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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Unions and the Democratic Party

Watch Unions, Workers, and the Democratic Party

English: at a Hillary for Obama rally in 2008.

English: at a Hillary for Obama rally in 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With: Randi Weingarten (AFT) and Larry Cohen (Labor for Bernie)
with Juan Gonzalez, Basil Smikle and Ed Ott
The livestream starts tomorrow at 8.30 am (Eastern Time), you can watch the roundtable here:

American Labor is facing the most exciting political contest since 2008’s rivalry between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Both candidates have a long record support from unions.

Partisans for each candidate and observers interested in the process are eager to see the first debate of the season – even if the candidates aren’t present, and the debate format is a friendly roundtable.

Please tune in on Friday, 9/18, at 8.30 am (Eastern) for the livestream of Unions, Workers, and the Democratic Party. Continue reading

Workers Take Most of the Risk

Robert Reich

Robert Reich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Upsurge in Uncertain Work
Robert Reich
As Labor Day looms, more Americans than ever don’t know how much they’ll be earning next week or even tomorrow.

This varied group includes independent contractors, temporary workers, the self-employed, part-timers, freelancers, and free agents. Most file 1099s rather than W2s, for tax purposes.

On demand and on call – in the “share” economy, the “gig” economy, or, more prosaically, the “irregular” economy – the result is the same: no predictable earnings or hours.

It’s the biggest change in the American workforce in over a century, and it’s happening at lightening speed. It’s estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will have uncertain work; in a decade, most of us.
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Sanders: Austerity Imposed on Greek People is Unacceptable

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) attacked the International Monetary Fund and European authorities on Wednesday (July 1)  for imposing what he called excessive austerity measures on Greece in negotiations over the country’s debt payments.

“It is unacceptable that the International Monetary Fund and European policymakers have refused to work with the Greek government on a sensible plan to improve its economy and pay back its debt,” Sanders said in an exclusive statement to The Huffington Post. “At a time of grotesque wealth inequality, the pensions of the people in Greece should not be cut even further to pay back some of the largest banks and wealthiest financiers in the world.” Continue reading

House Passes Trade Assistance Act

by Meteor Blades at Daily Kos

TPPWith only six Democrats opposed, the House of Representatives favored the trade adjustment assistance (TAA) program Thursday in a 286-138 vote. There were 175 Democrats and 111 Republicans in favor. The Senate passed TAA Wednesday.
The program provides modest financial and job-training help to workers displaced by trade agreements. It was passed as an amendment to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which extends trade preferences until 2025 for a number of African countries. If the legislation had not passed, the TAA program would have expired at the end of the fiscal year, September 30. Continue reading

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

Nike supports TPP. Here is why

Leo Gerard

America is in an abusive relationship with trade-obsessed politicians and corporations.

Despite their long history of battering the U.S. middle class with bad trade deal after bad trade deal, these lawmakers and CEOs contend workers should believe that their new proposal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), will be different. President Obama and the CEO of Nike, a company that doesn’t manufacture one shoe in the United States, got together in Oregon on Friday to urge Americans to fall once again for a trade deal.

The trade fanatics say everything will be different under the TPP – even though it is based on deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that lured American factories across the border, destroyed good-paying jobs and devastated communities. They plead: “Just come back for one more deal and see how great it will be this time!” And, like all batterers, they say: “Sorry about the terrible past; trust me about the future.”

This is trade abuse.

United Steelworkers of America.

At the Nike world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., the chief executive officer of Air Jordans told the chief executive passenger of Air Force One that Americans should believe in the TPP because it’ll be like Santa Claus stuffing jobs down chimneys across America.

CEO Mark Parker promised that the TPP would miraculously prompt Nike, the brand that is the icon for shipping production overseas, to create 10,000 U.S. manufacturing and engineering jobs – over a decade, that is.  Not only that, Parker pronounced, the TPP will generate thousands of construction jobs and as many as 40,000 indirect positions with suppliers and service companies – again, over a decade.

Now those are some great-sounding promises! Nike employs 26,000 American workers now, a few of whom make soles in Oregon and Missouri. But presto, Parker says, the TPP will increase that number by nearly 40 percent!

The thing is, Nike could easily create 10,000 manufacturing and engineering jobs in the United States right now. No TPP required. It employs 1 million overseas, the vast majority in low-wage, high-worker-abuse countries like Vietnam, China and Indonesia. To bring 1 percent of those jobs – 10,000 – to the United States doesn’t seem like such a Herculean, TPP-requiring task, especially considering Nike’s massive profit margin.

The average cost to make a pair of Nike shoes is $30. The American sneaker consumer, who may pay $130 to swoosh, is certainly not getting the benefit of low prices from Nike’s cheap overseas production.

Instead of manufacturing in America, Nike chooses to “just do it” in countries where it knows workers are abused. In the 1990s, the media slammed the corporation for sweatshop conditions in its foreign factories. Like a typical abuser, Nike promised to reform its ways. It said in a news release last week, “Our past lessons have fundamentally changed the way we do business.”

Well, not really. The company admitted in 2011 that two Indonesian factories making its shoes subjected workers to “serious and egregious” physical and verbal abuse. Nike told the San Francisco Chronicle then that there was “little it could do to stop” the cruelty.

And it accomplished exactly that – little. Just last month, a three-part series in the Modesto Bee described sickening conditions in Indonesian factories producing Nike shoes: Workers paid $212 a month for six-day, 55-hour work weeks. Workers denied the country’s minimum wage and overtime pay. Workers paid so little they couldn’t afford to care for their children. Workers fired for trying to improve conditions.



Nike Sweatshops

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Last week, the world’s largest athletic gear maker said, “Nike fully supports the inclusion of strong labor provisions (in the TPP) because we believe that will drive higher industry standards and create economic growth that benefits everyone.”

Promises, promises. Why doesn’t Nike simply insist on higher standards at its factories? What exactly is there in a trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim nations that is essential to Nike establishing higher standards and stopping the abuse of workers in factories making its shoes?

Oh, yeah, the American middle class, which has suffered most from past trade deals, is not allowed to know that.  The TPP is secret. Well, except to the privileged corporate CEOs who helped write the thing.

In pushing for “Fast Track” authority to shove the deal through a Congress that has abdicated its Constitutional responsibility to oversee foreign trade, President Obama admitted “past deals did not always live up to the hype.”

That’s not quite right. It’s actually way worse than that. Past deals killed U.S. factories and jobs. Since NAFTA, they’ve cost Americans 57,000 factories and 5 million good, family-supporting jobs.

Just three years ago, trade fanatics promised that the Korean deal, called KORUS, would definitely provide more exports and more jobs. Instead, U.S. goods exports to Korea dropped 6 percent, while imports from Korea surged 19 percent. So the U.S. goods trade deficit with Korea swelled 104 percent. That means the loss of 93,000 America jobs in just the first three years of KORUS.

It’s the same story with the other trade deals that followed NAFTA, including the agreements that enabled China to enter the World Trade Organization. The Commerce Department announced just last week the largest monthly expansion in the trade deficit in 19 years. The deficit with China for March was the biggest ever.

What this means is that instead of exporting goods, America is exporting jobs. Foreign workers get the jobs making the stuff Americans buy. And they’re often employed by factories producing products for so-called American corporations like Nike. They’re employed by factories that collapse and kill hundreds. Factories that catch on fire and immolate workers trapped inside. Factories where workers are ill-paid, overworked and slapped when they can’t meet unrealistic production quotas. Factories that pollute grievously.

American workers no longer are willing to engage in this abusive relationship with trade fanatics. They no longer believe the promises of change. They don’t want the federal money TPP fanatics promise them to pay for retraining as underpaid burger flippers after their middle class-supporting factory jobs are shipped overseas. They’re over trade pacts that benefit only multi-national corporations like Nike.

To Fast Track and the TPP, they say, “Just Don’t Do It!”

Leo Gerard. President . United Steelworkers of America.

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