Organized labor has been coming forward with both financial and physical support for the earthquake ravaged nation of Haiti. Jesse Russell reports:
By Doug Cunningham
Conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court opened the floodgates to allow unlimited amounts of corporate money to be spent in election campaigns – a ruling that U.S. Senator Russ Feingold called a terrible mistake. In dissent Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the court’s majority has committed a grave error in treating corporate speech the same as that of individual human beings. He said the ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation.
By Doug Cunningham
[Karen Ackerman]: “What happened in Massachusetts is that working families did not see the Democrat candidate as being on their side, as fighting for them.”
As the Winter Olympics approaches, an international coalition of workers’ rights organizations has released its rating of corporate efforts to eliminate sweatshop abuses in their global supply chains.
The ratings are based on the responses of the sportswear companies, including Nike, Adidas, Puma and others, to a series of demands put forward by the coalition on the eve of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The demands include developing a positive climate for workers to join unions and bargain contracts and paying workers a living wage. You can find the company survey responses and ads here.
Take action by sending a letter here to the sportswear brands, telling them, “It’s time to up your game and start clearing the hurdles for workers’ rights.”
Says Patrick Itschert, general secretary of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation:
Many sportswear brands talk a good game. They say they want to uphold core labor standards in the factories producing Olympic-branded goods, but they aren’t willing to take the critical steps to create decent work throughout their supply chain. The goal of our campaign is to make them measure up.
Sportswear workers around the globe work long hours under intense pressure and often earn less than a dollar a day. Many work in dangerous conditions and face overwhelming obstacles to join a union.
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) General Secretary Guy Ryder says:
Sporting authorities, including the International Olympic Committee and the authorities for individual sports, must make it compulsory that products which carry their logos are produced in decent conditions, with full respect for the rights of the workers making the products.
Massachusetts voters sent a strong signal to Washington lawmakers Tuesday that they want results—and aren’t seeing any. Not on health care reform, not on job creation and not on fixing the nation’s economy.
Voters also sent another powerful message for Democrats: Ignore the working class at your peril.
Some 79 percent of voters polled on election night said the most important issue for them was electing a candidate who will strengthen the economy and create more jobs. Controlling health care costs was next on their list, with 54 percent citing that issue as the main determinant of their vote.
The poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates among 810 voters for the AFL-CIO on the night of the election, also found that although voters without a college degree favored Barack Obama by 21 percentage points in the 2008 election, Democratic candidate Martha Coakley lost that same group by a 20-point margin.
And as AFL-CIO Richard Trumka has pointed out, Massachusetts voters have the same goals for reforming health care, creating good jobs and strengthening the economy as they did in November 2008—but President Obama and the Democrats have done too little.
Voters showed they don’t think Democrats have overreached—they think that the Democrats underreached.
In fact, voters were not worried about Democratic “overreach”—47 percent said their bigger concern about Democrats is that they haven’t succeeded in making needed change rather than tried to make too many changes too quickly (32 percent). Even voters for Scott Brown were more concerned about a lack of change (50 percent) than about trying to make too many changes too quickly (43 percent).
These results puts a lie to the corporate media spin that Democrats have gone “too far” in pushing a reform agenda.
Nor was the election result about health care reform. Brown actually lost among the 59 percent of voters who picked health care as one of their top two voting issues (50 percent for Coakley and 46 percent for Brown). Voters for Brown (55 percent ) were less likely to cite health care as a top issue than were voters for Coakley (66 percent).
The election also should be a wake-up call for those in Washington who support taxing working families’ health care. Voters who thought their health care would be taxed voted by 64 percent for Brown, while those who did not think their health care would be taxed voted by 54 percent to 40 percent for Coakley.
Our polling results show the election was not an endorsement of a Republican agenda or a call to abandon health care reform. Voters strongly disapprove of the job being done by congressional Republicans (26 percent approve and 58 percent disapprove), a much lower rating than they give to congressional Democrats (37 percent approve and 51 percent disapprove).
Other polls show the need for Democrats in Congress to take immediate action to create jobs, reform health care, stop catering to Wall Street and address the needs of America’s working class. As John Judis wrote, the election showed Democrats have lost ground primarily among white working and middle-class voters and senior citizens.
The Suffolk University poll in Massachusetts…singled out two white working-class towns, Gardner and Fitchburg, as bellwethers. Obama won Gardner, where Democrats hold a 3-1 registrations edge, by 59 percent to 31 percent in 2008. Brown won it by 56 percent to 42 percent. Obama won Fitchburg, with a similar Democratic edge, by 60 percent to 38 percent in 2008. Brown won it by 59 percent to 40 percent. That suggests a fairly dramatic shift among white working-class voters.
Summarizing the findings from election night polling conducted by Research 2000 Massachusetts Poll, MoveOn.org said the results show voters worry that Democrats in power “have not done enough to combat the policies of the Bush era.”
Both sets of voters wanted stronger, more progressive action on health care reform as well. In summary, the poll shows that the party who fights corporate interests—especially on making the economy work for most Americans—will win the confidence of the voters.
The working class has spoken. Will Democrats listen?
This is a cross-post from Firedoglake.
Dedicated last April on Workers Memorial Day, the memorial with more than 10,000 bricks and scores of granite benches and pavers will be finished in time to commemorate this year’s Workers Memorial Day, April 28.
If you would like to have a brick or other remembrance engraved and installed in time for this year’s ceremonies at the campus in Silver Spring, Md., you need to purchase them by Feb. 28. Memorial bricks may be purchased for $125, pavers for $2,000 and granite benches for $10,000. For more information, click here.
Last year, the first brick was dedicated by Bricklayers President John Flynn to Louis Mitchell, a member of the union who died in 2007. The second brick, sponsored by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, honored his father, Frank, a Pennsylvania Mine Worker (UMWA), who died in 1999 of black lung disease.
Hundreds of family members, co-workers and unions have made memorial contributions. One local chose to remember a Steelworker (USW) who was electrocuted on the job. Co-workers from a Transit Workers (TWU) local sponsored the memory of a bus driver who was crushed by her bus, and an AFGE local sought to remember a government rescue worker who was crushed in a mine rescue at the Crandall Canyon coal mine in Utah in 2007.
Labor College President Bill Scheuerman says contributions to the memorial “mean much more than the brick and granite structures being constructed.”
Each sponsorship serves as a reminder of the thousands of workers every year whose lives are lost while on the job. Brick by brick and bench by bench, we are building awareness of the human toll caused by unsafe working conditions.
Despite the impact of one of the worse recessions in U.S. history, union members continue to generously support efforts to help survivors of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. You can take action now to help the Haitian survivors by clicking on the AFL-CIO Haitian Disaster Relief site here.
The UAW yesterday announced it is donating $500,000 to the William J. Clinton Foundation to help victims of the earthquake. Says UAW President Ron Gettelfinger:
The people of Haiti desperately need food, water, medical care and hope. The women and men of the UAW stand with thousands of other organizations and ordinary citizens in their desire to help the Haitian people meet their basic human needs.
Former President Bill Clinton, the U.N.’s special envoy to Haiti, said Haiti needs our short-term and long-term support.
I still believe that Haiti can move beyond its troubled history and this lethal earthquake to emerge a stronger, more secure nation. But we can’t do it with government support alone: Ordinary citizens must fill in the gaps. Little donations make a big difference, and there are a number of organizations that will move the money to where it’s needed most.
If you want to donate to the Clinton Foundation’s Haiti Relief Fund, text “HAITI” to “20222″ or visit the foundation’s website here.
In other recent actions:
- The Transport Workers Union has formed a disaster relief task force to enable the union to act immediately to help Haiti and stay for the long run. The Miami-based task force will be headed by Georges Exceus, a TWU organizer. The group has already started coordination and distribution plans for getting donations to Haiti and those in need. You can send donations to: TWU of America, 5705 NW 38 St., Miami, FL 33166.
- A dozen nurses, paramedics and emergency medical technicians, who are members of the AFT-affiliated Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (VFNHP), as well as doctors and an AFT national representative, left for Haiti yesterday to help provide medical assistance for the victims. Members of the medical team work at Fletcher Allen Health Care, an alliance of the University of Vermont’s medical and nursing schools. More than 75 members of the VFNHP have volunteered to be part of the medical relief effort.
- The Air Traffic Controllers (NATCA) is working with the Dominican Air Traffic Controllers Association (ADCA) to get supplies to Haitian controllers and their families. NATCA will use some money from its disaster relief fund to coordinate the purchase of supplies through ADCA to fly to Haiti. Members can send donations to the NATCA relief fund via PayPal, https://www.paypal.com and include this e-mail address when making your donation: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can send a check payable to “NATCA relief” to: NATCA Relief, 1325 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20005.
- The United Transportation Union (UTU) is giving $1,000 to the American Red Cross in the name of UTU members of Haitian descent.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) is sending five ships to assist with relief efforts in Haiti. All are owned or controlled by MARAD and will be crewed by civilian U.S. merchant mariners. The crews are made up of members of the Seafarers (SIU), Masters, Mates and Pilots (MMP) and Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA), an affiliate of the Longshoremen (ILA). Also, the U.S. Navy hospital ship, the Comfort with an SIU crew, has reached Haiti, and the ship’s medical staff is treating injured Haitians.
When Massachusetts voters cast their ballots for Scott Brown on Tuesday, they were sending a message to Washington lawmakers that they have not gone far enough to create jobs, reform health care and fix our nation’s economy, says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. In a video message, Trumka says voters showed they don’t believe Democrats have overreached—they think that the Democrats underreached.
You see, they believe that Wall Street’s being taken care of. They believe that corporate America is being taken care of. They believe the insurers are being taken care of. But they don’t think that workers are being taken care of.
The corporate media is spinning the election results to make it appear that voters don’t want health care reform or funding for job creation. But as Trumka states: “Voters haven’t changed their mind. Their two top priorities are jobs and health care.”
Yesteday’s election gave us that opportunity. It said to everybody: “We don’t want excuses. We want action. We want you to fix these problems.”
It’s up to us to fight for those issues, because there’s nothing more important than creating an economy that works for average working people. There’s nothing more important than creating jobs, and there’s nothing more important than putting our people to work. Now’s the time for us to do that. It’s up to us to force both parties to fix the problems for working America.