Protesting outside of an Amazon warehouse on May 1, International Workers Day, has become an tradition for Tucson labor unions. Organized by the Pima Area Labor Federation (PALF), the 2023 event drew about 50 protesters on a blustery day. AFL-CIO Organizing Specialist Ryan Kelly highlighted many union organizing accomplishments in the past year.
This video includes the speeches from several Tucson union leaders. It was heartening to see so many young people rising in the ranks of a revived union movement in the US. (My apologies for the wind and the street noise.)
Forty years ago, in the fall of 1981, when I told my Dad that I was leaving Ohio and moving to Arizona, the first words out of his mouth were, “Well, you know Arizona is a ‘right to work state,’ don’t cha? That means ‘right to work for less.’”
I grew up in a union household. Dad was a Steelworker for most of his work life. During the 1960s and early 1970s, he was in the thick of the struggle for better wages, better benefits, and better working conditions for factory workers in Northern Ohio. Technically, I knew what “right to work state” meant, but at the time, I had no idea how moving to a right to work state would affect my career and my children’s future opportunities.
My last job in Columbus was as a professional photographer working for a swanky graphic and product design agency. (It was a really cool place to work, and over the last 40 years, particularly when I a wage slave at the University of Arizona, I often wonder why I left!)
At my first job interview in Tucson at a much smaller advertising and graphic design agency, the owner asked about my salary history. I had more than six years of experience in design, photography, and printing production. I told him that I was making $8 per hour in Columbus (and as far as I was concerned, I was worth every penny!) He literally laughed in my face and said, “You’ll never make that kind of money here in Tucson!”
As of today, June 8, 2020, there have been 7 million cases of COVID19 worldwide and 402,555 deaths. The US has the worst COVID19 track record with 2 million cases and 110,514 deaths. Although the US has 4.25% of the world’s population, we have had 28% of the cases and 28% of the deaths.
Why does the US have such a dismal track record in fighting the novel coronavirus? I thought we had the “best healthcare system in the world.” We have the most expensive healthcare system in the world, but when you look at our public health data and our response to COVID19, we definitely do not have the best system in the world.
The United States is the only developed country in the world that does not have a national health plan that guarantees care for all residents. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a nice try, but its efficacy and affordability have been whittled away by Republicans in Congress.
Why is the US response to COVID19 so disorganized and inadequate? Before the pandemic, we had an over-priced, inequitable system based upon profit and a just-in-time supply chain of personnel, equipment and beds. The novel coronavirus turned the spotlight on inadequacies and inequities of our health care system. In the United States, the health care you get depends on your income and your ZIP Code– not your needs. If you’re a resident of the United States you should have access to the same healthcare across the country. A person living in Chinle should have the same access to care as a person living in Paradise Valley. Now the person in Chinle not only does not have adequate medical care, they may not have running water or passable roads.
Did you all see the photos from the Open Up Arizona rally on Friday, May 1 at the Capital? Wow! On two recent Fridays, there have been large public rallies at the Arizona Capital to promote ending the executive order that closed businesses and told people to shelter in place due to the COVID19 outbreak.
The social media promotion for this past weekend encouraged people to rally at Wesley Bolin Plaza on Friday, have a party in the park with friends on Saturday, and “rev it up” by going to church on Sunday.
Many anti-vaccine folks￼ are participating in these rallies because they don’t want the government to require Coronavirus vaccines (which don’t exist). Think about this. What could go wrong? A bunch of people who don’t believe in being vaccinated decide to go to participate in three days of large public events… during a pandemic! You can’t make this stuff up.￼
It’s been almost exactly a month since the Arizona Legislature adjourned on March 23. Jim and I have been social distancing, sheltering in place, cooking three meals a day, limiting shopping trips, and wearing masks ￼and gloves when we do go out. We are healthy, and I hope you are, too.
There have been protests recently — including one today (April 20) at the Arizona Capitol– regarding opening up the economy and letting other businesses, besides essential services, open their doors and get back to business as usual. That would be premature. Across the country and the state, COVID19 testing, surveillance, and contract tracing have been patchy at best. We really don’t know the extent of the spread of the virus because we are still primarily testing the sickest people with a set of specific symptoms.
We are learning as we study the spread of this disease that many people can be Coronavirus carriers and have no symptoms. Great for them but bad for the rest of us because these seemingly healthy people can infect others. The data from the Princess cruise ship and from the￼ naval ship revealed that many people onboard who tested positive for COVID19 had no symptoms. On the Princess, 18 percent of the people who tested positive for COVID-19 had no symptoms. On the naval aircraft carrier, 60 percent of the 600 sailors tested positive but had no symptoms.
Since asymptomatic but contagious people are among us, that underscores the need for continued shelter in place practices, social distancing, and wearing masks in public.
Many of you have recently asked me what the Legislature is up to. After all, we haven’t been at the capital since March 23.
Today’s video is meant to answer the question: Are you done or what?
OK. We’re not done for the year. On March 23, the Legislature passed a “skinny budget” with the Senate bipartisan plan that included $50 million to fight the Coronavirus. After that, we voted to adjourn until April 13 (or until needed or it’s safe). Legislators and their assistants are all working remotely.
There is a lot of speculation about the Legislature, now that President has given up on his prediction that everything will be back to normal by Easter and is promoting staying at home through the month of April. The Legislature could vote remotely or come back with a skeleton crew and sine die (end for the year) or extend the adjournment.
The Capital Times is reporting that if we did indeed sine die now, only about 60 bills will have passed and been signed into law this year￼. ￼Traditionally, the Legislature passes more than 300 bills a year. (More than 95 percent of these bills are Republican bills, even though the Democrats make up 48 percent of the Legislature.) As a long-time Arizona voter, I remember asking myself how in the world can they could pass so many bills every year, particularly when the Republicans promote themselves as party of small government, and they’ve been in charge for decades.￼
Now, as a two-term Democratic representative, I know that the vast majority of the new laws passed by Arizona Republicans are totally unnecessary and often harmful to segments of Arizona’s population. They are NOT the party of small government, obviously,
I relish the idea of passing ~60 bills in 2020, rather than 300. Legislation to enable pet projects, pet vendettas and sweetheart tax deals for utilities and multinational corporations seem completely irrelevant and wrong-headed during a mismanaged public health crisis.
It would be a great thing for the citizens of Arizona if the Legislature passed fewer bills. In 2020, Legislators proposed a record number of bills, more than 1700. If we end the session now, hundreds of bad bills that would have passed in a normal year will be dead! This includes ~20 voter suppression bills; >18 tax giveaways that could total a $1 billion per year of lost future revenue; a bill that allows pawn brokers to become payday lenders; a bill that criminalizes people from standing on the median; a bill that forces us to buy license plates more often just so 3M can sell the state of Arizona more reflective coating, the reefer madness ballot initiative, more vanity license plates; several one-off Republican pet projects related to education (other than public education, of course); multiple attacks on Clean Elections, the Citizens Initiative, representative government, local control, and professional credentials, and whatever else is on the Republican to-do list from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Goldwater Institute, the Institute for Justice, Americans for Prosperity, Arizona Tax Research Association, the Chamber of Commerce or President Trump. ￼
It is completely unrealistic that April 13 would be a safe return date to the capital. I think we should sine die by remote vote. We could come up with a bipartisan, mutually agreed upon short list of bills that deserve to pass. Let’s identify 10 bipartisan bills (other than Coronavirus response bills) that deserve to pass– including earned release credits, the grandparent stipend, more money for caregivers in the ALTCS system, and increased district direct assistance for schools. All the bad bills would die. We would leave a few hundred million dollars sitting on the table (because the tax giveaways wouldn’t pass).
With so little commerce going on right now because of the Coronavirus, there is little sales tax being collected. Our state runs on sales tax. We’re going to need those extra funds in the coming months, along with the billion dollars that we have in our rainy day fund.￼
The Legislature can always come back for a special session.￼