For Unions, It Was a Very Bad Year

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

American labor can begin the new year with thanks that 2012 is over. Not that the unions didn’t win some big victories in 2012. Their political programs in key swing states played a major role in President Obama’s re-election, both by turning out minority voters in record numbers in Ohio, Nevada, and Florida and by winning Obama a higher share of white, working-class voters in the industrial Midwest than he won in other regions. Their efforts also helped liberal Democrats hold key Senate seats in Ohio (Sherrod Brown) and Wisconsin (Tammy Baldwin), and pick up Massachusetts (Elizabeth Warren). In California, the nation’s mega-state, unions beat back a ballot measure designed to cripple their political programs by a decisive 12.5-percent margin, turning out so many voters that they also helped a key tax-hike measure pass at the polls and enabled the Democrats to win super-majorities in the state legislature.

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Boehner’s Failure and the road ahead- Trumka

English: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and ...

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement on House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) “Plan B” failure and the latest fiscal developments:

Speaker Boehner’s failure last night should be seen as one thing: A reset button to listen to the will of the American people. The slate is clean and we call on the President to come forward with an offer that reflects the reasons he won the election. Across the country working people continue to demand no tax cuts for the richest two percent and no benefit cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. At this point, cuts to the Social Security COLA to pay for more tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent should be off the table. The President and Congress have no obligation to radical Republicans who have no ground to stand on. What they do have is the backing of millions of hardworking women and men tired of being held hostage by far right-wing Republicans who clearly have little interest in governing.

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Poll: Ohio union members give Obama and Sherrod Brown huge leads

by Laura Clawson

The AFL-CIO conducted a poll of Ohio union members on Monday that offers a lot to like. Both President Barack Obama and Sen. Sherrod Brown lead by identical 41-point margins, 70 percent to 29 percent. Among early voting union members, Obama has 79 percent to Romney’s 21 percent. Perhaps most impressively,

Obama’s support among Ohio union members has increased by five percentage points since 2008. Our Election Night and post-election polling in 2008 showed Obama winning 65% of the Ohio union vote, so even accounting for each poll’s margin of error, Obama currently is performing at least as well among Ohio members, if not better, than he did in 2008.

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How Progressives Won Ohio: Amy Dean interviews AFSCME’s Paul Booth

by Amy Dean

Amy B. Dean

On November 8 the labor movement and its allies scored a major victory with the repeal of Ohio Senate Bill 5 (SB5), a piece of anti-union legislation signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich. In a referendum that gave voters a chance to speak on the issue, Ohioans resoundingly rejected the law, which would have gutted the bargaining rights of 350,000 public-sector workers. In a landmark defeat for Republicans, voters turned out in large numbers and voted 61 percent to 39 percent to strike down SB5.

To understand how progressives pulled off this remarkable win, I spoke with Paul Booth, one of the chief strategists behind the campaign to repeal SB5. Currently, Booth is executive assistant to Gerald McEntee, the longtime president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). But he is also an organizing legend outside of the labor movement. In the 1960s, Booth served as national secretary and vice president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and in the 1970s he was a prominent figure at the Midwest Academy, an influential training ground for organizers. He has worked for AFSCME since 1974.

Delving into the Ohio victory, I opened with a simple question: “Why did we win?”

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Ohio Voters to Kasich: “No, No, No”

by  Mike Hall

Ohio voters today resoundingly overturned the anti-worker agenda pushed by Gov. John Kasich (R), Republican state lawmakers and outside interest groups which took away the right of public employees to collectively bargain for a middle-class life.

Moments ago, the vote was called:  Buckeye State voters said “No” to Issue 2. The “No” vote on Issue 2 repeals Kasich’s S.B. 5 that eliminated the collective bargaining rights of some 350,000 public employees, including teachers, nurses and fire fighters.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who joined working families in phone banking and canvassing said Issue 2′s defeat ”is a major victory for working families in Ohio and across  the country.”

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Koch Brothers, Tea Party, Attacks on Unions, Wisconsin

Scott Walker in 2007 at Marquette University a...

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Koch industries, the second largest privately-held company in the US, is an oil refining, chemical, paper products and financial services company with revenues of a $100bn a year. Virtually every American household has some Koch product – from paper towels and lumber, to Stainmaster carpet and Lycra in sports clothes, to gasoline for cars. The Koch’s political philosophy of rolling back environmental and financial regulations is also beneficial to their business interests…

This year, Americans for Prosperity spent at least half a million dollars supporting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to cut social spending and roll back collective bargaining rights for public employee unions. The legislation passed by Walker makes it more difficult for unions, which are major backers of Democratic candidates, to secure funds for political purposes. Americans for Prosperity is also very active in a battle against unions in Ohio, another important 2012 presidential state. Its president, Tim Phillips, says that the organisation is winning in Wisconsin and around the country “because on the policies of economic freedom, we’re right”. He refused to tell People & Power reporter Bob Abeshouse how much the organisation is spending to combat the unions.

The Kochs have also poured millions into think tanks and academia to influence the battle over ideas. According to Kert Davies, the director of research for Greenpeace in the US, the Kochs have spent more than $50m since 1998 on “various front groups and think tanks who … oppose the consensus view that climate change is real, urgent and we have to do something about it”. As operators of oil pipelines and refineries, the Kochs have opposed all efforts to encourage alternative sources of energy by imposing a tax on fossil fuels.

Watch the entire video.

Source: Aljazeera news.

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Ohio: We’re All In This Together

by Joseph Riedel

I have spent the last three Tuesdays at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, fighting to preserve collective bargaining rights for public sector workers. I’m doing this for many reasons. First, I am a union staff member whose organization represents thousands of public sector workers in Ohio. Secondly, I am a labor activist who wants to show solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Ohio. Thirdly, I am a taxpayer who knows that this is not about the budget, and that if the GOP is able to end collective bargaining in the public sector, they will not stop there. They will come after the private sector too.

What I’ve witnessed in Columbus over the last few weeks has been nothing short of amazing. Frankly, it’s quite different than what the media has portrayed it to be. This is to be expected. The media in our country is bought and paid for by the same people who are funding the efforts to end collective bargaining rights in Ohio and Wisconsin. The media has portrayed the demonstrations in Ohio as a small number of out-of-state union workers. The truth is that, unlike the tea party demonstrations, the overwhelming majority of the demonstrators in Columbus are Ohioans. They are coming from all corners of the state, and what the media has failed to report, is that many of them are not union members. They are simply citizens of Ohio who disapprove of what Governor Kasich and the GOP members in the Ohio State Legislature are doing.

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Emergency Labor Meeting in Cleveland

by Paul Garver

Ninety-six union leaders and activists from 26 states and from a broad cross-section of the labor movement , gathering at the Laborers Local 310 Hall in Cleveland on 4-5 March 2011, pledged to make the fight against union-busting and the budget cuts/concessions in Wisconsin the centerpiece of an emergency action plan centered on two national days of action called by the labor movement on12 and April 4.

Participants in the Emergency Labor Meeting (ELM) discussed, amended and adopted a 15 point “Perspectives” document  (appended to this post) to serve as the framework for future efforts.
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Worker Rights and Collective Bargaining Advance in China

by Paul Garver

At the same time that the rights of public sector workers to collective bargaining and effective union representation are under unprecedented attack in the USA, some Chinese workers are beginning to make substantial progress in achieving collective bargaining and worker rights. Even though Chinese politicians and bureaucrats are trying to prevent the democratic revolts in the Arab world from impacting Chinese society, they appear willing to allow modest internal labor reforms that do not directly challenge their authority.  In the USA right-wing movements fueled by the wealth of billionaires and pandered to by ambitious politicians have seized upon the budget effects of the great recession caused by their own financial recklessness and greed to destroy long established rights of public employees.


Sometimes workers’ victories are not dramatic.  Confrontational scenes like those recorded in the accompanying June 2010 photo of young workers fighting off yellow-hatted goons sent by the municipal trade union to break their strike did NOT characterize negotiations at the same Honda auto parts plant in Nanhai (Foshan City, Guangdong Province) in March 2011.

On March 1 enterprise union leaders elected by the workers and the provincial trade union federation, accompanied by 40 rank-and-file workers acting as observers, negotiated a new wage agreement for 2011 that raised the monthly wage of production line workers by RMB611 over 2010 levels (about a 30% increase).   The enterprise union had rejected the Japanese management’s earlier two offers, but with a mediating effort by Kong Xianghong, the Deputy Chair of the ACFTU’s provincial union federation, accepted a higher compromise proposal.
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We Don’t Care About the Cold: Ohio Can’t be Bought and Sold!

Concerned citizens from all around Ohio braved the cold in Columbus on January 8 to protest Governor-elect John Kasich’s agenda. Speakers at the rally, organized by, criticized Kasich’s attacks on workers’ rights and public employees, his plans to privatize public services, his threatened cuts to public schools and higher education, and his environmental policies.

Talking Union invites more contributions on the theme of defending public services and public employees against attack. Share your events, videos and photos.