2014 KS AFL‑CIO Candidate Labor Survey
Would you oppose any effort to implement a Kansas OSHA program?
There have been recent attempts in the Kansas Legislature to implement a state ran OSHA program. Federal law currently allows states this option and 26 states have chosen to exercise this option since OSHA became law in 1973. Under the Brownback administration the KS Department of Labor has taken a decidely anti‑worker stance and can not be trusted to effectively administer a state run OSHA program that protects the safety of Kansas workers.
Every worker should have the right to a reasonably safe workplace. Given the current administration’s apparent hostility to working people, I would oppose the state of Kansas assuming responsibility for enforcing OSHA regulations at this time.
Do you support the right of public employees to form unions and bargain collectively?
Under state law, city, county and school board employees can not organize unless they are granted permission by their governing authority.
I absolutely support the right of public employees and all other workers to form unions and to bargain collectively. I would support legislation giving all local public employees the right to unionize.
Would you oppose legislation barring unions from political activity?
In an effort to elect officials with beliefs similar to ours, organized labor has been active in politics including endorsements and support for candidates. Recently there have been numerous attempts to single out and restrict Unions from political activity while allowing other organizations to continue to actively participate in the election process.
I oppose any legislation that wold bar unions from political activity. In order for there to be a level playing field politically, organized labor must have the same freedom to support candidates as corporations and other organizations.
Would you involve labor at the development stage of any tax initiatives?
Labor is continually asked to help pass tax initiatives, bonds, and other ballot measures. Often elected officials approach labor after the details which impact our members have been decided.
I would welcome and seek out input from organized labor regarding not just tax initiatives but any issue before the legislature.
Do you support a prevailing wage laws?
This law would require the projects funded by public money pay minimum wage for construction workers which we refer to as prevailing wage. Prevailing wage is designed to stop public construction from driving down wages in an area through low wage competition. The Department of Labor establishes the prevailing wage by surveying each county.
I would support legislation requiring contractors on public projects to pay at least the prevailing wage in the county where the project is located.During my time on the Lawrence city commission, I helped enact a living wage ordinance which sets a wage floor for employees of projects receiving tax abatements. The living wage under the ordinance is pegged to the federal poverty rate and is currently $12.37 per hour (plus health insurance).
Would you support raising the minimum wage?
The minimum wage of the past was a stronger standard, providing significantly more buying power than it does today. After its creation in 1938, the value of the minimum wage rose relatively steadily until its value reached a high point in 1968 (when its nominal value was $1.60 an hour). Thereafter, it suffered dramatic erosion as Congress failed to adequately correct for inflation over time. The minimum wage of $1.60 an hour in 1968 would be $10.56 today when adjusted for inflation.
Increasing the minimum wage is critical to helping stop the growing gap between rich and poor in this country. I have seen research indicating that a moderate increase in the minimum wage would have little or no effect on employment levels. I would support increasing the state minimum wage to the equivalent of the 1968 federal rate (I have seen calculations of that amount ranging from $10.10 to $10.86 per hour).
Do you support non‑ discrimination laws and workplace equality?
In 30 states, it is legal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation. In 38 states it is legal to fire someone because of their gender identity or expression. Because of federal DOMA laws, same‑sex couples are denied access to 1,138 rights and responsibilities.
I support adding sexual orientation as a protected class for all state anti‑discrimination statutes. Of all the recognitions I have received during my years of public service, probably the most gratifying is a Certificate of Appreciation I received in 1984 from Gay and Lesbians Students of Kansas for defending the rights of gay and lesbian students during my time as student body vice‑president of the University of Kansas.
Do you support workers compensation reform?
The state law does not require employers to use safety programs. It only requires insurance carriers and group‑funded plans to have accident prevention programs available to employers. Benefits obtained in Kansas are among the lowest in the nation for every type of worker compensation benefit. Workers or their survivors cannot sue an employer when that employer knowingly places employees in danger.
Every worker should be able to expect reasonable compensation and treatment for on‑the‑job injuries. I would support workers compensation legislation that would help ensure adequate protection for Kansas workers.
Do you support a fair share service fee?
Existing law requires that unions must provide free representation to non‑union personnel that are a part of the bargaining unit. A Fair Share Service Fee would allow unions the right to charge non‑members a fee for services and expenses incurred when representing them in costly grievances and arbitration.
The wages and benefits received by every worker, unionized or not, are higher and better thanks to efforts of unions. Requiring a fair service fee for union services from employees who decline to pay union dues seems only fair.
If you were to be endorsed by the KS AFL‑CIO would you promote that endorsement on your website and/or printed materials?
Are your campaign materials printed by a union printing business?
Yes. [Yard signs, most stationery, mailers, and walking cards. A few items were printed by local non-union establishments.]
Would you support an increase in education funding?
Public schools are one of Kansas’ best investments. Businesses with quality jobs want to be in communities with well‑funded schools. Do you support driving the Kansas economy by increasing funding for public schools?
In the Kansas where I was raised, people understood the value of education and were willing to make sacrifices to make sure that their children had a better future. I believe that this is still true for a majority of Kansans. I support increased funding for public schools and I am willing to do what is necessary to raise sufficient revenue for this funding.
Would you oppose voucher or charter school initiatives?
School vouchers and education tax credits put public education in direct competition with private education, threatening to reduce and reallocate public school funding to private schools.
I support public education and I oppose any initiative that would divert resources away from public schools toward non‑inclusive, ideologically driven programs.
Do you support hiring Kansans first?
Local and state governments should prioritize job creation and economic development. Wherever possible newly created job opportunities should utilize apprentice programs and employee local workers before hiring other employees.
I support expansion of apprentice programs and vocational education, but I would need more information before I could answer this question. I certainly support efforts to reduce local unemployment rates, but I think that a local hiring requirement would need to be drafted carefully so that it would not preclude businesses from hiring qualified employees or have other unintended consequences.
Would you support the creation of more “green‑collar” jobs in Kansas?
As we move toward more sustainable energy, there are opportunities to make sure we are also generating good jobs.
To the extent that public incentives are used for job creation, emphasis should be given toward fostering the growth of businesses that will help create a more sustainable future for the state.
Do you support fair County contracts?
Companies bidding for county contracts should be required to provide health insurance, unemployment compensation, and workers compensation for all their workers.
I would support legislation requiring contractors with counties and other local governments to pay at least a prevailing wage and to provide benefits comparable to those received by local government employees in that jurisdiction.
Do you support buying American and Kansan first?
This law would require that companies contracted by the state or local government for services or supplies should “buy American” even if it means paying slightly higher prices. Similarly this law would require that companies contracted by the state and local government for services and supplies should “buy Kansas” even if it means slightly higher prices.
In general, I would support legislation giving a preference to American‑made and Kansan‑made products (as well as to products made with post‑consumer recycled materials), provided that it could be implemented without any unacceptable consequences. During my time on the Lawrence City Commission, I worked toward increasing local purchasing by the city, but these efforts were limited by policies of other jurisdictions that prohibited purchases from cities with local‑purchase preferences.
Would you support a repeal of Governor Brownback’s tax plan?
Under Governor Sam Brownback’s tax shifts, Kansans are paying more and more to cover tax‑breaks to the wealthy. Replacing the income tax with sales and property taxes means replacing a tax largely affecting the well‑off with one largely paid by the middle class.
Thank to Governor Brownback’s tax plan, Kansas now has the most regressive tax system in the country. A few of the most wealthy individuals in the US live in Kansas. Because their income comes from a privately-held company, they now pay no Kansas income taxes– but the people who clean their toilets do. This is unfair and irrational. I support keeping a progressive state income tax, reinstating the income tax for LLCs and privately-held companies (even though all of my income currently comes from an LLC), and bringing back the state estate tax for estates above the federal estate tax threshold (currently $5,340,000– this would affect approximately one-tenth of 1 percent of Kansas estates each year).
Do you support expanding Medicaid in Kansas?
In 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that states did not have to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. If Medicaid was expanded it would serve over 75,000 uninsured Kansans.
Refusing to expand Medicaid was an unconscionable act by our current governor. I support Medicaid expansion to ensure that as many Kansans as possible have access to medical care.
Do you support an increase in paid family leave?
Too many American families depend on employed adults who lack paid leave of any kind ‑‑ sick time, vacation time, disability coverage. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, 47 percent of employed Americans do not get paid sick time. Among working parents, 52 percent do not receive this essential benefit. Part‑time workers ‑‑ who are much more likely to be women than men ‑‑ generally receive no employee benefits whatsoever.
I support the concept of increased paid family leave time but I would need to see the details of any proposed legislation before signing off on it to ensure that it was not unduly burdensome on small businesses.
Would you support legislation that would prevent the misclassification of workers?
Employers are misclassifying workers as “independent contractors” in order to avoid paying unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, and social security taxes, and to escape the cost of withholding income taxes, since employers are not obligated to make these payments to, or on behalf of, independent contractors. Misclassifying employers stand to save as much as 30% of their payroll costs if they count workers as independent contractors. Thus, they can undercut law‑abiding employers because they don’t account for these normal payroll costs. Workers who have been misclassified as independent contractors lose out on workplace protections. Up to 10 percent of employers misclassify workers. Additionally, employers must be held more accountable and face penalties for hiring undocumented immigrants as part of any comprehensive immigration reform strategy. Additionally scrutiny should be put on the federal H1B work visa program to ensure that America’s working men and women are not being overlooked for employment opportunities.
Existing Kansas employment statutes already define “employee” and “wages” fairly broadly, and in my limited experience with these statutes the Department of Labor, even under the Brownback administration, has leaned toward defining workers as employees rather than as independent contractors. I would need more information about the extent of this problem in Kansas before deciding whether to support additional legislation on this topic.