Bernie Sanders is a Thoroughbred

Senator Bernie Sanders   Photo by Don Shall

Senator Bernie Sanders Photo by Don Shall

Bernie Sanders is a thoroughbred—why call him a stalking horse?

by Michael Hirsch

Voltaire wrote that “the best is the enemy of the good,” but he cited it as a foible and not a redeeming practice.  Within hours of Bernie Sanders announcing his candidacy for the Democratic Party presidential nod on April 30th, in some warrens of the radical left, the long corrective knives were already out for the only socialist in Congress. Why? Because Bernie is just not good enough, they said. Criticism ranged from his being a faux socialist, a stalking horse for Hillary Clinton whose backing by the left would be a practical waste of a year that could be better spent building a movement. Politicking for a candidate who can’t win the nomination and who would be destroyed by corporate America and an avalanche of corporate funding if somehow he did was seen as a mug’s game.

They would be wrong.

Take this example: in his incisive report on the recent Future of the
Left/Independent Politics Conference in Chicago, Dan La Botz cites remarks made by Bruce Dixon of the Georgia Green Party to the effect that “Sanders is a sheep dog whose job is like that of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Congressman Dennis Kucinich in earlier elections, to round up folks who had strayed to the left in response to the Democratic Party’s retrograde domestic and foreign policies and to bring them back to the Party.” At least Dixon didn’t say Judas goat, leading lambs to the slaughter, but it’s still early in the campaign, and the cat-scratch phase hasn’t kicked in yet.

Another group that would at first blush seem natural allies of the insurgent Sanders is organized labor. Despite favorable coverage of him  in AFL-CIO Now , the website of the national labor federation, reporting on his role at a recent anti-TPP rally in Washington, D.C. and his remarks on the U.S. Senate floor against the job-swallowing trade bill and the slight-of-hand that would fast-track a vote on legislation no one has even seen, neither the national federation nor its 56 constituent unions are even hinting that Sanders could be their man. While there is considerable support for Sanders among middle-level union staff, that won’t be–and never is–enough to cinch an endorsement. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has said that the beating Democrats took last fall during the midterm elections was due to the fact that labor issues–specifically  economic issues close to workers’ hearts–were not foremost in almost any campaign. Now Trumka and the others have a chance to correct that blunder by backing a presidential candidate who reflects and expands on their economic views. Will they do it? Or will they make a Christmas peace with their class enemy again. We’ll know by December.   Continue reading

Stop Fast Track! Stop TPP !

Legislation granting Fast Track trade authority to President Barack Obama was introduced in the U.S. Senate today. In a statement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

At a time when workers all over the country are standing up for higher wages, Congress is considering legislation that will speed through corporate-driven trade deals. For decades, we’ve seen how fast-tracked trade deals devastated our communities through lost jobs and eroded public services. We can’t afford another bad deal that lowers wages and outsources jobs.

Call your senators—855-790-8815—and tell them to say no to Fast Track.

See article here. http://www.dsausa.org/greasing_the_fast_track_to_global_catastrophe_dl

Fast Track would make it easier to ram through complicated trade deals without significant oversight from members of Congress or the public, just a simple “Yes” or “No” vote with no amendments allowed on trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Continue reading

Raising Wages From the Bottom Up

Three ways city and state governments can make the difference.

Harold Meyerson

This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. I

In 1999, while he was working at a local immigrant service center in Los Angeles, Victor Narro began encountering a particularly aggrieved group of workers. They were the men who worked at carwashes, and their complaint was that they were paid solely in tips—the carwashes themselves paid them nothing at all.

At first, the workers came by in a trickle, but soon enough, in a flood. Narro, whose soft voice and shy manner belie a keen strategic sensibility, consulted with legal services attorneys and discovered that while every now and then a carwash was penalized for cheating its workers, such instances were few and far between. “There were no regulations overseeing the industry,” Narro says. The state’s labor department conducted no sweeps of the carwashes to investigate what looked to be an industry-wide pattern of violations of basic wage and hour laws. When Narro took a new job at UCLA’s Labor Center, he had researchers survey L.A. carwashes. They reported that roughly one-fourth of the industry’s 10,000 workers were paid only in tips.

“She wouldn’t pay us on time, but she demanded the rent on time,” Sanchez says.

The workers who did get a paycheck weren’t raking it in, either. Wage theft was the norm in the industry, and the carwasheros (as the workers, almost entirely Mexican and Central American immigrants, have come to be called) had little recourse—especially since so many were undocumented. Oscar Sanchez, a tall, sober-faced carwashero who came to Los Angeles from Guatemala in 2000, recalls working a 10-hour day and routinely getting paid for five hours. Workers at his carwash, in South Central L.A., got no lunch breaks; the owner would “bring us burgers and we’d have to wash cars and eat at the same time.” The owner also had a mini-mart on the property, and rented the two rooms upstairs as living quarters for four of the workers—one of them Sanchez. “She wouldn’t pay us on time, but she demanded the rent on time,” Sanchez says. “When we fell behind, she said she couldn’t pay us because we owed her rent.” Continue reading

Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and Why Unions are Needed

by Duane E. Campbell

On March 31, 2015, Eleven states and numerous cities will hold holidays celebrating labor and Latino leader Cesar Chavez. ChavezConferences, marches and celebrations will occur in numerous cities and particularly in rural areas of the nation. A recent film Cesar Chavez: An American Hero, starring Michael Peña as Cesar Chavez and Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta presents important parts of this union story.

The current UFW leadership, as well as former UFW leaders and current DSA Honorary Chairs Eliseo Medina and Dolores Huerta are recognized leaders in the ongoing efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform in the nation.

ArturoUFW President Arturo Rodriquez says, “We urge Republicans to abandon their political games that hurt millions of hard-working, taxpaying immigrants and their families, and help us finish the job by passing legislation such as the comprehensive reform bill that was approved by the Senate on a bipartisan vote in June 2013,” Rodriguez said.  Similar compromise proposals, negotiated by the UFW and the nation’s major agricultural employer associations, have passed the U.S. Senate multiple times over the last decade. The same proposal has won majority support in the House of Representatives, even though House GOP leaders have refused to permit a vote on the measure. “The UFW will not rest until the President’s deferred relief is enacted and a permanent immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, is signed into law.” www.UFW.org Continue reading

Wisconsin labor battle continues

First they came for the public sector workers’ unions. But, I wasn’t in the public sector.  So, I did nothing!

Wisconsin Republicans Silence Debate to Advance ‘Right to Work’ Bill
Feb 25, 2015 Kenneth Quinnell    | In The States. AFL-CIO blog.

AFL–CIO

AFL–CIO (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UPDATE, Feb. 26: The Wisconsin State Senate approved the right to work bill 17-15 late Wednesday night. Thousands of workers, community supporters and others rallied outside the Capitol earlier in the day to protest the bill and later packed the Senate chambers for the floor debate and vote. The bill now goes to the State Assembly for vote likely next week. We’ll bring you more details later today. Continue reading

After the Fall: An Autopsy of the Midterm Elections

by Michael Hirsch

Surveying the wreckage of his party’s 2014 election campaign, Howard Dean, on the November 9th Meet the Press, was candid, with such sound bytes as, ““Where the hell is the Democratic party …You got to stand for something if you want to win.” The Republicans’ message was, “We’re not Obama.” What was the Democrats’ message? “Oh well, we really aren’t either.”

Translation: “Get my message; we need a message.”

No matter how hard the Democrats tried to demonize their Republican rivals—the data in several states show a far higher rate of negative ads from Democrats —they couldn’t match the Death Star ferocity of the GOP message attack: the failed presidency of Barack Obama. That energized the Republican base. Nothing so potent was tendered to bring out the Democratic base vote, especially among white workers.

In election eve comments, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka placed the blame on the victors’ having “enough big-money backers to drown out the truth.” He did see hope in a number of ballot issues that directly aid working people, especially raises in the minimum wage (Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska) but also including mandating open school board meetings (Colorado), a right to vote amendment that proponents say precludes voter ID requirements (Illinois), guaranteed birth-control prescription coverage (Illinois), a millionaires’ tax (Illinois), and repeal of the automatic gas-sales tax increase (Massachusetts). Many passed in the same states that swung to the Republicans.

“The defining narrative of this election was confirmation, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Americans are desperate for a new economic life,” Trumka said. “In way too many elections, they got a false choice.  In these very difficult times, they did not a get a genuine economic alternative to their unhappiness and very real fear of the future. But when voters did have a chance to choose their future directly—through ballot measures—their decisions are unmistakable.”

One such opportunity happened in Richmond, Cal., where the Richmond Progressive Alliance ran candidates for city office against a slate owned, in effect, by Chevron, the city’s main employer. Chevron red-baited the progressives, spending $3 million on a whispering campaign suggesting one of the insurgents was gender-challenged and another was “a dangerous anarchist” because he took part in nearby Oakland’s Occupy action.

That pricey disinformation gambit didn’t work; the Alliance is a group with a 10-year history of recognized successes, including being instrumental in raising the minimum wage; cleaning the air—largely by wrenching agreements out of Chevron; lowering energy bills; and ending the police practice of driver’s license checkpoints. Among its many campaign issues: saving the local medical center, fighting for teachers’ rights and better schools, and instituting job training for youth and other local residents at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. And what is singularly important: it’s a 24/7 operation; they don’t fold up between elections, but serve as the political base for elected officials committed to social change instead of corporate control. As the Alliance’s basic literature says, “It is between elections that corporations and entrenched interests have the most influence in bending government to their way.”

A giant October rally saw more than 500 attendees pack the Richmond Civic Center—to meet the candidates and hear Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who endorsed the slate and predicted the Alliance and its grassroots work would prove a model for other cities. The three council members plus the mayor, a well-known area independent running on their slate, are now Richmond’s elected leadership.

Few Working-Class Issues Prominent in Campaigns

It would seem that, in principle,Trumka was right about working people reliably voting their class interests when those interests are starkly drawn. So why weren’t working families’ needs front and center on candidate appeals? Why wasn’t wage stagnation pinned on the GOP? Or Wall Street banking theft? Where were the critical living wage demands? And where was organized labor in making these class issues part of the Democrats’ campaign? Why didn’t it disabuse the Democrats’ notion that keeping their heads down and waiting for the GOP to implode is not a strategy; it’s barely a tactic. Continue reading

Trans Pacific Partnership : TPP- The Dirty Deal

This is the proposal that President Obama wants authority to negotiate.

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