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This conference for the general welfare at the University of Nebraska Omaha, which my friend John Kretzschmar organizes and conducts every year, is always exciting and inspiring. They bring together some some of the best thinkers and speakers in the American labor movement to discuss the newest trends and efforts and struggles in our movement.

To hear an executive officer of color of the AFL-CIO speak about a righteous internal struggle for more diversity in all elements and all levels of the labor movement is very overdue and incredibly exhilarating. It is certainly exciting to hear about the labor movement’s new effort to broaden its base through mutual and real partnerships with other struggles, organizations, and institutions that share our values and vision for a new and different world and country.

It is critical for us to understand that our democracy is quickly being shattered by right-wing forces with more money than they can spend, unknown power which have fooled, misled, deceived, and defeated the American people.

We must understand that our democracy has been broken. Fixing our broken democracy and empowering people with a vision and values of justice, compassion, love, and self-organization is our most important struggle today.

But we cannot lose sight of the imperative of GROWTH.

Growth is the source of our power and power is the source of victory.

Victory means organizing and growth. There is no escaping that central point.

And I simply don’t see enough organizing happening.

My union, 1199, is organizing. AFSCME is organizing. SEIU is organizing. And in some places we’re doing it all together.

IBEW is working to organize.

The Ironworkers are organizing.

Steel is running some of labor’s most exciting campaigns.

But we need a strategy based on a struggle to raise the wages and living standards of America’s workers. We need to fight the filthy pigs who’ve stolen all the gains in our productivity in the last 35 years.

America’s workers are too poor and we work too hard for the gain of others–and we’re becoming more poor.

We will win as we have so many times before when all of us fight to build the power necessary to win.

Our middle class is diminishing quickly.

There is NO justification for the amount of our wealth going to the top of the top.

When our middle class has shrunk far enough, we will become a second rate country—and that is worth fighting about.

Image source: @Labor411

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Turns out that the Koch Brothers–covering either their bases or their asses I guess–have donated millions of dollars to the Smithsonian, which as a national scientific institution is convinced that global climate change is created by humans consuming fossil fuels.

Ironically or oddly the Kochs donate at least millions to the most right-wing, anti-science Republican politicians who deny climate change, evolution, and other tenets of modern science.

David Koch, like many prepubescent boys, appears to be very interested in dinosaurs.

According to the Washington Post, “[David Koch] donated $35 million in 2012 for a new dinosaur hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History museum. He had previously given $15 million to the museum’s hall of human origins that is named for him. In New York’s museum, he donated $20 million to the dinosaur wing that is also named after him.”

I get his fascination with dinosaurs. After all, when my son was a young boy we could both name the different kinds of dinosaurs. My son, daughter, and I spent more time in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History than I ever wanted to.

Either the Kochs have not fully developed as adults, or they are playing a very cynical political game of appealing to those who don’t believe in science for purely cynical political reasons.

At least three dozen real scientists have sent an open letter to the Smithsonian and started a petition calling on the Smithsonian to sever ties with the Kochs.

Just for fun imagine David Koch with a plastic Brontosaurus in one hand and a plastic Tyrannosaurus Rex in the other having a make believe fight.

Image source: Thenaturalhistorymuseum.org

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Chicago progressive mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is working and rallying with the Fight for 15 movement, the Chicago Teachers Union, and the Service Employees International Union for a $15 minimum wage.

They have just taken their fight to the school board to win a $15 minimum wage for the employees who work for companies that have subcontracted to do school board work, especially janitorial work.

Mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and the unions and activists rallied outside the
Chicago school board on March 25.

Garcia is running against incumbent centrist, pro-corporate Democrat Rahm Emanuel who has become very unpopular with many unions and progressives in his first term in office.

Pro-corporate Democrats are destroying our ability to move forward on an economic justice agenda.

This agenda includes:

• Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour
• Protecting, restoring, and creating the right to organize and bargain collectively for all workers
• Stopping privatization
• Government investment in infrastructure repair and green energy development

Certainly, almost any Democrat is much better than the wacky, dangerously right-wing, racist, sexist, homophobic Republican Party.

But we need a broad agenda to improve the quality of life and standard of living of average Americans. We also have to narrow the horrendous gap between the rich and the rest of us.

Mayoral candidate Garcia has a long and rich history of being an elected leader who stood up for economic and social justice. The labor movement, the people he has represented in Little Village, and the broader progressive movement in Chicago know him simply as “Chuy.” He has not wavered in his commitment to social and economic justice. In fact, he has been a consistent advocate and ally for progressive issues.

Image source: www.instagram.com/garciaforchicago

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Those folks on Wall Street who brought you the Global Financial Crash continue to wallow in huge bonuses, despite their lack of accountability and responsibility. They received $28.5 BILLION in bonuses on top of their salaries.

My friend Sarah Anderson of the great Institute for Policy Studies has done the work and shed the light on it.

Sarah says, “[those bonuses are] nearly double the combined annual earnings of the more than 1 million full-time U.S. minimum wage workers.”

WAIT–COME AGAIN!

Just the bonuses paid to Wall Street bankers last year are worth double the wages of ALL minimum wage workers in America.

Try to follow the logic with me for a minute. Those who produce nothing, create nothing, serve nobody, but gamble with our pension funds and nation’s financial security on Wall Street make bonuses that are DOUBLE the total wages of the million people who do some of the hardest, dirtiest work in America.

And the Republican right-wingers say we can’t raise the minimum wage.

In a point we’ve made in this space many times, and in the book I co-authored with economist Dr. Richard Levins, money in the pocket of workers goes a lot further to boost the economy than money given to the already wealthy.

Ms. Anderson and the Institute for Policy Studies found that last year’s Wall Street bonuses, if converted to the wages of our poorest, would have tripled our country’s Gross Domestic Product, benefiting all Americans, our economy and our country by producing much more economic activity.

This kind of public policy cannot be justified. The wealth and income inequality, the continued impoverishment of our people, the new generation of children growing up in grinding poverty with no hope, the refusal to invest in our infrastructure and sustainable energy all weaken America.

Image source: www.ips-dc.org

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“If we can’t have unions and we can’t raise the minimum wage, how can we lift people out of poverty through work?” asked Melissa Harris-Perry on her MSNBC show.

That is the question and that is the point.

There is no reasonable explanation for a right-wing Republican Party doing all they can to crush unions, and stop any increases in the minimum wage. Even some Democrats ENDORSE AND SUPPORT POVERTY FOR WORKERS.

It is just that simple.

And we need to keep it that simple.

Union busting creates and sustains poverty.

Refusing to raise the minimum wage sustains poverty.

You are either working on relieving workers and their families from poverty or you are not.

This is a very clear line of distinction, as clear as Florence Reese and the United Mineworkers’ song of struggle “Which Side Are You On?”

Image source: @chifightfor15

Discuss

Mon Mar 30, 2015 at 02:29 AM PDT

Technology and Redistribution

by StewartAcuff

“The two sectors of the economy harboring the most professionals — health care and education — are under increasing pressure to cut costs. And expert machines are poised to take over. We’re on the verge of a wave of mobile health apps for measuring everything from your cholesterol to your blood pressure, along with diagnostic software that tells you what it means and what to do about it,” says former US Secretary of Labor, professor and commentator Robert Reich.

We at 1199, the National Union of Hospital and Healthcare Employees, under the leadership of legendary President Henry Nicholas are already trying to prepare our members. We’re also preparing other yet to be union healthcare workers, and our organization for these technological changes in our industry.

First, we’re upgrading and preparing internal changes. We’re also looking to train workers who aren’t yet in our union.

We have increased our organizing, trying to build more density for more power to bargain about these and other issues.

President Nicholas speaks constantly to our members and staff about the imperative of change. Change is coming.  We must change to meet the coming changes.

But it is not just the healthcare industry. The economy is changing in fundamental ways. We must address growing poverty, huge inequality, lower and lower paying jobs.

Robert Reich:

“Our underlying problem won’t be the number of jobs. It will be — it already is — the allocation of income and wealth… the economy toward which we’re hurtling — in which more and more is generated by fewer and fewer people who reap almost all the rewards, leaving the rest of us without enough purchasing power — can’t function. It may be that a redistribution of income and wealth from the rich owners of breakthrough technologies to the rest of us becomes the only means of making the future economy work.”
This is a discussion it is time to begin.

Image source: Apple

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We have all heard some employers and right-wingers say that wages are determined by the labor market, some kind of human supply and demand.

Yet recently, we reported that Walmart announced two upcoming wage increases for half a million workers without any substantial change in the labor market. The wage increases will affect some Walmart workers slightly and many greatly. Because Walmart is the largest employer in the world, the wage increase will affect many people who don’t even work at Walmart.

The estimable Paul Krugman–Nobel laureate, Princeton professor and New York Times columnist says that, “Walmart’s move tells us — namely, that low wages are a political choice, and we can and should choose differently.”

Krugman, in his NYT column goes on to write what we all know. He says that a vibrant labor movement, an expanding economy, and pro-worker policies created the American middle class and, thus, the American Dream.

Partly, the Walmart wage increases are the result of worker, union, community, and faith pressure on Walmart as a creator and driver of poverty here and around the world. The pressure was hurting Walmart’s brand. Their ads had to turn from low prices to their lie about being a good employer. They were on the defensive, and were the face of the increasingly familiar and hated wage and income disparity.

But at the end of the day Walmart proves Krugman and organized labor right. Low wages are a choice that all of us can influence or even determine.

Krugman finishes, “Raise minimum wages by a substantial amount; make it easier for workers to organize, increasing their bargaining power direct monetary and fiscal policy toward full employment.” And we will begin to close the gulf between those at the very top and the rest of us.

Discuss
In his new role as minority leader on the Senate budget committee, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is blasting away at the Senate’s budget, which came from the radical right-wing Republican majority.

Bernie issued a 10 page report blasting the Republican budget for being, “left intentionally vague – clearly because they do not want to be associated with a budget that eviscerates programs that define who we are as a nation.”

Instead of being honest and upfront about their goals, the Republicans have used a number of budgetary “gimmicks” to cover up the devastating impact that their budget will have on the lives of ordinary Americans.

According to the report,

The Republican budget would:

• Eliminate health insurance for tens of millions of Americans

• Transfer wealth from the middle class and the poor and give to the rich.

• Prevent millions of jobs from being created by ignoring needed public investment in physical infrastructure and in education.

• Eviscerate the social safety net.

• Maintain the mindless sequestration spending cuts.

• Halt our nation’s progress in transitioning to a 21st century energy economy that protects the short- and long-term welfare of our families.

Looks like radical right-wing Republican leader ol possum mouthed Mitch McConnell is gonna have Bernie looking over his shoulder every step.

Image source: @SenSanders

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Reports are coming out from a wide variety of media sources that high living, right-wing, budget cutting Congressman Aaron Shock is being investigated by the FBI. A Grand Jury has even been empaneled, and his staff and associates have been subpoenaed to testify against the Congressman for his illegal and unethical spending habits.

In a move comparable to an admission of guilt, Shock quickly resigned last Tuesday to avoid a Congressional ethics investigation.

Looks like he faces a more serious investigation now.

Republican Congressman Michael Grimm had to resign. He pled guilty to tax evasion charges.

Keith Brekhus writing in PoliticsUSA said, “Although he ran as a fiscal conservative, he bilked the taxpayers to subsidize his expensive tastes… Like so many Republican lawmakers he demands his constituents, especially those who are poor, take personal responsibility for their lives, and he counsels them not become dependent on government support. Yet, like so many of his Republican colleagues, he does not hold him self to the same standards. In fact, he doesn’t even seem to think he should be required to obey the law.”

The potential charges against Shock include billing mileage he didn’t drive, copious uses of private jets, expensive decoration of his DC office to make it look like a set from Downtown Abbey, and a shopping trip to London.

Image source: Occupy Democrats

Discuss
Well, well it looks like we’re gonna have more fun watching the Republican Presidential Primaries than we expected with Ted Cruz running for president.

This is the same Texas Senator Ted Cruz who couldn’t get the Senate to shut down the government, so he pleaded in his fake whiny, dramatic pause-filled voice for the House to shut down OUR government.

This is the very same extremely radical right-wing Ted Cruz created by the tea party. Now he thinks he’s gonna ride that wild, wacky, woefully wrong wing of a racist, misogynist, homophobic, anti- worker, anti-American Republican Party to the Presidency of the United States.

This is so weird we gotta have some fun with it.

But in these days we can’t ignore the threat and the reality Cruz represents.

We have a right-wing threat in America that could and would destroy the America we know. They’re stomping on the values of democracy, justice, compassion, education, and workers rights that we cherish.

That such a Texan who’s all hat with no cattle could seriously run for president is a threat to all of us.

Discuss
Because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, the Republican primary campaign for President is a virtual tsunami of cash. The Koch Brothers have been reported at one time to intend to spend $400 million in the 2016 campaign and reported another time to spend $900 million.

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin wants to run for President. He, of course, led the fight to gut union political power in Wisconsin by outlawing public employee rights in that state. The labor movement responded aggressively and with its allies in an exemplary fashion thus creating the “war in Wisconsin.”

The state legislature decided to enact the supremely misnamed right-to-work (RTW) to prevent unions from charging fees to non-members they are forced by federal law to represent.

Although organized labor lost, Walker decided he’d had enough all out war with labor in Wisconsin and wanted to focus on his presidential effort.

Scott Walker has to place high in the race for corporate and big donor cash to have a chance in the Republican primary… So lo and behold Walker is all in favor of RTW FOR LESS–just as his corporate masters demand.

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision ruled that corporations are people and money is speech, therefore corporate spending is protected by the First Amendment. The decision has caused the governor of Wisconsin to violate the interests of his state and its workers and his own personal interests.

Our Supreme Court has subverted our democracy.

Image source: Desmogblog.com

Discuss
You would have to know the Illinois labor movement and the Chicago Federation of Labor to fully understand the seriousness of the new governor’s assault on organized labor. Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to ban public employee collective bargaining and enact “so called right to work.” He even wants to outlaw union donations to politics.

Chicago is a union town with a strong middle class. That middle class was created by unions, created in real struggle to turn poverty level, hard, dirty jobs into jobs with dignity and respect where one working parent can provide for a family. Chicago is a magnet for people from around the world, absorbing new immigrants for more than 100 years now.

As my favorite poet Carl Sandburg wrote, “Chicago is a city of broad shoulders.”

The awful irony today is that we have a Supreme Court that says corporations are people and their money is speech, and a governor who says real workers should not be able to contribute.

This asshole of a governor made $60 million last year.

I suspect he will get more than expected in the response.

Image source: www.aflcio.org

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