What Are Louisiana’s Unions Going To Gripe About At Their Wisconsin Rally Today?

This afternoon at 5 p.m., Baton Rouge’s City Hall will be populated with a pro-union rally organized by Louisiana’s SEIU chapter, the state’s AFL-CIO chapter and the Louisiana affiliates of AFSCME. It’s styled as a “We Stand With Wisconsin” solidarity demonstration.

But since the Wisconsin demonstrations are about totally different issues than unions have in Louisiana, one wonders why – other than generating publicity – the organizers of the event would bother.

But from SEIU’s press release announcing the rally, you begin to get a clue.

“We want to tell our Louisiana leaders that politicians like Governor Walker must stop scapegoating the working families of this country for the nation’s economic woes caused by the Wall Street greed that crashed our economy,” said Louis Reine, president of the Louisiana State Federation of Labor.

“Today Wisconsin … tomorrow Louisiana? We won’t allow it. More than a year after the financial crisis and bailout, working families are still reeling from the effects of a shattered economy. Politicians should be creating good jobs – not attacking nurses, teachers and firefighters.”

Charles Selders, a city-parish employee in Baton Rouge and SEIU Local 21LA leader, agrees.

“We need our elected officials to create jobs, not wage attacks on middle class and working families to score political points with big donors,” Selders said. “The real bad guys are the rich CEOs and Wall Street bankers not the hardworking people who provide vital services to our communities.”

Selders, one imagines, sees “creating jobs” by politicians as spending more on a government workforce. SEIU hasn’t taken a public position so far on what seems to be the largest union gripe in Louisiana at present – Gov. Bobby Jindal’s seeking of the extension of a few tax breaks for businesses in hopes they’ll promote economic growth and create jobs. And therein lies a parallel with Wisconsin; the Democrat narrative, disproven as it is, is that the Badger State’s budget was in swell shape before Gov. Scott Walker blew into Madison and slashed tax rates on fatcat Wall Street types. Jindal’s doing the same thing, see.

Jindal wants the Legislature to continue the state’s Quality Jobs Program, which gives tax rebates to companies that create new jobs with specific wage and benefit levels. He also wants to extend tax credits for companies that conduct research and development in Louisiana, firms that commercialize technology developed at Louisiana colleges and digital media developers.

That’s unpopular with the unions. In particular, the state’s two teachers’ unions – the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers – don’t like those tax breaks.

LFT put out a release last week screaming about Jindal’s policies aiming at bolstering the private-sector economy, and – get this – complaining that Jindal is neither cutting nor increasing funding for public education amid a $1.6 billion 2012 deficit.

“Just one day after announcing that education funding will be frozen for another year, the governor now says that he wants to add to the more than $7 billion in tax loopholes that are starving the services Louisiana families depend on,” said Monaghan.

“We understand that leadership involves making choices,” Monaghan said. “However, we do not understand the wisdom governing the choice to freeze education funding one day and to choose to expand tax breaks the next.”

“Last year, the legislature passed bills asking for a thorough review of the 441 tax incentives currently offered by the State of Louisiana,” Monaghan said. “Lawmakers said they want to know how effective the incentives are. Do they attract jobs and grow the economy, or do they add to the bottom line of giant corporations at the expense of health care, education and the quality of life in our state?

“So far, there have been no hearings, and no reports filed on the effect these tax breaks have on our economy,” Monaghan said. “In his statement yesterday, the governor stated that he does not know how much this new round of tax loopholes will cost the state.

“But we already know some of the cost of the current policy. A number of school districts have already declared fiscal exigency, and school districts around the state have announced or are discussing layoffs of teachers and school employees. Access to health care is shrinking. Whole disciplines are being eliminated from our colleges and universities.”

In other words, Wall Street fatcats are gorging at Louisiana’s public trough. Get it?

Again, SEIU hasn’t commented on what LFT is saying. But since they’re putting out press releases along the same lines, we can expect that at 5:00 today you’ll see the circle get squared. Don’t be surprised if this rally is about raising taxes on rich people so that we can “create jobs” for working people in Louisiana.

But you can be very surprised if anybody at that rally is upset about the moratorium on offshore drilling, which is the single largest driver of Louisiana’s unemployment rate growing from 6.2 percent in April 2010 to 8.0 percent in December. The left in Louisiana is doing everything they can to dismiss the moratorium’s effect.

Because those aren’t the jobs they care about.



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