The fight for America's states rages on, and yesterday, our side got a big boost as the Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN) announced it has secured major resources for 2006, and hired its policy director, Nathan Newman. Today, we see exactly why PLAN is so needed: because the right-wing is waging a vicious war against working Americans' economic interests in our states.
Specifically, through a corporate front group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), conservatives are manipulating state law to serve Big Money interests and screw the rest of us. A few months back, for instance, ALEC helped mastermind the Georgia legislature's repeal of a bill passed by the Atlanta City Council that would have encouraged businesses to move to a living wage. Now, this week, ALEC is spearheading the push to repeal Maryland's landmark law forcing Wal-Mart to provide better health care benefits to its workers.
Big Money interests are panicking that Maryland's move might set a precedent where state governments - gasp! - actually stand up for ordinary people, instead of only doing the bidding of Corporate America. As Knight Ridder newspapers notes:
"Maryland's bold new law requiring Wal-Mart and other large companies to increase health care coverage of their workers has given new life to supporters trying to pass similar legislation nationwide...In at least 30 other states, plans are under way to draft and introduce similar 'fair share' laws...In each state proposal, affected companies that don't meet the payment threshold would have to pay the difference into a state fund to assist the uninsured."
ALEC and the Cadillac Conservative movement are attacking unions and Democrats for passing this law - somehow ignoring that this move has been embraced across the political spectrum. For instance, in Idaho, the Republican Speaker of the House recently said he is considering offering even tougher legislation. That's Idaho - not exactly a "blue" state, and that's the Republican Speaker of the House - not exactly a "liberal."
This is exactly the kind of fight PLAN is going to be involved in. For too long, our side has not had a powerful counter to ALEC, and we have paid a price in our states. As PLAN formally launches its operations this Spring, progressives will be taking a major step forward in taking back our states. To find out more about PLAN, see this article or this article. And stay tuned as we launch our official website in the coming weeks.