Unions Are A Big Part Making The Economy Work For The 99 Percent

A Friday panel at Netroots Nation in Phoenix, “Unions as the Answer to the Defining Issue of our Time,” made the point that empowering unions is about more than just the workers having a path to the middle class; it is about strengthening the entire economy.

The panel was moderated by Seema Nanda, deputy chief of staff to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. On the panel were Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; Frank Piccioli, President of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2960 with the City of Phoenix and Arizona EMS Workers United; Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress, and Naomi Walker, who serves as an assistant to the president of AFSCME.

The panel’s description set the stage:

It’s no accident that corporate-backed politicians have been on the attack against unions. They know what we have known for a long time: joining a union is one of the best ways to un-rig the system and level the playing field for all workers. After decades of these attacks, wages are dropping, inequality is rising – and women, communities of color, and the millennial generation still face especially steep hurdles in today’s economy. The system is rigged. This panel will explore what the labor movement is doing to reverse these trends and what challenges lie ahead. There’s no doubt that strong unions are a key part of the solution to income inequality, the only question is how workers will organize a winning movement in the face of corporate-funded attacks.

Neera Tanden described how all income gains in the economy have been going to the top. One third of the stagnation and decline in wages in men is due to the decline of unions – down to 11 percent of the total workforce and less than 7 percent of the private-sector workforce. This is a challenge for the economy writ large, a challenge for families, people struggling with stagnant wages and rising costs. Other countries have figured this out. Unionization rates of up to 40 percent in countries like Canada and Australia allow people to have wage gains. In hard times, not just workers bear all the risk.

Grijalva said that with the decline of unions comes a decline in income, wages, working conditions and the overall political landscape. We see rising income inequality, wage disparity, and a continuing widening of that disparity. The decline is not the result of attrition; it has been a deliberate, long-run effort by corporate America and in some instances government to strip away the ability of unions to organize. As they began to strip it away, power shifted to ownership, to corporate America. Now we see the effect.

The Progressive Caucus and allies in the labor movement have begun to draw symbolic but important lines around raising wages and the push for executive orders to stop wage theft and encourage collective bargaining.

But the central thing, these symbolic victories set a tone, then when workers get opportunity, gains are made. There is work in the federal area with executive orders, but passing legislation in Congress now that is pro-union is near to impossible.

Corporations should be rewarded for how they pay employees, keep jobs in the nation, don’t send profits overseas. We need a corporate responsibility agenda.

Naomi Walker said that we need unions in order to solve structural problems in our economy. The people who benefit from rigged systems, the corporations, are fighting unions because labor unions provide a counterbalance. That’s why they are trying so hard to eliminate unions and collective bargaining. The public sector has been able to maintain a decent level of representation, so that’s why they are going after public sector workers and unions.

Frank Piccioli represents Phoenix city employees. We need unions to protect the middle class, he said, so workers who sacrifice, work very head, can share gains. And these gains extend to their families.

When Piccioli was a kid, his father was a New York City firefighter. One day, his father was driving on a bridge when he saw a car on fire. He got out of his car and pulled two people out of the burning vehicle. When he went to get the third, the car exploded and he was injured. The city tried to deny him benefits because he was off duty and not wearing his protective gear. The only venue through which he could appeal that decision was through the union. Everyone who works hard deserves basic benefits, to know they are protected.

Naomi Walker said that unions provided a path to the middle class for women and people of color. The current right-wing trashing of government is code for women and people of color filling government jobs and clients for services government workers provide. People of color workers and women lost wages at higher rates after recession as result of these right-wing attacks.

Tanden pointed out that the clearest thing we can do for the economy is strengthen unions, give people power to bargain for higher wages. Unions are the way in which workers have been able to address the things that are driving wages down.

Our economy is 70 percent consumption. When unions are weakened, wages lag, consumption drags, so growth drags. Unions do not kill jobs; they create jobs and drive the economy.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Oak Flat: The Latest Land Grab From Native Americans

A “sneak law” attachment to a “must-pass” bill gives sacred Native American land to a foreign mining company. How did this happen?

Do you remember that “Citibank budget,” where a budget bill to avert an imminent government shutdown suddenly had in it a Citibank-written provision deregulating certain risky financial trades? If Congress voted against the budget, the government would shut down, so Citibank got its way? This is how “sneak laws” get through. Usually We the People don’t get a chance to learn about them in time to do something about it, and this was one example.

Another example of this happened in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. On page 1,103 of the 1,648-page bill is a provision giving more than 2400 acres of land in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest to Resolution Copper, which is part of London-based Rio Tinto and Melbourn-based BHP Billiton, giant mining companies. This was done by Arizona Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake and Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar.

The area is known as Oak Flat and is land that is sacred to the San Carlos Apache Tribe and Yavapai-Apache Nation. They compare it to the sacredness of Mt. Sinai in other religions. In 1886, the federal government removed the tribes and expropriated the land.

Sacred Land Given To A Foreign Corporation In A Sneak Law

America of course has a long and disgraceful history of stealing land from Native Americans – to say the least. But this is the first time that sacred Native American land has been stolen to give to a foreign corporation.

However, this land transfer is unusual even before you consider that the beneficiary is a foreign corporation. This land has been given special protection since at least 1955. Even President Richard Nixon protected it, which is saying something. Five times Arizona Republicans have tried and failed to give this land to this company. Only by sneaking it into this must-pass bill did they succeed.

A New York Times op-ed calls the Oak Flat Apache land grab “an impressive new low in congressional corruption” and points out that:

It belongs to the public, under the multiple-use mandate of the Forest Service, and has had special protections since 1955, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower decreed the area closed to mining — which, like cattle grazing, is otherwise common in national forests — because of its cultural and natural value. President Richard M. Nixon’s Interior Department in 1971 renewed this ban.

Yes, this is “an impressive new low in congressional corruption.”

This Doesn’t Just Grab The Sacred Land, It Destroys It

The method of mining “block cave mining” that is proposed is going to, by design, completely devastate the land. In Truthout’s “The Apache Way: The March to Oak Flat,” Roger Hill explains:

This process involves a series of deep underground detonations, essentially collapsing the mountainous terrain in on itself and extracting the ore and materials from a series of tunnels dug in the earth. This process creates more toxic material than traditional surface mining and produces greater contaminants affecting the groundwater with acid runoff.

Of course neighboring towns are dependent on that groundwater.

This method will leave behind a “7,000-acre, 500-foot-high waste dump of toxic tailings.” Later the cave will collapse, leaving behind destruction the size of five Empire State Buildings.

Fighting Back

Leading the fight to stop this are Native Americans themselves. The Apaches are not asking that the land be returned to them, only that it not be mined.

Apaches have begun an occupation of the disputed land. (After a special ceremony in August that is only open to Apaches, you can come and help occupy Oak Flat. Do not bring weapons; Apaches are not deadbeat Tea Party ranchers.)

In June Apaches marched on Washington. Lee Allen at Indian Country News has the story, “Oak Flat Protesters Plan March on Washington to Protest Apache Land Grab“:

“Today we are announcing the next step in our battle for repeal, and that’s a march on Washington,” Nosie said. “Alliances with other tribes, universities, religious groups and outraged citizens continue to grow in groundswell proportion—our support numbers have just gone crazy. The month of June will be a month of protest in the streets and in congressional offices. There comes a time when we need to say enough is enough, and that time has come. We need to hold those in Washington responsible, so the fight’s on, and from this point going forward, wherever it takes us, that’s where we will be.”

… Attendees at the gathering represented a diverse mix of tribal and non-Native supporters. Daniel Jose is an Apache from Peridot who has camped at Oak Flat since the first spiritual gathering in February. “We’re going to fight for our land, and I’ll stay here forever if I have to,” he said.

A cross-country caravan called Apache Stronghold is gathering attention to the effort. Joesph Huff-Hannon writes about this at Rolling Stone, in “Meet the Apache Activists Opening for Neil Young“:

Starting at Red Rocks earlier this month, and in venues across the country since, the Apache have been linking up with Young on the road, sharing their stories and singing prayer songs to thousands of audience members.

The activists are trying to preserve a stretch of canyon land in Tonto National Forest called Oak Flat, an hour east of Phoenix, where young Apache women like Pike have celebrated coming-of-age ceremonies for generations. “I became a woman at Oak Flat, I had my sunrise dance there, so it’s like my heart is there,” she says.

They are getting some news. The Guardian, “Apache tribe brings battle for Oak Flat to New York’s Times Square“:

Members of the Apache tribe stood chanting in a circle with drums and posters in the center of New York’s Times Square on Friday, to protest against a bill that will hand over land they hold sacred to a foreign mining corporation.

Times Square was the latest stop for activists from the Apache tribe who are travelling across the United States to battle for Oak Flat and to draw attention to a bill introduced by Arizona representative Raúl M Grijalva to repeal the decision to hand the land over to Resolution Copper.

They are also beginning to get some results. Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva has introduced a bill to fight this. From Indian Country Today, “Grijalva’s Save Oak Flat Bill Boosted by Historic Preservation Listing“:

Legislation to save an Apache sacred site from destruction by an international mining company got a helping hand recently when the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the land on its 2015 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Almost all of the places that make it onto the list are preserved.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva(D-AZ) introduced the bipartisan Save Oak Flat Act,H.R. 2811, on June 17. Grijalva’s bill would repeal a section of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (NDAA) that authorizes approximately 2,422 acres of land known as Oak Flat in the Tonto National Forest in Southeastern Arizona to be transferred to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of the giant international mining company Rio Tinto.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently included the land on its 2015 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

What You Can Do

● Write and call your representative in Congress in support of Grijalva’s bill, H.R. 2811.

● Contact people running for office and let them know about this issue. (So far only Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has spoken out against this.)

● Visit the Apache Stronghold website for a number of things you can do. Send them money for gas and food.

● Visit and like Facebook pages: “Apache Stronghold,”
Save Oak Flat By Contacting Your Legislators” and
Indigenous Environmental Network.”

● Sign the CREDO Action petition, Don’t mine sacred Native American land in Arizona.

● Sign the MoveOn petition, Congress: Don’t give sacred Apache land to a mining company

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Next Big One: Repatriation Tax Holiday Giveaway To Corporations

Here comes the next big one. Now that the corporations have fast-track trade authority in the bag, they are trying to push a huge, huge tax giveaway through Congress. We have to get the word out so this doesn’t just sneak through. We can’t let them continue to rig the system against us like this.

Up To $770 Billion Is Owed On $2.2 Trillion In Corporate Profits Stashed In Tax Havens

You might have heard about all that money the giant corporations have been stashing in tax havens so they can dodge paying their taxes. You might not have heard how much they owe us. Corporations have somewhere around $2.2 billion of “offshore” profits stashed in tax havens. They owe up to 35 percent in taxes on that money. That’s right; they owe up to $770 billion that We the People could have right now for our roads, schools, health care, scientific research, space exploration, to forgive student debt … we could have free college tuition, expand Social Security, high-speed rail across the country…. Instead, we’re told we can’t have these things because there are “budget deficits.”

And on top of that, at least another $50 billion per year of tax money is kept from us because of this scam.

Congress could just tell these corporations to pay up, and We the People would have up to $770 billion to use to make our lives better, and another $50 billion or more each year.

See if you can guess what Congress is getting ready to do instead?

Tax Holiday

Right now the giant, multinational corporations owe up to $770 billion in taxes on the $2.2 trillion they are holding outside the country in tax-haven mailbox subsidiaries. Right now. They have the cash in the bank (in tax-haven countries) and could write checks tomorrow if Congress told them to. Again, this is taxes they already owe but haven’t paid. Think of the things our country could do with that money.

But instead …

Congress is proposing to give these companies a tax holiday and let them off from paying the taxes they already owe on that money. There is all kinds of complicated language being used to mask what is happening, but it’s really simple: Some members of Congress are proposing letting them off from the taxes they already owe on “offshore” profits, and then letting them off from paying taxes on future profits made “outside the country” from now on.

For example, the Charles Schumer-Rob Portman bill in the Senate will tax this money (on which 35 percent is already owed), “at a rate significantly lower than the statutory corporate rate.” And then it will cut tax rates on future “offshore” profits forever.

Quick question: For years these companies have been moving jobs, production and profit centers out of the country to take advantage of this tax dodge. If they are rewarded for this with this huge tax cut, how many more companies will move jobs, production and profit centers out of the country from now on? Bonus question: Will there be any jobs, production or profit centers left inside the U.S. if Congress lets companies off the hook from taxes on profits made from moving jobs, production and profits centers out of the country?

Don’t Let this Sneak Past Us

The corporations and billionaires count on these things sneaking through under cover of complicated language, so we never find out what is happening to us. Later they tell us “we’re broke” and there is no way to “pay for” things like roads, schools, and other needs. They tell us we have “deficits” that could “bankrupt” us, so college tuition has to go up, we have to pay to use toll roads, they have to cut funding for schools, we can’t have high-speed rail, they can’t afford to do scientific research or space exploration or fight global warming or fix up national parks, and so on.

But what is really going on is the game is being rigged. Corporations get huge tax breaks and subsidies, a few billionaires and plutocrats get the cash, and We the People, the 99 percent, have to make up the difference.

We need to get the word out about this. This is the next big one they are trying to slip through before we know what is happening to us.

We have to fight this. We have to make noise. Even if we don’t win this, at least we will know what happened this time. Then, later, when they come back and say there’s no money to do things that make our lives better, we will be able to see through the smokescreen. We will know where the money went, and eventually enough people will understand how the game is being rigged – and stop it.

Congress should tell the giant, multinational corporations that it is time to pay the taxes the already owe on “offshore” profits. They should not reward companies for moving jobs, production and profit centers out of our country.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Virtually Speaking Tonite 6pm PT / 9pm ET Or Listen Later

Dave Johnson, Isaiah J. Poole. Jay Ackroyd moderates. Political satire from Culture of Truth. Listen live or later http://www.blogtalkradio.com/virtuallyspeaking/2015/07/13/isaiah-j-poole-dave-johnson-schumer-portman-rewarding-corp-tax-evasion

6pm Pacific / 9pm Eastern discussing the proposed “repatriation tax holiday” on what corporations owe on “offshore” profits held in tax havens. Also “reform” — a huge tax break to encourage off shore production and profits in the future.

Then, from the morning talk shows: Labor overtime rule, the Confederate battle flag, TPP, Debt crises in Greece and Puerto Rico, HUD announces fair-housing rule.

Commentary from Dave Johnson, Isaiah J. Poole. Jay Ackroyd moderates. Political satire from Culture of Truth.

Listen live or later http://www.blogtalkradio.com/virtuallyspeaking/2015/07/13/isaiah-j-poole-dave-johnson-schumer-portman-rewarding-corp-tax-evasion

Export-Import Bank Shut Down, China Gets The Business Instead

Republicans have shut down the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank as of midnight, July 1. They are touting it as a blow against “corporate welfare” and “crony capitalism.” But who are the real winners here?

It’s certainly not us workers.

Last year the bank helped finance almost $30 billion worth of U.S. exports — things made here, by workers employed here. Germany, Japan, China and many other countries have similar agencies. Now they will be picking up that business. Our trade deficit will increase. Jobs, wages and factories will move elsewhere.

Export Assistance

The United States does not have an economic/industrial policy that supports American manufacturing. Meanwhile, other countries support their industries. As a result, the U.S. has an enormous, humongous trade deficit, trading American assets for foreign-made commodities. We lose jobs, factories, companies, and entire industries to countries that understand the long-term benefits to their economies of national investment in key, strategic industries. On the other hand, a few people here get enormously wealthy from selling off our net worth in the short term. So, there’s that.

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Help Save Our Public Postal Service

The Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service is calling for support of two House resolutions that urge restoration of overnight mail service standards and a continuation of six-day delivery.

The alliance consists of more than 70 national organizations. The coalition is asking people to contact members of Congress in support of House Resolutions 54 and 12. H. Res. 54, from Reps. David McKinley (R-W.Va) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the U.S. Postal Service “should take all appropriate measures to restore service standards in effect as of July 1, 2012.” H. Res. 12, from Reps. Sam Graves (R-MO) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA), says that the USPS “should take all appropriate measures to ensure the continuation of its six-day mail delivery service.”

These resolutions are in response to a new attempt to manufacture a crisis in postal delivery.

How To Manufacture An Anti-Government “Crisis”

If you can manufacture the idea that there is a crisis going on, it makes it easier to get people to go along with the “solutions” you want to push. (See: Doctrine, Shock, disaster capitalism.)

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Enormous, Humongous May Trade Deficit Slows Economy

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that the May goods and services trade deficit was an enormous, humongous $40.9 billion, up a bit from an enormous, humongous $40.7 billion in April.

Our enormous, humongous trade deficit is a measure of how many jobs, factories, companies and industries we are losing to our pro-Wall Street trade policies. A trade deficit drains our economy of wealth, jobs and future economic opportunity.

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Was Greece Lured Into “Strategic Deficits”?

The job of a lender is to evaluate risk and price a loan accordingly. If there is risk you charge a higher interest rate. That way you still make money on a broad portfolio of loans even when there are a few defaults.

That’s the job of a banker, supposedly. It’s what they are supposed to be good at. If they are bad at their job, give loans to deadbeats (or countries that can’t pay you back) you lose money, and probably shouldn’t in the business of being a lender.

The lender is supposed to evaluate the risk and say no if the borrower is irresponsible, not complain later about the borrower being irresponsible.

Unless their job is to get the borrower in over their head so you can get stuff. As in “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.” In that case you try to get governments to borrow, you even bribe the leaders of governments to borrow like crazy so you can later control whoever is then in charge. From “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man“:

We are an elite group of men and women who utilize international financial organizations to foment conditions that make other nations subservient to the corporatocracy running our biggest corporations, our government, and our banks. Like our counterparts in the Mafia, EHMs provide favors. These take the form of loans to develop infrastructure – electric generating plants, highways, ports, airports, or industrial parks.

… Despite the fact that the money is returned almost immediately to corporations that are members of the corporatocracy (the creditor), the recipient country is required to pay it all back, principal plus interest. If an EHM is completely successful, the loans are so large that the debtor is forced to default on its payments after a few years. When this happens, then like the Mafia we demand our pound of flesh.

Former president Ronald Reagan, for example, said he was trying to run up the borrowing in order to force the government to cut back on things it does to make our lives better. He cut taxes, increased military spending, a strategy called “strategic deficits.” (Google that.)

Later we had budget surpluses under Clinton. Then Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan complained that the government was paying off the debt too fast. Then “W” Bush cut taxes and doubled military spending and said it was “incredibly positive news” (Google that, too) that the government was going back into deficits because it would force spending cuts.

Strategic deficits. Done on purpose. Are Greece’s lenders bad at their job? Or are they good at a different job?

Atrios earlier:

“You lend money at a risk premium. Borrowers pay that risk premium for a reason. That reason is that they might stop being able to pay. Then you eat the loan.

… The banksters are supposed to be genius financial intermediaries, properly pricing risk and making loans accordingly. It seems that they aren’t very good at their jobs? I suppose it depends on whether that really is their job.”

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

In Tax Battles, “Competitiveness” Means Coercion

Watch out for this one. With fast track trade authority done, the big corporations are now pushing for massive tax giveaways. This is another exercise of raw corporate power by the few to take what they want from the many. The corporations use complexity to get people to tune out, and their schemes are masked by smooth words like “reform” and “competitiveness,” but it is all just another grab for (even more) money and power.

There are two areas where the corporations are coming at us. The first is a blatant grab to keep somewhere up to $700 billion in tax money they already owe on “offshore” profits. The second is a push to permanently cut corporate tax rates – even more.

Taxes Owed On Offshore Profits

Multinational corporations avoid paying U.S. taxes using a “deferral” loophole. This loophole lets them dodge taxes on profits made outside of the country until they bring the profits back into the country (called “repatriation”).

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Now We Build A Fair Trade Movement

Fast track trade authority passed last week. So many of us fought so hard but The Money won again – this time. What do we do now?

We take this awareness and energy into the fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). And then, win or lose, we build a fair trade movement that will eventually rewrite all of our trade agreements and policies so that they work for We the People instead of just a few people.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

On the one hand, Wall Street and the big corporations again pushed through a rigged process called “fast track” that keeps us and our Congress from “meddling” with corporate-written agreements setting down the “rules for trade in the 21st century.” And those rules are, of course, going to be very good for the plutocrats who write them and very bad for the rest of us. Fast track seriously greases the skids to get TPP and other trade deals through so it will be a very tough fight.

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