In South Los Angeles, students at Fremont High pledge to fight the closure of their school due to below average standardized test scores. Leilani Albano has more.
By Doug Cunningham
Unemployment in Detroit is at nightmarish levels. Officially it’s 27 percent. But Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says the real joblessness among Detroit workers is near 50 percent. According to the 2008 U.S. Census an estimated 48.5 percent of Detroit men between 20 and 64 didn’t have jobs.
By Doug Cunningham
United Steel Workers President Leo Gerard says his union isn’t giving up on getting healthcare reform for working people that really matters. He told MSNBC’s Ed Shultz he’s mad as hell at the insurance company Democrats trying to gut the reform by removing the public option.
AFL-CIO: Senate Healthcare Bill Inadequate – Working People Can’t Accept Anything Less Than Genuine Reform – 12/18/09
By Doug Cunningham
The AFL-CIO says the watered-down Senate healthcare reform bill is inadequate and substantial changes have to be made in it. AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka says the bill has been hijacked by defenders of the insurance industry. He says the AFL-CIO will fight for genuine healthcare reform that includes a public option to break the stranglehold insurance companies have over consumers. Trumka says the House bill is the model for genuine reform and working people cannot accept anything less than genuine reform.
In Tuesday’s live Web chat, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka talked about what we need to do to fix our economy in both the short term and the long term—and touched on a vital, too-infrequently discussed issue: the need to end the stranglehold neoliberal economic thinking has on our politics.
Spurred by Milton Friedman and other economists, the neoliberal agenda is based on the radical principle that it’s markets, not people, that matter most. By nature, the neoliberal principle is hostile to collective bargaining, public regulation and all manner of ways to leverage community power to balance out the power of wealth. Trumka sums up Friedman’s poisonous political philosophy:
He believed that anything that got in the way of the free market was something that was bad and should be eliminated. Any regulation on business is bad, so get rid of it; any tax on business is bad and distorts the marketplace, get rid of it. A union is bad and distorts the marketplace, so you have to get rid of it.
For the last 30 years, that’s the system that we’ve had here. It brought us to this crisis.
Trumka says the labor movement needs to get back at the forefront of economic policy, including monetary, fiscal and industrial policy. Unions need to lay out a clear new economic agenda that will work better and stand as an alternative to the markets-first, people-later neoliberal agenda.
That means building an economy in which the financial sector works on behalf of the real economy—not the other way around. It means listening to the needs of working families, not pundits and corporate shills who claim that good jobs with living wages and benefits are “bad for the economy.” It means we don’t let big bankers reap profits from destructive speculation and pass the risks and the consequences on to us. It means that wages, not debt, drives the economy.
One of the top priorities for the AFL-CIO, Trumka says, is to educate union members—and candidates for office—about economic policy. Working people must be players in economic policy, so that we can create an economy that benefits everybody, not just those at the very top.
This is a cross-post from the Firedoglake blog.
The health care bill being considered by the U.S. Senate is inadequate and too tilted toward the insurance industry, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said today.
In recent days, as the Senate has debated health care reform, small numbers of senators have held health care hostage by threatening to block a vote. The new proposal by the Senate puts the interests of insurance companies—and senators who would rather look out for the insurance companies—ahead of real reform.
Trumka said the top priority now is to fight over the rest of the legislative process to fix the bill and make sure we can pass real health care reform:
The labor movement has been fighting for health care for nearly 100 years and we are not about to stop fighting now, when it really matters. But for this health care bill to be worthy of the support of working men and women, substantial changes must be made. The AFL-CIO intends to fight on behalf of all working families to make those changes and win health care reform that is deserving of the name.
The absolute refusal of Republicans in the Senate to support health care reform and the hijacking of the bill by defenders of the insurance industry have brought us a Senate bill that is inadequate: It is too kind to the insurance industry.
Genuine health care reform must bring down health costs, hold insurance companies accountable, assure that Americans can get the health care they need and be financed fairly.
While the Senate’s bill makes a lot of important and necessary changes to our health care system, it falls short in three key areas, Trumka says.
- It lacks a public health insurance option, to offer real competition to insurance companies to bring down costs.
- It fails to make sure employers take responsibility and pay their fair share.
- It’s funded through a new tax on working families’ health care benefits.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The bill passed by the U.S. House is far better than the Senate’s bill on these and other measures. The House bill finances health care through a small tax on the very wealthiest of earners—those who reaped vast benefits from the Bush tax cuts—and it includes a public health insurance plan and real responsibility for employers. Trumka says:
The House bill is the model for genuine health care reform. Working people cannot accept anything less than real reform.
Roxanne Brown, assistant legislative director of the United Steelworkers (USW), is taking part in climate change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, where 40 U.S. union members are part of a 400-member global union movement delegation led by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Read our previous blogs on the climate change talks here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
While a throng of new conference participants stood in the freezing cold for hours, those of us inside, including some U.S. labor representatives, scurried to contact our government, members of Congress and unions from other developed nations to try and thwart a proposal by India.
India wants to add a paragraph to the agreement that would prevent developed nations from using unilateral measures, such as a border adjustment, on products imported from developing nations. A border adjustment is a tariff system which penalizes countries that fail to regulate greenhouse gases in the production of goods.
For the past two years, the USW has been one of the loudest voices in calling for inclusion of a border adjustment system in U.S. climate policy. Here’s how it would work: After the United States has enacted a climate policy and had time to continue to work with the global community on a climate deal, a border measure would place a fee on any imports coming into the U.S. from nations-except the least developed nations-that have not enacted similar climate policies. A border measure would help the environment by preventing the export (or “leakage”) of efficient U.S. production to nations who produce their products with greater emissions. It also would help keep domestic manufacturers and manufacturing jobs in the United States.
Unfortunately, the border adjustment is seen as protectionist by some in both the developing and developed nations. Nevertheless, U.S. negotiators here in Copenhagen know how important this measure is for U.S. manufacturing workers and industries.
Ideally, negotiators will come out of these talks with an agreement that sets binding commitments to reduce emissions for developed and developing nations. The deal also should include methods to verify data, ensure transparency, and penalize nations for not meeting their goals. A system that does this will help place nations on a more level playing field when addressing global climate change. Absent these elements, U.S. policy must include a border measure.
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler joined Vice President Joe Biden and other leaders at yesterday’s meeting of the White House Middle Class Task Force. The topic: restoring our crippled manufacturing sector.
The White House Middle Class Task Force yesterday issued a framework detailing the challenges facing manufacturing, and Shuler delivered a message to the White House that fixing manufacturing must be a priority in building a stronger economy.
Speaking to administration officials as part of a panel with other business and labor leaders, Shuler emphasized the need for government to step up and create policies to encourage manufacturing. In short: We can’t sustain a strong economy based on debt, imports and financial maneuvering.
Shuler praised White House proposals on job training, aid to displaced workers, infrastructure investment and ending the tax incentives that lead corporations to ship jobs overseas. She made the point that the nation needs a strong re-commitment to leveling the playing field for America’s manufacturing industry by enforcing its trade agreements, providing access to credit for small and medium-sized businesses through unused bank bailout funds and stopping the unfair practice of currency manipulation.
One of the ways we can really spur the economy and create jobs, Shuler said, is by making sure manufacturing is part of any policy agenda. Throughout discussions on creating good jobs, Shuler said, we must focus our efforts on young workers, to ensure they have access to sustainable jobs in the manufacturing sector.
Creating good paying, family sustaining manufacturing jobs is at the heart of rebuilding our economy, Shuler said. But, this alone is not enough; we must reform the health care system to lower employer costs and make our nation’s manufacturers more globally competitive and pass the Employee Free Choice Act to empower workers on the job, allowing them to bargain for fair wages and access to the training and development opportunities a union can provide.
The AFL-CIO has proposed a five-point plan to create a short-term solution to the job crunch and get our economy moving again.
Pride At Work (P@W), the AFL-CIO’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) constituency group, has selected longtime activist Peggy Shorey as its new executive director. Shorey has been an organizer and community leader in Connecticut for the past 17 years.
A union member since 1993, Shorey began union organizing in 2001. She has worked for both the UAW and SEIU. For the past 10 years, she has been an executive officer with the Greater Hartford Central Labor Council and also served on the Executive Board for the Connecticut AFL-CIO. An openly bisexual union leader, she was founding co-president of the Connecticut chapter of Pride At Work.
Donna Cartwright, co-president of P@W, says:
Peggy has a long history as a union and LGBT leader with extensive skills running social justice nonprofits. She has built effective and vibrant coalitions—including partnerships with unions, the faith community, political and community organizations and the broader LGBT community—the kind of coalitions that change opinions and win lasting victories.
As an organizer for the UAW, Shorey helped workers form a union at Foxwoods Resort Casino, the large Connecticut casino. Most recently, she has helped organize and mobilize Connecticut state health care workers.
This year, the Connecticut Chapter of Pride At Work, under Shorey’s leadership, joined with the state chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists to successfully submit a resolution at the AFL-CIO Convention calling for nondiscrimination in employment based on gender identity and expression.
Shorey succeeds Jeremy Bishop, who left earlier this year to join the Obama administration’s Labor Department. She will begin her new job in January 2010.