Posts from Alice Ollstein

Trump’s D.C. hotel fights to unionize as his Las Vegas workers win their first contract

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

More than a year after winning a union election, about 500 workers at Donald Trump’s Las Vegas hotel announced Wednesday that they have successfully bargained their first contract. While specific details are not yet available, the Culinary Workers Union says the four-year agreement “will provide the employees with annual wage increases, a pension, family health care, and job security.”

Whereas workers at the Trump International Hotel used to make about $3 less than the average hotel worker’s wage in the city, union communications director Bethany Khan told ThinkProgress that under the new contract, “wages and benefits will be comparable to the rest of the union members on the Las Vegas Strip.”

The contract victory comes after months of legal battles and tense negotiations. Last December, shortly after the workers voted to unionize, hotel management refused to recognize the union and attempted to have the results thrown out. Workers at the hotel told ThinkProgress they faced intimidation and retaliation from management, who brought in lawyers to attempt to dissuade them from organizing.

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BREAKING: Republicans block program to register 2 million Illinois voters

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

On Tuesday, the Illinois General Assembly narrowly voted to uphold the governor’s veto of a bill that would have automatically registered two million voters across the state. The override failed by just four votes.

Fifteen House Republicans supported the bill earlier this year. On Tuesday, zero did. Thirteen changed their votes, and two have resigned.

Rep. Ed Sullivan, Jr. (R- Mundelein) said he changed his vote after he came to understand the “unintended consequences” of the policy, which has already been enacted in Oregon, California, West Virginia, Vermont, Alaska, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C.

“Certainly all of us want to make it easier for more people to vote, but we didn’t make it right,” he said on the House floor. “We can do it better.”

Governor Bruce Rauner (R) also warned of “unintended consequences” when he vetoed the bill in August, alleging the policy could “inadvertently open the door to voter fraud,” but presenting no evidence of this threat.

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Republicans Were Wildly Successful at Suppressing Voters in 2016

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

Kira Lerner Political Reporter, Think Progress

Last week, the first election in 50 years without the full protection of the federal Voting Rights Act propelled Donald Trump to the White House.

Trump will assume the presidency because of the Electoral College’s influence — nearly a million more people cast ballots for Hillary Clinton as of November 15. The election was also marked by low turnout, with tens of millions of eligible voters choosing not to participate at all. Yet there has been relatively little discussion about the millions of people who were eligible to vote but could not do so because they faced an array of newly-enacted barriers to the ballot box.

Their systematic disenfranchisement was intentional and politically motivated. In the years leading up to 2016, Republican governors and state legislatures implemented new laws restricting when, where, and how people could vote — laws that disproportionately harmed students, the poor, and people of color. In several instances, lawmakers pushing such policies said explicitly that their goal was suppression of voters who favor the Democratic Party.

Three such states serve as case studies for the effectiveness of these voting restrictions: Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Florida.

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Trump Violates Federal Labor Law, Refuses to Negotiate with His Vegas Workers’ Union

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

As Donald Trump makes his final pitch to U.S. voters — calling himself “financially brave” and promising “law and order, balanced with justice and fairness” — he faces new charges that he violated the federal labor rights of his own employees.

The National Labor Relations Board ruled Wednesday night that Trump has been illegally refusing to bargain with the 500-odd employees at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. They officially unionized earlier this year.

“We find that the Respondent’s conduct constitutes an unlawful failure and refusal to recognize and bargain with the Union,” the NLRB wrote.

The board ordered Trump to immediately recognized the workers’ union and begin bargaining a contract with them, and said he must post notices in the hotel itself admitting the violation.

“Mr. Trump should accept the federal government’s order to negotiate and treat his workers with respect,” said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, the Secretary-Treasurer of union that represents the workers. “Mr. Trump is breaking federal law and Trump Hotel Las Vegas is operating illegally.”

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BREAKING: Court Forces Ohio to Allow Most Illegally Purged Voters to Cast Ballots

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

A federal district court ruled Wednesday night that Ohio must allow most of the voters illegally purged from the rolls to vote in this year’s presidential election using provisional ballots.

“ If those who were unlawfully removed from the voter rolls are not allowed to vote, then the Secretary of State is continuing to to disenfranchise voters in violation of federal law,” Judge George Smith warned.

Though the state’s Republican leaders had argued last week that they should only have to restore the voting rights of those purged last year and those who haven’t moved since they last registered to vote, the court’s order is much broader.

Now, anyone purged since 2011 as well as anyone who has moved within the same county will be able vote.

“Moving down the street shouldn’t mean someone’s vote is thrown away,” Mike Brickner with the American Civil Liberties Union told ThinkProgress.

Additionally, the state has to send notification to any purged voter who requested an absentee ballot that they may vote in person using a provisional ballot either early or on Election Day.

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Federal Court Allows Ohio to Throw Out Ballots with Typos and Small Errors

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

This week has been rough for voters in Ohio.

In the span of just two days, they have lost a full week of early voting and their only chance of same-day registration, and hundreds of thousands of still-eligible voters were denied absentee ballot applications. A third blow fell Tuesday afternoon, when a panel of judges from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a law that allows the state to throw out absentee and provisional ballots that have errors as small as leaving out one’s middle name or zip code.

The two judges who ruled to uphold the law are white and were appointed by Republican presidents. The judge who dissented is African American and was appointed by Jimmy Carter, and he blasted his colleagues for backing a policy that “dishonored the struggle for the right of the most vulnerable to vote.”

“I am deeply saddened and distraught by the court’s deliberate decision to reverse the progress of history,” Judge Damon Keith said in his blistering dissent. “The unfettered right to vote is the bedrock of a free and democratic society — without it, such a society cannot stand.”

Keith accused his colleagues of ignoring the factual findings of the lower district court, including that “minorities use provisional ballots more often than whites, and in presidential election years, the absentee ballots and provisional ballots of minority voters are more likely to be rejected than those of white voters.”

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Hillary Clinton Calls North Carolina Voting Laws a ‘Blast from a Jim Crow Past’

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

In a speech in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday, Hillary Clinton tore into North Carolina’s Republican leaders for making it harder for people of color, the poor, and students to vote.

Deviating from her usual stump speech about Trump’s threat to national security and American values, Clinton cited a recent federal court ruling that found the state guilty of intentional voter suppression by using voter ID laws, deep cuts to early voting, and other legal changes that, in the words of the court, “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

“These laws are a blast from the Jim Crow past and have no place in 21st century America,” she said. “We should be doing everything we can to make it easier to vote, not harder.”


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Federal Court Slashes ‘Golden Week’ Of Early Voting In Ohio

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a crushing ruling on Tuesday for Ohio’s Democratic Party, which has been fighting to restore early voting days in the crucial swing state ahead of this November’s election.

A federal district court ordered the state in May to restore the early voting days eliminated over the last few years by the Republican-controlled legislature, calling the cuts “unconstitutional” and “unenforceable.” Tuesday’s 2–1 appellate court ruling overturns that decision, and will allow Ohio to cut what is known as “Golden Week” — the time when residents can register and vote on the same day.

The two judges on the panel who ruled for Ohio’s early voting cuts — both George W. Bush appointees — said they did so because courts should give deference to states in deciding how to run their elections instead of being “micromanagers.” They argued that even without Golden Week, Ohio’s early voting policy is “really quite generous,” and said the cuts pose “no such infringement” on the “fundamental right to vote.”

Judge Jane Branstetter Stranch dissented, calling her colleagues’ fears of micromanaging “unfounded and antiquated.” Stranch, who was appointed by President Obama, said that voting is such a basic right that it deserves extra attention from the courts. The early voting cut, she argued, “imposes a disproportionate burden on African Americans” and is “linked to social and historical conditions of discrimination that diminish the ability of African Americans to participate in the political process.”

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More Than 180,000 Virginians Still Can’t Vote A Month After Governor Promised To Restore Rights

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has not kept the bold promise he made in July to sign 200,000 individual clemency grants in two weeks, to allow Virginians with felony records be able to vote this November.

On Monday, nearly a month later, McAuliffe announced that he had restored the rights of nearly 13,000 ex-offenders who had already tried to register to vote, but whose registrations were nullified by the Virginia Supreme Court.

“Extending voting rights to people who are living, working and paying taxes in our community is not a partisan act,” McAuliffe said, addressing accusations that the move is designed to help Hillary Clinton win the swing state in November. “I say to Democrats and Republicans alike: ‘Go earn these Virginians’ votes.’”

“I have a duty to all Virginians,” he added, “and I will not let them be condemned for eternity as inferior, second class citizens.”

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GOP Leans In To Misogyny During Convention

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

Kira Lerner Political Reporter, Think Progress

Each day of the Republican National Convention, as tens of thousands of delegates, reporters, and curious onlookers pushed and shoved their way down a single narrow street leading to the arena’s main stage, a group of vendors hawked t-shirts and buttons attacking Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Delegates and other convention-goers eagerly purchased items that called Clinton a “bitch” and a “tramp,” suggested she be imprisoned, and described her “fat thighs” and “small breasts.”

Mary Patterson, a guest of a delegate from Racine, Wisconsin, perused the merchandise on Sunday morning with her friend, Carol McNeill-Skorupan. Both women stopped in their tracks to buy pins featuring Clinton’s face and the words: “Life’s a bitch. Don’t vote for one.”

“This sums it up right here,” Patterson told ThinkProgress. “She comes off as a bitch, quite honestly. She doesn’t have a warm personality. She seems very cold. It has nothing to do with the gender.”

Her friend agreed. “She is just not a pleasant person,” McNeill-Skorupan said. “Her husband had some charisma, which allowed him to get away with a lot of things, obviously. But she does not have it and she does not have a winning personality. She is kind of a screamer. In my mind, if you’re just out there screaming, you’re negative, you are not positive, you’re a bitch.”

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