Comey v. Trump

 

What We Are Really Seeing When We Look At Comey v. Trump

Gene Grabiner
SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus (NYSUT, NWU, AFL-CIO)

Anything can be done under color of law, (e.g., segregation, the Holocaust, strike-breaking, ‘pre-emptive wars’ like in Iraq, water boarding and other tortures, police murders etc.), So please let us dispense with the fiction of the neutral “rule of law.”

The dominant characteristics of the rule of law in any society express the power of the dominant social group or class and the prevailing or dominant property relations at the time.

So what we are seeing in Comey v. Trump is the mediated expression of internal struggle within the ruling class, the Comey forces also expressing at the same time the mediated and historically required needs of the working class. (Hegel refers to what is happening as the “cunning of history.”)

In this context, only the Comey forces point the way to a possible human future.

But if the Comey forces prevail, the working class and all other progressive and democratic forces will still need to press their demands.

And since all of this is a basic question of humanity’s survival, American workers must finally decide to oppose war with Russia and China and any other country. Indeed, they must also stop making weapons of war since their continued production and proliferation can only lead to war.

The Return of Workplace Immigration Raids

San Francisco Press Conference Suppporting AB 450

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – David Huerta, President of United Service Workers West, SEIU, speaks at a meeting of San Francisco janitors and other workers supporting AB 450, a bill protecting workers during immigration raids and enforcement actions. 

David Bacon

At the end of February immigration agents descended on a handful of Japanese and Chinese restaurants in the suburbs of Jackson, Mississippi, and in nearby Meridian. Fifty-five immigrant cooks, dishwashers, servers and bussers were loaded into vans and taken to a detention center about 160 miles away in Jena, Louisiana.

Their arrests and subsequent treatment did more than provoke outrage among Jackson’s immigrant rights activists. Labor advocates in California also took note of the incident, fearing that it marked the beginning of a new wave of immigrant raids and enforcement actions in workplaces. In response, California legislators have written a bill providing legal protections for workers, to keep the Mississippi experience from being duplicated in the Golden State.

Once the Mississippi restaurant workers had been arrested, they essentially fell off the radar screen for several days. Jackson lawyer Jeremy Litton, who represented three Guatemalan workers picked up in the raid, could not get the government to schedule hearing dates for them.  He was unable to verify that the other detained immigrants were being held in the same center, or even who they were.  Continue reading

The Right to Strike

Will-Strike

For half a century, the loss of the right to strike has moved in lock step with the increase in income inequality. According to an International Monetary Fund study of twenty advanced economies, union decline accounted for about half of the increase in net income inequality from 1980 to 2012. The following is the start of a Boston Review discussion on US workers’ right to strike.

James Gray Pope, Ed Bruno, Peter Kellman

Boston Review

May 22, 2017

In December 2005 more than 30,000 New York City transit workers walked out over economic issues despite the state of New York’s Taylor Law, which prohibits all public sector strikes. Not only did the workers face the loss of two days’ pay for each day on strike, but a court ordered that the union be fined $1 million per day. Union president Roger Toussaint held firm, likening the strikers to Rosa Parks. “There is a higher calling than the law,” he declared. “That is justice and equality.”

The transit strike exemplified labor civil disobedience at its most effective. The workers were not staging a symbolic event; they brought the city’s transit system to a halt. They claimed their fundamental right to collective action despite a statute that outlawed it. For a precious moment, public attention was riveted on the drama of workers defying a draconian strike ban.

How did national labor leaders react?

AFL-CIO president John Sweeney issued a routine statement of support, while most others did nothing at all. To anybody watching the drama unfold, the message was clear: there is no right to strike, even in the House of Labor.

About a decade earlier in 1996, Stephen Lerner, fresh from a successful campaign to organize Los Angeles janitors, had warned in Boston Review that private sector unions faced an existential crisis: density could soon drop from 10.3 percent to 5 percent if unions did not expand their activity beyond the limits imposed by American law. He called for unions to develop broad organizing strategies—industry-wide and regional—and to engage in civil disobedience. Few embraced these radical strategies. Today private sector union density is about 6.5 percent, not quite as low as Lerner predicted, but down from a high of over 30 percent in the mid-1950s. Continue reading

Where We Are Going Politically – a Labor Perspective on Values

by Stan Sorscher

Labor Representative at SPEEA/IFPTE

  • Donald Trump’s first few disorienting months leave many people wondering what governing looks like any more. It’s time to look away from the political spectacle, and take a deep breath.

    Consider two opposing value statements.

    “We all do better” Value Statement

    • The purpose of our economy is to raise our standard of living. Here, “standard” applies to our community and our country.
    • We value opportunity and fairness, stronger communities, shared prosperity, and investment in the future.
    • All work has dignity.
    • We are each other’s co-workers, neighbors, friends, relatives, and customers. We all do better when we all do better. My well-being depends on your well-being.

    Under “we all do better” values, government plays a legitimate role – building social cohesion and promoting public interest.

    Markets are powerful and efficient, but markets fail. Climate change and inequality are the two defining challenges of our time, and arguably the two biggest market failures in human history. Appropriate public policies prevent or correct market failures. We should manage national policies and globalization to strengthen Democracy and well-being at home and abroad.

    “Greed is good” Value Statement

    • Investor/shareholder interests come first; public interests second. Money and influence capture gains from productivity and globalization for those at the top.
    • Self-interest is more important than common interest. Power and leverage are used to gain advantage for “us” over “them.”
    • Greed is good.
    • I can succeed at your expense. “Others” are a threat to my well-being. I can demonize or vanquish others to get a bigger piece of a smaller pie.

    Under “greed is good” values, power and influence distort public policies in favor of those who already have plenty of both. These values weaken social cohesion, and discredit institutions of civil society. We manage national policies and globalization to prioritize investor interests over public interests. Workers need to sacrifice our living standards “to compete in the global economy.”

    Lessons from history

    “Greed is good” values dominated America in the gilded age and the laissez faire period leading to the Great Depression and political instability.

    The New Deal period, from the 30’s through the mid-70’s, reflected “we all do better” values. Congress passed Social Security and Medicare; funded public investments in rural electrification, the interstate highway system, and basic research; set strong labor and environmental standards; and supported higher education. Wages rose proportionatelywith productivity.

    The New Deal era ended in the mid-70s’, when we shifted back to “greed is good” values. In the 90’s, Congressional hardliners delegitimized Democracy, shut down the government, took pride in disruption and dysfunction, and polarized our political system. Confidence in Congress dropped from 40% at the end of the New Deal era to 9% now. Donald Trump is the end-point of that transformation in values.

    Harvard economist Dani Rodrik points out that other countries have done well, maintaining a strong sense of shared national interest – China, Japan, and South Korea for example. Europe has a stronger tradition of social dialogue and more social cohesion than we do. Canada is closer to the European model. That said, social cohesion is unraveling generally. People everywhere see themselves being left behind.

    What Works?

    Decades of narrow and divisive values have eroded trust, deindustrialized our economy, and seriously wounded the middle class. This is not stable, politically or economically.

    Of course, it’s working brilliantly for the 1%.

    One message of the 2016 presidential campaign is that workers and communities mistrust establishment politicians. All the Republican establishment candidates were quickly swept aside. Few voters were inspired by Hillary Clinton’s economic message, which seemed to be “We’re OK. It’s not as bad as you think!”

    Dani Rodrik asks, is it too late to restore balance between those who have too much power and those with too little?

    Leaders lead. Franklin Roosevelt articulated positive unifying values responding to anxieties of voters. He confronted corporate power and influence, restructured power relationships, and shared new gains with those who had been left out.

    Our political situation is confusing and frustrating. Tactically, the path of least resistance is “resistance” or full battle mode. However, resistance without vision goes nowhere.

    Here is a very simple positive first step. When we see others on the street, at work, in a shop, or elevator, think of them as a co-worker, neighbor, friend or relative, a customer, or someone who could become your customer. That is, we can stretch our personal boundaries between “self and other.” Make more people “us” and fewer people “them.” Every day.

    We can appreciate the value others bring. They are not a threat to our way of life. Their culture, their food, music, and stories enrich our lives. It’s true if we say it is true. We need to say it.

    Political leaders need to say it. At a recent Town Hall meeting, a House member shared a profound insight with angry constituents. He has two tools – his vote and his voice. His votes were not the issue. His constituents were expecting more from his voice.

    The neoliberal trickle-down approach is exhausted. Markets will not solve all our problems. Too often, what we are told is progress is really another distortion of power relationships to extract more gains from workers for the benefit of a few.

    All work has dignity. “We all do better” values justify a managed approach to globalization. Focused industrial strategies can create good jobs by investing in productive capacity. New policies can strengthen the employment relationship, restoring workers’ bargaining power.

    In globalization, we should prioritize labor rights, human rights and environmental protections, so workers and communities get a share of the gains they produce. Globalization could be an upward spiral instead of a race to the bottom.

    The corrupting power of money in politics must be reversed. People can lead with local efforts to raise minimum wages, provide paid sick leave and rebuild social cohesion.

    It’s time (again) to recognize our shared values and common interests. If people lead, eventually leaders will follow.

    Reposted from the Huffington Post with the permission of the author

Trump’s Assault on Workers

The first 100 daysPresident Trump’s top priorities include rolling back protections to workers’ wages, health, and safety

 In this report, we look closely at President Trump’s actions in his first 100 days in office and ask: Do these actions benefit or harm U.S. workers and our economy?

April 29, 2017, marks the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency. During his first 100 days in office, President Trump has talked often about improving the lives of people who “work hard and play by the rules.” But looking beyond the president’s rhetoric and examining his actions during this time reveals a different set of priorities. During his first 100 days, President Trump has rolled back worker protections and outlined a fiscal year 2018 budget that would dramatically cut funding for the agencies that safeguard workers’ rights, wages, and safety. He has also advanced nominees to key posts—even to the Supreme Court—who are hostile to policies that boost wages, enhance workers’ bargaining power, and protect worker safety. This report evaluates President Trump’s actions during his first 100 days and analyzes their impact on this nation’s workers and our economy.

Go to EPI.org

White House Talks to Some Unions

From Politico’s Morning Report:

TRUMP’S DOOR ALWAYS OPEN, BUT ONLY FOR CERTAIN UNIONS: At the North America’s Building Trades Unions Conference in April, President Donald Trump told attendees that “America’s labor leaders will always find an open door with Donald Trump.” But that’s not quite right, the Associated Press reports. Trump has welcomed to the White House union representatives for the construction trades as well as workers in the auto, steel and coal mining industries who supported him during the election. But “there’s been no White House invitation for other unions representing the sprawling but shrinking pool of 14.6 million workers who collectively bargain with employers in the labor movement.” For example, the administration did not invite the two largest teacher unions- the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers- to White House sessions with teachers and other educators, hosted by Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.”

“Much like President Ronald Reagan did, Trump is not so much pursuing a labor agenda but one that appeals to those who share his ‘Buy American, Hire American’ priorities and happen to be union members.” More here. Continue reading

Can Labor Unite?

IN THE AGE OF TRUMP, CAN LABOR UNITE?

Donald Trump performed far better among union voters than previous Republican candidates, but since taking office has enacted disastrous anti-worker policies. Now, some unions are organizing their members around an explicitly progressive analysis, hoping to unlock the power of workers to help lead the resistance.

BY ALEXANDRA BRADBURY

YOU KNOW YOU’RE GETTING THE SHORT END OF THE STICK AS A WORKER, but you don’t really know why,” says Joe Tarulli, a Staten Island Verizon tech who’s put in 17 years with the company. “They make it seem like these rich people are just lucky they got the right chances, and these poor old working folks, nothing ever goes right for them. No! These corporations are doing it on purpose.”

Last spring, Tarulli and 39,000 Verizon workers were forced out on a 49-day strike to fend off outsourcing and other concessions demanded by the company, even as it raked in billions in profits. Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders walked the picket line with them to draw media attention to their battle against corporate greed. But in the general election, Tarulli says many of his coworkers went on to vote for Donald Trump, who spoke to the anger that had motivated them to strike in the first place. “Trump’s a great communicator,” says Tarulli. “For a long time people felt ignored, even by their own unions, because these companies take advantage of them so badly.”

Trump’s win highlighted a rank and file that feels alienated from politics as usual. While most major unions backed Hillary Clinton, 43 percent of voters in union households cast their ballots for Trump. The swing in votes was less a bump for Trump (who outperformed Mitt Romney by 3 points in union households) than a shortfall for Clinton (7 points below Obama in 2012)—and that’s not counting those who simply stayed home.

“I did believe in him trying to get more jobs back to the United States,” says Trump voter Jack Findley of Chattanooga, Tenn. Findley worked for four years on a Volkswagen assembly line, backing the unsuccessful union drive at the plant in 2014 before an injury put him out of commission. He has two kids, ages 4 and 7, and worries as he watches power companies and retailers in his area shut down. “When my kids get old enough, I don’t know where they’re going to be working,” he says.

It’s difficult to fathom that workers who risked their livelihoods to take on a corporate behemoth like Verizon, or back a long-shot union campaign at Volkswagen, went on to vote for a poster child of corporate greed. But after decades of bipartisan fervor for privatization, budget cuts and so-called free trade deals, many workers are disillusioned with both parties. Continue reading