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Mark Dobbins: I’m Not Ready To Make Nice

As I sat down this week to write my first column, I wanted to make nice, I really did. In the wake of the disastrous first weeks of the Trump administration, conservatives across the political spectrum called for unity, saying “Give Trump a chance.” I was going write about how we can bridge the ever-growing divide that is tearing our nation apart. It was even going to be intersectional.

I had planned on listing what I, as a “big city liberal,” believed. I’m from Philadelphia, a predominantly Democratic city on the East Coast. We don’t always agree. Like most Democrats, we argue. But there are some things we do all agree on. Good paying jobs that let families do more than just survive. Not choosing between medicine for our children and paying the rent. An educational system that works. LGBTQ rights that let us live our lives without fear or prejudice. Police who don’t murder people of color and get away with it. Strong unions. Politicians that don’t pat us on the head while picking our pockets. We want to be happy. We’re not asking for special privileges – just the basic rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” we all learned about in school. That’s what I was going to write about.

Then I started covering the protests that swept Philadelphia and realized that the time for kumbaya was over.

Image by Mark Dobbins

I heard mothers tell me how, for the first time, they were afraid for their children. That a madman now controlled the White House, and instead of spending his time fixing our problems, takes to Twitter to call people names. Who hangs up on world leaders. Who tweets every time someone dares to disagree with him. Who needs a timeout.

I heard people of color tell me that this wasn’t new to them. America has always been and still is a racist country. It’s just come out of the closet for everyone to see. And now it’s respectable for white supremacists to sit next to the President of the United States without shame and whisper sweet nothings into his ear.

I heard my LGBTQ friends tell me how fear for their lives. Just a few years after we got the right to marry each other, we suddenly are afraid to hold hands in public. In Philadelphia.

Image by Mark Dobbins

I heard transgender individuals tell me how their friends are being murdered – daily – across this country, and how they wonder if they’ll be next.

I heard fear. But I also heard resistance.

I saw the crowds marching in the bitter cold to shut down the streets. The words they shouted differed from day to day, but the sentiment was the same – we will fight back. We will not allow this to happen – again. That our voices will be heard. That this isn’t the America we believed in – and that we want our country back.

In the upcoming months, I’ll be writing about those voices, and how they’re fighting. As a journalist, it isn’t my job to make people comfortable or happy, but to speak the truth. My columns may make you angry. Good. I hope that they do. I probably will poke a few hornets’ nests. I may get stung. I may sting. But I’ll always be honest with you.

All I ask is that you listen. Because, like the song goes, “I’m not ready to make nice.”

Trump Attempts To Ban Muslims, People And Leaders React, And The ACLU Hails Victory

With the stroke of his pen, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to ban refugees and citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. The order also prevents Iraqis who supported the U.S. mission and face threats as a result, from coming to the United States.

This order was the fulfillment of one of Trump’s most divisive campaign promises blocking all “Muslims” from entering the United States as Trump portrayed all Muslims as terrorists.  Many fear that this ban is only the first step in the Trump administration agenda against Muslims as he repeatedly called for a national registry of Muslim’s living in the US.

“This executive order is un-American and grossly inhumane,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). “We are a nation of immigrants and should remain welcoming to all nations and faiths, particularly those who are fleeing violence and oppression. Refugees, from Syria in particular, are fleeing unspeakable terror and hunger, and it’s unconscionable that the United States will no longer provide any of these refugees a safe haven.

“This order also endangers our troops and diplomats. Discriminating based on religion and nationality severely undermines the local alliances and trust established by our troops and diplomats in the field. This order is so ill-considered that it is even barring Iraqi civilians who have provided essential assistance to the U.S. mission. We owe a tremendous debt to the brave Iraqis who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans in the field, putting themselves and their families at risk to help our soldiers and diplomats accomplish their mission and return home safely. To abandon them now would be a stain on our national honor,” Shaheen concluded. 

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) also spoke out against Trump’s “religious test” saying it goes against “the fundamental values that makes America the greatest country on earth”.

“President Trump’s executive action imposing a religious test on entry into the United States runs counter to the fundamental values that make America the greatest country on earth. It will also make us less safe. We must always be working to strengthen the vetting process for all entryways into the United States, but discriminating against individuals on the basis of their religion will only harm our national security interests.” 

“It is also disgraceful that these executive actions would turn away the brave men and women who have risked their lives to serve as interpreters for our military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is both our moral obligation and a national security imperative to assist those who have helped us, and I will support efforts by Senators Shaheen and McCain to authorize visas for these interpreters,” Hassan added. 

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH01) also condemned Trump’s executive order.

“I condemn President Trump’s decision to reject fundamental American values. Our nation’s founders built this nation on dreams of a better, more tolerant society, and now we must stand together and defend and preserve those ideals. I call on President Trump to immediately reverse his actions, and I invite all Granite Staters to join me in letting our refugee and immigrant neighbors know that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them as one community.”

Ray Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party, and candidate for Chair of the Democratic National Committee, called Trump’s move, “un-American”.

“President Trump may have set a record today in receiving a stunning blowback to his latest executive order restricting travel from Muslim countries. As a candidate for Chair, a member of the Democratic Party, and a patriotic American I condemn this disgrace in the strongest possible terms. It is illegal, reprehensible, and the very definition of un-American. I call upon President Trump to rescind this order, and I call upon lawmakers of both parties to resist this atrocity and remind the President of just what it means to be an American.”

Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, takes pride in the fact that Planned Parenthood offers “high-quality care to everyone regardless of faith, country of origin, immigrant or refugee status,” lashed out at President Trump decision.  

“President Trump’s executive order signed today effectively restricts the ability of immigrants and refugees to enter this country based on their country of origin and religious background. This is an appalling attack on refugees and Muslims, designed to sow fear. The Planned Parenthood community is made up of people from all walks of life — including immigrants and refugees of all backgrounds and faith communities, including Muslims.

“Refugees, who have left everything behind and are forced to negotiate their safety in unfamiliar countries and language, also face unique barriers to care. We’ve seen this firsthand through our health centers in the U.S. – many of which proudly serve refugee communities – as well as through Planned Parenthood Global’s community-based partners in Africa and Latin America, who help so many women and families overcome unimaginable barriers to health including poverty, conflict and violence. These policies single out and target those most in need of access to care, and will only make it more difficult for these communities to access the health care they need.

“At Planned Parenthood we believe that health has no borders: the ability to live and thrive without fear of deportation, surveillance, or having your family torn apart, and the ability to access health care, are basic human rights. Planned Parenthood health centers are proud to provide high-quality care to everyone regardless of faith, country of origin, immigrant or refugee status, or to those who may otherwise have nowhere else to turn for health care. We are committed to standing with immigrants and refugees, in the U.S. and in many of their countries of origin, through our global partnerships.  

“These policies hurt the most vulnerable in the world, people fleeing in terror for their lives, or people simply coming from a different faith, just when they need our help the most. The United States was founded on values of refuge and compassion, which is why we are prepared to stand alongside our partners to fight back against this hate and discrimination,” Richards concluded. 

Immediately after the order was signed, outraged Americans took to the streets in protests.  They packed into airports across the country as immigrants were detained and refused entrance into the US even though they had legal visa’s.

The same thing spontaneously happened in Houston, Texas.

By far the largest was in New York and JFK’s international terminal where thousands showed up to protest. Protesters were joined by the NY Taxi Cab Alliance, a union of taxi drivers, who refused to pick up anyone at the airport during the protest.

AND IT WORKED! Last night, a federal judge granted the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for a nationwide temporary injunction that will block the deportation of all people stranded in U.S. airports under President Trump’s new Muslim ban. The ACLU and other legal organizations filed a lawsuit on behalf of individuals who were subject to the ban.  The lead plaintiffs have been detained by the U.S. government and threatened with deportation even though they have valid visas to enter the United States.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project who argued the case, said:

“This ruling preserves the status quo and ensures that people who have been granted permission to be in this country are not illegally removed off U.S. soil.”

ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, had this reaction to the ruling:

“Clearly the judge understood the possibility for irreparable harm to hundreds of immigrants and lawful visitors to this country. Our courts today worked as they should as bulwarks against government abuse or unconstitutional policies and orders. On week one, Donald Trump suffered his first loss in court.”

(The stay order is at: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/darweesh-v-trump-order)

My Point Of View: Black Lives Matter Protests #NN15 Town Hall With O’Malley And Sanders

A lot of people have been messaging me about the events that transpired during the Netroots Nation town hall event with Governor Martin O’Malley and Senator Bernie Sanders.

For those that did not see the news about it, NBC News had a good write up of what transpired.

Long story short, as Governor O’Malley was speaking a group of protestors gathered at the bottom of the stage chanting “Black Lives Matter.” They demanded to be heard. They completely took over the town hall and demanded answer from O’Malley, and later Sanders, to the most pressing issues facing the African-American community.

The biggest question that came from the group was, what are you going to do police brutality and rampant racism in America’s police departments? To his credit, O’Malley waited patiently and listened to what they were saying did attempt to answer them. At one point he said, “Black lives matter, white lives matter, and all lives matter.” They were obviously not happy with O’Malley’s response and the fact that Baltimore, the city that O’Malley was Mayor of, sparked riots after and African-American man was killed while in police custody.

After O’Malley left the stage knowing he had said something wrong, the moderator welcomed Senator Sanders to the stage. Once again the protestors began demanding answers. As NBC News explained: “I will answer your question, but I’d like to speak for a couple of minutes.” Sanders began rolling right into his main talking points about income inequality and the corruption in Washington.

The protestors wanted him to answer their question and began chanting again.   To answer their question he started to talk about how African-Americans have the highest unemployment rate in the country and that that we need a jobs plan to help reduce crime and poverty.

In my opinion, he is right about how to lift people out of poverty and by pushing a comprehensive jobs program that will provide jobs to millions of Americans it will help these struggling communities. The problem is that Sen. Sanders was not addressing the African-Americans’ real concerns about safety from the people who are sworn to protect them.

Sen. Sanders has been an advocate for civil rights for fifty years and walked with Martin Luther King in the March on Washington. This is something that is not as well know about Sanders as his stance on breaking the Wall Street banks. In my opinion he is your ally, not your enemy.

(Read also: Why Bernie Sanders Got Twice as Much Applause as Hillary Clinton When He Spoke to La Raza: Sanders connects at the Latino civil rights group’s big convention.)

So what was the point of all this? I had vigorous discussions about this with many people over the last 24 hours as was this good or bad, and my response is both.

Good: The Black Lives Matter protesters were successful in bringing their issues to the forefront of the news.

Bad: Their protest destroyed the town hall and the news only focused on the protest because the candidates were never really given enough time to explain their positions and what they would like to do to correct these problems.

Neither candidate handled this situation well. I am not sure if either of them have been confronted with this type of protest before and I am sure they never expected it from what should have been a friendly environment for them. O’Malley did talk about having more transparency and report all police involved shootings, complaints, and brutality complaints.

Good: Bringing national attention to Black Lives Matter campaign efforts.

Bad: Black Lives Matters is not the only issue that needs attention and by overwhelming the town hall all of the other groups (who already support the Black Lives Matter campaign) did not get to her the candidates answer questions about their issues.

There is another issue here, and that is that the mostly white progressives at Netroots Nation do not know or care about the racial injustices in the African-American community.

This is absolutely false!

One thing is for sure, we as progressives can always do more to help support Black Lives Matter and fighting racial injustice in our communities.

We can Monday morning quarterback this situation to death but the truth is that the repercussions and results of this action have not fully been realized yet. Only time will tell what will happen next.

  • Will the media continue to talk about Black Lives Matter or was this just a flash in the pan?
  • Will Netroots Nation be able to attract high-level candidates, and elected officials, to speak to the attendee’s knowing there is a potential that they will have their speech hijacked by protesters?
  • Will those who found the protest inappropriate, overcome their feelings of disgust and return to Netroots next year?

Only time will tell.

The ‘War On Thanksgiving’ Has Already Begun; Retailers Have Stolen Thanksgiving

The holiday season is about to begin. On Wednesday at sundown Hanukkah begins (Hanukkah Sameach). Then on Thursday the Black Friday sales begin!  Did I miss something? Oh that’s right, Thursday is also Thanksgiving Day.  Or at least it used to be. The events of Black Friday are quickly taking over Thanksgiving and soon there will be nothing left.

Sarah Palin says there is a ‘War on Christmas’.  She is wrong; the ‘war’ is on Thanksgiving and the American worker.  The difference is that Black Friday is ‘free-market capitalism’ in action, so that makes it suitable in their book.

I would expect this trend to continue and next year Walmart, and other terrible retailers, will be opening at 12pm (noon) on Thanksgiving.  If we do not do something to stop these greedy retailers from opening earlier and earlier, it will not be long before they do not even bother to close for Thanksgiving.

This year millions of workers are being forced to work on Thanksgiving to feed the greed of their corporate owners.  This action absolutely disgusts me.  There are some jobs like police, fire, doctors, nurses, and emergency staff that works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, holidays included.  These jobs are necessary for public safety and are usually paid a hefty bonus for working the holiday.  These are not the people I am complaining about.

I am disgusted at the retail stores who continue to steal the Thanksgiving holiday from their employees.  Last year stores opened at Midnight on Friday morning, or 10pm on Thursday night.  Now stores are opening at 6 or 7 pm.  Utterly disgusting!

Forced to work on Thanksgiving, for what, $7.25 an hour.  Walmart makes $25 billion dollars in profits every year and yet workers are living in poverty due to low wages.

Recently MIT created the living wage calculator.  The living wage calculator is chart that shows how much you would have to earn to have a ‘living wage’.

Screen shot 2013-11-24 at 9.35.03 AM

Living Wage Calculator Southern NH

As you can see in New Hampshire a single person would need to make a little more than $10 an hour to meet the living wage standard.  The numbers go up dramatically when you start to include children in the mix.  A single parent with two children would need to make almost $30.00 to meet the living wage standards.

This year thousands of Walmart workers will be walking out on Black Friday.  They are trying to make national attention to the low-wages that Walmart is paying.  They are striking for a living wage.  The organizers of the group Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) is asking for a few simple things.

  • Respect workers as individuals.
  • Schedule workers for full time- 40 hours a week- positions.
  • Pay workers a living wage, $25,000 per year (full time work) or $13 per hour.
  • Expand their healthcare options to make it affordable to workers.
  • End the retaliation against workers who speak up about problems.

Click here to find a Black Friday protest near you.

This year (and every year) I vow not to shop at Walmart until they begin to give their workers respect and start paying works a living wage.  I know I am only one man, and my family will not make a difference in the billions of dollars in revenue that Walmart brings in.   That is not going to stop me.  The more of us that take a stand against Walmart and their evil greedy mentality we will start to make a difference.

We are already making a difference. Since last year’s strikes, Walmart has lost 2% in overall sales. We need to keep the pressure on Walmart to show them we value the workers more than their low-priced Chinese crap.

(Please take a moment to read and sign OUR Walmart’s declaration for respect.)

Related posts: The Outrageous Truth About A $12 Minimum Wage And Your Grocery Bill

The AFL-CIO Summer of Action for Citizenship

While the House of Representatives left for August recess without passing a citizenship bill for aspiring Americans, the nation’s deportation crisis has continued. That tragic inaction is why America’s labor movement has kept the pressure on House Republicans.

That pressure has included:

  • More than 160 Labor Day events across the country where the cause of citizenship will be invoked as a leading issue for all working people regardless of their country of origin or the status of their papers.
  • The Labor Day events follow nearly 200 labor-led actions across the country during the August recess.
  • One powerful example of the labor movement’s broad collaboration with communities allies is our alliance PICO California, a network of faith-based community organizations. Labor has consistently supported PICO California’s three week “Pilgrimage for a Pathway to Citizenship,” a 285 mile journey from Sacramento to Bakersfield. That pilgrimage will come to an end on Labor Day in Bakersfield, where the Kern Central Labor Council is hosting a breakfast to highlight the pilgrimage and demand House of Representatives Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) allow an up or down vote for citizenship in the House.
  • The AFL-CIO and several affiliates (including AFSCME, AFT, CWA, and LiUNA) have over 55,000 signatures on a petition to Speaker Boehner and House leadership asking them for a vote on citizenship in the House. That effort is part of broad progressive coalition push for citizenship to deliver more than a half million petitions after Labor Day. We will be adding to these numbers at our labor day events, where we will be asking working people to text NOW to 235246 to sign the petition from their phones.

 

“The ongoing deportation crisis leaves millions of low wages workers subject to abuse by greedy employers while tearing apart families and communities,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “The best way to end this crisis permanently is for the House of Representatives to stop delaying and offer the majority which supports real reform an immediate vote on a bill with a reliable roadmap to citizenship.”

In the coming weeks, working families will participate with allies across the pro-immigrant movement in actions demanding House Republicans stop holding aspiring Americans hostage.

Over A Dozen Arrested And Thousands Protest at Peabody Headquarters (@MineWorkers)

Mine Workers say “Jury is Not Out” on Giant Coal Firms as Deadline Looms for Cut-off of Retiree Benefits and Cuts for Active Miners

St. Louis – Thousands of members and supporters of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) protested today in front of Peabody Energy headquarters in downtown St. Louis, demonstrating against the giant coal firms they say are responsible for the pending cut-off of health care benefits for retired miners and severe wage and benefit cuts for active workers.

“Their strategy is ‘deny, deny, deny,” said UMWA President Cecil Roberts, who spoke during today’s rally. “We respond the same way we do our work underground in the coal mines: We stick together, we shine a light where it’s dark, and we insist that the health, safety and welfare of our members and our families is the number one priority for this industry.”

Twelve protestors were arrested for “failure to obey” today, following non-violent civil disobedience in front of Peabody headquarters on Market Street, including:

  • UMWA Secretary Treasurer Dan Kane
  • Ron Collins, Chief of Staff to Communication Workers of America President Larry Cohen
  • UMWA members from Alabama, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

“These corporate executives must have figured they could mess with the lives of people from small towns in the coalfields, and nobody would ever know,” said William ‘Sonny’ Smith, a member of UMWA Local 2161 from Illinois who was among those arrested for trespassing today in front of Peabody Energy’s headquarters. “We’re not going to let that happen.  If Peabody and Arch get away with what they’re trying to do to us, than no labor contract in America is worth the paper it’s written on.”

 Mining operations that were wholly-owned and controlled by Peabody Energy negotiated and signed numerous agreements promising lifetime health care for retired mine workers and their families.  In 2007, however, Peabody spun off Patriot Coal, assigning the new company 43 percent of its retiree health care liabilities and just 11 per cent of its assets.  In 2008, Patriot also acquired the liabilities of Magnum Coal Company.

Patriot, which has been described as “designed to fail” by Temple University Finance Professor Bruce Rader, was unable to operate with these liabilities and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012.  Last month, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kathy Surratt-States granted Patriot’s request to effectively eliminate health care for retired miners and their families, and to impose severe cuts in wages, benefits, and working conditions for active miners.

Patriot is able to impose these cutbacks on July 1. UMWA representatives are currently in negotiations with Patriot executives, seeking alternatives to the company’s harsh and unnecessary demands.

“We’re doing all we can to find solutions that will allow Patriot to keep operating while respecting the security and safety of our active and retired members,” said Roberts. “But we all know that the resources needed to really solve these problems are piled up in the corporate coffers of Peabody Energy and Arch Coal.  Those two companies made billions from the sweat and hard work of our members, and if these executives think we’re going to sit idle while they abandon their promises and put our members at risk – well, then they don’t really know or understand the United Mine Workers of America.”

A lawsuit on behalf of UMWA members, filed in West Virginia, charges that Peabody, Arch and Patriot violated the federal Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by scheming to eliminate contractually-guaranteed lifetime health care benefits for retirees.  The union is also working with members of Congress from both parties to pursue legislative remedies.

The UMWA is also continuing a public education campaign, with a “Peabody Lied” television advertisement currently running in St. Louis and Evansville, Illinois.

UMWA members and family members arrested today include:

James Jarrell, UMWA Local Union 9177
Mike Browning, UMWA Local Union 9177
Joe Hicks, UMWA Local Union 5958
William ‘Sonny’ Smith, UMWA Local Union 2161
Carol Smith (spouse of William Smith)
Larry Spencer, UMWA Local Union 2397
Jimmy Thomas, UMWA Local Union 1928
Jerry Stallard, UMWA Local Union 2274
Jeff Samek, UMWA Local Union 2300
Tom Mills, UMWA Local Union 2300. 

Additional information about the UMWA campaign to stand up for active and retired miners is at FairnessAtPatriot.org.

14 United Mine Workers Arrested In Protest

St. Louis – More than 4,500 members and supporters of the United Mine Workers marched and rallied in downtown St. Louis today, as a decision nears in a pivotal case before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Protestors were joined by former AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Barbara Easterling, Missouri State Representative Karla May and Rev. John Stratton of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri.

Fourteen miners and supporters, including United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts and Easterling were arrested for trespassing after sitting down on South 10th Street in front of the federal courthouse, in a peaceful act of non-violent civil disobedience.

Included in those arrested were Larry Knisell, a Peabody retiree from Morgantown, W. Va., and his son Chuck, who works at a mine in Pennsylvania and is president of UMWA Local Union 2300. “My Mom and Dad were there for me when I was growing up, taught me what was right and what was wrong,” Chuck Knisell said. “He’s counting on those benefits. I wanted to be there for him today.”

Tom Kacsmar, a retiree from UMWA Local Union 6362 was arrested along with his wife, Margie. “We both depend on the health care benefits he earned in all those years in the mines,” Margie said. “I was proud to stand with him.”

The UMWA is also continuing a public advocacy campaign with a full-page ad in today’s St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Demonstrators came from Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and other states to protest the possible loss of are health care benefits for more than 23,000 retired miners and their families, as well as cuts in wages, benefits and working conditions for more than 1,700 active workers at Patriot Coal.

“I spent 32 years working underground to earn those benefits, and I’m not giving them up without a fight,” said Joe Brown, a retired miner from Fairmont, West Virginia. “We had a deal. Miners accepted lower wages so we could get medical care when we retired. We kept our end of the bargain, and there’s no reason these corporations should get away with breaking the promises they made to us and our families.”

Patriot Coal, created by Peabody Energy 2007 with 43 percent of Peabody’s liabilities but just 11 percent of its assets, filed for bankruptcy in July, 2012. Patriot has filed motions demanding the effective elimination of the current system of health care for retired miners and drastic pay and benefit cuts for active workers. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kathy Surratt-States is scheduled to rule on the company’s motions on or before May 29.

Because Patriot was created with insufficient assets to meet its liabilities to retired miners, analysts such as Bruce Rader, Professor of Finance at Temple University, have described the company as “designed to fail.”  Current Patriot CEO Ben Hatfield has acknowledged that “something doesn’t smell right” about the manner in which his company was founded.

In 2008, Patriot acquired Magnum Coal, a company created by Arch Coal featuring a similar shift of assets and liabilities.

Peabody Energy and Arch Coal executives claim that because Patriot and Magnum were spun off years ago, they have nothing to with the current litigation. But nearly all of the retired miners who may lose their health care worked most or all of their careers for Peabody or Arch, not Patriot. And a recent fact-finding mission by Religious Leaders for Coalfield Justice and Interfaith Worker Justice found that Peabody is still profiting from the operations of Patriot Coal:

Another consequence of this scheme is that Arch and Peabody become “indirect employers” of the miners that work for those corporations’ profits. Under the terms of the spin-off, certain cost savings by Patriot redound to Peabody shareholders, making Patriot a conduit for increasing Peabody’s profits.

“There’s a great song lyric by Woody Guthrie,” said UMWA President Roberts. “‘Some rob you with a six gun, and some with a fountain pen.’ This is robbery pure and simple, and we’re not going to stand for it.”

“We’re advocating for the best possible result for our members before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, but this fight won’t end when the judge rules,” said Roberts. “We’ve got our own lawsuit underway in West Virginia; we’ve got a bill in Congress which will hold the original employers of these workers accountable; and we will continue to follow these companies and these corporate executives wherever they go.”

Last month, UMWA active and retired miners confronted executives and directors of Peabody and Arch in Wyoming, where both companies moved their annual meetings after repeated protests by miners and supporters in St. Louis.

Additional information about the UMWA campaign to stand up for active and retired miners is at FairnessAtPatriot.org.

Labor and Community Activists Protest Senator Ayotte’s Vote on Gun Reform

One of the most controversial debates going on in Congress and throughout the country is the issue of gun reform legislation. Even among the NH Labor News fan club there is great and contentious debate. People have asked me, why is a labor union blog talking about gun reform? I along with members of the American Federation of Teachers feel that the gun issue is an issue labor should be talking about. It is a workplace safety issue.

It has been four months since 20 first graders and six educators were murdered at Sandy Hook elementary school. Those heroic educators were members of AFT. That direct connection has push AFT directly into the gun reform issue.

As all of you are probably aware the US Senate held their first vote on common sense comprensive gun reform legislation. Time and time again, in poll after poll American citizens overwhelmingly support universal background checks on all gun sales. The bill like so many in the Senate was filibustered by the Senate GOP. The vote, which was 54-46 failed to pass the 60 vote threshold to beat the filibuster.

After the vote, AFT President Randi Wiengarten released the following statement:

“Make no mistake—the NRA and the gun manufacturers won out today over the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of our children, families and communities. A government by the people and for the people must serve the American people and not the gun lobby.

“The tragic question facing us now is how many gun deaths will it take before Congress lives up to its basic responsibility to protect and serve the American people? Twenty-six children and teachers gunned down in Newtown, Conn. Thirty-two students and faculty killed at Virginia Tech. U.S. Rep. Gabby Gifford shot outside a supermarket. Thirteen students and educators brutally murdered at Columbine High School. Twelve people gunned down in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. Nearly 3,500 Americans killed by guns since Dec. 14—more than 50 of them children. The time for action is now.

“We applaud Sens. Manchin, Toomey, Feinstein, Blumenthal, Schumer, Kirk and Lautenberg for their leadership, as well as the other senators who voted for commonsense gun safety legislation today. AFT members admire their courage for standing up and doing what is right for our children and families.”

This vote drew ire from the local community, especially here in New Hampshire. NH GOP Senator Kelly Ayotte was one of the Senators who voted against this common sense legislation. This vote also showed the absolute disfunction of the US Senate. The filibuster rule must be changed. No other place does 46 votes beat 54.

Today I joined with other labor activists, former union members and community activists to show our distain for Senator Ayotte’s vote against universal background checks on all gun sales. Some of the people in the crowd including a State Rep who retired from New Hampshire Department of Health and Humans Department has seen gun violence first hand. She has been an outspoken advocate against domestic abuse and gun violence for as long as I have know her. In a recent rally by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns rally in North Carolina, Kit Grunelle highlighted the fact background checks help protect women of domestic violence. Background checks stop gun sales to those who have protective orders against them. “In states where a background check is required for every handgun sale, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Background Check VoteWe are calling on all Americans to contact their US Senators this week. See how your Senator voted. If they voted for the bill, call them and thank them for standing up for the safety and security of the American people. If they voted against the bill call them and tell them how disappointed you are in their vote and that you want them to reconsider their position. If they do not change their position explain to them that you will not be able to support them in their next election campaign. You can reach your senator by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

We need to focus our efforts by focusing on the facts, not NRA propaganda. Background Checks do not impede our second amendment rights. It is a minor inconvenience at most that will help to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, and the mentally ill.

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