Tuesday, January 29, 2008
By Scott Marshall
The economic stimulus plan negotiated between Bush and the House of Representatives falls way short of what working families need. It really amounts to another huge tax give-away for big business. No one should scoff at the rebates, however. Even a few hundred dollars will help many families in trouble. But the fundamental immediate stimulus needed includes paycheck to paycheck unemployment compensation for the duration of joblessness, a big boost in food stamps and utility bill subsidy programs, and an immediate moratorium on foreclosures on family homes.
And there is no basic way out of this growing economic crisis that does not include: 1) Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act so that workers can organize to defend their own economic security, 2) Comprehensive, universal health care for all (HR 676), 3) Renegotiating all trade agreements to include ironclad labor and environmental standards, and 4) A comprehensive industrial policy that ends tax subsidies for big business to export jobs and strengthens regulation of investments to encourage building a needs-based and sustainable manufacturing base, including mass transit and other people’s needs.
Several Senators have promised to strengthen the plan by adding unemployment extensions and more money for food stamps and similar measures. These efforts should be vigorously supported including mobilizing union committees and demanding that all candidates support these minimum efforts. At the same time the crisis will worsen and labor and the peoples movements need to organize for deeper more comprehensive emergency measures.
We think the AFL-CIO’s proposed stimulus plan is a very good start in this direction. Read it here.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Author: John Wojcik
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – One thousand leaders of the nation’s labor movement, gathered here for the AFL-CIO’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Observance, launched a drive Jan. 18 to “take back the country” in the 2008 elections.
Heeding King’s 1961 declaration that “the vote is our most powerful weapon,” labor and civil rights leaders mapped plans and held training sessions to arm trade unionists with tools they hope will elect a pro-worker president, larger pro-labor majorities in the Senate and the House, pro-labor governors and hundreds of progressives in state legislative bodies. Observers called it the most ambitious election effort ever by labor and its allies.
Before they launched their actual plan the unionists were fired up by remarks made by Ron Walters, professor at the University of Maryland-College Park, who said “in 2008, the elections are the key vehicle for civil and workers’ rights.
“Dr. King would indeed be proud if he could see the field of the main Democratic contenders for the presidency, a woman, an African American, and a white male who opened his campaign for the job in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans,” Walters declared as delegates rose to their feet and cheered.
“As always, we must keep the issues on the front burner,” he said, “but I think we can live with any of these three candidates and when could we ever say that before about all the possible nominees of one of the big parties?” Article continues here.
"Victory for Amtrak Workers: Amtrak and workers may have struck a deal Friday morning that could give workers their first new contract in eight years and end a possible January 30 strike (Amtrak Unions Return to Bargaining Table, January 30 Strike Possible 1/18/08 UC), reported the Associated Press' Devlin Barrett Friday. The deal is reportedly based on a Presidential Emergency Board recommendation that sides with workers demands for a "32.5% pay increase retroactive from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2009," reports Occupational Health & Safety. The Board also ruled against Amtrak's "attempts to impose new work rules and combine jobs," Occupational Health & Safety reports."
Now we owe it to the dedicated Amtrak workers to make sure we elect a Congress that will fully fund and enforce this contract.
Friday, January 18, 2008
January 18, 2008 - A union coalition comprised of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), Transportation Communications Union (TCU), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) today tentatively agreed on new contract terms with Amtrak covering nearly 3,500 workers, including 500 IAM members.
“District 19 President Joe Duncan and General Chairman Mike Hill did journeymen’s jobs working with the coalition members to obtain this agreement,” said IAM General Vice President Robert Roach, Jr. “The IAM thanks all our friends in Congress who supported us during this most difficult time in labor’s history at Amtrak.”
The tentative agreement’s terms closely follow recommendations of a Presidential Emergency Board created by President George W. Bush to investigate the more than eight year long contract dispute. Provisions include wage increases that average 35.2 percent over the life of the January 1, 2000 – December 31, 2009 agreement, or 3.1 percent compounded per year. Retroactive pay varies, but averages $12,800 which will be paid in two installments.
“Amtrak wanted a regressive agreement that gutted our work language and dramatically eroded job security,” said District 19 President Joe Duncan. “We retained all the work rules that Amtrak demanded be changed and secured retroactive wage increases for our members. All coalition unions recommend ratification of the agreement.”
The tentative agreement is subject to membership ratification. Each union will hold separate and independent membership ratification votes.
More information about the Machinists Union at Amtrak is available at www.iamdl19.org.
Five months ago 1300 miners shut down the largest copper mine in Mexico in the mountain town of Cananea, in Sonora, Mexico. They were striking against terrible health and safety conditions in the mines. On last Friday (Jan. 11) the strikers report that over 800 heavily armed Federal and Sonora state police invaded the town putting at least 10 strikers in the hospital, some with serious injuries and they report that five strikers are missing.
For in depth background read David Bacon’s excellent story here.
On Wednesday 25,000 miners throughout Mexico held a one day strike in solidarity with the Cananea miners. The Cananea mine is owned by Grupo Mexico SAB. The company claims it has lost $600 million in lost production because of the strike.
The United Steelworkers (USW) has a strategic alliance with the Mexican strikers union, the Union of Mine, Metal and Allied Workers. This alliance was forged, in part, in a bitter strike in Arizona by the USW against Asarco mines, owned by Grupo Mexico SAB. The USW immediately sprang into solidarity action to support the Cananea miners. The union is demanding hearings in Congress aimed at stopping George W. Bush’s so called “Merida Initiative” to provide $1.4 billion to Mexican security forces. Leo Gerard, president of the USW said in his letter to Congress, “The Calderón administration’s flagrant violations of workers’ fundamental rights to organize and bargain and its continuing use of security forces to assault unarmed workers, raise serious questions about the desirability of providing Mexico with additional security funding.”
See the USW press release here.