The Democratic Party’s Draft Platform Doesn’t Oppose the TPP—That’s Bad Policy and Bad Politics

By Larry Cohen

Sorcher TPP sinking ship

Working-class Americans have had enough of trade policies that accelerate the race to the bottom.

Continue reading

Sanders disappointed and dismayed about platform’s vote on TPP

From berniesanders.com SYRACUSE, N.Y. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders said on Friday that he was “disappointed and dismayed” that allies of Hillary Clinton beat back Democratic Party platform proposals on […]

Source: Sanders disappointed and dismayed about platform’s vote on TPP

Worse Is Not Better

by Gene Grabiner

Member, FFECC, (NYSUT, AFL-CIO)

Delegate, WNY Area Labor Federation

genegrabiner

To all My “Bernie or Bust” Friends:

I support Bernie, and would, by far, prefer to see him as the Democratic Party nominee to run against Donald Trump. I collected signatures for Bernie on nominating petitions. I made phone calls and distributed literature for him. And I have contributed money to Bernie’s campaign.

More discussion about Bernie follows. But first, let’s look back in history at another decisive presidential campaign and election.

In 1932 in Germany, the Social Democrats and the Communist Party would not unite. We know the result.

Together, the Social Democrats and Communists won 37.29% of the popular vote. The Nazis won 33.09%. Had the Social Democrats and Communists united, things might have turned out very differently.

Our situation today is not identical in terms of the players or conditions. But in terms of ideology and outlook in the current political scene, things seem significantly similar.

This 2016 election is a decisive one. It may determine whether or not democratic forms even continue to exist within the United States.

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, is the crystalized  expression of the American fascist movement. And I think, or at least hope, we all understand what that means.

But just in case, here are some elements of fascism: union busting and the destruction of the independent union movement, a right-to-work agenda, the crushing of progressive political organizations and parties, suppression of the media, misogyny, scapegoating, racism and demonization of the LGBTQ community as social policy, attacks on the poor, the weak, and the disabled. And there may be worse, including an intensified culture of militarism, and the push toward war.

Fascism does not always appear as it was in Italy, Germany, and Japan. But it always cloaks itself in a distorted version of the culture and history of whatever society in which it emerges. Sinclair Lewis was said to have remarked that “ if fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

Fascism tries to split the memberships of our unions, attempting to weaken our overall solidarity. Sadly, a number of our union brothers and sisters find themselves supporting Trump. In this, they are actually breaking labor solidarity. They should reject Trump because it is imperative that we stop fascism cold and protect our independent union movement.

Now what about Bernie, and what about Hillary?

Bernie Sanders is a social democrat. And Hillary Clinton is a centrist who has become more progressive only due to Bernie’s campaign. And she has done this by accepting elements of his program.

Due to Bernie, she now opposes the TPP.  And due to Bernie, she came out in favor of offering a Medicare buy-in for folks, ages 50-55. This “Medicare for Some“ goes beyond the Affordable Care Act, though it falls short of Bernie’s proposal of “Medicare for All.”

If Bernie is not nominated, he still will strongly shape the Democratic Party program. And Hillary has said as much. Hillary and Bernie together have been effective enough to ensure that the Democratic Party Platform Committee will have a progressive majority.

Continue reading

Bernie Sanders, Labor, Ideology, and the Future of U.S. Politics

  • by Bob Master
    Legislative and Political Director for CWA District One of the Communications Workers of America and a co-chair of the New York State Working Families Party.
    sanders_cwa
    The Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, contrary to all expectation, has become the most important left insurgency in the United States in nearly half a century. A year ago, even his most optimistic supporters might have hoped that Sanders would enliven the presidential debates by challenging Hillary Clinton on issues of Wall Street power and big money corruption, and perhaps garner a quarter to a third of the primary vote.

Instead, Sanders won primaries and caucuses in 23 states, and amassed over 12 million votes and nearly 43% of the pledged delegates. And all this while unapologetically and unabashedly proclaiming himself a “democratic socialist,” re-legitimizing a systemic critique of US capitalism for the first time since the one-two punch of Cold War reaction and neoliberal triumphalism froze the left out of mainstream American discourse two generations ago. The power of Big Banks, job-killing trade deals, ending the corrosive influence of big money in elections, eliminating private insurance companies from the health care system, and the merits of a “political revolution” became staples of prime-time presidential debates. Once stunning poll numbers now seem commonplace: 43% of Iowa caucus goers, including roughly a third of Clinton supporters, describing themselves as “socialists”; a New York Times poll late last year which said that 56% of Democratic primary voters had a “positive view of socialism;” and Sanders’ overwhelming support among young voters, by margins as high as 84% in Iowa and New Hampshire, but even reaching the low 60s in states like South Carolina, where he was otherwise crushed. Indeed, Sanders’ remarkable popularity among “millennials” prompted John Della Volpe, the director of a long-running Harvard University poll of young people, to tell the Washington Post that Sanders is “not moving a party to the left. He’s moving…the largest generation in the history of America…to the left.”[1] Something significant is definitely going on….
Today’s labor movement has been largely shaped by its experiences of defeat, on multiple battlefronts over the last 30 years—at the bargaining table, in State Houses, in the courts. In recent years, this prolonged existential crisis has bred some innovation and success, most dramatically in SEIU’s four-year old “Fight for $15 and a Union,” which has sharpened and politicized the discourse about income inequality and stagnant wages that erupted in Occupy Wall Street (not to mention delivering billions of dollars in raises to tens of millions of low-wage workers across the country).
The broad acceptance of $15 an hour as the new standard for the minimum wage – a notion that was ridiculed by many of its current proponents just two years ago—illuminates the critical power of ideas in opening up space for organizing and political and legislative advancement. When fast food workers and their supporters won the ideological battle about what constitutes an adequate minimum subsistence level of compensation, change came with surprising suddenness.
Historian Nelson Lichtenstein has written that “trade unionism requires a compelling set of ideas and institutions, both self-made and governmental, to give labor’s cause power and legitimacy. It is a political project whose success enables the unions to transcend the ethnic and economic divisions always present in the working population.”[3] But labor’s ideological breakthrough in the “Fight for $15” is an exception that proves the rule. By the time the Corporate Right fashioned its relentless and well-planned ideological and practical attack on the labor movement, starting in the mid-70s, decades of complacency and anti-communism had stripped the labor movement of its capacity to respond on an ideological plane. In his famous letter in 1978 resigning from the “Labor—Management Group” after the Business Roundtable-sponsored filibuster buried “Labor Law Reform” in an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress, UAW President Doug Fraser lamented the outbreak of a “one-sided class war” waged by a politically resurgent corporate elite. The unspoken and probably unintended implication was that class war was an alien concept to a labor movement that had come to see itself as the junior, but accepted and well-established, partner in a long term “social compact.”

Continue reading

Together at the National People’s Summit

Labor_for_Bernie_banner_2Dear Labor for Bernie supporters and activists,
Now that the primaries are nearly over, Labor for Bernie is supporting the People’s Summit in Chicago, June 17-19. This meeting is being convened by National Nurses United and other organizations supporting Sanders’ political revolution.
Participants at the summit will help develop an agenda to hold our elected officials more accountable to popular demands for justice, equality and freedom.

Labor for Bernie will have a caucus meeting at breakfast on Sunday morning, June 19. Please use this short form let us know if you plan to attend.

The Summit will be an opportunity to sum up the primary experiences, make plans for the upcoming convention and discuss what a movement dedicated to extending the political revolution would look like. Continue reading

How Low can the Trans-Pacific Partnership Go?

by Stan SorscherSorcher TPP sinking ship

[Ed. note:  With all the major Presidential contenders opposed, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) might be regarded as a sinking ship, but the unholy alliance of the mainstream Republican Party, Business Roundtable, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and President Obama is plotting to sneak its ratification past the American people during the Lame Duck Congressional Session after the November 2016 election.  Stan Sorscher reminds us just how bad an idea this would be].

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the huge new 12-country trade deal, raises the question: How low would we go to get the next NAFTA-style deal?

The basic idea of a trade deal is that we will lower our tariffs, you will lower your tariffs, and trade goes up. That would be a trade deal.

TPP is much more than that. The tariff schedules in TPP are not controversial. Really, TPP will not pass or fail based on the tariff schedule.

Rather, the rules in TPP are very controversial because the rules define power relationships, and those power relationships determine who will take the gains from globalization.

President Obama wants us to set the rules, so China doesn’t. Good.

But “our” rules were written by and for global investors. Those rules are very favorable to corporations who want to move production to low-wage countries with weak social and political systems.

  • Using very optimistic assumptions, the International Trade Commission estimates TPP would increase GDP by 0.15% after 15 years– a number too small to measure. Our lived experience with NAFTA CAFTA, and other deals tells a different story. Under those NAFTA-style deals our economy has steadily de-industrialized, and millions of jobs have moved to low-wage countries.
  • TPP’s rules for dispute settlement create corporate friendly tribunals, which pay no attention to our Constitution, our Supreme Court, or our legal traditions, and are not accountable to any political process. These tribunals shield global companies from government actions intended to protect public interests.
  • TPP’s toothless rules on currency rates allow China, Korea, Japan and other countries to distort trade, favoring goods produced in their countries for export to the US. This is great for US corporations who produce in China, but is bad for workers and communities in the US.
  • TPP’s weak “Rules of Origin” encourage high-wage countries to source more of their products in low-wage countries. Countries with terrible labor and environmental standards can ship parts to 11 other TPP countries, and voilà! – those parts are now TPP-qualified for favorable access to our markets.
  • TPP’s rules on labor and human trafficking are pathetic. Malaysia qualifies as one of our TPP partners, even though our State Department ranks Malaysia among the worst in the world for human trafficking. Malaysia has a documented history of forced labor and the worst forms of child labor. Malaysia knows that we will never hold them accountable for improving conditions.
  • Our indifference to global labor standards is so deep that Vietnam can embarrass President Obama– to his face – during his latest trip there, by forbidding labor activists from accepting Obama’s invitation to meet with him. President Obama inspires us with soaring rhetoric on human rights in Vietnam, but Vietnam’s leaders know we will never hold them accountable for improving labor conditions.
  • TPP’s environmental protection rules are a step back from earlier standards. That is neither here nor there, because we have never enforced any environmental rules in any trade deal.
  • In spite of repeated documented violations. Peru and other countries with sorry records for environmental standards know we will never hold them accountable when they ignore environmental standards.
  • Berta Cáseres, an internationally recognized Honduran environmental activist, was assassinated in her home. Honduras is one of our CAFTA trading partners. Honduras is arguably the most dangerous country on earth for environmental activists. Civil society around the world condemned Berta Cáseres’ murder, but not a word can be found on the web sites for the White Houseor the US Trade Representative.
  • Another CAFTA trading partner is Guatemala, which is arguably the most dangerous country in the world for labor activists. Our trade officials have “consulted” with Guatemala, and an 8-year old inquiry is underway into Guatemala’s dismal record regarding labor standards. Honduras, Guatemala and Colombia [another free trade partner] know we will never hold them accountable for improving labor conditions.

So, how low would we go to get the shadowy 0.15% growth of GDP after 15 years with TPP? Influential House and Senate members will answer that question.

For many years, Representative Sander Levin has been a strong advocate for trade language that raises labor and environmental standards and protects access to life-saving medicines for treatable diseases in developing countries. As TPP negotiations finished up, Mr. Levin realized that TPP was a step backwards. He opposes TPP and is a champion for a better trade policy.

Mr. Levin’s postcard description from Vietnam describes labor leaders being beaten and jailed. His message stands in contrast to President Obama’s weary acceptance of conditions there.

Representative Earl Blumenauer was an early champion for stronger environmental rules in trade deals. Peru ignored its commitments under previous trade deals, and recently fired the public official who was trying to move those standards forward. We will see how low Mr. Blumenauer might go.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden worked hard to reveal the details of TPP, which were negotiated in strictest secrecy. He promoted “Oregon values” which meant creating good jobs in his state, promoting human rights, improving labor conditions, safeguarding the environment and protecting a free and open internet. Now, Senator Wyden must decide if TPP upholds Oregon values, or is too low to go.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said her leadership role did not obligate her to promote a bad trade policy. She said she would happily vote for a deal that does as much for workers and the environment as it does for global investors.

Hillary Clinton says she “opposes TPP before and after the election.” She adds, “I’m not interested in tinkering around the margins of our trade policy. I think we need a fundamental rethink of how we approach trade deals going forward. It is critical that we address labor protections and ensure that human rights are protected, as well as health, environmental, and consumer safety issues in any new trade agreements.”

Larry Summers(!!) backs away from TPP, preferring a trade approach where “issues such as labor rights and environmental protection would be central, while issues related to empowering foreign producers would be secondary.”

TPP is an historic disappointment. Sander Levin, Hillary Clinton, Larry Summers, and Nancy Pelosi recognize that we can’t tweak TPP into shape. We need a new approach. To paraphrase Naomi Klein, “TPP is the no that must be said before the yes.”

The more the public hears about TPP, the less we like it. For most voters, TPP is too low to go. We are very much looking forward to stopping TPP, and starting a “rethink” of our approach to globalization.

Stan Sorscher is Labor Representative, Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.  This essay is reposted from the Huffington Post with the permission of the author at
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stan-sorscher/how-low-would-we-go-for-t_b_10336934.html

Follow Stan Sorscher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sorscher

 

Nurse Union Activist Runs for Vermont House

by Paul Garver

Mari_on_Verizon_Picket_Line_2016-05-15_at_10.46.13_AM

Labor for Bernie activist and now legislative candidate Mari Cordes shown at right, with Senator David Zuckerman, Progressive candidate for VT Lt. Governor and Matt Dunne, Democratic candidate for Governor, at recent Verizon strike solidarity event in Burlington.

We received this letter from seven leading activists of Labor for Bernie with connections to Vermont:

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

We are writing on behalf of Mari Cordes, a working nurse in Burlington, Vermont and past president of the 2,000-member AFT-affiliated RN union at UVM Medical Center. Click here to learn more about her.

Mari was an early supporter of Labor for Bernie. She was instrumental in securing her state federation’s support for his campaign and joined other members in lobbying the American Federation of Teachers to back Bernie’s presidential bid.

Mari is now running for office herself, as part of the surge of interest in local progressive politics generated by Bernie’s national campaign. She is running for the Vermont State House of Representatives from the Addison-4 District (the towns of Lincoln, Starksboro, Monkton, and Bristol).

She is campaigning, in part, based on her past labor-related work as a statewide leader of the Vermont Progressive Party and board member of the Vermont Workers Center. She has been one of Vermont’s leading advocates for single-payer health care, workers’ rights, and other causes, including environmental protection. (She is treasurer of the 350.org Vermont board.)

Like Bernie, in his campaign for president, Mari is relying on small individual donations. You can donate by sending a check (made out to “Mari Cordes for Vermont House”) to Donna Bailey, Campaign Treasurer, 298 Biddle Rd., Lincoln VT. 05443

Or contribute on line, via ActBlue, at: https://secure.actblue.com/entity/fundraisers/43597

In our individual capacity as former or current labor organization representatives, we urge your strong support for Mari’s exciting campaign. With help from fellow Labor for Bernie activists, she can become part of the growing bloc of progressive state legislators in Vermont in January.

Mari is currently seeking organizational endorsements from some of our own unions in Vermont and others. If you can help her with this effort or assist her campaign in any other way, in addition to donating, please feel free to contact her at: in…@maricordes.org

Best wishes and thanks for your help!

Ellen David Friedman, former organizer, VT-NEA

Steve Early, former New England representative, Communications Worker of America

Don Trementozzi, president, CWA Local 1400

Traven Leyshon, president Green Mountain Central Labor Council (signing in a personal capacity)

Heather Riemer, AFT-Vermont organizer

Rand Wilson, former SEIU organizer in Vermont

Based on this endorsement from trusted colleagues in Labor for Bernie, I had already decided to contribute when I looked at Mari’s own description of her other activities while working as a skilled nurse in cardiology.  This made me even more happy to support her candidacy.  Mari is involved in

Buddhism

Music (making, and listening)

Outdoor Activities

Homesteading (gardening-food and medicinal crops, laying hens)

Travel – have traveled extensively in India, Africa and many other countries.  Worked for 2 months as an RN with the Vermont Global Village Project in a village in Ghana, West Africa.  Coordinated 2 Buddhist Pilgrimages in India for a Tibetan Buddhist Lama.

I live in the Green Mountains with my husband in a completely off-the-grid (solar, wind) home that we built together.

Vice President – Health Care, AFT-Vermont

One, two, many Mari Cordes!

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,628 other followers