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February 3,2012
Posted On: Jan 29, 2012

 

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce
A Real Special Interest Group
 
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) traces its roots back to the founding of the Wisconsin Manufactures Association in 1911. WMC’s current form emerged in 1975 through the merger of the Wisconsin Manufacturers Association, the State Chamber of Commerce (incorporated in 1929) and the Wisconsin Council of Safety (founded in 1923). WMC is the only state business association with the Chamber, Manufacturers Association and Safety Council in a single merged association.
 
In 1996, WMC came under fire for running campaign ads disguised as “issue ads” targeting State Senate Democrats. WMC's smear campaign broke the limits of campaign finance regulations in regards to independent expenditures and the definition of “express advocacy,” and the State Elections Board initially ordered the ads to be pulled from the air. WMC sued in response citing free speech infringement, and three years later, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in WMC’s favor, while leaving open the option for future legislation to regulate issue ads. Subsequent court rulings over the McCain-Feingold Act and the Wisconsin Right to Life case have further defined constitutional regulations of independent expenditures, primarily concerning bills that would force full disclosure of funding sources for issue ads.
 
In recent election cycles, WMC has stepped up their funding of issue ads, with unprecedented expenditures focusing on the Wisconsin Supreme Court races. In 2007, WMC spent more than $2 million in support of Annette Ziegler at the same time attacking Ziegler’s opponent, Linda Clifford. Annette Ziegler went on to win the election. In 2008, WMC ran over $2 million in ads smearing the opponent of successful Supreme Court candidate Mike Gableman. Both have joined pro-corporate conservative majority to ignore precedent, deploy judicial activism and ignore glaring conflicts of interests to rule in favor of the WMC agenda.
 
Today, WMC claims to represent nearly 4,000 Wisconsin businesses employing more than 500,000 Wisconsin workers. Within the organization, WMC employs approximately 40 staff members and has a 48-member Board of Directors representing many different businesses around the state.
 
WMC employs every tactic and spares no expense to create a public policy environment favorable to its corporate agenda. WMC reinforces its' corporate message through talking points, lobbying, issue sheets, press releases, editorial columns, surveys, polls, millions of dollars in issue advertisements. WMC even creates and distributes "awards" to such admirable corporations as Wal-Mart.
 
WMC’s stream of propaganda appears limitless. The endless material it places before the media, elected officials and in smear campaigns broadcast on radio and television and even delivered in the mail has had an impact. The sustained message of “Your taxes are too high,” belies the real truth – that business taxes are average and income taxes have only been raised once on the top one percent of income earners in the past 40 years.
 
The rise in the influence of corporate lobbying and spending organizations
such as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce shifted the priorities of state and federal government towards serving corporations at the expense of citizens.
 
The financial community has been utterly deregulated; liability and accountability rules protecting working people, the public and our natural resources have been obliterated; enhancing executive compensation, shareholder profits and transferring government resources from the middle class and the poor to the wealthiest and their corporations has become the moral compass guiding economic policy.
 
The result has been the collapse of the American economy.
And that’s not enough for WMC and it allies, which continues to push these same failed policies. Understanding more about the vast components which comprise the WMC operation sheds insight on its reach and its influence.

Indiana is Ground Zero for Workers rights
 
First it was Wisconsin, then Ohio, and now it’s Indiana.  Deep pocketed corporate interests, including Wal-Mart, in an effort to destroy unions and workers’ rights, are pushing right-wing legislators to ram through a Right-to-Work for less bill.  The record shows that Right-to-Work laws have shown they do not create jobs, but have actually eliminated them, have lowered wages and benefits, and have increased unsafe working conditions.
 
House Democrats in Indiana stopped this same legislation from passing last year by filibustering sessions so there wouldn’t be a quorum.  They are doing this again this year.  House Republicans, however, have voted to fine Democrats $1000 a day for missing more than three session days in a row.  This is blatantly hypercritical as Republicans organized a boycott of their own back in 2001 to protest legislation they felt unfavorable and Democrats did not fine them then.
 
Even in the face of these fines, Democrats in both the House and the Senate have stood strong. In addition to filibustering sessions, they are now pushing hard for a referendum allowing Hoosiers to vote on this bill.  As 71% of working Hoosiers disapprove of Right-to-Work, this referendum would be a citizens’ veto of the bill. Democratic legislatures’ are willing to be fined for their stand on this issue because they know it is the right thing to do for Indiana families and for job creation.
 
If we are to stop this blatant attack on working people and workers’ rights, we need to do everything we can to show support for Democratic lawmakers showing their courage in opposing this bill
 
"Right-to-work" laws are statutes enforced in twenty-three U.S. states, mostly in the southern or western U.S., allowed under provisions of the federal Taft–Hartley Act, which prohibit agreements between labor unions and employers that make membership, payment of union dues, or fees a condition of employment, either before or after hiring, which would require the workplace to be a closed shop.
Right-to-work laws create a free-rider problem in which non-union employees (who are bound by the terms of the union contract even though they are not members of the union) benefit from collective bargaining without paying union dues. The AFL/CIO union argues that because unions are weakened by these laws, wages are lowered and worker safety and health is endangered. For these reasons, the union refers to right-to-work states as "right to work for less" states or "right-to-fire" states, and to non-right-to-work states as "free collective bargaining" states.
 
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has received millions of dollars in grants from foundations controlled by major U.S. industrialists like the New York-based Olin Foundation, Inc., which grew out of a family manufacturing business and other groups.
 
A February 2011 Economic Policy Institute study found wages in right-to-work states are 3.2% lower than those in non-RTW states The rate of employer-sponsored health insurance (ESI) is 2.6 percentage points lower in RTW states The rate of employer-sponsored pensions is 4.8 percentage points lower in RTW states. The following 23 states are right-to-work states: Alabama, Arizona , Arkansas Florida Georgia Idaho Iowa Kansas Louisiana Mississippi Nebraska Nevada North Carolina North Dakota Oklahoma South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Virginia Wyoming
 
Will Unions Occupy Super Bowl Over Right To Work Law?
 
Indiana unions, opposed to becoming the first right-to-work state in the Rust Belt, may disrupt Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. On Friday January 27th, as the Indiana Senate was scheduled to take up legislation supported by Gov. Mitch Daniels to make Indiana the 23rd right-to-work state, Indiana unions considered copying the disruptive and coercive tactics of Occupy Wall Street to disrupt arguably America’s premier sporting event, the Super Bowl, to be held in Indianapolis on Feb. 5, 2012
 
The Indiana Senate was waiting for the House to complete its work on the legislation but, in a tactic employed by Democratic state senators in Wisconsin, Democratic representatives in the Indiana House delayed action by simply not showing up.

In a further move to block enactment, Indiana Democrats sought to add an amendment that said the law would not take effect until approved by the voters in a state referendum.
 
If the bill passes before Feb. 5, 2012 some Indiana labor activists are considering protests before a nationwide audience. These protests would include Teamsters clogging city streets with trucks, and electricians staging a slowdown at the convention center site of the NFL village.
 
The Indianapolis Capital Improvements Board, which runs Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indianapolis Convention Center, has no-strike agreements with unions representing stagehands, carpenters, electricians and painters. But other unions, including hotel workers, aren’t covered, and the building trades workers could choose not to cross any picket lines.

 
Preserving Health Care Reform

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law, it was an important victory in the long fight to ensure access to quality, affordable health care for all. The case for reform has never been clearer, or more urgent. More than 50 million Americans – roughly one in six – were uninsured in 2009. The number of Americans with employer-provided coverage is shrinking, and for those who do have coverage, premium payments and out-of-pocket costs are skyrocketing. Medical bills are a leading cause of personal bankruptcy filings. And yet, for all that we spend on health care in the United States – more than twice as much, per capita,
as most other industrialized nations – we die younger and face higher rates of infant mortality than the citizens of Canada, Japan and most of Europe. This is the unsustainable situation that the health care reform law addressed, and that the enemies of reform are trying to return us to.
 
What the Reform Law Does
 
While the law is complex, its key provisions are easy to summarize. First, it reforms the insurance market by eliminating the worst abuses of the current system. The law bars the practice of rescission, in which insurance companies aggressively seek excuses to cancel the policies of patients with cancer and other serious health conditions. It requires that recommended preventative services be covered in full, at no out-of-pocket cost. The law also eliminates lifetime limits on essential health benefits, and will eventually require insurance companies to extend coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions. Second, the law encourages (but does not require) employers to provide coverage. Small employers are eligible for tax credits to make health care benefits more affordable. Large employers that do not provide coverage (or that provide inadequate or unaffordable coverage) will not get a free ride; if their employees are forced to seek subsidized coverage on their own, the employer will be charged a tax penalty. (Currently, the rest of us pick up the tab when employers such as WalMart dump their employees into taxpayer funded programs like Medicaid.)

 
Immediate Benefits for Millions of Americans
 
While key provisions of the new law will not take effect until 2014, many important reforms are already in place. The federal government moved quickly to launch a $5 billion reinsurance program to make coverage for pre-Medicare retirees more affordable. More than 2,000 employers and Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Associations (VEBAs) that provide coverage for pre-Medicare retirees (including the VEBA covering retirees from Ford, General Motors and Chrysler) have already been approved for the program. Just six months after the ACA was passed, a number of major insurance market reforms took effect (or for existing plans, will take effect with the next plan year.) Some of these provisions include: Adult children who do not have employer- sponsored coverage may now stay on their parent’s plan until they turn 26. Insurance companies may no longer discontinue coverage for seriously ill people based on technicalities (“rescission”). Insurers must now cover children with pre-existing conditions. Insurance plans may no longer impose lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits. Annual limits are now regulated, and will be lifted completely in 2014. Insurers are required to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars (85 percent in the large group market) on medical and wellness services and quality enhancement – not on administrative
 
Long-Term Benefits for American Families
 
By providing coverage to most Americans, the health care reform bill will eliminate most “uncompensated care,” and as a result, these costs will no longer be passed on to everyone

Dispelling Myths about the Affordable Care Act
 
From the beginning, conservative opponents of health care reform have been spreading lies that the law would somehow hurt Americans and their families. The lies ran the gamut, from the infamous “death panels” touted by defeated vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, to viral e-mails warning of an array of new taxes “hidden” in the health reform act. The facts are the best response. A new website, healthcare.gov, provides accurate and up-to-date information on what the law does – and does not do. Independent watchdog sites such as snopes.com and factcheck.org can also help put unfounded myths to rest.
 
Defending the New Health Care Law
 
Republicans have made it clear that their ultimate goal is to repeal health care reform and return to the status quo, leaving tens of millions of Americans uncovered, forcing tens of millions more to pay ever-rising costs for ever shrinking benefits, and putting U.S. employers at a disadvantage in the global economy. Republicans are not expected to come up with enough votes in the 112th Congress to repeal the health care reform law outright.
But they are expected to use a number of strategies to try to derail full implementation of the legislation. For example, they could propose limiting the funding and personnel available to the Internal Revenue Service to
provide income-based subsidies under the law. They also plan to use spending bills to try to block federal insurance regulations. In short, the Republican strategy is to dismantle the ACA piece by piece by refusing
to fund it and by blocking the issuance of the necessary regulations to implement the law. In the new Congress,
the UAW will work to ensure that the health care reform law is fully implemented. This will require a grassroots effort to hold elected officials accountable if they vote to repeal reform or to defund the law’s
implementation. All new plans must cover recommended preventive services at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient. By the end of 2010, more than 1.2 million seniors in the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” had already received $250 rebate checks. Starting in 2011, they will be eligible for a 50 percent discount on many prescriptions.

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