Archive for the ‘worker's rights’ Category

So, back in 2008, I made the unprecedented decision to push a button in the “R” column and vote for Tom Corbett for Attorney General here in Pennsylvania. This was based largely on two factors: 1) Corbett hadn’t managed to offend my list of issues in any particular way besides being a Republican and 2) John Morganelli, the Democrat, seemed to have very loose grasp on the Constitution – including wanting to make gang membership a crime. Now, I’m all about curbing gang violence, but I don’t think that we need to strip citizens of the right to freely associate in order to do that. Therefore, being left with “milquetoast” and “probably a threat to our civil liberties,” I chose the Republican.

Well, you get what you pay for. Turns out that Tom Corbett is also possessed of a strange interpretation of the Constitution. He’s joined 11 other State Attorneys General (all Republicans!) in challenging the recent health care reform measure’s Constitutionality on the basis that it violates the Commerce Clause.

Now, the specific point the suit makes is that the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Lopez that the Federal Government can’t just go doing stuff like this where the commerce aspect is ill-defined or doesn’t really apply. Lopez stated that the Feds can’t claim the Commerce Clause to, say, bar you from bringing a gun into school. That’s a State matter, and if the State doesn’t act, the Justice Department can’t get involved. Likewise, in United States v. Morrison, the Federal Government can’t claim the Commerce Clause in laws in order to try rapists when a state decides to sit on its hands and give the rapist a cookie. It sucks, but that’s the Constitution, and these protections stop the Federal government from telling Californians that even though they said OK to medical marijuana, they can still be arrested by the Feds.

Oh, wait… Gonzales v. Raich says that the Federal Government can regulate that! And why? Because in Lopez, they’d already ruled that Congress is empowered to regulate and protect the instrumentalities of interstate commerce, or persons or things in Interstate Commerce, even though the threat may come only from intrastate activities and that Congress’s commerce authority includes the power to regulate those activities having a substantial relation to interstate commerce.

So, the very decision that Corbett and pals are using to make their case contains language that makes their case sound pretty stupid. Health care is a national problem. It is a commerce issue, because it has a broad effect on our economy. It addresses a problem that crosses state lines. To say that the Federal Government can arrest people in states that allow medical marijuana but can’t provide a framework for national healthcare is just stupid stupid stupid.

Corbett campaigned on a moderate platform, garnering a broad base of support from Republicans and Democrats. In 2008, he won with 52.3% of the vote to Morganelli’s 45.8% in a state where Barack Obama won 54.5% and John McCain won 44.3%. I didn’t vote for this guy to be a whackjob crusader. I voted for him to work for the people of Pennsylvania. Using ridiculously flawed logic applied to a tenuous grasp on the Constitution wasn’t on the menu.

Unfortunately, while there is a chance to boot this guy from the AG’s office this year, it’s a boot upward: Corbett is running for Governor. That’s why I’m going to do everything I can in order to make sure he stays right where he’s at and help Joe Hoeffel take the reins when Ed Rendell goes on to whatever awesomeness he had planned next.

Shared Work

Posted: 17 March 2010 in politics, worker's rights

My very own State Representative Matt Bradford had a piece of legislation approved unanimously by the House Labor Relations Committee to allow a shared work program for Pennsylvania employers:

Shared work programs allow employers to avoid permanent layoffs by reducing the number of regularly scheduled hours of work for all or part of their workforce. Workers would then be eligible to offset their reduction in pay through the state’s unemployment compensation program.

Under a work sharing program, an employee is eligible to receive shared work benefits in proportion to their reduction in hours under the plan. For example, an employee whose hours are reduced by 20 percent would then be eligible for 20 percent of the weekly unemployment compensation benefit he or she would receive if 100 percent unemployed.

While not a panacea for the ridiculous state of our healthcare, this bill is a huge improvement over the status quo. Instead of being forced to cut workforce, companies would be able to spread around the damage but keep employees working (ensuring that a specialized workforce remains) and covered by insurance. This is a win-win for PA employers and employees. If you’re in PA, call your rep and tell them to vote yea on HB 2160!