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Today in labor history for the week of July 18, 2016

July 18

The Brotherhood of Telegraphers begins an unsuccessful 3-week strike against the Western Union Telegraph Co. – 1883

Some 35,000 Chicago stockyard workers strike – 1919

Hospital workers win 113-day union recognition strike in Charleston, S.C. – 1969

July 19

Today in labor history for the week of July 18, 2016Women’s Rights Convention opens in Seneca Falls, N.Y.  Delegates adopt a Declaration of Women’s Rights and call for women’s suffrage – 1848

An amendment to the 1939 Hatch Act, a federal law whose main provision prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity, is amended to also cover state and local employees whose salaries include any federal funds – 1940

July 20

New York City newsboys, many so poor that they were sleeping in the streets, begin a 2-week strike. Several rallies drew more than 5,000 newsboys, complete with charismatic speeches by strike leader Kid Blink, who was blind in one eye. The boys had to pay publishers up front for the newspapers; they were successful in forcing the publishers to buy back unsold papers – 1899
Today in labor history for the week of July 18, 2016(Kids at Work: Your heart will be broken by this exceptional book’s photographs of children at backbreaking, often life-threatening work, and the accompanying commentary by author Russell Freedman. Photographer Lewis Hine—who himself died in poverty in 1940—did as much, and perhaps more, than any social critic in the early part of the 20th century to expose the abuse of children, as young as three and four, by American capitalism.)

Today in labor history for the week of July 18, 2016Two killed, 67 wounded in Minneapolis truckers’ strike—”Bloody Friday” – 1934

Postal unions, Postal Service sign first labor contract in the history of the federal government—the year following an unauthorized strike by 200,000 postal workers – 1971

July 21

Local militiamen are called out against striking railroad workers in Pittsburgh. The head of the Pennsylvania Railroad advises giving the strikers “a rifle diet for a few days and see how they like that kind of bread.” – 1877

Compressed air explosion kills 20 workers constructing railroad tunnel under the Hudson River – 1880 IWW leads a strike at Hodgeman’s Blueberry Farm in Grand Junction, Mich. – 1964

Today in labor history for the week of July 18, 2016Radio station WCFL, owned and operated by the Chicago Federation of Labor, takes to the airwaves with two hours of music. – 1926
(The first and only labor-owned radio station in the country, WCFL was sold in 1979.)

A die-cast operator in Jackson, Mich., is pinned by a hydraulic Unimate robot, dies five days later. Incident is the first documented case in the U.S. of a robot killing a human – 1984

July 22

Newly unionized brewery workers in San Francisco, mostly German socialists, declare victory after the city’s breweries give in to their demands for free beer, the closed shop, freedom to live anywhere (they had typically been required to live in the breweries), a 10-hour day, 6-day week, and a board of arbitration – 1886
Today in labor history for the week of July 18, 2016(From First Contact to First Contract: A Union Organizer’s Handbook is a no-nonsense tool from veteran labor organizer and educator Bill Barry. He looks to his own vast experience to document and help organizers through all the stages of a unionization campaign, from how to get it off the ground to how to bring it home with a signed contract and a strong bargaining unit.)

A bomb was set off during a “Preparedness Day” parade in San Francisco, killing 10 and injuring 40 more. Tom Mooney, a labor organizer, and Warren Billings, a shoe worker, were convicted of the crime, but both were pardoned 23 years later – 1916

July 23 

Today in labor history for the week of July 18, 2016Anarchist Alexander Berkman shoots and stabs but fails to kill steel magnate Henry Clay Frick in an effort to avenge the Homestead massacre 18 days earlier, in which nine strikers were killed. Berkman also tried to use what was, in effect, a suicide bomb, but it didn’t detonate – 1892

Northern Michigan copper miners strike for union recognition, higher wages and 8-hour day. By the time they threw in the towel the following April, 1,100 had been arrested on various charges and Western Federation of Miners President Charles Moyer had been shot, beaten and forced out of town – 1913

Aluminum Workers Int’l Union merges with The United Brick & Clay Workers of America to form Aluminum, Brick & Clay Workers – 1981

July 24

The United Auto Workers and the Teamsters form the Alliance for Labor Action (ALA), later to be joined by several smaller unions. The ALA’s agenda included support of the civil rights movement and opposition to the war in Vietnam. It disbanded after four years following the death of UAW President Walter Reuther – 1968
Today in labor history for the week of July 18, 2016((All Labor Has Dignity: People forget that Dr. King was every bit as committed to economic justice as he was to ending racial segregation. He fought throughout his life to connect the labor and civil rights movements, envisioning them as twin pillars for social reform.)

The U.S. minimum wage increased to $6.55 per hour today. The original minimum, set in 1938 by the Fair Labor Standards Act, was 25¢ per hour – 2008 U.S. minimum wage rose to $7.25 per hour, up from $6.55 – 2009

Rep. Peter DeFazio Introduces Legislation to Curb Speculative Wall Street Trading and Bolster Main Street

Rep. Peter DeFazio

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) today introduced legislation that would levy a 0.03 percent tax on transactions of stocks, bonds and derivatives to discourage the same speculative financial trading that led to the 2008 Wall Street collapse and 2010 ‘Flash Crash’.  Revenue could be directed to programs that strengthen Main Street American families. 

The Putting Main Street FIRST Act: Finishing Irresponsible Reckless Speculative Trading would provide billions of dollars in revenue each year by taxing three basis points, or three pennies for every hundred dollars, on most financial trading including stocks, bonds, and other transactions.  According to the Joint Committee for Taxation, the tax would raise $417 billion over ten years, which could be used to fund national priorities such as free higher education or job-creating infrastructure repair.

The legislation is supported by the AFL-CIO, Americans for Financial Reform, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the Communications Workers of America, and Public Citizen. 

“Thanks to the reckless greed of Wall Street over the past few decades, the American economy is a grossly unbalanced playing field,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio. “The only way we can level it is if we rein in reckless speculative financial trading and curb near-instantaneous high-volume trades that create instability in the stock market and our national economy. These financial practices have no intrinsic value, and exist to make a quick buck for already-wealthy speculators. If we want to give middle-class families a fair shot at a strong economy that works for all Americans, we need to put Main Street FIRST.”

“The ‘Putting Main Street First Act’ will help encourage long-term investing, fund badly needed public investment and make our tax code fairer for working people,” said AFL-CIO Director of Policy Damon Silvers.

“Given the massive costs of the financial crisis and its devastating impact on families across the country — and on the wealth of minority communities in particular — it is long past time for Wall Street to pay its fair share in taxes, said Lisa Donner, Executive Director of Americans for Financial Reform. “We applaud Representative DeFazio’s financial transaction tax proposal; a Wall Street speculation tax would not only help move our financial markets away from dangerous high-frequency trading, but also raise significant revenue to address unmet needs.”

“This tax is a great way to raise money for the federal government by making the financial sector more efficient,” said Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “The cost of the tax will be fully covered by the savings from reduced trading. This means that the ordinary investor will be left unharmed by this tax. The only people who feel the impact will be the short-term traders and the financial intermediaries.”

“Our Take on Wall Street coalition is determined to end to the finance industry’s practice not paying its fair share of taxes and sticking working families with the bill. We’re proud to join with Congressman DeFazio in putting working families and Main Street first, by setting a small fee on the billions of dollars of Wall Street trade that happen every day. Not only would this raise more than $400 billion to help families and communities, it would put the brakes on risky Wall Street behavior that threatens our economy,” said CWA President Chris Shelton.

“This bill is good policy and good precedent,” said Lisa Gilbert, Director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division. “Not only would taxing Wall Street trades grow revenue, it would stop the sorts of high-speed trading that adds volatility to our markets and increases costs for everyday investors and the public. Reining in Wall Street by stopping dangerous speculation is the right thing to do, and Public Citizen applauds Representative DeFazio and other champions for their support of this critical reform.”

Today in labor history for the week of July 11, 2016

July 11 Striking coal miners in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, dynamite barracks housing Pinkerton management thugs - 1892 After seven years of labor by as many as 2,800 construction workers, the Triborough Bridge opens in New York.  Actually a complex of three bridges, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens.  Construction began on Black Friday, 1929, and New Deal money turned it into one of the largest public works projects of the Great Depression - 1936 A nine-year strike begins at the Ohio Crankshaft Division of Park-Ohio Industries in Cleveland. Overcoming scabs, arrests and firings, UAW Local 91 members hung on and approved a contract in 1992 with the company—now under new management—that included company-funded health and retirement benefits, as well as pay increases – 1983 July 12Today in labor history for the week of July 11, 2016 Bisbee, Ariz., deports Wobblies; 1,186 miners sent into desert in manure-laden boxcars. They had been fighting for improved safety and working conditions - 1917 The Screen Actors Guild holds its first meeting. Among those attending: future horror movie star (Frankenstein’s Monster) and union activist Boris Karloff - 1933 July 13 Southern Tenant Farmers' Union organized in Tyronza, Ark. - 1934 Today in labor history for the week of July 11, 2016Detroit newspaper workers begin 19-month strike against Gannett, Knight-Ridder. The strike was to become a lockout, which lasted four years more - 1995 July 14 The Great Uprising nationwide railway strike begins in Martinsburg, W.Va., after railroad workers are hit with their second pay cut in a year. In the following days, strike riots spread through 17 states. The next week, federal troops were called out to force an end to the strike - 1877 Woody Guthrie, writer of "This Land is Your Land" and "Union Maid," born in Okemah, Okla. - 1912 Today in labor history for the week of July 11, 2016 (Woody Guthrie: A Life: Folksinger and political activist Woody Guthrie contributed much to the American labor movement, not the least of which are his classic anthems "Union Maid" and "This Land Is Your Land." This is perhaps his best-ever biography, written by bestselling author Joe Klein (Primary Colors, The Running Mate). It is an easy-to-read, honest description of Guthrie’s life, from a childhood of poverty to a youth spent "bummin’ around" to an adulthood of music and organizing—and a life cut short by incurable disease.) Today in labor history for the week of July 11, 2016Italian immigrants and anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are convicted in Massachusetts of murder and payroll robbery—unfairly, most historians agree—after a 2-month trial, and are eventually executed. Fifty years after their deaths the state's governor issued a proclamation saying they had been treated unfairly and that "any disgrace should be forever removed from their names." - 1921 July 15 Some 50,000 lumberjacks strike for 8-hour day - 1917 Ralph Gray, an African-American sharecropper and leader of the Share Croppers Union, is murdered in Camp Hill, Ala. - 1931 A half-million steelworkers begin what is to become a 116-day strike that shutters nearly every steel mill Today in labor history for the week of July 11, 2016in the country. Management wanted to dump contract language limiting its ability to change the number of workers assigned to a task or to introduce new work rules or machinery that would result in reduced hours or fewer employees - 1959 (There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America: This sympathetic, thoughtful and highly readable history of the American labor movement traces unionism from the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1820s to organized labor’s decline in the 1980s and struggle for survival and growth today.) July 16 Ten thousand workers strike Chicago's Int’l Harvester operations - 1919 Martial law declared in strike by longshoremen in Galveston, Texas - 1920 Today in labor history for the week of July 11, 2016San Francisco Longshoremen's strike spreads, becomes 4-day general strike - 1934 July 17 Two ammunition ships explode at Port Chicago, Calif., killing 322, including 202 African-Americans assigned by the Navy to handle explosives. It was the worst home-front disaster of World War II. The resulting refusal of 258 African-Americans to return to the dangerous work underpinned the trial and conviction of 50 of the men in what is called the Port Chicago Mutiny - 1944
—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Today in labor history for the week of July 4, 2016

July 04
Albert Parsons joins the Knights of Labor. He later became an anarchist and was one of the Haymarket martyrs – 1876

AFL dedicates its new Washington, D.C., headquarters building at 9th St. and Massachusetts Ave. NW. The building, still standing, later became headquarters for the Plumbers and Pipefitters – 1916

Five newspaper boys from the Baltimore Evening Sun died when the steamer they were on, the Three Rivers, caught fire near Baltimore, Md. They are remembered every year at a West Baltimore cemetery, toasted by former staffers of the now-closed newspaper – 1924

With the Great Depression underway, some 1,320 delegates attended the founding convention of the Today in labor history for the week of July 4, 2016Unemployed Councils of the U.S.A., organized by the U.S. Communist Party. They demanded passage of unemployment insurance and maternity benefit laws and opposed discrimination by race or sex – 1930

Two primary conventions of the United Nations’ Int’l Labor Organization come into force: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize – 1950

Building trades workers lay the cornerstone of the Freedom Tower on the site of the World Trade Center in New York City.  The WTC had been leveled by a terrorist attack three years earlier.  Nearly 3,000 died at the WTC and in other attacks in the eastern U.S. on the same day – 2004

July 05
During a strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company, which had drastically reduced wages, buildings constructed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago’s Jackson Park were set ablaze, reducing seven to ashes – 1894


Today in labor history for the week of July 4, 2016(In this expanded edition of Strike! you can read about labor-management conflicts that have occurred over the past 140 years. Here you’ll learn much about workers’ struggle to win a degree of justice, from the workers’ point of view. Brecher also examines the ever-shifting roles and configurations of unions, from the Knights of Labor of the 1800s to the AFL-CIO of the 1990s. A new chapter, “Beyond One-Sided Class War,” looks at how modern protest movements, such as the Battle of Seattle and Occupy Wall Street, were ignited and considers the similarities between these challenges to authority and those of labor’s past.)

West Coast Longshoremen’s Strike, Battle of Rincon Hill, San Francisco. Some 5,000 strikers fought Today in labor history for the week of July 4, 20161,000 police, scabs and national guardsmen.  Two strikers were killed, 109 people injured. The incident, forever known as “Bloody Thursday,” led to a general strike – 1934

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the National Labor Relations Act – 1935

Three firefighters, a state policeman and an employee of Doxol Gas in Kingman, Arizona are killed in a propane gas explosion. Eight more firefighters were to die of burns suffered in the event – 1973

Fourteen firefighters are killed battling the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain in Glenwood Springs, Colo. – 1994

July 06
Two strikers and a bystander are killed, 30 seriously wounded by police in Duluth, Minn. The workers, mostly immigrants building the city’s streets and sewers, struck after contractors reneged on a promise to pay $1.75 a day – 1889


Today in labor history for the week of July 4, 2016(Mobilizing Against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers, and the Crisis of Capitalism: Are immigrant workers themselves responsible for low wages and shoddy working conditions? Should unions expend valuable time and energy organizing undocumented workers? Unions in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States have taken various approaches to confront the challenges of this significant segment of the workforce. As U.S. immigration policy is debated, readers will gain insight into how all workers benefit when wages and working conditions for immigrant workers are improved.)

Two barges, loaded with Pinkerton thugs hired by the Carnegie Steel Co., land on the south bank of the Monongahela River in Homestead, Pa., seeking to occupy Carnegie Steel Works and put down a strike by members of the Amalgamated Association of Iron & Steel Workers – 1892

Rail union leader Eugene V. Debs is arrested during the Pullman strike, described by theNew York Times as “a struggle between the greatest and most important labor organization and the entire railroad capital” that involved some 250,000 workers in 27 states at its peak – 1894


(The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene V. Debs: Eugene V. Debs was a labor activist in the late Today in labor history for the week of July 4, 201619th and early 20th centuries who captured the heart and soul of the nation’s working people. He was brilliant, sincere, compassionate and scrupulously honest. A founder of one of the nation’s first industrial unions, the American Railway Union, he went on to help launch the Industrial Workers of the World—the Wobblies. A man of firm beliefs and dedication, he ran for President of the United States five times under the banner of the Socialist Party, in 1912 earning 6 percent of the popular vote.)

Transit workers in New York begin what is to be an unsuccessful 3-week strike against the then-privately owned IRT subway. Most transit workers labored seven days a week, up to 11.5 hours a day – 1926

Explosions and fires destroy the Piper Alpha drilling platform in the North Sea, killing 167 oil workers—the worst loss of life ever in an offshore oil disaster.  The operator, Occidental, was found guilty of having inadequate maintenance and safety procedures, but no criminal charges were ever brought – 1988

July 07
Striking New York longshoremen meet to discuss ways to keep new immigrants from scabbing. They were successful, at least for a time. On July 14, 500 newly arrived Jews marched straight from their ship to the union hall. On July 15, 250 Italian immigrants stopped scabbing on the railroad and joined the union – 1882

Today in labor history for the week of July 4, 2016Mary Harris “Mother” Jones begins “The March of the Mill Children,” when, accompanied part of the way by children, she walked from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt’s home on Long Island to protest the plight of child laborers. One of her demands: reduce the children’s work week to 55 hours – 1903

Cloak makers begin what is to be a 2-month strike against New York City sweatshops – 1910

Workers begin construction on the Boulder Dam (now known as Hoover Dam) on the Colorado River, during the Great Depression.  Wages and conditions were horrible—16 workers and work camp residents died of the heat over just a single 30-day period—and two strikes over the four years of construction led to only nominal improvements in pay and conditions – 1931

Some 500,000 people participate when a two-day general strike is called in Puerto Rico by more than 60 trade unions and many other organizations. They are protesting privatization of the island’s telephone company – 1998

July 08
First anthracite coal strike in U.S. – 1842
Today in labor history for the week of July 4, 2016
Labor organizer Ella Reeve “Mother” Bloor born on Staten Island, N.Y. Among her activities: investigating child labor in glass factories and mines, and working undercover in meat packing plants to verify for federal investigators the nightmarish working conditions that author Upton Sinclair had revealed in The Jungle – 1862

The Pacific Mail Steamship Co. fires all employees who had been working an 8-hour day, then joins with other owners to form the “Ten-Hour League Society” for the purpose of uniting all mechanics “willing to work at the old rates, neither unjust to the laborers nor ruinous to the capital and enterprise of the city and state.” The effort failed – 1867

Founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W., or Wobblies) concludes in Chicago. Charles O. Sherman, a former American Federation of Labor organizer, is elected president – 1905

Some 35,000 members of the Machinists union begin what is to become a 43-day strike that shuts down five major U.S. airlines, about three-fifths of domestic air traffic.  The airlines were thriving, and wages were a key issue in the fight – 1966

July 09
Today in labor history for the week of July 4, 2016The worst rail accident in U.S. history occurs when two trains pulled by 80-ton locomotives collided head-on at Dutchman’s curve in west Nashville, Tenn. 101 people died, another 171 were injured – 1918

New England Telephone “girls” strike for 7-hour workday, $27 weekly pay after four years’ service – 1923

New York City subway system managers in the Bronx attempt to make cleaning crews on the IRT line work faster by forcing the use of a 14-inch squeegee instead of the customary 10-inch tool. Six workers are fired for insubordination; a 2-day walkout by the Transport Workers Union wins reversal of the directive and the workers’ reinstatement – 1935

Fourteen volunteer firefighters and one Forest Service employee die fighting the Rattlesnake wildfire in California’s Mendocino National Forest.  The blaze was set by an arsonist – 1953

United Packinghouse, Food & Allied Workers merge with Amalgamated Meat Cutters & Butcher Workmen – 1968
Today in labor history for the week of July 4, 2016
Five thousand demonstrators rally at the state capitol in Columbia, S.C., in support of the “Charleston Five,” labor activists charged with felony rioting during a police attack on a 2000 longshoremen’s picket of a non-union crew unloading a ship – 2001

July 10
Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and civil rights activist, born – 1875

Some 14,000 federal and state troops finally succeed in putting down the strike against the Pullman Palace Car Co., which had been peaceful until July 5, when federal troops intervened in Chicago, against the repeated protests of the governor and Chicago’s mayor. A total of 34 American Railway Union members were killed by troops over the course of the strike – 1894

A powerful explosion rips through the Rolling Mill coal mine in Johnstown, Pa., killing 112 miners, 83 of whom were immigrants from Poland and Slovakia – 1902

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce holds a mass meeting of more than 2,000 merchants to organize what was to become a frontal assault on union strength and the closed shop. The failure of wages to keep up with inflation after the 1906 earthquake had spurred multiple strikes in the city – 1916
Today in labor history for the week of July 4, 2016
Sidney Hillman dies at age 59. He led the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, was a key figure in the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and was a close advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1946

Guest Editorial: Exposing Trump’s Trade Appeal To Working-Class Voters For What It Is

(This is a special guest editorial from Dave Johnson who works for Campaign for America’s Future.  The original post is here)

Donald Trump is selling himself as the champion of working-class voters. He says Democrats and their presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, are selling them out with trade deals. But Trump is just a fraud.

Unfortunately, President Obama is pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and Clinton is not confronting him for doing so.

That has to change – fast. Clinton must publicly, directly and loudly challenge President Obama and demand that he withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.

Trump’s Trade Speech

Trump’s speech on trade and “globalization” issues attempted to frame Clinton and Democrats as being on the side of the “Wall Street” forces that have pushed low-wage policies on working-class Americans. He is using the upcoming and hated TPP being pushed by President Obama as an example of this, saying Clinton is only “pretending” to oppose TPP in order to get votes.

From the speech:

The legacy of Pennsylvania steelworkers lives in the bridges, railways and skyscrapers that make up our great American landscape.

But our workers’ loyalty was repaid with betrayal.

Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization — moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas.

Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.

[. . .] The people who rigged the system are supporting Hillary Clinton because they know as long as she is in charge nothing will ever change.

In Trump’s usage, the words “trade” and “globalization” mean one and only one thing: moving American jobs and factories to low-wage countries. This movement of jobs in recent decades, pitting American workers against exploited workers who are paid squat and can’t do anything about it, has been used as one lever to intentionally create unemployment, break the unions and force down wages. (Inflation panic leading to Federal Reserve interest rate increases, deficit scares leading to austerity — especially the refusal to spend on infrastructure – and obstruction leading to minimum wage stagnation are others.)

Trump is appealing to disaffected working class workers who used to vote Democratic, but have seen their jobs shipped out of the country and/or their wages cut or stagnate. These workers see Democrats as complicit in adopting free-trade deindustrialization policies. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), pushed and signed by President Clinton, has become a catchall symbol of this disaffection with free-trade policies, but Democrats are generally seen as having done little to fight such policies.

President Obama contributed to the problem by campaigning with a promise to renegotiate NAFTA, then reneging on this promise once elected.

Trump also went after the Chamber of Commerce for their TPP support, implying they back Clinton. The New York Times reports:

Pressing his staunch opposition to trade deals, Donald J. Trump escalated his attacks on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, saying it was “totally controlled by the special interest groups.”

“They’re a special interest that wants to have the deals that they want to have,” he told a packed arena at a rally here, to whoops and cheers. “They want to have T.P.P., the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the worst deals, and it’ll be the worst deal since NAFTA.”

[. . .] saying the Chamber was “controlled totally by various groups of people that don’t care about you whatsoever.”

Obama Pushing TPP As Election Nears

Clinton has said she is opposed to TPP, and opposed to letting TPP come up for a vote in the “lame duck” session of Congress that follows the election. But as Trump makes trade a centerpiece of his campaign, her opposition and trade focus has not been particularly vocal. She has not asked Democrats in Congress to oppose the TPP, and thanks to past Democratic betrayals many in the public just do not believe her.

Unfortunately, as the election nears, President Obama is pushing and pushing hard to get the TPP passed. Doing this directly conflicts with Clinton’s need to show that Democrats are on the side of working people and provides Trump with powerful ammunition.

Making matters worse, efforts to write TPP opposition into the Democratic Party platform were voted down – by Clinton delegates. Unlike Trump, Democrats do not appear to understand how much this matters to voters.

Brexit Warning

The recent “Brexit” vote should serve as a warning to Democrats to take issues like this more seriously. Working-class voters in the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) for reasons similar to the appeal Trump is making to working-class voters here.

Analyzing the “Leave” vote in “A Working-Class Brexit,” University of Kent Professor Tim Strangleman writes the following. As you read it, substitute “Democrats” for “Labour”, “Bill Clinton” for “Blair”, “elites supporting free trade agreements” for “remain”, “anti-TPP” for “leave” and “Trump” for “UKIP”:

Resignation, despair, and political apathy have been present in many former industrial regions since the wholesale deindustrialisation of the … economy in the 1980s and 1990s. The election of the Blair-led Labour administration … masked the anger felt in these areas as traditional labour supporters and their needs were often ignored, while traditional Labour supporters were used as voting fodder. Over the … years of Labour power, that support ebbed away, first as a simple decline in votes, but gradually turning into active hostility to the Labour party. Many embraced the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

…for unskilled workers with only a secondary school education, three decades or more of neo-liberalism has left deep scars socially, politically, and culturally, with little hope or expectation that anything would change for the better.

This opposition, so skillfully drawn on by the leave campaign, is in part a working class reaction not only to six years of austerity but also to a long and deep-seated sense of injustice and marginalisation. Most of the remain side, which was a cross party grouping, didn’t seem to understand this before the referendum and, even more depressingly, doesn’t seem to understand it fully now. A stock characterisation of working-class people who intended to vote leave was to label them as unable understanding the issues, easily manipulated, or worse, racist ‘little Englanders’.

Doesn’t this sound just like the working-class voters in places like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and other “deindustrialized” parts of the country? These voters used to reliably vote for Democrats, the party that watched out for working people. Donald Trump is appealing directly to these voters. Democrats should not dismiss these voters as “ignorant” or “racist.”

Trump Is A Fraud On Trade

The Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) Robert Scott, speaking to VICE, summed up why Trump only appears to have the correct analysis on trade:

“Like a drive-by shooting, he fires enough bullets, he’s going to hit some things that might look like a policy that works,” Scott told VICE. “But it doesn’t have a coherence.”

“The problem with NAFTA is that we failed to effectively help Mexico develop as part of the agreement,” Scott continued. A good model, he said, was what wealthier European nations did for their neighbors like Greece and Spain decades ago, pumping money into their economies to create new markets for goods, thus making a Pan-European economy possible.

“We could create such a vision and implement a truly united North American economy that worked for everybody but nobody’s put that on the table,” he said. “Certainly Trump is not talking about that—he’s talking about building walls.”

EPI’s president Lawrence Mishel goes further, pointing out who got us into this mess:

It’s true that the way we have undertaken globalization has hurt the vast majority of working people in this country—a view that EPI has been articulating for years, and that we will continue to articulate well after November. However, Trump’s speech makes it seem as if globalization is solely responsible for wage suppression, and that elite Democrats are solely responsible for globalization. Missing from his tale is the role of corporations and their allies have played in pushing this agenda, and the role the party he leads has played in implementing it. After all, NAFTA never would have passed without GOP votes, as two-thirds of the House Democrats opposed it.

Republican efforts to drive wages down are the real culprit here:

Furthermore, Trump has heretofore ignored the many other intentional policies that businesses and the top 1 percent have pushed to suppress wages over the last four decades. Start with excessive unemployment due to Federal Reserve Board policies which were antagonistic to wage growth and friendly to the finance sector and bondholders. Excessive unemployment leads to less wage growth, especially for low- and middle-wage workers. Add in government austerity at the federal and state levels—which has mostly been pushed by GOP governors and legislatures—that has impeded the recovery and stunted wage growth. There’s also the decimation of collective bargaining, which is the single largest reason that middle class wages have faltered. Meanwhile, the minimum wage is now more than 25 percent below its 1968 level, even though productivity since then has more than doubled. Phasing in a $15 minimum wage would lift wages for at least a third of the workforce. The most recent example is the effort to overturn the recent raising of the overtime threshold that would help more than 12 million middle-wage salaried workers obtain overtime protections.

Trump in his “trade” speech also called for getting rid of corporate taxes and getting rid of regulations on corporations. He also opposes having any minimum wage at all. Trump and the Republicans are hardly friends of working people.

Opposing TPP Must Be In The Democratic Platform

British elites were surprised when working-class voters decided to “Brexit” and “Leave” the EU. They had been more-or-less complacent about the anger that working people are feeling out there as jobs leave the country, wages are stagnant or falling, work hours get longer for those who have jobs, and the rich just get richer.

Voting against opposition to TPP in the Democratic platform shows that Democrats appear to have the same complacency on trade.

Democrats must get this right. They have to stand up for working people and demand that our trade policies start helping people instead of hurting them. That starts with Clinton demanding that the president withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.

Clinton must pledge to renegotiate all of our trade agreements, this time with labor, environmental, consumer, human rights and other “stakeholder” groups at the table. This is the best way to show the public that she is on their side.

Here are ways to help Democrats get to the right place on this, and put TPP opposition in the platform:

● Campaign for America’s Future: Sign our petitions to Leader Nancy Pelosi. Tell her she and other democrats to send Obama a message: Don’t undermine our nominee. No vote lame duck vote on TPP.

● CREDO Action: Sign the petition: The Democratic Party platform must include unequivocal opposition to the TPP

● Keith Ellison via Democracy for America: Will you sign my petition to the DNC’s Platform Committee and join me and DFA in asking them to adopt an anti-TPP amendment when the full committee meets in Orlando on July 8-9?

Also see Bill Scher, “Trump is a William McKinley Protectionist, Not a Bernie Sanders Populist.”

#UniteAC — Trump Taj Mahal Workers Walk-Off In Strike

Trump Taj Mahal FB Share[2]STRIKE! Nearly 1,000 Trump Taj Mahal Workers Walk-Off Job Ahead of Atlantic City’s Biggest Weekend of the Year

Carl Icahn-owned Casino Has Cut Wages & Benefits by
35% for Workers Who Average Less than $12/hour

Atlantic City, NJ — Nearly a thousand cooks, housekeepers, bellmen and servers from the Trump Taj Mahal walked off the job on Friday ahead of the industry’s biggest holiday weekend to fight for decent wages and the future of their middle class livelihoods. 

The strike at the Trump Taj Mahal— a casino owned by billionaire Carl Icahn — follows on the heels of tentative agreements with the Tropicana and Caesars Entertainment, which owns Atlantic City’s Caesars, Harrah’s and Bally’s.

Many workers at the Trump Taj Mahal, including those with years on the job, have seen only $.80 in total raises over the last twelve years. The cost of living in Atlantic City has risen over 25 percent in the same time period. Housekeepers, servers and other casino workers at the Taj Mahal earn an average of less than $12/ hour. 

When casino workers can’t earn a decent wage, it hurts women and families the most. The Atlantic City casino workforce is predominantly female (55 percent), many of whom have kids and families at home to support. The average age is 49 years old.

When casino workers can’t earn a decent wage, it hurts women and families the most. The Atlantic City casino workforce is predominantly female (55 percent), many of whom have kids and families at home to support. The average age is 49 years old.

When casino workers can’t earn a decent wage, it hurts women and families the most. The Atlantic City casino workforce is predominantly female (55 percent), many of whom have kids and families at home to support. The average age is 49 years old.

Billionaires’ Gains Means Workers’ Pain

As the principle creditor between 2010 and 2014, Icahn extracted $350 million from the property, driving it into bankruptcy and then swooping in to take control. He used the bankruptcy proceeding to strip Taj Mahal workers of health benefits, retirement security and even paid breaks. Overall, he cut worker compensation in wages and benefits by 35%.

“For 20 months, 1,000 loyal Taj Mahal employees have been fighting to restore the middle class jobs that were destroyed in the bankruptcy. Today, we said enough is enough, and went on strike for a restoration of health benefits and fair wages and working conditions,” said Fabia Sespedes, a housekeeper at the Taj Mahal for 9 years.

Without health benefits, half of workers at the Trump Taj Mahal rely on subsidized health insurance. A third have no health insurance at all, putting them at risk of bankruptcy in the event of an illness and forcing taxpayers to pay for visits to the Emergency Room. Some of the workers rely on other public assistance programs, like food stamps.

“We’ve sacrificed long enough to make the Trump Taj Mahal a success. It’s time that the billionaire who owns the Taj use the millions in profits he’s taken from the Taj Mahal to provide the people who built those profits with a decent wage and good benefits that let us support our families,” said Mayra Gonzalez, a pantry chef at the Taj Mahal for 26 years. “We’ve given them every chance possible to do the right thing, now we’re going to take it to the streets.”

A Need to Reinvest in Atlantic City

Housekeepers, servers and other casino workers — who earn less than $12 per hour, or less than $25,000 per year – can’t survive on stagnant wages and have their backs against a wall because a billionaire is bent on squeezing out profits at the expense of working people and the Atlantic City economy.

“We have said from the beginning that it is impossible to revitalize Atlantic City unless the casino industry offers good jobs that let workers support their families. Four other casinos have recognized that simple fact, and it’s a shame that the Trump Taj Mahal can’t get with the program,” said Bob McDevitt, President of UNITE HERE Local 54. 


Use Twibbon to change your Facebook or Twitter profile photo to show your support for striking Trump Taj Mahal workers: http://lil.ms/1a9u 

Click here to sign their petition bit.ly/TajStrikePetition


ABOUT UNITE HERE

UNITE HERE represents workers throughout the United States and Canada who work in the hotel, gaming, food, service, airport, textile, manufacturing, distribution, laundry and transportation industries.  Learn more at www.unitehere.org.

Local 54, UNITE HERE’s Atlantic City affiliate, represents almost 10,000 casino workers fighting for the future of their families.

AFL-CIO Launches Online Ads Targeting Senators On A Variety Of Issues Including The TPP

Ads to Target Senate Candidates in Six States

To view ads click here: http://bit.ly/293dN2i

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(Washington, DC) – Today the AFL-CIO launched the first round of ads in six key battleground states: Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Florida and Wisconsin. The ads are uniquely targeted to reach working people and draw attention to Senate candidates whose policies are against the interests of working families.

“Working people will be a force in this election,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “These ads are just one of the many tools we will use to speak to our members and the community about what’s at stake. Our job is to educate working families on the candidates who aspire to lead America. We will stand together with politicians who share our values and oppose those who do not.”

The ads will run initially on Facebook and drive traffic to specific petitions on issues that matter to working people, including restoring the Voting Rights Act, comprehensive immigration reform, infrastructure investment and opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Leo W Gerard: Donald “You’re Fired” Trump, Kills Jobs

After mouthing off in ways that had the effect of repeatedly shooting himself in the foot, Donald Trump tried to recover last week by puffing himself up as the jobs candidate.

“When I see the crumbling roads and bridges, or the dilapidated airports, or the factories moving overseas to Mexico or to other countries, I know these problems can all be fixed,” Trump told a New York audience, “Only by me.”

That would suggest Trump knows how to create infrastructure and manufacturing jobs. American jobs. Good-paying jobs. It suggests he appreciates the value of workers’ contributions to an enterprise. And that he understands the daily struggles of non-billionaires. This proposition is utterly ridiculous. The name Donald Trump is synonymous with the words “You’re fired!” He made money by brutally, publicly taking people’s jobs from them. And he clearly enjoyed it.

2016-06-26-1466952302-5525812-TrumpBlogjobs.jpg

Trump’s most recent victim was was Corey Lewandowski. This employee didn’t suffer the indignity of a televised firing on “The Apprentice.” But Trump did havehis guards visibly escort his former campaign manager out of Trump Tower last week. This after Lewandowski’s experienced guidance helped Trump, a political novice, defeat 16 seasoned Republican contenders.

When Trump got what he wanted out of Lewandowski, he threw the guy out. Trump showed no appreciation for the guy’s contribution to the enterprise. Trump exhibited no sense of loyalty. That is exactly the kind of corporate callousness and betrayal that has embittered American workers for the past two decades.

Workers give their all, go above and beyond to help make corporations like Nabisco and Carrier highly profitable. Then greedy corporations turn on those dedicated workers, close U.S. factories and move production to places like China and Mexico. American workers are left unemployed and billionaire owners like Trump get a few extra bucks.

Trump practices this corporate model. He manufactures Trump Collection products overseas. He makes Trump ties in China. He stiches Trump suits in Vietnam and Mexico. He produces Trump furniture in Turkey. He fabricates Trump picture frames in India. He constructs Trump barware in Slovenia.

That’s more money for Trump, true. But it’s not creating American jobs.

Trump doesn’t care about the slave-wage workers producing his products overseas or the minimum-wage workers unable to scrape by in the United States. When asked if the federal minimum wage of $7.25 should be raised because nobody can live on that little money, Trump said no.

Trump was born with a silver gaffe in his mouth, raised in luxury, set up in business by his father and bailed out by his daddy when he stumbled. He has no idea what living on the minimum wage of $290 a week means. He once had to live on a strict budget of $112,500 a week. That occurred as he neared bankruptcy 26 years ago.

Not only that, the billionaire said Americans’ wages, which have been stagnant for decades, are too high. Trump thinks the truck driver or mechanic or welder who earns $52,000 a year in 2016 is making too much money. But, of course, Trump knows what scrimping is. He once had to live on $112,500 a week.

The same day Trump fired Lewandowski, Moody’s Analytics, a subsidiary of the credit rating and research agency Moody’s Corp., released a report authored by four economists predicting an economic and jobs disaster if Trump is elected president.

Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi, who has worked for both Democratic and Republican politicians, told the New York Times that he and the other authors found Trump’s policies, “will result in a lot of lost jobs,  higher unemployment, higher interest rates, lower stock prices.”

If Trump is elected and achieves all of his proposed policies, the economists projected that he would plunge the country into an economic downturn that would be longer and deeper than the 2008 Great Recession and destroy more than 3.5 million jobs.

That is the opposite of a jobs president.

On Friday, when the world learned that Britons had voted to exit the European Union, Donald Trump hailed the result as a “fantastic thing.”

“I think it’s a great thing that happened,” he said, as financial markets worldwide plunged on the news, and the value of the British pound plummeted to depths not seen since 1985, far below its worst during the Great Recession.

The value of the Euro also dropped, and the American stock market suffered as well, with the Down Jones Industrial Average falling 610 points, the eighth largest loss ever.

Bad stock market news is not good for jobs. And when the pound loses value, British workers get hurt.

But it’s good for Donald Trump. And that’s all he had in mind. He told reporters Friday: “When the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly.”  He was referring to foreign visitors taking advantage of the currency devaluation to visit his golf course in Scotland.

Even if Brexit drives Europe back into recession and millions once again lose their jobs and their homes, the rich will still play golf at Turnberry. And that’s more money for billionaire Trump. That’s foremost in Trump’s mind.

Worse than Brexit for the global economy would be a President Trump. That’s according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, (EIU) one of the leading firms analyzing threats to the global economy. EIU ranked a Trump presidency riskier to the global economy than Britain leaving the European Union – and in just one day, that event left global markets utterly shaken.

Donald Trump definitely has expertise. It is self-promotion. It is financial self-interest. It is firing people. It certainly is not promoting American workers’ interests, raising their wages or building an economy that would generate family-supporting jobs.

Today in labor history for the week of June 27, 2016

June 27
Emma Goldman, women’s rights activist and radical, born in Lithuania. She came to the U.S. at age 17 – 1869

The Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the “Wobblies,” is founded at a 12-day-long convention in Chicago. The Wobbly motto: “An injury to one is an injury to all.” – 1905

Congress passes the National Labor Relations Act, creating the structure for collective bargaining in the United States – 1935
(The Labor Law Source Book: Texts of 20 Federal Labor Laws: A very handy collection that puts the full Today in labor history for the week of June 27, 2016texts of all the major U.S. labor laws into one book. Includes the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Family and Medical Leave Act and 15 more. The full, actual language of each law is presented—without elaboration by the editor—and a helpful topic finder at the back of the book tells you which laws apply to basic concerns and classes of workers.)

A 26-day strike of New York City hotels by 26,000 workers—the first such walkout in 50 years—ends with a 5-year contract calling for big wage and benefit gains – 1985

A.E. Staley locks out 763 workers in Decatur, Ill. The lockout was to last two and one-half years – 1993

June 28
Today in labor history for the week of June 27, 2016Birthday of machinist Matthew Maguire, who many believe first suggested Labor Day. Others believe it was Peter McGuire, a carpenter – 1850

President Grover Cleveland signs legislation declaring Labor Day an official U.S. holiday – 1894

The federal government sues the Teamsters to force reforms on the union, the nation’s largest. The following March, the government and the union sign a consent decree requiring direct election of the union’s president and creation of an Independent Review Board – 1988

June 29
What is to be a 7-day streetcar strike begins in Chicago after several workers are unfairly fired. Wrote the Today in labor history for the week of June 27, 2016police chief at the time, describing the strikers’ response to scabs: “One of my men said he was at the corner of Halsted and Madison Streets, and although he could see fifty stones in the air, he couldn’t tell where they were coming from.” The strike was settled to the workers’ satisfaction – 1885

An executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishes the National Labor Relations Board.  A predecessor organization, the National Labor Board, established by the Depression-era National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933, had been struck down by the Supreme Court – 1934

IWW strikes Weyerhauser and other Idaho lumber camps – 1936

Jesus Pallares, founder of the 8,000-member coal miners union, Liga Obrera de Habla Espanola, is deported as an “undesirable alien.” The union operated in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado – 1936

The Boilermaker and Blacksmith unions merge to become Int’l Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers – 1954
Today in labor history for the week of June 27, 2016
The newly-formed Jobs With Justice stages its first big support action, backing 3,000 picketing Eastern Airlines mechanics at Miami Airport – 1987

The U.S. Supreme Court rules in CWA v. Beck that, in a union security agreement, a union can collect as dues from non-members only that money necessary to perform its duties as a collective bargaining representative – 1988

June 30
Alabama outlaws the leasing of convicts to mine coal, a practice that had been Today in labor history for the week of June 27, 2016in place since 1848. In 1898, 73 percent of the state’s total revenue came from this source. 25 percent of all Black leased convicts died – 1928

The Walsh-Healey Act took effect today. It requires companies that supply goods to the government to pay wages according to a schedule set by the Secretary of Labor – 1936

The storied Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, a union whose roots traced back to the militant Western Federation of Miners, and which helped found the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), merges into the United Steelworkers of America – 1967

Up to 40,000 New York construction workers demonstrated in midtown Manhattan, protesting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s awarding of a $33 million contract to a nonunion company. Eighteen police and three demonstrators were injured. “There were some scattered incidents and some minor violence,” Police Commissioner Howard Safir told the New York Post. “Generally, it was a pretty well-behaved crowd.” – 1998

Today in labor history for the week of June 27, 2016(Skilled Hands, Strong Spirits follows the history of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO from the emergence of building trades councils to the age of the skyscraper. It takes the reader through treacherous fights over jurisdiction as new building materials and methods of work evolved and describes numerous Department campaigns to improve safety standards, work with contractors to promote unionized construction, and forge a sense of industrial unity among its fifteen (and at times nineteen) autonomous and highly diverse affiliates.)

Nineteen firefighters die when they are overtaken by a wildfire they are battling in a forest northwest of Phoenix, Ariz.  It was the deadliest wildfire involving firefighters in the U.S. in at least 30 years – 2013

July 01
The American Flint Glass workers union is formed, headquartered in Pittsburgh.  It was to merge into the Steelworkers 140 years later, in 2003 – 1873

Steel workers in Cleveland begin what was to be an 88-week strike against wage cuts – 1885
Today in labor history for the week of June 27, 2016
Homestead, Pa., steel strike. Seven strikers and three Pinkertons killed as Andrew Carnegie hires armed thugs to protect strikebreakers – 1892

The Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers stages what is to become an unsuccessful 3-month strike against U.S. Steel Corp. Subsidiaries – 1901

One million railway shopmen strike – 1922

Today in labor history for the week of June 27, 2016Some 1,100 streetcar workers strike in New Orleans, spurring the creation of the po’ boy sandwich by a local sandwich shop owner and one-time streetcar man. “Whenever we saw one of the striking men coming,” Bennie Martin later recalled, “one of us would say, ‘Here comes another poor boy.’” Martin and his wife fed any striker who showed up – 1929

In what was to be a month-long strike, 650,000 steelworkers shut down the industry while demanding a number of wage and working condition improvements.  They won all their demands, including a union shop – 1956

National Association of Post Office & General Service Maintenance Employees, United Federation of Postal Clerks, National Federation of Post Office Motor Vehicle Employees & National Association of Special Delivery Messengers merge to become American Postal Workers Union – 1971Today in labor history for the week of June 27, 2016

Int’l Jewelry Workers Union merges with Service Employees Int’l Union – 1980

Graphic Arts Int’l Union merges with Int’l Printing & Graphic Communications Union to become Graphic Communications Int’l Union, now a conference of the Teamsters – 1983

Copper miners begin a years-long, bitter strike against Phelps-Dodge in Clifton, Ariz. Democratic Gov. Bruce Babbitt repeatedly deployed state police and National Guardsmen to assist the company over the course of the strike, which broke the union – 1983

Today in labor history for the week of June 27, 2016(Strikes Around the World draws on the experience of fifteen countries around the world – The United States, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Argentina, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Covering the high and low points of strike activity over the period 1968–2005, the study shows continuing evidence of the durability, adaptability and necessity of the strike.)

Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union merges with Int’l Ladies’ Garment Workers Union to form Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees – 1995

Int’l Chemical Workers Union merges with United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union – 1996

The Newspaper Guild merges with Communications Workers of America – 1997

United American Nurses affiliate with the AFL-CIO – 2001

July 02
The first Walmart store opens in Rogers, Ark.  By 2014 the company had 10,000 stores in 27 countries, under 71 different names, employing more than 2 million people.  It is known in the U.S. and most of the other countries in which it operates for low wages and extreme anti-unionism – 1962

(Why Unions Matter: In Why Unions Matter, the author explains why unions still matter in language you Today in labor history for the week of June 27, 2016can use if you happen to talk with someone who shops or works at Walmart. Unions mean better pay, benefits, and working conditions for their members; they force employers to treat employees with dignity and respect; and at their best, they provide a way for workers to make society both more democratic and more egalitarian. Yates uses simple language, clear data, and engaging examples to show why workers need unions, how unions are formed, how they operate, how collective bargaining works, the role of unions in politics, and what unions have done to bring workers together across the divides of race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation.)

Today in labor history for the week of June 27, 2016President Johnson signs Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forbidding employers and unions from discriminating on the basis of race, color, gender, nationality, or religion – 1964

The Labor Dept. reports that U.S. employers cut 467,000 jobs over the prior month, driving the nation’s unemployment rate up to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent – 2009

July 03Today in labor history for the week of June 27, 2016
Children, employed in the silk mills in Paterson, N.J., go on strike for 11-hour day and 6-day week. A compromise settlement resulted in a 69-hour work week – 1835

Feminist and labor activist Charlotte Perkins Gilman born in Hartford, Conn. Her landmark study, “Women and Economics,” was radical: it called for the financial independence of women and urged a network of child care centers – 1860


—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

VA Employees Hold Dozens of Rallies Across the Country to Protest Proposed Closing of Veterans Hospitals

AFGE VA ProtestsAFGE members organize 38 rallies outside VA hospitals this week and next

WASHINGTON – Veterans Affairs employees are holding dozens of rallies outside VA hospitals this week and next to protest plans to privatize veterans’ health care and shut down VA hospitals and medical centers.

The Commission on Care, a group that was created by Congress to recommend ways of improving veterans’ health care, is close to finalizing a set of recommendations that would significantly weaken the VA’s world-class health care system and pave the way for privatization and future closures of VA medical centers, sending veterans to for-profit hospitals for care.

The rallies are being organized by the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 230,000 VA doctors, nurses, psychologists, benefits specialists, and other workers across the country who provide health care and other vital services to our military veterans.

“Even though the vast majority of veterans oppose privatizing the VA, there are many people who would benefit financially from dismantling the VA and forcing veterans into a network of for-profit hospitals and insurance companies,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr., who was a VA registered nurse for 20 years.

The Commission on Care includes four high-level private hospital executives who would profit from privatization and not a single mainstream veterans service organization. Actual veterans groups are unanimously opposed to any proposal that would privatize veterans’ health care.

“VA employees across the country are speaking out against these corrupt business interests with a clear message: it’s time to put people ahead of profits,” Cox said.

“Veterans should not be reduced to a line item on a budget sheet. They have served our country with honor and distinction, and their medical care shouldn’t be left to the whims of profiteers and claims adjusters.”

AFGE locals have organized 38 rallies to date in 19 states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Photos from some of the rallies can be viewed by clicking here.

The VA is working hard to resolve the staffing shortages and wait times that emerged in 2014, hiring 14,000 health care workers and overhauling its patient scheduling system, Cox said. In the past two years, 97 percent of appointments in the VA were completed within 30 days, with an average wait time of 6.5 days to see a primary care doctor – compared to 19.5 days on average for non-VA patients in the private sector.

“Our country makes a solemn promise to every man and woman who volunteers to serve in our military: that they will be treated with dignity and respect when their service is complete,” Cox said.

“One of the best ways to honor our veterans is to ensure they continue to have access to specialized, quality health care through the VA’s integrated network of medical centers and clinics.”

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