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Archive for the ‘Unions’ Category

Rebecca Friedrichs. (Photo by Christi Ransom)

photo Christi Ransom, Washington Post

The National Right to Work Committee has been very active in the national movement to bring Paycheck Protection to American workers. One case the entire nation is following is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case which could essentially place Right to Work/Paycheck Protection as protected by the U.S. Constitution for every state everywhere, including states like Delaware which currently do not guarantee a worker’s right to not pay union dues and not receive union benefits.

The video below is from YouTube and discusses the case, as well as the implications depending on how the Court could rule.

here’s the link to their blogpost in full in full:

http://www.nrtw.org/en/blog/right-work-friedrichs-01122016

Which way will the court rule? What would happen if all of Paycheck Protection became national law?

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As is common in most years, domestic policy trumps all other issues. While the Republicans believe immigration is the top issue to run a winning campaign, Democrats believe the minimum wage issue is a winner for their candidates.

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile wrote an op-ed where she believes millions of low-wage employees could form a very powerful voting bloc:

Shawanda Wilson, who works at Taco Bell in Tampa, Fla. and makes $8.25 an hour, has never voted before. Neither has Tonya Harrington, a 42-year-old home care worker from Durham, NC, who makes $7.25 an hour. Both say they’ve steered clear of voting booths not because they don’t care, but because they’ve felt politicians don’t speak for them.

That’s changing. Buoyed by $15 victories across the country, including in New York, Los Angeles and Seattle, fast-food cooks and cashiers, home care workers and child care workers like Shawanda and Tonya recognize that by joining together in a movement, they can make politicians care. Now they are vowing to head to the polls, and they’re hoping to bring with them the more than 60 million Americans movement organizers say are paid less than $15.

It’s not such a crazy thought. While recent ballot initiatives for $15 failed in Tacoma, Wash., and Portland, Maine, a recent poll of workers paid less than $15 an hour commissioned by the National Employment Law Project showed that 69% of unregistered voters would register to vote if there was a candidate who supported $15 and a union; and 65% of registered voters paid less than $15 an hour would be more likely to vote if there was a candidate who supported $15 and union rights.

We know the economic recovery has not been uniform, and nearly all the gains have gone to the top 1%, or the top 0.1%, as Bernie Sanders likes to remind us. The median income for an American worker is about $28,000, and overall household income has decline almost $2,000 since 2008. Meanwhile, millions of children live in poverty and cannot get enough food to eat or access to a great education. From an emotional standpoint, raising the minimum wage would lift millions out of poverty. While $15 an hour won’t do much in New York City, $15 an hour in most part of the country would be a big boost.

The minimum wage comes down to basic math. The argument for one is true if businesses were sitting on a pile of unspent money and were hoarding it instead of investing in their company. Since few, if any, businesses (particularly small- and medium-sized businesses) are run by heartless pigs who just want to hoard cash, the fact that they may not pay $15 an hour is more a symptom of: a favorable job market for employers; and that paying $15 an hour to all employees would require prices on good and services to go up, or to layoff some employees to pay for the others to have a higher wage. Not sure how the laid-off employees will feel about being sacrificed for the “greater good”.

Today is #GivingTuesday, a break from the spending we do for the holiday season. Consider supporting  CRI this holiday season to support out 2016 objectives for Education Savings Accounts and a Paycheck Protection law for all workers in Delaware. Visit https://www.caesarrodney.org/index.cfm?ref=90905 to help us meet our end of the year fundraising goals.

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rightwisconsin.com

Today’s News Journal article “Seeking Delaware manufacturing jobs, GOP targets unions” talks about the concept of a “right to work zone”, which differs from Right to Work in that RTW laws covers whole state while a RTW zone covers only a specific geographic area. Senator Greg Lavelle has proposed one this year; he did the same last year.

As expected, the unions were out in full force against it:

“Sam Lathem, president of the Delaware AFL-CIO, the umbrella organization representing Delaware unions, called Lavelle’s legislation a “desperate reach” that would lead to lower wages.

“We need to find a way to re-create and grow the middle class. Right-to-work isn’t going to do that,” Lathem said.”

The News Journal article pointed out the problem, though whether John Starkey intended to do so is another idea.

“Now Republicans are reviving a proposal they hope will revitalize Delaware manufacturing. But the plan, which would make it harder for unions to organize, is controversial and deeply polarizing in a state where the governor’s office and the General Assembly are controlled by Democrats, who still count union members among their staunchest base supporters.

Markell, a Democrat, appears poised to oppose the legislation. A spokeswoman said available studies on whether right-to-work legislation creates jobs are “inconclusive at best.”

“Gov. Markell remains focused on efforts that employers tell him are most important for job and economic growth, such as providing training for a skilled workforce and spurring innovation,” spokeswoman Kelly Bachman said.”

To quote from Hamlet, “Ay, there’s the rub.” You can see very quickly why even just a zone- not the whole state, but an area to try this idea out- is considered a threat to organized labor and those who benefit from it.

Here’s the summary of the Law, SB 54:

“This Act allows the Director of the Delaware Economic Development Office to create right-to-work zones as part of its inducements to bring new businesses to Delaware and requires these zones to be offered for manufacturing businesses hiring at least 20 employees. It also exempts those manufacturing businesses from their gross receipts taxes for their first 5 years.”

Let’s talk about these zones. Suppose GM’s former plant on Boxwood road was turned into a right to work zone, along with say 1000 square acres surrounding the plant’s legal boundaries. Only businesses locating in these zones would be able to receive the benefit, and with only 1000 square acres there would be a limit. However, those businesses which do receive a space in the RTW zone would be able to avoid the problems which modern day labor unions bring: namely, the political activity (including which many union members may not agree with) and the pressure to give workers more money and benefits even if the company is unprofitable or if doing so makes the company unprofitable. They can make an effort to grow manufacturing and if the effort succeeds, then more zones can be replicated, or perhaps if the General Assembly and Governor see the benefit of one, they can enact a RTW law for the entire state.

On the chance the law is not beneficial, or even proves detrimental, the zone can be removed and the rest of the state is unaffected or the law can be repealed if the zones are a failure.

Now, other factors will affect the success or failure of these zones. Notice that the gross receipts tax would not apply for five years. This is because our state’s gross receipts tax is a job-killer; businesses who meet a certain income threshold pay a tax on all revenue over the threshold, not counting profit and loss. So even if your business has a bad year, you still get socked with higher taxes.

Electricity is expensive in this state, about 23% higher than the national average. Plus, the crime reputation for Wilmington, and to a lesser extent Dover, absolutely gives a negative vibe to outsiders looking to relocate a business or build a new factory. Don’t let anyone tell you Wilmington’s crime problem isn’t hurting the reputation of the entire state.

But RTW zones might give the state a chance to attract capitalists without having to “invest” (subsidize) large businesses to move here, because most of the biggest “investments” go to major companies like Fisker, Bloom, Kraft, etc.. If you owned a casual sit-down restaurant, and the only way you could get customers is to pay them anywhere from $30-50 to get them into the store, who is going to look at customers coming in and say “yes, this is a successful restaurant” just because a few customers are inside your restaurant now?

We hope the state will look at ways to improve our economic climate, to attract businesses and “job creators” of all types, from start-ups to established companies, from sole proprietorships to multinational corporations, to anyone who has job opportunities for Delawareans and is willing to invest in our state for the long-term. These goals are achievable, they work, and they offer a new chance to get our economy going again.

By the way, the courts have found right to work zones are legal. What is not currently legal (and is being challenged) is right to work at the County/City level. This is due to how local government entities are structured.

Lastly, if you need more proof that manufacturing in Delaware is in serious trouble:

Delaware manufacturing employment

1990: 43,200

1991: 48,600

1992: 44,800

1993: 44,100

1994: 44,200

1995: 44,300

1996: 39,700

1997: 41,5002

1998: 43,100

1999: 44,400

2000: 41,300

2001: 39,000

2002: 38,300

2003: 35,000

2004: 34,900

2005: 33,500

2006: 35,000

2007: 33,700

2008: 32,300

2009: 29,900

2010: 26,800

2011: 25,600

2012: 25,600

2013: 25,600

2014: 25,600

2015: 25,800

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Yes, we have lost roughly 40% of our manufacturing jobs, and most of these workers are NOT in a private sector labor union, which has even lower numbers. Given the situation, what can and should unions do to keep their members supporting their unions? How could union leaders improve their offering which helps both workers and employers?

In our next blogpost, we’re going to introduce a new concept called “Union Economies”. This idea is pretty interesting, and it comes from our friends at the Mackinac Center.

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NEFW logoNEFW 2014 infographic

Original post from the National Employee Freedom Week movement http://employeefreedomweek.com/state/delaware/

National Employee Freedom Week takes place every August; this year workers’ rights to not be forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment takes place August 10-16.

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Because Delaware is not a Right-to-Work state, your freedom to leave your union is restricted, but you still have options to leave or reduce your union membership.

The first option is to become an agency fee payer, which means you only pay dues for the union’s cost of collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment. As an agency fee payer, you do not pay for any other activities, including the union’s political activities.

As an agency fee payer, you are not a member of the union, but since you continue to pay the “representative” portion of your dues, the union must continue to represent you fairly and without discrimination in all matters subject to collective bargaining.

As an agency fee payer you are still entitled to every benefit under the labor contract with your employer, including health care, pension, step increases, etc.

A generic letter to become an agency fee payer is here. You will need your union’s address and contact information. We recommend that you make a copy of your letter and either deliver it in person and receive a stamped copy or mail it with Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested Signature. This protects you in case, a union boss “loses” your letter. We also recommend sending a copy of the letter to your employer’s payroll department.

Although the generic agency fee payer letter includes text noting that your objection is continuing and permanent, some unions will not respect this and will make you annually resubmit your refund request.

For a smooth exit, you may have to leave during specific opt-out timeframe or “window.” Ask your union for a copy of your signed enrollment form to determine when your window is.

Download a generic agency fee payer letter.

The second option is to become a religious or conscientious objector. If you would like to become a religious or conscientious objector, go to ChooseCharity.org. ChooseCharity.org includes a simple application process that requires no additional out-of-pocket costs.

Once the application is submitted, the ChooseCharity legal staff will take care of the rest of the process.

If you become a religious or conscientious objector, your full dues equivalent will be deducted but made payable a charitable fund exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code. You will not be a member of the union, but are still entitled to every benefit under the labor contract with your employer, including health care, pension, step increases, etc.

If you think you may want to become a religious or conscientious objector, it is important that you do not request to be an agency fee payer.

State laws can differ depending on your profession, please consult with an employee rights organization if you have questions about your specific situation.

More Information About Your Rights

All Employees:

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation

Workplace Fairness Institute

Your Rights (Center for Union Facts)

Unions and Union Dues (American Center for Law and Justice)

For Teachers:

Teacher Rights (AAE)

Coalition of Educators Against Forced Unionism

 

The bottom line is you, as an employee, should not be forced to pay dues to any entity you do not choose to without your consent. There is a reason private sector unionism is down: while pro-union proponents blame entities like CRI for being “anti-union” the reality is that the biggest push to end forced unionization comes from the employees themselves who are unionized and who see hundreds or thousands of union dues dollars taken from worker’s paychecks, especially at a time when household incomes are shrinking, to support political causes or union activities the rank and file do not agree with.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can legally leave your union and not pay union dues but still keep your job, please click on the links or call us at (302) 273-0080 or e-mail us at info@caesarrodney.org.

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And why they do not work

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On May 16th, 2013, the UK Daily Mail reported a shortage of toilet paper was occurring in Venezuela, the home of  the late “Revolutionary” Hugo Chavez. Although many Venezuelans and people around the world do not understand how this is, we will explain here. From the article:

“First milk, butter, coffee and cornmeal ran short. Now Venezuela is running out of the most basic of necessities – toilet paper.
Blaming political opponents for the shortfall, as it does for other shortages, the government says it will import 50m rolls to boost supplies.

Economists say Venezuela’s shortages stem from price controls meant to make basic goods available to the poorest parts of society and the government’s controls on foreign currency.

“State-controlled prices – prices that are set below market-clearing price – always result in shortages. The shortage problem will only get worse, as it did over the years in the Soviet Union,” said Steve Hanke, professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University.

Prices of goods and services is THE basic determinant of value of a particular good or service. How do we know what value is? Some items will be valued more by some than others. For example, some people will not pay $60 for a brand new video game, but others will. Some would pay $90 for a brand new video game. Thus stores will set their prices based on what people are willing to pay, not on what the government tells them. If stores overcharge on an item, they will sell fewer units, and thus will be compelled to lower their prices in order to sell their items and stay in business. If even one enterprise charges a little less than its competitors for the same item and consumers react accordingly, then other enterprises will be compelled to follow suit. This rule does not hold true for cartels, monopolies, duopolies, or oligarchies-nearly all of which are either sanctioned by the government or actually run by it. From the article:
“President Nicolás Maduro, who was selected by the dying Hugo Chávez to carry on his “Bolivarian revolution”, claims that anti-government forces, including the private sector, are causing the shortages in an effort to destabilize the country.”

This is a classic socialist tactic. Most socialists, Keynesians, and Statists do not understand that people will act according to their best interests. They think they can run an economy from one location and everything will work well because they said so. Hugo Chavez, whose nation only made money due to oil reserves in Venezuela, “gave” people food, work, education, healthcare, affordable housing, but his people still became poorer and more dependent. The reason is obvious: The “free” goods were paid for by those who produced, and taxes went up and up until the producers either fled the country or bargained with Chavez so they could benefit from Cronyism.

Back to the accusation: as is usual for people who do not understand the problems, or who are deliberately trying to manipulate people, blame some boogeyman for the regime’s failures, so those who are less educated and informed will actually believe the government’s lies. From the article:

“The government this week announced it also would import 760,000 tonnes of food in addition to the 50m rolls of toilet paper.

Many factories operate at half capacity because the currency controls make it hard for them to pay for imported parts and materials. Business leaders say some companies verge on bankruptcy because they cannot extend lines of credit with foreign suppliers.

Merentes said the government had met the US dollar requests of some 1,500 small- and medium-sized companies facing supply problems, and was reviewing requests from a similar number of larger companies.

Chávez imposed currency controls a decade ago trying to stem capital flight as his government expropriated large land parcels and dozens of businesses.”

Instead of businesses paying for the parts and materials they needed based on a free flow of pricing, the government simply told people what they could pay for things. The problem is that if the price is unacceptable to those trying to sell, they will just walk away. They will not take a value they feel is less than they were looking for  unless forced to by government. This is EXACTLY what happens to nations with single-payer healthcare: the government dictates the prices to the providers, and they either accept it or else decide the prices paid is not equal to or greater than the services they provide. The result is fewer providers, many of whom will retire or change professions. Why do all the hard work of medical school or in this case trying to buy and sell goods or services if your value is dictated to you by people, most of whom have no experience in your field and whose goals and motivations differ significantly from yours?

This is the lesson we learn from big government supporters:Government cannot run industries because their objectives differ from those who seek profit or other compensation as reward. Free-market and free-enterprise economics supporters do not take into account the temperment of people or the intent. Rather, we acknowledge reality: that most people are incentivized to provide goods and services for an incentive, be it money, stocks, items, or whatever else that individual values, and each person’s exact values differ. There is no “one size fits all”, and forcing people to go along with that idea does not work. There is no delusion paradise which often exists in the minds of “progressives” that rich people will just pay more taxes, doctors will happily provide their services for whatever price the government thinks is “fair”, and people will all get paid high wages with full benefits.

In this case price controls did not make goods cheaper: they made goods scarce and now Madura, who most likely rigged the election over Capriles, will now have to choose between doing the right thing and eliminating price controls and government control of the economy, or doing the Chavez and blaming everyone and everything for his party’s failures.

Read the original article:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/16/venezuela-toilet-paper-shortage-50m

 

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Wednesday the House Education Committee tabled HB 380.  The purpose of this bill is to revise the Delaware Charter School law by among other things requiring charter school applications be submitted to local school boards for review and consideration, require a face-to-face meeting with the charter school applicant to review and discuss the application, requiring statements about the impact on school district enrollment and financial programs, and eliminating five mile draw boundary.

The objectives of HB 380 seem reasonable until questions from House Members and testimony by the Charter Schools Network, CRI, Department of Education and other interested groups pointed out issues with the bill. Problems that include the application process, impact statements, administration of lotteries, the emphasis on the system taking focus away from the student, the logistical impact on families that would have made teacher and parent interaction difficult if not impossible for some, and the potential for influence  by unions and other special interest groups with specific agendas.

 

Rep Jaques’ intent was to start a conversation about Charter Schools and to promote a more civil discourse. He accomplished his purpose and after hearing all the discussion decided the bill should be tabled.

The focus now switches to Rep Schooley’s ‘blue ribbon’ committee on Charter Schools. She briefly outlined her plan at the end of the discussion on the Charter School Bill.

CRI is disappointed she continues to focus on one small part of the overall education system. A part that is less than 10% of the total K-12 enrollment, has some really stunning successes, and has a 58% minority enrollment. We agree they can be even better however they do not deserve the attention given them particularly when the larger problem of how poorly prepared students are for college or careers.

The focus must be on how to improve the education experience and results for all children in the total system including charter schools.

Over the past few years across the country there has been a revolution in innovation. Charter schools were created nearly twenty years ago to improve total student learning and to encourage different and innovated learning methods in exchange for being freed from some onerous regulations and influence; but charters are not enough.

Today innovation challenges the model of single or limited school choice. One model just doesn’t fit the diversity of student and family issues when there are available many different methods with private, religious, home schooling, virtual schooling – creative greenfield approaches that have the potential to overcome the lack of change over the past 50 years and overcome the ‘tuition barrier’ by opening up more funds for parents in all income levels to pay for the best education for their children.

Over next few months CRI will feature some of these through profiles, You Tube video and print articles.

And, CRI needs your support – make your concerns known to your elected representatives. The focus must be on renewing the total school system and expanding the opportunity for all to share the benefits of a great education system.

 

James E. Hosley

Director, Center for Education Excellence

 

 

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Proponents of the Army Corps of Engineer’s channel deepening project claim opposition by local politicians is self-serving, a betrayal of their constituents’ best interests, anti-business and anti-labor.

By Lee Williams

(Note: this story can also be found in CRI’s Special Report section.)

The Army Corps of Engineers has been dredging the Delaware River since the 1800s, when the river was 18-feet deep. The current 40-foot depth has been maintained regularly since World War II.

If Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell had his way, they’d be dredging the river deeper tomorrow, but a proposal by the Corps of Engineers to deepen parts of the shipping channel from 40 to 45 feet is in jeopardy.

After Delaware and New Jersey officials took legal action to halt the dredging project, five environmental groups similarly filed suit – lawsuits Rendell believes are frivolous.

“What makes these suits a hoax is that we do dredging every year,” Rendell told the Caesar Rodney Institute. “We do maintenance dredging. When we’re allowed a 40-foot depth, silt accumulates and you have to dredge.”

If parts of the 103-mile shipping channel are dredged to 45 feet, Rendell and many others believe the increase in traffic will create more jobs throughout the region, in addition to safeguarding the jobs already here.

“I am a strong advocate of dredging. It’s essential for us in the Port of Philadelphia, southern New Jersey and the Port of Wilmington to remain competitive,” Rendell said. “We need to dredge to at least 45 feet. If we do so, we could add 10,000 to 40,000 good-paying longshoreman jobs. To get 10,000 to 40,000 jobs, especially in this economy, is like manna from heaven.”

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, Attorney General Beau Biden and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine don’t see the Corps’ plan as heaven sent. None were willing to be interviewed for this story.

Privately, Corzine has admitted his opposition to the dredging project would end after he won re-election, a campaign he ultimately lost.

According to a former government official, during a meeting in late September, Corzine said, “I don’t give a shit about this dredging project. We just have to get through November 3rd.”

Corzine’s critics have accused him of supporting dredging that benefits the northern ports in his state, while ignoring the interests of southern New Jersey ports.

Rendell has spoken to Markell and Corzine about the need to deepen the channel by five feet, and he has a plan to overcome their opposition.

“I told them we’re going to create an oversight committee to make sure the dredging goes without any environmental problems,” Rendell said, adding that the viability of ports up and down the river is at risk if the project is stopped.

Who stopped the project?

The suits by the environmental groups didn’t halt the dredging. The Corps $300 million plan was already on hold. It was stopped dead because of a report issued in 2003 by an anonymous hearing officer working for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), who decided the Corps didn’t submit sufficient documentation, and that the plan changed during the intervening years, while DNREC sat on the paperwork.

“Studies, opinions and documentation required to corroborate requests to modify protective environmental windows are not part of the record,” the hearing officer wrote in his six-year-old report.

DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara cited this hearing officer’s report in his July 23 denial letter, sent to Lt. Col. Thomas Tickner, the Corps’ Philadelphia District Commander.

“Given the Hearing Officer’s recommendations, the significant changes to the scale of the project, the outdated nature of the record, and the potential procedural flaws in making such an important decision based upon the existing record, I have no alternative than to deny the permits,” O’Mara said in the letter.

O’Mara too was not willing to be interviewed for this story.

His denial letter set off a chain reaction among politically ambitious state officials on both sides of the river.

On Oct. 30, Biden filed suit in federal court to stop the project, arguing the project infringed upon his state’s sovereign rights.

“The decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to begin deepening Delaware waters is a direct challenge to the territorial authority of the State of Delaware and violates federal and state law,” Biden is quoted as saying in a press release. “We will aggressively enforce our right to regulate and control any activity conducted on the Delaware River within Delaware’s boundaries. Instead of working with Delaware by addressing longstanding critical concerns about the impact of the proposed dredging project, the Corps decided to proceed to deepen Delaware waters without Delaware’s approval.”

Less than two weeks later, at Corzine’s direction, New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram – who was appointed in 2007 by Corzine – joined Biden’s suit, a move Biden trumpeted in yet another press release.

“New Jersey’s decision demonstrates its shared commitment with Delaware to protect the territorial integrity of our states and our natural resources,” Biden is quoted as saying in a Nov. 10 press release. “I applaud New Jersey’s swift action in this case…”

A week later, the environmental groups piled on.

Motives questioned

The actions of the two attorneys general produced consternation and a lot of head scratching at the Corps, who like Rendell pointed out there’s almost always maintenance dredging going on somewhere on the river, in order to maintain a navigable depth.

“There’s a lot about this project that’s unique for us,” said Ed Voigt, spokesman for the Corps’ Philadelphia District.

The Corps, he said, first applied for DNREC permits in 2001, so of course the plan morphed somewhat while the department took no action.

As to the five lawsuits, Voigt pointed to the Corp’s reams of environmental impact statements.

“There have been $8 million worth of environmental studies to date,” he said. “There have been samples looking at salinity, ground water impact, contaminant levels, impact on shellfish and endangered species.”

What did the studies determine?

“There is no significant impact,” he said. “It’s environmentally safe. The channel’s clean. It’s a very thorough battery of tests.”

Voigt said one on the “traps” people fall into when considering dredging is the mistaken belief that contaminants in the silt will be disturbed by the process and float downstream. This risk, he said, is negated by the Corps’ ongoing maintenance dredging.

“Because of the maintenance of the channel for the past 70 years, there’s a vacuuming effect, a skimmering effect,” he explained. “As contaminants are introduced into the channel, they come back out.”

The Corps has already made plans to dispose of the 16 million cubic yards of sand, clay and silt – known as spoils – that will be removed from the river bottom once the plan is approved.

They say 11.9 million cubic yards of spoils will be placed on federal land in New Jersey and Delaware. In the past, the Corps has allowed these spoils to be used for public works projects. Several years ago, the West Deptford Township used 150,000 cubic yards in its riverfront development project.

The remaining 4.1 million cubic yards, mostly sand from the Delaware Bay, is slated to be used for shore protection.

It’s about jobs

The Holt Logistics Corp. was founded in 1926 by Leo Holt, who started with a single truck – new technology for its time.

Holt raised his family in Philadelphia, making deliveries around the region with a small fleet of two trucks.

He lost everything during the Great Depression, by using the trucks as collateral in a loan he guaranteed for a friend. He managed to rebuild, and passed a successful trucking business to his two sons, Leo and Tom.

In 1967, the two brothers managed to buy a piece of an old shipyard, expanding the family business into the maritime industry.

Today, the founder’s grandson Leo A. Holt oversees a diversified business, with more than 1,500 people depending on him for their livelihood.

Holt believes the politicians who oppose dredging are not taking into account the best interests of their constituents. Unless the plan is implemented, Holt said the entire Delaware River estuary will be bypassed by vessels that require a deeper draft.

“There is so much these people have not answered in terms of their opposition,” he said. “If they do not take their hand off the throat of this, they run the risk of marginalizing their own populations. They are not only putting their hands on the throat of businesses, but their own people.”

If the plan is approved, the entire region will benefit.

“What we want to see is not just a port facility developed. We want to see distribution parks proximate to the port facilities, built in Delaware, Philadelphia and New Jersey,” he said. “That’s the front and the back of how the world evolves.”

Holt has already made commitments to expand his port facilities – commitments that are at risk if the river is not dredged.

“Our outlook is very simple. We just want to see more jobs, create more capital, put it back in our business, and reinvest in what we do,” Holt said.

Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Keller, D-Philadelphia, like Holt, questions the motivations of politicians who oppose the dredging plan.

Keller, a former longshoreman, said the issue is simple – it’s about creating more jobs.

“Some politicians have used this issue. They don’t know what they’re talking about. They may be able to win a local election by saying dredging is bad, but they’ll hurt the people who depend upon the river for a living,” Keller said. “It’s our job to create jobs. They say they’re for that, but their actions are different.”

Keller said more than 75,000 people currently depend on the port for their livelihood.

“If the politicians along the Delaware River don’t get their act together and get behind dredging, we’ll lose all those jobs and it will be our fault,” he said. “In Philadelphia, we can’t afford to lose those jobs. I don’t think the people of Wilmington can either.”

Gov. Minner’s role

Capt. Mike Linton, former president of the Delaware Bay Pilots Association, spent 48 years on the river.

He ferried former Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner up and down the river, to familiarize the governor with the Corps’ proposal.

“She was on the river at least three times. She knew quite a bit about it. She was in favor of the plan,” Linton said.

Linton believes Minner should have signed-off on the Corps’ proposal, and told her DNREC secretary to issue the necessary permits, instead of allowing the plan to gather dust in DNREC’s in-box.

“I’m very baffled why she didn’t do it,” he said.

Minner did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

“If we don’t’ dredge, the traffic we have in Philadelphia, Camden and Wilmington will eventually go away,” Linton said.

The problem, he explained, is an aging fleet. The ships hauling the bulk of the fruit to local ports are in their “teens.” They’re designed to last approximately 20 years.

“The next generation of ships is being built to accommodate the Panama Canal,” he said. “They’re bigger. If we don’t get more water, what we have will wither on the vine and eventually go away.”

Linton and others say larger container ships will simply choose other ports with deeper access, such as Baltimore, Norfolk and Miami, which have a 50-foot depth, or New York, Charleston and northern New Jersey, which have dredged to 45-feet.

He and other dredging proponents point out that 1,000 trucks will be added to the region’s highways per day, if the channel is not deepened, which will increase pollution, traffic congestion and highway repair costs.

Green Concerns

Green Delaware is not one of the five environmental groups suing to stop the Corps’ dredging project.

Green Delaware Executive Director Alan Muller, who opposes additional dredging, says the controversy is cyclical.

“For decades, there’s been an ongoing squabble between environmentalists and other interests. It’s fair to say, so far, the anti-dredging interests have prevailed. That’s the big picture,” Muller said. “Over the years, there’s been a big push to say [dredging] is needed and wanted. Now, we’re going through another cycle. There’s nothing unusual about that.”

From an environmentalist’s perspective, Muller said, part of the issue is trust.

“The Corps, at least as far as the Philadelphia District is concerned, no one trusts them,” he said. “Everything they say seems to be automatically regarded as a lie.”

Muller said the “vacuuming effect” of constant dredging is itself problematic, and responsible for two types of pollutants.

“The technical lingo is ‘suspended in the water column,’ which means when you go along the bottom with the cutter, it loosens everything up. Some gets sucked up into the spoils area, the other heads down river,” he said. “The conflict is one: what is suspended in the water, and two: where do you put the spoils?”

Muller dismissed the idea proposed by some dredging proponents of dumping the spoils into old coal mines.

“[The spoils] are the consistency of a can of black bean soup. No one wants to put that into rail cars and haul it to Scranton. What would the effect on the groundwater be?” he asked. “And it’s expensive.”

If the spoils were deposited above ground, he said, a good rain would allow contaminants to leech out and re-enter the groundwater.

“A lot of the environmentalists’ objections to this are philosophical,” he said. “They feel the river has been used as a channel for commerce ever since white people showed up. Now it’s time to pay a little attention to the river itself.”

Rep. Keller disagrees, and points to the Corps’ environmental impact studies.

“There are 12,000 pages of scientific data saying it’s fine. As a matter of fact, it’s better than fine,” he said. “This is about one thing – job creation.”

Contact investigative reporter Lee Williams at (302) 242-9272 or lee@caesarrodney.org

The Caesar Rodney Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan research and educational organization and is committed to being a catalyst for improved performance, accountability, and efficiency in Delaware government.

© Copyright Dec. 7, 2009 by the Caesar Rodney Institute.

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