Donna Gratehouse, who blogs at Democratic Diva and elsewhere on all things Arizona, sends us this update on the continuing amazing events in her state.
Nearly 1,000 union members and supporters gathered at the state Capitol in Phoenix yesterday to protest anti-worker bills going through the legislature this session. The "Day of Action" was part of the AFL-CIO's annual Lobby Day, when members and their families typically meet with legislators and get a tour of the state legislature. In the morning, groups from all over the state lobbied against the package of bills known as "Wisconsin on Steroids." In the afternoon, private- sector union members stood in solidarity with their public-sector brothers and sisters at a rally on the Capitol lawn as Rep. Ed Pastor and Democratic state legislators expressed support for workers' rights. Speakers from AFSCME, UAW, Communications Workers of America (CWA), UNITEHERE and other local unions addressed the crowd about the importance of fighting back against attacks on working families led by the Goldwater Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch Brothers. Gary Allen, the general vice president of Machinists (IAM) Western Territories summed up the sentiment of the crowd best and drew a big cheer when he said, "We know what happens to one happens to all!"
A handful of "tea party" activists showed up to heckle the crowd. Tom Jenney, executive director of Americans for Prosperity Arizona, a Koch Brothers-funded Astroturf group, has been encouraging followers to pressure lawmakers to pass corporate-friendly bills. Thanks to labor advocates pushing back, some of the bills have stalled but union leaders say they will continue to be vigilant because they know that well-funded corporate groups are relentless in their quest to abolish labor rights.
Student Activists Key to Tuition Bill Withdrawal
The bill I wrote about a few days ago, which would require Arizona college students to contribute a minimum $2,000 toward their tuition, regardless of financial need, was withdrawn by its sponsors today. The move was attributed to the bad press garnered by state Rep. Michelle Ugenti's callous "welcome to life" response to student protests and also the power of student organizing. Arizona Students’ Association chairman Dan Fitzgibbon described the withdrawal as “absolutely thrilling” and a “picture-perfect illustration” of student electoral power.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio Holds Embarrassing Press Conference to Unveil Details of 'Investigation' of President Obama's Birth Certificate
While working families gathered at the Capitol to fight for rights and dignity Thursday afternoon, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was not at all concerned about his own dignity or that of his office. He held a press conference to announce the results of an investigation into the veracity of President Barack Obama's long-form birth certificate, which the president released back in April to answer the hysterical conspiracy theories that have proliferated about the origin of his birth since before he was elected. Arpaio and an assemblage of spokesmen from the "Cold Case Posse" assigned to the birth certificate probe repeatedly insisted that it was not politically motivated. Reporters and observers in attendance were shown a lengthy video purportedly demonstrating that the birth certificate was likely a forgery due to a "layering" effect on the computer scan. Of course, this crack team of sleuths could have saved themselves a lot of trouble by simply going to Snopes.com, where computer experts had debunked the "layering" forgery theory months ago.
Arpaio says he launched the investigation because 250 Maricopa County residents signed a petition asking him to do it. Popular and prominent Phoenix law enforcement reporter Julie Erfle tweeted: "if I gather 250 signatures will ur "cold case posse" investigate the Loch Ness Monster?" Arpaio's opponents for the 2012 Sheriff election, Democrat Paul Penzone and Republican Mike Stauffer, appeared on the KPNX evening news on Thursday to denounce Arpaio for his foolish press conference. Penzone called it a "slap in the face to real law enforcement." Stauffer pointed out how the Sheriff's Office under Arpaio has ignored reports of sex abuse and other serious crimes.