By Doug Cunningham
Three years the New Orleans Katrina disaster there’s an ongoing health care crisis there as doctors, nurses ,patients and city officials struggle under what the California Nurses Association says are appalling health care conditions. New Orleans Nurse Kim Lange was featured in a recent video about New Orleans’ health care crisis.
[Lange]: “We’re still not prepared. We need a national health care system that has the capability of steppin’ in at the time of impact and providing the health care services that’s needed.”
Although the major news networks may not be shining a spotlight on them, many workers have been offered opportunities to speak in front of the throngs of Democrats in Denver this week.
A great deal of the media coverage at the Democratic National Convention has been focused on speeches by the leaders in the party such as Hillary Clinton, Edward Kennedy, and Joe Biden. However, throughout the week there have been a number of speeches by everyday Democrats and many workers. One such speaker was Lily Ledbetter, a former supervisor at a Goodyear Tire plant in Alabama. Ledbetter received an anonymous note in her mailbox at work one day telling her that she wasn’t being paid the same rate as male co-workers doing the same job. She took her case to court and went all the way up to the Supreme Court which found that because Ledbetter had not filed her complaint within six months of Goodyear first paying her less, she didn’t have a case. The House of Representatives passed a bill to ensure fair pay, but Senate Republicans blocked it. She called on the thousands in attendance to elect leaders who will fight for gender equality in pay. She cited Senator Barack Obama as one of those champions and said:
By Doug Cunningham
New U.S. Census Bureau poverty numbers were released this week. As corporations spend millions of dollars to lavishly entertain and hustle delegates to the Democratic National Convention millions of Americans who desparately need politicians to end poverty are suffering. Candy Hill of Catholic Charities USA says hundreds of thousands more Americans are living in poverty his year than last.
[Hill]: “So eight hundred thousand more people living in poverty in 2007 than in 2006. And of that number 500,000 are children. The increase is 500,000 in children and 200,000 in seniors. And for us that’s just morally wrong. We feel that any increase – or even if the number is staying flat – is unacceptable in this country.”
Southeastern Missouri doesn’t immediately come to mind as a hotbed of pro-worker political activism, but don’t tell that to the nearly 600 union members and their families who turned out for the Cape Girardeau Central Trades and Labor Council’s second annual labor picnic last weekend.
Council President Mark Baker, who also is a business rep for Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 702, says several local, state and national lawmakers and politicians joined the union families.
They all had a chance to hear Stewart Acuff, assistant to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, discuss how critical this election is to winning passage of the Employee Free Choice Act and restoring the nation’s middle class.
If you’re in Denver for the Democratic National Convention, chances are you’ll see billboards in support of the Employee Free Choice Act. They’re part of a stepped-up public outreach campaign by workers’ advocates and the union movement to broaden support for the bill and make it a central issue in the 2008 election.
The workers’ advocacy group American Rights at Work is sponsoring ads for the legislation, including the billboards in Denver, full-page ads in Politico and USA Today, and expansive online advertising. This is a preview of a larger campaign to make the Employee Free Choice Act a reality for workers struggling in this economy. The bill would level the playing field for workers seeking to form unions.
Frank Snyder, Labor 2008 state director for Pennsylvania, reports on the massive political mobilization efforts of the state’s union members.
Following the kickoff of the AFL-CIO Labor 2008 political mobilization program in March, the Pennsylvania labor movement has ordered nearly 1 million worksite leaflets for educating members about the issues that affect working families this election. As Labor Day nears, local union leaders, political coordinators and union activists are making member-to-member contact a priority.
As he distributed leaflets at the West Mifflin Port Authority garage in Pittsburgh, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 85 shop steward Ted Kielur pointed out:
When members see the union out talking about an issue, our members will then take the time to understand why. Our members trust the union and they trust other union members and that is why it is our job to get out and talk to them about important issues this election.
The AFL-CIO joined forces with The American Prospect at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this week for an economic forum, “All Boats Rising: Transforming the American Economy.” AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka joined Paul Krugman, Robert Kuttner, Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux, Sens. Sherrod Brown and Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Donna Edwards in a discussion moderated by Ezra Klein and Harold Meyerson, both of The American Prospect.
The wide-ranging discussion touched on student loan debt, gas prices, trade agreements and other topics and consistently engaged both the immediate need for economic fixes and the long-term need to go beyond crisis thinking and change the balance of power between employers and working people in the United States.