Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll

Senior Reporter

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' Dark Money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the Detroit News, the Guardian, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndrewKroll.

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This Group Is Starting the Elizabeth-Warren-for-President Campaign

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 5:21 PM EDT

Move over, Ready for Hillary. You've got competition.

A group of progressive activists have unveiled Ready for Warren, a new outfit aimed at convincing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to run for president. Ready for Warren's website asks supporters to sign a petition urging Warren to get in the 2016 race. "It's time that the American people had a lobbyist of our own, and that lobbyist is Elizabeth Warren," the petition reads. "By standing up to Wall Street to defend Main Street, Warren has proven herself to be the spine that the Democratic Party forgot it had."

The Huffington Post reports that Ready for Warren's campaign manager is Erica Sagrans, an alum of President Obama's 2012 campaign. League of Young Voters founder Billy Wimsatt will serve as a senior adviser to the group. The group also has a Twitter account and a Facebook page.

Here's more from HuffPost:

Ready for Warren supporters will be bringing a van full of supporters to Netroots Nation, the annual gathering of progressive activists that is taking place in Detroit this week.

"We don't want to say too much about our exact plans, but we'll definitely be out in force and supporting Warren when she speaks on Friday," said Sagrans, adding, "We're planning on using Netroots as an opportunity to build on a lot of the momentum she's seen elsewhere and to show not only that she has progressive support—because I think we know that—but that there is an organized effort and people who are working on harnessing that support and building it into a real Draft Warren campaign."

The Ready for Warren supporters will have some competition at the conference. Ready for Hillary and its splashy bus will be there, and Vice President Joe Biden will be addressing the gathering for the first time.

Going forward, the campaign will make sure there are Warren supporters to greet her and encourage her to run as she goes around the country stumping for Democratic candidates. Sagrans said they haven't yet decided what shape the campaign will officially take—whether it will be a super PAC or a hybrid PAC like the Ready for Hillary effort—but they're going to step up volunteer efforts, fundraising and make sure they're a presence in the early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. An explosive amount of fundraising could be one way to entice Warren into the race.

Warren has insisted she's not running for president. Asked by the Boston Globe about a potential White House bid, she replied, "No, no, no, no, no." Yet there are signs that suggest she hasn't completely closed the door on 2016. Her recently published book, A Fighting Chance, read like something a politician eyeing higher office would write. And in an interview with Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, Warren appeared to leave herself some wiggle room about a future presidential bid.

Recently Warren has traveled the country campaigning and raising boatloads of cash for fellow Democrats on the 2014 ticket—and in the process, raising her national profile. Her super-PAC hauled in $620,000 in April, May, and June, a four-fold increase from the previous three months.

The launch of Ready for Warren is yet more evidence that just about every progressive out there wants Warren to run—every progressive, that is, but Warren herself.

Here Are 4 Lawsuits That Could Inflict More Damage on Unions After Harris v. Quinn

| Tue Jul. 1, 2014 12:05 PM EDT

On Monday, the Supreme Court's conservative justices on Monday defied some expectations by not decimating public-employee labor unions via their ruling in Harris v. Quinn. Given the opportunity to issue a sprawling decision that would overturn decades of precedent, and in the process kneecap the basic model of public-employee unionism, the five justices, led by Samuel Alito, instead issued a narrower decision. They ruled that home health care workers in Illinois are not full-fledged public workers and thus cannot be required to pay so-called fair-share fees to unions—money that goes toward the cost of union representation for all workers in a particular workplace.

But we may be back in this same situation a year from now, with the Supreme Court holding the fate of public-employee unions in its hands. That's because there are a handful of ongoing lawsuits in courts around the country that pose similar challenges to unions as Harris did and that could end up before the Supreme Court. It's possible that one of these cases could do further damage to the labor movement—with the potential to wipe out the precedent set in 1977's Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision. (In Abood, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of public-employee unions collecting fair-share fees from nonmembers to pay the costs of collective bargaining.)

If you're looking for a common thread between these challenges, it's the National Right-to-Work Legal Foundation, the driving force behind many anti-union suits around the country. The foundation represented the plaintiffs in Harris v. Quinn, and it has provided legal help in two of the following cases. 

Here's a snapshot of four cases that could be the next Harris:

  • D'Agostino v. Patrick: A group of home child care workers in Massachusetts filed suit after the state passed a law designating the SEIU as the exclusive union for those workers. Similar to the Illinois home care workers who brought the Harris suit, the Massachusetts workers claim their rights are being infringed on by being represented by SEIU, meaning union members and nonmembers pay dues in exchange for the benefits that come with union representation. This case is in the Federal District Court of Massachusetts.
  • Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association: A group of public school teachers in California claim that the requirement that they pay fair-share dues to the California Teachers Association infringes on their First Amendment rights. Their suit also seeks to ban the "opt-out" model of automatic dues deductions, in which teachers who pay dues must opt out to keep their money from funding union political activity. Instead, the plaintiffs want teachers to opt in to fund that political work. This case is with the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Parrish v. Dayton: After Minnesota Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill in May 2013 allowing the state's child care providers to vote to unionize, opponents filed a suit similar to Harris to halt the new law. The suit was on hold pending the outcome of the Harris case. The plaintiffs hailed the Supreme Court's decision in Harris, and their lawyers now expect movement in Parrish.
  • Hamidi v. SEIU Local 1000: This suit targets the part of California law that allows public-employee unions to use the opt-out model for dues paying, as described above. If Hamidi, who works for the state's Franchise Tax Board, succeeds, his suit could take a bite out of Abood, which in part upheld the practice of opt-out clauses. Hamidi's case is currently in California district court.

Unions Should Brace Themselves for a Major Supreme Court Loss

| Thu Jun. 26, 2014 1:04 PM EDT

It's official: The Supreme Court will wait until Monday, the final day of the current term, to issue its decision in Harris v. Quinn. As I explained in May, Harris is a blockbuster case that could, in a worst-case scenario, wipe public-employee unions such as SEIU and AFSCME off the map. And the chances of a damaging decision in Harris just increased—here's why.

Heading into Thursday, the Supreme Court had Harris and three other cases left to decide. The justices chose to issue their opinions concerning presidential recess appointments (Noel Canning v. National Labor Relations Board) and so-called buffer zones keeping protesters at a distance from abortion clinics (McCullen v. Coakley). Justice Stephen Breyer, a liberal member of the court, wrote the Canning opinion; Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative, took the lead in McCullen.

This makes it more likely that Justice Samuel Alito, who we've yet to hear much from, will write the opinion in Harris, which points to bad news for public-employee unions. "There's almost no question [Justice] Alito has this opinion unless he lost his majority along way," tweets Rick Hasen, a University of California-Irvine law professor. "Anti-union is his signature issue."

Labor officials can only hope Hasen is wrong. Alito is strongly anti-union. In the 2012 case Knox v. SEIU, Alito essentially invited labor's foes to challenge the basic model of public-employee unionism, in which non-union employees can be made to pay dues to a union for bargaining on their behalf, representing them in grievance issues, etc. Harris makes such a challenge; it's what Alito asked for.

Unions like to call those non-member payments "fair share" dues. If it's the union's job, they reason, to represent all members and nonmembers in a unionized workplace, then all those workers should pay their fair share for that representation. Conservatives—and Alito—say fair-share fees violate the First Amendment rights of non-union workers.

The outcome in Harris could cut a number of ways. The Supreme Court could uphold the lower court's decision dismissing the suit—a big union victory. It could strike down fair share fees—the equivalent of Congress passing a national right-to-work bill. (Right-to-work laws ban unions from collecting those fair-share fees from non-members.) Public-employee unions would survive that decision, but it would be a blow. The court could also effectively enact right-to-work nationwide and kneecap a union's ability to exclusively represent employees in a unionized workplace. That would be catastrophic for public-employee unions.

If there's any judge who might go that far, it would be Samuel Alito.

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