AFL-CIO President Trumka On The 5th Anniversary of Last Minimum Wage Increase

Richard_Trumka

Today is a reminder of what is possible with just an ounce of political will.  If our leaders have the courage, they can lift millions of hardworking Americans out of poverty by raising the minimum wage. It’s a tragedy that workers have been trapped in a poverty-level minimum wage for five years. It must not go a day longer.

We are working harder than ever, while our wages are flat or falling. Over the past five years, the cost of living has continued to increase across the country, while the federal minimum wage has stayed flat. Raising the minimum wage is a critical and simple way to address a crucial underlying weakness in our economy. It will create jobs, grow our economy and increase the purchasing power of millions of workers.

The movement to raise wages is happening all around us. States are doing it. Cities, counties and little towns are doing it. Smart business owners are doing it. It’s time for Congress to get it done.

The NH State Employee’s Association (SEIU 1984) Announce The Endorsement Of Jennifer Daler For NH Executive Council District 5

Jennifer Daler

Jennifer DalerThe SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Board of Directors announced its endorsement of Jennifer Daler in the race for the open Executive Council seat in District 5. Daler lives in Temple and is running to represent Executive Council District 5, which includes 33 communities, extending along the state’s southern border, from Richmond and Swanzey in the west to Nashua and Hudson in the east, and as far north as Hillsborough and Dunbarton.  The Executive Council seat opened up when Debora Pignatelli announced she would not be seeking re-election.

After interviewing and reviewing records of the candidates, the organization’s Political Education Committee selected Daler, a former state representative, as the candidate who will best represent the district’s constituents and SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members.  Originally elected to the state House of Representatives in 2006, Daler’s special election win in 2011 became a pivotal point in helping turn the tide against the attacks on working families of the Bill O’Brien-led legislature.

“We believe Jen’s experience in the House will serve her well on the Executive Council, as she understands the value of civility and the importance of working together,” said Ken Roos, chair of the committee. “In addition, we know she is committed to making the best use of our tax dollars and keeping our economy moving in the right direction.”

While serving in the House, Daler worked hard for our most vulnerable citizens, serving on the Health and Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee.  Daler fought for working people across the state by voting against the right to work for less bill, which drives wages and benefits lower for those families that work hard and struggle to keep their homes.

“In 2011, at a critical time for our state, Jen prevailed in a tough House district despite facing crushing attacks for her stand against right to work for less,” Roos said. “She’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and we’re confident she’ll always put our families ahead of partisan politics.”

The five-member Executive Council is a critical body for SEA members and their families.  The council votes on all state expenditures over $10,000, approves all appointments of civil commissions, judges and commissioners and directors in state government. Each council district represents around 250,000 voters and is elected every two years.

Committee members said Daler is the candidate that best represents the organization’s electoral vision for the state – the Granite Strong Vision. This vision is comprised of ten points SEA/SEIU 1984 has identified as essential for the success of the state’s working families. The points are:

  • Good full-time jobs
  • Robust small and large business environment
  • Quality, affordable and accessible health care
  • Quality, affordable public education from early childhood through post-secondary
  • Clean air and water
  • Public safety
  • Strong infrastructure
  • Strong consumer protections
  • Worker rights and protections
  • Strong safety net for our most vulnerable

Guest Column: The Age Of A Fractured Political System

ILWU - longshoremen union

Dr. Thomas J. Mackell, Jr.By Thomas J. Mackell, Jr., Ed.D.

This is an age of fractured jobs, a fractured economy, fractured families, a fractured political system, a terribly fractured American Dream and where the political protagonists, our elected leaders, are in need of spinal transplants.

The soon-to-retire greying generation is experiencing no pensions. Those pensions are promises that will not be kept, leaving thousands of employees in dire straits when they are most vulnerable. Roller-coaster retirement accounts subject to the whims of the market. Longer life spans and higher health care costs. Children in college. Young adults with staggering student-loan debt who are financially incapable of purchasing a home. Aging and ailing parents. A will to work but fewer jobs to be had.

America is dying for a champion who makes preserving the middle class a top priority. They want somebody who can level the playing field so that Main Street doesn’t always come second to Wall Street. Someone who is not running networks of oligarchs who take advantage of our weakened campaign finance laws to manipulate the democratic process in pursuit of their self-interests.

This is the scenario as we head into the 2014 Congressional elections with predictions that Republicans will hold the House of Representatives and, perhaps, gain control of the Senate.

If that happens, forget a Congress that looks out for the little guy.  In conjunction with a non-caring Congress, today, unfortunately, the concept of freedom has come to mean the freedom of the wealthy to do whatever they want, without regard to the consequences for the rest of us. In reality, the 1 percent has undertaken a serious effort to buy elections.

At any kind of gathering whether it be at work or at home, Americans are expressing disappointment about the way things run in Washington. They don’t see them dealing with the multitude of problems facing our nation. Their approval rating is at an all-time low. Many citizens say they see no value in bothering to vote.

Clearly, the constant bickering between the Republicans and Democrats is wearing thin on Main Street and leads to a notion of false equivalency. The Pew Research Center says that Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines than at any point in the last two decades.

The GOP has done all it can to undercut the Obama presidency. Democrats had to fight back. The line is drawn in the sand which has resulted in blind allegiance or blind hatred.

But let’s put the blame where it belongs: on the Republican side of the aisle. The Republicans must end their internal civil war between the moderates and the Tea Party aficionados.

Recently, a number of the members of Congress who have announced their plans to retire have expressed their frustration with the cantankerous environment in Washington and their inability to get things done.

When even the pols start complaining, you know that things are really bad. If they can’t find solutions then we are, truly, in deep trouble.

Despite this horrendous dilemma, failing to vote surely will make things worse. We have a solemn obligation to go to the polls. Neglecting the most fundamental responsibility of citizenship invites complacency and encourages political abuse. Showing up on Election Day proves we are in the game, that we care and that we want to see change.

There are areas of this country where people have been removed from the ranks of eligible voters and GOP operatives are doing all they can to suppress participation by traditional Democratic constituencies.

Today, the American workplace is plagued with wage theft, disrespect of culture, pressure, unsafe environments, unbridled automation and more. Everything solid is melting into air. This should not be tolerated in modern America. We must vote our pocketbook to protect our livelihoods and our well-being.

We must encourage our union memberships, thoughtful young folks and retirees to go out on Election Day and exercise their right to vote. They must be engaged in their communities and serve as an example to those who might stay away. Staying home is not an option. It will only continue and calcify this dangerous divisiveness.

Dr. Thomas J. Mackell, Jr. is Senior Consultant to the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO for political, legislative and public affairs.

Save The MET: Metropolitan Opera’s Management Threatens To Lock Out Workers

Save The Met IATSE 1

Save The Met IATSE 1Statement by Joe Hartnett, Assistant Dept. Director Stagecraft for I.A.T.S.E.

On Metropolitan Opera Management’s Threat to Lock out Performers and Backstage Employees

We want the show to go on. Our bargaining teams are very serious about hammering out an agreement with opera management. Several negotiating sessions have been scheduled over the next week. Management and their legal team have drawn red lines through our contracts, but seem to have very little understanding about what items cost or even how the opera functions backstage.  This has slowed contract talks.

A lockout would be an opera tragedy, likely resulting in a lost season and a long-term loss of operagoers and subscribers for years to come. A lockout would not only leave theater seats empty in Lincoln Center — it would result in movie theaters going dark around the globe where the Met is simulcast.

Most of all, a lockout would be an indication of management’s failure to manage productions and manage negotiations. We all should be working together to save the Met, not locking out artists and shuttering this opera house.

Joe Hartnett, I.A.T.S.E’s Assistant Department Director of Stagecraft, is coordinating negotiations for the six IA locals at the Metropolitan Opera.

Poultry Inspectors Union Calls for Public Review of USDA Outsourcing Plan

By gran  [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)  Wiki Common

AFGE Logo 2AFGE urges government to allow public comment on rule before enactment

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees says the public should be allowed to review and comment on a U.S Department of Agriculture plan to overhaul the poultry inspection system before the rule takes effect.

By gran  [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)  Wiki Common

By gran [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) Wiki Common

USDA submitted a revised version of the rule to the Office of Management and Budget on July 10, seeking final review and approval. USDA officials have stated that “significant changes” have been made to the original proposed rule, which has been strongly criticized by AFGE and other labor and consumer groups, members of Congress, and other federal agencies.

USDA has refused to reveal what changes have been made to the proposal until the final rule is published in the Federal Register.

AFGE today sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Howard Shelanski, administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, urging a full public review of the rule before it is finalized. Specifically, AFGE is calling on the agencies to publish the revised version of the proposed rule, open it up for a 120-day public comment period, and hold public meetings on the revised proposed rule.

“Considering the importance of this rule, stakeholders and the public should be given the opportunity to comment on the ‘significant changes’ made to the proposed rule before it is finalized,” AFGE Legislative and Political Director Beth Moten wrote.

The USDA plan, which was first proposed in January 2012, would remove most federal inspectors from the slaughter line and turn over inspection activities currently performed by federal inspectors to untrained employees hired by the poultry processing plants. The proposal also would allow plants to increase their line speeds up to 175 chicken carcasses per minute, meaning that the lone remaining federal inspector on the slaughter line will have one-third of one second to examine each chicken carcass for disease, infection and contamination.

“The USDA’s original plan has been roundly criticized as a blatant attempt to cut costs without regard to the serious ramifications on the health and safety of consumers and plant workers,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “The public has a right to see what changes USDA has made to its cost-cutting plan and be able to respond to the revised plan before any action is taken.”

The chief goal of the USDA’s plan has been to save money, not to increase safety for consumers or workers, Cox said. The plan as originally proposed would save USDA about $90 million over three years, while poultry plants would reap more than $250 million a year in profits from increasing line speeds, according to the agency’s own documents.

AFT Hails Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Law

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WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on President Obama’s signing of the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act:

“Career and technical education programs provide incredibly important pathways to success. The bipartisan bill that President Obama signed today extends the ladder of opportunity to middle-class Americans by providing the guidance, skills and training needed to compete for good 21st-century jobs. The law will help young people, the disabled, the long-term unemployed and those barely getting by on hourly wages to become economically self-sufficient.

“The workforce law provides a blueprint for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act, which has been a lifeline for job training opportunities and focuses on career and technical education programs and collaborative partnerships among employers, communities, schools and labor. We hope that as Congress works on the Perkins reauthorization, it provides much-needed funding for guidance counselors, who can help students explore career options as they contemplate their futures.

“I have witnessed how great career and technical education high schools change lives, such as New York City’s Aviation High School; New York City’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-Tech, which has IBM and the City College of New York as core partners; and the Toledo (Ohio) Technology Academy, whose partners include the United Auto Workers union. The Albert Shanker Institute and the AFT have been stalwart advocates of career and technical education programs, and we will continue our efforts to help high-quality CTE programs flourish to create innovative pathways to a high school diploma and college and career readiness.”

Labor of Love: How The American Labor Movement Is Securing LBGT Equality

Labor of Love
Labor of Love

From Left to Right : Amanda Terkel, Congressman Mark Takana, Roland Leggett, Kate Childs Graham, Cari Stevenson

“Labor has been fighting for LBGT rights for the last 30 years,” Carli Stevenson told the audience of the “Labor of Love” panel at Netroots Nation.  Carli is an openly gay woman who has done communications for multiple labor unions and is currently working with AFSCME Indiana-Kentucky Organizing Committee 962.

The basis of the panel was talking about the direct influence that labor unions played in fighting for the rights of our brothers and sisters in the LBGT community.  There is no doubt that labor played a major role in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, working to end segregation, and fighting for equality.  Let us never forget that the reason Dr. Martin Luther King was in Memphis, where he was assassinated, was to march with AFSCME sanitation workers.

It is no coincidence that labor has been a leader in pushing for the current civil rights battle, the battle for equality and LBGT rights.  Congressman Mark Takano told the audience that “2013 may have been the gay-est year in history.”  He also said that younger members of the LBGT community do not remember the struggles in the past and who was there to help the LBGT community continue to move forward.

It was people like Cesar Chavez, who as President of the United Farm Workers union was the “first major civil rights leader to support gay and lesbian issues visibly and explicitly.”  Chavez also led the “Second National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights” in 1987.

Congressman Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay politicians elected to San Francisco City Council, helped the Teamsters organize a boycott of Coors in the mid ‘70s.  Milk organized the local gay bar owners to stop selling Coors while the Teamsters truck drivers were on strike.  In return, Milk asked the Teamsters to hire more gay and lesbian drivers.  The partnership was extremely successful, taking Coors from a 40% market share to 14% and ending the strike.

The United Auto Workers pushed equality forward.   “The UAW was the first union to get same sex couple benefits into labor contract,” said Roland Leggett, the Michigan State Director for Working America.  After the UAW successfully got domestic partner benefits into their contracts in 1982, more and more Fortune 500 companies started to adopt similar policies.  By 2006, 49% of all Fortune 500 companies offered domestic partner benefits.

“The patchwork of legal protections across the country underscores the reason why a union contract is an LGBT worker’s best friend,” wrote T Santora, Co-President of Pride At Work, in a 2009 article.

Labor was bold and progressive in their approach to get LBGT protections for all workers, and was right there to fight back when workers were being discriminated against.  Labor used their influence in State Houses and on Capitol Hill to push for same-sex marriage provisions and to pass provisions against worker discrimination.

Before becoming a politician, Congressman Takano was a public school teacher for over 20 years.  He talked about the importance of the partnership between the LBGT community and the teachers unions.  In 1978, they fought back against the Prop 6, the “Briggs Amendment” that would have “banned gays and lesbians from working in the California public schools.”

Together the labor movement and the LGBT community celebrated as the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.  This monumental decision is leading to the destruction of the anti-gay marriage provisions passed throughout the states.

 

Pushing To End LBGT Discrimination

From the beginning labor and the LBGT community have been working to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).  However, after the Hobby Lobby decision, the “religious provisions” in ENDA took on an entirely new meaning.

The Supreme Court’s decision allows Hobby Lobby a “religious exemption” from a provision of the federal Affordable Care Act.  Within days of that ruling, “closely held corporations” and religious institutions wanted to use the religious exemption to discriminate against the LBGT community.  (Read the story “Hobby Lobby’s harvest: A religious exemption for LGBT discrimination?” from the LA Times)

Just as quickly as religious institutions began to file for the ability to discriminate, national gay rights advocacy groups began pulling their support for ENDA.

“While we fully support strong protections for LGBT workers in the workplace, something that for many workers is currently only afforded by a union contract, after the recent Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case, it is clear that these broad religious exemptions would gut the intent and purpose of ENDA,” said Pride at Work interim Executive Director, Jerame Davis, in a written statement. “LGBT workers deserve strong, enforceable workplace protections and we look forward to supporting a bill to that end.”

The current version of ENDA has a religious exemption clause that would allow the “closely held corporations” and religious institutions to openly discriminate against workers because they are gay.

Carli Stevenson laid out the perfect example at Netroots Nation, when she explained that her partner works for a Catholic organization.  If the administration learned that Carli’s partner was in a same sex relationship, she could be immediately fired, and unable to collect unemployment.   “We’re not just talking about marriage, we’re talking about basic workers’ rights. Many of these religious and ministerial exemptions are an attack on basic protections most of us take for granted.” Carli continued. “We should not be pushing for any bill that will leave out any members of our LBGT family.”

Congressman Takano said that the staff from the Equality Caucus is working on the right language to protect the workers and the religious beliefs of religious institutions.

Roland Leggett, whose husband is a Lutheran minister, talked about the how “religious exemptions have been used a way to discriminate against people throughout history.”  He continued by saying, “there is a difference between a baker who does not want to make a cake for a gay wedding, and being fired for being gay.”

Some of this anti-gay messaging comes from the Catholic Church.  Kate Childs Graham, who does media affairs for the American Federation of Teachers, was raised Catholic and said she is “hopeful that this new Pope will make changes to move the church towards marriage equality.”

 

Moving Forward

After a long and moving discussion about how labor unions helped to push for many of the rights and protections that the LBGT community now enjoys, it was Kate Childs Graham who posed a question to the audience: “What can the LBGT community do to help labor?”

For decades, labor unions have seen a slow decline in membership and less of the private sector is covered by union contracts.  Over the past few years, labor unions have seen unprecedented attacks on workers rights.

Kate talked about the recent fight in Michigan, where Republican Governor Rick Snyder forced a “Right To Work (for less)” amendment through the state Legislature.  While that was happening, Kate talked to some of her friends at Equality Michigan, and asked for their help organizing people to rally against the legislation.  Without skipping a beat, Equality Michigan helped to gather hundreds of the LBGT community to a rally less than a week later.

In the 1970s when “gay rights” was a relatively new term, labor was there. Now these LBGT advocacy groups are very well organized, and very powerful.  Labor needs them to help push for better wages and better working conditions.  We need the LGBT community to help us push for a higher minimum wage.  We need the LBGT community to help us as we are organizing low-wage workers and restaurant workers.  We need the LBGT community to help us push for a single payer healthcare system. Sometimes, we just need people to stand with us at rallies. That is what the LBGT community can do for labor.

 

Closing Note

I have been running the New Hampshire Labor News for almost three years now.  My work has connected me with some wonderful people from around the country.  Many of the communications professionals inside the labor movement are gay.  They are some of the funniest, creative, and most dedicated people I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  I wanted to personally thank my friend Asher Huey (AFT Digital Media) for putting this panel together.  I also want to congratulate all the people who participated in this panel, and especially my friend, and fellow Granite Stater, Carli Stevenson, who plans on being married to the love of her life in 2016!

 

Education Program Gutted for At-Risk Youth at State Facility

Sununu Youth Services-Manchester (image by Prime Roofing Corp)
SununuYouthServices-Manchester (image by Prime Roofing Corp)

Sununu Youth Services-Manchester (image by Prime Roofing Corp)

School Taking Brunt of Budget Cuts Seen as Suspicious 

The Sununu Youth Services Center (SYSC) educational services for the state’s most troubled youth may soon face legal challenges after 75% of targeted budget cuts are taken out on teaching staff.  Services for middle school through high school youth are expected to greatly suffer once personnel reductions of the uniquely qualified teaching staff are completed.

SYSC is the state’s residential detention and school facility for youth ages 13 to 17 who have either been found to be delinquent (SYSC program) or are awaiting that determination (YDSU program). Both programs are approved by NH Dept. of Education Bureau of Special Education to serve students in all disability categories. The programs include academics, special education, electives and vocational training for the youth that are taught in four distinct educational settings within the institution.

“The legislature ordered that $1.25 million dollars be directly cut from SYSC’s budget,” said Diana Lacey, President of SEA/SEIU 1984. “The Legislature also decided to cut an additional $7 million dollars from all of DHHS.”

At issue is the SYSC administration’s strategy for making those budget cuts.  “It defies logic that anyone would put 75% of the cuts on the department that educates the at-risk youth; it’s only going to hurt the kids.  They need their education to become independent and successful adults,” said Brad Asbury, former SYSC employee and current SEA/SEIU 1984 manager working with the educators.

“It took tremendous work to make the school what it is today.  Principal Claire Pstragowski has done a fine job and over the years we’ve seen the difference it’s made for the kids,” said Asbury.

“The teachers have worked tirelessly reaching out to state senators and representatives, executive councilors and the Governor to sound the alarm of what this cut will mean to the kids.  Some also believe there is no coincidence in the administration’s choice to slash the teaching force,” said Jay Ward, Political Director at SEA/SEIU 1984.

Multiple meetings with the administration, area lawmakers, and Governor Maggie Hassan have failed to yield a more balanced approach to the execution of the SYSC specific budget cut.  “We’ve suggested several ways to meet the savings requirement that have not been accepted, and remain suspicious that the teachers’ concerns that they were being specifically targeted are true,” said Ward.

Astutely, teachers had predicted this would happen in early 2012 – several months before legislators first raised the million plus cut in budget hearings.  Newly assigned director to the center, Maggie Bishop, asked teachers at the time to provide unpaid, after school voluntary extracurricular programs to youth.  When the teachers declined, due to legal liability and increased risk concerns, as well as labor law violation likelihood, Bishop expressed concern about the future.

“The teachers reached out to us after the director told them it would be difficult for her to justify their salaries and the cost of running the school in the future,” said Asbury.  The warning given was taken seriously and a later consultation with HHS Commissioner, Nick Toumpas, soon revealed the teachers’ account of the discussion with Bishop wasn’t far off.  “She was in that meeting and admitted she made the statements but that the teachers just took it the wrong way.  Then she said she would issue a request for information to see if there was any interest in privatizing the school and what it would cost.”

The strategy, as described by Bishop in the meeting, would enable her to better manage a budgetary challenge lawmakers might give her in the following budget cycle.

“It was then that the teachers predicted the education department would be gutted in the new budget,” said Lacey.  “More than twenty of them kept saying, she’s coming after us – just wait and see.”

Prior to moving the plan forward, Bishop sought to cut teacher pay by thirteen to twenty percent with an expectation that they would all remain at the school but for a few teaching layoffs.  “We believe that violates current New Hampshire law and is in conflict with the prescribed tools for meeting budget cuts,” said SEA Attorney, Lauren Snow-Chadwick.

“Gutting the education department by a 30% reduction in teaching staff makes no sense.  These kids need their teachers.  It’s very disturbing to think this may have all started as retaliation,” said Lacey.

The current school provides full day instruction to 60-70 youth, with a potential capacity of over 100, through fully certified and highly talented, grade/subject specific teachers.  The design came after a 1990’s class action lawsuit proved the youth’s constitutional rights were being violated because they were not receiving an appropriate education.  The improvements weren’t easily won; a court retained jurisdiction of the suit’s settlement agreement after the plaintiffs raised concerns about the state’s continued compliance.  Eventually, the plaintiffs and court agreed that the state succeeded in delivering an appropriate program.

It is likely, through this action, that the education program at the school will wind up in litigation again.

Interestingly The Center’s belief statement in a 2010 document states:

  • It is our belief every student be enrolled into approved educational programs and courses respective of individual needs.
  • It is our belief and practice that educational programs must be appropriate to the students’ academic potential, and competency-based
  • It is our belief and practice to teach vocational education, which meets the needs of the communities while also meeting the needs and interest of students.

Stop The Attack On Public Education — AFT Welcomes “Democrats For Public Education”

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Written by Larry Graykin

As a longtime liberal and a union member, I have been dismayed by the Democrats extended, gradual slide toward the political right. Once a little left of center, the typical Democrat nowadays is akin to a moderate Republican of years past. There is no question Eisenhower would be judged “too liberal” for any Republican primary nowadays. My fear is that he’d be deemed too liberal for the Dems, as well.

The worst of the Dems, to my way of thinking, are the Neo-Liberals, simply because they are fleece-wearing wolves. According to Elizabeth Martinez, the main points of neo-liberalism include:

  1. THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services.
  2. CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply — again in the name of reducing government’s role.
  3. DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminish profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job.
  4. PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.
  5. ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.”

In other words, Neo-Libs are Libertarians in Democrats’ clothing. And yes, as you might wonder, they DO have ties to ALEC, as demonstrated by Mercedes Schneider in her book, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education. 

I’m a teacher, and so I’ve been watching the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)—the Neo-Lib’s PAC that attends to education—for some time now.  From DFER’s “Statement of Principles”: “We believe that reforming broken public school systems cannot be accomplished by tinkering at the margins, but rather through bold and revolutionary leadership.  This requires opening up the traditional top-down monopoly of most school systems and empowering all parents to access great schools for their children.”  These are the lovers and promoters of Michelle Rhee, of charter schools, of vouchers, of top-down educational reforms (e.g., high-stakes testing, Common Core national standards, the use of VAM in rating teacher quality, etc.)  They support policies “that stimulate the creation of new accountable public schools and which simultaneously close down failing schools.”   These, in short, are enemies of the NEA and the AFT.

And into this landscape trots Donna Brazile.

Donna Brazile, says Wikipedia, is “an American author, academic, and political analyst who is Vice Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. She was the first African American to direct a major presidential campaign, acting as campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000.” And she is also one of the founding members of “Democrats for Public Education,” an organization that she first announced at AFT’s convention. “I am ashamed of some of Democrats in my own party. We’re not going to be silent while you are being attacked.”

It’s a wonderful speech. Watch it here:

Democrats for Public Education is brand new. Their website is not yet up. Their Facebook page  has little more than a “Stay tuned…” message. But we already know what they stand for. Brazile, along with two co-chairs, former governors Ted Strickland (Ohio) and Jennifer Granholm (Michigan), has indicated that “the group intends to champion additional funds to make quality public education available to everyone, and reject what Brazile called ‘market-driven’ reforms that undermine the learning environment. ‘We have done a poor job educating people about education. Only when we have clarified that, can we talk about how best to achieve it.’”

So…we have a new environment in which Democrats must live.  Each candidate must answer a question that once could be avoided: Will you continue to pay lip-service to unions while aligning yourself with DFER? Or will you truly stand on the side of teachers, students, and unions, and affiliate yourself with Democrats for Public Education?

As Pete Seeger asked in song, “Which side are you on?”

AFL-CIO President Trumka On The Humanitarian Crisis At The Border

Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)

The humanitarian crisis of families and children fleeing violence in Central America and turning themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents has brought out both the best and the worst in our nation.

Alarmingly, in places like Murrieta, California and Vassar, Michigan, we have seen ugly reminders of racism and hatred directed toward children. The spewing of nativist venom, the taking up of arms and the fear-mongering about crime and disease harken back to dark periods in our history and have no business taking place under the banner of our flag.

On the other hand, around the country we have also seen a tremendous outpouring of compassion and concern for the plight of these women and children.  We are proud to say that local unions have joined with faith and community groups to collect needed supplies, provide shelter and support, and call for humane treatment.

The situation along the border is a refugee crisis that requires a humane, lawful response and must not be politicized.  The labor movement calls upon national and community leaders to respond to the crisis in a manner that meets our obligations under U.S. and international law, and comports with basic human rights and American values.  This means ensuring full due process and providing the additional resources necessary to ensure the well-being and fair treatment of children and refugees.  It also requires taking an honest assessment of the root causes of the crisis, including the long-term impact of U.S. policies on immigration, trade, and foreign affairs.

We cannot lend credibility to Republican assertions that a refugee crisis is proof that we should continue to deport hard working people who have been contributing members of our society for years.  These are simply new excuses to justify failed policies. Lifting the pressure on immigrant workers was needed before the child refugee story developed, and it is no less urgent today.  The Administration must act now to keep all families together, uphold our standards as a humanitarian nation, and advance the decent work agenda necessary to improve conditions both at home and abroad.