July 28, 2013

Restructuring By Gender: NWLC Finds 60% Of Job Gains For Women Are Low Wage

The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) found that under the recent "Recovery"[sic] 60 percent of women's job gains are in low-wage occupations.  For men the figure is 20 percent.

The economy is adding jobs but it is bad news for women.  Where six out of ten jobs are low wage they are impossible for a woman to support herself much less a family, according to Jean Entmacher who is Vice President for Family and Economic Security for NWLC.  She looked at 2009-2012.

She also looked at the largest low paid occupations and the percentage of women in those jobs for the same period:  Childcare (94%); Maids, Housekeepers (88%); Home Health Aides (88%); Personal Care Aides (89%); Cashiers (72%); Waiters, Waitresses (71%); Food Preparers, Servers (65%); Bartenders (60%); Hand Packers and Packagers (53%).

In the same time period there have been brutal cuts to public services that have cost women hundreds of thousands of better paying jobs.  And of course there have been ramped up attacks on unions and unionized workers and these have only increased since 2012. In Oregon there will be an initiative on the ballot in 2014 which will be an attack on our predominately female and unionized work force in the public sector. This is another attack on women which is occurring nationwide. We must organize a coordinated fightback around every attack on our bodies, our rights and our livelihood.

July 26, 2013

August 24th March On Washington For Jobs, Expanded Social Security And Justice

Fifty years ago, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. led a great March for JOBS and FREEDOM on Washington that demanded:

“A massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers—Negro and white—on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages.
“A national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living. (Government surveys show that anything less than $2.00 [$15.23 at May 2013 prices] an hour fails to do this.)”
Shockingly, most working people are worse off today than in the 1960s:
Employment statistics today are clearly worse. Thanks to the Great Recession, the national unemployment rate still hovers at 7.6 percent; in 1963 it was 5.7 percent. But that is only part of the picture. Part-time workers who want full-time work are on the rise. And even worse, the number of those who have completely given up hope of finding a job has increased precipitously: in 1954, 96 percent of U.S. men between 25 and 54 years old worked but today that number has dropped to 80 percent. When all these sectors of unemployed or partially employed are combined and only those men who are unemployed but want work are included, the unemployment rate jumps to 16 percent.
The 1963 March and other struggles of the 1960s by workers and unions succeeded in raising the minimum wage, along with other wages, so that in 1968, we achieved the highest minimum wage ever. Were it that high now, it would be $10.70 instead of only $7.25. The average hourly wage in the private sector reached a peak in the early 1970’s, not reached since, forty years later. Partly as a consequence of the declining strength of unions, wages have stagnated or even declined in relation to our ability to produce, with the lion’s share flowing to the very top income receivers. And most of those who have been lucky enough to find work since the Great Recession have been channeled into the low-wage sector of the job market.
MLK at the 1963 March on WashingtonBlack workers continue to be unemployed at a rate that is twice that for white workers; Hispanic workers have a rate nearly 40% higher than white, non-Hispanic workers, and both suffer wage disparities.
In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the government instituted job programs and put millions to work. Today, President Obama has announced that it is not the government’s job to create the needed number of jobs. In fact, the Obama administration has advocated a totally inadequate plan that would provide less than two million new jobs.
Compounding these dire circumstances, social safety net programs, like food stamps and unemployment compensation, including for those suffering long-term joblessness, have been cut across the board on the national, state, and local levels and will likely be cut again, especially in light of the recent decision by the House to push through a farm bill without food stamps.
Whatever recovery there has been from the Great Recession has resulted in income gains concentrated at the top. This division in economic gains is not new. It extends and reinforces the trend toward Gilded Age inequality that has been going on for four decades. In 2010, 93 percent of all new income that was created went to the wealthiest 1 percent of the population.
The attacks on African Americans and people of color have continued unabated, as witnessed by the brutal murder of Trayvon Martin and the exoneration of his killer. This on top of the June 25 Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act.
It’s high time for all victims of austerity cuts, potential victims of further cuts in the near and long-term future — particularly low-income and poor people — along with communities of color, students, environmentalists and other sectors of the population reeling from the deteriorating conditions under which we live to come together to fight collectively for our rights and achieve a new wave of social progress.
We demand that the federal government create tens of millions of good paying jobs to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, protect the environment, and rehire laid-off teachers and other essential public workers.
These jobs will partially pay for themselves, because workers with decent jobs pay more in taxes and don’t need unemployment compensation or food stamps. But of course there will be some costs.  that can be paid for by more tax revenues from corporations, banks and the rich, financial transfer taxes, and ending the 12-year Afghanistan war — which would save $10 billion a month — while saving tens of billions more by avoiding further unjust wars and occupations.
Join tens of thousands of people in Washington on August 24 to commemorate the ideals of Rev. King and the 1963 March.  Renew the call for jobs, freedom, and economic justice, and work to make civil and economic rights a reality for all!

Labor Organizations Endorsing the March on Washington

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
United Steelworkers
Laborers International Union of North America
Communications Workers of America
American Federation of Government Employees
Service Employees International Union
United Food and Commercial Workers
Farm Labor Organizing Committee
American Federation of Teachers
International Association of Machinists
District 1199C, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, AFSCME, AFL-CIO
North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor (Cleveland, Ohio)
New Jersey State Industrial Union Council
South Carolina AFL-CIO
San Francisco Labor Council
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
A. Philip Randolph Institute
Pennsylvania Federation Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees–International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Utility Workers Union of America Local 601
AFSCME New Jersey Council 1
Communications Workers of America Local 1082
Communications Workers of America Local 1081
Communications Workers of America Local 1080
Service Employees International Union Local 668
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 819
Amalgamated Transit Union New Jersey State Council
Savannah Regional Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Rutgers University American Association of University Professors–American Federation of Teachers
Council of New Jersey State College Locals, AFT, AFL-CIO
Labor Fightback Network

If your union wishes to endorse the March on Washington, click here

July 21, 2013

Finally, Two Thumbs Up For "The Lone Ranger".

The U.S. press panned it.  Not because Johnny Depp plays Tonto.  They don't really like that Tonto is the leading man, it confuses them.  This Tonto is no Uncle Tom.  But in the mainstream press they express their dislike in two ways.  First it is too long.  Really?  I didn't notice.  The other criticism is that it is too violent.  Are you kidding? This is a Hollywood film and by those standards that criticism holds no weight. 

But maybe the left wing press/web sites can take another view. Take Jacobin for instance.  No such luck as Eileen Jones writes a review titled, "The Fantastic Failure Of "The Lone Ranger".  But at least she does take notice of the major theme. When we meet John Reid (Lone Ranger) he is wearing a suit and sitting in a train car where everyone is reading their bible. John however is clutching John Locke's "Second Treatise Of Government".  Jones notes that the "Second Treatise..." says that man [sic] leaves the state of nature and enters into a social contract to better protect his property and material possessions - property rights.  Marxist scholars say that Locke was laying the groundwork for bourgeois capitalism.  That all relations are transactional relations.  Later on in the film the main villain, the railroad baron quotes Locke chapter and verse.  So I may have your interest, no such luck with the Jacobin writer.  Her criticisms outweigh everything. She doesn't like the rhythm and the humor is "awkward".  She says that for her it took a lot of "mental work" for her to make the pieces fit.  Oh dear.  She is definitely not someone I would want as a movie date.  I found it funny with a lot of under your breath, "Oh, Yeahhh" moments.

Of course Business Week and Forbes hated it but that was because it did not make enough money.  They probably didn't even see it but just looked at their balance sheets. Just as well they might have seen themselves in the movie.

But the blogger at wineandsavage.blogspot.com did like it "The Lone Ranger Is Awesome".  He compares it to other films directed by Gore Verbinski, primarily Johnny Depp in "The Pirates Of The Caribbean". He says it demands the audience attention and is dense with metaphor and symbolism.  He also liked the subtext of the relationship between capitalism and the military-industrial complex.  "The Lone Ranger could practically be titled, 'Occupy The Old West'."  And in another shout out to Eileen Jones, "Everything fits together like clockwork if you just pay attention to the movie". 

Well, I paid attention to evil railroad barons, breaking of "Indian Treaties" stealing silver, oppressing Chinese workers and camp humor. Well spent 150 minutes.

Progressive White Guys?

I recently moved across the country and upon arrival, I signed up with Tompkins County Workers Center (Ithaca, NY) and began to be active on a Living Wage ordinance sponsored by the TCWC.

So once again, I'm out doing something I've done ad nauseum over the years; that is gathering signatures, this time for a Living Wage project.

Now gathering signatures isn't all bad. It is an opportunity to meet and engage with folks; good political discussions do happen. On the other hand, there's a certain dialogue I seem to be running into all too frequently. This dialogue seems always to occur with white guys, in particular, white guys who might style themselves to be progressive, hold tolerant beliefs about others, and present themselves as engaged in the issues relevant to the day. Yet, with only a little conversation it becomes clear that these guys are walking impediments to any kind of action necessary if we want to change the world.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

A week or so ago, I was collecting signatures at a local food co-op. A guy in maybe his 30s asks me what I'm gathering signatures for, and I tell him. The rest of the dialogue goes like this:

The Guy: The only thing that will work is an international luxury tax!

Me: Well, I like the idea of the luxury tax but things are more complex than just that.

The Guy: No, an international luxury tax! If those CEOs had to pay a 75% tax when they build their 2 million dollar mansions, they'd think twice.

Me: Yeah, well it really is more complex than one single magic bullet act, for instance...

The Guy: (cutting me off).... Oh, you mean it will never pass.... It probably won't...

Me: No, the world is more complex, for instance....

The Guy: Just one thing, the international luxury tax! That's it (as guy walks away towards his car)!

I don't want to knock an international luxury tax; that's not the point. The point is that we have a guy here who seems to understand that wealth inequality is a major global issue. Yet he constructs his views in such a way as to block any follow through actions. The guy goes out of his way to engage with me. He states his position, which is one based on issue sympathy with me. Then however, his puts all his eggs in one basket, the international luxury tax, even while suggesting that it is an impossible program,.Then he walks away, passing up a productive action that might have taken him maybe three seconds, namely signing his name to the petition.

Then, couple of days ago, I run into another guy, and the dialogue goes like this:

The Guy: What is the petition for?

Me: (I explain the Living Wage legislation).

The Guy: That's good! (I figure he'll sign the petition). I don't know though, how about the small business owner?

Me: Yup, know that argument. You know though, the evidence points to communities being more prosperous, with lower needs for food stamps, housing assistance, etc. after Living Wage standards have been adopted. And little businesses don't go belly up. That's a piece of myth concocted and maintained by those who make money off low wages.

The Guy: Well, it just won't work. It's too little and won't have an effect.... Anarchists are saying we need a revolution, I think so....

Me: Look, I'm a communist, but....!

 The Guy: Cool!

Me: But you can't just sit around and wait for the revolution. A movement takes lots of little actions to build up into an effective movement... You've got to be able to engage with even the small things. That's where other people are....


Me: Can I get you to sign the petition?

The Guy: I don't know... It's hard to say.... It (Living Wage) just doesn't do anything... (he is backing off)

I do want to say the point in going over the above two conversations is that these are common conversations. The guys above are examples, not isolated incidents. Interestingly however, these conversations seem only to occur with white guys who are not part of the Right and otherwise have decent political values.

As such, these guys are not the enemy. But they sure are part of the problem!

Capitalism creates a unique mass despair. That nothing can be changed; that all opposition is futile. I don't have the time or background to go into this issue (To see a great discussion of this issue, check out http://www.humaniteinenglish.com/spip.php?article2311 ). Instead, the point I do want to make is that in spite of decent core values, these guys are de facto, acting as the messengers of capitalism's despair. This is why guys, and arguments like the above are a problem.

I don't have any great remedy for the guys who field the above kinds of conversations. But I would suggest this: When you hear positions such a those presented by the two guys above, don't let it go, it needs to be confronted.


July 20, 2013

July 20, 1934: Minneapolis Teamsters Strike

On this day the Minneapolis Police opened fire on unarmed pickets - 2 were killed and 67 wounded.  For the history including video of the struggle check out: http://www.minneapolis1934.org

July 16, 2013

Alice Walker On The Murder Of Trayvon Martin

I deliberately watched none of the Zimmerman trial, just as I have deliberately not read a draft of a new book by Jen Marlowe and others, soon to be published: I Am Troy Davis, about a young black man in Georgia who was, by all indications, innocent of any crime – but was put to death recently by the state. News of these deaths, of Troy, of Trayvon, is so painful that I protect myself in this way.
So many killings of black men in my lifetime. The physical shock is astounding.
I write this, remembering that when Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in 1968, the shock to my system was so severe I lost the child I was carrying. This shock, this assault on the psyche and body, is what is intended.
That, too, is painful, though we may feel glad not to be, ourselves, so cruel and sadistic. I feel the grief of all people who love fairness and justice coursing through my body, deep into my soul. We are united in our suffering. Being aware of this helps.
Contemplating Zimmerman's exoneration for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in a letter to a friend yesterday, I wrote this, with a few thoughts added today:
Just heard the Zimmerman verdict. It makes me think of the man given the "pleasure" of assassinating Che Guevara. He was young, and it was his birthday. He was strutting and proud to be offered this "work", as Che stood bleeding, weakened and alone, before him.
Fast forward to recently, when the assassin became old and ill and needed surgery – and Cuban doctors (who loved Che Guevara) did their best to heal him.
The ache of realization, of what he has done, when it comes for Zimmerman, will be all the punishment he will ever deserve. I remember now, with understanding, that our parents used to say, about things they regretted they had done and that they got away with: "I'd rather take a whipping …"
Zimmerman will wish many times in his life that they had given him 100 years.

July 15, 2013

Zimmerman and the hunting of Black Folks

This article was originally published on billfletcherjr.com.
I received the news when i was getting ready to eat.
I was prepared, intellectually, for a not-guilty verdict. I was not ready in my gut.
As a radical i am quite aware of the injustices that regularly and historically have happened to people of color and to the poor. I am aware of how the system regularly justifies the murder of black people.
Yet i am nothing but sickened. And sitting here listening to these so-called defense attorneys gloat over their victory and place the blame for Trayvon Martin’s death on Trayvon is actually more than i can take.
This verdict is a verdict in favor of white fear. We should all be clear about that. This is a verdict that says that white people have every right to fear any and every black person and, if the law permits it, to act upon such fear. I do not care whether Zimmerman is part Latino, he acted as a white man and that is certainly how he will be remembered. Zimmerman looked at Trayvon through the eyes of a white man and assumed danger when no danger existed.
I just heard the attorneys asked what would have happened had the roles been reversed and one of the defense attorneys suggested that this would have never gone to trial and that this trial was manufactured by civil rights advocates. Well, i will give you a very different answer. Were an African American to shoot and kill a white youth who s/he believed was a threat there is little question but that such a person would be found guilty of something, assuming that they were not first lynched. The right of self-defense is not a right that Black people have ever had respected by white authorities, but when it is whites, or people acting as white, who claim self-defense against Blacks, any use of force is considered acceptable because, after all, Black people are scary people.
Once again we are reminded that there are zones that we cannot safely enter.
- See more at: http://www.freedomroad.org/#sthash.nMoMAuh1.dpuf

Deep in the heart of Texas: Women who misbehave

Demonstrators fill the Capitol stairs. Photo by Anne Lewis.

This week reactionaries in Texas are trying again to force through a vile anti-woman abortion bill. So we are reprinting this story from Anne Lewis (first posted at the Rag Blog). She was present at the Texas statehouse and took part in the “people’s filibuster” which defeated the last attempt to pass this bill a few weeks ago.
“They never preached or sat in a deacon’s bench. Nor did they vote or attend Harvard. Neither, because they were virtuous women, did they question God or the magistrates. They prayed secretly, read the Bible through at least once a year, and went to hear the minister preach even when it snowed. Hoping for an eternal crown, they never asked to be remembered on earth. And they haven’t been. Well-behaved women seldom make history; against Antinomians and witches, these pious matrons have had little chance at all.” – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, 1976
AUSTIN, Texas — Around midnight on Tuesday, June 26, 2013, thousands of Texans took their Capitol. The crowd, predominantly young women, defied a group of sour and narrow legislators by yelling at them so loudly that they couldn’t vote for the bill that they planned to pass.
The “pro-life” bill is designed to shut down all but five of the abortion clinics in the state, forcing them to meet state requirements for “surgical ambulatory care.” It’s interesting that Milla Perry Jones, Texas Governor Rick Perry’s sister, serves as Vice President for Government Affairs for United Surgical Partners International, a major provider of surgical ambulatory care. Doctors, even those dispensing pills, would be required to have privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.
The law would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks — the time when, according to a disputed study, the fetus can feel pain. Or pleasure, as U.S. Congressman Michael Burgess (R-Texas), an OB/GYN, appears to believe. Burgess, when arguing before a House committee in June that abortion should be banned at 15 weeks, suggested that that’s when male fetuses start masturbating.
Rape and incest and the mental health of the mother were not exceptions — only the mother’s physical health and “serious” abnormalities of the fetus.
Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the Texas Democratic Party, along with many local progressive and radical organizations — the Workers Defense Project, the International Socialist Organization, the United Students Against Sweatshops, TSEU women, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Rise Up Texas, Occupy Austin, and others — had come to the Capital that night.
The Capital vibrated with the yelling of the crowd. It was the largest, most energetic, and by far noisiest indoor protest I’ve ever seen.
The Texas legislature is dominated by right-wing fundamentalist Republicans who rose to power through gerrymandering, redistricting, and voter suppression in the midst of significant demographic change. Texas is majority non-white and Latino according to the 2010 census: 45.3% white, 11.8% African-American, 3.8% Asian, 37.6% Hispanic, and 3.5% other (including Native American).
The Republican attacks have a white supremacist edge. Right after the June 25th Supreme Court repeal of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said that the Legislature’s 2011 redistricting plan should be immediately implemented along with Voter ID. Federal judges in Washington had blocked the redistricting plan, saying that it intentionally discriminated against minorities.
An on-going legislative attack on the public sector has placed Texas 49th among states in spending per pupil, 46th in students graduating from high school. Texas has the most people without health insurance in the U.S. and ranks 47th in expenditures for mental health. Texas ranks 49th in reproductive health, including 46th in teen birth rates and 4th from the bottom in sex education.
“Pro-life” demonstrator at Capitol. Photo by Anne Lewis.
While pro-life sentiment is used to cut funding for women’s health, sanctity of life has not affected the State’s number one status in executions. Since 1982 Texas has executed 500 prisoners, more than half of them coming during Rick Perry’s time as governor.
The anti-abortion bill was filed by Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker) who made national news herself. When Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), a wire coat hanger attached to the podium, called for the exemption of victims of rape and incest from the anti-abortion bill that Laubenberg had filed, Laubenberg objected: “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.”
She instantly became the subject of national ridicule.
Laudenberg speaks for more than Christian fundamentalists in the Texas House. She is the Texas State Chair of the American Legislative Council (ALEC) — a behind-the-scenes organization that is anti-union, anti-choice, anti-environment, and anti-immigrant. ALEC is responsible for the “shoot first” legislation that in part caused the killing of Trayvon Martin.
The sad life of the Anti-Abortion Bill: SB5
I went to the Capitol on Sunday, June 23, to join the people trying to stall the vote in the Texas House. We stood in the hallway leading to the House Gallery waiting to greet the Representatives. A few “pro-life” people had also gathered with tape over their mouths, I suppose pretending to be fetuses.
One miserable looking man in a shiny blue shirt and black tie shouldered me aside. Then they began to hum “Amazing Grace,” written by a reformed slave trader, sung by the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears, brought to life by Mahalia Jackson for use in both the mass Civil Rights movement and in opposition to the Vietnam War, and a source of inspiration on union picket lines. It was as if all that is good and holy had been twisted and perverted.
Finally inside the House Gallery I heard the articulate amendment by Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin). Supported by the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Texas Medical Association, and the Texas Hospital Association, Howard wanted to strike language that might keep doctors and nurses from acting in the best interests of both mother and fetus.
Rep. Laubenberg got up to state her opposition, was asked simple questions about her bill by Lon Burnham (D-Ft Worth), and mumbled something about it gutting the bill. Burnham persisted with specifics. As a result, Laubenberg moved to table all subsequent proposed amendments to the bill without returning to the microphone. This included an amendment by Mary González (D-El Paso) who spoke of the disproportionate impact on women in her community who would have to travel 600 miles each way to the nearest abortion clinic in San Antonio.
We sat in the gallery, occasionally giving voice but quickly silenced by Planned Parenthood and Democratic Party organizers. A succession of amendments by House Democrats and procedural issues delayed voting on the bill into early Monday morning, giving the Senate filibuster a chance to succeed.
Sen. Wendy Davis during the filibuster.
Like many, I returned to the Capitol Tuesday evening and became part of a long line trying to get into the Senate Gallery to observe Wendy Davis’ filibuster. We snaked in circles. I was thrilled to see my students and former students, young women whom I had not considered activists, in the crowd. Once more we were told to be quiet and follow the rules of decorum. And we did, for the most part, remain quiet and contained.
The “third strike” against the Wendy Davis filibuster took place at 10 p.m., filed by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) who claimed that the sonogram bill — which Davis was addressing — had nothing to do with abortion. I was by then in the Senate Gallery. Campbell stood down below us, the sharpness of her features complemented by a thoroughly unpleasant expression.
The Gallery erupted when Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ruled in Campbell’s favor. We yelled “Shame” and “Let her speak.” I remember a man with a shoe in his hand and an older woman pointing down at the legislators and yelling at them. Both were removed along with nearly all the people who happened to be nearest the door. Every time the door opened we could hear the crowd outside. They yelled, “Let us in.” The troopers locked the door and the only way out was through the Senate Chambers.

“Let her Speak” June 25 2013 10 07 to 10 10 Texas Capitol from Anne Lewis on Vimeo.
On Wednesday, June 26, Gov. Perry called for a new special session to pass the anti-abortion bill. Just hours later, Perry spoke at the National Right to Life Convention in Dallas, saying, “Texans value life and want to protect women and the unborn.”
He attacked Wendy Davis: “It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example: that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.” I wonder at his inconsistencies — the political opportunism of priorities that shift so quickly from pro-life to pro-death.
There’s an element in Perry’s and the other Republican legislators’ reactions to Wendy Davis that reminds me of the way white supremacists branded white Southerners who took up the banner of racial equality as “race traitors.” How could she, a white woman, betray him? But it wasn’t mainly white women who stood up to the majority in the Legislature.
During the session, Senfronia Thompson, Leticia Van de Putte, Dawnna Dukes, Mary Gonzales, Alma Allen, Judith Zaffirini, Yvonne Davis, and others proved themselves smarter than all of those right-wing men put together and far more competent to govern. I remember the image of this man with a wooden stick poking around on the Senate floor while Wendy Davis filibustered hour after hour — not allowed to eat, drink, sit down, or use the bathroom.
And it’s not just the Republican men, but also those infantilized right-wing women. Baby dolls that men protect and control, they are sanctimonious, hidden, and vicious when someone calls them out — very much Ulrich’s well-behaved pious matrons. It’s all about the white man’s party and its ability to rule. Those of us at the Capitol were there to stop them.
At 11:45 p.m. on Tuesday, June 25th, 15 minutes before the end of the session, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) — who had returned from her father’s funeral in order to be heard — stood to demand that her colleagues recognize her. It was not the first time she had defied those in power.
In response to the sonogram bill, she had said, in parody of Grover Norquist’s promise to shrink government to a size that could fit in a bathtub, “Texas is going to shrink government until it fits into a woman’s uterus.” On Tuesday night she asked, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”
That line — so solidly expressive of misuse of power and male supremacy — was the cue for the gallery. They yelled and chanted and took over the Chamber.
We could hear the Gallery through the locked door. The whole Capitol filled with a giant roar. We cheered, yelled, and chanted.

“Vote Stopped by Protesters” Texas Capitol June 25, 2013 11:50pm to June 26, 2013 12:01am from Anne Lewis on Vimeo.
I was reminded of those special times during the mass civil rights movement — and the movement that ended the war in Vietnam — moments when our relatively minor differences go away, when we act in one loud clear voice against a system of oppression, when we are willing to be obnoxious or even go to jail for our deep-felt beliefs. As Joe Begley from the eastern Kentucky coalfields put it: “Everyone should go to jail for a night or two.”
What a wonderful night of misbehavior it was!
Anne Lewis, a senior lecturer at the University of Texas and a member of TSEU-CWA Local 6186 and NABET-CWA, is an independent filmmaker associated with Appalshop. She is co-director of Anne Braden: Southern Patriot, associate director of Harlan County, U.S.A, and the producer/director of Fast Food Women, To Save the Land and People, Morristown: in the air and sun, and a number of other social issue and cultural documentaries. Her website is annelewis.org. Read more articles by and about Anne Lewis at The Rag Blog.
- See more at: http://freedomroad.org/2013/07/deep-in-the-heart-of-texas-women-who-misbehave/#sthash.fC0cu7Xd.dpuf

“Enough is enough!” Bay Area workers go on strike

Striking city workers rally at Oakland City Hall. Photo by Mollie Costello.
Striking city workers rally at Oakland City Hall. Photo by Mollie Costello.
On July 1, the labor movement in the San Francisco Bay Area made its voice heard. SEIU Local 1021 and IFPTE Local 21 conducted a one day strike in Oakland, accusing the city of underestimating its revenue and trying to squeeze more concessions from the workers.
Local 1021 represents some 1,100 full time and some 1,500 part time workers. They work in the City’s public works division, parks and recreation, libraries, after school programs, among other places. Local 21 represents some 800 supervisors and engineers in City Departments.
On the same day, transit workers employed by the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) also went out on strike. BART workers belong to two unions. Some 1,433 maintenance workers, mechanics and professional staff are also represented by SEIU Local 1021, and the system’s 945 train operators and ticket agents are represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555.
The transit workers were out for four days until the California Secretary of Labor and mediators called for a 30-day extension of the current contract. Sharp differences remain between BART and its workers.

City Workers fight back against austerity

Speaking at a noon-time rally on July 1, Dwight McElroy, President of the Oakland Chapter of 1021, said the City is not bargaining in good faith and is not offering a meaningful pay and benefit package. He ended his speech with the chant “Enough is enough!” He was referring to the fact that in the past five years his members had made concessions that had reduced their income by 25%.
(Photo by Mollie Costello)
(Photo by Mollie Costello)
Oakland recently passed its budget, which set aside 6 million dollars for wages and benefits for City workers. Although they were willing stop furloughing workers and give them a modest COLA, they wanted the workers to contribute to their pensions and health care costs – despite the concessions made by workers in their last contract. This is part of the neo-liberal austerity attack on the social welfare benefits won through collective bargaining in the past fifty years. Instead of revenue proposals that call for greater taxes from the rich, the approach has been to call for more contributions from the workers. It was a push back against this trend that drove the strike and the slogan “Enough is enough.”
A new round of negotiations have now begun, and the union continues to resist the City’s demands for increased health care and pension contributions.

Community Solidarity: A Key Factor of Support for City Workers

The vast majority of the members of Local 1021 are oppressed nationalities and women. For the past year Elizabeth Alexander, the union’s Political Director, has been working in coalition with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and Oakland Rising (a partnership of NGOs) around issues like foreclosure prevention and the City’s toxic swap deal with Goldman Sachs. In the recently concluded budget process these organizations supported the union’s demands for a COLA and the hiring of civilian complaint takers instead of police officers, who often tried to discourage people from making complaints.
Also active in supporting 1021 in the budget process was the Justice for Alan Blueford Coalition (JAB). JAB had received an earlier endorsement of its demand for the firing of the officer who had shot Alan. In turn, JAB mobilized for City Council meetings and testified in solidarity with the demands of 1021. On the day of the strike, JAB members joined picket lines in solidarity with SEIU at two police offices.
(Photo by Mollie Costello)
(Photo by Mollie Costello)

Oakland and San Francisco, Global Cities on the Bay

For years, both Oakland and San Francisco have been rapidly deindustrializing. More and more, the key workforces in these cities are white collar paper pushers, managers, scientists, programmers, technicians – and low-level service workers who serve their meals, repairs their goods, and clean-up after them. The economy of San Francisco in particular is heavily tied into global capital. San Francisco’s financial district is a key hub for the global currency market foreign, off-shore production flows and networks of outsourced services. And it’s a major base of operations for giant tech companies like Google and Facebook.
Beginning in the 60s, the Port of Oakland developed into a mega-port, especially with the arrival of the computer-driven container ship. Oakland is now a rail and transportation hub receiving and shipping goods inland to the east and out to the Pacific Rim countries. Warehousing, transportation services, health care services and governmental services are also major industries. As the county seat of Alameda County, Oakland is home to several state and federal office complexes. Many of these workers are Black and Brown and women.
Simultaneous to the deindustrialization of Oakland and San Francisco was the movement of (mainly white) residents to the suburbs south of San Francisco or east of Oakland – places like Livermore, Pleasanton and Burlingame. BART became the vehicle to get those mostly white collar and service workers to their jobs in San Francisco and Oakland.

The Response of Capital to the BART Strike

Beginning on the first day of the BART strike, Oakland and San Francisco print and electronic media began a barrage of editorials saying that workers were not being realistic. They claimed that the BART system was facing a 142 million operating shortfall over the next 10 years. The Bay Area Council, the united front business organization of the major capitalist enterprises in the Bay Area, complained that the strike was costing Bay Area companies 73 million dollars daily in lost worker productivity.
But the real damage was mis-information leaked to the media by BART. Saying that BART workers were the best paid workers in the Bay Area, making an average of $73,000 a year. A later post of SEIU 1021 said that the average salary is $63,000 but for a family of four to have a livable wage, in the Bay area, they needed to be taking home about $74,000 a year. On the other hand, the average BART Manager is pulling in close to $400,000 a year!
The “high salaries” of the BART Workers became topics of the day on the local talk radio shows. This mis-information cause some confusion among people who had initially supported the strike. Some people who had participated in Occupy Oakland tried to block shuttle buses transporting riders to the suburbs east of Oakland. BART workers and their community allies resisted that effort, which could have have antagonized potential allies of the strike.
A Community Solidarity Committee has been formed by some of the leadership from the Justice for Alan Blueford Coalition and SEIU to increase community support for City and BART workers. Clearly, one key task will be to beat back the lies about BART workers’ salaries. Community-labor solidarity is not built overnight but it can be done by patient work. And it will be the foundation for both the community and labor to win their righteous demands.
Tim Thomas lives in Oakland. He is a member of the Justice for Alan Blueford Coalition.

- See more at: http://freedomroad.org/2013/07/enough-is-enough-bay-area-city-and-transit-workers-go-on-strike/#more-2932

July 12, 2013

Obama Delays the Obama Care Employer Mandate: Oregon Has Heard This Story Before

The Treasury Department announced that the Employer Mandate in the Accountable Care Act (ACA) is being delayed (at least) until 2015.  They stated that businesses were "confused about reporting requirements".  Boo Hoo! So the Obama Administration, always concerned about their friends in the business community just said "never mind, don't worry about it until after the 2014 elections". In Oregon we heard this same crying from employers and the Employer Mandate disappeared from the legislation creating the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) in the 1990's which was to become expanded Medicaid that would eventually cover everyone in the state. Dropping the Employer Mandate was a killer.  It meant that OHP did not expand Medicaid as envisioned and actually restricted the number of people on the plan.  At this time, even if an individual has no income and no resources (in the past making them eligible for Medicaid) then they go into a literal "Lottery" system where the State just pulls a certain number every month.  Oregonians can be in the lottery for years.  The elimination of the Employer Mandate however did not stop those of us working for the OHP from getting calls from low wage part time workers. I remember getting calls from new employees of Burger King who said they were given our number and told we were their health insurance. This way businesses like Burger King were hiring workers and  telling them that they will have health coverage. What a deal!

So now with the ACA there was supposed to be a penalty on employers of more than 50 employees if they did not offer qualified health insurance coverage or if their workers do not access coverage through one of the Health Care Exchanges.
But what about the workers? If they work for an employer who offers health coverage they are not eligible for income based subsidies.  They must purchase on their own or pay a fine.  Now if there is no enforcement of the Employer Mandate that means there is also no way to determine whether the insurance offered is "ACA qualified"(until maybe 2015).  Will the workers get a subsidy or will they be fined because of the actions of the employer?  Will the employee be fined because the Obama Administration is eliminating the fines for the employer?

Now that is confusing.  Thankfully in Oregon (and already in Vermont) plans are being made for a not for profit, publicly financed, nobody out, everybody in single payer system as soon as the ACA allows a waiver to be filed. Health Care For All Oregon (HCAO) is working to build a grass roots movement to demand it.  There are already 5,000 Oregonians who have signed up to get the word out.  Currently there are over 40 cities and towns across Oregon that have HCAO chapters and their aim is to get to 90 chapters this year.  Clearly one of the biggest projects we have before us is to put a magnifying glass over every problem that pops up in the roll out of Obama Care.  There will be no greater argument why profit needs to be taken out of the health care system than to watch the ACA which was a law written by and for the health care industry.  So look for a chapter near you and volunteer to bring real change in our health care system.

July 8, 2013

Private Mercenaries In Honduras? Nope Wisconsin!

There has been an ongoing struggle against proposed massive iron mining in northern Wisconsin near Lake Superior, upstream of the Bad River Indian Reservation.  The mining company Gogebic Taconite, owned by coal baron Chris Cline has been busy overhauling the state's mining laws.  Now they have brought mercenaries (see above) with automatic weapons near a peaceful, legal encampment set up by the LCO Ojibwe Tribe which educates the public about the situation. For more information see the Wisconsin Citizen's Media Cooperative. http://wcmcoop.com

July 5, 2013

Egypt: A Trade Unionist View On Morsi's Fall

Muhammad Hardan, deputy president of the Independent Union of Workers in the Cairo Water Company, spoke to MENA Solidarity on Facebook after the overthrow of Morsi, explaining why he and other trade unionists had joined the revolt against the Muslim Brotherhood.
“We didn’t even have to issue a call from the union for participation in the protests, as everyone who worked for the company was ready to go into the streets of their own accord because of the oppression they had suffered during the recent period. The law on trade union freedoms has not been brought in, trade unionists have been oppressed and we’ve seen corruption spreading even more than under the old regime. Wages have been cut, and anyone attempting to demand their rights has been victimised. Prices keep rising, and wages don’t keep keep up, but demonstrations have been criminalised and sit-ins are broken up by force. Meanwhile factories and companies are closing down. Workers’ rights have been ignored, even in the constitution.
When we demanded social justice, this was described as “selfish”. Those supposedly representing workers in parliament took no interest in their rights.
I witnessed some of this repression first hand, such as the smashing of the sit-in at Alexandria Cement using police dogs. I met workers from Beheira Joint Stock Company who hadn’t been paid their wages for 8 months. The petroleum companies sacked large numbers of workers: my colleague in the union didn’t get the money he was owed for 6 months. I was myself referred for investigation because I spoke to the national press about the demands of the Water Company workers. Others of my trade unionist colleagues have been transferred to different workplaces or denied work appropriate to their level of qualifications. A colleague of mine from the Alexandria Water Company was kidnapped and tortured because he took part in a protest. Another colleague from the Water Company was injured after being attacked and beaten up.
We’ve been very active in campaigning against water privatisation, but the Brotherhood is in favour. The Deputy General Guide of the Brotherhood, Khairat al-Shater has called for privatisation.
The army intervention stopped terrorist groups, who were prepared to use weapons against us and against our revolution from shedding citizens’ blood.
Morsi relied a great deal on the law criminalising strikes, which was enacted in 2012, though the draft was proposed in 2011. He waged war on the trade unions.
In the coming period, the workers’ movement will be demanding that workers are represented in parliament and calling on their representatives to pass a law on trade union freedoms. They will tell the government that its first priority must be to implement social justice and not to ignore workers’ demands.
If the next president refuses to meet our demands, we will rebel again. There is no other solution. Those who have tasted freedom will not be slaves again. The revolution will continue until its demands are met, no matter who sits in the presidential palace. We will never abandon the revolution and we will never give in.”