Labor’s Fight Is OUR Fight

Unions have been fighting the 1% vs 99% fight for more than 100 years. Now the rest of us are learning that this fight is also OUR fight.
The story of organized labor has been a story of working people banding together to confront concentrated wealth and power. Unions have been fighting to get decent wages, benefits, better working conditions, on-the-job safety and respect. Now, as the Reagan Revolution comes home to roost, taking apart the middle class, the rest of us are learning that this is our fight, too.
The story of America is a similar story to that of organized labor. The story of America is a story of We, the People banding together to fight the concentrated wealth and power of the British aristocracy. Our Declaration of Independence laid it out: we were fighting for a government that derives its powers from the consent of us, the people governed, not government by a wealthy aristocracy telling us what to do and making us work for their profit instead of for the betterment of all of us. It was the 99% vs the 1% then, and it is the 99% vs the 1% now.
We, the People
Democracy is when We, the People decide things together — collectively — for the common good of all of us. Our country originated from the idea of We, the People banding together to watch out for and protect each other, so we can all rise together for the common good, or “general welfare.” Collectively we make decisions, and the result of this collective action is decisions that work for all of us instead of just a few of us. This is the founding idea of our country.
Unions Protect The Interests Of Working People
The same is true for unions. Unions work to bring We-the-People democracy to the workplace. Like the old story about how it is harder to break a bundle of sticks than the same sticks one stick at a time, unions are organizations of working people, banding together so their collective power can confront the power of concentrated wealth. By banding together in solidarity, working people are able to say, “No, you can’t do that!,” and bargain for a better life for all of us.
Organized Labor Sets The Standard
The benefits that unions win don’t just go to the union members, they become the standard. When labor won the fight for an 8-hour day and 40-hour workweek with overtime pay, that became the standard. When labor fought for minimum wages, that became the standard, when labor fought for workplace safety, that became the standard. Labor’s fight is a fight to set the standard for the rest of us.
Labor stands up to the 1%, and uses their organized power (bundle of sticks) to win better pay, benefits and working conditions for the 99%.

“Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts.”
— Molly Ivins.

Eroded Rights
Working people banding together to bargain with management — “collective” bargaining — is a fundamental right in the United States, but this right has eroded along with the rest of our democracy. For many years, the mechanisms of government that were supposed to enforce these rights were “captured” and instead were working against the rights of working people. Bob Borosage explains, in, The Forgotten Leading Actor In The American Dream Story,

Globalization gave manufacturers a large club in negotiations—concessions or jobs get shipped abroad. And often the reality was concessions AND jobs got shipped abroad. Corporations perfected techniques, often against the law, to crush organizing drives, and stymie new contracts for the few that succeeded. The National Labor Relations Board, stacked with corporate lobbyists under Republican presidents, turned a blind eye to systematic violations of the law.
So now union workers are down to about 7 percent of the private workforce. Virtually the only growing unions are public employees— teachers, nurses, cops. Not surprisingly, conservative Republican governors, led by Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich, used the budget squeeze caused by the Great Recession to go after these unions, combining layoffs with efforts to eviscerate the right of public employees to organize and negotiate.

The Fight Is On

“Only a fool would try to deprive working men and working women of their right to join the union of their choice.”
— Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Dorian Warren, at Salon in America’s last hope: A strong labor movement, writes,

The fate of the labor movement is the fate of American democracy. Without a strong countervailing force like organized labor, corporations and wealthy elites advancing their own interests are able to exert undue influence over the political system, as we’ve seen in every major policy debate of recent years.
Yet the American labor movement is in crisis and is the weakest it’s been in 100 years. That truism has been a progressive mantra since the Clinton administration. However, union density has continued to decline from roughly 16 percent in 1995 to 11.8 percent of all workers and just 6.9 percent of workers in the private sector. Unionized workers in the public sector now make up the majority of the labor movement for the first time in history, which is precisely why — a la Wisconsin and 14 other states — they have been targeted by the right for all out destruction.
… Contrary to the intent of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, which made it national policy to encourage and promote collective bargaining, the NLRA now provides incentives for employers to break the law routinely and ignore any compulsion to negotiate collective agreements. When there is little outrage for the daily violations of workers’ liberty (employers fire workers illegally in 1 in 3 union campaigns for attempting to exercise freedom of association), our democracy is in peril.

Restore The Middle Class
Unions brought us a middle class, and now that the power of organized labor has eroded we find ourselves in a fight to keep the middle class. Borosage again,

We emerged from World War II with unions headed towards representing about 30% of the workforce. Fierce struggles with companies were needed to ensure that workers got a fair share of the rewards of their work. Unions were strong enough that non-union employers had to compete for good workers by offering comparable wages. Unions enforced the 40-hour week, overtime pay, paid vacations, health care and pensions, and family wages. Strong unions limited excesses in corporate boardrooms, a countervailing power beyond the letter of the contract. As profits and productivity rose, wages rose as well.
When unions were weakened and reduced, all that changed. Productivity and profits continued to rise, but wages did not. The ratio of CEO pay to the average worker pay went from 40 to 1 to more than 350 to 1. CEOs were given multimillion-dollar pay incentives to cook their books and merge and purge their companies. Unions were not strong enough to police the excess. America let multinationals define its trade and manufacturing strategy, hemorrhaging good jobs to mercantilist nations like China.
The result was the wealthiest few captured literally all the rewards of growth. And 90% of America struggled to stay afloat with stagnant wages, rising prices and growing debt.

Support Bargaining Rights For Labor
We all need to understand that labor’s fight is our fight. Now that labor is under attack across the country, we need to understand that we are also under attack. As labor loses rights and power, all of our pay and benefits fall back. We need to support the rights of working people to organize into unions and bargain collectively, to fight our fight, the 99% vs the 1%. This battle right now is the whole ball game.

“To a right-winger, unions are awful. Why do right-wingers hate unions? Because collective bargaining is the power that a worker has against the corporation. Right-wingers hate that.”
— Janeane Garofalo

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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My Virtually Speaking Hour Tonite 9 EST / 6 PST

I’m doing an hour a month of Virtually Speaking, bringing in interesting guests to talk about various subjects. Click here for the page for this show and to listen live at 9 est / 6 pst.
Tonite’s Show:
Tuesday, Feb 28 | 9 pm eastern | 6 pm pacific |Virtually Speaking Tuesdays | Dave Johnson talks with Natasha Chart, online campaign manager at SEIU. They’ll talk about labor and unions, driving organizing through technology, blogging and the attacks on women’s rights. Plus The Z Files. Follow @dcjohnson @NatashaChart Listen live and later on BTR
Last month: Barry Kendall. Click to listen.

We’re A Country. Deal With It.

Again and again (and again and again) we hear — and learn the hard way — that our “keep government out of it” approach to economic and manufacturing policy is hurting us. The countries that see themselves as countries and therefore have national strategies — where the ecosystem of an industry and/or sector is coordinated and nurtured by government strategies — are doing much better than the countries where leaders think “government interference” is a problem. We send our companies out to compete against organized national systems, and the result is we lose our jobs, factories, infustrues and economy. And maybe one day our country, too.
We’re A Country. Deal With It.
Here’s the important thing to understand, even if you think the idea of “countries” is out of date, and don’t think of the United States as a country is important anymore: Others see themselves as countries and they organize their countries to win as countries. And you don’t live in those countries. They see us – this geographic region we live in — as a country, even if we do not, and they plan their efforts accordingly. They attack us as a country and you happen to live in the geographic region called a country that they are attacking. So as they seize the jobs and factories and industries from our country all of us who happen to live within the geographic borders that we refuse to call a country lose out economically, whether we believe we are part of this country or not. This means we have to respond as a country regardless of whether our ideology says we shouldn’t. We are under economic attack as a country, so national government still matters as the only force capable of organizing a national response.
This Time, Brookings Is Saying It
This time, a Brookings study looks at manufacturing, and concludes that it is special to an economy, creating more jobs than other endeavors. Making things is what brings the income and generates the innovation that supports the service sector. “Manufacturing is the major source of commercial innovation and is essential for innovation in the service sector.”
Reuters: Lack of national policy hobbles U.S. manufacturing: study

Lack of a public policy on manufacturing is the main obstacle to a vibrant factory sector in the United States, according to a study which also dismissed the notion that high wages are frustrating growth.
Between June 1979 and December 2009, the country lost 41 percent of its manufacturing jobs, the study said. The loss of factory jobs worsened further, with manufacturing’s total share of employment falling to 8.9 percent in December 2009 from 13.2 percent in 2000.
“Countries in continental Europe as well as Canada are performing much better. They shed much fewer jobs, particularly over the last decade and many have higher wages,” said Wial, who co-authored the study, told Reuters.
“They have policies and strategies for trying to retain manufacturing jobs and higher wages, and we really don’t.”

From Brookings: Why Does Manufacturing Matter? Which Manufacturing Matters?

American manufacturing will not realize its potential automatically. While U.S. manufacturing performs well compared to the rest of the U.S. economy, it performs poorly compared to manufacturing in other high-wage countries. American manufacturing needs strengthening in four key areas:

  • Research and development
  • Lifelong training of workers at all levels
  • Improved access to finance
  • An increased role for workers and communities in creating and sharing in the gains from innovative manufacturing

These problems can be solved with the help of public policies that do the following:

  • Promote high-road production
  • Include a mix of policies that operate at the level of the entire economy, individual industries, and individual manufacturers
  • Encourage workers, employers, unions, and government to share responsibility for improving the nation’s manufacturing base and to share in the gains from such improvements

The Brookings research warns, “The nation need not and should not passively accept the decline or stagnation of manufacturing jobs, wages, or production. American manufacturing matters because it makes crucial contributions to four important national goals.”

  • Manufacturing provides high-wage jobs, especially for workers who would otherwise earn the lowest wages.
  • Manufacturing is the major source of commercial innovation and is essential for innovation in the service sector.
  • Manufacturing can make a major contribution to reducing the nation’s trade deficit.
  • Manufacturing makes a disproportionately large contribution to environmental sustainability.

Click for the full Brookings paper: Why Does Manufacturing Matter? Which Manufacturing Matters? A Policy Framework
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Heist

Heist

Announcing Heist: Who Stole the American Dream, narrated by Thom Hartman and capturing a surprising array of people on camera.
Jay Ackroyd will interview the filmmakers – Frances Causey and Don Goldmacher – on March 1, 9pm, for Virtually Speaking. Listen live on the web.

Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?
A new, groundbreaking feature documentary about the roots of the American economic crisis, and the continuing assault on working and middle class people in the United States. “Heist” boldly reveals the crumbling structure of the U.S. economy – the result of four decades of deregulation, massive job outsourcing, and tax policies favoring mega-corporations and wealthy elites.
Through expert testimony, investigative filmmaking and key archival footage, “Heist” unfolds critical historical background, beginning with the dismantling of FDR’s New Deal, uncovering the ideological influence of the infamous Powell Memo and the Heritage Foundation’s Mandate for Leadership on government reform, and traces both Republican and Democratic allegiance to big business.
After detailing how the economy has been derailed, “Heist” offers a robust Take Action section with real world solutions and up-to-the-minute footage from the current Occupy Wall Street movement – an essential primer for everyday Americans to participate in the restoration of economic fairness and our democracy.
A movie with its pulse on the most urgent issues of our time, “Heist” aspires to spark national dialogue, champion solutions and encourage audiences to engage with one another to understand how we might create a fair, sustainable economy.

You Should Know About The “99% Spring”

Action Coming — Spread The Word!
This is a Big Deal, just look at end of this post for the list of organizations that are signed on to this so far – and more coming.
April 9-15, 2012, the 99% Spring: 100,000 Americans will train for non-violent direct action. Sign up. And spread it around.
This spring, the 99% Spring.
The following is in case you haven’t looked around lately: millions of jobs destroyed, wages cut, working people told “shut up and take or we’ll send your job to China, too,” homes foreclosed, crushing student loan debt, unions denied collective bargaining rights, budget cuts, crumbling schools with skyrocketing class sizes and teacher layoffs, and a huge rise in the number of children in poverty.
These things are a result of rampant greed—the deliberate manipulation of our democracy and our economy by a tiny minority in the 1%, by those who amass ever more wealth and power at our expense.
From the Christian Science Monitor, here is what happened to the workers in one company when the Romney/Bain machine “came to town”:

The new owner, American Pad & Paper, owned in turn by [Mitt Romney's] Bain Capital, told all 258 union workers they were fired, in a cost-cutting move. Security guards hustled them out of the building. They would be able to reapply for their jobs, at lesser wages and benefits, but not all would be rehired.

Watch the first teach-in on the economy, National Teach-In To Take Back The American Dream for background on how we got here, and ideas about what next. And spread it around.
99% Spring
Campaign for America’s Future and more than 30 major grassroots organizations in the “99% Spring” are coming together to help train 100,000 people across the country to participate in sustained non-violent, direct action to stand with the 99%, and reshape our country.
“From April 9-15 we will gather across America, 100,000 strong, in homes, places of worship, campuses and the streets to join together in the work of reclaiming our country. We will organize trainings to:

  • Tell the story of our economy: how we got here, who’s responsible, what a different future could look like, and what we can do about it
  • Learn the history of non-violent direct action, and
  • Get into action on our own campaigns to win change.”

The coalition is calling for a national convergence of training, education, and action between April 9 and 15 to: shape a collective vision of an economy that works for all Americans – not just the wealthiest 1%; learn about the history and application of non-violent direct action; and put what we learn into direct action to expose the injustices of the moment and demand change from those responsible.
You can read more about “99% Spring Movement” here: http://the99spring.com/
Read the letter from key movement leaders & organizations calling for a 99% Spring.
350.org, Alliance for a Just Society, American Federation of Teachers, The Campaign for America’s Future, Change to Win, Citizen Action of New York, Citizen Engagement Lab, Color of Change, Communications Workers of America, Engage, Fuse Washington, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Greenpeace, Institute for Policy Studies, Jobs With Justice, Leadership Center for the Common Good, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, MoveOn.org, Movement Strategy Center, National Day Laborers Organizing Network, National Education Association, National Guestworker Alliance, National People’s Action, New Bottom Line, National Domestic Workers Alliance, New Organizing Institute, The Other 98%, The Partnership for Working Families, PICO National Network, Progressive Democrats of America, Pushback Network, Rainforest Action Network, Rebuild the Dream, The Ruckus Society, Right to the City Alliance, Service Employees International Union, smartMeme Strategy & Training Project, UNITE-HERE, United Auto Workers, United Electrical Workers Union, United States Student Association, United Steel Workers, United Students Against Sweatshops, UNITY, Working Families Party.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Brilliant! AND Funny!

m4s0n501

This is brilliant: Satan Speaks to Santorum – and Has Some Words For Sarah Palin Too | OurFuture.org

You already talk about me like you know me. Have we met? You do look familiar, but I meet so many guys in your line of work – lobbying, that is. Oh, right, you’re a politician too. When it comes to politicians, let’s just say we’ve always got a quorum down here! Talk about your “smoke-filled rooms” …
Oh, wait. Maybe you haven’t figured out who I am. Please allow me to introduce myself – I’m a man of wealth and taste.

Politicians Increasingly Dancing With Billionaires Who Brung ‘Em

Our politicians are doing and saying increasingly incomprehensible things. The separation from regular people is unbelievable. But in politics you “dance with the one that brung ya,” and these things become comprehensible and believable when you look at who is bringing them to the dance.

The Supreme Court, in its conservative-movement-created wisdom, has ruled that billionaires and corporations — even subsidiaries of foreign corporations — can spend unlimited amounts in our elections. This has led to the super Pacs, where just a few billionaires and companies now dominate the elections and the things the candidates say and the policies they promote. And it is most of that money is used to run negative ads that run down candidates and destroy the public’s faith in government and democracy.
Serving The Billionaires Not The People
This new election-funding system has our candidates trolling for billionaire and corporate dollars instead of coming up with policies and positions that serve the people. Did you think Republicans were talking about billionaires as “job creators” because it would get them votes? No, it is because vain, wealthy, greedy billionaires like to be described that way, and those politicians are trying to get them to loosen their wallets. Even if they lose the election they are looking for rewards — lucrative jobs — later.
Even if they aren’t trolling for billionaire bucks, they still dare not offend. These super PACs are in the business of running nasty, negative ads, and lots of them. Politicians want them on their side and not on the other side. So they are much, much less likely to oppose policies that favor the billionaires and their big corporations.
Did you think the country needs an oil pipeline that runs from our northern border all the way across the country to Gulf Coast ports, to help Canadian oil companies sell to China? No, this is about politicians getting big checks from oil companies.
President Obama OK’d a super PAC. A week later he comes out with a proposal to cut corporate taxes from 35% to 25%. Coincidence? And Obama’s tax-reform plans pale in comparison to what billionaire-and-corporate-backed Republicans are proposing. Both parties are proposing rewriting the tax codes to favor the billionaires and their giant corporations.
When you hear about anything being done for the giant corporations, look at this chart to see who we are really talking about. Corporate wealth is also personal wealth. When you hear about corporations doing well, think about this chart:
wealth2
The top 1% also own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The top 10% own 90.3%.
Some recent stories:
Nat Journal: One-Fourth of All Super PAC Donations Last Month Came From Just Five People,

An analysis of January’s campaign-disclosure filings reveals that 25 percent of all the money raised for the presidential race that month came from just five donors.

WaPo: “Overall, 23 people have directed about $54 million to super PACs this cycle.”
Just 23 people… brung ‘em to the dance.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Must-Watch! Who benefits from a war with Iran?

Last night on The Young Turks: Who benefits from a war with Iran?

Cenk breaks down which people would benefit from war with Iran. U.S. military and intelligence officials are against the country getting involved in conflict, but evangelicals, neo-conservatives, oil speculators, and defense contractors all have a lot to gain. Cenk points to the $3 trillion spent on the Iraq war to help explain what. “Somebody made that 3 trillion dollars,” Cenk says. “It didn’t just come out of our pockets and go nowhere. It went into someone else’s pocket.”

You Can Still Watch The Teach-In On The Economy

National Teach-In To Take Back The American Dream
Here are the links to the full show and also the individual segments to post or share:

Full Show 2/21/12: The “National Teach-in to Take Back the American Dream” Special

Part One – Teach in – Why & how we almost plunged into a Great Depression

Part Two – Teach in – The future of Americans w/conservatives controlling the economy?

Part Three – Teach in – How do we rebuild the American Dream?

Part Four – Teach in – How can we use activism to reclaim America?

We, The People Have To Say, “No You Can’t Do That”

In Will We Choose A Chinese Future, David Sirota asks the core question: “Do we accept an economic competition that asks us to emulate China?” THIS is the choice that the “job creators” are demanding that we make when they say we need to be more “business friendly.” THIS is what they are asking us to do to ourselves when they say that less government, less regulation, lower taxes, anti-union “right-to-work” laws, and the rest of the corporate-conservative litany is what will restore the economy and “create jobs.”
We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.”
It’s Not Low Wages, It’s Low Democracy
The reason so many factories have moved to China is not just price, it is because they do things a democracy cannot allow. Steve Jobs famously said, “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” because over there they make people live in dormatories at the factory and can roust them at midnight and make them work 12-14 hour days, seven days a week, using toxic chemicals. Richard Eslow lays it out in, Hell Is Cheaper: China, Apple, And The Economics Of Horror,

Companies like Apple don’t outsource to China because the workforce is better-educated or more highly motivated. They don’t even outsource just because the labor is cheaper there. They outsource because employers who defraud their workers can make products more cheaply, and those who ignore their safety can produce them more quickly. [...] It’s possible that Steve Jobs and other outsourcing executives really think that “those jobs aren’t coming back” because they expect it will always be impossible to underbid the Chinese – because they don’t believe Chinese workers will ever be protected by law.
That’s the inexorable logic of the unrestrained and unregulated market. If things don’t change, there will be no stopping the outflow of employment from the safe and the stable to the cheated, the endangered, and the abused. Bad ethics drives out good ethics.

Jobs is saying that those jobs and companies and factories are not coming back because over there the workers can be forced to do those things, because they don’t have a say. They don’t have We, the People democracy like we do, so they can’t do anything about it. And our trade agreements allow our companies to close our factories here and force our workers to compete with that.
We can’t ever be “business-friendly” ENOUGH. We have to do something else. We have to understand that We, the People — the 99% — are in a real fight here to keep our democracy, or we will lose what is left of it.
We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.” We have to say it to the companies that move jobs to China, where people have no say and are exploited. And we have to say that goods made by people with no say cannot be brought into our country without a strong tariff. We should use the funds brought in by that tariff to subsidize goods made here so they can compete in world markets. Otherwise we are making democracy into a competitive disadvantage. And if countries like China don’t like it, they can give their people a say, pay them decent wages, and protect their environment. That would be a race to the top instead of the current race to the bottom.
The Climate Change Denial Industry
Oil and coal companies are funding a “denial industry” to keep us from doing what needs to be done to rescue the planet’s climate. They make billions upon billions from pumping carbon into the air, and block efforts to cut back their polluting. Modeled after the tobacco denial industry and its “doubt is our product” strategy, they fight efforts to move us to green energy sources. They even direct their propaganda to attack electric cars and high-speed rail.
We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.”
The Too-Big Banks
It’s the same story with the biggest banks. They pushed debt on us. They used their power to gut regulations and then took huge risks that crashed the economy. They demanded taxpayer money to rescue them without even cutting back the huge salaries and bonuses. And then they funded propaganda that blamed us, the poor, the government, public employees, unions — anyone but themselves. And they used their vast power and wealth to block investigations and accountability, forcing “settlements” that make their shareholders and their employees and their customers pay.
We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.”
Other Examples
There are many, many other examples of wealthy, powerful interests – “the 1%” – using their wealth and power to make us do things that benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us. And as this continues life for “the 99%” gets harder and bleaker and we fall further and further behind.
In all of these example We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.”
That’s What Government Is
Government is We, the People banding together to watch out for and take care of each other. Government is We, the People saying to the wealthy and powerful, “No, you can’t do that.”
When the1%ers demand “less government” they are using their power and propaganda to force us into a position where we are less able to say to them, “No, you can’t do that.”
We, the People have to say, “No, you can’t do that.” Until we do, they will do that, and that, and that.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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