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Leo W Gerard: One Percenters Stuff Their Pumpkin Pie Holes

This Thanksgiving, in dining rooms across America, the turkey will be smaller, the stuffing more meager, the pumpkin pie sliced thinner. Gratitude will be given. But roiling just below the surface, for far too many families, will be economic anxiety.

The vast majority of working Americans haven’t seen a real raise in 35 years.Meanwhile, every year, their health care costs rise. Their employers eliminate pensions. And their kids struggle with rising college or technical school tuition and debt. Workers worry whether they will ever be able to pay the bills.

By contrast, on the other side of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the richest 1 percent are supersizing their feasts. For example, three families will spend $45,000 – each – for Marie Antoinette-style meals, gold flakes and all, at the Old Homestead Steakhouse in New York City. That’s up by $10,000 from the restaurant’s Thanksgiving fare for eight last year. It’s more, for one meal, than the average American worker earns in a year.

The 1 percent can spend $45,000 for a Thanksgiving supper because they’re gobbling up virtually all of the income from workers’ productivity increases. And now they’ve launched a new assault on workers. It’s a lawsuit called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA). The 1 percent hopes it will prevent public service workers like teachers from joining together to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. If the $45,000-Thanksgiving-dinner crew wins the case, they’ll go after private-sector labor organizations next. They intend to gorge themselves until there’s nothing left for workers.

This is what a $75-a-pound turkey struts like.

This is what a $75-a-pound turkey struts like.

The Marie Antoinette $45,000 Thanksgiving includes two turkeys. Because when would one, 20-pound free-range, organically raised bird at $75 a pound ever be enough?

The Friedrichs case is about power. Individual workers don’t bargain for raises with gigantic multinational corporations and government agencies. They beg.

But when workers band together and seek raises as a team, they gain for themselves the power necessary to negotiate. That’s intolerable to 1 percenters. And that’s why they’re backing the Friedrichs case – to seize that negotiating power from workers.

Defending their right to collectively bargain are public service workers ­– the likes of firemen, teachers, social workers and public health nurses. The labor organizations these workers belong to try to ensure that they receive living wages and decent retirement benefits.

But just as importantly, public service workers also use their collective voice to negotiate in the public interest, including improving response times for paramedics and lowering social worker caseloads to allow adequate time to investigate child abuse allegations.

Public school teachers, who spend an average of $500 a year out of their own pockets for classroom supplies, routinely bargain to secure the smaller class sizes that parents want, to protect the recess breaks that elementary students need and to preserve arts and music education.

In addition, significantly, a study last spring showed that more than half of teachers have used their own money to help students experiencing crises, to get them clothing or to feed them.

The Marie Antoinette $45,000 Thanksgiving includes gravy made with Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, which goes for $4,900 a bottle. Because when would $9 worth of cooking sherry ever be good enough?

The paychecks of all workers are on the line in the Friedrichs case because if the 1 percent succeeds in stripping rights from public service workers, it will go after those of everyone else.

This creates great economic risks, not just for union members, but for non-union workers and their children.

As it is now, a union member earns, on average, $200 more a week and receives better benefits than a worker who is not in a labor organization. If the 1 percenters succeed in robbing private sector as well as public service workers of their bargaining rights, then the wealthy will gain clout to eliminate that union advantage and eventually to suppress all wages.

When union members lose, all workers lose.  That’s because their ability to secure better wages pressures employers whose workers aren’t organized to raise their pay too. In addition, a study released earlier this year showed that the children of union members as well as the children of non-union members who live in high union density communities experience greater upward mobility.

That means entire communities benefit from the work of labor organizations. And entire communities would suffer if the 1 percent can weaken or destroy them.

The Marie Antoinette $45,000 Thanksgiving includes whipped sweet potatoes festooned with $1,600-an-ounce Royal Osetra caviar. Because when would the red-light-special, $115-an-ounce can of fish eggs ever be acceptable?

Providing the big bucks to push the Friedrichs case is the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), which is bankrolled by 1 percenters and right-wing organizations. Its name is significant. It wants to isolate workers, render them individuals rather than members of teams acting concertedly to win benefits for all.

The name of the group opposing CIR is noteworthy as well. It is America Works Together. It supports workers’ right to jointly seek advancement of all members of the group. Of course, labor organizations like the National Education Association (NEA), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), are members of America Works Together.

But the coalition also includes civil rights, faith, legal and health organizations.Among them are the Alliance for a Just Society, Coalition on Human Needs, Interfaith Worker Justice and The Main Street Alliance.

America Works Together is an alliance of alliances advocating for the right of American workers to form alliances. It’s a symbol of the idea it supports – that community creates power.

The Marie Antoinette $45,000 Thanksgiving final course is pumpkin ice cream decked with 24-carat gold flakes and a $4,200 bottle of private reserve rum-infused eggnog sauce.

That’s dessert for the 1 percent.

The 99 percent is seeking just deserts before the U.S. Supreme Court so that workers will retain the right to organize and collectively bargain for wages that will enable them to provide not a garish Marie Antoinette meal but a simple Norman RockwellThanksgiving for their families.


Speaker Boehner’s ‘New Offer’ is ‘to make top 2% tax cuts permanent’?!?

Speaker Boehner

Was House Speaker Boehner joking?

The press is beginning to report the details of his latest “offer” in the fiscal cliff negotiations.

Guess what?

The GOP’s newest proposal is to make the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of American… permanent.

Read about it here.

Guess the GOP still thinks they should be able to dictate the terms of the fiscal cliff “compromise”.  What a way to “fix” the crisis that Congress created.  Most of us are still hurting from one of the worst recessions in history; 12 million Americans are still unemployed.  Shouldn’t the GOP be concerned about something other than protecting the wealthy?

AFL-CIO President Trumka Statement on GOP Budget

From WIKIPediaRepublicans in Congress are not in touch with their constituents. They do not seem to understand that they lost the last election because voters rejected their agenda.

And now they are recycling more of the same agenda that was overwhelmingly rejected in November: lower tax rates for the richest Americans and benefit cuts for Social Security and Medicare.

Today the House Republican leadership put forward a plan that would squander trillions of dollars by extending tax cuts for the richest 2% of Americans and lowering top tax rates even further.

Speaker Boehner claims this proposal is a “compromise” because it includes $800 billion in tax revenues from closing unspecified “loopholes.”  But this is the same “fuzzy math” that Gov. Romney tried to sell in the last presidential campaign.  We know from the debate over Gov. Romney’s plan that this sort of “loophole closing” either increases taxes on the middle class or increases the deficit.

At the same time, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is proposing benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare.  In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Friday, he argued for cutting Social Security COLAs, raising the eligibility age for Medicare, and increasing premiums for higher-income Medicare beneficiaries.

It is ironic that Republicans unfairly attacked President Obama during the campaign for cutting Medicare, and now they are turning around and proposing Medicare benefits cuts.  This is an agenda that spares the wealthiest Americans from any sacrifice and shifts the burden to working people.

We reject Speaker Boehner’s outlandish claim that this was a “status quo” election.  We reject the Republican agenda of lowering tax rates for rich people and cutting benefits for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  And specifically, we reject cuts in Social Security COLAs, increases in the Medicare eligibility age, increases in Medicare premiums, and any reduction in the top individual income tax rates below 36% and 39.6%.

We challenge Republicans in Congress to heed the lesson of the November election and work with us to put America back to work, raise wages, restore tax fairness, and rebuild the middle class.

More Tax Cuts? Or Keep Social Security?


Something to keep in mind while you are watching tomorrow night’s debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan:

Back in 2001, then-President George Bush pushed through a package of “temporary” tax cuts that mostly benefited the wealthy.  Joe Biden voted against the tax cuts.  Paul Ryan voted in favor of them.

At the time, conservative pundits said the temporary tax cuts would generate 1.6 million new jobs by 2011 – and that would generate enough federal revenue to pay back the entire federal debt.  (You can read the 2001 Heritage Foundation report here.)

Instead, the tax cuts contributed to record-setting federal deficits.

In 2003, President Bush pushed through a second package of “temporary” tax cuts, which again mostly benefited the wealthy.  And again, Joe Biden voted “nay”; and Paul Ryan voted in favor.

A year later, the new jobs hadn’t materialized.  “Supply-side economics” hadn’t cut the federal debt.

But that didn’t stop the tax-cutters.  Instead, they pushed to have the “temporary” tax cuts made permanent.  Here’s the Associated Press report from February 13, 2004:

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said Thursday that Congress should make President Bush’s tax cuts permanent and cover the $1 trillion price by trimming future benefits in Social Security and other entitlement programs.

Social Security?!!?

During the Bush presidency, Social Security was “running a surplus.”  More money was coming in through payroll taxes than was being paid out in retirement benefits.  And the federal government borrowed every single penny of that surplus.

Today, the Social Security Trust Fund is the single largest creditor of the federal government.  Over $2.7 trillion of the federal debt is owed to the Social Security Trust Fund.  And that’s about the same amount as the 10-year cost of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 5%.

That’s what you should keep in mind during tomorrow night’s debate: this election is coming down to a choice between tax cuts for the rich and financial security for the rest of us.

Social Security has stopped running a surplus, now that the Baby Boomers are retiring. Will the federal government honor its IOUs to working families?  Or will the $2.7 trillion in federal debt get washed off the books by the proposed Romney-Ryan “reform” of Social Security?

Union members know what it’s like to see pension benefits vanish.  It’s become all-too-common for corporations to use bankruptcy court to get “relief” from their pension obligations; American Airlines is just one example.  More than 4,000 corporate pension programs are now in the trusteeship of the federal government.  (You can download the list — representing more than 2 million American families! —  here.)

Most of us have been paying into the Social Security system for decades.  We don’t want to see our benefits disappear through a Romney-Ryan “reform” of the Social Security system.  (One more reason why we don’t want to elect a President who will “manage” the federal government as if it were a corporation.)

Tax cuts for the wealthy didn’t create jobs in 2001.

More tax cuts didn’t create jobs in 2003.

Tax cuts in 2013 won’t create jobs, either – but they may cost us our Social Security benefits.

Please remember that, as you watch Joe Biden and Paul Ryan in the Vice Presidential debate tomorrow night at 9:00 pm.


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