Sanders Joins Verizon Workers on Picket Line

labor for berniePresidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) boosted the cause of striking Verizon workers on Wednesday, joining them on a picket line in New York City and blasting the telecom giant in a sidewalk speech.

Nearly 40,000 Verizon workers on the East Coast went on strike early Wednesday morning after 10 months of negotiations with the company failed to produce a new contract. The Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers unions represent the workers.

It’s the largest strike in the U.S. in four years, and it’s happening just as the presidential primaries come to New York.

Sanders’ raucous speech aired live on cable news, giving Verizon a taste of the attention it may receive in the coming days. Sanders, a close ally of CWA who received the union’s endorsement, called Verizon “another major American corporation trying to destroy the lives of working Americans.”

“Verizon is one of the largest, most profitable corporations in this country,” Sanders said. “They want to outsource decent-paying jobs. They want to give their CEO $20 million a year.”

See more on the Huffington Post.

The Unintended Education of a Union Member

by Angel Picón
Labor unions in California must play an active role more than ever in the 2016 Presidential elections. It wasn’t long ago that unions were created because of local disputes with their employers. This year as each presidential candidate is sharing their political ideologies they shape their presidential campaigns as they travel the all over the country and their support, or lack of support of progressive issues are being highlighted at the union halls all over the country. Many of their inconsistencies are gravely evident to the union members that are now trained “BS” spotters.
According to political reports, the delegate-rich state of California may hold the key in deciding who will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. This year California has a distinct opportunity to confidently elect someone that has had the privilege of working for progressive issues; unions issues he has fought for for years. The two front Democratic candidates have participated and supported many union issues in the past. Why are California unions important this year as opposed to other presidential races? In part because the Financial Crisis in 2008 hit the state very hard with a shortfall of almost $40 billion dollars.
The Financial Crisis gave birth to the Occupy Movement thereby giving labor unions and their members an opportunity to participate in grassroots movements across the country. This movement also gives union members a place to vent their frustrations and in turn they got educated. They were involved in direct actions, they challenged the financial institutions to be accountable. They are informed union members now and they know how to connect the dots. They now have questions; they now know how we got into this mess in the first place. In short, it was greed where only the corporate financial institutions (i.e. Wall Street) won and our local economies lost -again. Union members became educated on the issues that mattered to them by directly involving themselves on the issues that affected them.
We, the taxpayer got stuck with the bill Continue reading

Bernie and Beyond 2016

by Peter Olney, for Labor for Bernie

labor for bernie

Now is the time to unite in a new force for a democratic economy.

The Sanders’ campaign has been a roaring success in igniting the passion of the American people for a progressive, anti-corporate agenda. It has resonated deeply with the working class because Bernie “walks the talk” that union members hear between elections. While many primaries still remain and the July Democratic convention looms, it is not too soon to start planning beyond Bernie, win or lose.

The cardinal question remains: Can the progressive left in the United States coalesce around a strategy that develops a permanent and ongoing presence in the political arena at the national, state and local level. Yes we can!

Unions, political organizations, community groups, worker centers, immigrant rights groups and organizations advocating for people of color, women and LGBT rights that consider the following statements to be true have an opportunity to come together around a common strategic vision:

1. America suffers from too great a concentration of wealth and power that is corrupting our democracy.

2. As a nation we must proactively address the historical and pressing problems of
discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation.

3. Our permanent war economy and militarized foreign policy is not bringing us closer to genuine “national security.” Our national priorities must shift to new investments in education and infrastructure, the expansion of Social Security, and Medicare for all.

4. Global climate change requires a massive shift in energy and employment policies. We are currently frittering away our opportunities to develop energy sources and new jobs that won’t further degrade the planet.

5. Unions and other worker organizations are crucial bastions in the fight against inequality and essential to any viable political initiative. Therefore the defense of the right to organize and of labor’s right to promote working class interests in the political sphere must be central to any progressive project.

Unity around the aforementioned general principles could provide an opportunity to work together on a common political strategy during national, state and local elections. One crucial component of such a strategy is to run or support candidates who support these principles in primary races (usually, but not exclusively, in the Democratic Party).

As the Sanders’ campaign has shown, the best antidote to the political corruption now allowed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision is to “unite citizens” and support candidates who stand for these principles and campaign without the Wall Street support that dominates both major parties.

This primary strategy would be complementary to other political strategies like issue oriented initiatives and referenda, independent campaigns in “nonspoiler”
situations or nonpartisan elections, fusion, recall or “insurrectionary” movements a la Chicago. All these strategies are geared to the goal of eventually having a “party of our own.”

Labor unions will be central to moving this political project forward. The labor movement provides a base in the working class and the necessary savvy and resources to drive a “primary strategy.” However, labor, under relentless assault from the same corporate interests and billionaires that pollute our political process, cannot do it alone. It must share leadership with other dynamic social movement organizations, especially those representing immigrants and communities of color. There is also room to learn from organizations like the Working Families Party, National People’s Action and Progressive Democrats of America, etc. These groups (and many others) should be enlisted to share their experience, embrace the strategic approach to be a coordinated force in electoral primaries and other political arenas and “sign on” in unity with the five basic principles.

To continue supporting the political revolution and work constructively in broader coalition groups, the five national unions and over 90 local unions that have endorsed Bernie Sanders could form the core of a new and coherent union political formation. Once formed, other national unions and many locals would undoubtedly be attracted to it.

Most importantly, such a formation could play a leading role in the broader grouping that Sanders and the tens of millions of his supporters rightly expect to emerge from the campaign to carry on his vision and much needed change.

To move this vision forward it will be necessary for the unions that have embraced Bernie and the call for political revolution to stick together and agree to provide sufficient resources to coordinate our work. It will require union leadership forming a coordinating body and staff to begin implementing a unifying program in selected campaigns at the state and national level.

We are in a unique political moment. Our movement can’t afford to miss this opportunity. The whole world is watching!

Peter Olney retired from serving the International Longshore and Warehouse Union as Organizing Director. ILWU has endorsed Bernie Sanders for President. Peter is now working with the Labor for Bernie organization.

Organizing for a Sanders endorsement from an SEIU Local

by Russ Weiss-Irwin

seiu for bernie

I just wanted to share a hopeful little story from my hopeful little SEIU local, tucked away in Central NJ. I’m a food service worker at Princeton University, and together with 425 or so other blue collar Princeton workers, I’m part of SEIU Local 175. I’m pretty new on the job; just moved to the area from NYC in August, only started working in my current position in November, while many of my coworkers have been here for years or even decades. However, I’m a socialist, a big-time fan of Bernie, and I’ve never been one to be shy about my politics, so a lot of people on the job have heard me talk about him. Nevertheless, I’ve been a little nervous to try to push my local to endorse him, because I’m so new and don’t know how everything works yet.

Last weekend, however, I went to the Labor Notes conference in Chicago and attended the Labor for Bernie session and heard a report from an IBEW member, Carl Shaffer, who talked about how one of the most politically important endorsements Bernie has gotten from a union so far was from the IBEW local in Kansas City, MO, because it was decisive in helping prevent a national IBEW endorsement of Clinton, which in turn helped block a national AFL-CIO endorsement. And apparently the push for the KC endorsement was led, improbably, by a 27-year-old woman apprentice. The message that even a very junior person in the union can make a difference hit home. So I thought to myself, “If she can do it, I should at least try!”

Then, just a couple days after I got back to work, I was taking my break with some coworkers and we were talking about various things, and the topic turned to retirement. One of my coworkers, who grew up in Haiti, was asking how the Social Security system works. We began to explain it, and I started to say how unfair it is that millionaires are all taxed as if they make only $118,000 for the purposes of SS, while everyone else is taxed for every dollar we earn. Before I even finished, another coworker, a middle-aged white woman, said “That’s Bernie’s whole thing, right? Get rid of the SS tax cap?” And she started to talk about how much she supports Bernie. The Haitian coworker who started the conversation concurred, and then we went around the table, as each of my coworkers in turn– white and Black, immigrant and US born, Millennial and middle-aged, woman and man– expressed why we are supporting Bernie (and how much we don’t like Trump). It was like one of Bernie’s ads. I thought, “Here’s my chance!” I said, “Well, since we all feel this way, do you think we should try to get our union to endorse him?” People all agreed it was a good idea, and several said it hadn’t occurred to them before that our union was a space in which we could push for a politician who we support.

Only half an hour later, our local union president came into our cafeteria to get his own lunch (he works upstairs in the same building where we do), and my coworker urged me to talk to him about the endorsement idea. He told me that, with the NJ primary coming up in June, he was actually just getting ready to start the endorsement process– he had to discuss things with the International, then with the state leadership, and then poll the local membership to make a decision. Well, I know what that means: we need to get all the Bernie supporters in our local organized so that the results of that poll are overwhelmingly pro-Bernie and then convince the local leadership that the membership’s opinion should count more than the International’s. This will be hard, but not impossible! I know that SEIU members at Dartmouth and Columbia Universities have already bucked the International and endorsed Bernie, and the giant public workers local in New Hampshire as well.

So, SEIU sisters and brothers, here in Local 175, we’ve got our work cut out for us, but there’s a glimmer of hope. I wanted to share that story with all of you, hoping that inspires you the way the IBEW sister’s story inspired me, and also to ask for your advice and support. And can anyone put us in contact with the leaders of the locals in New Hampshire and New York that have already endorsed Bernie? Thank you in advance!

Solidarity from the heart of New Jersey,
Russell Weiss-Irwin
Local 175, Princeton University

Joslyn Williams and the Metro DC Labor Council

by Kurt Stand

Reposted from the Washington Socialist, April 2016

joslyn williams

After nearly 30 years, Joslyn Williams is stepping down as president of Metro Washington Council, AFL-CIO.  He is succeeded by two people – Jackie Jeter, president of Amalgamated Transit Workers Local 689, will serve as Council President (the first woman elected to that position), and Carlos Jimenez, most recently field organizer for Jobs with Justice, will take on the new position of Executive Director.  Each embraces the social unionism – unionism that connects workplace rights to workers’ democratic and civic rights – Williams espoused.

In order to fully appreciate the meaning of this moment when the torch is being passed to a new generation of leaders, it is worthwhile to look back upon the tradition of struggle within which Williams played such an important role.

Continue reading

California Faculty Union Has Tentative Settlement

Will-Strike
UPDATE: Officials with the California Faculty Association and the California State University system  reached a a tentative agreement to avoid a strike.  The agreement calls for a 10.5% increase in salaries over the next two years.  This dispute was over a contract re-opener. Only the salaries were in dispute.

Seth Sandronsky
Members of the 26,000-strong California Faculty Association (CFA) are threatening to carry out their first system-wide, simultaneous strike in the event contract talks with the California State University administration (CSU) reach a stalemate. The union, which represents faculty, counselors, librarians and athletics coaches, is seeking a five percent raise, along with 2.65 percent service step, or seniority, increases, and says its members will walk out on all 23 campuses April 13-15 and April 18-19. (Disclosure: CFA is a financial supporter of Capital & Main.)
The university system claims it cannot afford to pay the salary increases and is offering a two percent salary hike. “Half of all the new state funding provided to the CSU this year is being directed toward employee compensation,” said CSU Chancellor Tim White in an email to Capital & Main. Continue reading

Labor for Bernie and Beyond

by Dan La Botz

labor for bernie

“We’re going all the way to the convention,” said Larry Cohen, former President of the Communications Workers of America and Senior Advisor to the Sanders campaign. “We’re working to see that Sanders wins the Democratic Party nomination, but that’s not all we’re doing. We’re going beyond to build a democracy movement in this country.”

Cohen was speaking, just before the opening of the Labor Notes Conference, to some 125 union activists and local leaders who gathered for four hours at the Hilton Rosemont Hotel in Chicago on Friday, April 1 at the Labor for Bernie and Beyond meeting. They met to discuss the next stages and of the Sanders campaign as well as the future prospects for the movement of union activists who support him. The meeting was convened by Cohen and 23 other national or local union officers.

The Labor for Bernie movement has become a national phenomenon with more than 12,000 supporters, a Facebook page with 27,000 likes and traffic of almost 400,000 hits per week. Five national unions and some 90 plus local unions—often defying their international officers’ endorsements—have endorsed Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary. Labor for Bernie claims that Sanders is now predicted to win 60 percent of the labor vote in upcoming primaries.

Labor for Bernie claims some credit for Sanders’ overwhelming victory in Washington State where he won every single county. Katie Nelson told the group that though the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) national leadership had endorsed Sanders, the Washington AFSCME Council 28 executive board, of which she is a member, voted to endorse Sanders because they had to respect their members’ wishes.

A dozen other union activists from a variety of unions around the country—from National Nurses United (NNU) and the Inland Boatmen’s Union, to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the United Auto Workers—described their successes in either winning endorsements for Sanders or in holding off nominations for Hillary Clinton.

Pledging for Bernie

As Sanders heads into two crucial primary elections—Wisconsin on April 5 and New York on April 15—Labor for Bernie will be concentrating on workplace organizing and using new tools to increase Sanders vote in those primaries and in other upcoming primary elections. Union members will be distributing a Bernie for President pledge card to be signed by their coworkers, collected, and used to get out the vote.

Cohen described what he called an inside-outside strategy for the Democratic Party Convention in July; that is, the Labor for Bernie and other Bernie activists plan to have as many people as possible as delegates on the inside and as many other supporters as possible on the outside of the convention. Inside, said Cohen, the group will fight for Sanders and his policies in all of the possible arenas: the credentials committee, the rules committee, the platform committee, and for the actual nomination.

And Beyond

Labor for Bernie, like other Sanders supporters, believes their candidate can still defeat Hillary Clinton for the nomination. But in a system where Clinton has hundreds of unelected super-delegates pledged to vote for her, and several corporate super-PACS putting large amounts into her campaign, Sanders supporters know that their candidate—even if he wins big in several more states—could have victory wrested from him at the convention. So, whatever happens at the convention, several speakers offered suggestions for the future of the progressive labor activists who are backing Bernie.

Michael Lighty of NNU told the group, “We are not in this for ‘Bernie or Bust.’ This movement will not back off.” His union, he said has already begun to organize for a June 17 People’s Assembly in Chicago, working with National Peoples Action, a housing organization, and with United Students Against Sweatshops.

Cedric Johnson, a professor of African American studies at the University of Illinois Chicago, suggested that Bernie’s supporters needed to rethink their relationship to the black movement. “The movement may not include all Blacks,” he said, because Blacks are divided into different classes with different interests.” His colleague, Dean E. Robinson, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, told the group, “Civil rights activists in the 1950s and 60s pressed the limits of the movement. Black politicians today tell us the limits should not be pushed—which is just the opposite. We have an opportunity to contest Black politicians.”

Seattle’s socialist City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant suggested that, “If we really want to fight the right and Trump, we must break from the Democratic Party, we begin now to create a movement for an independent candidate and consider building an independent party.” Sawant’s supporters in #Movement4Bernie are circulating a petition calling upon Sanders to “Run Through November.” It reads, “….we urge you to continue the political revolution by running independently of the Democratic Party rather than endorsing Hillary Clinton.”

Finally, Peter Olney, a retired ILWU organizer, called for the creation of a “new force for a democratic economy.” He said this force made up of unions, community groups, workers centers, immigrants groups and people advocating for people of color, LGBT rights should be organized around five key principles:

  • Fighting economic inequality.
  • Addressing discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation.
  • Opposition to the permanent war economy and militarized foreign policy.
  • Tackling global climate change.
  • Defense of the right to organize with the labor movement playing a leading role to promote working class interests

This first conversation about the future among Labor for Bernie activists represented an important first step, but the group adopted no strategy for the future at this time. Rand Wilson, who volunteers as a coordinator for the group, said he would provide a report back to all of the national and local endorsing unions.

Many of those attending the Labor for Bernie meeting were then off to the Labor Notes conference where they would working with others to build stronger and more democratic unions, while also advocating for stepped-up involvement in the Sanders campaign.

This article is reposted from New Politics at http://newpol.org/content/labor-bernie-and-beyond-plans-primaries-and-future

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,611 other followers