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Beloved Community Leader Dennis Kennedy Passes Away

Last night, Dennis Kennedy, former Mayor of Morgan Hill, passed away after a long battle with cancer.  Kennedy, who up until recently served as a Board Member for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, was considered by many to be a mentor and true public servant.  His years of leadership, volunteerism and time as mayor not only helped shape the City of Morgan Hill, but earned Kennedy the respect and admiration of his peers.

Kennedy was passionate about the betterment of his community, which was clearly reflected in how he chose to spend his time. He was an American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley senior fellow, a member of the Rotary Club, former president of the Morgan Hill Downtown Association and recipient of the 2007 Morgan Hill Leadership Excellence Award. In 2015, he was honored by Gavilan College with the Lifetime Community Spirit Award and on December 4th of the same year the city renamed the Morgan Hill Aquatics Center the Dennis Kennedy Aquatics Center.

Kennedy served as mayor of Morgan Hill from 1992 to 2006 before re-entering the political arena in 2013 when he was appointed to the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

Dennis Kennedy was a great leader in Morgan Hill and the surrounding region.  His absence will be felt.


SCOTUS 4-4 Split Means Victory for Unions

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 4-4 on the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that sought to break public employee unions.

In our state, public school teachers don’t have to be members of the California Teachers Association if they have religious or political beliefs about being a union member.  Teachers can opt out of the union, but have to pay about 65% of the CTA dues as an “agency fee” to cover the costs of collective bargaining, of getting the higher pay and benefits the CTA negotiates for all teachers.  In lieu of paying for the union’s political activities, the alternative is to contribute the other 35% to a charity.

If SCOTUS still had Scalia, the final vote announced today would have been 5-4 in favor of the dissident teachers and that would have exonerated the dissidents from paying the 65% “agency fee,” and at the same time ring the death knell for public employee unions. And it would add to the disgraceful decisions in Citizens United, Bush v. Gore and gutting the Voting Rights Act as bellwethers of a country speeding back to the 1880s. For anyone who doubts the significance of Friedrichs, open the Supreme Court Docket for this case and see the flood of amici briefs that have been filed.  Today we can be thankful that SCOTUS split 4-4 and the dissidents lost.  That was too close for comfort.

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Governor Brown, Legislative, and Labor Leaders Agree to $15 by 2022

Today, Governor Brown, Legislative leaders and the Labor movement made history by announcing a policy that would raise the wages of underpaid Californians to $15 per hour by 2022. More than one in three California workers, or nearly 6 million Californians, will receive a raise under this policy. Combined with workers who are already on a path to $15 because of local efforts by organizations such as Silicon Valley Rising in the South Bay, more than 6.5 million workers will now have a path to a $15 wage.

The agreement in California is the latest victory for the Fight for $15 and underpaid workers who three years ago launched their movement for higher pay and union rights. In California, local Fight for $15 organizations have won key victories in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In Silicon Valley, cities such as Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto, have already committed to a $15 minimum wage, thanks to the regional work by Silicon Valley Rising.

Additionally, the policy ends an unfair exclusion of home care workers from a state guarantee of three paid sick days for all workers. When this agreement is signed into law by Governor Brown, California will be the first state in the nation to adopt this  standard for all workers.


Take Up Our Quarrel – Bob Brownstein’s 2016 COPE Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech

In two months, I’ll be 70 years old. I’ve been fighting for the rights and well-being of working people for longer than many of the people in this room have been alive.

I made my first speech in favor of health insurance for all Americans in June of 1964. The MediCare Act was signed a year later, but after that the next steps took decades. Finally, the Clinton Administration managed to provide health insurance for quite a few children. But in the Year 2000, the SC County labor movement launched an effort to make us the first county in the country to provide coverage for ALL children. And we didn’t stop there. With a little help from President Obama, we helped launch Covered California and expand MediCal. And now our BOS has approved a new initiative to generate coverage for undocumented. We are finally virtually there — where every other modern country has been for years — health coverage for all.

What should we learn from this story?  We’re on a long road — a road with few short cuts and a lot of steep hills.

Well, when you’re on a long road, it’s critically important to keep your eyes on the prize so you don’t make a wrong turn. What’s the prize? There’s a lot of pieces of it — wages, and health care and housing and retirement — there’s the right to organize.

When you put them together — it’s all about justice.

Unfortunately, we have to do more than simply walk that long road to justice.

There are people and organizations that have built road blocks to stop us.

At many points, we have to fight to open the way.

Sometimes, the opposition will try to stop us by confusing the issue.

If you listened to the Republican presidential debates, in the few minutes when the candidates weren’t hurling crap at each other, they talked about freedom. The right wing economist, Milton Friedman, even wrote a book entitled, Capitalism and Freedom.

When you think about it, that’s funny. Modern Capitalists and Corporations have found a way to get along with virtually every dictatorship on earth. They had no problem with Pinochet in Chile. They can work with Putin in Russia. In Beijing, corporate capitalists are members of the Chinese Communist Party. But there’s one kind of organization dictators absolutely cannot tolerate — free trade unions. Why? Because when they say freedom, they mean the 1% should be free to control the lives of everyone else. When unions say freedom, we mean the right of people to stand together to determine their own future.

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Policy Watch: Your weekly tip sheet on what’s going on in your community

County of Santa Clara

 Forwarding letter of concern over San Jose Crime-Free Housing proposal

 The City of San Jose is considering adopting a new law enforcement program that focuses on reducing crime and calls for service at multi-housing complexes. San Jose staff will present a draft report on Crime-Free Housing to the Housing and Community Development Commission on March 10, 2016, and to the Rules Committee on March 30, 2016. The Rules Committee can either accept, reject, or modify the recommendations in the report; following approval by the Rules Committee, the report will go before the City Council.

The spread of these ordinances throughout the nation is cause for great concern, as they lead to costly consequences not just for tenant families but also for the entire community. These ordinances can undermine public safety by silencing crime victims and others who need to seek emergency aid or report crime. They can increase housing instability and ultimately homelessness for victims of domestic and sexual violence, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable tenants. They can reduce the availability of desperately needed affordable rental housing. And they can result in violations of tenants’ and landlords’ rights – including rights to be free from discrimination, to contact the government for assistance, and to receive due process – and thereby expose municipalities to legal liability.

The Domestic Violence Council first discussed the Crime-Free Housing proposal on November 6, 2015. On January 8, 2016, the Domestic Violence Council discussed forwarding a proposed letter to the City of San Jose. Also on January 8, 2016, the Child Abuse Council approved submitting a joint letter from both Councils, and approved the letter as amended. On February 5, 2016, the Domestic Violence Council approved submitting the amended letter to the City of San Jose. Given the potential for this policy to disproportionately impact domestic violence victims, the letter urges the City of San Jose to consider the unintended consequences of a crime-free multi-housing program on the residents of San Jose, and in particular, the strong likelihood of harm to domestic violence victims and their children.

The Domestic Violence Council and Child Abuse Council are requesting permission to forward the letter to the City of San Jose.

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San Jose Does Not Have a Spending Problem; It Has a Revenue Problem

To turn a catch phrase on its head — San Jose does not have a spending problem; it has a revenue problem.  The City has a structural deficit because revenues are insufficient to pay for essential services.  That structural deficit predates the catastrophic losses to the City’s two pension funds, and without more revenue it will continue, despite the fact that the City is instituting pension reform.

Even the City business community now supports a tax increase.  At yesterday’s City Council meeting, Chamber of Commerce head Matt Mahood and Silicon Valley Leadership Group head Carl Guardino joined organized labor in backing an additional 1/4 cent sales tax.  Now, for the first time in memory, there is a consensus that City taxes should increase.  The City Council voted 9-2 to put a 15 year 1/4 cent sales tax on the June ballot.

San Jose State Professor Scott Meyers-Lipton and others have argued that a gross receipts tax (GRT) would generate more revenue to close the City’s structural deficit and it would be more equitable.  The City staff’s memo on the GRT provided evidence in support of those arguments.  However, the business community hates the GRT, and Mayor Liccardo managed to address tax equity concerns with an alternative proposal to double the City’s business license tax.

The Mayor’s proposal helps ensure that the increased tax burden does not fall only on City residents, but is borne as well by City businesses.  In combination with the 1/4 cent sales tax, the increased business tax will close the structural deficit and restore essential City services in a way that is fair to residents and businesses.  The City Council passed a motion to pursue a doubling of the business tax on a 10-1 vote.  In June the Council will vote on the language of a tax measure for the November 2016 ballot.


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