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by brasch

The Sounds of Silence — Political Style

7:31 am in Uncategorized by brasch

by Walter Brasch

A hush has fallen over our house.

It began late Tuesday night and, if we are fortunate, will last at least a week.

Drat these Robocalls!

Drat these Robocalls!

But it will return. We have no illusions that there will be continued quiet.

That’s because we are in the middle of yet another election cycle.

It’s not as bad as it was in 2008 or 2012 when we were getting five to ten robocalls every day from Democrats, Republicans, Friends of Democrats, Friends of Republicans, Chambers of Commerce, and unions.

During those years, almost every TV ad was someone praising his own political legacy or attacking her opponent for something that may or may not have been better placed in one of the supermarket tabloids that informed us about Elvis sightings and politicians influenced by aliens. At least by putting most of their ad budgets into television, they were able to keep ad salesmen from losing their lofty prestige and falling into the abyss of wages earned by news directors.

The candidates are using their money and public platform to express their opinions, no matter how absurd.

In Arizona, a rancher who thought he should become a member of Congress claimed, “If you look at the fiascos that have occurred, 99 percent of them have been by Democrats pulling their guns out and shooting people.”

In Florida, a state representative claimed those who support the concept of an educational common core have a not-so-hidden agenda—they want to “attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can.”

And in Pennsylvania, we learned that incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett, running unopposed in his party, brought 150,000 jobs to the state; it was a remarkable feat considering that when he took office, the state was 13th in job growth and in less than four years, even with the “economic boom” in gas drilling, had plunged to 41st among all states. Corbett then added the spice—his administration made significant increases to the educational budget, a claim that even members of his own party had trouble not bursting out in uncontrollable waves of gagging laughter. Of course, Corbett had to do something since his popularity is about 17 points below that of a Nigerian scam artist.

The cost to convince us to vote for a particular candidate is in the range of the gross national product of a small industrialized nation. Already, Congressional candidates have spent about $330 million, while Senate candidates have spent about $175 million, according to Open Secrets.

In Pennsylvania’s District 13, in the southeastern part of the state, candidates for Congress have spent almost $4 million. And it’s only sixth among all 435 districts.

Leading the spending is Ohio’s 8th district where Speaker of the House John Boehner, first elected in 1991, is running for re-election. He won the primary this month with about 70 percent of the vote. Apparently, he’s looking at a vigorous general election, since he’s already raised about $12.9 million, the largest amount in the country for a House campaign. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) is a distant second with $5.3 million; in third is House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), with a paltry $5 million.

Leaders in the Senate campaigns, according to Open Secrets, are Ed Markey of Massachusetts ($16 million), Cory Booker of New Jersey ($14.5 million), and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate minority leader ($12 million).

Open Secrets also reveals that in this election cycle special interests and lobbying groups have helped make sure the candidates are bathed in green ink. Contributions to Republicans have already come from securities and investment companies ($33.5 million), real estate ($21.4 million), the oil and gas industry ($16 million), the insurance industry ($13.8 million), manufacturing industries ($10.2 million), pharmacy and health care ($8.3 million), and commercial banks ($9 million).

The Democrats have already received funding from law firms ($36 million), the entertainment industry ($10 million), building trade unions ($6.8 million), public sector unions ($ 6.7 million), and environmental groups ($1.3 million). Hundreds of millions of dollars are coming to both the Democrats and Republicans for the general election; the third parties, no matter how strong their candidates and public policy positions, will be campaigning with spare change.

India, which provides much of America’s telemarketing and tech services, may be on track to out-America America. The cost of the Indian election is expected to be about $5 billion this year, second only to the $7 billion cost of the 2012 election in the United States.

Thanks to special interests and lobbies, and their generosity in promoting American’s version of democracy, if the past is the future, voters will experience non-stop robocalls and TV ads for the next six months, some of the calls outsourced to New Delhi, possibly by flag-waving All-American, Constitutionalist patriotic politicians whose loyalties are to the mother’s milk of politics rather than to the people who will elect them.

[Dr. Brasch has been covering politics and social issues more than four decades. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, which includes a chapter about the influence of the oil and gas lobby upon politicians.]
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by brasch

Royal Dutch Shell: They’ve Really Got a Friend in Pennsylvania

7:58 am in Uncategorized by brasch

Royal Dutch Shell, which owns or leases about 900,000 acres in the Marcellus Shale, had a great idea.

It wanted to frack the Ukraine. But, there was opposition. So, Royal Dutch Shell decided to create a junket for some of the Ukrainians opposed to fracking to show them just how wonderful fracking is.

Ban Fracking and shale gas in Europe before it is too late!

European Fracking Protests

They were going to bring the Ukrainians to northeastern Pennsylvania, and give them an all-expenses-paid four day tour. The tour was to begin at the end of July. Other shale gas corporations have created press junkets, where they lay out a nice day or two of activities, complete with handouts, trinkets, meals, and lodging. Members of the establishment press often go on these junkets. Some take what they’re told, rework it, and put it into print or on the air.

Now, the people of the Ukraine anti-fracking movement aren’t idiots. They weren’t just going to take whatever they were shown and told. So, they contacted the state’s leading fractivists and anti-fracking organizations. They wanted to learn all the facts—not just what was spoon-fed to them. They were willing to talk to anti-fracking activists when there were no other scheduled activities.

But Royal Dutch Shell was monitoring FaceBook and the Internet, and saw that the Ukrainians were trying to talk to the grassroots movement in Pennsylvania to get all sides of the issue.

What a company with solid PR would do would be to just deal with it—and hope that its side could be presented, and the people would make reasonable decisions. But, Royal Dutch Shell, apparently, has some rather lame six-figure income PR people and administrators.

Royal Dutch Shell decided it didn’t want to deal with having any opposition to its PR tour. So, the company that has about $360 billion in assets–and made about a $27 billion profit last year, placing it No. 1 on the Fortune 500 list—cancelled the tour less than a week before it was to begin.

But the story doesn’t end with a cancelled press junket. Royal Dutch Shell is embedded into Pennsylvania politics.

The foreign-owned company was thinking about building an ethane cracker plant about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. A cracker plant takes natural gas and breaks it up to create ethylene, primarily used in plastics. Royal Dutch Shell considered placing the plant beside the Ohio River in Pennsylvania, Ohio, or West Virginia. All three states were interested, but Pennsylvania held out the most lucrative corporate welfare check for the company, which had spent $14.5 million in lobbying during 2012, about 10 percent of all lobbying costs for all gas and oil corporations.

The Pennsylvania legislature handed over a 15 year exemption from local and state taxes, apparently without consulting local officials in Beaver County’s Potter and Center townships. Tom Corbett, who never met a gas driller he didn’t like, then approved a $1.65 billion tax credit over 25 years, tweeting, “A crackerplant would create up to 20,000 permanent jobs in Southwest PA.” The reality is considerably lower.

Shell stated it planned to hire only 400 to 600 persons; because of the location, many new employees would probably be Ohio and West Virginia residents. Even if all possible indirect jobs—including more low-wage clerks at local fast food restaurants—were added, the most would be about 6,000–7,000 employees.

Pennsylvania may have been able to attract the plant without giving up so much corporate welfare. A Shell news release stated the company “looked at various factors to select the preferred site, including good access to liquids rich natural gas resources, water, road and rail transportation infrastructure, power grids, economics, and sufficient acreage to accommodate facilities for a world scale petrochemical complex and potential future expansions.” Even then, Shell said it could be “several years” before construction would begin. At the proposed location, the Horsehead Corp., which signed an agreement with Shell to sell the land, has until April 30, 2014, before Shell could begin construction.

Corbett may have believed that extending corporate welfare to Royal Dutch Shell was just good business, and would spur job creation and the economy. But, there is another probability for his generosity, and it’s both personal and political.

Dory Hippauf’s “Connecting the Dots” series explains why Corbett may have been so generous with extending tax credits and subsidies, and it begins with billionaire Terrance (Terry) Pegula, who sold East Resources to Royal Dutch Shell in 2010 for $4.7 billion. East Resources, according to reporting in the Buffalo News, had “a less-than-stellar track record in the environmental dicey business of drilling for natural gas.” Terry and Kim Pegula donated $280,000, and Shell donated about $358,000, to Corbett’s political campaign for governor. As governor, Corbett appointed Pegula in March 2011 to the newly-formed Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, which was loaded with pro-fracking energy company executives prior to being disbanded after fulfilling Corbett’s vision to produce a pro-industry report.

The story continues at Penn State, where the Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research (MCOR) announced that with funding provided by  General Electric and ExxonMobil—which donated a combined $2 million to Penn State, the University of Texas, and the Colorado School of Mines—it would offer a “Shale Gas Regulators Training Program.” The Center had previously said it wasn’t taking funding from private industry. However, the Center’s objectivity may have already been influenced by two people—Tom Corbett, who sits on the university’s board of trustees, and Terry Pegula.

Hippauf made a few more connections. Pegula, a Penn State graduate, is full owner of the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League. Penn State had Division II ice hockey teams that played in a 1,350 seat stadium. That would change. In September 2010, Penn State announced that Pegula and his wife, Kim, donated $88 million, the largest individual gift in Penn State’s history, to fund a world-class 6,000-seat ice hockey arena; the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams would now become Division I athletics; the arena will be completed this Fall. While understanding a person’s motives is difficult, it’s possible the Pegulas wanted to do something nice for Penn State. It’s also possible they saw Penn State as a feeder school to the NHL, especially the Sabres. There is also another possibility.

On the day Pegula gave the money to Penn State, he said, “[T]his contribution could be just the tip of the iceberg, the first of many such gifts, if the development of the Marcellus Shale is allowed to proceed.”

So, now we have connections between Penn State, a billionaire with connections to Penn State  and Pennsylvania’s governor, and the world’s largest gas and oil multinational corporation, which has substantial holdings in Pennsylvania—and is afraid to allow Ukrainians to hear about the negative effects of shale gas drilling. Read the rest of this entry →

by brasch

‘Putting People Over Profits’: The Fight Against Fracking

3:49 pm in Uncategorized by brasch

Fracking sign

Pennsylvanians want to put a moratorium on fracking.

And it’s not just a few thousand, but a majority of the state’s residents.

Pennsylvania lies in the heart of the Marcellus Shale, possibly the most productive shale for gas in the country.

A joint University of Michigan/Muhlenberg College study reveals that only 49 percent of Pennsylvanians support shale gas extraction and 58 percent of all Pennsylvanians want the state to order “time out” until the health and environmental effects of fracking can be fully analyzed. That same study revealed that 60 percent of Pennsylvanians believe fracking poses a major risk to ground water resources, only 28 percent disagree; 12 percent have no opinion.

Petitions with more than 100,000 signatures requesting a moratorium were delivered to Gov. Tom Corbett in April. As is typical for the man who willingly accepted more than $1.8 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, it didn’t matter.

High-volume hydraulic horizontal fracturing, better known as fracking, requires per well three to nine million gallons of fresh water, about 10,000 tons of silica sand, and about 100,000 gallons of a lubricant mixture that the drilling companies won’t reveal the contents. However, a U.S. House of Representatives study suggests that of about 750 chemicals that could be used in that solution—every well and every company uses a different mixture—about 650 are toxic or known carcinogens. That mixture is forced into the earth, past the aquifers that provide drinking water, and then is brought up and placed into plastic-liner storage bins, where it is eventually loaded into trucks that travel throughout Pennsylvania, occasionally leaking onto the roads, and usually into Ohio, where millions of gallons of the fluids are forced back into the earth. Scientific evidence now links those deep injection wells to earthquakes. Scientists have also shown health and environmental effects from fracking, and that methane, an explosive greenhouse gas extracted from the earth, has added to the problems of climate change.

In June, the Democratic State Central Committee approved a resolution to establish a moratorium.

So, if almost three-fifths of all residents want fracking to stop, who’s opposing the moratorium? Just about anyone in a political leadership position. They tend to be the ones who from their own houses can’t see drilling rigs, well pads, frack pits, and frack trucks that block access roads. They tend to be the ones who have deliberately twisted the facts and now squawk about how fracking the earth has helped create jobs and improve the economy, while ignoring the problems already proven that affect their constituents’ health, environment, and food supply.

The Democrats’ resolution had begun in February. Sue Lyons, an attorney, had proposed the resolution. However, the Rules Committee of the Democratic Party Central Committee did not allow it to go forward, questioning its legality. To make sure the resolution was not in the best interest of Pennsylvania, the party even contacted the Department of Environmental Protection, the same DEP that has policies that block full transparency, that has a policy to “educate” rather than penalize gas companies that violate state pollution standards, and for two years had been run by a political crony of Gov. Corbett. The DEP agreed with what passes as Democratic leadership—the resolution was out of order.

Enter Karen Feridun, Patti Rose, and Berks Gas Truth. With a massive grassroots campaign, in less than two months they convinced the delegates to the Central Committee not only to get the resolution out of committee but also onto the floor for the vote.

Before the delegates, Feridun argued that contrary to politician and industry claims, no one can say that fracking is safe because the chemicals are protected from disclosure under an exception to the Safe Water Drinking Act, the exception having been pushed through during the Bush–Cheney administration. The Michigan/Muhlenberg poll reveals that 91 percent of all Pennsylvanians believe fracking companies should disclose all chemicals used in the process. Feridun argued that frack waste is so radioactive that landfills and sewer plants won’t accept it, that fracking has led to massive fish kills. But, most important, fracking has led to health problems, and even the DEP has had to acknowledge there have been at least 160 identified cases of contaminated water wells because of nearby fracking.

The Democratic leadership, somewhat parroting the Republicans, didn’t accept that democracy prevailed in the state central committee. Vice-chair Penny Gerber, who lives in Montgomery County, which is exempt from fracking, called fracking “a thriving industry.” Gerber is an associate at a PR firm whose clients include large energy companies.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell told the Patriot-News of Harrisburg the resolution was “ill-advised,” and then used the same arguments spewed forth by Tom Corbett and the Republican leaders by claiming fracking improved the economy and “helped create wealth in the poorest areas of Pennsylvania,” avoiding any references to the detrimental effects that Feridun so eloquently brought forth.

What Rendell didn’t say, although it isn’t any secret, is that he is a special counsel to one of the nation’s largest law firms that represents Big Energy. Among his chores was to intervene on behalf of Range Resources, one of the nation’s largest drilling companies, to get the Environmental Protection Agency to drop a water contamination suit.

Also opposing the will of the delegates are at least two of the three Democratic candidates for governor. One is an unabashed supporter of fracking—he was the DEP head under Rendell, who opened the gates to fracking Pennsylvania; the other is a member of Congress, but who represents a district in the affluent Southeast Pennsylvania that has already received the state’s official blessings to be part of a six-year moratorium on shale drilling.

The day the petitions were delivered to Tom Corbett in April, State Sen. Jim Ferlo (Pittsburgh) proposed legislation to call for a moratorium. Co-sponsors are Sens. Lisa Boscola (Lehigh/Northampton), Andrew Dinniman (West Chester), Shirley Kitchen (Philadelphia), Daylin Leach (Montgomery/Delaware counties), Judy Schwank (D-Berks), and Christine Tartaglione (Philadelphia)

Let’s hope they can convince the Republican-controlled legislature to—as Karen Feridun says—“put people over profits.” Read the rest of this entry →

by brasch

You Can’t Wash Away Fracking’s Effects

8:27 am in Uncategorized by brasch

José Lara just wanted a job.

Appalachia Resist protest

A recent protest and blockade by Appalachia Resist! at a fracking waste site.

A company working in the natural gas fields needed a man to power wash wastewater tanks.

Clean off the debris. Make them shining again.

And so José Lara became a power washer for the Rain for Rent Co.

“The chemicals, the smell was so bad. Once I got out, I couldn’t stop throwing up. I couldn’t even talk,” Lara said in his deposition, translated from Spanish.

The company that had hired him didn’t provide him a respirator or protective clothing. That’s not unusual in the natural gas fields.

José Lara did his job until he no longer could work.

At the age of 42, he died from pancreatic and liver cancer.

Accidents, injuries, and health problems are not all that unusual in the booming natural gas industry that uses horizontal hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, to invade the earth in order to extract methane gas.

Of the 750 chemicals that can be used in the fracking process, more than 650 of them are toxic or carcinogens, according to a report filed with the U.S. House of Representatives in April 2011. Several public health studies reveal that homeowners living near fracked wells show higher levels of acute illnesses than homeowners living outside the “Sacrifice Zone,” as the energy industry calls it.

In addition to toxic chemicals and high volumes of water, the energy industry uses silica sand in the mixture it sends at high pressure deep into the earth to destroy the layers of rock. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) issued a Hazard Alert about the effects of crystalline silica. According to NIOSH there are seven primary sources of exposure during the fracking process, all of which could contribute to workers getting silicosis, the result of silica entering lung tissue and causing inflammation and scarring.  Excessive silica can also lead to kidney and autoimmune diseases, lung cancer, tuberculosis, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). In the Alert, NIOSH pointed out that its studies revealed about 79 percent of all samples it took in five states exceeded acceptable health levels, with 31 percent of all samples exceeding acceptable health levels by 10 times. However, the Hazard Alert is only advisory; it carries no legal or regulatory authority.

In addition to the normal diesel emissions of trucks and trains, there are numerous incidents of leaks, some of several thousand gallons, much of which spills onto roadways and into creeks, from highway accidents of tractor-trailer trucks carrying wastewater and other chemicals.

The process of fracking requires constant truck travel to and from the wells, as many as 200 trips per day per well. Each day, interstate carriers transport about five million gallons of hazardous materials. Not included among the daily 800,000 shipments are the shipments by intrastate carriers, which don’t have to report their cargo deliveries to the Department of Transportation. “Millions of gallons of wastewater produced a day, buzzing down the road, and still nobody’s really keeping track,” Myron Arnowitt, the Pennsylvania state director for Clean Water Action, told AlterNet.

Drivers routinely work long weeks, have little time for rest, and hope they’ll make enough to get that house they want for their families.

But fatigue causes accidents. And contrary to industry claims, workers don’t always wear protective gear when around toxic chemicals they put into the earth, and the toxic chemicals they extract from the earth. Or the toxic chemicals they drive on public roads.

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by brasch

Sunshine Still Blocked at Penn State

7:23 am in Uncategorized by brasch

from Walter Brasch

STATE COLLEGE, Pa.–The Penn State Board of Trustees, still sanctimonious in its public moral outrage, continues to violate state law.

Sunshine pours through thick clouds.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant (Photo: Jong Soo(Peter) Lee)

The Board held a private three hour meeting, Wednesday evening [July 25] to discuss the NCAA sanctions and the role university president Dr. Rodney Erickson played in accepting the sanctions.

Erickson, according to the Centre Daily Times, had “accepted the sanctions after discussing them with advisors and some trustees, but not the entire board.”

The Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, which covers Penn State, requires that public agencies “shall give public notice of its first regular meeting of each calendar or fiscal year not less than three days in advance of the meeting and shall give public notice of the schedule of its remaining regular meetings.” For special meetings, the Sunshine Act requires an agency to give public notice at least 24 hours in advance. The law doesn’t require a public notice if an emergency meeting is declared, but there was no indication that anything the Board conducted in secret was an emergency, as defined under the Act. The Board gave no indication that the meeting was an executive session to discuss personnel issues or pending lawsuits.

The law also requires that, “Official action and deliberations by a quorum of the members of an agency shall take place at a meeting open to the public.” None of the few exceptions permitted in state law seems to apply to the reason for the latest meeting.

Following the meeting, the Board issued a PR-soaked statement that the meeting was for a “discussion,” and that there was no vote. Apparently, the Board believes that “discussions” without a vote aren’t covered by the Sunshine Act, so it was free to hold yet another unpublicized secret meeting. The Board, as has been so often the case, was wrong.

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by brasch

Labor Not Represented in Management of the ‘People’s Universities’

9:24 am in Uncategorized by brasch

 

by WALTER BRASCH

 

Although more than one million Pennsylvanians are members of labor unions, and the state has a long history of worker exploitation and union activism, neither of the two largest university systems has a labor representative on its governing board.

The only labor representative on the Board of Governors of the State System of Higher Education (SSHE) in its 28 year history was Julius Uehlein, who served 1988–1995 while Pennsylvania AFL–CIO president. The appointment was made by Gov. Robert P. Casey, a Democrat.

Only two persons have ever represented labor on Penn State’s Board of Trustees. Gov. Milton Shapp, a Democrat, appointed Harry Boyer, the state AFL–CIO president, in 1973. Shortly after Boyer retired in 1988, he resigned as a trustee. Richard Trumka, a Penn State alumnus and Villanova law school graduate, now the national AFL–CIO president, served as a trustee, 1983–1995, while president of the United Mine Workers. He was first appointed by Gov. Dick Thornburgh, a Republican, reappointed by Gov. Casey, and not reappointed when Tom Ridge, a Republican, became governor.

The 32-member Penn State Board of Trustees is divided into five groups: ex-officio members (6), Governor appointments (6), members elected by the Alumni Association (8), Business and Industry members (6), and elected members from Agriculture (6). The Agriculture representation dates to 1862 when Penn State (at that time known as Farmer’s High School) was one of the first two land grant institutions; the land grant institutions were created to provide advanced education in agriculture and the sciences. Currently, 15 members either are or were CEOs. Among them are the CEOs of U.S. Steel and Merck. One of the ex-officio members is the Penn State president, which creates an interesting potential for a conflict-of-interest. Except for one student representative, most of the rest are lawyers or senior corporate or public agency executives. Only six members are women, only three are members of minority classes.

The lack of diversity became an issue this week when the Faculty Senate called for a more diverse board. The challenge to the Trustees was unusual because the Senate “has always been a relatively non-confrontational group,” according to Dr. Paul Clark, head of the university’s prestigious Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations, who had served as a senator for 15 years. However, child molestation charges against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, combined with how poorly the university administration and the secrecy-clad Trustees handled the problem, exposed the university and trustees to additional scrutiny.

“Because of the number of union members in Pennsylvania, and the need to have working people’s issues and perspectives represented on the board, we always thought it made a lot of sense for that constituency [working class] to be represented on the trustees,” says Dr. Clark.

At one time, Penn State had an active labor studies advisory committee, dating back to the early 1950s when Milton Eisenhower was the university president. That committee met at least four times a year and “was well respected,” says Irwin Aronson, general counsel for the Pennsylvania AFL–CIO, and a Penn State labor studies graduate. After Dr. Graham Spanier became president in 1995, the committee quickly dissolved because “he didn’t seem to have much interest in it,” says Richard Bloomingdale, Pennsylvania AFL–CIO president. There is no doubt, says Aronson, that “the previously warm relationship between labor and Penn State’s administration collapsed under Dr. Spanier’s administration.” Bloomingdale says he hopes Rodney Erickson, Penn State’s newly-appointed president, will see the necessity to reinstate the committee.

Penn State also has what may be the state’s premiere collection of labor history primary source documents, especially from the coal region. The letters, notes, diaries and other materials are archived in the Paterno Library.

 Penn State is a state-related private university which received $279 million in state funding for the current fiscal year; it has 94,000 students on its 24 campuses, with 44,000 of the students enrolled on its main campus. About 3,000 Penn State staff (mostly those working in maintenance, physical plant, dormitories, and the cafeteria) are members of the Teamsters. About 1,300 registered nurses, including those of the Hershey Medical Center, are members of the Service Employees International Union. However, there is no faculty union at Penn State. Part of the problem, says Dr. Clark, is that faculty in the large business and agriculture colleges, plus those in engineering and science, tend not to have strong union loyalties; those in the liberal arts tend to have more acceptance of the value of unions.

SSHE, the larger of the two systems, has 120,000 students enrolled in 14 universities. Its 20-member Board of Governors isn’t much more diverse than Penn State’s. The Board has three student representatives who are appointed by the Board after being nominated by the presidents of the 14 universities. However, because of the way the students are nominated by presidents of the individual campuses and then selected by the Board of Governors, most usually have views similar to what the administration sees as mainstream and acceptable. Membership also includes four legislators, selected from each political caucus (Democrat and Republican caucuses in the House and Senate) and the secretary of the Department of Education; the rest are appointed by the Governor, with the consent of the state senate. Gov. Tom Corbett and his designated representative, Jennifer Branstetter, a public relations executive, serve on both Penn State and SSHE boards. Most of the other members are lawyers or senior business executives. One of them, Kenneth M. Jarin, who served as chair for six years and is currently a member, is a lawyer who represents management in labor issues.

The lack of at least one representative of labor on the SSHE Board of Governors is because of “a lack of sensitivity to the labor point of view,” says Dr. Stephen Hicks, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculties (APSCUF), which represents 6,400 faculty. Dr. Hicks, who has tried to get the Board to include a faculty member, says that when a Board has most of its members “who have run a business and made money, you get a certain viewpoint.”

Richard Bloomingdale says he’s proposed to the boards and governor persons who could effectively represent the working class, “but they were always turned down.”

Even one representative, says Bloomingdale, “would still leave the Boards with heavy pro-business orientations.”

There is no question that politics and a pro-business or anti-labor philosophy has left working class Pennsylvanians with no representation on the boards of universities that are designated as “the people’s universities.”

Unfortunately, the lack of labor representation is the case at almost every public university in America.

 [Walter Brasch is an award-winning reporter and syndicated columnist, and the author of 17 books. His latest book is the novel, Before the First Snow, primarily set in Pennsylvania. It is a look at the counterculture between 1964 and 1991, with a social justice and pro-labor focus. Disclosure: Dr. Brasch is professor emeritus of mass communications from the SSHE system.]