Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Fair Share and Democracy
May 2018

In a time of increasing inequality, when workers have a decreasing say in our economy, the U. S. Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 is about to undo Vermont law and destroy our unions.
Either we hang together or surely we will hang separately, was Benjamin Franklin’s observation in our battle against George III; without solidarity, our American Revolution would have failed. Likewise, the only defense workers have against the power of corporations is to act together. The child in the coal mine, the garment worker in the sweat shop and the laborer on the factory floor learned that standing alone was futile; only through unity are employee rights secured. Now, however, the soul of labor, collective bargaining, earned in struggle and blood, faces extinction.
On April 25, 2013, I reported S.14, the agency fee bill, on the floor of the Vermont House. What subsequently became Act.37 simply states that any nonunion member of a public bargaining unit will pay a share of the cost for services rendered by the union on behalf of all workers, dues-paying member or not. An elected union is mandated by law to expend resources to represent all employees, regardless of affiliation, in collective bargaining, grievance procedures and other work related matters. No one is entitled to a free ride; the cost for such representation should be borne by all. Everyone is simply asked to pay a fair share for services delivered. Opponents argue, incorrectly, that in violation of the First Amendment, workers are being forced to join a union.
In our democratic form of governance, although we express various social and political opinions, we work together in accepting actions by our elected officials. And, assuming that each of us is equally represented, we contribute a fair share of financial support for our common good. Otherwise, without the unity that Franklin spoke of, we will have anarchy, which is what will happen when the court in the Janus ruling overthrows agency fee legislation. Vermont’s Act.37 will be discarded, labor will be further splintered, workers will lose their seat at the table with management, economic inequality will escalate and our democracy will suffer.
Back in 2013, when I asked a conservative colleague and close friend about the pending agency fee bill, he surprised me by saying he was going to vote for it. “Why?” I asked. “Because it’s fair,” he responded.
Fairness is what democracy is about.
Abraham Lincoln and American Labor
February 2018

As we honor the birth of our first Republican President ten score and nine years ago, and his struggle to keep us united, we wonder what his reaction would be to today’s greatest threat to our union, a divisive monetary gap between those who create our wealth (labor) and those who seize the profits (capital).
“And, inasmuch [as] most good things are produced by labour, it follows that [all] such things of right belong to those whose labour has produced them,” according to him in 1847.
Human progress from the beginning is a story of work: Hunter-gatherers in nomadic life foraging for survival, and then homesteaders raising livestock and working the soil. Families engaged in honest toil, banding together, creating tools, goods and services. With diversification came the need for a system of economic exchange and the origins of capital which, Lincoln concedes in 1861, is worthy of some protections.
“But it has so happened in all ages of the world,” he says, “that some have laboured, and others have, without labour, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To [secure] to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government.”
And In 1838, he warns of inevitable threats from ambitious men who would use “the passions of the people as opposed to their judgement,” to undermine our democratic form of government.
Corporate billionaires, Lincoln’s ‘ambitious men’ of today, use  wealth, power, and control of government not to seek a ‘large proportion of the fruits;’  but to take it all. They siphon the toil of others into their profit margin games of hedge funds, economic gimmicks and stock manipulation. Meanwhile, they dole out to workers only what is necessary to keep them producing as long as they are needed. Freedom to move among jobs, protection from abuses, livable wages, on-job safety, workers rights, collective action, and all the requirements for a decent living are discarded.
It is difficult to imagine anyone who would be more offended than Abraham Lincoln by today’s Republican stance for unsafe, underpaid, voiceless, and forced labor. The only way for all of us to enjoy the fruits of our work, our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the preservation of our democracy, according to Lincoln, is through “general intelligence, sound morality and … a reverence for the constitution and laws.”

Friday, October 14, 2016

Bait, Switch and Act 46.
John Moran

Property taxes are a top voter concern and during the 2014 campaign candidates promised to lower them. However, although tax reduction proposals were in the offing, once elected, legislators did what they’ve done in the past. They switched focus from funding to governance.
During my eight years in the legislature, I and others pushed for property tax reform while defending small schools, local control and choice. Now, in one biennium, taxes are going up and everything we protected is in jeopardy. Act 46 is the wrong law. Instead of lowering taxes it addresses problems that do not exist, while creating new ones.
The number of school boards is presented as a problem, when really it is a demonstration of Vermont grass roots involvement. The state wants autocratic, top-down control; the towns want democratic diversity.
Consolidation is offered as efficient, but puts small school districts at the mercy of larger ones on matters of choice, curriculum, governance and existence.
Complex education funding mechanisms, comprehended by few Vermonters, force voters to make precipitous decisions with limited understanding.
Schools with easy decisions to consolidate are given tax breaks at the expense of schools with complicated and difficult choices.
Although property taxes are a major concern, even proponents acknowledge that the act is not likely to lower them.
While denied publicly, the drive by many for consolidation is to close small schools, which are the life centers of our towns a school official told me, and the souls of our communities a town official said.
Little is gained by Act 46 and so much is lost.
So, in the 2017 legislature I and others first will push to eliminate homestead education property taxes, to be replaced by income based funding. Residential property taxes will be needed for municipal expenses only.
Then, we will begin to undo the damage, caused by Act 46. While not punishing those districts that, in good faith, moved forward in implementing the law, we will fight for those who have the good sense to resist it.
If you want to be part of the fight, join me.
Now is the Time for Worker Fairness
John Moran
October 14, 2016

Now is the time for fairness for those who create our economy: The ski lift operator, home care provider, waitstaff, groundskeeper, sales person, housekeeper and convenience store clerk.
A server in a small cafe tells me “I make $11 an hour, but I need more hours”. A  manager at a local ski resort says, “I had to work many years before I reached the beginning salary offered me elsewhere”.  “I work full time”, reports a single parent, “but still need public assistance to get by”. “Both of us work,” says a couple, “and it’s still not enough to pay the bills.”
  Many who work independently have enough control to secure decent wages for themselves and the workers they hire, but most who labor in the tourism, retail and service industries are subject to pay and conditions determined by others.
It is fair for those who start a business to expect a return on their investment; to those who take the risk should go the reward. Yet who really puts themselves on the line? The families who sign leases or take out mortgages, the parents who enroll their children in the local school, and all who connect with neighbors and create friendships. It is really the employees, along with owners of small businesses, who are locked into the community. For corporations a failure is no big deal, because they just take their money and go elsewhere; but for those committed locally business success is essential. A just return on their human investment calls for control of working conditions, including living wages and on-job respect.
Pay of at least fifteen dollars an hour is politically, economically and morally justified.
The Declaration of Independence asserts that we all have unalienable rights that are to be secured by government. Realizing that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness with inadequate resources are not possible, for us not to legislate a living income for all Vermonters is political negligence.
As two thirds of the economy is domestic spending, paying workers a living wage is a positive for all; families have the resources necessary for a good life and more money is put into local circulation, which increases business activity and encourages the creation of new ventures.
Most importantly, what moral argument can justify any industry in Vermont not paying its service providers an income sufficient for  themselves and their families? Many socially responsible businesses already know that the wellbeing of staff is as important as profits. It is time for all of us to determine our economic destiny by supporting an economy that serves our values of progress while taking care of our own and pays all our workers what they already have earned, a living wage.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Financial Security for our Senior Citizens by John Moran

If I am a Vermont senior living on an insufficient, fixed income, I deal with difficult daily realities: Choosing between food or medication or between feeding myself or my pet; not going out because I can’t afford a vehicle and public transportation is unavailable; or, weighing carefully every purchase I make. My only human contact may be the volunteer who delivers Meals-on-Wheels. I am anxious about paying my property taxes or in constant dread that an unexpected expense is going to throw me into uncontrollable debt.
In the second oldest state, with 30% of our citizens over 55 (the fastest population increase being persons over 65) and many seniors finding living in our district unaffordable, financial security for my fellow seniors is to me a major concern.
Ideally social security, funded by worker contributions, provides for a decent retirement after a lifetime of labor. However, funding and distribution prove less than ideal and add to a growing economic inequality. During the work years, whole categories of employees, particularly women, are underpaid and thus receive less in retirement benefits. Meanwhile, the affluent, through regressive funding, do not pay their fair share. Upon retirement, the well-to-do have a variety of incomes and social security for them is supplemental, but for the not-so-well-off social security is survival.
Enemies of social security want to weaken the program, lessen benefits, decrease cost-of-living adjustments and remove government control. Arguing that Americans are living longer, they want to raise the benefit eligibility age, ignoring that it is the rich, not the low income workers, whose longevity is increasing. Hard working Vermonters, who often bring the aches and pains of years of physical labor and limited survival years into retirement, need a lower eligibility age.
For retiring Vermonters, we must continue our government controlled social security program with increased benefits; an eligibility age returned to 65; a more comprehensive medicare (open to 55 year-olds) which includes lower drug prices; supplemental payments to bring everyone to a livable income; and, full commitment to all community services, such as home delivered meals, in-home supports, senior centers, guaranteed transportation, safe public accommodations; and, consumer fraud protection. For Vermonters still in the workforce we need increased contributions from higher income participants, and for lower income workers a living wage, equal pay for women, paid sick and family leave, reasonably priced housing, publicly financed health care, debt-free education, affordable day care and a state sponsored retirement program.

Do not go gentle into that good night, says Dylan Thomas to his father.
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Let us not go gentle into underfunded retirement, but rage against a system that has so many of us struggling to achieve what we contributed to, a comfortable, productive and happy closing of our years.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

My best years

My best years, the last twenty-seven, have been living in Wardsboro, married to Chérie, step father to Emi and Eri, and sharing our home with a number of Cairn Terriers. From my arrival in town, on advice from my late father-in-law Tim Keeler, I’ve been involved in various community activities: health officer, Fourth of July Parade, select board, school board and four terms as our state representative to the Vermont House. Looking out for our town and our district has always been my reason for public  service, and so actions by the state legislature over the last two years have caused me  concern.
My eight years in Montpelier protecting community control of eduction, small schools and choice have been jeopardized by Act 46. Instead of lowering property taxes which was the clear call from voters in the last election, the legislature diverted attention to governance, addressing problems that did not exist, while adding complications and confusion to the work of our dedicated school boards.
The results of the March presidential primaries demonstrate voter dissatisfaction  with present economic conditions, and while the legislature continues a quest for elusive good paying jobs, it overlooks the challenges of the current, underpaid creators of our district economy, the housekeepers, ski lift operators and service and retail employees.
To look out for our own, hard working families and students in our town and district, to fight for a livable wage for all and community centered education, and to continue my commitment to work with you at home and for you in Montpelier, I am running to retake the Windham-Bennington House seat. I ask for your support in the primary in August and the general election in November.
Thank you, John Moran, Wardsboro.

Bucketville News — July, 2106

Monday, April 11, 2016

$15 Minimum Wage

Rights and Democracy
Press Conference
March 9, 2016
Cedar Creek Room

Every town in Vermont voted for Senator Sanders in the recent Democratic primary.

Like Bernie, people are angry.
Oppressed by a rigged economy.
Working harder, longer hours for less pay.

Especially those in the retail, tourism and service industries.
The salesman, the waitress, the handy man, the chambermaid, the house keeper, the nursing assistant, the home care provider.
The creators of our economy and providers of our human services.
By use of head, heart and hand every one of them already earns a livable wage.
They're just not paid that.
Through wage theft, they are relegated to servitude.

No business that does not pay a livable wage, according to FDR, has a right to exist.
And I say that no business is entitled to tax considerations in Vermont that does not create jobs that at least pay a livable wage..

In a country where twenty individuals possess as much wealth as one hundred, sixty-five million Americans, it is safe to say that our economic system is not working.

It is time to join Rights and Democracy and Senator Bernie Sanders in a call for economic/social justice and environmental sanity.

And let us start with a livable wage of at least fifteen dollars an hour for all Vermonters.