Monthly Archives: June 2014

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Supreme Court Deals Public Unions a Blow

In it’s Hobby Lobby decision, SCOTUS decided that your employer gets to limit your access to birth control by not covering it under in insurance. They also decided Harris v. Quinn on public sector unions, saying that partial public employees — in this case home health care workers who are reimbursed by the government through Medicare — do not have to pay fair share union dues to cover the cost of negotiating (btw, “Since organizing in 2003, home care workers’ wages got bargained up from $5 an hour to $11.85 an hour, and will rise to $13 in December.”).

This is a big hit for an expanding sector (“the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects … the home health care industry … to grow by roughly 70 percent in the next decade.”) but at least the Harris v. Quinn decision stops short of overturning the Abood precedent allowing public sector unions to collect dues from members (which is essential for any union) and limits its decision to these workers who are not directly employed by the government but who are reimbursed by the government.

However, SCOTUS is clearly setting the stage to to dismantle public unions by reversing the Abood precedent in a future case.
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Empire State Building lit up for NYC Pride.

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Improvised wrapping paper.

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The Human Fallout From Tajikistan’s Dam Project

A brilliant, nuanced report on Tajikistan andthe intersection between development and rights from Francesca Juliet Corbacho at Human Rights Watch:

“Tajikistan is Central Asia’s poorest country, with almost half its GDP coming from remittances of people who migrate to Russia for work. With the dam, the Tajik government could boost its economy by selling surplus energy. But there’s no reason this can’t happen while the government carries out a resettlement program that respects the rights of the 42,000 people being moved to make way for the dam. The government needs to provide adequate compensation and enable people to maintain their standard of living throughout the relocation process.”

Resettled families have lost their homes and livelihoods and are struggling to survive. The World Bank is considering lending its support to the dam project but “Resettlement is suspended as the World Bank finalizes [feasibility] studies, so we’re at a critical moment. Tajikistan has agreed to abide by the World Bank’s recommendations.” Francesca’s contribution is so important because “While the [World Bank] studies consider international environmental laws, they don’t cite any international human rights standards,” but now there is an opportunity for advocacy. “If we can highlight what needs to be changed to both the World Bank and Tajikistan, it could prevent the next 5,500 families to be resettled from experiencing similar rights abuses.”

Great job Francesca!!

cc: Vicki Litvinov, Katya Kumkova
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Massachusetts SWAT teams claim they’re private corporations, immune from open records laws

Insanity: in Massachusetts, militarized SWAT teams claim they don’t have to hand over documents after open records requests because they are PRIVATE corporations and not a government agencies. Remember that when the battering ram comes through the door and a bunch of cops stick enormous guns in your face and throw your children on the floor: it’s a company, not a government agency subject to oversight.
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