaid costs, the public would save $1.5 billion from the reduction in public program enrollment. And the public would save approximately $500 million more from a reduction in costs of uncompensated hospital care for the uninsured. So at least half the costs of Fair Share are not new costs, they are costs currently being borne by the public.

The remaining $2 billion is new spending. As we said before, there is no free lunch. If we are serious about dealing with the problem of the uninsured, someone is going to have to pay for it. We think it makes sense, both practically and morally, for that someone to be those large businesses that are currently spending the least on health benefits.

Fair Share will not solve the problem of the uninsured - it will provide coverage for only 20 to 25 percent of them. But it will change the dynamic that has undermined previous efforts at reform. It will end the race to the bottom, and protect good employers from being undercut by those that fail to provide decent benefits. And it will stop the shifting of health costs from the private to the public sector.

We do need to control costs. But it's impossible to have a rational discussion of costs as long as some businesses are passing those costs off to someone else, and while our current system is falling apart. Fair Share will help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers gain health insurance, provide peace of mind to millions more, and save the public nearly $2 billion. It may not be the final answer, but it is a big - and achievable - first step.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Election roundup for early June

The big election news nationally for early June is the CA-50 House race (Busby v Bilbray). The result of that race shows how beatable Republicans are this year: in a heavily Republican Congressional district (44% registered Republican) where the Republicans spent $11 million (the Democrats spent $4.7 million), the Republican candidate (Bilbray) got only 49% of the vote. Francine Busby (the Democratic candidate) got 45% of the vote, compared to 37% when she ran in 2004. That much improvement spells trouble for Republicans across the country.

At the same time, it shows that we can't just sit back and hope Republican incumbents collapse under the weight of their own incompetence and corruption - we have to go out there and work to beat them.

Here's WFP-endorsed candidate Mike Arcuri doing just that:

From a New York Times article:
"In New York's highly contested 24th District, left vacant by the retirement of Representative Sherwood Boehlert, a Republican, the Democratic candidate, Michael A. Acuri, called for the United States to get out of Iraq as soon as possible."
And from an Oneida-Dispatch article:
"Arcuri said that if elected he would support increasing the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25, a $2.10 increase . . . 'How do people making minimum wage who are trying to raise a family even survive.'"
There's a growing recognition in the press of what we already know, that New York is the central front in the battle to take back the House.

From a June 6th Wall Street Journal article (behind a firewall):
"If the current mood holds, Democrats are in a position to win the 15 seats they need to take control of the House. They have a harder task, however, snagging the six seats needed in the Senate. As the list of vulnerable Republicans grows, all sides are scouting for signs of an electoral wave like that of 1994, which swept away the Democrats' four-decade control of Congress. A key factor is the president's approval ratings, which are even lower in states featuring key battles than they are nationally. A recent poll had him at 23% in New York, home to as many as six endangered Republicans . . . Even the head of Republicans' House campaign committee, Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York, now is on some handicappers' watch lists. Republican turnout in New York could be particularly low because the party doesn't have strong candidates to excite voters running against Democrats Sen. Hillary Clinton and gubernatorial aspirant Eliot Spitzer. On election night, northwest Connecticut's Rep. Nancy Johnson will be 'my canary in the coal mine,' says Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report. In a normal year, the 12-term Republican congresswoman would be safe, even though Mr. Bush twice failed to carry her district. If Mrs. Johnson loses, Ms. Walter says expect a national Republican wipe-out. Mrs. Johnson is a popular, well-funded moderate who is already running TV ads."
Reinforcing that, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), in town to raise money for Republican incumbent Tom Reynolds (CD26), admitted "that the GOP's majority in the House and Senate is at risk." WFP-endorsed Jack Davis, running for the 26th district Congressional seat a second time, took Reynolds to task, saying, "I think he should be bringing in jobs, not big shots . . . He's not creating jobs in western New York." In the 2004 Congressional election, Reynolds beat Davis 56% to 44%; if Davis improves this time around as much as Busby did in CA-50 then he'll win the election.

Congressional Quarterly thinks there are five New York Congressional districts with competitive races in this election:
CD24, where the WFP has endorsed Mike Arcuri
CD19, Sue Kelly's (R) seat
CD20, where the WFP has endorsed Kirsten Gillibrand
CD25, where the WFP has endorsed Dan Maffei
CD29, where the WFP has endorsed Eric Massa
Meanwhile, Republican candidates are happily calling on George Bush for money, but they don't want to be seen with him. Sleddy Sweeney in CD20 is a case in point: Sweeney won't say he's a Republican in his TV ads, campaign literature or reelection announcement and he skipped the Republican Party State Convention, but Sweeney admits he's a good friend and ardent supporter of George Bush.

Here's WFP-endorsed Kirsten Gillibrand, Sweeney's opponent, quoted in an AP article speaking about the people in her district:
"They don't agree with this administration at all. They don't agree with the lack of fiscal discipline."
We couldn't agree more.

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WFP-TV Featuring Jeff Stark for Senate

Jeff Stark, a leader in the painters union and of the Albany Central Federation of Labor is running for State Senate (the 44th district, against Hugh Farley).

Nice to see that he's highlighting his WFP endorsement in his first tv spot, which begins running on cable on Tuesday, June 13. Watch here or click below.



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Friday, June 09, 2006

WFP Resolution on the War in Iraq

Passed unanimously at the WFP State Convention:
Working Families Party Resolution on the War in Iraq

WHEREAS the Working Families Party honors our men and women in uniform, and recognizes the heroism of their sacrifices;

WHEREAS the Working Families Party adopted a statement opposing military action in Iraq in January 2003, and adopted a statement in June 2004 reiterating that opposition and calling for the prompt return of all troops;

WHEREAS two years have since passed, and many supposed benchmarks of progress have been met, including the return of Iraqi sovereignty, the adoption of a Constitution, two sets of elections, and the inauguration of the Iraqi parliament, yet there has been no significant reduction in the American military presence or American casualties;

WHEREAS the U.S. military is the best in the world at its work, but building stable governments in foreign lands is not that work;

WHEREAS 2,500 service members have been killed, and 18,000 wounded in action;

WHEREAS the war has already cost over $285 billion, money that is desperately needed for services for working Americans, including homeland security, education, health care, rebuilding our cities, and protecting our environment;

WHEREAS the continued occupation and the prospect of a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq contribute to anti-American sentiment in Iraq and throughout the region;

WHEREAS an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops would not be easy, but the costs and dangers of an indefinite occupation are much worse;

WHEREAS the war in Iraq was founded on lies, immoral in intent, incompetent in execution, counterproductive in effect, and inimical to American interests;

WHEREAS the continuing occupation, despite its enormous human and financial costs, is contributing nothing to American security or Iraqi well-being;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Working Families Party expresses its profound gratitude and admiration for the men and women in uniform;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Working Families Party urges the adoption of a new GI Bill to assist veterans and military families with their education, healthcare, childcare, housing and other needs;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that all U.S. troops be withdrawn from Iraq as fast as possible consistent with their safety, with full withdrawal no later than the end of 2006;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Congress should immediately pass legislation to this effect, such as H.R. 543 (Abercrombie), H.J.R. 73 (Murtha) or H.C.R. 348 (Thompson), and S.C. 93 (Harkin), S. 36 (Kerry), or a similar measure to be introduced by Sen. Feingold.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Congress should state that American policy is not to maintain permanent military bases in Iraq, and should pass legislation prohibiting the use of funds for that purpose, as provided for in H.C.R. 348 (Thompson), H.C.R 197 (Lee), H.R. 3142 (Allen), and S.C. 93 (Harkin);

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in the absence of a commitment from the Bush administration to a prompt withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq, Congress should pass a measure cutting off funds for further operations there, such as H.R. 4232 (McGovern);

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Working Families Party strongly opposes military action against Iran or any other country in the Middle East in the absence of a direct, immediate threat to the United States, and that in our view the Iranian nuclear program does not rise to that level;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the best way to support our troops is to bring them home now.

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Blogger's back

Blogger's been down for the past 2 days, which is why we haven't been blogging (comments were having problems too). But it looks like it's back, so we are too. Blogger's a free service, but you'd still expect something run by google to be more reliable.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The State of the Party

WFP State Co-Chair Bob Master's "State of the Party" speech was one of the highlights of last weekend's WFP convention. Here is an abridged text:

We have both an opportunity and a challenge in front of us, both unmatched in the party’s history. I’ll discuss these in a moment. But first I want to talk about our responsibility.

We, together, everyone in this party, have built a potent machine.

In a matter of weeks, the legislature will decide whether to pass the Fair Share for Health Care Act, which would ensure that working New Yorkers receive health care from their employers. And you know what they will be thinking when they decide whether to pass the bill? They will be thinking about what the editors of the Daily News wrote last Sunday:

“Politicians who want the WFP endorsement oppose this bill at their peril.”

Why? Because, as the same editorial says, the WFP is:

“an increasingly potent electoral force.”

Every politician in the state knows that: Reckon with us, oppose our priorities, stand in the way of New York’s working families at your own peril.

With the power we have comes responsibility. Responsibility to use our muscle wisely, judiciously and for the good of working families. We have done that.

Let me talk about we did in 2005 -- what you did.

• You passed Living Wage Laws in Nassau County and Syracuse.

• You joined with allies to pass laws in Suffolk and New York City that require Wal-Mart and other big box stores to provide decent benefits to their workers.

• And you stopped George Bush and Tom DeLay from succeeding in their ultimate power grab – their attempt to steal our retirement savings by privatizing Social Security. We stopped them dead in their tracks.

We used our power responsibly … for good.

And in 2004 we raised the minimum wage and gave one million of New York’s lowest-paid workers a raise.

And we gave a kick in the ass to the status quo that finally – after 30 years – got the first reform of the Rockefeller drug laws passed.

We used our power responsibly … for good.

How do we get our power? By holding politicians accountable. By electing good ones, and defeating bad ones. Hundreds every year.

Get in our way? Stand with management over labor? Stand with landlords over tenants? Stand with the wealthy over working people? Stand in the way of working families? Working Families will get you out of the way.

This year, as I said, we have an opportunity and a challenge.

We have an opportunity to increase our power by helping to elect Eliot Spitzer. We can help the People’s Lawyer become the People’s Governor -- a fitting role for what is, after all, the People’s Party.

We can give Eliot Spitzer a mandate for progressive change. If 200,000 votes – or maybe more – come in for Eliot Spitzer on the Working Families Party line, that is a mandate for better jobs, affordable health care, fair funding for our schools and real campaign finance reform. Voting on Row E is how we make sure the People’s Governor can and will fight for us.

And we have a challenge. Our national government – the presidency and both houses of Congress – are in the hands of people who come as close to true evil as we have ever seen in our nation’s history. Is this crowd worse than Nixon? Worse than Herbert Hoover? I think so. Worse than the Dixiecrats and the Robber Barons? A close call.

They lie, and they cheat and they steal from working families. They keep on going further and further. A minimum wage that’s never been lower. A judiciary that’s never been worse. Tax cuts upon tax cuts upon tax cuts, all for millionaires and billionaires. The greatest divide between the rich and the poor since 1929.

And then the war in Iraq. And maybe another one in Iran. These are bad people. But they may have gone too far.

This November may be the moment when New York becomes the battleground for taking back our country, a moment for us to draw a line in the sand that protects working families for the final two years of Republican rule.

I’m talking about 15 congressional seats around the country that could shift control of the House of Representatives, five of which might be here in New York. I’m talking about the fight to take back Congress.

That is our challenge.

We can do it. Together – teachers, painters, musicians, doormen – together -- lobbying, marching, voting, organizing. Because the state of the Party has never been stronger.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Gift from Congressman McCrery: Privatization Redux

Republican Congressman Jim McCrery from Louisiana is urging the House to take up Social Security privatization again in 2007. It's such a wonderful thought that it's worth repeating. One of the masterminds of 2005's privatization debacle wants to do it all over again.

This is a gift to challengers across the country, including WFP nominees in New York like Mike Arcuri, Eric Massa, Kristen Gillibrand and Jack Davis.

The most recent polling I'm aware of showed President Bush with a 60% disapproval rating on Social Security (AP/Ipsos, January 2006).

There is a reason that, under pressure from the WFP and others, RCCC chair Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY) urged his colleagues to walk away from privatization proposals last year. ("[W]e’d be forcing our vulnerables to walk to the plank for nothing," was the paraphrase used in one report.)

McCrery appears to have forgotten that reason.

Gangway! The plank is open!

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Video from the WFP Convention

Isn't David Paterson cool?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Working Families Party endorses Eliot Spitzer for Governor


Everyone's pretty fired up about Eliot Spitzer - the Working Families Party nominee for Governor of the great state of New York. He got a spirited nomination that talked about his work to make sure everyone is treated fairly and used the example of how he stepped in when some businesses weren't paying workers the minimum wage to make sure those businesses followed the law.

Eliot's acceptance speech followed up on that theme in a wide ranging speech that talked about the need to treat everyone fairly, to make sure no one is above or below the law, to make sure our kids get the quality education they need to compete, to make sure we have good jobs here in New York, and the need to reclaim the state and provide leadership to take us where we want to go. Fiery speech, people loved it.

That's it for us, have a good night and Vote Row E!

Working Families Party endorses David Paterson for Lt. Governor


David Paterson has been endorsed by the Working Families Party for Lieutenant Governor. In his acceptance speech he talked about bringing hope back to New York. Also, very funny speech.

Working Families Party endorses Alan Hevesi for Comptroller


Alan Hevesi has been endorsed by the Working Families Party for Comptroller.

Working Families Party endorses Andrew Cuomo for Attorney General

Andrew Cuomo has just been endorsed by the Working Families Party for Attorney General on a roll call vote with 76.8% voting to endorse him.

Working Families Party Resolution on the War in Iraq

A resolution honoring our men and women in uniform and calling for all U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq as fast as possible consistent with their safety has passed unanimously. The resolution expresses support for legislation in Congress that would do this.

Text coming soon.

Update: Resolution text is up.

Working Families Party endorses Eric Massa in CD29


Eric Massa has just been endorsed by the Working Families Party in CD29. Eric spoke movingly about his active duty service in the military (Navy) and about the need to bring the troops home. He also spoke about being diagnosed with terminal cancer - he survived because of the high quality health care he got, and he wants to make sure all Americans have access to health care. And he spoke about verified voting to make sure every ballot gets counted. Then he spoke passionately about the need to Take Back the House!

Great speaker.

Working Families Party endorses Michael Arcuri in CD24


Michael Arcuri has been endorsed by the Working Families Party for Congress in CD24. In his acceptance speech, he talked about deciding to run for Congress when he saw Bush cutting student loans, childrens' programs and programs for the elderly to give tax cuts to the rich. He told the story of talking with his son about whether he should run for Congress and his son telling him he should run to end the war in Iraq. And he spoke about the need to bring the troops home from Iraq with the respect they deserve, to focus on quality affordable health care for all Americans instead of tax cuts for the richest Americans, and about the need to raise the minimum wage for all Americans.

Working Families Party endorses Hillary Rodham Clinton for U.S. Senate

The roll call vote on the Working Families Party endorsement for the U.S. Senate nomination is:

Hillary Rodham Clinton 93.6%
Jonathan Tasini 6.4%

Hillary Rodham Clinton has been endorsed by the Working Families Party for U.S. Senate.

Vote on Senate nomination

Vigorous debate. Voting has started on the WFP endorsement for U.S. Senate. The first vote is on whether we should endorse someone for U.S. Senate -

a yes vote is a vote for an endorsement
a no vote is a vote to not endorse anyone

The roll call vote on whether to endorse someone is happening now, results as they're announced . . .

92.02% yes
7.98% no

Now we move on to who to endorse . . .

Roll call voting has started for the Working Families Party endorsement, votes are for either Clinton or Tasini. Results as they're announced . . .

Debate on U.S. Senate nomination starts

The debate over who, if anyone, to nominate for the U.S. Senate has started. Heated debate on both sides.

Bob Master introduced the debate on U.S. Senate by calling for decorum and respect: "I know there are vigorous and passionate views on this topic . . . I know there are different views on this subject, but I also know we can disagree and disagree strenuously and still share common goals at the end of the day."

Members support nominating Hillary Rodham Clinton because they feel she's been a good Senator and don't want to take a symbolic stand against her when we could be working to take back the House.

Members support nominating Jonathan Tasini because he's against the war and against the Patriot Act.

Members support no endorsement because they don't want to endorse Clinton but they also don't want to endorse Tasini because they would rather spend time campaigning on local elections and taking back the House.

Working Families Party Convention starts

And we're off!

Welcome to the Working Families Party State Convention, it's a packed house and people are pretty excited. We had some trouble with internet access, but we're online now.

Here's a quick rundown to catch you up:
12:51 everyone stood and said the Pledge of Allegiance
12:52 Sam Williams is welcoming everyone to the convention
12:55 Bob Master is reporting on the state of the party, here are a few of his words:
  • we've built a potent political machine
  • let's talk about what we did - what you did - in 2005: passed living wage bills and stopped George Bush and Tom DeLay from privatizing Social Security
  • this year New York will be the battleground for taking back our country
  • 15 seats will shift control of the House - 5 or 6 are right here in New York
Big cheers for taking back the House - people are excited about the coming election.

The comments section is for you, be sure to let me know if there's anything you want to know more about.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Working Families Party Convention agenda

Here's the agenda for tomorrow's Working Families Party State Convention. Let me know if you want to come - bloggers can get press credentials by contacting me in advance. I'll also be liveblogging the convention, so everyone can follow the action here on our blog.
    WFP Video: Making Things Happen (12:30 p.m.)
  1. Pledge of Allegiance
  2. Welcome (12:45 p.m.)
  3. State of the Party (12:50 p.m.)
  4. Chapter and Club Reports (12:55 p.m.)
  5. Call to Order (1:15 p.m.)
    • Declaration Regarding Quorum
    • Election of Meeting Chair
  6. United States Senate
    • Nominations (1:45 p.m.)
    • Debate (2:0 p.m.)
    • Vote (2:20 p.m.)
  7. Take Back Congress -– New York! (3:00 p.m.)
    • Address by Michael Arcuri
    • Address by Eric Massa
  8. Iraq War Resolution (3:40 p.m.)
    • Debate and Vote
  9. Nomination of candidates for New York State Attorney General (4:05 p.m.)
  10. Fair Share for Health Care (4:15 p.m.)
  11. Greetings From Other States (4:30 p.m.)
  12. The Power of Row E (4:35 p.m.)
  13. Nomination of candidates for New York State Comptroller, Lieutenant Governor and Governor
    • Nominations, Debates, and Votes (5:05 p.m.)
  14. Address by David Paterson (5:15 p.m.)
  15. Address by Eliot Spitzer (5:30 p.m.)
Should be a good one!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Working Families Party Convention this Saturday

The Working Families Party State Convention is this Saturday, June 3rd, in Albany from 1 to 6. We'll be discussing the issues, listening to Eliot Spitzer and other candidates speak, and endorsing candidates - let me know if you want to come. Bloggers can get press credentials by checking with me in advance.

I'll be liveblogging from the convention, so if you can't make it you can follow the action live on our blog.

If you've got any questions about the convention, ask in the comments.

It's going to be exciting!