Don’t let lil’ Bobby scare you: State classified employees’ rights

April 23, 2012 in The People's [Censored]

Originally printed in Issue 2 of the People’s [Censored].

Early in February of 2012—in response to a flood of state employee inquiries concerning Gov. Bobby Jindal’s pension legislation—the Louisiana Department of State Civil Service published a document outlining the rights of state classified employees in regards to talking with lawmakers, testifying at legislative hearings, attending public rallies, and otherwise expressing their political views. The following is a reproduction of that document.

Seal of Louisiana

DATE: February 9, 2012
TO: Heads of State Agencies and Human Resources Directors
SUBJECT: State Classified Employees’ Rights to Address Members of the Legislature

As the 2012 Legislative Session approaches, there are many bills that are being filed that may have an impact on state employees, both classified and unclassified. Questions have arisen such as does a state classified employee have the right to address members of the legislature.

Classified employees are prohibited from engaging in efforts to support or oppose a candidate, party or faction in an election. These constitutional restrictions do not prohibit a classified employee from expressing themselves either privately or publicly on issues that may be pending before the legislature or other public body.

However, the Lobbying Act, R.S. 24:56 does prohibit any state employee classified or unclassified “in his official capacity or on behalf of his employer” from communicating with a legislator in an attempt to influence the passage or defeat of legislation. This prohibition does not apply to an elected official or his designee, nor does it prohibit the giving of factual information to the legislature, whether the employee is acting in his official capacity or not.

The act of expressing matters of personal concern in a personal capacity are not prohibited, but if an employee wishes to express these matters during duty hours, it must be done while on annual leave.

Below are a few questions we have recently received from employees and answers that I believe will be helpful.

Do I have to tell my supervisor (appointing authority) why I am requesting annual leave?

No, you do not. However, a supervisor (appointing authority) is not required to approve a request or requests for annual leave. If you do not have approved annual leave in advance of your absence, your appointing authority may place you in a leave without pay status.

Can I go to the legislature or other public body or public official to express my view on matters?

Yes, you can. You must be on approved annual leave status if you want to go and express your views during normal duty hours.

Can I get in trouble for expressing myself publicly?

Maybe. The United States Supreme Court has held that although government employees have a right to free speech like any other citizen, when the government is the employer it (the government) has an interest in regulating the speech of its employees that differ significantly from the interest it has in regulating the speech of the citizenry in general. The standard that the Supreme Court has set to determine if the government can regulate the speech is “If an employee’s speech does not relate to a matter of public concern then the government’s interest in efficiency, work place harmony and satisfactory performance will usually trump the employee’s interest in free speech.” Therefore, when speaking publicly, make sure you are addressing matters that are of public concern and not personal to your particular work environment.

Can I write a letter to the editor of a newspaper to express my views on an issue?

Yes, you can. However, as stated above, make sure your letter concerns a matter of public interest and not your personal work environment.

Can I go to public rallies on issues and carry a sign, cheer and boo?

Yes, you can. But the same standard applies to expressions at rallies as it does before a public body.

Can I contact my legislator, personally, by letter or email?

Yes, you can. As a private citizen you have the right to contact your legislator concerning any issue that is of personal concern to you or concerning any issue before the legislature. Do not use your state issued work equipment to communicate matters of public concern to a member of a public body. Please use your private equipment.

Can I be a member of an organization that lobbies before the legislature?

Yes, you can. You as a state employee cannot lobby before the legislature in your official capacity as a state employee, but that does not prevent you from being a member of an organization that lobbies the legislature on matters of public concern, such as the American Federation of State, County or Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Retired State Employees Association (RSEA), State Employees Association of Louisiana and the Louisiana Association of Public Employees’ Retirement Systems.

If the Retired State Employees Association were holding a rally on the steps of the State Capitol, could active state employees who are RSEA members participate?

Yes, you can. However, if the rally is scheduled during normal duty hours, you must be on approved annual leave. Additionally, the standard stated above concerning expressions will apply at rallies.

Would attending a rally be considered lobbying?

No, it would not. A rally is a gathering of people to inspire enthusiasm for a cause.

Can I place a sign in my yard supporting or opposing proposed legislation?

Yes, you can. Proposed legislation that you may support or oppose is an issue and not the support or opposition of a party, candidate, or faction seeking an elected office.

Can I sign a recall petition?

Yes, you can. However, due to the prohibition of supporting or opposing a candidate, party or faction, you cannot start a recall petition, solicit signatures for a recall petition or actively participate in a recall of an elected official.

Can I use my work computer to express my personal opinion on an issue of public concern?

No, you cannot. Your work computer is for work purposes. If you wish to communicate a matter of public concern to a member of a public body via electronic mail, please use your private computer.

If you have any questions about what you can or cannot do, please contact your Human Resource office.

Sincerely,
s/Shannon S. Templet
Director

Bobby’s World

April 22, 2012 in The People's [Censored]

Bobby's World

BY BEN VITELLI
Occupy Baton Rouge

Originally printed in Issue 2 of the People’s [Censored].


When Piyush Jindal was four years old, he nicknamed himself “Bobby,” after his favorite character on the Brady Bunch. But, based on the way he would run his dictatorship over Louisiana, little Piyush should have probably chosen Jan–the bratty, self-centered middle-child–as his Brady Bunch model.

Like many politicians, Jindal has an enormous ego. And, like many politicians, Jindal is highly ambitious–his plans for the presidency in 2016 (or vice-presidency this winter) are no secret to anyone. Indeed, one could view Jindal’s entire tenure as governor as the ultimate exer-cise of self-promotion, his goal always being a seat in The White House. Even the title of his book Leadership and Crisis reeks of presidential ambition.

Jindal climbed to the top of Louisiana government on the backlash against the corruption and mismanagement which plagued post-Katrina Louisiana. The image he likes to present of himself is that of a capable and visionary leader, willing to take any course of action if it means doing What’s Right. Yet, the image of Jindal propped up by the media and his administration is far from that of the reasoned, well-thought out conservative figure he cuts himself out to be and more attuned to that of a young bully not used to not getting his own way.

Jindal takes his media ascribed status as future Republican frontrunner very seriously, and whatever he views as a threat to his future candidacy is not taken lightly. Time and time again, voices within his administration who publicly disagree with his politics are quietly shoved out the door, while those he cannot directly control (like the teachers who were prevented from testifying in mid-March) are just not given a voice at all. His almost-Stalinlike purge of anyone willing to speak out against him and his policies has created an environment of fearful silence within the halls of Louisiana state government. And, like most tyrants, this silence and fear to speak up are precisely what Jindal needs for his plans to succeed.

Jindal’s propensity for firing anyone who disagrees with his policies has become such a common phenomenon that it’s necessitated the creation of a word: Teague. The word comes from the story of Mr. and Mrs. Teague, a husband and wife duo who were both coincidentally fired not long after publicly criticizing Jindal’s policies. In late 2009, Melody Teague was a contract grants reviewer working within the Department of Social Services. In a public forum, Mrs. Teague spoke out against Jindal’s privatization plans for state services. The next day, she was fired. The reason given? For mishandling food stamps. Four years earlier. During Hurricane Katrina. Six months later, she was able to get her job back, but her husband was not so lucky.

In April 2011, Tommy Teague, then executive director of the Of-fice for Group Benefits, criticized Jindal’s privatization plans for his office. Under Tommy’s direction, the OGB, which provides health care to more than 250,000 state workers, retirees, and their dependents, had turned a 36 million dollar deficit into a half-billion dollar surplus. “The program is running very, very, very well,” Teague then told reporters at the Times-Picayune.

Jindal’s “raid” on the OGB was likely used to fill in the 1.6 billion dollar gap in the state budget. While the sale of the OGB would temporarily earn the state some money, like all of Jindal’s plans the goals are decidedly short term. Studies show that the privatized services would cost the state, its workers, and the taxpayers much, much more in the long run and would basically only be used to line the pockets of the wealthy, including banking giant Goldman Sachs, who helped broker the deal. Unlike his wife, Tommy Teague did not get his job back.

Jindal’s “Teague-ing” of state employees who stand in his way did not begin or end with the Teagues. As early in his administration as 2008, Jindal “Teagued” James Champagne, 12 year executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, after the two disagreed over the state’s motorcycle helmet safety law.

The most recent case of Jindal firing an employee over a disagreement was when the head of the Of-fice of Elderly Affairs criticized Jindal’s plans to merge her office with the Department of Health and Human Services. Ms. Martha Manuel, who had been appointed by Jindal in February 2011, spoke at a House Appropriations Committee hearing last March, saying that these plans would cut needed services for the elderly and would increase ineffective bureaucratization. As a Jindal spokesman said of the subject, Manuel and Jindal “decided to go in a different direction.” Obviously.

Looking through a list of all those who Jindal fired or asked to resign (like Tammie McDaniel, who was asked to resign from the BESE board after she disagreed with Jindal’s support of No Child Left Behind) is like reading a Who’s Who Guide to Jindal’s Corruption. But his doesn’t end there. The list of Jindal’s misdeeds is endless. His dictatorship over Louisiana oozes with corruption, the very subject which he was elected to expel, and the scariest part about it all is not that this is a man who has dedicated the majority of his adult life towards becoming the next president, but that the mainstream media and the Republican Establishment tout him as the same.

In his heart of hearts, Governor Jindal probably relishes the comparisons made between his administration and Huey Long’s. Yet, unlike the firebrand Long, Jindal is at best a bland, mediocre, small-minded bureaucrat.

One of the sources of Long’s controversial legacy was his convincing oratory skills and his championing of the causes for the lower classes. Governor Jindal—to say nothing about his wretched speaking ability— has no empathy for the poor and disenfranchised. While Long responded to the Great Depression by building schools, hospitals, roads and other public services to help those suffering most, Jindal responds to the current Recession by handing these same public services over to the highest bidder. Whereas Huey Long poetically described the hardships of the lower classes, Jin-dal mechanically drones on and on about the so-called “State Budget Deficit” and explains to us the necessity of again cutting taxes for the top 1%.

In other words, Long wanted to Share the Wealth–Jindal just wants to pocket his portion and give the rest to his friends.

Yet the strong brotherhood between the two remains in their reckless desire for unbridled power. Both men sought the White House, and were willing to crush anything in their path along the way. While Huey Long’s grab for power in the Thirties drew comparisons among his critics to the fascist movements rising concurrently in Europe, Jindal’s anti-democratic austerity measures and his pillaging of the public till at the behest of the 1% promises for Louisiana the destroyed public sectors seen today in Greece or Spain. As Hunter S. Thompson said in 1972:

“A career politician finally smelling the White House is not much different from a bull elk in the rut. He will stop at nothing, trashing anything that gets in his way; and anything he can’t handle personally he will hire out–or, failing that, make a deal. It is a difficult syndrome for most people to understand, because few of us ever come close to the kind of Ultimate Power and Achievement that the White House represents to a career politician.”

Dr. Thompson’s words were as true then as they are today. Jindal, like a mad beast in heat, is a man willing to do anything and screw over anybody, to get what he sees as rightfully his: The Presidency of The United States.

If you are a state classified worker who is afraid to speak up or sign the petition to recall Bobby Jindal, information on which can be found at <recallbobbyjindal.com>, click here to read your rights when it comes to talking with lawmakers, testifying at legislative hearings, attending public rallies, and other-wise expressing your political views.