From the Labor Commission of the CPUSA, updates, information, news, analysis, and organizing materials in solidarity with workers of the world.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Statement from the Communist Party, USA

End the Auto Crisis: Build Mass Transit

Public Ownership to Save Jobs and the Environment

Union auto workers are fighting for their lives. For us the fight to defend the United Auto Workers union (UAW) and its members is immediate. It is estimated that over three million jobs are linked to the jobs at GM, Ford and Chrysler: including workers in parts supply, dealerships, steel, rubber, and many other supporting industries. Bankruptcy would have devastating effects on communities where these workers live. Whole regions rely on their purchasing power and the loss of taxes for local and state governments would cause an even bigger crisis. Bankruptcy will also destroy the pensions and healthcare for millions of retirees.

We join with labor and all its allies in demanding immediate action by the federal government to guarantee the loans needed to save these jobs. We are actively engaged in the growing fight to build solidarity and support for the burning demands of the workers and their union.

Even if/when bridge loans are given to the Big Three, the companies have announced there will be further plant closings and say they will permanently shed tens of thousands of their workforce. They do this while continuing to move production out of the country. GM has manufacturing operations in 32 countries around the world. And while the auto companies complain about competition from lower wage countries, they in turn threaten workers in Mexico, Thailand, South America and elsewhere to accept low wages as a condition of work.

Everything unions have fought for throughout our history is being challenged. Republican senators are demanding that unionized workers tear-up their union contracts and work for non-union rates. A forced bankruptcy would destroy the contracts of the UAW. Automotive jobs have been a pathway to a better life for all working people and their loss would hit African American and Latino workers particularly hard. Black workers in particular are more concentrated in auto than other industries.

To solve the economic crisis we need to put more money, not less, into the hands of working people. Republican attempts to force the UAW to take cuts will increase the wage gap; it is a continuation of Republican trickledown economics that voters rejected in the November election. These are the same economic policies that created the present economic crisis. It would lower the purchasing power of auto workers and would create a downward wage pressure on all workers

If we agree that the auto industry is too important to fail, both in terms of our nation’s transportation needs and the need to move away from reliance on fossil fuels, then it is too important to be left in the hands of the CEO’s.

And at the same time, given the overall economic crisis and the underlying failures of unbridled corporate greed and mismanagement, it is the time to look at more basic solutions also. Demands for public and government oversight raise the issue of democratic public ownership of the domestic auto industry.

The United States government could buy all the common shares of stock in General Motors for less than $3 billion. The worth of the companies is less than the aid they want from taxpayers. If the public provides the capital, why do decisions remain in private hands? Representatives from the unions, from engineers employed in the industry, from government, and the communities and states where the plants are located, are best able to make the key decisions. Representatives from management itself should have input but not control.

We have an economic crisis, but we also have a crisis of the environment and the two are interlinked. We face global catastrophe and the profits before nature philosophy of the auto executives is a major roadblock for building a “green,” sustainable industry.

Cities all over the country are looking at the need for mass transit: from rail to subways, and buses. Public demand for environment friendly cars is also growing. We should demand that unemployed auto workers in Detroit and Michigan are put to work building all of the above.

Public ownership can work! From our postal service, to social security, to our public school system, Medicare, police, fire, and military, public ownership has been successful. In the early 70’s the government took over a rail system in crisis, fixed it and then years later sold it to private owners at a profit.

The changes needed in our infrastructure to build and sustain the environmentally friendly cars of the future will require public money so why should the ownership of the companies remain in private hands?

In addition:

* We need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act to spur union organizing and to increase the wages and buying power of working people.
* We need National Health care, pass HR 676 – health care is a human right and it should be removed as a bargaining chip.
* We need an international minimum wage to stop the whipsawing of workers from one country to another.
* We need a law to stop tax breaks for companies that outsourcing our jobs.
* We need to get behind President-Elect Barack Obama’s economic stimulus and public works jobs program.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Workers occupy factory - demand justice

By John Bachtell and Scott Marshall
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 12/06/08 21:38

Scott Marshall
Melvin Maklin, one of the sit in strikers at Republic Windows brings out chants of, "Yes We Can" when he tells the crowd, "We have a new president. He says, Yes we can."
Chicago – “We’re here to demand our rights,” said Manuella Rivera in a gentle but firm voice, “and we’ll stay until we get justice.” Rivera, a 58-year-old window assembler is among workers at Republic Windows and Doors who have been occupying the plant since Dec.5 when it was shut down.

Melvin Milkin, one of the sit-in strikers spoke for all the workers when he vowed they would stay in the plant until they receive the estimated $1.5 million in severance and vacation pay and health benefits they are owed.

The company, maker of vinyl windows for the home construction market, has employed 300 workers, including 250 unionized production workers at the factory for 48 years. United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1110 represent the workers.

Republic closed the factory with three days notice when they were refused a $5 million line of credit by Wall Street behemoth Bank of America (BA). BA is chief investor and has been effectively controlling finances at the company. The abrupt closure was in clear violation of the WARN Act, the federal law requiring employers to give 60 days notice of a mass layoff (Illinois state law mandates 75 days) or pay the workers and continue their health benefits for that time.

The action outraged workers because BA recently received a $25 billion bailout package from the federal government, but evidently decided it wouldn’t go to keeping manufacturing operations running. When the company skipped a meeting with UE and BA on Dec. 5, the workers were furious and unanimously voted to stage a sit-in.
“The government gave $25 billion to BA. They are supposed to work with businesses to keep them open, not shut them down,” Lalo Munoz, 54, told the World. Munoz, a machine operator, has worked at the plant for 34 years.

Workers are sitting-in around the clock in groups of 50. They report things are very calm and well organized inside. “We are taking care of everything,” said Munoz. “We are keeping the machines in good condition so that maybe we will keep working.”

“The workers feel they have nothing to lose,” said UE organizer Leah Fried. “They were waiting to hear something all day (Friday). When management didn’t show, they decided to stay.”
Fried said the workers were thrown on the street the same day the US Labor Dept. announced job losses of 533,000 for November. Many have families, have no hope of getting a new job and now risk losing their homes.

“More than 300 people are working here, and what are we going to do now?” Vicente Rangel said. “We don’t get any single benefit. They are even telling us they are not guaranteeing payment for the week we just worked.”

Many of the workers are originally from Mexico and Central America. They traditionally save up vacation time to return to their home countries with their families for an extended time.
According to Republic, BA instructed the company not to make the vacation, severance and health benefit payments. Fried said this is a clear violation of federal law. And since BA has refused to say anything about the workers pay, “the workers are prepared to fight all the way,” she said.

Solidarity has been pouring in. A steady stream of visitors has been bringing food, coffee and money. On Dec. 6, 200 unionists, religious leaders and community activists joined the Republic workers at a rally called by the Chicago Interfaith Workers Justice Committee.
A sign in the crowd said, "Bank of America: You got bailed out - we got sold out." and "$Billions for Bank of America, $0 for workers."

Lalo Munoz told the rally "this fight is not just a fight for the 250 workers in the plant. It is not just for our families but it is also for all the workers in this country." The crowd broke into chants of “yes we can - si se puede” several times.

Other speakers included James Thindwa of Chicago Jobs with Justice, Richard Berg, Teamsters local 1743, Larry Spivack of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District 3 and Joe Isobaker of the Service Employees International Union.

A delegation of the Communist Party USA's Religion Commission holding a national meeting in Chicago responded to the call for solidarity and attended the rally.

Also giving solidarity was Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) who had arranged the Friday meeting. He said it was “the work and creativity of these workers that made this company. This is work they are entitled to be paid for. They are owed it and under the WARN Act they must be paid for it. That’s federal law.”

“I believe somebody just didn’t wake up last Tuesday and decided to simply close the plant down. I believe they knew this was going to happen and wanted to walk away and didn’t want to pay the workers the 60 days they are owed under federal law and the 75 days under Illinois state law, Gutierrez told the rally.

There is some speculation the plant is being closed to move out of state where it can reestablish operations at lower wages without the union. The factory sits on land sandwiched between new upscale developments and was sold to J. Wrigley Co. in 2006.

Carl Rosen, Western Vice President of UE called for all out support for a rally at Bank Of America, 231 S. LaSalle street at 12 noon Tuesday Dec. 9 in Chicago demanding that they free up money to republic window to pay the workers if no agreement is made to pay the workers in negotiations scheduled to resume on Monday.

For solidarity make checks payable to the UE Local 1110 Solidarity Fund, and mail to: 37 S. Ashland, Chicago, IL 60607.

Messages of support can be sent to For more information, call UE at 312-829-8300.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Economic Crisis:

Global Labor Needs a Global Stimulus

By Scott Marshall

“Workers of the World Unite” is back by popular demand. And not just by demand, but by necessity.

Global transnational corporations and their partners finance capital are working full time to craft an economic solution to the world crisis that preserves their enormous profits and power while putting the burden of recovery on working people. How could it be otherwise?

The capitalist beast has not changed its spots. But it has mutated into a much larger, globally interconnected, behemoth. Its institutions, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization are in full swing. Not to mention the infamous G8 and G20 big country summits. Of course, none of these even have seats at the table for labor.

The global nature of the economic crisis, and the vast, new levels of global economic integration all demand that labor develop its own global strategy.

The recent meeting of world labor leaders in Washington, DC at the time of the last G20 emergency meeting was a very good start. (Read about it in the People’s Weekly World) This meeting of labor leaders from the big economies mapped out some important strings that should be attached to any global deals to protect the public interest. But labor needs to go far beyond just adding its own conditions to the plans being hatched by these global capitalist forums.

First the crisis demands that world labor take steps to accelerate the growing trend of international labor cooperation and even organizational integration. An important first step is world labor unity. How about the merger of global labor federations and industry groups without regard to political or ideological conditions – an end to the cold war for good? It also means further development of initiatives like the United Steelworkers and the British Unite the Union merger into a new global union. (Read about it here) These are all parts of a growing objective process that matches labor unity to the actual conditions of global capital. Again Workers of the World Unite!

Secondly, global labor needs a global program. This will take a lot of discussion. It will take the best thinking of us all. The truth is that the massive impact of the global economic disaster on working families everywhere, can make demands that seemed utopian and impractical in the past, realistic solutions for today.

For example don’t we need a massive global economic stimulus that creates jobs? How about a project by the G8 nations to provide clean drinking water for the billions of people who live without it around the world? Not only would this global infrastructure project be a major blow for world health, it could create millions of jobs in areas that need them most. Such a project would help build sustainable infrastructure for further development in poverty stricken areas of the globe.

Or how about a global minimum wage? As a beginning, why not set minimum standards for transnational companies that prowl the globe in search of cheap labor? They can afford it. Such a minimum wage would have to be based on real circumstances in any given country. But a global minimum wage would protect the living standards of workers in developed countries by raising living standards everywhere. Better wages and benefits help lift standards all around.

Lastly global labor needs to intensify its fight for global labor rights. Stronger labor movements help curb the worst excesses of global capital run wild. At home we need the Employee Free Choice Act to better defend the interests of all working people. More labor power is a counter balance to corporate greed and corruption. The kind of greed and corruption that helped produced the current economic crisis in the first place. Sustainable economic development requires more democracy in the system. Unions contribute to democracy by giving workers a bigger collective voice.

Stronger labor organizations will result in workers and their families keeping more of the wealth they produce. Unions raise the standards for all workers by creating upward pressure on wages and working conditions around them. This in turn creates more demand from below for goods and services making for a more sustainable economy.

Workers of the world unite – now more than ever!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama Wins!
Labor Wins!
Working Families Win!
The American people reject policies of greed
and union-busting!

By Scott Marshall

President-elect Barack Obama.

Those words ring with meaning. For organized labor they ring with pride, hope, and energy for the struggles ahead. No one feels like “labor’s candidate won, so now we can go home and rest.” Rather, as congratulation messages pour in from all parts of the labor movement, the critical subtext is, we are ready and eager to march with you for change. At the top of labor’s change agenda is boots-on-the-ground support for the Obama agenda of a new “New Deal” for economic recovery and passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Organized labor played an amazing role in the election Barack Obama.

Unions played an extraordinary leadership role in winning the working class for Obama.

It’s been many years since labor was so totally united behind a presidential candidate.

Labor raised the struggle against racism and for class unity to a whole new level.

Unions gave vital leadership in building support for Obama on issues like the economy, workers rights to organize, protecting retiree’s pensions and social security, healthcare, and building green manufacturing that protects the environment and puts people back to work.

The labor movement took independent political action to spectacular new levels. Unions broke all previous records in mobilizing it’s rank and file for labor walks, phone banks, plant gate distributions, and member to member contact in the workplace. Labor continued to build and develop it’s own political apparatus and voice. Hundreds, if not thousands, of union halls became campaign central for the Obama campaign as well as for targeted Congressional contests.

As phenomenal as labor’s efforts were, the impact of the Obama upsurge and campaign on labor was also incredible. New coalitions were built or strengthened. A new depth was added to ties between labor and all the components of the Obama movement.

Labor’s role was hardly mentioned in the mainstream press. All the more reason for labor to have a big showing of celebration and support for our new President. Some in labor have begun to talk about a big mobilization for President Barack Obama’s “People’s Inaugural.”

What a great idea!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What's a union gonna do for me?

By Melissa O'Rourke

For young workers who may not know what the advantages of being in a union are, the question "What's a union gonna do for me?" was answered in a report released last week by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The report detailed good news and bad news. The bad news is that workers aged 18-29 have the lowest unionization rates of any age group, and they have been hit hardest by the stagnant wage growth over the last three decades. This is despite a substantial increase in the number of young workers with college degrees.

The good news is that young workers who are in a union make an average of 12.4%, or about $1.75 an hour, more than non-union workers. They are also 17% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 24% more likely to have a pension plan.

According to American Rights at Work, the Employee Free Choice Act would give workers a fair and direct path to form unions through majority sign-up, help employees secure a contract with their employer in a reasonable period of time, and toughen penalties against employers who violate their workers' rights. Senator Barack Obama not only supports the legislation, but is a co-sponsor. Senator McCain opposes it completely.

For young workers in the lowest-wage occupations, the study shows the contrast between union and non-union is even more stark. The median young worker in a low-wage occupation earned $10.62, almost two dollars an hour more than the $8.74 the median non-union young worker earned. These benefits also carried over into their health care coverage, 40% of union workers vs. less than 20% of non-union workers, and 29% had a pension compared to only 11.2% of their non-union counterparts.

In these tough economic times, the union advantage is not only strong, but obvious and necessary. If young workers are to survive, thrive and build a solid future, we must make sure the Employee Free Choice Act is enacted.

The report can be read in its entirety here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bush Hugs New Deal

The irony of it leaves one's toes tingling.

In 2000 Bush invaded the White House with a copy of FDR's New Deal in his back pocket. His plan was to dig a deep hole in the South Lawn and drop it in.

Today, as Bush's days as President dwindle down, the headline of a major newspaper informs us, "Bush Forces 9 Major Banks To Accept Partial Nationalization."


Friday, October 10, 2008

A not so Merry Christmas for Ohio workers

News from CWA: GM Refuses IUE-CWA Efforts to Keep Moraine, Ohio, Plant Open

Rejecting the efforts of IUE-CWA to negotiate a way to save a General Motors assembly plant in Moraine, Ohio, the company has announced it will shut down the plant and lay off the final 1,400 workers two days before Christmas.

"IUE-CWA and the Local 84798 negotiating committee worked closely together to try to rescue this plant," IUE-CWA President Jim Clark said. "We had a strong basis to start from given the high quality and productivity of the workforce. Despite offers to 'do whatever it takes to save Moraine,' GM was determined to shut down the plant."

GM announced this summer that it would close the SUV plant by 2010 because of the big vehicles' slumping sales. About 1,000 jobs were cut in September when GM ended the plant's second shift.

The economic crisis and soaring fuel prices have hit Moraine and nearby Dayton, and its working families, especially hard. Clark described it as a "community already rocked by plant closings and layoffs."

But he said the Moraine plant could have survived if GM had been willing to work with IUE-CWA. "We left no stone unturned," Clark said, describing outreach to elected officials and a range of innovative proposals. "We presented GM with proposals that would have made the Moraine, Ohio, facility - the most competitive in the GM portfolio - even more competitive than their competitors. But GM was not willing to work with us by committing to new product."

The union is finalizing a settlement package for IUE-CWA members at the plant that Clark said "will allow them to transition their lives after this devastating blow." The package will include buyout, retirement and flowback opportunities.

"I know that we can count on the professionalism of our membership to see that the last truck out reflects the quality they are known for," Clark said, urging members to pour their anger into electing a president who stands with workers.

"I call on our members to express their outrage by voting in November for an Obama administration that will work to keep good manufacturing jobs in the United States instead of a continuation of the same trade policies and lax regulation that have destroyed our economy," he said.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Support Striking Colombian Sugar Cane Workers!

From the IUF: Some eighteen thousand Colombian sugar workers in the Cauca river valley region, organized in the National Union of Sugarcane Cutters (SINALCORTEROS) have been on strike since September 15. The IUF is requesting international support for their struggle.

While sugar ethanol production is booming and the mill owners reap super profits fortified by tax exemptions, the condition of the cane cutters continues to worsen steadily. The sugar workers of Valle del Cauca receive poverty wages for a workday stretching to 14 hours a day or more, 7 days a week. The work is debilitating, injuries and occupational diseases are widespread, and the living and working environment and drinking water are heavily polluted by pesticides.

The cane cutters are employed through the bogus "cooperatives" promoted by the Colombian government in order to free the actual employers of any obligations for collective bargaining and health and retirement benefits, which workers must pay out of pocket. These "cooperatives" supply the mills and ethanol plants (located in Free Trade Zones benefiting from additional tax breaks) with a vast army of contracted labour.

On July 14, the union presented a charter of demands to the mill and ethanol plant owners' association ASOCAÑA on July 14, calling for a living wage, reduced hours, an improved living, health and educational environment and the replacement of the fake cooperatives with formal work contracts, union recognition and a collective bargaining agreement.

The demands were ignored for two months, and the union took strike action on September 15. The government and employer response was to use police violence to clear the mills of striking workers.

The striking workers and their union have received strong support and messages of solidarity from IUF affiliates in the region and in the global sugar sector. Through the website of the IUF Latin American regional secretariat, you can add your support by sending a message to the government of Colombia and to the employers' association ASOCAÑA. The message calls on the the government to intervene immediately to bring the employers to the negotiating table to discuss the union demands presented on July 14.

To send a message in English, click here.

To send a message in Spanish, click here.

International and European union leaders call for crisis action from the G7 Finance Ministers

From the ITUC:

Brussels, 8 October 2008: The General Secretaries of the ITUC, ETUC and TUAC have sent an open letter to the G7 Finance Ministers meeting on 10 October, calling for a major recovery plan to stave off the risks of a global recession that goes beyond the coordinated cuts in interest rates announced by six central banks.

The mounting financial chaos is taking its toll on the real economy with sharply falling employment in the United States now spreading into a global recession, threatening jobs around the world with especially severe impacts on the poorest countries. The G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors must put in place a coordinated recovery plan targeted at stimulating the real economy in the G7 and beyond. There should be further coordinated interest rate cuts as necessary. Governments should bring forward infrastructure investment programmes as well as measures to create “green jobs” through alternative energy development and energy saving and conservation. Direct tax and expenditure measures should be introduced to support purchasing power of median and low income earners. As large parts of the financial system are being supported by public taxpayers, the unions insist that governments should take equity stakes and act as activist investors to protect the public interest and ensure that taxpayers are reimbursed. Beyond the immediate action, the G7 governments must work to ensure that a crisis of this scale does not happen again. Work on a new regulatory architecture must begin, covering not just banks but also the parallel financial system as well.

The call for action on the crisis follows the mobilisation of more than a million workers by trade unions in 123 countries around the world on October 7, the World Day for Decent Work. The central demand of the World Day focused on a fundamental transformation of the global economy against the background of the current crisis.

To read the full text please click here

The ITUC represents 168 million workers in 155 countries and territories and has 311 national affiliates.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Today is World Day for Decent Work!

From the AFL-CIO NOW Blog:

Global Unions Join for World Day for Decent Work

by James Parks, Oct 7, 2008

Around the world, thousands of workers will observe the first World Day for Decent Work today to focus attention on global solidarity and a joint action to ensure that every worker has a job that provides basic needs for themselves and their families. The AFL-CIO Solidarity Center and its partners worldwide will participate in a range of activities focusing on three themes: rights at work, solidarity and ending poverty and inequality.

Last year, global unions called on governments and global leaders to keep their promises to create decent work for all. The promise was part of a July 2006 U.N. ministerial declaration, and several international workers’ groups are sponsoring the Decent Work/Decent Life action.

With half the world’s workers earning less than $2 a day and more than 12 million women and men working in slavery, the need for decent work is clear. Says Ellie Larson, executive director of the Solidarity Center:

I am struck by how many people throughout the world do not have decent work—whose jobs do not pay enough to provide for the very basic necessities of food and shelter for themselves and their families; whose employers do not respect their workers enough to ensure a safe and healthy work environment; whose compensation does not include any hope for a secure retirement or for appropriate health care. These, the rights of every worker, are denied to so many.

Guy Ryder, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), adds:

Today, the global financial architecture is more fragile than ever. The lack of regulation in financial markets has led to global economic panic, a risk of downturn in the real economy, and thousands poised to lose their homes. People no longer believe that globalization works to their benefit. Governments agreed to make decent work a goal. Now those same governments must act to ensure that decent work is mainstreamed in global institutions.

To learn more about the ITUC’s Decent Work campaign, click here and here to sign an international Call to Action for Decent Work-Decent Life.

The Decent Work campaign is calling on world leaders to:

  • Reaffirm the commitment to create healthy economies and just and equal communities through strategies for full and productive employment.
  • Affirm that everyone has the right to work, to good working conditions and to sufficient income for their basic economic, social and family needs—rights that should be enforced by providing adequate living wages.
  • Respect workers’ freedom to form and join trade unions and bargain collectively.
  • Strengthen and broaden social safety net protection by ensuring access to social security, pensions, unemployment benefits, maternity protection and quality health care for all.
  • Change unfair trade rules and ensure that trade agreements are used as instruments for decent work, sustainable development and empowerment of the world’s workers, women, the unemployed and the poor.
  • Create binding mechanisms for the promotion and enforcement of decent work, including core labor standards, in trade agreements.
  • Ensure the priorities of the international financial institutions incorporate social and environmental concerns. Particularly, loan and debt conditions, which force countries to deregulate labor markets, reduce public spending and privatize public services must be stopped.
  • Ensure that migrant workers are not exploited and that they enjoy the same rights as other workers.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on the State of the Economy and the Jobs Report

October 03, 2008

What will it take for our elected leaders to help Main Street? Today’s news that our nation lost another 159,000 jobs last month – bringing the total number of jobs lost this year to 760,000 – should set off alarm bells at every level about the need to pass an economic stimulus package and provide real help to stem the continuing flood of foreclosures before asking taxpayers to bail out Wall Street. It is simply an outrage that our representatives are spending their remaining time helping Wall Street when the clock is running out for working families across the country. The middle class is collapsing. Across the country, more and more workers are facing long-term unemployment with little hope for finding any job, let alone one that pays the bills.

It is essential that we provide immediate relief to families across the country who are bearing the brunt of our economic meltdown. Congress should pass a stimulus bill that will help working people along with any effort to boost Wall Street. This is the moment to extend unemployment insurance for those without work. The number of long-term unemployed people rose by 167,000 last month, bringing the total unemployed for longer than 27 weeks to 2 million. The National Employment Law Project estimates that three-quarters of a million of those currently receiving unemployment benefits will exhaust their benefits this year without finding a new job. We also must give support to the states whose budgets will suffer under the current economy and create new jobs by rebuilding our nation’s crumbling roads, schools and bridges.

The roots of our nation’s current economic crisis are decades deep. They reflect a basic elitism that has been built into our economic rules -- a philosophy that underpins the Bush Administration’s economic agenda and has permeated McCain’s as well for his 26 years in the Senate. These rules favor corporate profits and Wall Street investors over the working people who build our cities, teach our children and nurse our ills.

Working people are suffering real economic pain, and if there is money enough for Wall Street, Congress and the president need to dig a little deeper and find the funds to take care of people who are shouldering the burden of this economy.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Modest Bailout Proposal

How about a trickle-up Bailout instead of trickle down.

By Scott Marshall

Perhaps the biggest fault of the bailout being debated (possibly passed by the time you read this) is that it is based on the idea that the relief given to Wall Street will trickle down to hard-hit working class folks on Your Street.

Who knows? Given that the underlying problem of crazy predatory mortgages and lending practices, and the housing bubble are not fundamentally addressed, then the bailout could just as well not avert a meltdown. Most people you talk to don’t have much confidence that the bailout will slow foreclosures, unemployment, or declining incomes.

But what if the bailout went the other way? What if taxpayers bailout themselves and then the benefit trickled up?

How could you do it? What if everyone who has lost a home to foreclosure in the last year, or is in foreclosure, or is behind on their house payments, got a bailout directly from the Treasury? This would be a direct injection of liquidity into the financial markets. Banks and lending institutions would receive an infusion of cold hard cash from their victims, er… customers. This would immediately stimulate consumer spending also. It would free up stressed incomes for working class families and right the injustice of the unfair and predatory lending practices used by the big finance boys on Wall Street. If this works then Congress might want to extend it to car loans and other big loans – this would inject liquidity into the auto industry instead of the $25 billion taxpayer bailout to auto already passed by Congress.

I can hear the rightwing now. How can you reward those who used poor judgment and borrowed over their ability to pay back? Well yeah…. Isn’t that the “principal” that is already enshrined in the Wall Street bailout? Not to mention that the housing bubble that got us into this mess began with risky, predatory loans. But now increasingly the crisis involves conventional loans, overwhelmingly by folks who have faithfully paid their mortgages. Wouldn’t millions of people getting a several thousand dollar bailout do more to free up spending and money circulation than a few dozen big lenders getting billions to put in their bank vaults?

This could even be extended to health care. Instead of a bailout of insurance vampires like AIG, or silly schemes to give tax credits for private purchase of insurance, why not pay the full premiums with no deductibles and no co-pays for every person in the US. (Might be called single payer) Then, working class families (the overwhelming majority) again, would have more cash to circulate and consume – billions in liquidity. And corporations would shed billions in healthcare costs thus freeing up huge amounts of capital to invest in creating jobs and Greening their industries. Congress might then realize that the predatory “middlemen” of big financials, like private insurance companies, don’t really play any useful purpose anyway – and could be allowed to go out of the healthcare business.

Not only would $700,000,000,000 probably be enough for a trickle up bailout, it would probably also calm world markets faster, because it would get at the root of the current economic crisis. And it would promote goodwill and a better image of America. It would show that even under gigantic state owned capitalism with all it’s vast inequalities, it is still possible to fight and win humane, logical, people-helping solutions.

I can hear my conservative friends now, “This will only lead to even bigger public programs. People will start taking about nationalizing the big oil and energy companies, nationalizing the banking system, free education and childcare, and on and on.”

Well yeah……

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Thanks but no thanks!

Dear Members of Congress,

As a taxpayer in good standing, I wish to inform you that I choose to opt out of participating in the financial crisis bailout.

Please send my $2,300 as soon as is conveniently possible.

Thank you and good luck in your endeavor.

Gain, Blame and Pain.

Two of the burning questions coming out of the current financial crisis brought on by the mortgage scandal are: who gets the blame and who gets the pain.

The apologists for capitalist excess say the the loaners and the borrowers share in the blame.

Let's consider.

For years Bush pushed his ownership society plan. Owning a home he told us at every opportunity was part of the American Dream and now was the time to do it. Home buyers were investing in their future. Buying a home was investing in America and investing in America was the patriotic thing to do.

Consumers listened to his message and, trusting the advice of Bush and the propaganda of the mortgage industry, bought their small slice of the American Dream. By the thousands!

In the meantime the Bush/Cheney policies of total deregulation, i.e. greed control, was creating an economic House of Horrors. A place that should have had a sign above the door that stated, "Warning: Enter at Your Own Risk."

But Bush/Cheney and their corporate pals encouraged, enticed and manipulated those folks into this House of Horrors while cynically neglecting to mention the danger.

Billions of dollars of profit were made by the lenders as they packaged and sold these new mortgages which were then repackaged and resold again. It was the time for gain.

Then the pyramid collapsed and the time for blame and pain began.

Throughout this period two things stand out that point to where the blame and pain should be directed.

The first that the home buyers' actions were based on trust and willingness to play by the rules.

The second that the mortgage loaners' actions were based on greed and economic opportunism.

Clearly a no-brainer for who should get the blame and feel the pain.

We are now witnessing an attempt by the apologists and Bush/Cheney people to spread this scam to the general public with a bail-out proposal that would make billions of taxpayers dollars available to these corporate thieves with no relief for the home buyers who stand to lose their homes and to-date investments. Congress must give its approval.

Under this proposal the corporations gain while feeling no pain. CEO's will reward themselves bonuses of millions of our dollars for their "efforts". In effect they will be rewarded for causing the greatest financial crisis in modern history.

There is a hue and cry rising from Congress and others that this proposal include regulation of any compensation these crooks are able to receive and more consideration given to helping the distressed and victimised homeowners.

The CEOs and their brethren are vehemently opposed to any such regulation and the Bush/Cheney people are saying there is no time for debating the issue, that the CEOs might not agree to join in the government sponsored bail-out if their paycheck is controlled and that we can address those questions when the crisis is averted.

Well, there is a fair and just solution to this. If the creators of the crisis refuse to cooperate with the solution they can and should be arrested and charged with economic terrorism against the State and treason!

Then we can all enjoy a good night's sleep!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Healthcare plan? Hand sanitizer

Employee benefits package? Soda in the break room.

Welcome to a workplace that’s seriously out of whack:

Let's face it. Something's wrong when CEOs rake in hundreds of times what their employees earn, and workers get the boot just for talking about unions.

It could almost be a bad joke if it weren't such a serious problem. That's why we teamed up with the award-winning producers at Brave New Films to make this video, and hope you take a minute to sign our petition after you watch.

Check out the video and take one minute to sign our petition for workers' rights.

Thank you for your support,

Liz Cattaneo
American Rights at Work

P.S. After you sign the petition, can you send this message to one or two (or 10) of your friends? We're counting on you to spread the word!

P.P.S. Watch a live online show about our video and the Employee Free Choice Act! Tune into this Friday, Sept. 12 at 1pm EST / 10am PST.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Striking Machinists at Boeing ask: “How do you hide $13 billion?”

Author: John Wojcik

“How do you hide $13 billion? Do you stuff it in an airplane? Do you give it to the CEO? Or, do you share it with your workers?”

These questions are printed on union flyers being distributed by thousands of striking Boeing workers at locations in Washington state, Oregon and Kansas as the total shutdown of the nation's largest airplane maker entered its second day.

Unprecedented profits now being made by Boeing are fueling the anger of the 27,000 workers who shut down the giant corporation Sept. 6.

Tom Wroblewski, who heads the union's negotiating committee, said that in the last five years Boeing has reported after tax profits of more than $13 billion - an increase of over 828 percent from the prior five year period.

“Yet Boeing continues to offer proposals more fitting of a company in bankruptcy,” he said.

Boeing says it is not in a position to pass along increased pay and benefits costs to customers.

“We agree,” said Wroblewski, “The costs should come out of their increased profits - not be passed along to the airline customer.”

The union says Boeing will come up with many additional excuses as to why it shouldn't share its profits with its workers but that the unprecedented backlogs of unfilled orders from all over the world, together with the record profits, constitute almost a moral imperative that the workers should see some benefit. The union makes no secret of the fact that it considers itself to be in a very strong bargaining position. “They need the workers,” a union source said, “they are hiring workers every day and they still can't fill the back orders.”

It is against that backdrop that workers became particularly angry when the company proposed not increases but cutbacks in benefits when it made its final offer.

Boeing demanded, for example, that a family of three should pay a maximum of $6,000 in out-of-pocket health care costs, up from the current $4,000 maximum. In addition, it proposed slashing of both vision and dental care benefits.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Labor seizes the moment, unites to elect Obama

By John Wojcik, Labor Editor, People's Weekly World

(Editor's Note: John Wojcik is reporting daily from the DNC in Denver, this is the first in a series of articles from John this week)

Author: John Wojcik
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 08/25/08 17:17

DENVER — Two thousand union members, more than half of them delegates to the Democratic National Convention, rallied here Aug. 24 to launch an unprecedented effort by labor to change America this fall. Intended or not, the huge labor gathering served to kick off and set the tone for the entire convention.

In a dramatic show of unity, leaders of the AFL-CIO, the National Education Association (NEA) and Change to Win clasped hands and raised their arms above their heads. The gesture brought down the house as African American, Latino and white members of nearly every union in the country rose to their feet in prolonged applause and began chanting, “O-BA-MA, O-BA-MA!”

The presidential race is the first one since several unions left the AFL-CIO to form the Change to Win coalition. “It’s important to note we are united in our determination to turn around America,” declared AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “And by united, I mean all of us — the AFL-CIO, the NEA, Change to Win, 17 million members, 28 million potential voters from union households — all of us together. We are united behind two champions of a better America — Barack Obama and Joe Biden — an incredible choice.”

AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker laid out for the labor delegates what she described as their “special responsibility” during and after the Democratic convention.

“As labor delegates,” she said, “we are making sure this week that every single delegate to this convention understands as well as we do that we cannot turn around America unless we restore the free choice of working people to come together in unions and bargain for better wages and benefits and a real voice on the job.”

“Barack Obama gets it,” she declared. “He knows the Employee Free Choice Act is key to rebuilding our middle class and restoring hope to working America.”

Obama is a co-sponsor of the EFCA and has repeatedly pledged to sign it into law.

“Barack Obama has a 98 percent voting record for working families,” Holt Baker said, “while John McCain has a stunning record of voting with President Bush 89 percent of the time.”

Holt Baker, the first African American woman to hold the position of executive vice president of the nation’s largest labor federation, was preceded in that job by Linda Chavez-Thompson who was the highest ranking Latina official in the federation. Chavez-Thompson, now a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, was present at the rally, where she was greeted by hundreds of labor delegates from all over the country.

A unique moment at the rally occurred when retired steelworker Steve Skvara rose to the podium. “Now I know what corporations really fear — us,” he said. The remark brought down the house a second time with the delegates starting a second round of prolonged applause and calling out Obama’s name.

Skvara’s moving account at the AFL-CIO presidential debates in Chicago’s Soldier Field last year of how he and his wife had to choose which of them would get health insurance was viewed on TV by millions of Americans.

“Our feet have got to hit the street to get Barack Obama elected,” he told the cheering crowd.

He was followed by a virtual parade to the podium of leaders of almost every major union in the country, who rallied the crowd with one militant speech after another, bringing the crowds to their feet over and over again. Among them was Leo Gerard, president of the Steelworkers, who said the country needs another New Deal, similar to the one ushered in when FDR was president.

“The message from labor and then the message from this whole convention to the Bush-McCain crowd is that if they even dream about dividing us along lines of race, sex, age, religion, cultural ideas or anything else we are going to wake them up so we can knock them out,” declared Reggie Weaver, president of the NEA. Again, a prolonged standing ovation and a spontaneous chanting session for Obama.

Many of the labor leaders warned delegates that nothing should be taken for granted in this election and that the close polls showed that there are still too many white workers in the unions who are hesitant to back Obama because he is Black.

“If someone tells you they aren’t ready to vote for Obama because of his race, you tell them ‘That’s too bad but this is 2008 and I am ready. America is ready. This is a matter of our economic survival’,” declared Rich Trumka, AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer.

Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers, related how he had just gotten an offer to appear on a right-wing talk show: “The host said, ‘Hey, O’Sullivan, what’s up with all this I hear about you supporting Obama?’ I told him what’s up. Unemployment, prices, gas at the pump, the number of jobs shipped overseas, the death toll of our soldiers in Iraq, the cost of health care, and when the workers win, after Obama is elected, the time for Bush, McCain and all his crowd will be up.” The right-wing pundit, O’Sullivan said, decided against having him on the show.

All the union leaders warned that the labor movement and progressives in general must ready themselves for a bigger-than-ever attack by the right wing.

“After today, what they’ve thrown at us in the last years will only get worse,” declared Gerald McEntee, AFL-CIO political action director. “Bush, Cheney, the corporate crowd, the right wing — they’ve hit us with the kitchen sink and we’ve been tattooed, beaten up, bruised and thrown against the wall. They’re working overtime now to make this campaign about Obama when we know damned well that it’s about us, the people. We can’t let them get away with this. Not this time, not ever again. Labor, the sleeping giant, woke up. Now the giant must stand up and fight like hell.”

The danger the union leaders warned about is already evident. Colorado is among several “swing” states where anti-labor groups have put so-called right-to-work and anti-affirmative-action initiatives on the ballot for the November elections. Labor has organized numerous meetings during this convention week to map out plans to fight the measures. (See related PWW story online soon.)

jwojcik @