Lone Socialist Senator in the U.S. Ponders 2016 Presidential Run

by Steve Early

sanders_podium.jpg_1718483346 In U.S. Democratic Party circles, it’s a widespread assumption that ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be the Democrats’ leading contender for the presidential nomination in 2016.

While the former “First Lady” remains an unannounced candidate to succeed Barack Obama, she’s been hearing footsteps from a one-time Senatorial colleague who is threatening to run to the left of her. Clinton’s potential challenger is Bernie Sanders, who has, for nearly 25 years, represented Vermont in Congress, first as a member of the House of Representatives and, since 2006, the Senate. Vermont is a small, rural northeastern state with a largely white population of just 640,000.

In ten straight federal races, the 73-year old Sanders has campaigned as an anti-corporate independent, defeating both conservative Republicans and Clinton-like centrist Democrats. Sanders also has the distinction of being the only socialist on Capitol Hill and one of its most ardent supporters of collective bargaining, Social Security, and tax-financed health insurance for all Americans.

As chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sanders just helped win $15 billion in much-needed new funding for publicly-funded hospitals serving veterans of past U.S. wars, several of which—the disastrous interventions in Vietnam and Iraq–he strongly opposed. In 2007, his office helped facilitate the delivery of discounted home heating oil to hundreds of low-income families and (free of charge) to homeless shelters in Vermont, a humanitarian gesture made possible by Venezuelan-owned CITGO Petroleum.

Recently, Sanders has been barnstorming around the U.S., making stops in Iowa, Wisconsin, and several southern states. There, he has held “town meetings” with potential presidential election voters and given media interviews critical of Democrats like Clinton who favor job-killing “free trade” deals and other Wall Street-friendly policies. This has raised hopes, on the left, that the Vermont senator may enter the 2016 presidential race and liven up the debate about key foreign and domestic policy questions where the difference between Democrats and Republicans can be hard to find.
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Suspenders and Solidarity in Sacramento

by David Roddy,

SunderlandedThe annual Sacramento Central Labor Council Labor Day Picnic on Sept. 1, was divided over the removal of executive secretary Bill Camp, with his supporters wearing suspenders bearing a sticker declaring “L NO!,” in reference to Measure L, the latest attempt by Mayor Kevin Johnson to expand the executive power of the Sacramento Mayor’s office.

The suspenders were worn in solidarity with the recently ousted SCLC executive secretary Bill Camp (known for his folksy attire), whose abrupt firing by a group on the executive board led by council President Lino Pedres of SEIU 1877 is suspected by Camp’s supporters to be due to his opposition to Measure L, having led the effort to defeat a similar bill in 2010. Measure L, an initiative for the November ballot, plans to transition City Hall from a council-manager form of government to a mayor-council form, giving the mayor the power to appoint and unilaterally fire a city manager (now done by the entire council), oversee the creation of the city budget, and the ability to veto any changes to the budget and ordinances passed by the council.

The termination notice, taped to Camp’s door on August 29, has been rescinded after Camp’s union representative–Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 29–protested that Camp’s firing lacked due process. Camp is now on administrative leave and was told not to speak about his firing, which has led OPEIU 29 to file a grievance arguing Camp’s leave is without just cause and the gag order violates his free speech rights. Continue reading

Free Riding On The Labor Movement

by Amy B. Dean 

Amy B. Dean

Amy B. Dean

We all benefit from what organized labor has accomplished .

American communities depend on collective action. Fire and police departments are great examples: They can function successfully because all of us pay in — not only those whose houses have burned down or been burglarized. 

These institutions work on the principle that the most effective way to protect individual interests is for all to contribute a little for the common benefit. When someone doesn’t contribute, everyone suffers. If someone didn’t want to chip in for firefighters or police officers but still expected the benefits of these collective protections, they would be considered freeloaders, and their behavior would be rightly vilified.

Yet when it comes to the labor movement, free-riding is exactly the response that conservatives are encouraging.

Throughout the country, Republicans have been pushing to expand “right to work” laws, which force unions to represent employees who do not pay to receive these benefits. It’s as if people were allowed to avoid paying in for firefighters yet the fire department were still required to serve them. Continue reading

10 Ways President Obama Can Take Executive Action on Immigration to Protect Workers Rights

10 Ways President Obama Can Take Executive Action on Immigration to Protect Workers’ Rights Now    An Important statement from the AFL-CIO

President Barack Obama should advance the rights of workers by taking executive action on immigration. Emilio said: “I’m here because it is important that while the president considers taking administrative action to protect many of our families from being deported, he also has to consider that we are all workers and will remain as easy prey of exploitative companies if we do not count with any relief.”

Here are 10 ways Obama can take executive action right now to provide relief to workers:


Sign the AFL-CIO’s petition calling on President Obama to take executive action now.

Bernie Sanders Addresses Iowa AFL-CIO: We Need a Political Revolution!

Obama Acts to Deny Federal Contracts to Labor Law Violators

by Mike Hall

Obama signing contractorsPresident Barack Obama on Thursday signed an executive order that will make it harder for companies with a history of labor law violations such as wage and hour and workplace safety to win federal contracts. Said Obama:

We expect our tax dollars to be spent wisely on these contracts. Our tax dollars shouldn’t go to companies that violate workplace laws, they shouldn’t go to companies that violate workers’ rights.

From raising wages to workplace protections, said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, “President Obama is showing strong leadership where it’s needed most.”
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New Bill Defines Labor Rights As Civil Rights

by Bruce Vail

Cong. Keith Ellison

Cong. Keith Ellison

On Wednesday, a handful of Democratic Party lawmakers introduced a bill to turn the slogan “Labor Rights are Civil Rights” into the law of the land. While admitting the proposed legislation has little chance of passage in the current anti-labor environment, supporters say they hope shifting political winds may favor the bill sometime in the future.

A civil right is any right enshrined in the Constitution or legislation, such as freedom of assembly or freedom of the press. The new measure would affirm that labor rights are equally fundamental.

Titled the “Employee Empowerment Act,” the bill is short and simple. It would add a single paragraph to the 1935 National Labor Relations Act giving workers the right to sue employers in federal court for labor law violations, in the same way that individuals are allowed to bring lawsuits under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under current law, workers must bring such complaints to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is often criticized for being very slow to act and offering wronged workers little in the way of compensation.
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