Strong Unions Strengthen Democracies and Deliver Peace

3500Houcine Abassi and Richard L Trumka, The Guardian (UK)

Strong unions make strong democracies. It sounds simplistic, but each of us have experienced this fundamental premise in our nations. As labor leaders in the United States and Tunisia [1] respectively, we know full well that when workers come together for a voice on the job, it boosts the economy, eases social unrest and creates the conditions for peace, prosperity and the protection of rights.

To be sure, we come from very different countries, each with its own set of economic and political challenges. But we have seen the healing power of unions firsthand.

In Tunisia, organized labor was the primary catalyst in winning and sustaining democracy as states around it descended back into totalitarianism. The coalition to build a strong, inclusive democratic alliance became known as the Quartet, bringing together labor, business, human rights and legal organizations. This effort earned the Quartet, with strong leadership from the Tunisian labor movement, the Nobel peace prize. Continue reading

Why It Would Be a Mistake for SEIU to Endorse Clinton

Français : Logo SEIU

Français : Logo SEIU (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why it would be a tragic mistake for SEIU to endorse HRC at this time.
This letter is being sent to SEIU President Mary Kay Henry and members of the IEB.  This is also being cc’d to members of the Board of Directors of SEIU Local 503 in Oregon, the local to which we belong.
Unhappy with the pro-corporate/pro-Wall St. bias of the Democratic Party establishment, of which Hillary Clinton is a major player; early on we have been among the many labor activists calling for Sen. Elizabeth Warren to step up and run for President.
We have long been appreciative of the stances taken by Senator Bernie Sanders on labor issues, and on broader economic and social justice issues.  However, when Sanders first announced his candidacy, many of us were unsure that he could mount a credible national campaign and candidacy.  What has happened since has surprised almost everyone.  The issues and values that we hold near and dear are today at the center of national discussion and in the Presidential debate.  For this, we largely have Senator Bernie Sanders to thank.
We list a number of reasons below why, 1) Hillary Clinton is not our candidate, at least not in this primary period, and 2) any primary endorsement should be the result of an exhaustive process of union-wide discussion in which our International provides hard facts to our members on the actual positions and voting records of all the candidates on the issues of critical importance to us. Continue reading

SEIU: Do the Right Thing!

8cc74a6e-c506-4f92-b38c-5028c93b97fd-1SEIU is about to endorse the candidate who doesn’t support $15 an hour

According to recent news accounts, the SEIU International Executive Board (IEB) is about to endorse Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

SEIU’s biggest national campaign is the Fight for $15 and a union. Across the country, we are organizing workers to strike and demand a $15 minimum wage. Leaders and organizers will lose credibility if SEIU endorses a candidate in the Democratic Primaries who does not support a $15 minimum wage.

Members need to tell SEIU President Mary Kay Henry that an endorsement for Clinton at this time will divide and weaken our union. Call SEIU at 202-730-7000 and ask for Mary Kay Henry’s office or email her at  SEIU also has a “concerns and complaints” line for members at 202-730-7684. Make your voice heard now! Continue reading

Postal Workers Union Endorses Bernie

BURLINGTON, Vt. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday welcomed the endorsement of the American Postal Workers Union. Representing more than 200,000 workers in all 50 states, the postal workers organization is the second major national AFL-CIO member to back Sanders for the Democratic Party nomination for president of the United States.

Mark Dimondstein, the union president, called Sanders “a leader in the fight to protect the public Postal Service” and “a true champion of postal workers and other workers throughout the country.”  He cited Sanders fight against Postal Service plans to shutter post offices, close mail sorting facilities, end six-day mail delivery and slow down first-class mail.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The union also pointed to Sanders’ proposals to modernize the Postal Service. He’s introduced legislation to bring the mail delivery service into the 21st century by providing new services like basic banking, copying documents, shipping wine or selling hunting and fishing licenses.  “Bernie Sanders is a fierce advocate of postal reform. He staunchly opposes postal privatization, and supports enhanced postal services, including postal banking,” said Dimondstein. Continue reading

Fight for $15 – Labor’s Big Bang or Not?

IMG_3693Will AFL-CIO Jump In?

 By Carl Finamore

There are only two flash points in American history where labor unions became center stage in politics.

I will call these “Big Bang” moments because they propelled the American Federation of Labor (AFL) after 1886 and the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) after 1935, from fledgling organizing committees into mass organizations directly impacting and attracting millions.

In the case of the AFL, it was due to avid support for the eight-hour day and in the case of the CIO, it was due to resolute support for union organizing of millions of previously excluded industrial workers.

There has never again been such mass acceptance and relevancy for labor, mostly because of numerous failures to grasp the historical moment. Continue reading

Fight for $15

2015-10-06 (1)

Labor For Bernie Speak Out on Union Endorsements

Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Labor For Bernie Sanders Activists Say They Are Undeterred By Union Endorsements of Hillary Clinton

The grassroots network for union members aiming to secure labor endorsements for Senator Bernie Sanders, Labor for Bernie, held a conference call to an audience of 1,600 people on Wednesday night.

This is the first Labor for Bernie conference call since early September, when prepared remarks made by Sen. Sanders garnered 26,000 listeners as their candidate outlined his pro-worker platform. Since that call, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the largest and third-largest unions in the country, respectively, have endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Call host Rand Wilson, a Labor for Bernie volunteer who is also the communications director for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 888, mentioned this in the call.

“Some people on tonight’s call know that your union may have already made the endorsement for the other candidate,” says Wilson. “But regardless of any endorsement, the most important work right now is to keep building support for Sanders in your union at the local level.” Recently, numerous locals in the first-primary state of New Hampshire have endorsed Sanders, taking heed to what Wilson describes because of the candidates’ long history of pro-labor action.

“In 2008, Sen. Sanders was there when SEIU 560 was looking at potential layoffs. He helped us turn the pending layoffs around so they didn’t occur. Local 560 is forever grateful to Bernie for all the support over the years,” says SEIU Local 560 Secretary-Treasurer Susan Russell. Local 560 and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 490 in New Hampshire endorsed Sen. Sanders in late October.

The American Postal Workers Union has also found Sanders’ support helpful. The Vermont senator has made consistent calls for an expansion of the postal service and has advocated for postal banking, amid calls for itsprivatization. The New Hampshire state-level APWU, as well as locals in Massachusetts and one in Philadelphia, have endorsed Sen. Sanders, as union activists have pressed for an endorsement from the national organization.

APWU President Mark Dimondstein told listeners, “We should judge candidates not by what they say, not by what we wish they said, not by what party they are affiliated with, but what they actually do—the difference between those who talk the talk and those who walk the walk. By using that criteria, Bernie Sanders has proven to be a champion of not only postal workers and postal unions but the public postal service itself.”

Bianca Cunningham, a former Verizon Wireless retail worker who alleges she was fired in retaliation for her union organizing in Brooklyn storefronts, said she was “thrilled” about Sen. Sanders’ active support for labor. On October 26, Sanders joined a picket line with Verizon workers, currently represented by the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and IBEW, who are in the middle of a contract dispute. Sen. Sanders also called for the Fortune 500 company to give Cunningham her job back.

“There are dozens of people running for President of the United States, but there is only one that walks a picket line, there’s only one who is not afraid to take on the corporate elite that is destroying good jobs and there is only one that isn’t taking money from Wall Street or from corporate America,” says Cunningham. “Working people have been hurt for far too long and we’ve been burned for far too long. It’s time for corporate America to ‘feel that Bern.”

Former CWA president Larry Cohen finished the call by decrying the fact that some question whether Sen. Sanders is electable against Clinton. Cohen cited a new poll released by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that has Sanders beating Republican frontrunners by larger margins of victory than Clinton to assert that Sanders is definitely electable.

Instead of asking if Sanders is a viable choice, Cohen told listeners of the Labor for Bernie call that the “real” questions are: “Are we fed up with business as usual? Are we tired of being on defense? Are ready to stand up for working people with a positive agenda for change?”


Mario Vasquez is a writer from Santa Barbara, California. You can reach him at
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