July 31, 2013
CHICAGO (July 31)—Have you ever wondered why corporate America is so successful in keeping workers from joining unions, or making sure victims of faulty products can’t collect damages?
Have you ever wondered why several state legislatures have made it a crime to take pictures of how animals are confined on corporate farms or processed in commercial slaughtering plants?
Have you ever wondered why the U.S. has the most expensive medical care in the world yet still ranks 47th in life expectancy and has the world’s highest rates of obesity and diabetes?
The answer is ALEC, the most powerful set of behind-the-scenes political actors you’ve never heard of. Known formally as the American Legislative Exchange Council and funded by some of the world’s richest and most powerful corporate actors, ALEC is coming to Chicago August 7-9 to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
And you’re invited to crash the party. The Chicago Federation of Labor has scheduled a mass rally to be held at noon, Thursday, Aug. 8, in front of the Palmer House at 17 E. Monroe in Chicago’s Loop.
“I urge every union member and every member of a union family to be there to show ALEC we saw what they did and we know who they are,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy. “The August 8 rally is a major chance to expose ALEC’s machinations and show the media who these people are and how they corrupt American democracy and weaken the middle class.”
Illinois Assistant Legislative Director Joseph Ciemny explained why he’s working with CFL Planning Committee to organize and publicize the rally.
“ALEC is anti-labor,” Ciemny said. “Every Class I railroad is a member of it, and so is the Association of American Railroads. They’re working to get rid of Railroad Retirement. They’d love to see it go.”
Guy explained that ALEC masquerades as a simple professional association for state legislators, 2,000 of whom pay $50 per year in membership dues.
“But the real money comes from corporations who want those legislators to pass laws that favor corporate interests over the interests of the middle class,” Guy said. “The corporations pay $7,000 to $25,000 year in membership dues, and some of the most ideologically extreme corporate-funded foundations, such as those operated by the notorious Koch Brothers, have donated millions to ALEC.”
What do those corporate big bucks buy?
“Legislation,“ said Guy.
“ALEC is a ‘bill mill’ that employs professional writers who draft canned legislative language that gives each corporation and each industry exactly what it wants, be it a tax loophole, a monopoly over a certain market, protection from health or safety regulations, or so-called ‘right-to-work’ legislation that prevents workers from unionizing.”.
ALEC’s influence machine is powerful, well fueled and well lubricated, Guy said.
“ALEC doesn’t just write its proposed legislation and hand it to just any legislator,” he said. “They sponsor ‘fact-finding’ trips in which friendly legislators are flown to expensive golfing resorts or treated to free football tickets in corporate skyboxes. After a few lavish dinners or trips out on the town, an ALEC official ‘shares’ a copy of proposed legislation with the legislator, who then introduces it and lobbies for it in his or her respective state legislative chamber.
“The free hospitality creates a sense of obligation, and the recipient obliges ALEC by delivering the goods in his state house,” Guy said.
Guy said ALEC drafts about 1,000 bills a year to advance its members’ interests, and about a fifth of them pass.
“That’s a terrific won/lost record,” he said. “Only a tiny minority of bills introduced each year in Springfield go on to become law, and the ratio is the same in most of the other state legislatures, but ALEC is a 200-hitter. They are enormously powerful in passing anti-consumer, anti-worker and anti-democratic legislation, yet the media hardly mention them.
“That’s why we need people out on Monroe street carrying signs on August 8,” Guy said. “It’s time for ALEC to be outed, and union members in the street are very effective in attracting news coverage.”
Guy emphasized that ALEC’s political power cannot be resisted successfully unless its opponents exercise political power of their own.
“That’s why UTU PAC is so important in fighting ALEC’s hidden agenda and why every member of our union should contribute to it,” he said. “UTU PAC is the single most important tool, and right, a member has in having a voice in the legislative process when fighting back against ideas like the ones that ALEC touts. ALEC would love to strip the right of union members to participate in the legislative process by eliminating their ability to give to a PAC. Through UTU PAC we won’t let that happen.”
Guy said the labor movement already is at work supplying journalists with the facts on ALEC.
“But facts alone aren’t enough,” he said. “It’s up to the rank-and-file to supply the excitement by massing on Monroe Street while the ALEC members scheme and plot inside the hotel. The facts and excitement together will expose the pirates who are hijacking American democracy.”
The SMART-TD Illinois Legislative Board office will be open at 10:00 a.m. at 8 S. Michigan on August 8th to welcome any members who want to gather there before heading over to the noon rally around the corner.
For additional info visit www.ALECExposed.org or www.ChicagoLabor.org, or sign up for the August 8 rally at http://bit.ly/ChicagoALECrally .