Labor’s Missed Opportunity

by Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw

In March 2009, then-SEIU President Andy Stern was optimistic about labor’s progress in President Obama’s first year. Stern told me that of labor’s top three priorities – universal health care, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), and comprehensive immigration reform – he expected the first two to pass in 2009 if not all three; he even joked that labor might have no legislative program left for 2010.

But despite spending over $150 million in 2008 to elect Obama and a pro-union Congress, organized labor’s legislative program failed. And it failed without much of a fight, as both SEIU and the AFL-CIO proved incapable of seizing upon labor’s best if not last chance to meaningfully reverse declining private sector union membership. Labor’s ongoing failure to achieve its national legislative goals speaks to an institutional dysfunction that transcends particular union leaders, and requires a dramatic shift from funding political campaigns to financing ongoing worker organizing.

Organized labor had an historic opportunity in 2009 to start reversing a sixty-year decline in private sector union membership from 34% in 1948 to less than 10%. But unions never mounted a powerful national grassroots campaign for either labor law reform or comprehensive immigration reform in 2009. When a drive for the latter began in early 2010, the labor movement had already given up on labor law reform without a Congressional vote or even a public fight.

Why did the labor movement suffer such an epic fail?

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Steelworkers, China Trade and Green Technology

by Jake Blumgart

On September 9th the United Steelworkers (USW) union filed a trade complaint against the Chinese government for violating WTO free-trade rules, by pumping billions into the clean energy manufacturing sector. Six weeks later the Obama administration agreed to take up the case. If the governmental review, scheduled to wrap up in early 2011, concludes that the USW is correct, the United States could file a complaint with the World Trade Organization, opening the way for tariffs on these Chinese imports.

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Pilot Protests Underscore Passenger Safety

By Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Several hundred pilots from the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) picketed Newark Liberty International airport on November 22 and Houston airport on November 23 with signs reading “Who’s Flying Your Plane?” The union also scheduled a picket for December 1 at the Chicago O’Hare hub of the world’s largest airline combine, newly-merged United Airlines (UAL) and Continental Airlines (CA).

Pilots strongly object to both airlines expanding their fleet of smaller aircraft, commonly referred as regional jets. These jets are generally flown by lower-paid and less-experienced pilots. For example, regional captains generally earn less than a third of their counterparts working on major carriers while it is not uncommon for regional airline co-pilots to earn as little as $25,000 a year or less.

But while there is an obvious financial incentive for major airlines expanding use of regional aircraft, it would be a big mistake to mischaracterize and minimize pilot concerns as being only about money. Continue reading

How to Fix TSA

Ron Moore

by Ron Moore

Those who believe government should be run like a business are providing a prime example of how that works in TSA. No government agency was set up to function with as little oversight and a top heavy management style as than this one. TSA management mirrored the dominant American business culture with an emphasis on control over quality. The result: demoralized passengers, crews and officers. Now the call is out to profitize, er privatize, our aviation security. Yes that’s right, its time to return to pre-9/11 aviation security provided by the lowest bidder. While it is easy to look at groups behind this latest imbroglio like The Rutherford Institute and see a Tea Party type movement in the works, the fact remains that some things simply need to be out of reach for the private sector and the TSA experiment proves that national security is one such area.

Six years ago during a previous pat-down controversy I wrote an op-ed piece that was published in The Washington Post. My suggestion was simple; more training and actual oversight by Congress. I also reminded passengers that they have a right to proper treatment and rather than complain after the fact ask to speak with a supervisor who can take corrective action be it clear information about the process or an opportunity for the officer to improve so the next passenger doesn’t have the same experience.  What was TSA’s response? I was terminated.

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Defend Social Security

DSA has joined the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, a national coalition organized to support and strengthen Social  Security, and oppose efforts to weaken it by privatization or reducing benefits.  The first shot in the Right’s campaign to cut Social Security was issued by the Presidential Commission on the Federal Debt when the Co-chairs, former Chief of Staff for President Clinton, Erskin Bowles, and former Republican Senator, Alan Simpson issued a report recommending increasing the retirement age and reducing benefits by modifications to the formula for calculating cost-of-living increases and new taxes on some benefits. This despite the fact Social Security has not contributed to the federal deficit.

DSA urges every member and friend to take time during the holiday period to voice their opposition to cutting Social Security benefits.

DSA has prepared background materials to assist members and friends speak up for Social Security. These include sample “letters to the editor,”and some general guidelines on writing such letters; a script for calling your senator to ask them to co-sponsor Bernie Sanders’ resolution and a short booklet with questions and answers about Social Security and the deficit.

DSA’s first activity with Strength Social Security is participation in the November 30 National Call Congress Day a week from today. Join Americans from every state and city in letting Congress know that we won’t stand for cuts to Social Security.Tell Congress: Don’t Carve Up Social Security

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Albany Charter Group Wants to Raid City Cookie Jar

by Michael Hirsch

They said charters would offer needed competition to community schools, but they didn’t say the competition would be about public dollars.  Last week Albany Times Union reported on the city’s Albany Leadership Charter High School for Girls “asking for $15 million in tax-free public financing to buy the brand-new charter high school for girls built by the Brighter Choice Foundation.”

Here’s the cute part. The nonprofit Brighter Choice Foundation, which runs all 11 charter schools in Albany and  erected the building at a cost of some $10.1 million, is directing its Charter Facilities Finance Fund to ask the city to back its selling tax-exempt bonds to investors so it can  buy the school building and — are you ready for this? — lease it back to Brighter Choice.

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Unstoppable is more than a Hollywood thriller

by American Rights at Work

Unstoppable” hit theaters last week and while it was no secret that stars like Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, and Rosario Dawson would save the day, the film treats audiences to an unpredictable plot twist. Spoiler alert:… the heroes are actually blue-collar union members.

The movie is a Hollywood adaptation of a real crisis—a runaway CSX train loaded with hazardous materials that brought northwest Ohio to the brink of disaster in 2001—and viewers will no doubt be entertained by the dramatization and amped up action scenes. But the film also depicts a number of patently real challenges that working Americans face everyday. Company executives put profits over public safety, choosing not to derail the runaway train due to cost and the potential impact on stock prices. As a result, it’s up to the workers themselves, members of the United Transportation Union (UTU), to get the runaway train under control. And that’s just what they do.
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