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A few upcoming political events

Pete StarkRep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, is holding two town meetings this Saturday, Jan. 22, so constituents can “ask questions about important national issues. Likely topics include the agenda for the new Congress, Republican attempts to repeal the health reform law, and job creation efforts.” The meetings will be from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in the Fremont Senior Center, 40086 Paseo Padre Parkway, and 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the city council chambers at San Leandro City Hall, 835 E. 14th St.

Daniel BorensteinBay Area News Group-East Bay’s very own columnist and editorial writer Daniel Borenstein will join Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal, former Assemblyman and Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research lecturer Joe Nation and SEIU Local 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez for a Commonwealth Club of California discussion on “The True Cost of Public Pensions: Reform or Bust?” at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Jan. 25, in the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd. “California’s financial situation is in shambles, and some pundits have identified the states public-employee pension obligation as a central part of the problem,” the club says. “But what is the true cost of pensions to the states structural deficit? Nineteen states reformed their public pension benefits in 2010.California has the largest pension system in the nation; is it now time for our state to reform our program too?” Tickets cost $12 for club members, $22 for nonmembers or $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will headline a Commonwealth Club of California panel discussion on “The Obama Effect: Where Does the African American Community Stand Now?” at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 7 in the Lafayette Veterans Memorial Hall, 3780 Mt. Diablo Blvd. Also participating will be Green For All CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins and ColorOfChange.org cofounder and Executive Director James Rucker. “The panel will discuss the effects the election and new president have had on the black community,” the club says. “Has Obama landed the final blow needed to break the glass ceiling? Or has electing the first African-American president during one of the worst times in our country’s history created an unfortunate association that will become more of a hindrance than a help to the African American community?” Tickets cost $12 for club members, $22 for nonmembers or $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online.

John GaramendiRep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, will host his annual crab feed – a fundraiser for his Garamendi for Congress committee – with guest speaker Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18 in the Antioch Community Center, 4703 Lone Tree Way. Tickets are $45 per person, with more expensive sponsorships available, and are available online.

Jerry McNerneyAnd Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is accepting applications for college and post-graduate internships in his Stockton and Pleasanton offices: “I encourage students who are interested in public service and learning about a congressional office to apply for an internship in one of my offices. It is an excellent way to gain professional experience and to serve our community.” High school students will be considered on a case-by-case basis. To apply, mail or fax a cover letter and resume either to the Stockton office, attn: Internship Coordinator, 2222 Grand Canal Blvd. #7, Stockton, CA 95207 (fax: 209-476-8587) or to the Pleasanton office, attn: Internship Coordinator, 5776 Stoneridge Mall Rd. #175, Pleasanton, CA 94588 (fax: 925-737-0734).

Posted on Thursday, January 20th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Barbara Lee, Calendar, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Obama presidency, Pete Stark, Political events, Susan Bonilla, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Today’s rhetoric on health care reform repeal

East Bay House members have been busy speaking against the Republican bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the health care reforms enacted last year; the repeal vote is expected to come to a vote today. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, built up a full head of steam on the House floor this morning:

And Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, went into the lions’ den this morning, on “Fox and Friends:”

On the other side, here’s House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at his news conference this morning:

UPDATE @ 12:15 P.M.: Here’s Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont:

UPDATE @ 3:11 P.M.: The repeal bill, HR 2, has passed on a 245-189 vote, with three Democrats crossing the aisle to vote with the Republican majority: Dan Boren, D-Okla.; Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.; and Mike Ross, D-Ark.

Posted on Wednesday, January 19th, 2011
Under: George Miller, healthcare reform, John Boehner, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Lawmakers tout $10.2 mil for East Bay trails

House members at Coliseum BART 10-27-10 -- photo by Josh RichmanFour of the East Bay’s five House of Representatives members gathered in Oakland this afternoon to tout a $10.2 million federal grant to improve the region’s pedestrian and bicycle trails and reduce local traffic congestion.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the grant last week through its Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery II (TIGER II) program, bankrolled by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus law. It’ll fund seven projects in Alameda and Contra Costa counties that are part of the East Bay Regional Park District’s Green Transportation Initiative, closing gaps in the nearly 200-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail system that can bring people to BART, Amtrak, bus and other transportation modes. From an overview of the initiative:

Providing low-cost, healthy transportation choices in crowded urban areas will improve the nation’s economic competitiveness by reducing transportation and health-care costs while increasing the mobility of the labor force. Walking and bicycling are the most environmentally sustainable forms of transportation, are energy efficient, and generate no greenhouse gasses or other pollutants. The EBGTI will help achieve these goals while creating hundreds of good-paying American jobs constructing and maintaining portions of the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

One of the seven projects is the East Bay Greenway, a proposed bicycle and pedestrian pathway running under the BART tracks from the Coliseum station to 105th Avenue in Oakland. And so Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez; Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; and Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, gathered today at the Coliseum BART station. Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, held his own news conference announcing the grant last week.

EBRPD Board President Doug Siden introduced the lawmakers, noting $19 billion worth of projects competed for $600 million in TIGER II funding, and it was the East Bay’s House members’ efforts that helped seal the deal to bring some of the money here.

“We wanted the Secretary of Transportation and our entire federal government to understand the possibilities of what a TIGER II grant would do for the Bay Area,” Lee said – not only a means of getting people out of cars and onto their feet or bicycles on their way to work, but also a source of up to 500 new jobs as the projects get underway.

Garamendi said his call to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood came after those of several of his colleagues. “He said, ‘My God, how many represent this area?’ I said, ‘Enough to get you to do this.’”

Miller said the sell was made somewhat easier by the park district’s reputation as “one of the most respected park agencies in the world.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Pete Stark, Transportation, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

McNerney voted for the war supplemental

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, was the only Bay Area House member to vote in favor of the $33 billion Afghanistan and Iraq war supplemental spending bill yesterday. The bill passed on a 308-114 vote.

I asked McNerney’s office why he voted as he did, and how he felt about this week’s release of classified military documents on the WikiLeaks website.

Jerry McNerney “The leaking of classified information is a very serious matter, especially if it has the potential to put American troops at risk. I have been following these developments carefully,” he replied in an e-mail this afternoon. “I voted in favor of the supplemental because I believe we must continue to develop an effective strategy to stop terrorists who are attempting to use Afghanistan as a safe haven from which to attack our country.

“Late last year, I traveled to Afghanistan as part of a bipartisan fact-finding trip to see for myself the situation on ground,” he continued. “I spent time with our troops and met with U.S. military and Afghan government officials. I’m impressed by the efforts of our men and women in uniform and grateful for their sacrifice, and I believe our military commanders and our troops in the field should have the resources to defend themselves and execute the mission they have been given.”

Politically, it seemed like a no-brainer. Regardless of how McNerney personally feels about the wars, a “no” vote would’ve been risky for the only truly embattled House incumbent serving the most moderate district in the Bay Area, and it’s not as if he’d have put the Democratic doves’ votes over the top.

Read other Bay Area members’ comments, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
Under: Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Iraq, Iraq War, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

TEA partiers to protest lawmakers at veterans fair

Congressmen George Miller, D-Martinez; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; and John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, will co-host a Women Veterans Fair – offering workshops for women vets on employment, counseling services, benefits and navigating the VA bureaucracy – starting at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday, July 10, in the Los Medanos College cafeteria in Pittsburg.

Naturally, any time three House Democrats are in the same place at the same time, conservative protestors ears’ prick up. Halfway to Concord reported Wednesday that the Contra Costa East County Tea Party was planning to protest the event, although I didn’t see anything on their site today.

Miller’s office relayed this missive yesterday from retired U.S. Army Reserve 1st Sgt. Delphine Metcalf-Foster of Vallejo, a Desert Storm/Desert Shield veteran:

To the members of the Tea Party and those who would disrupt the Women Veterans’ Fair:

Yesterday, a friend of mine emailed me an article that is on your web site with your plans to disrupt, for purely political purposes, the First Women Veterans Fair in this region to be given July 10th, 2010. To say the least I was totally shocked at the thought of your organization trying to interfere with information that would help our Women Veterans.

My thoughts went back to 1995 as I witness the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. At that event, Secretary of Defense William J. Perry stated “The ground they broke was hard soil indeed. But with great heart and true grit, they plowed through the prejudice and presumptions, cutting a path for their daughters and granddaughters to serve their country in uniform.” I will never forget his sincere statement for myself and all other women veterans.

Valiant women have served honorably since the Revolutionary War, at times disguising themselves as men because they wanted to serve their country. For you to try to interfere with the needed information to assist our women’s veterans after all the trials we have gone through in our history and up until today, makes me feel there are still some people who bear prejudice against women and will try to deny us the services we rightfully have earned.…Your actions to protest at this much needed informational event appears to me more political. My question is: Why is your organization trying to stop women from getting needed information to assist us? Is the prejudice we have suffered as Woman Veterans still alive and well?

I have been a member of the Miller Veterans’ Advisory Board for 8 years and the members, of our committee are proud of the accomplishments we have been able to bring to our elected officials. I can only hope that this protest will not happen and that our work as women veterans through the years has not been in vain.

Today, I see TPM has talked to Tea Party organizer Jill Price, who said she’s having trouble rallying her people for Saturday – with many concerned they’ll be seen as anti-veteran, which isn’t her intent – but still expects about 20 to turn out.

UPDATE @ 4:52 P.M. MONDAY 7/12: Read our coverage of the event here.

Posted on Friday, July 9th, 2010
Under: George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Today’s Congressional odds and ends

Jerry McNerneyMcNerney touts GOP endorsements: One day after the National Republican Congressional Committee named 11th Congressional District GOP nominee David Harmer one of its “Young Guns,” incumbent
Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, announced he has the endorsements of three prominent local Republicans: Danville Mayor Mike Doyle, Tracy Councilman Steve Abercrombie and former Manteca Mayor and Councilman Jack Snyder. “Jerry McNerney has done more for our veterans than anyone else that I’ve worked with,” Doyle said in McNerney’s news release. “From fighting to keep the Livermore VA in veterans’ hands to supporting the renovations of the Danville Veterans Hall, Jerry McNerney has shown that he’s willing to work across the aisle and will get the job done for our community.”

Lee praises SBA pick: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, congratulates Elizabeth Echols, 50, of Oakland, on her appointment as Region IX Administrator for the Small Business Administration, charged with overseeing the SBA’s programs and services in California, Nevada, Arizona Hawaii and Guam. Echols is CEO of OpNet Community Ventures, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to promoting opportunities in the technology industry for low-income young adults, and held several political appointments in the Clinton White House and Commerce Department. “I don’t believe the SBA could have made a better selection,” Lee said. “Elizabeth recognizes the role the SBA has played in helping pull our nation out of the recession. Elizabeth understands that small business is the engine that drives our nation’s economy, and that providing small businesses with support and resources is key to creating good-paying, sustainable jobs and, ultimately, to our economic recovery.”

Miller preps for child nutrition markup: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, chaired a hearing yesterday on bipartisan child nutrition reauthorization legislation introduced earlier this month to improve children’s health, increase access to healthy meals, and create more year-round meal opportunities for children; Miller announced plans to markup HR 5504, the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act, when Congress returns after the July 4th recess. “We need to get our country back on a pathway of healthy eating and healthy living – this starts by not only ensuring our children are eating healthy meals in schools, but also teaching them healthy habits that will last them a lifetime,” he said in a news release today. “This bill is a great opportunity to improve our school meal programs, to meet children’s nutritional needs at every venture and to change the future of this country.”

Lawmakers vote to limit Afghanistan funding: Lee and Miller joined Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, in voting Thursday for Lee’s amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations bill that would have denied additional funds for the war in Afghanistan except for money that would be needed to ensure the safety of troops in the field as they are preparing to redeploy. The amendment failed on a 100-321 vote. McNerney and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, voted against the amendment, while Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, didn’t vote.

Posted on Friday, July 2nd, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, congressional district 11, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 16 Comments »

Dems applaud Wall Street reform’s passage

The East Bay’s House Democrats are proclaiming victory with today’s final House passage of the Wall Street reform legislation on a 237-192 vote; only three Republicans voted for the bill.

From House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez:

“Today’s vote to hold Wall Street accountable is a triple win — for families, small businesses, and consumers in our community. Every family in my congressional district has suffered from this devastating economic recession, the worst to hit our country since the Great Depression. And it was caused through a combination of greed on Wall Street and a culture among Washington Republicans under President Bush who turned away from any accountability for financial firms.

“The effects have been severe — sustained double-digit unemployment, too many Bay Area homes going into foreclosure each month, small businesses in shopping centers around the Bay Area fighting to stay alive but starved for credit. We cannot, and I will not, leave this system of greed and unaccountability unchanged.

“In addition to other steps we have taken to rescue the economy and create jobs, this bill protects consumers through common sense rules to stop predatory lending and bar mortgage offers to people who can’t afford them. It prevents lenders from getting bonuses for steering borrowers into higher cost loans, and enhances penalties for lenders making irresponsible loans,” Miller said.

“This bill, while it is only a first step at holding Wall Street accountable, is still the greatest single improvement to financial accountability in America in generations. One bill alone cannot avert a crisis, we all know that. But this bill will make a huge difference in our ability to try to prevent future crises and to better respond to them if they occur, and it will better protect consumers day by day from unscrupulous practices” Miller added. “For too long, reckless deregulation and Wall Street greed were the hallmarks of our financial system and left us in financial chaos. This bill ends that dangerous setup and provides one more step in our ongoing effort to get the American economy back on its feet.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

“It is insensible that hard working families in my home state of California and across this country continue to fall victim to the recklessness and greed of Wall Street, the same Wall Street that relied on tax-payer dollars to keep raking in the profits and shelling out billions in bonuses.”
“It is time that we start reinvesting our resources in the people of this country to provide pathways out of poverty and get people back to work. It is time we stood up on behalf of the consumer. This legislation will protect consumers from fraud and provide Californians with financial security. It is definitely a step in the right direction.”

But, from House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“Americans have suffered through a serious financial meltdown that destroyed millions of jobs and wiped out the savings of millions of American families. A devastating meltdown slowed our economy and raised new doubts about whether it’s even possible any longer to pursue the American Dream. Unfortunately, this bill will do nothing to prevent it from happening to the American people again. This legislation will actually kill more jobs, widen the gap between Wall Street and Main Street, and force taxpayers to fund permanent bailouts for President Obama’s Wall Street allies.

“The fact of the matter is, the financial meltdown was triggered by government mortgage companies giving too many high-risk loans to people who couldn’t afford them. And it was the policies of the leadership of this Congress that allowed it to happen. This legislation will do nothing – nothing – to fix those mistakes. Permanent bailouts for President Obama’s Wall Street allies and more job-killing mandates for Main Street is not reform – it’s just more of the same broken status quo. Republicans have a better solution that ends the bailouts, ends ‘too big to fail,’ and reforms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

More after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, John Garamendi, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

Drilling-ban bill introduced in Senate

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein were joined by their fellow Senators from Oregon and Washington today in introducing a bill to permanently prohibit offshore drilling on the outer continental shelf off the West Coast.

The lawmakers said the bill – inspired by the ongoing economic and environmental disaster of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to permanently protect the $34 billion coastal economies of the three states, which support nearly 570,000 jobs.

“We simply cannot afford the risk posed by oil drilling off our magnificent coast. Nearly 570,000 jobs and our vital coastal economy would not survive an environmental disaster like the one we’re seeing now along the Gulf Coast,” Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in the news release.

“Offshore oil drilling carries with it real risk,” said Feinstein. “The voters of California have voted that they don’t want offshore oil drilling, and I don’t want offshore drilling. Now we know what the potential is for catastrophe and we have to see that it never, ever happens again. Therefore, I’m very happy to join with Senator Boxer and others on this legislation to permanently ban all new offshore oil and natural gas along the West Coast.”

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, issued a statement thanking the Senators for introducing the bill, which is companion legislation to a House bill he introduced last week.

“To date we have 28 cosponsors, and all coastal districts from the Canadian border to Monterey support our bill. We have allies on the East Coast and federal territories, and more than 20 environmental organizations have lined up behind this critical legislation,” he said in his release. “I look forward to working with our friends in both houses of Congress to put this legislation on the President’s desk. The public now understands the horrifying consequences of offshore oil drilling, and I’m convinced the tide has turned.”

But former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, now vying for the Republican nomination in June to challenge Boxer in November, said the bill is “the height of political posturing.

“Not only does her proposal demonstrate her willingness to pander to the far left environmental lobby, but also her willingness to ignore the will of the people she was elected to represent. The people of this country recognize the economic benefits of oil drilling, and 60 percent of Americans – including me – continue to support it,” Fiorina said.

“There’s already a moratorium on new off-shore oil development in California. The moratorium is renewable because it gives policy makers a chance to regularly revisit the issue to assess both our nation’s need for new oil development and our capacity to deliver it safely. A proposal for a permanent ban is shortsighted because it assumes we will never need new energy supplies and deprives future generations of the opportunity to make that decision.”

Posted on Thursday, May 13th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Barbara Boxer, Carly Fiorina, Dianne Feinstein, energy, Environment, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

Oil spill shapes California’s drilling debate

Democrats are doing their happy dance now that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in reaction to the epically disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has withdrawn his support of the proposed Tranquillon Ridge oil drilling project off California’s coast.

From state Controller John Chiang:

“I am pleased the Governor has withdrawn his support for what would have been the first new oil lease off the coast of California in 40 years.

“As a member of the State Lands Commission who voted against the project last year, I am saddened that it took a tragic and massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to remind us how important it is that we continue to protect California’s shores and our multi-billion dollar coastal and port economies.”

From Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who chaired the State Lands Commission while serving as lieutenant governor:

“It’s unfortunate it took one of the worst ecological disasters in U.S. history for Governor Schwarzenegger to come to his senses, but today, friends of California’s coastline can breathe a sigh of relief. There will be no more new leases for oil drilling from platforms off the coast of Santa Barbara.

“When I chaired the California State Lands Commission, the independent commission responsible for approving oil leases in California, I made it clear that the risk of permitting new drilling from platforms in California is ecological and economic disaster. The Gulf Coast oil spill – which threatens 40 percent of U.S. wetlands and will cost fishing and tourism industries billions of dollars – proves my point. We don’t want to imagine what a similar spill would do to California’s coast.

“President Obama has proposed a temporary presidential moratorium on new offshore oil drilling, and that’s a good start, but Congress plays an important role as well. Our coast is best protected when both the President and Congress make it clear that new offshore drilling is not an option.

“An oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara jumpstarted the modern environmentalist movement 41 years ago, helping to create the Environmental Protection Agency, Earth Day, and ultimately, offshore oil drilling moratoriums that served us well for 26 years. What will they say about our response to the Gulf Coast tragedy?”

Since I wrote Friday about the differing views on this, new information about the spill’s severity has elicited more powerful criticisms of off-shore drilling.

Greenpeace – never a friend to oil interests, of course – put out this map today superimposing a projection of the Deepwater Horizon spill’s extent upon California’s coast, to illustrate the effect a similar spill might have here:

Greenpeace's CA oil spill forecast

And the Center for American Progress – a progressive think-tank with a lot of connections to the Obama Administration – made its case today, too.

“We need to learn from this tragedy,” wrote CAP Senior Fellow and Climate Strategy Director Daniel J. Weiss. “Offshore drilling is a risky way to meet our energy needs. We have only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, yet we use one-quarter of the oil produced annually. It is a dangerous practice that puts American lives and livelihoods at risk while distracting from real solutions that can provide clean energy while creating jobs.”

But House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, says domestic drilling still has to be part of the nation’s overall energy plan.

John Boehner“The Obama Administration is right to insist on a full investigation of the events leading up to this tragic, deadly, unacceptable accident and the oil spill that resulted. We must stop the leaking oil, and help the Gulf recover, but we also need to know how it happened, who is responsible, and how we can prevent future incidents. The White House must ensure that BP bears the entire financial burden to clean up this disaster. Not a dime of taxpayer money should be used to clean up their mess. Also, House Oversight Ranking Member Darrell Issa is asking important questions related to the Administration’s response to this incident and he should get prompt and complete answers.

“At the same time, this tragedy should remind us that America needs a real, comprehensive energy plan, like Republicans’ ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy, which includes more of everything: more clean and renewable sources of energy such as nuclear power, wind, and solar energy, more alternative fuels, more conservation, and more environmentally-responsible development of America’s energy resources. Our American Energy Act would use the funds generated by expanded American energy production to speed up the development of the next generation of clean-energy alternatives. It would also lower fuel costs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and – at a time when Americans are asking, where are the jobs? – it would create more than a million new American jobs.

“Now is not the time for new government-mandated limits on the production of American-made energy, as such limits will only make us more dependent on foreign oil, slow the development of clean-energy alternatives, increase fuel costs, and destroy American jobs. It’s time to get to the bottom of this tragedy, work to ensure it never happens again, and move forward in a responsible manner on an ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to lower energy costs, expand the use of clean-energy alternatives, and create American jobs.”

UPDATE @ 4:41 P.M.: More Democratic praise for Schwarzenegger’s move, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, May 3rd, 2010
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, energy, Environment, John Boehner, John Chiang, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Senate delays FedEx labor showdown

The U.S. Senate this week delayed debate on legislation that shipping giant FedEx says would endanger some of the 2,000 jobs it provides at Oakland International Airport, but local lawmakers say the company just doesn’t want to lose an advantage over its workers and competitors.

FedExWorkers at FedEx Express – the air-oriented rapid delivery division of Memphis-based FedEx Corp. – are covered by the Railway Labor Act, which lets them unionize but curbs their right to strike. A section in the House version of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, HR 915, would amend the RLA to cover only pilots, aircraft maintenance workers and aircraft dispatchers, meaning most of FedEx Express’ employees would suddenly have strike rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

That provision isn’t in the U.S. Senate version of the bill, but the chamber briefly took it up for debate this week – and FedEx went to the mattresses to try to stop it – before the bill was postponed for another three months.

“This provision was inserted in a backroom deal in the dark of night without a hearing, public input or economic study,” FedEx spokesman Maury Lane said Monday. “It changed 70 years of labor law which has been serving employees under the RLA well by having 10 times the amount of unionization than the NLRA … so this move is actually an antiunion move, in reality, if you look at the bigger picture.”

The Teamsters disagree. The union and UPS, FedEx’s arch-rival, convinced House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., to insert and champion the provision. They call the current situation a loophole that treats FedEx differently from all its competitors and deprives workers of labor rights.

Lane says UPS is bigger and older than FedEx but does more of its shipping by truck and entered the air freight business a decade after FedEx, yet structured its operations in such a way that packages are moved by a chain of workers “contaminated” with a mixture of RLA and NLRA labor rules; FedEx Express workers always have been covered only by the RLA.

“They could’ve set their company up smart like we did but they chose to take a shortcut and they’re paying for it now because of a costly labor contract they signed two years ago,” he said. “This is not about leveling the playing field, this is about them wiping us off the playing field and getting a legislative bailout to fix a broken economic model.”

Lane noted FedEx Express has 12,000 employees in California, about 2,000 of whom work in a hub at Oakland’s airport. Giving local workers the power to strike means decreasing FedEx Express’ reliability, he said, citing a 1997 strike that stilled UPS for 16 days. Less reliability means less customers and less revenue, he said, and that means letting workers go.

“There seems to me to be no reason for FedEx to have a special exemption from the normal labor laws that govern that industry,” countered Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, is the only Bay Area member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, though he wasn’t yet in office when the House passed its version of this bill last May.

Garamendi said Northern California’s business is “crucial” to FedEx and the company surely won’t curtail operations here. “UPS operates in the Bay Area very successfully with a union and they’re not pulling out, so I think it’s an anti-union attitude of FedEx that’s in play here, but the reality is quite different.”

Oakland International Airport falls in the 13th Congressional District represented by Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont. His staff said he supports the provision because it would treat FedEx the same as its peers and protect workers’ labor rights.

The consensus among staffers for both of California’s U.S. Senators is that the provision won’t be inserted into the Senate version of the bill, so it’ll become an issue for the conference committee working out differences between the House and Senate versions. A spokeswoman for Barbara Boxer said she supports the provision as a means of “leveling the playing field for all of our workers;” a spokesman for Dianne Feinstein said she has taken no position on the provision.

Posted on Thursday, March 18th, 2010
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, John Garamendi, Labor politics, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »