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AFL-CIO: “Free Trade” Agreement Led to Immigration Crisis

Honduran Workers (Image from AFLCIO)

Honduran Workers (Image from AFLCIO)

Report finds strong correlation between CAFTA, failed migration policies and increased militarization and recent displacement of women and children fleeing violence and poverty in Central America

 A new, eye-opening report issued by the AFL-CIO sheds light on how failed trade policies contributed to the unaccompanied minor crisis at the U.S. border during last summer. The report contains the findings of a delegation of U.S. labor and community leaders who, in October of 2014, traveled to Honduras.

The report titled “Trade, Violence and Migration: The Broken Promises to Honduran Workers” seeks to answer the “root causes” of the unaccompanied minor crisis, while offering various recommendations to the U.S. and Honduran governments. The authors identified egregious worker rights violations, widespread violence, lack of decent work opportunities, crushing poverty, and failure on the part of the government to protect the lives and rights of citizens in their home country as the main catalysts behind a migrant’s decision to come to the U.S.

For four days, members of the delegation met with local labor leaders, returned migrants and community leaders, who spoke on how the Central American Free Trade Agreement – Dominican Republic (CAFTA –DR) – has contributed to lowering their standards of living.  At the end of their visit, delegates came to the conclusion that the people of Central America will continue to flee their homes until they can live their lives with a sense of stability, all of which will require concerted policy changes in the United States and Honduras.

“What we witnessed was the intersection of our corporate-dominated trade policies with our broken immigration system contributing to a state that fails workers and their families and forces them to live in fear,” said AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, who was part of the delegation. “The results are dangerous and serve as a warning of what we cannot allow to continue.”

The report features a series of recommendations for the U.S. and Honduran government on topics related to migration policy; the protection of human and labor rights; and, security and labor policy. Most importantly, the report recommends the following actions:

  1. The U.S. should insist that the Honduran government prosecute all cases of violence against human and worker rights activists including efforts to deny freedom of association as part of the ongoing enforcement of CAFTA labor obligations.
  2. The U.S. must provide immediate funding for the rehabilitation and nurturing support of refugees in the United States. In particular, resources and technical assistant should be dedicated for programs supporting girls and women victims of physical or sexual violence.
  3. Honduras should create a national campaign on minimum wage and overtime pay that promotes compliance with the laws and provides a mechanism such as a hot line for workers to report violations of these and other labor laws.

As of August 31, 2014, U.S. Border Patrol had encountered 17,975 unaccompanied Honduran minors – the largest of any Central American country.

To view the complete report, click here: http://go.aflcio.org/HondurasReport

After Gov. Hassan’s Inaugural Speech The NH GOP Spread False Talking Points About The Minimum Wage

New Hampshire Republicans Double Down on Opposition to Strengthening Wages for Hard-Working Granite Staters

Republicans Use Debunked Claims About Effect of Minimum Wage on Job Creation;

Data Shows 2014 Job Creation Grew Faster in States that Raised the Minimum Wage

Concord, NH – Following Governor Hassan’s impassioned call for legislators to come together to finally restore and increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage, Republican leaders doubled down on their opposition to strengthening wages for tens of thousands of hard-working Granite Staters.

A WMUR Granite State Poll found that 76% of Granite Staters support raising New Hampshire’s minimum wage – including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents.

“As Governor Hassan argued passionately in her Inaugural Address, it is long past time for members of both parties to come together to finally restore and increase our state’s minimum wage,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “Instead of recycling debunked talking points, Republican leaders need to listen to the voices of the people of New Hampshire and finally join with Governor Hassan to strengthen wages and move our economy forward.”

In her Inaugural Address, Governor Hassan stressed the importance of expanding opportunity and strengthening wages for New Hampshire families. But just moments after the Governor’s address concluded, Senator Jeb Bradley was already recycling the same old debunked Republican talking points, calling the minimum wage “a job-killer.”

The problem with such claims is that they’ve repeatedly been shown to be untrue. The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found that job creation in 2014 was faster in the 13 states that had increased their minimum wage on January 1, 2014 compared with those that had not. Another study from the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found “strong earnings effects and no employment effects of minimum wage increases.”

Even more mind-boggling was the argument from Deputy Speaker Gene Chandler, who told NHPR that New Hampshire should not increase the minimum wage because doing so “also raises the wage levels of everyone else up the line because if the minimum wage is raised, then other people are going to expect to get more money.”

“It’s ludicrous and just another sign of how completely backwards today’s New Hampshire Republican Party is that party leaders could argue that raising the minimum wage is a bad idea because it would help too many people,” added Buckley.

Weekly Communication Job Openings From UnionJobs

Union Jobs headerJANUARY 8, 2015 WEEKLY SUMMARY OF COMMUNICATIONS POSITIONS POSTED AT UNIONJOBS.COM

AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations)
Senior Fellow, Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Department  District of Columbia
Assistant Director, Information Technology Department District of Columbia
Data Coordinator – Wisconsin, Campaigns Department – Midwest Region, Wisconsin
Campaign Coordinator – Ohio, Campaigns Department Midwest Region  Ohio
Popular Education Coordinator, Campaigns Department  District of Columbia
Communications Coordinator, Communications Department (MW Region)  Michigan
Organizing Field Communications Assistant, Organizing Department  District of Columbia
Development Manager, Digital Strategies Department  District of Columbia
Strategic Campaigns Coordinator, Organizing Department  District of Columbia


ACCE
(Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment)
Worker Justice Campaign Coordinator, Bay Area or Sacramento  California


AEA
(Actors’ Equity Association)
National Director of Governance, New York City  New York

AFM (American Federation of Musicians)
Communications Director, New York  New York


AFT
(American Federation of Teachers)
Human/Civil Rights Advocacy Director, Human Rights and Community Relations Department District of Columbia


CAPT
(California Association of Psychiatric Technicians)
Senior Communications Specialist, Sacramento  California


CNA/NNU
(California Nurses Association (CNA) / National Nurses United (NNU) AFL-CIO)
Video Specialist, Oakland  California


CPD
(Center for Popular Democracy)
Fair Workweek Deputy Campaign Director, New York City preferred  New York


CWA
(Communications Workers of America)
Digital Media Technician  District of Columbia


ITPI
(In the Public Interest)
Communications Coordinator/Writer  District of Columbia


IUOE
(International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 3)
Associate Editor/Public Relations Specialist, Sacramento  California


NELP
(National Employment Law Project)
Campaign Coordinator (Home Care Fair Pay), New York (with an option of DC office)  New York


NNU
(National Nurses United)
Educator – Immediate Opening, San Francisco Bay area  California


NYHTC
(New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council)
Video Communications SupervisorNew York


OCEA
(Orange County Employees Association)
Communications Organizer
, Santa Ana  California


PSC/CUNY
(Professional Staff Congress, AFT Local 2334)
Union Newspaper Editor, New York  New York


PWF
(Partnership for Working Families)
Administrative & Executive Assistant, Oakland  California


RTF
(Raise the Floor Alliance)
Campaign Coordinator, Chicago  Illinois


SEIU
(Local 1)
Communications Specialist, Detroit  Michigan


SEIU
(Local 32BJ)
Member Communications Strategist, New York City  New York
Communications Specialist: Mid-Atlantic Region, Philadelphia based Pennsylvania


SEIU
(Local 521)
Campaign Researcher, San Jose or Fresno  California
Temporary Campaign Researcher (term one year), San Jose  California


SEIU
(Local 721)
Communications Specialist  California


SEIU
(Local 1021)
IT Team – Database Specialist, Oakland  California


UDWA
(United Domestic Workers of America)
Communications Coordinator, San Diego  California
Staff Writer, San Diego or Sacramento  California


UFCW
(United Food and Commercial Workers International Union)
Senior Strategic Targeting Coordinator, Washington D.C.  District of Columbia


UFT
(United Federation of Teachers)
Social Media Coordinator, New York City  New York


UPTE-CWA
(University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America)
Systemwide Director  California


Working Families
(Pennsylvania Working Families)
Pennsylvania Communications Director, Philadelphia  Pennsylvania


 ________________________________________________________________________

Please share the following listing with anyone you know who might be interested.


CUASA
(Carleton University Academic Staff Association)
Member Services Officer (Grievance)   Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (Note: Application deadline for this announcement is January 9, 2015 at 4:00 PM)


GLU
(Global Labour University at Penn State)
Master’s Program in Global Workers Rights, State College Pennsylvania (National search)

Progressive NH State Rep To Propose Minimum Wage Increase To $14.25 And Eliminating The “Tipped Minimum Wage”

Minimum Wage 101

Representative Jackie Cilley to introduce far-reaching minimum wage legislation

Fmr. State Senator and Gubernatorial candidate returns to Concord to pursue middle-class agenda

JackiePortrait(Barrington, NH) After a four-year absence from the New Hampshire General Court, newly-returned Barrington representative Jackie Cilley announced that her first piece of legislation – and her chief priority in the coming session – is to give New Hampshire’s struggling workers a raise with an increased minimum wage paired with the elimination of the so-called “tipped minimum wage.” This legislation would mark a return to a state-based minimum wage and move tipped workers into the economic mainstream with a raise from the current rate of $2.90.

Cilley, whose legislation would raise the minimum wage to $14.25 per hour over a three year-period and eventually tie the tipped minimum wage to the same figure, argues the move from both a matter of fairness and economic common sense.

“Most of use want to get paid what we are worth, what we contribute to the companies and organizations for whom we work,” notes Cilley.  “If the minimum wage had actually kept pace with worker productivity, it would be $21.72 today.  Instead, workers’ wages peaked decades ago because of partisan divide.”

“Conservatives and progressives should both want to see the creation of livable wages.  Set aside for a moment the argument of fairness to workers and just consider what each of us is paying to help an employer keep a worker at sub-livable wages.  These workers can’t actually live on those wages. They often need such support services as food stamps, fuel assistance, housing assistance and so on.   If the minimum wage were raised to just $10.10 per hour that would mean 1.7 million people across this country would no longer need public assistance, saving us $7.6 billion.  I don’t yet have the exact figures for this for New Hampshire, but simply pro-rating it per capita suggests a savings of more than $30 million.”

“This is long overdue: They were one vote away from making a substantial start in the last session and I want to keep that momentum moving, regardless of the partisan makeup of the new legislature,” Cilley said. “This doesn’t have to be a partisan issue – Mitt Romney supports an increased minimum wage, for example – but we have to make the case on economic, not just fairness grounds.”

“Bill O’Brien’s decision to put what New Hampshire businesses pay their workers in the hands of bureaucrats in Washington, DC was terrible choice. We need to have a minimum wage that reflects the economy and values of New Hampshire, not DC – This legislation puts the decision back where it belongs, in New Hampshire.”

Legislation pushed by then-Speaker Bill O’Brien repealed the state’s minimum wage law in 2011 and handed jurisdiction to the federal government. Gov. Lynch vetoed the legislation, but O’Brien’s allies in the House overrode the veto. The National Employment Law Project’s Christine Owens said at the time that “given the fact that minimum wage workers spend every penny they earn in their local businesses, a strong wage floor is also vital to stimulating the consumer spending necessary for real and lasting economic recovery.”

These economic facts of life haven’t changed. A study released in March of 2014 by the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute echoes Owens words.

“Most notably, raising the minimum wage will increase demand for the goods and services sold by businesses operating in the Granite State. Low-wage workers, out of necessity, typically spend every dollar that they earn. As a result, the increased wages they will earn from a higher minimum wage will almost certainly be spent – and most likely be spent quickly – in the communities in which they live and work.”

About Jackie Cilley: Born in Berlin, New Hampshire, Jackie Cilley was raised with four siblings in a third-floor walk-up tenement before graduating from Berlin High School. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UNH and has served as an adjunct professor at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics since matriculating from there in 1985. In 2004 she ran for a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and won, serving one term in the House before being elected twice to the  New Hampshire Senate, representing the 6th District from 2006 – 2010. In 2012, she ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor, losing to Gov. Hassan. She was re-elected to the New Hampshire House in 2014 where she serves on the Committee on Executive Departments and Administration. Rep. Cilley was recently named by veteran NH political reporter John DiStaso as one of the “‘Most wanted’ NH Democrats for the 2016 presidential campaign.”

Why Saving Britain’s National Health Service Is Important To All Of Us

"London march" by lizzie056 - http://www.flickr.com/photos/lizzie056/5569004999/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:London_march.jpg#mediaviewer/File:London_march.jpg

“London march” by lizzie056 – Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

SHOULD HEALTH CARE BE FOR PROFIT OR FOR PEOPLE? — THE FIGHT TO SAVE BRITAIN’S NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE!

By Christopher Balchin

Ferocious onslaughts against unions are taking place not only in the United States, but also elsewhere. For example, since 1948 people living in Britain have had the inestimable good fortune of having a free, government-run, not-for-profit health care system: the National Health Service (NHS), staffed by unionized doctors, nurses and technicians. Since then countless Britons owe their health, and in some cases their lives, to the NHS. It was NHS doctors, nurses, physical therapists, clinicians, and social workers who saved my father’s leg when he had a life-threatening aneurism, and who healed and nurtured my mother when she broke her wrist and leg simultaneously. There were no bills, no insurance companies to deal with, no staggering, life-ruining debt. My family represents millions.

Assaults on the NHS, Unions and the People of England

This kind approach to health care for all is being threatened. Under the guise of “efficiency,” “streamlining,” “cost-management,” the UK government is working to chop up, privatize and essentially kill the NHS, as moneys are diverted to for-profit companies. In England the results have already been devastating.  According to the Daily Telegraph (10/26/2014), a total of 66 Accident & Emergency, and maternity units have either been cut or closed, with “dozens more now under threat.” The Guardian reports that since the Social Care Act of 2012, 35,000 people have been axed from the NHS, including 5,600 nurses, and half the ambulance stations (600) have been closed.   Dr. Steve Taylor of Birmingham Heartlands Hospital said:

“privatization is taking doctors and nurses away from frontline care…and potentially jeopardizing the fantastic services that we have spent years trying to build.” (Huffington Post UK)

Following a two-year pay freeze, NHS workers were denied an increase in pay. The scorn with which the government and its business allies see them, and the prospect of losing pension benefits and overtime pay, are terrific insults to the important work they do, and to their dignity. For the first time in 32 years, NHS employees have taken to work stoppages and other strike actions.

It’s crucial for people in the UK and elsewhere to know this: their enemy is not just any one particularly scurrilous government; the enemy is inherent in profit economics itself. Unions, I’ve learned from Aesthetic Realism—the education founded by the American philosopher, poet, and critic Eli Siegel—have been the greatest force fighting for justice on behalf of working people: sick pay, decent pensions, reasonable hours, safety laws, and respect! As the government contracts out more and more pieces of the NHS, the hundreds of thousands of unionized employees in the NHS belonging to Unison, Unite the Union, Royal College of Nursing, and others, stand between big corporations and private equity funds, and the taxpayers’ money these organizations are thirsting for. Every pound earned by members, every improvement in safety or working conditions won and protected by health care unions, is a huge interference with private profit. Consequently, along with the attacks on the NHS there have been assaults on unions.

Why Is This Happening?  And Why Now?

It’s pretty clear to many in the UK that some of the loudest voices calling for cuts belong to people who stand to profit from privatization, including at least 70 MPs—some high in government. According to Hajera Blagg of the union UNITE:

“MPs have benefited to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations, share options, and other deal-sweeteners from the private health care industry.”

Some previous governments have wanted to privatize the NHS, but have never dared–until now. What is happening to the NHS in Britain corresponds to the vigorous attempts to privatize public services in the US—including the postal service and education system.

In 1970 Eli Siegel—providing much historical and economic evidence—explained that the world’s profit-driven economies could no longer flourish because they are based on the ugliest thing in man: contempt. Contempt is the feeling that you will be more by making less of another person. It is what had factory owners in the 19th century demand 14-hour days from workers while paying them as little as they could, even as their families were starving.   Contempt is the reason someone today can even think that profits for oneself are more important than whether another person lives or dies.

And, in recent years Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, has been documenting the efforts of corporate America (with the help of some state governments) to keep a dying thing—the profit system—going. Writing about the American economy in her commentary in an issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, she explains:

There has been a huge effort in the last decade to privatize publicly run institutions.  The technique is to disseminate massive propaganda against the public institutions, and also do what one can to make them fail, including through withholding funding from them.  The desire is to place them in private hands—not for the public good, not so that …people can fare well—but to keep profit economics going.

The purpose of privatizing what…people as a whole own is 1) to provide new means for private profits to be made—which is necessary if profit economics is to continue at all; and 2) to have people feel that the non-profit or public way of owning and employing does not work and that the only way things can possibly be run is through the profit system!

This is why the NHS is lied about and made to seem inefficient and too expensive. One health care worker taking part in a recent protest commented, “We have been vilified for the last four years and our jobs have been made more difficult by the unnecessary restructuring of the NHS which wasted millions…” There is also coming to be a passionate resistance. The reason is embodied in something that Dr. Richard Taylor of the newly formed National Health Action Party, said:

“The marvelous thing about working in the NHS…was that one could treat everyone in exactly the same way, regardless of wealth, social status or location…All people are equal in their health care needs and in the respect they deserve.”

The Fight to Save Britain’s Not-For-Profit Health Care

Many people are willing to fight for the NHS. All over the UK, hundreds of national, regional, and local organizations in support of the NHS have been springing up.   There is a beautiful musical tribute to NHS workers by “Protect Our NHS,” performed at the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

This past summer the “People’s March for the NHS,” marched 250 miles from Jarrow to Trafalgar Square, and I was so proud to join them on the last ten miles. I loved shouting these kind and passionate words, “Whose NHS? YOUR NHS! Whose NHS? MY NHS!l Whose NHS? OUR NHS!” with thousands of other marchers.

In the Islington Tribune Leo Garib wrote about what he witnessed on the march (some of which I saw, too):

In Edmonton, Tottenham, and Stoke Newington people stopped to cheer, mums held up babies sporting “Born in the NHS” badges, buses and cars honked in support…they began pressing beautiful bouquets of flowers on the marchers as they passed…”It was like a dream, like something from a film,” said a train driver who had been marching since Northampton.   “We never imagined this kind of support,” said Joanna Adams (one of the “Darlo Mums” organizers). “I suppose we were speaking for millions of people who love the NHS and want to stop its privatization. But this was bigger and more emotional than we ever imagined.”

And it will be bigger still. As Eli Siegel explained in 1970: Ethics is a force, like electricity, steam, the atom—and will have its way…The world is saying: We don’t want ill will to hurt and poison our lives any more …. That sense of justice, which is a name for good will, is tremendously powerful… The NHS represents that good will, and I passionately want it to prevail.   I am sure, personally and gratefully, that the study of Aesthetic Realism can help have this come to be.

 

Obama Hints Of Vetoing The Keystone Pipeline

There is one thing that is abundantly clear now that the Republicans control both the House and the Senate, the Keystone XL Pipeline will pass through Congress. Republicans are trying to convince us that this monumental piece of crap will “spur economic growth” and “create thousands of jobs.”

Thankfully we elected a President who is willing to stand up for our Mother Earth by standing up against the Keystone Pipeline. Well maybe he has not said it yet, but like my Magic 8 ball says, all signs point to veto.

It is becoming more and more obvious that President Obama will not sign the Keystone legislation even if it was to pass. He told The Hill that, “building the Keystone oil pipeline would ‘not even have a nominal benefit’ to consumers, pushing back at claims it would lower gas prices further.”
That is what we progressives have been trying to say for years.

The Republicans are trying to sell the Keystone XL Pipeline as a “jobs bill” that would create tens of thousands of good paying jobs.

Yes, we need a jobs bill that will create tens of thousands of good paying jobs, but the reality is that the Keystone Pipeline would only create a few thousand temporary construction jobs and 35 permanent jobs.

http://youtu.be/RY5ToZgJmo4

We also need to look at who is really going to benefit from the Keystone Pipeline? It will not be us, it will the be the Canadian oil industry as they move their tar sands oil right through America’s heartland to the Gulf of Mexico to be shipped off and sold to foreign countries.

Even President Obama knows this.

“That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks and it would save Canadian oil companies, and the Canadian oil industry enormous amounts of money if they could simply pipe it all the way down to the Gulf,” Obama said during his final press conference of 2014.

It also begs the question, why would this group of fiscal conservatives be willing to take out a $30 billion loan, pushing us further into debt, to benefit a foreign oil company? I will give you a hint, TransCanada’s profits would go through the roof and that would be very good for Wall Street insiders. (Side note: Did you know that Grover Norquest is the lobbyist for the Keystone XL pipeline?)

In 2009, the economy was hemorrhaging jobs and unemployment was skyrocketing. Congress passed the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)” that nearly every Republican balked at. The $900 million dollar investment in America increased the number of “people employed from between 1.5 and 3.3 million” workers, and reduced unemployment from “between .7% and 1.8%.” Ultimately the stimulus only added $200 million dollars to our national debt and started us back on the road to recovery.

How is this $3 Trillion dollar investment going to help us? Will you be one of the lucky 35 people to get a permanent job after the pipeline is created? Instead of spending $3 Trillion dollars for 35 jobs, we could spend $1 Trillion and create millions of jobs.

Lets not forget that we have seen a significant rise in oil pipes leaking their toxic sludge over the past few years.

“History has shown that these pipelines are notorious for springing leaks, and middle class American homeowners, farmers, and ranchers stand to lose the most if there is a spill,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) in her opposition to H.R. 5682, a bill to fast track the Keystone Pipeline. “The sections of the Keystone Project that are already in use suffered over thirty spills in their first year of operation.”

So let me sum this all up. The Republicans, who are heavily funded by Wall Street and oil tycoons like the Koch Brothers, are pushing a bill that would require us to take out a $3 Trillion dollar loan, potentially wrecking our environment, all to boost the profits of a foreign corporation.

Opposing the Keystone Pipeline is a bold step for President Obama. He is opposing the Republicans, opposing Wall Street, and standing up for our environment. We progressives need to stand behind him.

The fight is far from over, in fact it has just begun.

A Retired Public School Teacher Explains Why Teachers (And All Workers) Need Unions

Editor’s Note: I saw this blog post on facebook the other day and thought this is an amazing piece that needs to be seen be every teacher , every union member and every potential union member.

I tried tried to reach out to Fran Cullen but I got no response, so I decided to share with you anyway.  Below is the exact post from Fran on his website.   Thank You Fran for writing this and sharing it with the world, and know this we whole heartedly agree with you.

 

An Open Letter to All Teachers
Who Have Opted out of Your Union.

Teachers Union Busting Reformers

I know you have opted out of the Union, and since if I knew you personally, I would most likely respect you as an educator, I wanted to share my take on this situation. I don’t know what your reasons for your actions are, and don’t expect that you need to share them with me.  But I know that many of you,

  1. feel you just can’t afford the dues.  Perhaps you feel  

  2. the Union doesn’t do anything for you anyway.  Maybe you feel

  3. Unions have outgrown their usefulness.

Suffice it to say this long standing, well-funded and very carefully orchestrated attack on organized labor is not something I didn’t see coming.  I have been watching it evolve since President Reagan busted the Air Traffic Controllers Union (PATCO) in 1981. When organized labor allowed that to happen, the writing was on the wall. And the attack has been predicated on you feeling one or all of the above to be true.

My take is as follows:

We need the Union now more than ever.

This isn’t about me and not about most of you.  It is about the new teachers in your buildings; it’s about the future. It’s about all of those gifted and talented students you teach who dream of becoming a teacher one day. It’s about their expectation that they will be able to raise a family and own their own home.  It’s about what I and most retired teachers enjoy. That is not what those new teachers in your building have to look forward to now, in the later stages of their careers, and after they retire.

Unions protect workers—Your working conditions are your students learning conditions.

It is about those future teachers who may not agree with how things are being run and the protection they will lose.   I and many like me were the kind of teacher not prone to shrinking from a fight to do what was right for our students, even though it may be in direct violation of misguided board of education policy or arbitrary and capricious legislative fiat. That freedom of speech in the workplace was afforded you by the protection we gained being able to collectively bargain a safe and orderly environment for those students.  Our rights in our work environment were NEVER given to us; rather they were won by organized hard work as a member of a Union.

Teaching was, and is again becoming, a “Second Income Profession.” 

I was raised in a time when the teaching profession was not one that afforded educators the security to raise a family and own their own home.  My aunt was a third grade teacher and her salary was what paid for the two week vacation to Lake Charlevoix each year…that’s it! Luckily she was married to a Unionized Postal Employee.

After WWII and with the advent of the GI Bill of Rights, many young men returning from military service took advantage of the GI Bill to attend college.  Several of my high school teachers and counselors were from that group.  Prior to the Unionization of the teaching profession, special mortgage programs had to be set up for those teachers, so they could afford to buy a home.  Conversely, my father worked in an auto factory, and was able to enter the housing market, raise six kids and go on vacation every summer. The difference between teachers and factory workers was that auto workers literally put their lives on the line to obtain a living wage and some basic benefits. Teachers had to make a decision to fight for what they knew they deserved in order to bring the teaching profession into the middle class .  And every one of us is in their debt for those sacrifices.

The pendulum is quickly swinging back to a time when teachers are now qualifying for food stamps.  This will drive the best and the brightest from even considering entering the field in the first place. It is driving the best and brightest in your buildings to create a “Plan B” for their future which does not include being and educator. You may be one of them.

Think about the future of YOUR profession

I don’t expect this message to change the decision you have made.  But I sincerely hope it will cause you to deeply think about the future of your profession. Working people have NEVER realized improvement to their station in life through the kindness of their employer. And in the near future, when there are no restraints on the power of school boards and school administrations, they will continue to act from their natural predilection or because of bullying by their misguided legislature, to strip you of evermore of your hard-won rights.

The end of Unions is the end of Public Education—Period.  

I may be wrong about you, but I don’t think this is a scenario you envision as being good for the future of your students, your profession, your state or your country.

In Solidarity,

Fran Cullen – Retired Teacher – Traverse City Area Public Schools

 

(Fran also wrote another post talking about how parents and teachers need to stand united if we want to see a better public school system for everyone. Read it here)

Congressional House Members Split On Omnibus Bill

 

This week has been very busy in Washington as Congress created yet another manufactured crisis with threats to shut down the government over a divisive continuing resolution.

The good news is that, for now, the government will remain open as the House passed a omnibus bill to fund the government for another year. The House also passed a two-day continuing resolution allowing the Senate time to pass the House bill. The omnibus bill created a whirlwind of controversy with numerous amendments that outraged millions of Americans. There is a very small possibility that the Senate will amend or reject the House bill over these controversial amendments.

There are three main amendments that drew the biggest scrutiny and threatened to kill the bill.

1) The Wall Street Rollback

House Republicans added an amendment written by Citi Group stripping regulations on derivatives trading. This is just another handout to the big banks on Wall Street, putting the taxpayers on the hook for billions – or trillions – of dollars.

“TBTF (Too Big To Fail Banks) are now worth $53 trillion,” wrote Liz Iacobucci “Do the math. If there is another Wall Street meltdown; and another bailout; and this next bailout also requires the government to borrow an amount equal to one-third of what TBTF institutions are worth now…”

This provision drew strong opposition from the AFL-CIO:

“The AFL-CIO strongly opposes efforts to make it easier for too-big-to-fail banks to use taxpayer-backed funds to make risky bets in the derivatives markets,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

2) The Pension Reform Amendment

Labor groups were outraged that Republicans added an amendment that would drastically reduce pension benefits to millions of retirees.

“Today we have seen the ugly side of political backroom dealings as thousands of retirees may have their pensions threatened by proposed legislation that reportedly includes massive benefit cuts,” said Jimmy Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “Thousands of hard-working men and women deserve better than having their pensions slashed by a bill that can’t stand on its own merit.”

This provision would allow multi-employer pension plans to reduce payouts to retirees from and average of $50,000 a year to approximately $15,000 a year. The “unfunded liability” is largely due to the massive losses these plans took during the last two Wall Street crashes. But the underfunding will not become an issue for at least another ten years – so there is no need to rush this amendment through on a piece of must-pass legislation.

“Changing ERISA to allow cuts in promised benefits is a ticket to poverty and dependence on government asisstance,” IAM International President R. Thomas Buffenbarger wrote members of Congress last month.

“They’ve sneaked this in,” said Dave Erickson of Isanti, Minnesota. “They don’t have the guts to come out and tell us they’re taking our money. It makes me sick. The pension payment was something I counted on.”

(Read also: Another WIN for Wall Street… and a huge LOSS for the middle class)

3) Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign finance reformers were outraged when the bill was amended to allow millionaires and billionaires to push even more money into political campaigns. Currently a donor can give $32,000 a year to the party of their choice. The Omnibus spending amendment will allow wealthy donors to donate $777,600 per year or $1,555,200 in a two-year cycle.

“Another (amendment) would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices,” stated Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, who voted against the Omnibus bill.

Neither party is taking credit for the campaign finance amendment that will benefit both parties. It is a win for the fundraisers – but a loss for working families, who are losing their voice in Washington to big money donors.

In a very close 219-206 vote the Omnibus bill did pass the House. The bill saw many Representatives from both parties oppose their own party leaders with their votes. Progressives were angered to see that 57 Democrats decided to support the Republican bill in spite of the “poison pills” in the bill.

The Congressional Representatives in my home state were split in their votes on the Omnibus bill. Both voiced their support for keeping the government open and stated their opposition to these amendments; however, they reached different decisions when it came time to vote.

“Of course Congress had to keep the government open, but it should have been done by passing a Continuing Resolution that funded the government, but didn’t contain these harmful provisions. I strongly opposed the CROmnibus bill, which would hurt working Americans by allowing big-money bailouts for banks and rolling back already-inadequate campaign finance laws,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

“In 2008, I voted against the bank bailouts and for policies that saved us from a depression. I am deeply concerned that this bill calls for a taxpayer-funded bailout for irresponsible institutions if they get themselves in trouble again. The bailout provision is just one of a number of special-interest victories in this bill. Another would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices. Putting American taxpayers on the hook and gutting campaign finance laws is unacceptable, so I voted no,” concluded Shea-Porter.

“While I remain concerned about certain aspects of the so-called “CRomnibus,” including a troublesome campaign finance provision that increases the donation-limits for party conventions and political parties, I believe that first and foremost it is our responsibility as Members of Congress to work across the aisle to keep the government running,” stated Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Last year’s government shutdown was devastating for Granite State families; it put approximately 800,000 Americans out of work and wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Congress should never allow politics to get in the way of doing what’s right for our constituents at home, so I’m pleased Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to pass this legislation and provide the certainty our country needs moving forward into the new year.”

I have – and will continue to – support Congresswoman Annie Kuster (and the other 57 Democrats); however, I completely disagree with her on this vote. I share her optimism that our elected representatives can put aside their partisan party politics and do what is needed for working families; however, this bill is not one of those opportunities. This bill will decimate what is left of our campaign finance regulations, and put the Wall Street gamblers in charge of our economy once again, using my taxes to hedge their risky bets.

If these 57 Democrats had voted against the bill, the Republicans would have had no choice but to remove these controversial amendments and offer the bill up for another vote. The Republican leadership knew the bill would not pass without Democratic support because the ultra-right wing (67 in all) planned to vote against it as well.

 *               *             *           *          *               *

Editor’s Notes:

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter’s strong leadership and dedication to working families will be greatly missed in Congress over the next two years. I hope she will consider running for the CD01 seat again in 2016, or even run against Senator Kelly Ayotte for a seat in the Senate.

 

There was one other little known amendment that was slipped into the omnibus bill that would reduce the mandatory rest periods for truck drivers – against Transportation Secretary Foxx’s strong opposition. The amendment reversed the required rest period allowing truckers to drive up to 82 hours a week.

Read more about this amendment, on Bloomberg.

Kuster Statement on Vote to Avert a Government Shutdown

Washington, DC – This evening, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) released the following statement regarding her vote on the so-called “CRomnibus,” an end-of-year funding bill to keep the federal government running:

“While I remain concerned about certain aspects of the so-called “CRomnibus,” including a troublesome campaign finance provision that increases the donation-limits for party conventions and political parties, I believe that first and foremost it is our responsibility as Members of Congress to work across the aisle to keep the government running. Last year’s government shutdown was devastating for Granite State families; it put approximately 800,000 Americans out of work and wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Congress should never allow politics to get in the way of doing what’s right for our constituents at home, so I’m pleased Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to pass this legislation and provide the certainty our country needs moving forward into the new year.”

“Additionally, this bill contains important provisions that I’ve championed, including enhanced programs to reduce sexual assault in the military, and the renewal of critical job training programs that many Granite Staters rely on. It also includes legislation I fought for to establish a Network for Manufacturing Innovation to support the creation of new high-tech manufacturing jobs across the country.”

“In the new year, I will carry on my fight to reform our country’s campaign finance system and reduce the role of big money in politics. As we continue these funding discussions, I will work across the aisle to support New Hampshire priorities like 21st century job training, affordable higher education, transportation infrastructure, and other investments to grow our economy and strengthen the middle class.”

Shea-Porter Statement on CROmnibus Vote

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) voted against the so-called “CROmnibus” funding bill today because it is a win for special interests, and a bad deal for middle class taxpayers. The House passed the bill with a vote of 219-206.

“Of course Congress had to keep the government open, but it should have been done by passing a Continuing Resolution that funded the government, but didn’t contain these harmful provisions. I strongly opposed the CROmnibus bill, which would hurt working Americans by allowing big-money bailouts for banks and rolling back already-inadequate campaign finance laws,” said Shea-Porter.

“In 2008, I voted against the bank bailouts and for policies that saved us from a depression. I am deeply concerned that this bill calls for a taxpayer-funded bailout for irresponsible institutions if they get themselves in trouble again. The bailout provision is just one of a number of special-interest victories in this bill. Another would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices. Putting American taxpayers on the hook and gutting campaign finance laws is unacceptable, so I voted no.”

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