By Doug Cunningham
Wal-Mart Canada is suing the United Food and Commercial Workers union in an effort to shut down a Wal-Mart worker organizing web site. UFCW Canada President Wayne Hanley says the lawsuit’s request for an injunction against the web site is “an over the top assault on effective freedom of speech”. Despite the legal action, UFCW Canada says it will not be silenced. Instead, the union is launching a public awareness and popular action campaign. The UFCW web site under attack by Wal-Mart is www.walmartworkerscanada.ca.
By Doug Cunningham
A bill being rushing to passage in the U.S. Senate includes an amendment threatening the wages and benefits of postal workers. It requires contract arbitrators to tilt toward the postal service. Chuck Zlatkin is Legislative and Political director for the New York metro area local of the American Postal Workers Union.
[Zlatkin]: “Including this amendment in the legislation, in effect, threatens our collective bargaining and everything that we’ve gained in the 39 years that we’ve had collective bargaining.”
Zlatkin says reports of the need to downsize postal capacity and limit deliveries due to reduced mail volume are an attack on postal workers and their union. He says the economic downturn, not email technology and modern communication trends, are causing the downturn. And he says it would be a mistake to reduce capacity and limit deliveries because it could cripple postal capacity when the economy recovers.
Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin Helps Advance Reform, Will Bring Up Single Payer Health Amendment – 08/05/09
Wisconsin Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin is planning to introduce a single payer health care amendment as House leaders acknowledge her role in helping to move healthcare reform forward. Jesse Russell reports.
Wisconsin’s Second District Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin was credited on Friday by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman for helping bridge a divide and moving health care reform legislation forward. Baldwin’s amendment allows progressive Democrats to keep subsidies for middle-income Americans while creating new cost saving provisions for conservative Democrats.
With members of Congress back in their home districts this month, union and community activists have the chance to play a pivotal role in winning comprehensive health care reform and to show that support for quality and affordable health care is deep and wide.
Meanwhile, phony grassroots groups and extremist fear mongers are waging a campaign of disruption and shout-down mob actions, backed by an avalanche of health insurance industry-funded, lie-filled ads about President Obama’s health care reform proposals.
The U.S. House already has adjourned for the summer, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says she hopes to have a bill ready for a vote in mid-September. Three House committees have approved various parts of health care reform legislation, and those parts must be merged into one bill.
In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee passed its version of reform earlier this summer, but the Finance Committee still must act. The Senate remains in session this week, although the Finance Committee is not expected to act until mid-September.
As we pursue reasoned dialogue and democratic action—not mob-run tactics—the AFL-CIO union movement is working with allies such as Health Care for America Now! (HCAN!) to ensure big turnouts for town hall and community forums with House and Senate lawmakers.
National unions are asking their local unions to reach out to rank-and file members with letters and worksite fliers, reminding them what’s at stake and encouraging working families to attend town hall meetings and to contact their lawmakers.
State and local union leaders are arranging meetings with members of Congress, telling them not to back down on key health care reform principles, including:
- A strong public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers and give working families a choice of private or public coverage.
- Shared responsibility, including an employer “play or pay” provision.
- Fair financing that does not tax health benefits.
- Cost savings.
- An end to insurance company abuses.
The Alliance for Retired Americans also is mobilizing to recruit members to attend town hall meetings with lawmakers and plans a series of events highlighting the need for real health care reform.
Working America canvassers will be out in neighborhoods across the country talking to families about health care reform.
We will keep you posted on health care reform actions during the congressional August recess.
As the critical governor’s race approaches this fall, the New Jersey State AFL-CIO has launched a new website, The Real Chris Christie, to take a closer look at the Republican challenger and where he stands on key issues.
Chris Christie, who got a political appointment as a U.S. attorney after raising more than $350,000 for George W. Bush, is running as a ”reformer,” but voters need to know what Christie would do as governor. Where does he stand on the critical issues facing New Jersey?
The Real Chris Christie looks past the rhetoric and examines where Christie stands on critical issues like the economy, health care, education and workers’ rights, as well as ethical issues and his long-standing support of Bush.
Here are some important facts available at The Real Chris Christie:
- Christie wants to cut corporate tax rates at the expense of critical health, education and housing programs for working families.
- Christie is proposing changes to health care that would allow insurance companies to deny claims and refuse to cover preventative care like mammograms.
- Christie opposes funding for pre-K programs for young children.
- Christie opposes paid medical leave for workers, project labor agreements and collective bargaining.
- Christie has awarded no-bid contracts to friends and political allies.
Visit The Real Chris Christie to find out more. It’s an important resource as we approach the Nov. 3 election.
The extremist fringe of the anti-health care reform movement—with a wink and a nod from more mainstream health care opponents—is using mob rule to disrupt town hall meetings and community forums set for the congressional recess. Mob rule tactics stopped the Florida vote count during the contested 2000 presidential elections, ultimately turning the presidency over to George W. Bush—a strategy now emulated by the anti-health care reform lobby.
As Slinkerwink at DailyKos wrote yesterday:
The crazies are coming out in full force to local town hall and community events being held by Democratic lawmakers—with only one goal—to interrupt the Democratic lawmaker on health care reform, and shout right-wing talking points at him or her to scare the rest of his or her constituents at that event by sowing confusion and fear in the crowd.
The coalition of extremists groups, including FreedomWorks, Right Principles, American Liberty Alliance, even has written game plan. The anti-government group Right Principles is telling people how to take over a meeting.
Be disruptive early and often. You need to rock the boat early in the rep’s presentation. Watch for an opportunity to yell out. The goal is to rattle him…stand up and shout out. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.
At town hall meeting in Setauket, N.Y., Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) was confronted by a loud mob that yelled criticisms of his stands on health care, energy and the economy and shouted down his answers. He even suspended some scheduled town halls.
I have no problem with someone disagreeing with positions I hold….But there is no point in meeting with my constituents and [to] listen to them and have them listen to you if what is basically an unruly mob prevents you from having an intelligent conversation.
On Sunday, a group of protestors showed up at a town hall in Philadelphia with Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. They shouted and booed loudly enough to drown out remarks from both officials and questions from the audience.
On America Blog, Joe Sudbay describes these tactics as “thuggery that undermines democratic principles.”
But thuggery seems just fine with some Republicans who, like Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Politico the days of civil town hall meetings are “over.” When asked if the Republican Party would use similar mob and shout tactics against Democrats, he said simply, “Wait until next year.”
As Think Progress reported last week, these disruptive tactics have been used at a growing number of meetings and forums.
This growing phenomenon is often marked by violence and absurdity. Recently, right-wing demonstrators hung Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) in effigy outside of his office. Missing from the reporting of these stories is the fact that much of these protests are coordinated by public relations firms and lobbyists who have a stake in opposing President Obama’s reforms.
The lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which orchestrated the anti-Obama tea parties earlier this year, are now pursuing an aggressive strategy to create an image of mass public opposition to health care and clean energy reform.
The union movement has always supported free speech rights and the right to demonstrate and picket. But that’s not what these disruptions are about—they are crude and anti-democratic efforts to silence speakers, elected officials, in fact, in meetings with constituents—and intimidate people’s exercise of associational rights.
Thousands of supporters for health care reform rallied June 25 in Washington, D.C., and with Congress on recess in August, union members and our allies plan to pack town halls and hold rallies across the nation to convey the message that Congress needs to enact health care reform now. Later today we will have more on recess actions on health care reform.
In a meeting with Republicans on Thursday, Virginia Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins—a key ally of gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell—audaciously claimed that Virginia businesses are closing because Virginians “preferred welfare to work.”
As the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports, in a conversation with Republican leaders in western Virginia, Mullins claimed a Wise County insurance company closed two offices because it couldn’t recruit enough employees from a local community college. Mullins contended it was because Virginians would rather be on welfare than get a job.
What news has Mullins been reading? Is this the kind of cluelessness Virginia can expect from Republican leaders?
Virginia’s workers are demanding an apology from Mullins and McDonnell. Mullins’ comments are an insult to hard-working Virginians who are facing the toughest economic crisis in decades—a crisis brought about by stagnant wages, disappearing jobs and rapidly rising inequality.
According to the Recorder, Mullins made another absurd claim. Although the nation’s economic crisis resulted from eight years of Bush administration mismanagement, he had this to say to Virginia voters:
If you’re not better off now than you were eight years ago, you had better vote Republican straight ticket.
Mullins is flat-wrong about Virginia’s workers. Virginia voters are sick of this out-of-touch attitude toward the economy, and they chose change last year. They need leaders who are going to work to fix the economic crisis, not dismiss it.
The just-launched Union Plus Health Care site helps union members save on health care costs and provides consumer advice for better health-related decisions.
The new Union Plus Health Care site includes:
• Updated Union Plus programs, including a free prescription card.
• Links to information for health-related financial hardship.
• Top 10 health-related websites.
• AFL-CIO health care legislative reform updates.
Here’s a look at some of the specific benefits.
You can save up to 40 percent on prescription drugs at participating pharmacies with the free Union Plus Prescription Card. Click here.
Union Plus offers several other savings plans, including vision care, hearing care, dental care, physician and hospital care and a new hospital negotiator advice feature. Check them out here.
You also have access to a discounted subscription to ConsumerReportsHealth.org, an online health-focused site featuring expert and unbiased health facts, including treatment ratings, a symptom checker and the latest health product ratings. Click here.
The new Union Plus health care site also gives you free access to Consumer Reports’ Best Buy Drugs that compares over 200 prescription drugs on price, effectiveness, alternatives, recommendations and safety to help consumers and their doctors identify the most effective and affordable medicines. Click here for more information.
In case you are wondering why Union Plus has linked up with the folks at Consumer Reports, there is a union connection. ConsumerReportsHealth.org is published by Consumers Union, a nonprofit organization that accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. Testers and writers at Consumers Union are represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA).
The new Union Plus Health Care site also offers information about the Union Plus SAFE Hospital Care Grants program that provides money to eligible union members with high hospital expenses. Qualifying individuals also must be enrolled in the Union Plus credit card, mortgage, or insurance programs. Click here.