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

What Happened to the Labor Party?

And, Why Should We Care?

In the 1990s, hundreds of US labor activists came together to form the Labor Party. The initiative was the brainchild of Tony Mazzocchi, the passionate leader of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union (which, after two mergers, is today part of the United Steelworkers).

Mazzocchi held true to the dream of an independent political party rooted in the labor movement over which working people would have ownership. He was fond of saying: “The bosses have two parties. We need one of our own.”

Dereck Siedman interviews Marc Dudzic:

 Historically, labor has been committed to the Democrats, and Mazzocchi recognized a problem here: unions won’t abandon the Democrats for a labor party that can’t promise victory and may be an electoral spoiler. But at the same time, it would be impossible to build a labor party that could compete electorally if it didn’t have the support of unions. What was the Labor Party’s strategy for confronting this dilemma?

Mark Dudzic:

Our party-building model was premised on the understanding that you cannot have a party of labor that does not have at the table a substantial portion of the actually-existing labor movement. The Labor Party had to start with the assurance that it wouldn’t play spoiler politics and that it would focus on building the critical mass necessary for serious electoral intervention. Continue reading

California Judge Throws Out Anti-Union Election

By David Bacon
Working In These Times, 9/25/15
http://davidbaconrealitycheck.blogspot.com/2015/09/california-judge-throws-out-anti-union.html
http://inthesetimes.com/working

peaches

A California farm worker picking peaches.

FRESNO, CA — The strategy by one of the nation’s largest growers to shed its obligation to sign a contract with the United Farm Workers was dealt a key setback last week.  An administrative law judge not only threw out one of the dirtiest decertification elections in recent labor history, but did so because California growers had given tens of thousands of dollars to set the union-busting scheme in motion.

That election, at Gerawan Farming, has a key role in an even broader grower strategy to invalidate the enforcement mechanism of the state’s farm worker labor law.  Last week’s ruling seriously undermines their case, now before the state’s Supreme Court, in which they claim to be protecting workers’ democratic rights.  Instead, they have been exposed using obviously illegal methods to deny workers union representation. Continue reading

Pushing Unions to Back Bernie

Labor for Bernie Pushing Unions To Back Bernie Sanders, Prevent Early Hillary Clinton Endorsements
http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/18398/bernie-sanders-unions-endorsements-hillary-clinton
BY MARIO VASQUEZ

Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

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

Senator Bernie Sanders hosted a national phone call Wednesday night focused on the labor movement in which organizers say 17,000 people participated. The campaign hopes to drum up support from union members as Sanders inches his way to front-runner status in the early Presidential primary and caucus elections of New Hampshire and Iowa.

Organized by Labor for Bernie, the network for union members aiming to secure endorsements for Sanders, the call featured remarks by Sanders outlining his economic platform.

“How does it happen that we continue to be in a situation where millions of American worker want to join unions, want to be involved in collective bargaining, they want to stand up for their rights, but they can’t join the union because their employers use unfair, illegal tactics to deny them their constitutional rights to form a union?” Sanders asked before announcing that he will be introducing the Workplace Democracy Act into legislation this fall in order to significantly ease up union drive efforts and subsequent first contract implementation. Continue reading

How Brother Bernie is Making Labor’s Day

by Steve Early

Bernie-NNU-endorsement-600px-150814If it wasn’t for the Democratic presidential primary race now underway, Labor Day 2015 might be just another annual occasion for union mourning rather than celebration.

American workers have lost far more battles than they’ve than won recently. Further legal or political setbacks could be on the way, thanks to the Obama Administration and U.S. Supreme Court.

This spring, President Obama, big business, and their Republican allies in Congress won approval for a “fast-track” vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), when that controversial free trade deal is ready for ratification. Labor critics predict the TPP will undermine workers’ rights, environmental standards, and efforts to regulate multinational corporate activity. Continue reading

National Nurses United Endorse Bernie Sanders

OAKLAND, Calif. – National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of nurses, on Monday endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for president.

“Bernie has a proven track record of uncompromised activism and advocacy for working people and a message that resonates with nurses and tens of thousands of people across the country,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the organization. “We are proud to stand with him in his candidacy for president,” she added in remarks before delivering Sanders his first national labor union endorsement.

Flanked by nurses in red scrubs at the union’s Bay Area headquarters, Sanders thanked the 185,000-strong labor organization for providing high-quality health care to Americans. “I am humbled and enormously appreciative of you support,” Sanders said.

He called nurses “the backbone of our health care system” and added, “I want to thank each of you for the work that you do.”

Sanders has worked for years with the California-based national nurses’ group to strengthen Medicare, address the nation’s nursing shortage and ensure collective-bargaining rights and decent wages and benefits. He praised the critical role National Nurses United has played in improving the health care system, working to prevent medical errors and reducing costs.

He also welcomed the nurses’ backing for Medicare-for-all legislation that he will soon introduce to provide better care for more people at less cost. “The time has come for us to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right.”

A leading champion for health care reform, the union also stresses social and economic justice issues as a key part of its mission. Continue reading

Corporations Win on Fast Track

United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., east ...

United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., east front elevation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fast track passes. Our Congress – the supposed representatives of We the People – voted to cut themselves and us out of the process of deciding what “the rules” for doing business “in the 21st Century” will be.

How do the plutocrats and oligarchs and their giant multinational corporations get what they want when a pesky democracy is in their way? They push that pesky democracy out of their way.

Because of fast track, when the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and any other secretly negotiated “trade” agreements are completed Congress must vote in a hurry with only limited debate, cannot make any amendments no matter what is in the agreement, and they can’t be filibustered. Nothing else coming before our Congress gets that kind of skid-greasing, only corporate-written “trade” agreements – and it doesn’t matter how far the contents go beyond actual “trade.” Continue reading

Adjuncts Organize

California Faculty Association

California Faculty Association (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Below Politico’s morning report describes Adjunct organizing today. ( Part time faculty)  Of note, in the California State University system, the largest public university system in the nation, adjucts are in the faculty union.  The California Faculty Association. ( NEA, SEIU).  They enjoy health benefits, a measure of job security, retirement, and negotiated wages.  Many of the adjuncts in the California community colleges are also covered by union contracts and have significant benefits.  Being in a union helps.

ANGRY ADJUNCTS: Non-tenured faculty at colleges and universities nationwide will mark today’s National Adjunct Walkout Day with an array of events designed to call attention to their low pay and tenuous working conditions. Marches and rallies are scheduled on several campuses in the University of California system. At the University of Arizona, faculty have organized a “teach in” open to the community. And at Cleveland State University, some lecturers have canceled classes so they can hand out literature. “It’s fabulous for momentum building,” said Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority advocacy group. The demonstrations come as unions have been making progress organizing adjuncts around the country. [http://politico.pro/1D9bPV2]. The Service Employees International Union, meanwhile, has launched a bold campaign calling for adjuncts to be paid $15,000 per course, up from just a few thousand on many campuses.

The Battle for Education and a Revitalized Teachers’ Union

English: Protesters demonstrating at the Wisco...

English: Protesters demonstrating at the Wisconsin State Capitol against the collective bargaining restriction on unions by Governor Scott Walker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

If we don’t transform teacher unions now, our schools, our profession, and our democracy—what’s left of it—will likely be destroyed. I know. I am from Wisconsin, the home of Scott Walker and Paul Ryan.

 

Bob Peterson.

 

In 2011, in the wake of the largest workers uprising in recent U.S. history, I was elected president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA). Unfortunately, that spring uprising, although massive and inspirational, was not strong enough to stop Gov. Walker from enacting the most draconian anti-public sector labor law in the nation.

 

That law, known as Act 10, received support from the Koch brothers and a cabal of national right-wing funders and organizations. It was imposed on all public sector workers except the police and firefighter unions that endorsed Walker and whose members are predominantly white and male.

 

Act 10 took away virtually all collective bargaining rights, including the right to arbitration. It left intact only the right to bargain base-wage increases up to the cost of living. The new law prohibited “agency shops,” in which all employees of a bargaining unit pay union dues. It also prohibited payroll deduction of dues. It imposed an unprecedented annual recertification requirement on public sector unions, requiring a 51 percent (not 50 percent plus one) vote of all eligible employees, counting anyone who does not vote as a “no.” Using those criteria, Walker would never have been elected.

 

Immediately following Act 10, Walker and the Republican-dominated state legislature made the largest cuts to public education of any state in the nation and gerrymandered state legislative districts to privilege conservative, white-populated areas of the state.

 

Having decimated labor law and defunded public education, Walker proceeded to expand statewide the private school voucher program that has wreaked havoc on Milwaukee, and enacted one of the nation’s most generous income tax deductions for private school tuition. Continue reading

What ever happened to solidarity ?

Duane Campbell

Duane Campbell

by Duane Campbell

On November 11, 2014, the California Nurses Association ( AFL-CIO) goes on strike while SEIU ( CTW) sends its members into work across the picket lines.

The ILWU prepares for a possible West Coast strike that could close the ports. What will other unions do?

I recognize the arguments about strategic plans and contract obligations for an advance notice for a strike.

But, when unions members are encouraged to cross picket lines – what do you have? While critics write essays about the internal conflicts in national union offices and new directions, if union members are not organized and led to not cross picket lines then all the rest is B.S.

In campaigns we call for international solidarity with workers across the globe ( a worthy goal) but many union leaders do not encourage solidarity with the worker down the street.

When national union leaders act as if union solidarity is of little importance, not much more than office politics, then it is no wonder that unions can’t win a contract nor an election in Tennessee. These unions are not  demonstrating  that solidarity works and workers in non union plants and non union states learn from their example.