Remembering Martin Luther King: Rallying for the Robin Hood Tax

by Bill Barclay

Bill Barclay speaking at Chicago RHT rally

Bill Barclay speaking at Chicago RHT rally

April 4th was the Fiftieth anniversary of an event that we don’t like to remember: the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. But, it also offers the chance to honor and carry forward MLK’s thinking and goals, particularly the concerns with poverty and inequality that he articulated with increasing intensity in the last years of his life.

So, on April 4th there was a national mobilization around the Robin Hood Tax (RHT), the proposal for a very small tax on financial transactions in stocks, currencies, debt and derivatives, futures and options based on these financial claims. The RHT has two goals: raising a large amount of money to reconstruct the U.S. political economy in a way that serves most of the population and at, the same time, restricting or even eliminating some of the most destructive aspects of finance and financial activities by throwing a small amount of sand into the gears of always increasing and always going faster treading volumes.

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Harold Meyerson: Eight Ways to Raise American’s Wages

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson has an important  long form article on American Prospect.  Here is a taste of “How to Raise Americans’ Wages: Eight proposals to jump-start the incomes of workers.”

The fist step is to identify the problem.  Meyerson writes:

As economists Robert Gordon and Ian Dew-Becker have established, the gains in workers’ productivity for the past three decades have gone entirely to the wealthiest 10 percent. The portion of the nation’s economy that went to workers’ pay and benefits—which had held remarkably steady from 1947 through 1973 at 66 percent or 67 percent—last year fell to a record low of 58 percent, while profits reached a postwar high.

Today, the drive to restore workers’ share has been narrowed down to the campaign to raise the minimum wage. That raise is long overdue. The real value of the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is less than two-thirds of its level in 1968, which, in current dollars, would be $10.71. But even raising that wage wouldn’t do much for most workers; they make well more than the minimum, but their own wages have been stagnating or shrinking for decades as well.

What, then, do we do for American workers more generally? How do we raise their wages? How do we re-create a growing and vibrant middle class?


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Corporate Fat Cats Become the Nation’s Richest “Government Employees” by Leaching Off Taxpayers

by Gregory N. Heires

overpadworkersBudget hawks squawk about bloated bureaucracies and excessively paid public employees to justify their calls for slashing government services.

In recent years, their drumbeat about government waste has contributed to a political climate that has allowed for layoffs of hundreds of thousands of public employees and the imposition of salary freezes and paltry pay raises, as well as reductions of pension, health-care and other benefits.

But public employees like sewage treatment workers, teachers and social workers are far from being fat cats. Arguably, the most compensated “government” employees are actually the corporate bosses and administrators who line their pockets with taxpayer dollars for shoddy contracted-out work.

Exposed: America’s Highest Paid Government Workers,” a report by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), shows how just six of those corporate chieftains have earned $100 million in recent years. But their track record for delivering services is often abysmal. Continue reading

A District 751 Leader Looks at the Jan 3 Boeing Contract

by Jason Redrup

A group of Boeing workers  to vote down a surprise mid-contract concessionary agreement. Photo: Jim Levitt.

A group of Boeing workers to vote down a surprise mid-contract concessionary agreement. Photo: Jim Levitt.

Earlier this year, members at District 751 endured a devastating loss to our solidarity and the benefits we had fought decades to secure because of the actions of our International leadership. If what happened at 751 goes unchallenged, it will set a dangerous pattern for other contracts across the country. My goal is to ensure what happened in Seattle, doesn’t happen to another group of Machinists.

Even though we had a contract in place through 2016 and our District strongly objected, our International ordered a vote on a concessionary offer be held on Jan. 3rd knowing thousands of union members would be on vacation and unable to vote. This vote was ordered after many members had already begun their holidays, and the International refused to move the vote just one business day. With nearly 8,000 members not voting, we are now forced to live under a contract that eliminated pensions for all, more than doubles health care costs, slows wage growth by 75 percent and keeps us from returning to the bargaining table until 2024. This came not when Boeing was hurting, but enjoying record profits and backlogs. Continue reading

Inequality Gone Wild

by Gregory N. Heires

yacht-landscape-billion-oxfam-460We have a winner-take-all global economy, a malady that undermines democracy, distorts economic development and fuels inequality.

Timed to coincide with the meeting of the global economic elite at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a report released by Oxfam on Jan. 20 shows how the wealthy have rigged the economic and political rules in their favor. So much so that the 85 richest people in the world own as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest people.

“It is staggering that in the 21st century, half of the world’s population own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all sit comfortably in a single train carriage,” said Winnie Bryanyima, executive director of Oxfam, an international confederation of 17 organizations that work together to try to find solutions to injustice and poverty.

“We cannot hope to win the fight against poverty without talking inequality. Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table.” Continue reading

Investing in Stock Buybacks, Not People

U.S. corporations want to sit on their cash. If they won’t use it, why can’t we?

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

One fundamental reason why the American economy continues to limp along is that no one—at least, no one with major bucks—is investing in it. The Obama Administration countered the collapse of private sector investment in 2009 with its stimulus program, which, alas, was partially offset by all the cutbacks in state and local government spending. It’s not been able, however, to get any subsequent investment projects through the Republican House. The private sector—the corporate sector more particularly—returned not just to profitability but record profitability by the middle of 2010, but its profits have neither resulted from nor led to increased investment.

To the contrary, American corporations have never sat on so much unexpended cash. Right now, their cash piles total more than $1.5 trillion, and that’s not counting the assets of the banks. The cash is concentrated in the coffers of our largest corporations, many of them tech companies. Apple leads the list with $150 billion gathering dust, while Microsoft, Google, Oracle and Cisco Systems follow close behind. Continue reading

Obama and Friends Discover Inequality

by Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

Today, January 28, 2014, President Obama will address the nation in his State of the Union (SOTU) speech to Congress. A major theme of the address will be the growing income inequality in the US.

His speech represents an echo of similar themes and talks that have been presented this past week at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. That’s where every January the big capitalists of the world gather to discuss amongst themselves the major issues of the past year and what to do about them—in between being entertained by various cultural celebrities and performers who have been allowed into their club as junior partners in wealth. The annual Davos cultural events are not unlike the small venue side-shows held in the big Las Vegas casinos: the entertainers strut and sing while the real betting and dice-rolling discussions involving future capitalist policy initiatives go on behind ‘invitation-only’ doors requiring tickets for entry costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend ( the typical ticket price of entry for a Corporate CEO and his entourage at Davos, for example, exceeds $500,000). Continue reading

Worker cooperatives: jobs for New York City’s future

The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) is pleased to announce a half day conference,WORKER COOPERATIVES: JOBS FOR NEW YORK CITY’S FUTURE, on January 30th, 2014. Worker cooperatives are businesses that are owned by the workers and that have participatory management. FPWA seeks the attendance of government policy makers, workforce development officials, academics from leading NYC institutions, union representatives, and community-level and grassroots organizations to discuss the worker cooperative model and how workplace democracy can address the continuing economic crisis, income disparity and poverty in New York City. We intend to engage in a dialogue with those in attendance to raise awareness of worker cooperatives, to propose specific policy solutions to foster their widespread growth and be hopeful about the future of an overall solidarity economy in New York City.


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Wal-Mart, Amazon and the Swiss Social Wage

During the editing of Carl Proper’s important article below, we made some formatting and other errors that may have created some confusion. We apologize and hope that all errors have been corrected. We hope you will enjoy this thought provoking article.-Talking Union.

by Carl Proper

Carl Proper

Carl Proper

47 percent of U.S. jobs are ‘at risk’ of being automated in the next 20 years,” say Oxford University Professors Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, including most workers in transportation and logistics occupations, together with the bulk of office and administrative support workers, and labour in production occupations.i

The opportunity is massive,” adds Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at the M.I.T. Center for Digital Business. “There are still people who walk around in factories and pick things up in distribution centers and work in the back rooms of grocery stores.”ii

One U.S. CEO, Amazon head Jeff Bezos, is doing his best to seize the “opportunity.” Reaching outside his highly automated “fulfillment centers” – where the remaining human workforce complains of being treated like robots themselvesiii – Bezos proposes to replace UPS delivery people with a fleet of mini-drone helicopters to drop packages on your doorstep, largely untouched by human hands.

Why exploit workers, Bezos appears to believe, if you can just do without them?

There is a lot of evidence that this may indeed be our future.iv

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Davos 2014: Unions call for leaders to reshape the world economy with jobs and decent wages


International Trade Union Confederation

International Trade Union Confederation

Working people and their families need an urgent shift in policies by leaders to investment in jobs, a minimum wage on which people can live and social protection.

The ITUC Global Poll of 13 countries found 87 percent of people say their wages are falling behind the cost of living or stagnant. One out of eight respondents said they are struggling financially and can no longer pay for basic living expenses.

John Evans, Chief Economist, International Trade Union Confederation, said financial forecasts point to stagnation – not recovery – with nearly 200 million people unemployed.

“The World Economic Forum’s own Global Risks Report identifies widening income disparities and structural unemployment as the most serious problems confronting the global economy this year, yet government policies are worsening these trends; we need a change in policy direction,” said John Evans, who is also General Secretary of the OECD Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC). Continue reading


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