BALTIMORE – July 24th, 2012 – As concern grows over Baltimore’s declining population, city leaders urged Congress today to raise the federal minimum wage, pointing to the boost it would provide to Baltimore’s residents and to the city’s recovering economy.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young joined fellow council members, minimum wage workers, clergy, and community supporters to announce a plan to introduce a City Council resolution supporting the “Rebuild America Act,” which Democrats hope to bring to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives next month.
The bill would raise the federal minimum wage 85 cents a year for three years, bringing it to nearly $10 by late 2014. The law would then adjust the minimum wage each year to keep pace with the rising cost of living. It would also raise the sub minimum wage of $2.13 for tipped employees for the first time in more than 20 years.
“Too many of our neighbors are struggling to make ends meet on wages that have not kept up with the cost of rent, food or transportation,” Young said. ”Too many jobs in Baltimore have been replaced by low-wage jobs. If we don’t raise wages soon for our lowest paid workers, it will mean more families leaving our city, more small businesses that depend on consumer spending shutting their doors for good, and more vacant homes in our communities. Our city can’t afford inaction on this issue.”
Baltimore was one of just three major U.S. cities, along with Detroit and Cleveland, to experience a population decline in the last census. During the exodus of working families between 2000 and 2010, the city lost on average eight residents a day, represented at the press conference by eight silhouettes flanking presenters as they spoke. Baltimore’s dwindling population has paralleled the decline in good family-sustaining jobs in the once thriving regional shipping and manufacturing center. Currently, just 6 percent of jobs in the city are in mid-wage manufacturing while over 90 percent are in the low-paying service sector.
Bruce Gross, a minimum wage worker who spoke at today’s press conference talked about the hardships he faces trying to support his family on $7.36 per hour. ”I’m trying to raise three kids and two nephews on minimum wage and there isn’t enough for even the basic necessities. Raising the federal minimum wage could help end a huge struggle that families like mine face every day when we have to choose between paying bills and buying food or school supplies for our children.”
The wage increase would have a direct positive impact on the wages of 320,000 Marylanders and would generate $1 billion in new consumer spending in the state, according to Progressive Maryland. Tuesday’s press conference was part of a national day of action by leaders, activists and community organizations in 30 cities across the country urging Congress to pass the “Rebuild America Act.”
In tax-day action at Baltimore’s main post office, broad coalition calls on tax-dodging corporations and richest Americans to pay fair share in taxes
Recent study finds major U.S. corporations — including Wells Fargo, Exelon and GE — had negative federal income tax rates from 2008 to 2011
BALTIMORE — As Baltimoreans rush to the city’s main post office to file their taxes by today’s deadline, protesters will rally across the street at Shot Tower Park to call on tax dodgers to pay their fair share in taxes. The protest is one of hundreds happening around the country today to highlight the fact that some of the most profitable U.S. corporations are exploiting loopholes to evade paying billions in taxes.
Baltimore Councilman Carl Stokes will join city residents, union members, teachers, religious leaders, and grassroots groups to call on corporations and the richest 1% to start paying their fair share. Participants in today’s protest will wear stickers with the message, “I paid my fair share, the 1% should too,” and speak against a backdrop of visuals representing public services facing deep budget cuts like schools, libraries and infrastructure projects.
Recent reports from Citizens for Tax Justice show that 26 of the most profitable U.S. corporations, including Wells Fargo, Exelon, and GE, had negative federal income tax rates between 2008 and 2011. Had these corporations paid the full 35 percent corporate tax rate during those years, they would have paid over $78 billion in taxes—funds that would have been available for vital public services. Wells Fargo alone received a $21.6 billion subsidy from taxpayers in the last four years even though it made over $60 billion in profits over the same period.
After yesterday’s Buffett Rule defeat in the Senate, the Tax Day activists are disappointed in a vote that seems to reflect Congress’ putting tax breaks for billionaires over the interests of working people. They are urging Congress to close tax loopholes that let corporations pay lower tax rates than regular American citizens.
Maryland residents don’t have to look far to see the consequences of corporate tax dodging. Our state’s recently enacted “doomsday” budget would cut millions in funding for public services that are already stretched thin. In education, the cuts could mean a loss of over $48 million, a devastating blow to Baltimore’s city school system, where over 70 percent of our schools are already rated “in poor condition.”
“We believe it is unpatriotic and immoral for U.S. corporations to evade their fair share in taxes,” said Lisa Lucas-Alston, a long-time union member and Good Jobs Better Baltimore organizer who will speak at the rally. “They’re forcing states like ours to cut funding for schools and slash budgets for police that keep our streets safe.”
Baltimore’s action was organized by a coalition of groups, including Good Jobs Better Baltimore, MoveOn.org, Occupy Baltimore, 1199SEIU and SEIU Local 32BJ.
Final merger agreement includes doubling of funds for program to help low-income ratepayers, plus thousands more green jobs
Good Jobs Better Baltimore vows to continue working with consumer allies to make sure combined company keeps promises
BALTIMORE—The Constellation-Exelon merger approved today by Maryland regulators includes a number of improvements that local consumer advocates had been seeking. An analysis of the merger by the grassroots group Good Jobs Better Baltimore finds that the final deal approved by Maryland’s Public Service Commission (PSC) includes $1 billion in public benefits, far more than the initial $250 million proposal contained, and will result in the creation of 4,000 more new jobs than were originally promised.
The merger agreement falls short in several areas, however. A promised one-time rebate to BGE customers is still just $100, far below the $500 that consumer advocates felt fair given the $2.6 billion BGE rate payers overpaid the company between the years 2007-2010. And Constellation CEO Mayo Shattuck III and other executives still appear poised to reap a windfall from the deal, with Shattuck in line to make as much as $12 million according to one Baltimore Sun estimate.
“Although we know the combined company could be doing more for Maryland consumers, we’re encouraged that this deal includes new benefits and protections for ratepayers,” said Vanessa Bliss, Deputy Director of Good Jobs Better Baltimore. “And Exelon should know that we will remain vigilant in this fight for Maryland’s energy future.”
Good Jobs Better Baltimore, a grassroots coalition of Baltimore residents, community groups and union members, filed testimony as an official intervenor, speaking out for greater protections for BGE ratepayers and the creation of jobs for Baltimore residents struggling in a tough economy.
Highlights from the new merger terms include:
Since June, Good Jobs Better Baltimore has gathered thousands of petition signatures and collected letters from residents urging the PSC to ensure any merger deal truly served the public interest. Activists from the group attended multiple shareholder meetings, packed public hearings and even met face to face with Constellation CEO Mayo Shattuck III in August.
Good Jobs Better Baltimore is a coalition of community organizations, unions and religious groups uniting to build an economy that works for everyone in our city
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 6 p.m.
CONTACT: Julie Ferris, C: 443.935.3536, Julie.Ferris@GoodJobsBetterBaltimore.org
Protestors from broad coalition declare “economic emergency for the 99%”
BALTIMORE — Hundreds of Baltimoreans joined in a national protest today, marching across the Howard Street Bridge at twilight and dropping a banner that read: “Bridge the gap between the 99% and 1% — Jobs, Not Cuts.” The Baltimore protest was part of a National Day of Action to mark the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Baltimore’s action was organized by a broad coalition of groups, including Good Jobs Better Baltimore, MoveOn.org, BRIDGE, Transform Baltimore, Occupy Baltimore, 1199SEIU and SEIU Local 32BJ. The assembly stretched all the way across the Howard Street Bridge, and included unemployed workers, religious leaders, teachers, and health care workers who held candles and displayed signs with messages like “Bridges need work, and so do we!” and “Where’s My Bailout?”
Terrell Williams, a Baltimore City Special Educator with Holabird Academy, spoke to the crowd about the urgent need for repairs in his school. “It’s extremely difficult to inspire young people and to convey their importance in the world when you’re doing it in a building that looks like a prison,” said Williams, who related stories about sinks falling from walls, sewage backups, and mold and mildew that teachers mask with disinfectants and deodorizers.
Jeffrey King, an unemployed construction worker who participated in today’s action, talked about his struggle to find work since losing his job in March. “I desperately need work,” King said. “I’m out there every day looking for a job. I’m willing to work hard, but I’m tired of watching Congress give breaks to big banks and corporations and doing nothing to address the concerns of regular Americans. Instead of taking away people’s livelihoods, and their Medicare and Social Security, they should be putting people back to work.”
Similar demonstrations occurred in more than 30 different cities today as part of a national day of action to demand that public officials invest in crumbling infrastructure and put Americans back to work now. Citizens around the country gathered on bridges, some of them structurally unsound, to call on Congress to create jobs and stop cuts. In Baltimore, the Howard Street Bridge was chosen for its high visibility above I-83. However, as of 2009, the Baltimore-Towson metro area had 167 deficient bridges, according to a report released by Transportation for America. Over 3 million people cross these bridges every day.
Lisa Lucas Alston, a long-time union member and Baltimore native, also spoke out at today’s rally. “We’re here today because we want to create a better, stronger Baltimore for everyone,” Alston said. “There is so much work that needs to be done to repair our crumbling infrastructure right here in our city, and hundreds of people desperate for work.”
Three years after Wall Street banks destroyed the economy, 25 million Americans are still unable to find full-time work and the gap between the 1% and the 99% continues to grow. Instead of creating jobs, Congress has been focusing on job-killing budget cuts and tax giveaways for the rich. The Congressional Super Committee is expected to announce plans for deep budget cuts and citizens are outraged that these job-killing cuts will deepen the unemployment crisis, cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and make the economic emergency facing the 99% even worse.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, October 26th, 4:45pm
CONTACT: Julie Ferris, C 443-935-3536, Julie.Ferris@goodjobsbetterbaltimore.org
Community members confront Constellation CEO Mayo Shattuck III to say Baltimore won’t be tricked! No merger deal without real protections for jobs, BGE customers.
BALTIMORE — On Wednesday, October 26th, BGE customers and community members with the grassroots group Good Jobs Better Baltimore descended on Constellation headquarters in full Halloween spirit with a 30 piece marching band and five foot jack-o-lantern to confront CEO Mayo Shattuck III. Organizers say the giant pumpkin, stuffed with thousands of petitions from BGE ratepayers, was made to deliver a message to Mayo Shattuck and Constellation: this Halloween Baltimore won’t be tricked by false promises about the proposed Constellation Exelon merger.
“I’m here because I care about the future of my city. What happens with this merger will affect our everyday survival as Baltimore residents and we don’t want to see jobs and protections for BGE customers stripped away” said Monica Jones, a nursing home worker, mother of three, and life long resident of Baltimore. Jones was joined by more than 100 community members and BGE customers, some in costume, who showed up to make the special Halloween delivery to Constellation headquarters.
As the gargantuan gourd rolled through the doorway at Constellation, representatives from Good Jobs Better Baltimore were also filing rebuttal testimony with Maryland’s Public Service Commission (PSC) in response to testimony filed by Constellation and Exelon representatives earlier this month defending the merger. Good Jobs Better Baltimore has presented an $810 million community workforce proposal that could create more than 1,000 new green jobs in Baltimore through EmPOWER Maryland, a green jobs program, protect existing jobs at Constellation, and provide real rate relief for BGE customers through a $500 one time credit and provisions for re-regulation.
The controversial merger deal has faced strong opposition since hearings began at the PSC in June, with many individuals and groups including Good Jobs Better Baltimore and EDF, Constellation’s largest shareholder and nuclear partner, filing testimony as intervenors. Intervenors have cited weak protections for BGE customers, job loss when the companies’ combined headquarters move to Chicago, and the supersize pay of Constellation CEO Mayo Shattuck, who received $15.7 million in compensation in 2010 even though Constellation lost nearly $1 billion last year, as major concerns.
Good Jobs Better Baltimore is a coalition of community organizations, unions and religious groups uniting to build an economy that works for everyone in our city.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 9th, 2011, Noon
CONTACT: Julie Ferris, C 443-935-3536, Julie.Ferris@goodjobsbetterbaltimore.org
Grassroots Group Meets with Constellation CEO Mayo Shattuck, Offers Plan to Protect, Create Jobs & Strengthen Local Economy
Outside: Community members hold “Light Bulb” Vigil representing BGE ratepayers who have had power cut off during extreme weather events, been overcharged
BALTIMORE —On Tuesday, August 9, members of the grassroots group Good Jobs Better Baltimore met face to face with Constellation CEO Mayo A. Shattuck III and other top execs to discuss their concerns about the company’s proposed merger with Chicago-based Exelon Corporation. The group proposed their vision for Baltimore’s energy future, an $810 million investment in Baltimore and surrounding areas of Maryland.
Other members of the coalition held a “Light Bulb Vigil” outside Constellation headquarters, while they waited to hear the outcome. Good Jobs Better Baltimore filed to become a party to the merger hearings at Maryland’s Public Service Commission (PSC) in June. Maryland’s PSC must give final approval for the proposed merger, and can also set the conditions for approval.
Delegation members included community members Monica Jones, Catherine Carey, and Alicia Champlin, who all spoke about the positive impact the $810 million investment would have in their lives and in their neighborhoods. It’s been a tough summer for many Baltimore residents. Monica Jones works two jobs but is still afraid to open her BGE bill when it arrives in her mailbox because it often consumes half of her and her husband’s joint earnings. Catherine Carey shut down her nonprofit consulting business in January because of the ailing economy, and now has to go to the library on the hottest days while she searches for jobs because she can’t afford to turn on her air conditioning. Alicia Champlin, a retired government employee living on a fixed income, often has to choose between paying her auto payment or insurance and paying her BGE bill, or assisting her sister- who is on disability and also living on a fixed income- pay her high electric bill. “Constellation has a golden opportunity to change the lives of their consumers in a positive way and still profit from this merger. I think this investment in Baltimore’s future is a win-win situation,” said Alicia.
Constellation is the parent company of Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE), which raised customers’ electric rates 104 percent over the last decade—the biggest rate hike of any major U.S. utility. Under the merger proposal put forward by the companies, BGE customers would receive a one-time $100 credit, while Constellation CEO Mayo A. Shattuck III could walk away from the company with a $20.5 million payout. The merger proposal being offered by Constellation is also weak on guarantees for job protection and local job creation, and offers little in the way of short or long term rate relief. The $810 million plan the group proposes includes partial re-regulation, real rate relief for BGE ratepayers, strong guarantees for existing local job protection, and new job creation with local hiring and training guarantees.
Good Jobs Better Baltimore is a new coalition of community organizations, unions and religious groups uniting to build an economy that works for everyone in our city. Founded this spring, the coalition reached out to people all across Baltimore. Already, more than 18,000 Baltimoreans have joined the group.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 28th, 2011, 11 a.m.
CONTACT: Julie Ferris, C 443-935-3536, Julie.Ferris@goodjobsbetterbaltimore.org
Maryland regulators starting review of merger that would give one-time $100 credit to BGE ratepayers while offering potential $20.5 million payout to Constellation CEO
Community-labor coalition Good Jobs Better Baltimore intervenes to oppose merger with Exelon Corp., which would move HQ out of state, threaten thousands of local jobs
BALTIMORE — Baltimore residents, BGE customers and union members took a stand to protect local jobs today at Maryland’s Public Service Commission, as the controversial BGE/Constellation merger hearings began inside. The group’s petition to participate in the hearings means BGE ratepayers having a say in a process with potentially serious repercussions for Baltimore’s local economy.
The coalition, Good Jobs Better Baltimore, is deeply concerned about the impact of the loss of Baltimore’s last Fortune 500 Company. The move of Constellation headquarters out of state threatens to strip away thousands of local jobs during the worst economic climate in decades. “Any job loss at a time when families are already struggling to find work and pay the bills will be devastating to our city”, said Monica Jones, a Baltimore resident and BGE customer who spoke at the rally. Baltimore is already in the midst of an unemployment crisis. Twenty-one percent of Baltimore residents are unemployed or unable to find full-time work, the highest rate among big East Coast cities.
The proposed Constellation merger also offers little protection to BGE customers, which, given recent history, should make Baltimore residents hot under the collar. After promises by top Constellation executives in 1999 that deregulation would be a good thing for Baltimore, BGE customers saw their electric rates rise 104 percent over the last decade—the biggest rate hike of any major U.S. utility. Under the proposed merger, BGE customers would receive a one-time $100 credit, while Constellation CEO Mayo A. Shattuck III could walk away from the company with a $20.5 million payout. The grassroots group is advocating for a different energy future for Baltimore, with strong protections for BGE customers, quality jobs for local workers, and a locally controlled utility that provides affordable, reliable energy for customers.
Good Jobs Better Baltimore is a new coalition of community organizations, unions and religious groups uniting to build an economy that works for everyone in our city. Founded this spring with strong support from 1199SEIU, Baltimore’s healthcare union, and Local 32BJ, the property services union, the coalition conducted a canvass that reached out to people all across Baltimore. Already, more than 18,000 Baltimoreans have joined the group.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, May 4th, 4:30 p.m.
CONTACT: Maureen Higgins, C 443-631-5090, email@example.com
Rally Raising Questions About Constellation Deal, Calling it Great for CEOs, Bad for Baltimore
New community-labor coalition to rally Wednesday at headquarters of Constellation-owned Baltimore Gas & Electric
The coalition, Good Jobs Better Baltimore, is pressing for strong protections for BGE customers, quality jobs for local workers
WHEN: Wednesday, May 4th, 4:30 p.m.
WHERE: BGE Headquarters, 110 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore
BALTIMORE — At a rally today downtown, a local coalition is raising questions about the proposed sale of Baltimore’s Constellation Energy to an out-of-town utility. Good Jobs Better Baltimore, a coalition of community and labor activists, is calling the deal great for CEOs, bad for Baltimore.
The rally will be held at 4:30 p.m. at the headquarters of Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE), which is owned by Constellation Energy and a key asset in the deal with Chicago-based Exelon Corp.
The deal includes a small, one-time $100 credit for BGE customers, but few if any protections that their already high bills won’t be raised even higher after the merger.
The sale of Constellation to Exelon is proving controversial in many quarters. Baltimore Sun business columnist Jay Hancock warned that the deal likely “means people will lose jobs in the worst economy in decades.”
Constellation CEO Mayo Shattuck III insists the deal will be “positive for Maryland,” but he has done well even when the company’s shareholders and customers have suffered. Shattuck received $15.7 million in compensation last year, a 44 percent increase over 2009, even though Constellation lost nearly $1 billion in 2010.
Members of Good Jobs Better Baltimore are skeptical of Shattuck’s pledge given Constellation’s track record. In 1999, the company promised that electricity deregulation would be a boon to Maryland. Since then, BGE has hit customers with the biggest electricity rate hikes of any major utility in America.
Good Jobs Better Baltimore is a new coalition of community and labor groups working to make every job in Baltimore a good job with pay and benefits that support our families. Recently, the group launched a citywide canvass, seeking residents’ ideas on how to strengthen the local economy. With support from Baltimore’s healthcare union, 1199SEIU, and its janitors and security officers union, SEIU Local 32BJ, dozens of organizers are currently going door-to-door in Baltimore neighborhoods.