Sanders Campaign Can Help Revitalize the US Labor Movement

This year the left must use the ideological opening created by the most anti-corporate political campaign in recent history to build political capacity that lasts well beyond this electoral cycle.
Joseph M. Schwartz
TeleSUR
September 7, 2015 Posted on Labor Day

The Democratic primary candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for president of the United States provides progressive labor activists with a unique opportunity to enhance the independent political capacity of a besieged labor movement. Reflecting his political roots in the American socialist movement, Sanders is the most consistently pro-labor member of the United States Congress. Just this Friday he walked the picket line in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where workers are protesting the anti-union practices of the new owners of Penford Products, a potato starch manufacturer.

Backing a radical pro-labor candidate like Bernie Sanders in a Democratic primary would enable the labor movement to express its disgruntlement with the pro-corporate national Democratic Party.

This Labor Day tens of thousands of labor activists and their allies will participate in labor marches and picnics across the country in favor of Sanders’ candidacy. But except for endorsements from several progressive local trade unions, the South Carolina Central Labor Council, and the militant 200,000 member National Nurses Union, most established labor leaders have been silent about the Sanders candidacy or have endorsed his establishment opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This despite Clinton’s roots in the neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party which is financially backed by Wall Street and has long fought to diminish labor’s influence in the Democratic coalition.

The Sanders effort is the most explicit pro-working class major campaign for president since Jessie Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition 1988 presidential run. His campaign insists that working people must fight back against the unceasing class war waged by corporate elites over the past 40 years. (Sanders is so focused on class injustice that he had to be pushed by #Black Lives Matter activists to explicitly address racial justice issues, such as mass incarceration and police brutality. He has now done so in a recent major addition to his campaign platform.)

Sanders’ platform differentiates him clearly from the centrist, pro-corporate candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Sanders supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; he opposes “free trade” agreements that empower corporations and weaken labor rights and state regulation of corporate behavior; and he supports a “Medicare for All” health care system that would abolish the private health insurance sector. In contrast, Hillary Clinton has refused to unambiguously embrace any of these positions. Continue reading

Bringing Labor Back:

Labor-management partnerships will not revive the union movement.

By Chris Maisano. Reposted from Jacobin Magazine.

[ed.note- we encourage responses to this piece and the prior post, First Stop the Self Flagellation]

Workers occupy a factory in the 1937 Flint Sit Down Strike. Library of Congeress

Workers occupy a factory in the 1937 Flint Sit Down Strike. Library of Congress

As late as 2008, it was not unreasonable to think that the stars were aligning for a long-awaited revitalization of the US labor movement. The financial crisis focused popular anger on the Wall Street financiers whose speculative activities brought the global economy to the brink of collapse. The election of Barack Obama and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress raised labor’s hopes for the passage of an economic recovery program and long-sought labor law reforms.

And it seemed as if workers themselves were finally willing to take action against the decades-long trend of increasing corporate power and inequality. The occupation of the Republic Windows and Doors plant in Chicago by a militant United Electrical Workers local — an action that drew approving notice from the president-elect and much of the public — electrified labor’s ranks and seemed to echo President Franklin Roosevelt’s support for unionization and collective bargaining during the New Deal.

This appeared to be the most favorable set of circumstances for the US labor movement in decades, and the first significant hope for revitalization since the successful Teamsters strike against UPS in 1997.

It didn’t happen. Labor law reform was sidelined in favor of health care reform, and the Republicans rolled up big electoral wins at all levels in 2010 and 2014. Despite widespread popular anger at the multi-trillion-dollar bank bailouts, the financial sector has come out of the crisis stronger, and corporate profits are at record levels. Economic inequality has continued its upward path.

Fast food and retail workers have shown a new willingness to protest and engage in collective action, and their efforts have spurred minimum-wage increases in a number of states and cities. Still, private-sector unionization continues to move toward total collapse. And in the public sector, the labor movement’s last stronghold, state-level attacks on collective-bargaining rights and anti-union cases in the judicial system have set the stage for a decisive offensive against organized working-class power.

The writing is on the wall: unions as we have known them since the 1930s are in their terminal stage, and likely have only a short time left as a social institution of any major political significance. The private sector is essentially union-free, and public-sector unions don’t have the capacity to defend themselves against legislative and judicial assaults, even in states that are supposedly union strongholds (see Wisconsin and Michigan). Continue reading

Growing Trade Deficit with China Costs 3.2 Million U.S. Jobs

English: USA deficit, China surplus, 2000-2014...

English: USA deficit, China surplus, 2000-2014, World Economic Outlook, IMF (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

December , 2014

Growth in the U.S. goods trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013 eliminated or displaced 3.2 million U.S. jobs, according to China Trade, Outsourcing and Jobs, a new study from EPI Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Research Robert E. Scott and research assistant Will Kimball. Trade with China has caused job loss in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including all but one congressional district. About two-thirds of jobs lost, or 2.4 million, were in manufacturing.

“Growing trade deficits with China have hurt American workers and decimated U.S. manufacturing,” said Scott. “If policymakers are serious about supporting manufacturing jobs, we must work to put an end to China’s unfair trade policies.”

Continue reading

10 Ways President Obama Can Take Executive Action on Immigration to Protect Workers Rights

10 Ways President Obama Can Take Executive Action on Immigration to Protect Workers’ Rights Now    An Important statement from the AFL-CIO

President Barack Obama should advance the rights of workers by taking executive action on immigration. Emilio said: “I’m here because it is important that while the president considers taking administrative action to protect many of our families from being deported, he also has to consider that we are all workers and will remain as easy prey of exploitative companies if we do not count with any relief.”

Here are 10 ways Obama can take executive action right now to provide relief to workers:

http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Political-Action-Legislation/10-Ways-President-Obama-Can-Take-Executive-Action-on-Immigration-to-Protect-Workers-Rights-Now

Sign the AFL-CIO’s petition calling on President Obama to take executive action now.

Its a bad deal !

Duane Campbellby Duane Campbell

The Congressional  negotiators have announced a deal for the budget- a bad deal.   The proposal includes not extending the unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed.  This is an outrage. Corporate agriculture gets bailed out, the banks get bailed out, but the unemployed get pushed aside.

The crisis was caused by finance capital.  The unemployed  should not have to pay for their crisis.

From The Coalition on Human Needs.     Important issues.
Some are saying that since the unemployment rate went down in November, we don’t need any more federal unemployment insurance for those out of work more than six months.
But wait:  long-term unemployment ROSE last month.  In November, 37.3% of the jobless had been out of work for six months or more, up from 36.9% in September.  The proportion of long-term unemployed is double the rate in 2007 (before the recession hit).  (Source:  Economic Policy Institute.)
Congress has never let long-term UI benefits expire unless the long-term jobless were no more than 1.3 percent of the labor force.  Now, they are double that – 2.6 percent. Continue reading

AFL-CIO asks you to oppose more financial deregulation

AFL-CIO portrait of .

AFL-CIO portrait of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you see President Trumka’s message from this weekend warning about the so-called JOBS Act? We just learned that a Senate vote on this cynically-named deregulation bill has been scheduled for Tuesday. Please take action now:

http://act.aflcio.org/c/18/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=3975

The so-called “JOBS” Act would weaken the ability of the Securities and Exchange Commission to regulate our capital markets. It would let companies sell stock to the public without providing three years of audited financial statements, without having adequate internal controls and without complying with key corporate governance reforms in the recently passed Dodd-Frank Act.

The legislation would also undo many parts of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley law, which was passed in response to the Enron and WorldCom scandals.

Working people must smack down attempts by corporations and greedy CEOs to lobby for even small pieces of deregulation. The “JOBS” Act is a huge deregulation bill that’s being rushed through Congress with little public debate.

Urge your senators to vote AGAINST the cynically named “JOBS Act” bill and FOR the “INVEST in America Act,” which will amend the JOBS Act to make it less harmful to workers and consumers:

http://act.aflcio.org/c/18/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=3975

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Support unemployed workers

unemployment

Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

From Wall Street to Main Street to Capitol Hill, we’re taking action for America’s jobless workers this Thursday.  Find an event near you and RSVP to attend a National Day of Mobilization for the Jobless and Jobs action: [ http://local.americawantstowork.org ].

If Congress fails to act by Dec. 31, nearly 2 million job hunters will lose their emergency unemployment aid in January alone. And without action in 2012, that number will rise to 6 million.

Lawmakers need to be reminded that these aren’t statistics–they’re real people, like Mickey from Battle Creek, Mich. He told us his story: “I have worked since I was 15 years old. I’ve been laid off before but never have I had this much trouble finding employment….I have always given my best to my job and have gone the extra mile.…I am BEGGING you to extend unemployment benefits and the payroll tax and act on it soon.”

And Elizabeth from Kamuela, Hawaii, has struggled, in spite of her advanced degree: “Even with credentials as an advanced practice nurse, I went 2 and a half years without full employment. I lost my house, had a bankruptcy and would have starved had it not been for unemployment benefits.”

Stories like these illustrate why we all need to do what it takes to make sure the voices of America’s jobless workers are heard loud and clear. So Thursday, we’ll bring more than 2,000 unemployed workers and clergy to Capitol Hill. As long-term jobless workers and clergy meet with Congress, we’ll be backing them up at local congressional offices and public spaces across America.

Join the fight for emergency unemployment Thursday. Find out where and RSVP to attend now: [ http://local.americawantstowork.org ].

America has never experienced the record stretch of high unemployment and long-term joblessness that plagues our economy today–not since the data were first collected in 1948. And Congress has never cut back on federally funded unemployment insurance when unemployment was anywhere near this high for this long. (1)

It’s time to demand obstructionists in Congress put a stop to the partisan bickering and reauthorize extended unemployment insurance aid–without delays or strings attached.

Tell Congress that inaction is not an option: find an event near you: [ http://local.americawantstowork.org ].

Thanks for all the work you do.

In Solidarity,

Manny Herrmann
Online Mobilization Coordinator, AFL-CIO

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The Obama Jobs speech

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 31:  AFL-CIO Secretary-Tre...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

The President took an important and necessary step tonight: he started a serious national conversation about how to solve our jobs crisis.  He showed working people that he is willing to go to the mat to create new jobs on a substantial scale.  Tonight’s speech should energize the nation to come together, work hard and get serious about jobs.

As the President explained, we can no longer delay putting Americans back to work and rebuilding our nation’s schools, roads, bridges, transit, ports, rail, communications and energy systems.  And we need to help state and local governments avoid layoffs that are dragging down the economy—rejecting the pernicious myth that the only way to address Wall Street’s crisis is to punish firefighters, teachers and others who perform critical public services.

We call on Congress to act and look forward to working with the President and Congress on all elements of this proposal. Continue reading

Why I oppose the U.S. – Columbia Free Trade Agreement

By Duane Campbell

Duane Campbell

The production of unemployment, instability, and poverty around the world is produced by  the economic policy known as neo-liberalism.  Neo liberalism is the current stage of capitalism. Trade agreements, like NAFTA ( North American Free Trade Agreement)  and the proposed trade agreements with Columbia and an important part of neo-liberalism and  actually increased poverty for many.

So called “Free Trade” agreements, like those presently proposed for Columbia, Panama, and South Korea produce economic winners as well as losers.  The winners are the transnational corporations.  The losers are the workers on both sides of the border.

Free trade is the elimination and/or lowering of taxes and other trade regulations between countries with the purpose of increasing exports .   The Administrations argues   that the FTA will create jobs and economic stability for Colombians, yet experience with prior free trade treaties, such as NAFTA,  has shown that free-market agreements lead to more poverty for the majority and increased wealth for a few multinational corporations. Continue reading

The Audacity of Free Trade

Vendedora de frutas Cartagena, Colombia

Image via WikipediaCongress could vote any day now to strike a new blow against already-battered U.S. workers and the unemployed.

by Laura Carlsen.  The Americas Program

Congress could vote any day now to strike a new blow against already-battered U.S. workers and the unemployed.

Committees in the House and Senate recently marked up the Colombia, Panama, and South Korea Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). The Obama administration is urging passage of all three relics of the Bush administration before the summer recess.

The full-court press on the FTAs represents a reversal for a president elected on a trade reform platform. During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama proclaimed his opposition to the NAFTA-style FTAs and boasted of his stance against the devastating North American and Central American agreements. As candidate Obama, he carefully distanced himself from the open-market, pro-corporate policies of his predecessor, calling for significant changes to the NAFTA model, including enforceable labor and environmental standards, and consumer protections.

The Global Crisis

In the three years since Obama wooed voters with talk of bold changes in trade policy, the need for reforms has reached crisis proportions. The global economic crisis left the United States with skyrocketing un- and under-employment rates. The government paid billions of dollars in bailout money to the corporations who caused the crisis. These corporations then turned around to post record profits and hand out astronomical executive pay bonuses. The evidence that FTA-fueled outsourcing benefits those corporations while putting Americans out of work has piled up, and polls show that a majority of U.S. citizens oppose NAFTA-style FTAs. Continue reading