Both Major Teachers’ Unions Oppose Betsy De Vos

Today was the first day of hearings. Republicans praised her and Democrats raised several important issues including her role as a leading opponent of public schools. The vote will be next week, perhaps Tuesday. Please contact your Senator today.

What will Betsy DeVos’ focus on school choice mean for public education?: Education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos has neither taught nor worked in a school system, but she and her family have used wealth and influence to create more charter schools and champion vouchers. As educators watch her hearing for an understanding of her views, William Brangham talks to Frederick Hess of American Enterprise Institute and Randi Weingarten of American Federation of Teachers.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/will-betsy-devos-focus-school-choice-mean-public-education/

The more we learn, the more we are certain that Betsy DeVos is bad for public schools and for kids.

When De Vos has to choose between quality schools and “the free market,” she chooses “the free market” of privatized choice every time. The best interests of children take a back seat.

And we know the DeVos endgame–shut down our neighborhood public schools, and replace them with a patchwork of charters, private schools and online learning.

We can’t let that happen and we need your help. Present and future generations of children are depending on us to act now.  We now know that some Senators have grave doubts. It is our job to make those doubts grow into active resistance to DeVos. Our senators are in district offices from 12/17 – 1/2.

Here are our three toolkits to help you do your part.

Toolkit 1. Call your senators’ offices. The toolkit with numbers and a phone script can be found here. It includes a link to phone numbers.

Toolkit 2. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. You can find a model here. Continue reading

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Was a Democratic Socialist

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.by Peter Dreier

As we celebrate his birthday, it is easy to forget that Rev. Martin Luther King was a democratic socialist.

In 1964, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, he observed that the United States could learn much from Scandinavian “democratic socialism.” He often talked about the need to confront “class issues,” which he described as “the gulf between the haves and the have-nots.”

In 1966 King confided to his staff:

“You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism. There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

In holding these views, King followed in the footsteps of many prominent, influential Americans whose views and activism changed the country for the better. In the 1890s, a socialist Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy, wrote “The Pledge of Allegiance” and a socialist poet, Katherine Lee Bates, penned “America the Beautiful.” King was part of a proud tradition that includes such important 20th century figures as Jane Addams, Eugene Debs, Florence Kelley, John Dewey, Upton Sinclair, Helen Keller, W.E.B. DuBois, Albert Einstein, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, and Walter Reuther.

Today, America’s most prominent democratic socialist is Senator Bernie Sanders, a candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Like King, Sanders says that the U.S. should learn from Sweden, Norway and Denmark — countries with greater equality, a higher standard of living for working families, better schools, free universities, less poverty, a cleaner environment, higher voter turnout, stronger unions, universal health insurance, and a much wider safety net. Sounds anti-business? Forbes magazine ranked Denmark as the #1 country for business. The United States ranked #18. Continue reading

Restoring Trust after Free Trade Charade

by Stan Sorscher

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The 2016 elections threw a bucket of cold water into the face of free-trade orthodoxy. It’s no surprise that voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere are deeply discouraged by decades of failed promises of boon from establishment leaders. The real surprise is, what took us so long?

We need a new approach to globalization that does as much for workers and the environment as it does for global investors.

Everyone I know wants trade and globalization. However, we have managed globalization badly.

Our failed “neoliberal” approach has been to manage globalization through trade deals, written by and for the interests of global companies. The neoliberal vision is a fully integrated global economy, where national identities are blurred, shareholder interests have top priority, public interests are devalued, and gains go almost entirely to investors.

Nothing in trade theory or history says global economic integration is a good idea.

In this neoliberal vision, markets will solve all our problems, government is bad, and power and influence should favor those who already have plenty of both.

A growing number of economists and policy-makers recognize that neoliberalism is exhausted, politically unstable, and increasingly reckless. Martin Wolf, the most influential living British economist, argues that our failed market orthodoxy weakens Democracy. What Wolf sees in Europe is doubled in the US political experience.

The collapse of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-country NAFTA clone, is a historic event. TPP was radioactive all through the presidential campaign, for good reason – voters have lost trust in the neoliberal NAFTA approach to globalization.

The discussion has started on a new approach. Representative Sander Levin and economist Simon Johnson recognize that our distorted power relationships and insistence on maximum possible trade cannot solve our problems.

Jared Bernstein and Lori Wallach go through TPP’s shortcomings, suggesting remedies. A recent proposal from the AFL-CIO offers 6 objectives for renegotiating NAFTA. A Sierra Club discussion paper brings environmental interests into sharper focus.

Jeff Faux makes it crystal clear. It’s time to start over.

“The trade policy of the last quarter century is now bankrupt, economically and politically. This is the moment for America to go back to the drawing board and rethink strategies for competing in the global economy in ways that raise living standards for all.”

 

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Both Teachers’ Unions Call for the Defeat of Betsy DeVos

Both teachers unions, the AFT and the NEA are working to defeat the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education by Donald Trump.  they have generated over 90,000 letters and emails. You can join in. Here is the pitch.

America is a country where all kids have the right to a quality public education that helps them reach their full potential. So you’d expect the next Secretary of Education  – who shapes education policy and what happens in our nation’s schools – to be an experienced educator, or someone who has served as an administrator or on school boards, or at the very least sent their own children to public schools.

But Betsy DeVos – President-elect Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of Education – has zero experience serving in public schools and is not qualified for the job. In fact, her only experience with public education is the decades she’s spent trying to dismantle it.

Tell your senators: We need a secretary of education who wants to improve public schools, not undermine them. Vote NO on DeVos.

As a lobbyist and political donor, Betsy DeVos has a decades-long track record of working to undermine public education and privatize our public schools, harming students in the process.
She favors schemes like vouchers to divert taxpayer dollars from public schools to private schools. Continue reading

Unions and the Fight Against the White Revolt

Response to Peter Olney and Ruth Needleman
http://www.portside.org.  January 9, 2017
Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Bob Wing

We appreciate the comradely tone and content of the responses of Peter Olney and Ruth Needleman to our essay, “Fighting Back Against the White Backlash.” Both of them are longtime colleagues, and our agreements are far stronger than our disagreements. In this discussion we find ourselves quite aligned with Ruth on the composition and racial politics of the working class and will not repeat some of her cogent points, but will instead focus on Peter’s observations about white worker voters and proposals for trade union action.

Peter believes we missed the critical role of white worker voters in Trump’s victories in the battleground rust belt states. It’s true that the 77,000 vote victory by Trump in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania was so narrow that it can, in fact, be ascribed to any number of factors, though certainly Trump’s gains with white workers was one of the strongest.

Underscoring this point, a piece published subsequent to our essay argued that Trump received 335,000 more votes from whites with incomes less than $50,000 in the five Rust Belt states than did Romney. (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/12/the_myth_of_the_rust_belt_revolt.html [1]) That is a big swing and if it continues into the future, we are all in big trouble. Continue reading

Unions in the Era of Trump

By Jonathan Rosenblum

Beginning in 1979 in Seattle, WA, Jim Levitt expertly fabricated custom aircraft parts and tools, helping make the Boeing Company one of the most successful businesses in the world. But in 2013, corporate executives issued a threat: They demanded that Levitt and his fellow machinists surrender their pensions, and that Washington State political leaders hand over a record $8.7 billion in tax benefits. In exchange the company promised to keep production jobs in-state. The Democratic governor of Washington, along with virtually the entire political establishment, caved in to the blackmail. So did Levitt’s international union leadership – they had bargained the deal secretly with the company. The capitulation cost 32,000 Boeing workers their pensions.

“We’ve lost collective bargaining, for all intents and purposes,” Levitt observed in the wake of the corporate blackmail.

In recent weeks we’ve seen no shortage of reasons – and excuses – for why Hillary Clinton blew the election and Donald Trump will be our next president: the Russians, an unfair Electoral College system, FBI Director James Comey, xenophobia/racism/sexism, a weak Democratic candidate, Wikileaks, and faked news. Some Clinton backers even blame the “tough” primary run that Bernie Sanders gave their candidate.

What’s barely given any attention in the mainstream media is the role that decades of destruction of union power played in the 2016 election debacle. But it’s no mystery to Levitt, his fellow Boeing workers, and millions of other workers from all walks of life who’ve justifiably grown cynical about a political establishment that repeatedly has failed them over the years.

Today, overall union membership is at its lowest point in more than 70 years. In the private sector, a paltry 1 in 15 workers holds a union card.

Now it will get worse: Public sector unions are bracing for the inevitable Supreme Court decision allowing “freeloading” – requiring unions to let workers avoid paying any dues while still receiving full union representation and protection. The incoming Congress promises to be hostile to worker organizations, eager to do on a national scale what Gov. Scott Walker has done to Wisconsin unions.

Underscoring labor’s weakness, the election results produced the most anemic union turnout for the Democratic presidential candidate in more than 30 years: Clinton won union households by only 51 to 43 percent, an 8 percent margin. In the previous 7 presidential elections, in contrast, the Democrat won union households by an average margin of 22 percent. Continue reading

Strangers Among Us

by Paul Garver

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Some 200 million workers across the globe migrate across national borders searching for work.

At least 40 million migrants do not have documents allowing them to live or work in their host countries, while millions of others are “guest workers” bound to their employers and subject to expulsion if they are fired.

In the neoliberal global economic order, capital flows freely across the borders that constrain workers.   Whether “guest workers” or undocumented, migrants are among the most vulnerable and exploited people who do the indispensable tasks of feeding and caring for other people.

Like refugees, migrants are often blamed for a host of economic and social ills in the countries that depend on their agricultural, construction or domestic labor.  Politicians looking to score political points from their own xenophobic domestic constituencies find migrants and refugees tempting prey for vicious slanders. Donald Trump is a notorious perpetrator but is far from being the first chauvinist demagogue in the world.

Mexican native Diego Reyes, Sr. works the tobacco and vegetable fields in Sanford, NC.  He is a member of a relatively successful migrant worker organization, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee [FLOC].  As translated by his son Diego Reyes, Jr., a seminarian working for FLOC, he describes a reality all too often experienced by migrant workers in the USA and around the world.

It’s not only in Sanford [N.C.} but everywhere, all this propaganda against immigrants. People feel they’re stealing their jobs, that immigrants are bad people, drug mules, and criminals. It dehumanizes people. It’s not the stealing of jobs. The people came here because of the policies the U.S. implemented in the world.”

The Strangers Among Us: Tales from a Global Migrant Worker Movement documents the harsh conditions faced by migrant workers in Asia, Europe and North America.  Editor Joseph Atkins, a professor at the University of Mississippi, traveled with his wife to such far-flung locales as Singapore, Taipei, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Buenos Aires, where he interviewed key activists supporting migrant worker organizing.  He also solicited contributing chapters from activists and scholars in the UK, Israel, China, Japan and India.  The result is a moving and kaleidoscopic survey of the social justice movements that are helping migrant workers organize throughout the world.

Here are a few examples of the innovative approaches taken by migrant workers and their supporters in various world regions illustrated in this compact and compelling book.
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