Adjourn And Appoint! We Can’t Wait – For Recess Appointments

The Republicans are obstructing the government from operating. Judges, appointees, NLRB members, etc. are blocked with the purpose of keeping government from doing its job. This is taking a terrible toll on We, the People. The President has the power to do something about it, and it is time for him to use that power.
The NLRB Example
According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB),

“Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.”

The law: The NLRB exists to protect employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining and to certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.
But at the end of December the NLRB will again not have enough members for a quorum, and will be unable to make decisions. This is on purpose. Republicans have been blocking any appointments to NLRB in order to make this happen and prevent the Board from functioning. This will cause harm to the general the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.
A Look At One Case
Here is the kind of thing that’s going on because of this obstruction that is keeping the government from functioning. An example of the problems with the NLRB is the large backlog of cases, such as this one case that started in 2003. See this 2008 Variety story on the 2003 labor violation, NLRB rules against CNN, for background,

In a frequently scathing decision, a judge has ruled that CNN acted illegally and discriminatorily in terminating [in 2003] a subcontracting relationship with a firm that provided technical services in the cabler’s New York and D.C. bureaus.
Arthur J. Amchan, an administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board, ordered reinstatement with back pay for 110 dismissed workers. Amchan said the root of the trouble had been CNN’s desire to avoid bargaining with a union.
CNN denied the charges and said it will appeal the ruling to the full NLRB.

How bad was CNN?

In his ruling, Amchan found that unit to be “a sham” used to limit the hiring of any TVS workers in order to avoid having to negotiate with the NABET-CWA. The cabler’s ultimate motive was “to achieve a nonunion technical work force in its Washington, D.C., and New York bureaus,” said the judge, adding that CNN’s “widespread and egregious” actions constituted a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

From Broadcast Union News, NLRB vs CNN/Team Video Update,

He [the judge] ordered the immediate reinstatement of the 110 workers who were not rehired through CNN’s scam hiring system, called for the restoration of the economic losses of all 250 workers and ordered CNN to recognize and bargain with NABET-CWA.

The judge declared that “CNN engaged in widespread and egregious misconduct, demonstrating a flagrant and general disregard” for workers’ rights.
So CNN appeals to the full NLRB, and Republicans make sure there isn’t a full NLRB. (The rules are if one party objects to the decision it is suspended until the full NLRB can hear it. The strategy is every employer objects, and the Republicans keep the NLRB from being able to hear cases and make rulings.)
Now it is 2011, closing in on 2012. 110 workers terminated in 2003 to block a union, a judge ordered them back, Republicans block the NLRB from operating, and like hundreds of other cases, this case sits in purgatory…
The Value Of Recess Appointments
The NLRB is again about to be prevented by obstruction from doing its job, operating to protect America’s employees and employers and to curtail certain private sector … practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy. The President has the power to keep the NLRB and other agencies operating, by making recess appointments to fill positions when Republicans are obstructing.
But President Obama has been reluctant to use his Presidential power to make recess appointments. In 2010, after waiting 14 months, President Obama finally, finally, finally, finally, finally made just a few recess appointements to get the government operating,

Here is what is going on. President Obama is way behind in nominating people to vacant posts and judgeships. On top of this the Republicans have used the filibuster to block many of the candidates that Obama has nominated. In the case of the Labor Board there were only two people left serving on the 5-member Board when 3 are required to make rulings, and some 600 cases have backed up.
… Such use of legitimate power to make the government operate as it should is also known as “governing.” Until today he has refused to use this power to get the government operating. Today he finally, finally, finally, finally put 15 people into positions where they can start getting their agencies operating.

Even that small gesture made a big difference to working Americans, which I wrote about in NLRB Success Shows Value Of Recess Appointments,

A government agency is blocked from functioning by obstructionist, party-over-country, Republican Senators. The President makes recess appointments to get government functioning again and the agency starts doing its job. The result: working people are protected. Today the NLRB issued modest new guidelines for union elections that will clear up many, many problems faced by employees.
… The Constitutional purpose of recess appointments is to keep government functioning. When vacancies are left unfilled it hurts all of us. But even though there are a large number of unfilled positions, many blocked by Senate Republicans, President Obama has made very few recess appointments. The result is a a public increasingly frustrated by the hobbled government.
President Bush made 171 recess appointments, Clinton 139. Bush used this power to appoint extremist ideologues, Clinton to get around Republican obstruction.
President Obama has been reluctant to govern make recess appointments because he does not want to upset the Republican opposition. He has made less than 40 such appointments so far.

The Constitutional Solution: Adjourn And Appoint
The NLRB, judges and other appointments are all being blocked by Republican filibusters. This is not politics, this is not bipartisanship, this is intentional obstruction to keep the government from operating. The Constitution foresaw this, and the President has a responsibility to apply the Constitution to do something about this. The Constitution gives the President the executive power. The President is supposed to do that job and use this power to get things done.
The Constitution is clear:
Article II Section 2: The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
Article II Section 3: …he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper;
If the House and Senate disagree on adjournment, the President can adjourn them. And when they are adjourned he can make recess appointments.
We can’t wait. We have an extraordinary situation here, where one of the parties, as a political strategy, is obstructing for the purpose of preventing the government from operating. It is the duty of the President to keep the government operating.
Mr. President, the next time the Congress recesses without recessing, adjourn them and appoint the necessary NLRB members, judges, etc to get this government back in operation for We, the People.

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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Your Chance To Take A Stand Against Corporate Greed

Do you think that corporate greed has gotten out of control? Here is your chance to take a stand against corporate greed in a way that can make a difference. There is a greedy corporation that right now is trying to take away its workers’ benefits and job security. Let’s all back up the workers and stop this, and show people how it’s done.
Verizon is a $100 billion-plus company, paying billions in dividends, paying some top executives as much as $50,000 a day, and now in the kind of corporate greed-grab we are so familiar with is asking its workers to take a big hit. Just because they can. Sound familiar? Want to do something about it?

Last week Verizon’s workers scored a big victory for the economy and the middle class. 45,000 Verizon workers went on strike against the company’s corporate greed and forced the giant company to back off. Now they are at the bargaining table not just for themselves but to set an example for all of us, for our wages and benefits. We can help them by showing our support, and showing up to back them up. This is about us as much as it is about them and you can help support them.

Continue reading

Verizon Strike: Picketing Can Be Done By Anyone

Do you want a path out of this recession? Then help the Verizon workers by joining a picket line at your local Verizon store. (Click to learn how.) Verizon has billions in profits. They pay their executives huge salaries. But they are asking their workers and even retirees to take cuts, so the workers are on strike. They just want what you want – a decent job with decent pay and maybe some benefits. So join them.

Path Out Of Recession
Larry Cohen, president of Communication Workers of America (CWA), said on a call today said, “If a company with profits like this, and paying their top executives more than $50,000 a day, can demand these kind of cuts from its workers, there literally will never be a path out of recession in this country.
Cohen also said,

“The collapse of the standard if living across the country, we need to convince people of the larger issues here. The economics lesson here … the human rights issues here are enormous. We are attempting to picket every Verizon Wireless store in the country and this can be done by anyone carrying our sign. …
Are people like us going to have any rights in this country, do we have any rights in this country, do we have anything to look forward to?”

Join Them
Last week I wrote, in Verizon’s Workers Strike Back At Corporate Greed — You Can Join Them!:

The reason you see so many cellphone stores and ads everywhere is because wireless is a very lucrative business. Wireless companies are pulling in billions and their executives are raking in the bucks. But they are also squeezing their workers, their customers and our government.

Right now Verizon is greedily trying to put the squeeze on its workers, cutting pensions, sick pay, health insurance, even disability for employees injured on the job. If this story sounds all too familiar, this part won’t: Their workers are fighting back with a strike! And you can join them!

Verizon’s demands include:
• Continued contracting out of work to low-wage contractors, which means more outsourcing of good jobs overseas.
• Eliminating disability benefits for workers injured while on the job.
• Elimination of all job security provisions.
• Eliminating paid sick days for new hires and limiting them to no more than five for any workers.
• Freezing pensions for current workers and eliminating them for future employees.
• Replacing the current high-quality health care plan with a high-deductible plan requiring up to $6,800 in additional costs.

The Is About You

This is about you because this is happening to everyone. These Verizon workers are putting everything on the line for you — trying to do something about it. They going on strike to try to get your wages and pension and health care back, or keep those things from being taken away from you. Don’t forget that when you hear the corporate propaganda from FOX News and the rest of the corporate media, telling you about “union thugs” and “union bosses.” This is about you and if you are anywhere near a Verizon worker picket line you should go join them.

What You Can Do

Click here to learn ways that you can support the strike.

Easy: Click to Tell Verizon: Stop Attacking the Middle Class. From the petition:

Over the last four years, Verizon has made $19 billion in profits while paying its top five executives $250 million in compensation and bonuses .
With middle-class families already struggling, it’s time for Verizon to share its success with the hardworking Americans who made it possible. This is not a time for corporate greed. It is time to do the right thing.
Verizon made dramatic concessionary demands to kick off bargaining and never moved. Now you are refusing to bargain with the CWA & the IBEW.

Socially: “Like” them on Facebook.
Techy: Download their iPhone app.
Read strike coverage.
Have Fun, Meet People, Join A Local Picket Line

Much more fun: Join them! Click here for a map of local picket lines that you can join. I especially like this one: Adopt Verizon Wireless a store to picket and leaflet.

You can find more info here including signing up to receive updates.

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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Verizon’s Workers Strike Back At Corporate Greed — You Can Join Them!

The reason you see so many cell phone stores and ads everywhere is because this is a very lucrative businesses. They are pulling in billions and their executives are raking in the bucks. But they are also squeezing their workers, their customers, and our government. Right now Verizon is greedily trying to put the squeeze on its workers, cutting pensions, sick pay, health insurance, even disability for employees injured on the job. If this story sounds all too familiar, this part won’t: Their workers are fighting back with a strike! And you can join them!

Consumed By Greed

Continue reading

Delta’s Greed Helps Shut Down The FAA

You probably don’t know that another act of hostage-taking by Republicans is underway. They have shut down the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to help Delta Airlines in its battle to keep its workers from voting in a union. This is costing the government $200 million a week, more than 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed, and as many as 87,000 construction workers and other contractors around the country are being laid off. The agency has been shut down for more than a week and so far the Republicans have refused to let it open before Congress leaves town for the summer. All this apparently so one company can keep employees who want a union from winning an election.
The FAA is the agency that regulates and overseas civil aviation. That is airports, airlines, pilots, employees, air traffic control, and other components of our aviation system. But the agency has been shut down. FAA inspectors and others are working without pay and paying for their own job-related travel. The shutdown is keeping the FAA from collecting federal taxes on airline tickets at a cost of $200 million in revenues each week even as the country struggles with deficits. Republicans said they don’t like deficits, but they clearly hate working people more – this shutdown adds $30 million a day, over $200 million a week to deficits.
A Shutdown Engineered For A Company
This shutdown of the FAA has occurred because of a form of “government shutdown” by Republicans, at the behest of Delta Airlines, over rules about unionization elections. Delta is in the middle of a fight to keep workers from being able to form a union. Delta wants the rules changes so a nonvoting worker, including one who might be sick, on vacation or otherwise absent from the workplace on election day, is counted as a “no” vote for unionization. Republicans inserted this anti-union language into the FAA funding reauthorization and are refusing to fund the agency unless Democrats agree to change these union election rules to help Delta.
Delta is apparently calling in favors to get this. According to Campaign Money Watch, in Is Delta Using Its Campaign Cash to Influence the FAA Debate?,

Delta’s been spending money wisely to try to overturn the decision to let workers organize more easily. They spent $1.6 million on lobbying during the first half of 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. (Over the past ten years they spent at least $32 million to influence Washington.) Their PAC has given $826,243 to members of Congress since 2000. Adding additional incentive for Republicans in Congress to stand with them, Richard Anderson, Delta’s CEO, made a $5,000 contribution to the Senate Republican’s campaign committee earlier this year — apparently his first one ever.

Not Delta’s First Anti-Labor Problems
This is hardly the beginning of anti-labor activities by Delta’s management. There has been a string of actions against its workers to the point that the government has had to step in. WSJ: Delta Probed on Union Drive,

The National Mediation Board said Wednesday it will conduct a full-blown investigation into allegations by a flight attendants union that Delta Air Lines Inc. interfered in last year’s fractious organizing drive at the world’s second-largest airline by traffic.

Joan McCarter elaborates in Daily Kos in June, Delta Air’s anti-union practices earns federal probe,

Delta isn’t just a crappy airline for passengers, it’s a crappy employer, too. At least it is if you can judge by the lengths it has gone to to prevent fairness in the workplace. Around the World Blog has some of the gory details of Delta’s extreme anti-union activities:

  • Open advocacy against fair American elections: Delta issued a press release commending the news that Darrell Issa’s deranged Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will investigate the NMB’s 2010 decision to conduct union elections for air/rail workers the same as all other types of American elections. … Unfortunately for Delta, the facts aren’t on their side — there’s no reason to conduct NMB elections differently from every other form of election, union or non-union, in the nation. ….
  • Bumping paying customers…so Delta employees can lobby: Delta is so committed to its anti-union ideology that it offered its employees the chance to travel to Washington to lobby against fair union elections under a provision that may bump paying customers. …

It goes beyond, however, a general fight against the rights of airline and railroad employees to organize, to a very specific fiht among Delta employees to organize. The airline’s fight against that union drive has made the airline a target for federal investigators.

“Delta is like the Scott Walker of airlines.” Joe Sudbay sums up Delta management’s attitude at AmericaBlog:

“Delta is like the Scott Walker of airlines. It wants to be known as anti-worker. And, of course, the GOPers in Congress are great allies in that quest. They’ll join together to fight this investigation and undermine NMB.”

Two Senators Weigh In On Delta And FAA Shutdown
In an NPR report, Reid Says FAA Shutdown Will Continue; Blames House, Delta Airlines, Senate Majority Leader Reid explains,

“It’s not a battle over essential air service. It’s a battle over Delta Airlines, who refuses to allow votes under the new rules that have been passed by the NLRB [National Labor Relations Board].” The issue, Reid says, is Delta’s “non-union” stance. The bill to fund the FAA, as crafted by House Republicans, includes language that sets new rules for aviation workers’ votes on labor representation.

Senator Rockeffeller, in a USA Today op-ed, Rural America needs Essential Air Service, talks about Delta’s attack on workers rights,

Unfortunately, the Republican House is holding the FAAhostage and using the EAS program to distract from its acknowledged goal: overturning a workers’ rights rule that makes sense and has been upheld in court.
This ugly backroom deal is the work of Delta Air Lines’ anti-worker allies in the House. They want to overturn a decision of the National Mediation Board that allows airline and railroad workers to organize with their votes counted the regular way — yes and no — rather than by counting people who don’t participate at all in the election.
Delta lost in court, and so it lobbied the Republican House leadership for help. That now involves blocking critical FAA legislation and attacking the EAS program, which creates jobs and economic opportunity in small communities by giving business access to travel.

Delta Greed Also Not Good For Customers
Delta’s management provides us an example of what happens to a company that prioritizes greed over all else. We see a company that is not just bad for its workers, it is also bad for its customers. Here are examples.
Greed: When the FAA shutdown meant that taxes would not be collected some airlines let their customers keep the money. But not Delta’s management — they decided to keep that extra cash for themselves. Memphis Business Journal, Delta raises ticket prices amid FAA shutdown,

Air travelers are getting a break from federal taxes as the Federal Aviation Administration has partially shut down, but some airlines, including Delta Air Lines Inc. , have raised fares and nullified the tax break. … While some airlines will allow customers to take advantage of the tax break, others, like Delta, have increased fares following the shutdown…

Greed: Amanda Terkel at Huffington Post: Delta Charges U.S. Troops Returning From Afghanistan $2,800 In Baggage Fees,

Delta Air Lines is facing intense criticism after charging 34 U.S. soldiers returning from Afghanistan $2,800 in baggage fees.
The incident came to light on Tuesday after a couple of the new-media savvy soldiers recorded a video about their ordeal and posted it on YouTube.

Greed: According to Delta Nightmares, a website devoted to describing Delta’s bad customer service,

I’m apparently not the only one who thinks so. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, Delta is having serious issues…ranking LAST among major carriers in customer service last year.

…among major airlines Delta finished with the highest rate of customer complaints filed with the Department of Transportation in the first nine months of last year, and was second-to-last in on-time arrivals and baggage handling through November. Delta also had the highest rate of canceled flights among major carriers in 2010, according to FlightStats.com.

Greed: Delta has earned the #65 place in BNet’s Business Blunders of the Year for offering a $200 flight credit after losing a customer’s dog.

“Delta told Josiah Paco had “escaped” and the best they could do is refund his $200.00 pet transportation fee, but only as a “credit” for future Delta travel. That doesn’t do Josiah any good, as he’s vowed to never fly Delta again”

Greed: just Google Delta Airlines bad customer service and see the thousands and thousands of results that pop up…
Part Of Larger Anti-Worker Campaign
This effort by Republicans in Congress is really just a part of a larger fight against workers’ rights. As we have seen in several states, most notably Wisconsin, this is a coordinate, all-out attack by the larger corporations and their allies in the Republican Party. New Jersey, as just one more example, just passed, and Governor Christie signed an anti-union bill. In Ohio there is a campaign to repeal a law restricting collective bargaining rights. In Florida it is revealed that ALEC was behind the state’s anti-union legislation efforts. In Missouri large protest turnouts beat back anti-union legislation.
FAA Still Shut Down
So the FAA is still shut down, possibly until September when the Congress returns. This is the Tea Party dream, government destroyed, financed and pushed by private companies, this time Delta Airlines. Delta is showing itself as a model of bad corporate behavior. Delta couldn’t keep their workers from joining a union, so they try to get the laws rigged. Meanwhile the Republicans are showing themselves willing to contract out their legislative power to the highest bidders.
Delta Airlines is certainly not the only example of bad, greed-inspired behavior by corporate management these days — far from it. But with the FAA shutdown over Delta’s request for a rule to keep its workers from being able to unionize Delta is putting itself forward as a top example of bad corporate behavior.
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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Does Government Know Who The Boss Is?

In Washington state workers are allowed to organize and form unions so they can win good wages and benefits. In “right-to-work” states like South Carolina, though, the government sides with big companies against their workers. (They used to have even harsher anti-worker laws there but the North stopped rounding up the escapees…)
Boeing workers in Washington go on strike, so Boeing sets up an assembly line in anti-union South Carolina and tells the Washington workers to take what they offer and like it. This is a standard move from companies these days, telling workers, “Take the cuts or we’ll close the plant and move your jobs somewhere where workers can’t do anything about it.”
Illegal, But So What?
You probably didn’t know this but retaliating against workers like that is against the law. It is even illegal to threaten workers in order to avoid a strike. It is illegal to fire or intimidate employees for organizing.
But companies go ahead and do these things anyway, and other illegal things, because no one does anything about it. And it has been so long since anyone did anything about it – just like with banking fraud or age discrimination – that it is now standard operating procedure. No one even remembers that it is illegal. No one cares.
Like age discrimination. Look at the faces of the employees behind President Obama when he visited Facebook and tell me if Facebook is the least bit worried about age discrimination enforcement.

Or this picture of the President visiting Google:
viers_mill_PS-0253
Workers’ Rights A Thing Of The Past
With labor-law enforcement — or even a sense that workers should have rights — seemingly a thing of the past, these anti-worker sentiments are spreading. Recently, for example Arizona and South Dakota passed anti-worker laws, forbidding the formation of a union after a majority workers sign cards asking for one. Wisconsin and other states have passed laws restricting the labor rights of public-employees and restricting the ability to collect union-membership dues.
But THIS Time!
But THIS time something unusual happened. The government has actually threatened to enforce the law! The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Boeing and is suing Arizona and South Dakota for violating labor laws!
Boardrooms across the land are rising up in indignation. How dare the government threaten giant corporations that they might enforce the law? Don’t they know who’s the boss? The Wall Street Journal explains, “Boeing management did what it judged to be best for its shareholders and customers and looked elsewhere. … As Boeing chief Jim McNerney noted on a conference call at the time, the company couldn’t have “strikes happening every three to four years.” and calls Boeing’s threats against unions a “reasonable business decision.”
Conservative columnists and bloggers are earning their pay, writing indignant column after column about “union bosses,” some even praising Ayn Rand. Conservative astroturfers (also) and politicians are not far behind them.


How dare We, the People (government) tell a business that it has to respect its workers and our laws!!!
Who Is Boss?
Do We, the People have the ability to enforce our laws? Do we have the power to tax corporations and the wealthy?
Do we have the power to protect the protections of democracy?
Democracy provides workers with safety protections and fair wages. We fought so hard to build and maintain this democratic society so that We, the People could share the benefits. We passed laws allowing union organizing, as a balance to the immense power of corporations and wealth. We passed laws prohibiting companies from telling workers, “Work for what we give you or don’t eat.”
And for a time this built our prosperity. But we let the protections slip, and allowed companies to cross borders to escape the protections democracy offers — to non-democratic countries like China where workers have few rights, where pay is low, environmental protections practically non-existent. Companies locating manufacturing in places like have huge cost advantages over companies located in democracies that respect and protect the rights of citizens.
The Threat Against Us
Won’t companies just move out of the state/country if we try to enforce labor laws or tax them? Won’t China just stop selling to us if we apply a tariff to protect democracy, or try to enforce trade laws? Won’t the rich just pack up and move or stop working if we don’t just give them everything they want? Won’t they move even more factories out of the city/state/country if We, the People try to demand our rights?
We Still Have The Power
Here’s the thing. We, the People still have some power left in our hands. For one thing we still have a huge market. We still have the power to make demands on those who would like to sell into that market. And we can still choose to enforce tax laws, and wage laws, and tariffs, and labor laws, and trade laws to protect and strengthen what remains of our democracy.
But we can only do this if we decide to stand up for ourselves and do something about what is happening. We have to put our foot down, and demand that our politicians listen to We, the People and do what we say. It is time to get organized, to talk to neighbors and relatives, to show up at town hall meetings and protests. We can demand that news media begin to cover more than just the corporate/conservative viewpoint. We can go out and register others to vote, and get them to the polls, and demand that votes be counted accurately. We can take back our democracy and put We, the People back in charge.
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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You’ve Got To See This Video From Wisconsin!

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
You just have to watch this video of a farmer named Tony Schultz in Wisconsin talking to the crowd about what is happening at his local schools and to his own community because of the governor’s tax-cuts-for-corporations, budget-cuts-for-the-people budget:

I found it at this Daily Kos diary, Wisconsin farmer on fire! Awesome video, by strobusguy, who writes,

This video of farmer Tony Schultz speaking captures the feel of the rally today better than anything I’ve yet seen. (But be careful with your volume. The screams and cheers will bust your eardrums!) PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE watch this, and pass it on to everyone.

After watching the video please, please read Richard Eskow’s post, MadisonWorld: A Future Where Corporations Have Human Rights … And Humans Don’t. Excerpts:

Right now Wisconsin is serving as the prototype for United States 2.0, a newly reconstituted nation where corporations have all rights of personhood without any of the responsibilities – and people have all the duties of personhood without any of the rights.
Welcome to your future. They’re preparing it for you right now in America’s heartland.
[. . .] Unions are one of the few bulwarks against corporate corruption in politics. They can sit at the table with politicians and use their leverage to counteract the corporations’ influence, serving as a voice for that vast majority of Americans who are employees and not wealthy business owners. That’s the real reason the corporate oligarchy is targeting the unions. They’ve been pretty blatant about their real goals in Wisconsin, with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald saying things like this:
“(If) the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you’re going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult, much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin.”
They want the money that drives political power to flow from one source, and one source only: America’s corporations. And Madison is the proving ground for destroying any organized opposition to their corporatist agenda.

More people marched just in Madison yesterday than have ever attended a Tea Party rally. And there were people marching in other states, as well.

For two years, tea party activists and their allies in the GOP have claimed that the hard-right movement represents the true beliefs of the American people. But the crowd in Madison and numerous polls tell a different story.

Tuesday please attend a rally to Defend the American Dream.
Click through to get on the list and locate a rally near you. Many are taking place after working hours.
From the website:
Republicans in Congress are holding the middle class hostage—proposing a federal budget that would would cut 700,000 to 1 million jobs from our communities and slash funding to support preschool and college students, pregnant women, unemployed workers, and much more. This isn’t a budget, it’s a slap in the face to the public workers, services, and institutions making the American Dream possible. We have until the March 18 budget deadline to push Congress in another direction.
So after work on Tuesday, March 15, we’re mobilizing Defend the Dream events in all 50 states at our schools, libraries, fire stations, hospitals, and parks to stand up against Republican attacks. If we can mobilize thousands of people again for a national day of action before the March 18 deadline, we’ll give progressive fighters in Congress a better chance to stave off cuts and pass a budget that invests in the Dream. We’ll show our support for the public workers, services, and institutions making a difference in our lives—but we’ll also make sure that Congress knows we’ll hold them accountable for their vote.
Host your own Defend the Dream Action or sign up for an event near you.
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What Is The Real Agenda Of The Budget-Cutters?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
What is the real agenda of the budget-cutters? Are they really trying to bring the country back from the edge of financial ruin? Or did they bring about the appearance of a borrowing crisis to create a public panic that enables them to impose “solutions” that change the very nature of our country — while doing little about the borrowing?
In the news this week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker “ginned up” a budget crisis, then introduced legislation that removes collective bargaining rights from public employees, and over time effectively destroys their unions. Similar measures have been introduced by Republican governors or legislatures in several other states.
This legislative attack on public employees follows more than a year of “preparing the ground” with a coordinated campaign from conservative organizations to convince the public that public employees are overpaid and that their pensions are “bankrupting” state governments — not the effects of the recession.
In the news soon, the coming strategic “shutdown” of the federal government by Republicans. After decades of forcing through tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, again and again — most recently just a few weeks ago — Republicans and corporate conservatives are engaged in a national campaign promoting the belief that there is a “deficit crisis.” Their solutions involve gutting the things government does for We, the People like consumer, health, safety, labor and financial, retirement and income protections, while keeping things the government does for corporations and the wealthy “off the table.”
We see variations of the same formula over and over. Here is how it works:
1) Cut taxes for the rich and corporations (corporate stock is mostly owned by the top 1%); big deficits result.
2) Claim a deficit emergency and use their domination of corporate-owned media to whip the public into a panic, creating the appearance of demand for corporate-approved “solutions.” Manipulate the appearance of consensus.
3) With taxes and military “off the table” push through cuts in the things government does for We, the People.
Repeat as often as needed to create a plutocracy.
Today’s “debt crisis” is the culmination of the long-term “starve the beast” strategy from an organized corporate-conservative movement. By cutting taxes for the wealthy they have starved the government, created massive debt (guess where the interest payments go) gutted the infrastructure, and put our country on the road to third-world status. This conservative movement has an agenda, and is not interested in working out “bipartisan” compromised.
In an example in the news this week, a hoax call, purported to be from David Koch, one of the billionaire-industrialists helping fund the conservative movement and major funder of efforts to make it appear that Wisconsin is having a budget crisis. In the hoax call, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker clearly understands that he and Koch are in engaged a joint effort, describing a Democratic Senator who could work with him as “not one of us.”

Koch: Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?
Walker: Ah, I—there’s one guy that’s actually voted with me on a bunch of things I called on Saturday for about 45 minutes, mainly to tell him that while I appreciate his friendship and he’s worked with us on other things, to tell him I wasn’t going to budge.
Koch: Goddamn right!
Walker: …his name is Tim Cullen—
Koch: All right, I’ll have to give that man a call.
Walker: Well, actually, in his case I wouldn’t call him and I’ll tell you why: he’s pretty reasonable but he’s not one of us…

Elsewhere in the call Walker and faux-Koch talk about whether “planting troublemakers” would “work” or not.
In another example of the self-awareness of this strategy: On public radio’s Marketplace, February 22 Vincent Vernuccio of the Koch/conservative movement/corporate front-group Competitive Enterprise Institute discusses how the real agenda of the state actions is to destroy unions and their ability to fight corporate power politically, not to solve budget problems. (Note, he was not identified on the show as funded by conservative/corporate interests and Koch.)

VINCENT VERNUCCIO: Union bosses want to inflate these budgets so they can get more members, so they can get more dues. And in turn, they take that dues money they have and give it to politicians who are going to give them more favors in the future.
Several states are considering bills that would allow workers to opt-out of a union. Again, Vincent Vernuccio.
VERNUCCIO: The main focus of this isn’t just the budget cuts. It’s actually giving workers the right to say no to the union if they so choose.
Professor Bruno also sees broader implications for the debate. Since union money helps support the Democratic party, he argues changes in collective bargaining could shake up the political landscape far beyond the Midwest.

These are just two small examples, in the news on the same day, showing the difference between the public pronouncements of concern for the country and a private agenda to fool the country. It is one thing when responsible leaders disagree on the best way to solve the country’s real problems. It is quite another thing when organized wealth pursues a strategy to scare the country into handing over our remaining wealth and power.
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Pension Envy

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Since the 80s many employers have stopped offering health care, pensions and other benefits to their employees. Many are also cutting pay and hours, while increasing the workload. So more and more people are hurting. As more and more of us fall further and further behind, corporate/conservative propagandists use resentment to drive anti-union feelings. They tell people to oppose unions, saying, “Why should they have it so good?” The real question you should ask is, “Why should we have it so bad?”
The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki, in “State of the Unions,” examines why “public support for labor has fallen to historic lows.”

More than seventy per cent of those surveyed in a 1937 Gallup poll said they favored unions.
Seventy-five years later, in the wake of another economic crisis, things couldn’t be more different. … In the recent midterm elections, voters in several states passed initiatives making it harder for unions to organize. Across the country, governors and mayors wrestling with budget shortfalls are blaming public-sector unions for the problems. And in polls public support for labor has fallen to historic lows.
. . . In 2009, for the first time ever, support for unions in the Gallup poll dipped below fifty per cent. A 2010 Pew Research poll offered even worse numbers, with just forty-one per cent of respondents saying they had a favorable view of unions, the lowest level of support in the history of that poll.

Surowiecki suspects that the gap between workers in and out of unions is the reason,

Union workers, on average, get paid more than their non-unionized counterparts—most estimates put the difference at around fifteen per cent—and that wage premium widens during recessions. Similarly, union workers often still have defined-benefit pensions, which sets them apart from all those Americans who watched their retirement accounts get ravaged by the financial crisis. That’s given rise to what Olivia Mitchell, an economics professor at Wharton, calls “pension envy.”
This resentment is most evident in the backlash against public-sector workers (who now make up a majority of union members).

The problem is that working people feel increasingly powerless, and this weakens support for the very institutions that would, in better circumstances, come to their assistance: government and unions. Normally you would think that when people see that workers who are in unions have it better they would reach a simple and obvious conclusion: they should JOIN A UNION! DUH! But circumstances in our economy today lead people to the wrong conclusions.
Today they see people who try to organize unions fired. They see whistleblowers persecuted. They see fellow employees lose their jobs for calling in sick or taking time off to care for a family member. They see people lose jobs for just reaching “a certain age.” Many are even afraid to take vacations using time they have earned. And they don’t see any way to do anything about it. Unions are unable to organize and workers are told facilities will close or their jobs will be moved overseas. Government inadequately enforces its own laws, or blatantly favors the wealthy and powerful. People don’t feel that elections make any difference. So workers don’t see any help on the horizon.
Crabs In A Bucket
Meanwhile many public employees still have unions, so as a result they in many cases have pensions, health care plans and dignity on the job. People look at that and the temptation toward “crab mentality” is strong. The corporate/conservative anti-union propagandists see an opportunity to set working people against each other and strike at support for unions:

Crab mentality, sometimes referred to as crabs in the bucket, describes a way of thinking best described by the phrase “if I can’t have it, neither should you.” The metaphor refers to a pot of crabs. Individually, the crabs could easily escape from the pot, but instead, they grab at each other in a useless “king of the hill” competition (or sabotage) which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise. The analogy in human behavior is that of a group that will attempt to “pull down” (negate or diminish the importance of) any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of jealousy, conspiracy or competitive feelings.
This term is broadly associated with short-sighted, non-constructive thinking rather than a unified, long-term, constructive mentality. It is also often used colloquially in reference to individuals or communities attempting to “escape” a so-called “underprivileged life”, but kept from doing so by others attempting to ride upon their coat-tails or those who simply resent their success.

The other day in Understanding The Attacks On Public Employees,

What do we see if we look around at the state of the economy? Stocks are soaring, corporate profits are way up, Wall Street gets trillions in bailouts and pays millions upon millions in bonuses. But regular people are having a hard time making ends meet and unemployment is still through the roof. Instead of programs to create jobs, stop foreclosures and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure the government passes more tax cuts for the rich. A few Wall Street and big-corporate types are getting very rich (richer) at the expense of the rest of us. If you are sitting pretty on Wall Street, you probably don’t want people thinking about these contrasts too much.
“Look Over There!”
How do you get regular people to “look over there” with all of that going on? Simple: launch a big campaign to blame the librarians, firefighters and other public sector workers for the hard times. “Don’t blame US,” Wall Street says, “Look over there!” Blame the economy’s victims for economic crimes. And, do you know what? This is a strategy that is proven to work every time.

So the corporate/conservatives pit people against each other, hoping to provoke the behavior of crabs in a bucket, instead of reaching the correct conclusion: stand together and join a union and fight for your rights and a share of the pie and you can have it better.
STOP THE LIES!

This video directs people to a STOP THE LIES website where you can sign up to add your voice, download a fact sheet and find other resources.
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Understanding The Attacks On Public Employees

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

You can barely open a newspaper or turn on a radio without hearing about states and local governments bankrupted by high-paid public employees, their pensions and their unions. How much of what you are hearing is really true, and how much is just one more Wall Street-funded campaign to turn people against each other and our government?
What do we see if we look around at the state of the economy? Stocks are soaring, corporate profits are way up, Wall Street gets trillions in bailouts and pays millions upon millions in bonuses. But regular people are having a hard time making ends meet and unemployment is still through the roof. Instead of programs to create jobs, stop foreclosures and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure the government passes more tax cuts for the rich. A few Wall Street and big-corporate types are getting very rich (richer) at the expense of the rest of us. If you are sitting pretty on Wall Street, you probably don’t want people thinking about these contrasts too much.
“Look Over There!”
How do you get regular people to “look over there” with all of that going on? Simple: launch a big campaign to blame the librarians, firefighters and other public sector workers for the hard times. “Don’t blame US,” Wall Street says, “Look over there!” Blame the economy’s victims for economic crimes. And, do you know what? This is a strategy that is proven to work every time.

Continue reading

Ten Holiday Attacks On Public Employees

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
If you haven’t already noticed, there is a corporate/conservative campaign underway to convince the public that public employees are living high on the taxpayer’s dime and should have their pay and pensions cut back. Even during the holidays this attack does not let up.
Background: The Reagan Revolution ended most “defined-benefit” (they pay you) pensions for working people in the private sector, replacing them with “defined-contribution” (you pay Wall Street) pensions. Now with the Great Recession employers have cracked down and private-sector workers are afraid and not willing to risk their jobs by speaking out about abuses. With private workers sector out under control, conservatives are targeting public employee pay and pensions. They are driving resentment of government employees by casting them as overpaid and receiving good benefits at a time when everyone else is under the corporate thumb. Private-sector employees have made sacrifices, so now government employees should, too, they say.
When you see this kind of coordinated campaign from the right (and “mainstreamed” by corporate media) you know it is part of a larger strategic plan. The larger plan is to weaken public-employee unions, including teacher’s unions.
Here is how conservatives turn a strategic narrative into “conventional wisdom” through repetition. Phony conservative think tank “studies” show there is a “crisis,” that pensions are “gold-plated,” etc. This campaign claims the crisis is in government employee pension funds. They also claim public employees are very highly paid compared to the private sector. Then they explain how the “average voter” is affected. This time the claim is high state property and income taxes or an impending “crisis” that cold force states to go bankrupt. When specifically attacking teacher’s unions the claim is that schools are not educating kids because teacher unions block reform.
The news stories follow a conservative template almost word-for-word. You will see phrases like: “Lavish” or “luxurious” or “back-breaking” and “gold-plated” government pensions. You’ll hear that “Taxpayers shoulder the burden” of pensions.
For perspective: Congress just passed tax cuts for the rich along with a huge cut in the estate tax, Wall Street bonuses are up, corporate profits are the highest ever, the top 1% are taking home a higher percentage of all income, and sales of luxury items are breaking records.
Here are ten holiday-season media attacks on public employees:
George Will, Don’t let states like California seek federal bailouts on pensions

The nation’s menu of crises caused by governmental malpractice may soon include states coming to Congress as mendicants, seeking relief from the consequences of their choices. …
… under bankruptcy, judges could rewrite union contracts or give states powers to do so, thereby reducing existing pension obligations.

Newsday, Reeling in public workers’ pensions, insurance,

Civil servants have long prized these benefits as the payoff for a career yoked to lower-paying jobs, but their rapidly rising cost has led to growing resentment in an economy that has forced a relentless tide of layoffs and givebacks in the private-sector workforce. Defined-benefit pensions are disappearing from the private sector. Retiree health coverage is almost unheard of. On Long Island, even the average private-sector wage has fallen behind government pay …

Wall Street Journal, Pensions Push Taxes Higher,

Cities across the nation are raising property taxes, largely citing rising pension and health-care costs for their employees and retirees.

Ocean County (NJ) Examiner: Public pensions getting deeper into the red,

While New Jersey can lessen regulatory loads on business, lowering tax rates is difficult as this exacerbates pension deficit problems. The obvious solution is long term and entails lowering government worker pension and benefit packages. … Public sector unions have demonstrated an unwillingness to forego past agreements in the interest of promoting fiscally sound policies.

San Diego Union Tribune: Government pay practices must change,

At a time when there’s rising fury over public employees’ generous pensions, the report used official U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data to show there’s one more big area where the taxpayer-funded public sector is thriving at a time of private-sector misery.

Here’s why property taxes are soaring …,

The crisis in state pensions is cascading into a property-tax crisis.
Cities across the nation are raising property taxes, largely to cover rising pension and health-care costs for their employees and retirees.

Washington Examiner: America’s public pension crisis has tragic consequences,

The biggest obstacle to preventing what happened in Pritchard from happening nationwide might be the public employees themselves. Public union leaders simply refuse to believe America is out of money.

Milwaukee, Walker, Barrett seek checks on unions

Walker, who has tangled with Milwaukee County unions as county executive, is gearing up for a clash with state workers, seeking wage and benefit cuts and threatening legislation to weaken or eliminate state unions’ bargaining rights if they won’t agree to concessions.

Chicago Sun-Times, ‘Sucking the system dry’,

Jim Tobin, president of National Taxpayers United of Illinois, held a news conference at the St. Charles Public Library to discuss what he called a threat to every Illinois taxpayer.
… Tobin also released names of retired Kane County government employees who are receiving what he called “lavish, gold-plated pensions.”

Snyder to start with attack on public-sector spending,

Private-sector companies and workers have made many sacrifices, he said, “and we all need to share in this. So it’s now the public sector coming into more alignment with what the private sector has already done.”

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Labor Day: Labor Got It Right — Who Could Have Known?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
“Who could have known?” That’s the cry from the big-corporate and DC elite as the economy and the environment and so many imporant things crash around us. (Around us, not them, they’re doing just fine and taking good care of each other.)
Who could have known that 25%-per-year house price increases was a bubble?
Who could have known that a housing bubble could burst?
Who could have known that deregulating the financial industry could lead to a financial meltdown?
Who could have known that concentration of wealth could cause consumer demand to dry up?
Who could have known that huge tax cuts for the rich combined with huge military spending increases could cause massive budget deficits?
Who could have known that the Social Security trust fund needed a “lockbox” so it wouldn’t be given away as tax cuts?
Who could have known a deregulated deep-water well could cause a massive, destructive, uncontrolled underwater gusher?
Who could have known that continuing to put carbon into the air would cause problems for the climate?
Who could have known that moving our factories out of the country would lead to high unemployment and structural trade deficits?
Who could have known that invading Iraq was wrong and a deadly, disastrous, costly, long-term mistake?
Who could have known that a too-small stimulus that focused on tax cuts wouldn’t turn the economy completely around and then conservatives would claim that the stimulus “killed the recovery?”
(List continues into infinity…)
Add organized labor to the list of those who got it right, time after time.
Organized labor was right about the 40-hour workweek.
They were right about the middle class.
They were right about the weekend.
They were right about paid vacations.
They were right about paid holidays.
They were right about paid sick leave.
They were right about providing good, secure retirement plans for everyone.
They were right about providing unemployment benefits to tide people over.
They were right about providing maternity leave, child care and family leave for families.
They were right that trade agreements like NAFTA and letting China into the WTO would lead to massive trade deficits and job losses.
They were right about workplace and consumer safety.
They were right about keeping manufacturing in America.
They were right about fighting discrimination in the workplace.
They were right about raising the minimum wage and the effect that low-wage policies would have on the economy.
They were right about the effect of excessive CEO pay on the economy.
They were right about the devastating effect of the Bush tax cuts.
They were right about the need to maintain and modernize our country’s infrastructure.
They were right about going green.
They were right ab out the dangers of Wall Street’s financialization of the economy.
They were right about providing good health care to everyone.
They were right about strengthening, not cutting Social Security.
They were right about democratizing corporate governance.
They were right about fighting privatization.
They were right about fighting deregulation.
They were right about providing good education opportunities to everyone.
They were and are right that we need a national jobs agenda
Labor was right about people joining together instead of being on our own.
(List continues into infinity…) They were right and they continue to be right.
And unions have been fighting for these things for all of us, not just for their members.
Please add to these lists in the comments! What other things could nobody have known, and what other things did labor get right?
Enjoy Labor Day. In fact, for those of you that still have jobs after the decades of conservative policies, enjoy having weekends off, the 40-hour week, paid vacations, sick pay, health care, etc. And if you have a job but don’t have those things … JOIN A UNION!
P.S. Here’s an example of being right:

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