Jobs talk vs. real action
It's official, Tennesseans. When the state's Republican leaders talk about recruiting jobs during their campaign speeches, they're not being completely honest.
They neglect to point out that they want only new jobs on their own, narrow terms. And those terms -- it becomes clearer and clearer -- include no unions, or even works councils.
Documents leaked recently to WTVF-TV NewsChannel 5 in Nashville clearly show that Gov. Bill Haslam's administration wanted a say in Volkswagen's dealings with organized labor when it offered $300 million in economic incentives to help Volkswagen expand its Chattanooga operations. That expansion would have included 1,350 new full-time jobs at a new SUV facility here.
"The incentives ... are subject to works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee," states an incentives offer sheet that was leaked to a WTVF reporter.
In February, as the Valentine's Day United Autoworkers union vote approached, Gov. Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, state Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson and others implied the economic development sky might fall on Tennessee if VW accepted UAW as a U.S-legal way to form a works council -- something VW has always said it would require here. But our jobs-deaf lawmakers threatened VW with the possible loss of those proffered incentives if the UAW prevailed.
"Should the workers at Volkswagen choose to be represented by the United Auto Workers, then I believe any additional incentives from the citizens of the state of Tennessee for expansion or otherwise will have a very tough time passing the Tennessee Senate," Watson said just days before the vote. To add insult, he called Volkswagen's UAW/works council effort "un-American."
Then Sen. Corker said VW officials (whom he wouldn't name) told him if the workers reject the UAW, the announcement of the new SUV plant would come in about two weeks. Many interpreted Sen. Corker's comments to mean that Chattanooga would not get the new assembly plant if the union was accepted.
The union vote was narrowly lost -- 626 "yes" votes, to 712 "no" votes. But guess what: It's April and there has been no SUV award and no jubilant announcement of 1,350 new full-time jobs here. Go figure. After all, VW made it clear that it wants a works council here.
Sen. Corker and state officials say the UAW's appeal of the vote, citing political interference, has delayed things. Haslam said the state has no offer to VW on the table now, and the state is waiting for VW to restart incentive talks. VW has no comment.
So, as Haslam and other Tennessee GOPers stump around the state in coming months to seek votes, be sure you ask them how many other conditions they put on gaining good manufacturing jobs for Tennesseans.
Rich get richer - and more free speech
The U.S. Supreme Court this week made it official. Rich folks have more voice -- and more freedom of speech -- than middle-class and poor people.
How disappointing for those of us who believe in one-person, one-vote equality.
The court on Wednesday struck down the overall limits of $123,200 by individuals every two years for contributions to all federal candidates, as well as the $74,600 aggregate limits on contributions to political party committees. Why? Because the court said the limits violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Now, not only can corporations and unions contribute without limits, but so can millionaires and billionaires. The court did leave in place the base limits on contributions from individuals to individual candidates, currently $2,600 per candidate in primary and general elections.
That means the billionaire Koch brothers have even more unlimited freedom to buy elections for their radical right cronies, and they no longer have to cloak their money in political action committees. Perhaps a silver lining will be that 99 percent of the nation's citizens might begin to focus on the 1 percent who pull the strings.
The decision was made in a 5-to-4 vote with the Court's more conservative justices in the majority.
Just think, now we'll have the most pricey presidents and congress money can buy. Candidates won't need platforms -- just "for sale" signs.
Just think what all that money -- $7 billion in 2012 alone -- would do if instead it went toward lowering deficits, teaching our children, building stronger and better infrastructure and/or producing cleaner energy.