Maryland is pronounced... well, above average as a good place for workers -- maybe we can do better than 14th next year? But union power in previously difficult areas (for instance, community college faculty) is increasing, even as more and more teachers find a second job is necessary. The National Labor Relations Board has put employers on notice that cheesie delaying tactics in labor struggles could just get the workers a win by default. And more News You Can Use, this week and every week. Read on...
Labor Day up close -- and satellite views
Oxfam: Maryland Among Best States for Workers, But There’s Room For Improvement Maryland ranks as one of the best states for workers, but there is still room for improvement, according to an annual ranking from Oxfam, a global organization focused on inequality and poverty. Maryland ranked 14th overall in the 2023 Best States to Work Index. California ranked first; North Carolina ranked last. Oxfam’s index takes into account worker-friendly policies in three areas: wages, worker protections and the right to organize. Maryland has improved its standing in the index in recent years, rising from a 17th place showing in 2020. Maryland Matters
Community Colleges’ Faculty Unions Certified: Two new public employee unions had extra cause to celebrate this Labor Day weekend. New faculty unions at Howard Community College and Frederick Community College were certified and recognized last week under a state law governing unionization on community college campuses. Maryland Matters.
Almost Half of Public School Teachers Say They Must Work 2nd Job: As half of Maryland’s public school systems began the first day of school [last]Monday, a new poll showed that many educators are working second jobs outside the classroom “to make ends meet.” The poll, conducted by a Democratic polling and research firm on behalf of the Maryland State Education Association, surveyed nearly 2,900 union members of the union in July. The results showed that about 44% of respondents worked a second job in the last year, a one-percentage point decrease from a similar survey four years ago. Maryland Matters.
The American Prospect reported on the National Labor Relations Board, saying it “released its most important ruling in many decades. In a party-line decision in Cemex Construction Materials Pacific, LLC, the Board ruled that when a majority of a company’s employees file union affiliation cards, the employer can either voluntarily recognize their union or, if not, ask the Board to run a union recognition election. If, in the run-up to or during that election, the employer commits an unfair labor practice, such as illegally firing pro-union workers (which has become routine in nearly every such election over the past 40 years, as the penalties have been negligible), the Board will order the employer to recognize the union and enter forthwith into bargaining.” Passed along by Megan Essaheb of People’s Action And here is Jane McAlevey's take in The Nation. *
IN MARYLAND, IT’S BACK TO SCHOOL
Capital News Service and its Local News Network have published a series of articles on how Maryland’s school districts spend the (often federal-funded) money they are provided to buy services and goods on contract. These moves are sometimes eyebrow-raising. In CNS’s most recent dispatch you can find an easily searchable database you can use to answer questions about your school system. Find all the articles in Maryland Reporter.
Kids In Many States Wrongly Removed From Medicaid, U.S. officials say: The unwarranted removal of potentially millions of children is the most serious problem since states began assessing who remains eligible for Medicaid. “The problem detected in many states occurs in instances when Medicaid programs use an automated method, with computerized data such as wage records, to determine which beneficiaries remain eligible — a method the federal government prefers over mailing out renewal notices. The automated method accounts for about one-fourth of the renewals so far nationwide. According to Daniel Tsai, federal Medicaid director, the problem arises when a state uses a family’s entire income to determine whether parents and children qualify for Medicaid, rather than taking into account that children usually are eligible up to higher income levels.” WaPo via People’s Action
Maryland Would Exempt Newer Vehicles From Emissions Tests For Six Years: After half a year of study and outreach, the Moore administration has decided to proceed with the proposed contract for the state’s long-running vehicle emissions inspection program. It is scheduled for a vote at the next Board of Public Works’ meeting on Sept. 6. The most significant change proposed for the VEIP program is that new vehicles, which under the old rule had to first be tested when they were three years old, now won’t have to be tested until they have been on the road for six years. Maryland Matters
New Md. Elections Director Starts Job: Jared DeMarinis took over Friday as the state’s elections director, succeeding Linda Lamone, who retires after a quarter century. The 18-year veteran of Maryland’s elections agency becomes just its second elections administrator. Lamone, the first administrator, was a 26-year fixture at the agency and, sometimes, a polarizing figure. Maryland Matters
State, Federal Officials Seek To Broaden Broadband Access: Three employees of the Federal Communications Commission manned the Wicomico County Library’s Mobile Learning Lab as individuals signed up for the commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which offers a $30 a month benefit for internet access to low-income households. The FCC employees were among a contingent of federal and state officials, including Gov. Wes Moore, in town to help expand access to the program, and by extension, the internet. Salisbury Daily Times.
Prioritization Of Transit Projects Likely to Change: Growing strains on the state’s ability to pay for transportation projects across Maryland could result in changes to how local projects are prioritized. The Maryland Department of Transportation lays out funding for projects around the state in a rolling six-year plan that is updated annually. A new commission tasked with reimagining how the state prioritizes and pays for projects could recommend changes to a system that is both familiar and not always transparent. Maryland Matters.
AND… Maryland’s Transportation Agency has set an online listening session about ways to improve crossing the Bay – a Thursday, September 14, 6-8 p.m. Virtual Open House to assess progress so far on the Bay Crossing Study. Here is more info.
Covid Funds Fraud Hits $40 Million In Maryland: The crackdown on misappropriation of Covid-19 relief funds has uncovered at least $40 million in federal relief fraud in Maryland and has charged more than 20 defendants, exposing schemes to use the money for luxury goods, expensive vacations, guns and drugs, U.S. Attorney’s Office for Maryland reported. Nationally, the crackdown has resulted in criminal charges filed against 371 defendants for offenses related to over $836 million in alleged Covid fraud. Baltimore Brew.
Moore Urges Compassion For Substance Abusers As State Focuses On Opioids: Gov. Wes Moore (D) issued a proclamation Thursday [Aug. 31]recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day in Maryland, as state and federal officials alike take a particular focus on opioids such as fentanyl that contribute to a rising number of overdose deaths. Moore urged Marylanders to support people in their lives struggling with substance use, according to a press release Thursday from Maryland’s Opioid Operational Command Center. Maryland Matters
PSC Chair Wants To Lower Temperature On Renewable Siting Disputes: The new leader of the Maryland Public Service Commission said Tuesday [Aug. 29] that he plans to convene meetings with interested parties over the next few months to discuss the increasingly controversial issue of where to place renewable energy installations in the state. Maryland Matters.
IN THE STATES
BROADBAND: Virginia has established a five-year plan to use federal money to extend broadband access to the 162,000 homes and businesses that do not yet have access. The state expects to spend $958 million, or about two-thirds of the money allocated under the bipartisan infrastructure bill, to connect those locations. (Richmond Times-Dispatch) via Pluribus
Solar panel shipments in the United States reached a new record in 2022, according to the Energy Information Administration. A total of 31 gigawatts of solar capacity was added, 10% more than the previous year. A third of that was utility-scale — that is, power plants — and most of the rest were rooftop panels on people’s homes. It’s the fourth consecutive record year: At some point, the relentless expansion of solar power will become unremarkable, like saying that a child is taller this year than last. The cost of solar has also dropped, from $1.96 per watt of capacity in 2010 to 39¢ in 2022. At the same time, a study found that the European Union is burning less coal to make electricity than ever before. Semafor Flagship
MD AG Brown Joins Brief To Support Minimum Wage: Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown (D) joined almost two dozen other state attorneys general in supporting the federal government effort to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour for certain federal contractors. The amicus brief, filed electronically Monday, requests that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirm a lower court’s decision to set the minimum hourly wage at $15 to adhere to an executive order made two years ago by President Joe Biden. The minimum wage for federal contractors was set at $10.10 in 2014. The state of Nebraska and officials from other states allege that the president and U.S. Department of Labor acted outside their statutory authority. They also claim the increase would have “vast economic and political significance.” But Brown and other attorneys general state that the wage increase benefits employers, employees and consumers and decreases poverty for federal workers. They also argue that workers from 27 states will see wage increases this year due to legislative enactments or inflation adjustments. From Maryland Matters Political Notes
IN DC AND FED-WORLD
News You Can Use and the Progressive Maryland BlogSpace reported extensively last week as the Biden Administration announced the first 10 drugs that it will negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on in order to bring the cost down for Medicare recipients via cost savings in Medicare. All other wealthy nations negotiate the price they pay for prescription drugs. Despite Big PhRMA’s promises that this would destroy the pharmaceutical industry, Wall Street barely reacted, indicating that the companies will be just fine [or, at least, that the traders expect that Big Pharma will find new ways to cheat]. That hasn’t stopped the drug companies from seeking to block the policies in court. We’ll [People’s Action, out front] be watching those lawsuits.
The Senate Is Back In This Week but the House is still out. The House returns next week for just a two week session in September despite a laundry list of bills that is must pass, including a funding bill to keep the government open. [We see in WaPo’s “Early 202” that the “Freedom Caucus” in the House has dug in its heels so much that “Speaker” Kevin McCarthy may have to deal with Dems to pass a Continuing Resolution that dodges a shutdown. Definitely stay tuned]. From Megan Essaheb, People’s Action
*corrected Sept. 6 to spell Jane McAlevey's name accurately
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