Whaaat? I’ve got something in common with the Tea Party?

I read the Tea Party mission statement the other day and discovered that I agree with them on many of the 15 items they list as “nonnegotiable.” Here are the 15 items and my response to them:

  • Illegal aliens are here illegally.

Yep.  That’s true.  But the problem would be solved if Congress passed legislation giving them a path to citizenship.

  • Pro-domestic employment is indispensable.

Also true.  We don’t want or need global trade agreements that result in the loss of millions of American jobs.

  • A strong military is essential.        

Another point of agreement.  I’m a veteran I believe in a strong defense, but, proportionate to population, the United States now has the largest military force in the world, and we own nearly half of all the world’s nuclear forces.  I’d say we can probably downsize a bit.

  • Gun ownership is sacred.

C’mon, now.  The Bible doesn’t say anything about any weapon being “sacred.” I have nothing against guns or the sportsmen who use them, but they aren’t holy, blessed, consecrated, etc.

  • Deficit spending must end.

This is a stupid idea.  Deficit spending created the Middle Class and got us out of the Great Depression.

  • Bailout and stimulus plans are illegal.         

They can’t be illegal.  None of the bankers who misused bailout and stimulus funds have been sent to jail.

  • Reducing personal income taxes is a must.

This is only half right.  Taxes should be lowered for 99 percent of taxpayers, and increased for one percent, which pays more for bad habits that the rest of us pay for our mortgages.

  • Reducing business income taxes is a must.

This would be okay, perhaps, if we could eliminate all the subsidies to the oil and gas industry, the agricultural industry, and even some of the retail industry—Walmart, for example–which gets indirect government subsidies for employees on food stamps and other welfare programs. Moreover, some corporations pay no income tax.

  • Political offices must be available to average citizens. 

You guys are lousy examples.  You won’t run in competitive districts where you’d get your butts beat in a general election, and you sell your souls to the Citizens United crowd for campaign funds.

  • Intrusive government must be stopped.

Yeah.  I’d agree, but you Tea Party stalwarts are hypocrites.  The politicians you support continually stick their noses into labor-management relations by pushing anti-worker right-to-work legislation.  And, wow, talk about intrusive government.  What you guys want to do to women should, by all standards, be considered criminal.

  • English as our core language is required. 

          English is our core language. Another Tea Party example of putting its nose where it doesn’t belong.

  • Traditional family values are encouraged. 

Hooray, another point of agreement, except my family values might be somewhat different than yours, but that’s okay—as long as you don’t try to tell me what mine ought to be.  It’s none of your business.

See, voila, we can compromise.

Ain’t America great?

How to slam the brakes on the legislature’s right-to-work gang

It’s easy to punch a big hole in the conservatives’ constant diatribes against the intrusion of government into the affairs of the business community after one watches a few sessions of the Colorado legislature at the Capitol.

Who are these right-wing would-be union busters trying to kid? When it serves their political purpose, they will root for government intervention like giddy teenage cheer leaders at a high school football game.

There is no more blatant example of government intervention into private enterprise than the passage of so-called “right-to-work” (RTW) legislation, which prohibits labor and management from negotiating an all-union shop clause in their labor contracts.

Since 1992, rightwing legislators have introduced such legislation in all but two sessions of the state assembly, and it still hasn’t made it to the governor’s desk. It didn’t even pass when Republicans controlled both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office. When Bill Owens was governor, it was once defeated in the senate by an 18-17 count; the deciding vote coming from a Republican.

In every session, there is always an amorphous group of legislators that constantly carps about government sticking its nose into the business of business—until it involves the unions. While the lawmakers’ names might change with each election cycle, their goal is constant—to destroy organized labor.

Some observers believed right-to-work would become a dead issue in 2008 when it was defeated overwhelmingly at the polls after being placed on the ballot through the initiative process.

Helping defeat the issue in 2008 were two counter initiatives, suggested by Colorado Teamsters and adopted by Protect Colorado’s Future (PCF), the group formed by labor and allies to oppose right-to-work. The countermeasures scared the pants off the business community.

One of PCF’s initiatives required that an employer show just cause for firing or suspending an employee.  The other imposed criminal penalties for company officials found guilty of corporate fraud.

The Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce and other business interests were so concerned about the initiatives they raised $3 million and offered it to PCF to take the issues off the ballot. After much discussion PCF accepted the money and used it to take its case public and defeat right-to-work on Election Day.

Certain business leaders also went public, saying they didn’t support the right-to-work initiative because the state already had an effective anti-union law—the Colorado Labor Peace Act—on the books.

Bill Coors–who was 92 at the time and the former president of Coors Brewery, a company steeped in anti-labor antiquity–showed up at a press conference held by businesses opposing right-to-work,

“I am adamantly opposed to 47 (Amendment 47 was the right-to-work amendment),” Coors said, according to a report in the Rocky Mountain News.

“A few members of my family are in favor of it,” Coors said.  “But my family is not an ideological monolith.  I can assure you the family members at the brewery as well as the top manager of our other enterprises have told me, ‘I’m not for it.’”

It’s impossible to calculate the amount of taxpayer money that has been wasted or how much legislative time has been squandered on the issue by the futile efforts of the right-to-work gang in the past 25 years. Countless public hearings have been held.

A few years ago a Republican lobbyist was asked why his party introduced right-to-work every year.  “Just for the hell of it,” he said. That was a glib and dishonest answer.

Zealous right-to-work supporters know it would take a perfect political storm in Colorado for both houses of the legislature and the governor to agree to enact a right-to-work law.

However, a legislative vote that occurs every year gives them a public forum to tell their nutcase base supporters they are hot on the trail of the union thugs.

Perhaps it’s time the unions put an end to this nonsense.  They night want to dust off those two ballot initiatives—just for the hell of it. .

 

Guest Column: Steve Vairma

Perfect partners: Scrooge, Wal-Mart and Congress

By Steve Vairma

President, Teamsters Joint Council 3

How do people survive, let alone buy Christmas gifts for their kids, while working for the minimum wage, which is less than $8 an hour int the Teamster Joint Council states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming?

Read more here

Union-made-in-America holiday

Union-made-in-America holiday

Gift and Stocking stuffer guide

          Searching for that perfect holiday gift? Make sure it’s union made in America. Check out this Made in America, union-made gift guide. Here are some highlights from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor’s resource site, Labor 411.

Gifts include those made by members of UNITE HERE, Boilermakers (IBB), Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), Machinists (IAM), United Steelworkers (USW), Teamsters (IBT), UAW, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW (RWDSU/UFCW) and United Farm Workers (UFW).

Apparel and Accessories

Brooks Brothers (UNITE HERE)

Bottom of Form

Joseph Abboud (UNITE HERE)

Majestic Athletic (UNITE HERE)

Timex watches (IAM)

Naturalizer shoes (UFCW)

Nunn Bush shoes (UFCW)

Red Wing Shoes (UFCW)

Beauty Products

Avon (UFCW)

Caress skin care (UFCW)

ChapStick (USW)

Dove beauty products (UFCW)

Revlon (UAW)

Old Spice (UFCW)

Games

(All made by RWDSU/UFCW)

Barrel of Monkeys

Battleship

Candy Land

Chutes and Ladders

Clue

Connect 4

Game of Life

Hi Ho Cherry-O

Monopoly

Mouse Trap

Operation

Pictionary

Risk

Scrabble

Sorry

Taboo

Twister

Yahtzee

Sports Equipment

American Athletic (Russell) (UAW)

Louisville Slugger (UAW and IBT)

MacGregor Golf clubs (Boilermakers [IBB])

Standard Golf (IAM)

Top-Flite golf balls (IBB)

Stocking Stuffers

Rayovac batteries (Teamsters and UAW)

Bic Lighters (USW)

Ghirardelli chocolates (BCTGM)

Jelly Belly (BCTGM)

Laffy Taffy (BCTGM)

Tootsie Roll Pops (BCTGM)

Wine and Beer

(Wines brought to you by UFW.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle (IBT)

Columbia Crest

St. Supery

Charles Krug

C.K. Mondavi

Gallo of Sonoma

Miller Beer (UAW & IBT)

Miller High Life

Miller Genuine Draft

Miller Lite

Milwaukee’s Best

Icehouse

Red Dog

Anheuser-Busch (IBT & IAM)

Budweiser

Budweiser American Ale

Bud Light

Michelob

Shock Top

Busch

Rolling Rock

O’Doul’s

If you’re in the ‘Big Spender’ Category (UAW):

Jeep

Ford Mustangs

Cadillac

See more cars made by UAW.

Editor’s note: This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all made in America, union-made products. Some places to find more info on those products include but are not limited to Labor 411Union PlusAmerican Rights at Work and the BCTGM website.

 

Low wages cause food stamp use

Conservatives are constantly carping that one-fifth of the U.S. population is getting food stamps.

You know their refrain—that all food stamp recipients are on the dole because they don’t either don’t want to work, or they are illegal immigrants who want to game the system.

There may be grains of truth in those accusations, but they are tiny grains.  They are not the reason 20 percent the people in our country are surviving on food stamps.  It is fairly simple—except, perhaps, to simpletons—to understand why people need food stamps. They must eat to live. Many of them also need Medicaid, another rightwing bugaboo—because they sometimes require medical care, and they don’t have the money to pay for that, either,

Why can’t they pay for food and medical care?  They don’t make enough money, that’s why. Not enough American workers are making a living wage.

For example, the company today that employs the most people on food stamps is Wal-Mart, which generally pays poverty wages that force its workers to rely on $2.66 billion in government help every year, or about $420,000 per store. Most of the same workers are on Medicaid because they also can’t afford to have their own doctors.

So while Wal-Mart workers are being blamed for gaming the system, their employer is getting a huge subsidy from taxpayers who are providing food and medical assistance to the workers that Wal-Mart refuses to pay

Wal-Mart is only one example, though.  There are many corporations, including multinationals, that use similar strategies in dealing with their workforces,

So who is gaming the system? Not the workers.

For the past 20 years wages paid to 99 percent of U.S. workers have declined or stagnated, while income has increased for the top one percent.

The unequal distribution of labor income—with nearly all the gains in wages going to the top 1 percent while earnings stagnated or declined for the 99 percent—has gone hand-in-hand with the decrease in the share of national income going to labor and the shift from labor income to profits,’ says Eileen Appelbaum, senior economist for the Center for Economic and Policy Research

“Absent a countervailing force that enables workers to share fairly in the economy’s productivity gains, the decline in labor’s share appears likely to continue.”

What could be the major countervailing force for that would enable workers to share fairly in the economy’s productivity gains?  Labor unions, of course. 

If congress would simply pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), the balance of power between labor and management would be restored, and there would be an immediate, positive effect on wages of all workers, union and nonunion.

But labor must have friends in Congress and labor’s friends seem to be diminishing daily.  Some 28 Democrats voted recently against restoring $4.1 billion in food stamps cut that had been reduced in favor of corporate welfare for crop insurance companies. Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennett were among them.

Senator Udall, who was a vocal sponsor of EFCA when he was in the House, seems to have quietly retreated from labor’s ballets now that he is a senator. How about it, Senator?

Fed up!

To be perfectly honest, I am getting a bit fed up with the media’s infatuation with gay marriage and guns. To me, television 2013 is threatening to get even more boring than television 2012 when we endured about a year of inane political campaign commercials. After a tiny respite, I am once again ready to start tossing shoes at the television and tearing to shreds the daily blah the Denver Post has become.

It’s not that I have anything against gays, or heterosexuals for that matter, I believe they ought to be able to get married. If most of their marriages last longer than all of Rush Limbaugh’s put together, they’ll be considered successful.

I don’t have anything against gun owners either, or non gun owners for that matter. I just think the “conceal carry” stuff is BS. I think the law should require them to carry their guns in plain sight, such as cowboys did in the olden days. Even their AK 47s, 49s, 50s, or whatever, Then we’d at least know who to take out with our first burst–the guy, or gal, with the biggest gun, right?

If I am angry at anybody, it is the media that gets giddy over social issues.

My nightly dose of MSNBC has disappeared; I am now reduced to watching reruns of Law and Order, Special Victims Unit. Enough is enough!

Meanwhile, the real world continues to turn, it seems, toward darkness. We are trying to cope with a lunatic punk in North Korea who is threatening to blow up his neighbor to the south where all those Hyudais and Kias—driven in this country by so-called American patriots–are made. Iran is trying its damndest to build a nuke.

There is also an island nation in the Mediterranean, Cypress–where I made a short visit during my Navy days a millennium or so ago–that might undermine the world’s economy.

And, our president is making noises like he wants to cut my Social Security benefits, while the Republicans are hoping they can make the rich richer, which certainly leaves me out of the equation. We still have high unemployment, stagnant wages and astronomical health care costs. And, last time I checked, the immigration problem was still with us.

Who cares? We get to watch Wayne LaPierre and Rachel Maddow duke it out.

Hold on. Let me get this other shoe untied.

Labor wins were vital in 2010, 2012 elections

There are only three free collective bargaining states from Kansas City to the West Coast—Colorado, Montana and New Mexico. The remainder of the mountain west states—Arizona, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming—are so-called “right-to-work” states.

Because unions set wage and benefit standards for all American workers, these three lesser-populated free bargaining states are very important to the American labor movement.

Their importance is both real and symbolic. They help to maintain the living standards of all American workers. If they lose their struggle against the ongoing War on Workers, the entire mountain west from Canada to Arizona will be a right-to-work (for less) wasteland. Nonunion workers will especially be hurt in those states. They will earn less money, have fewer benefits, often work under substandard conditions and have no job security.

Union workers in Colorado, Montana and New Mexico should be proud of themselves. In the 2010 and 2012 elections they fought off the union busting right- to-work gang at the polls, a feat that bigger states with far greater union density in the workplace have not been able to accomplish.

Today the living standards of workers in many states—including some of the strongest labor states in the nation—are being seriously threatened.

States with proud labor legacies, such as Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, are fighting for survival against Tea Party-dominated state legislators with anti-worker agendas.

Those rightwing lawmakers have already stripped public sector unions of collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin. And Michigan, which had for years been a leader in the noble struggle for workers’ rights and dignity, is now a right-to-work (for less) state.

A law passed in Ohio that curtailed collective bargaining was repealed but it required a special election to do it. And now, right-to-work legislation has been introduced in Pennsylvania, another state with a great labor tradition.

These are all “blue” states; they usually elect more Democrats than Republicans. But in 2010, voters in those states turned in massive numbers to the Republicans, mostly Tea Party Republicans who simply want to annihilate not only the labor movement but the U.S. government.

They flipped control of 20 state legislatures in 2010, which gave Republicans control of more legislatures than they have had at any time since 1928. Unfortunately, the blatant gerrymandering schemes Republicans passed in many of these states in 2011 could keep the Tea Party in control until the next census is conducted in 2020.

Fortunately, many Republicans are starting to recognize the Tea Party faithful for what it is—a collection of zealots who seek to destroy any semblance of government. We sincerely hope their evolving awareness will affect changes in the party.

In Colorado, Montana and New Mexico, organized labor pretty much retained the status quo in the elections of 2010 and 2012. All three states managed to hold off the Tea Party’s electoral tidal wave in 2010, and they continued to neutralize the extreme rightwing of the GOP in 2012.

While Colorado Democrats lost control of the State House of Representatives by one vote in 2010, they retained control of the State Senate.

They also elected a governor. In 2012 they regained control of the House.

In Montana, Republicans retained control of both the House and Senate in 2010, but a progressive governor was in office. Then in 2012, Steve Bullock, who was strongly endorsed by labor, and who vowed to veto any right-to-work bill, was elected the new governor.

New Mexico Democrats retained control of both houses of the legislature in 2010 and 2012.

So voters in Colorado, Montana and New Mexico have guaranteed that for now the union busters will have a very difficult time enacting right-to-work (for less) or any other major anti-worker legislation for at least the next two years.

The election results in the west are a huge factor in labor’s survival to fight another day.

It could have been a real disaster if the Tea Party zealots had assumed political control of the only free bargaining states between Kansas City and the West Coast.

Thanks for your help, brothers and sisters.

We needed it.

EFCA would be boon to sick economy

All of those nonunion workers who constantly rant against organized labor should instead thank their lucky stars for their union counterparts.

If it weren’t for the union workers, nonunion working men and women would be making considerably less wages.

It is a fact that in states where unions are strong, wages of all workers—union and nonunion—are higher. For example, in free bargaining states workers earn about $5,538 more annually ($44,707 compared to $39,169) than those in so-called right-to-work states, where union organizing is limited by law.

Fortunately, though, in right-to-work nonunion workers also benefit from unions because wage standards in all states are set by prevailing union wages.

To compete with unionized companies in securing proficient workers, most employers of nonunion labor in all states try to keep wages competitive with the wages paid by unionized companies

Even so, wages of all workers have diminished for many years. Employers know the reason why. They laugh all the way to the bank. Workers, though, mostly look at their pay checks and shake their heads.

The reason is that unions are weaker now than they have been since World War ll. Organized labor now represents less than 12 percent of the nation’s workers, split about 50-50 between the public and private sectors. In the 1950s, 35 percent of all U.S. workers were represented by unions.

The downward wage spiral began in 1980 after Ronald Reagan was elected president. He and his economic advisors determined that money accumulated at the top should only “trickle down” to those on the middle and lower rungs of the economic ladder.

This economic plan has allowed those at the top to hoard money for years. They
claim to be “job creators,” but that is pure, unadulterated BS.

If they were creating jobs, our unemployment rate would not be at about eight percent. And they wouldn’t be exporting manufacturing jobs overseas, screwing thousands of American workers out of good paying jobs, while pocketing record profits.

Even people with pea brains should understand what that has done to the middle class. When workers earn less, they buy less. When they buy less, employers seek to cut labor costs to maintain profits. Catch 22.

If wages continue to diminish, corporations will eventually find it difficult to sell their products. Nobody will have the money to buy them. That is now beginning to happen. It will eventually eliminate the middle class if something isn’t done about it.

There is a proposal in the marketplace of ideas that would provide a lot of medicine for the ailing U.S. economy.

It is enactment of the Employees’ Free Choice Act (EFCA).

Making it easier for working men and women to unionize would quickly result in higher workers’ wages, thus injecting more money for goods and services in the economy. The increasing demand for thee commodities would, in turn, create new jobs.

But it won’t happen in my lifetime, unless:

• All workers—union and nonunion—finally decide they will work in their own best interest.
• Republicans begin to act as serious legislators rather than circus clowns.
• Democrats grow a pair and take a real stand for workers, such a federal labor law reform.
• The public begins to consider serious problems with more profundity than talking points provided by special interests.

Fat chance, I’d say.

A liberal, and proud of it

I am what I am.

I am a liberal and I don’t want to be called a “progressive.” The liberal political viewpoint has been an honorable component in political discourse for many years. I refuse to bow to the pressure of right-wing radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh who have made liberal a pejorative term by laying the blame for all of the country’s problems on liberals.

That’s a lot of baloney, pure and simple. Get a life, Rush, or a few new advertisers anyway.

Since the turn of the century, liberals have been responsible for more good in this country than have conservatives. If it weren’t for liberals, the social legislation that has helped people in need throughout those years would have never been enacted.

Indeed, liberal politicians in this country have a more illustrious history than do conservatives.

A liberal president—Franklin Roosevelt—led the country out of the Depression and was in office during most of America’s victories in World War II.

His successor, Harry Truman, was a staunch trade union movement supporter. He vetoed the Taft-Hartley Act, a punitive anti-labor law that was enacted after Congress, with the help of many Democrats, overrode his veto.

In Truman’s 1948 campaign, Democrats bolted the party and ran as Dixiecrats because of the Democratic Party’s position on civil rights. Truman won anyway.

Truman was responsible for one of the most courageous acts of the war with Japan—the dropping of atomic bombs that ended the war and save untold thousands of American lives.

Democrat John F. Kennedy, like his Republican contemporary, U.S. Senator Robert Dole, was a war hero. As president, though, he established the Peace Corps and signed the first nuclear test ban treaty with the former the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In 1962, after it was discovered that Soviet offensive missiles were being installed in Cuba, Kennedy quarantined the island until the Soviets withdrew their missiles.

Under his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, the Civil Rights Act was passed and the War on Poverty was enacted.

Johnson also appointed the first African American—Thurgood Marshall—to the Supreme Count.

Like conservatives, liberals come in different shades and hues. Some don’t believe in abortion; others believe women should have the right to choose. Some favor gun control; other see it as an infringement on their rights.

Many are veterans who served their time in the military—as did many of their conservative counterparts; others avoided the draft, as did all four of the candidates who ran this year in the Republican presidential primary.

Some are businessmen and entrepreneurs seeking profits; others are workers who believe they should get a fair share of the profits they help to produce.

What liberals generally have in common, though, is that they believe government ought to help those who can’t help themselves. Liberals don’t have to apologize for anything. They should forget that “progressive” label and be proud they are liberals.

I know I am.

Labor must protect future of America’s workforce

Michigan wasn’t always like it is today. You could trust Michigan politicians 40 years ago — even the Republicans.

The governor then was William Milliken, a moderate Republican who served for 12 years, and was always endorsed by Michigan Teamsters and many of the unions of the AFL-CIO. Before he became governor, Milliken served as lieutenant governor under Governor George Romney, Mitt’s father. The late Robert Waldron was a highly-regarded speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives in 1967-1968. He was also a Republican. He was once asked why the Republicans never introduced a so-called “right-to-work” bill in the legislature.

“That would be out of the question,” he replied. “We don’t always agree with the unions, but we have never tried to destroy them. We have a high regard for the workers in this state.”

That was then; this is now.

Today lying, cheating and many other forms of corruption are commonplace in politics, and Michigan is no exception.

And the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, is the biggest liar of them all.

Since Snyder became governor in January 2011, he has maintained that right-to-work legislation is divisive and wasn’t on his agenda. He even testified to that fact in February before the U.S. Congress.

But he signed the legislation into law on Dec. 11.

He did it because the Koch brothers told him to. So did Richard DeVos, rightwing zealot who founded Amway, which is based in Grand Rapids, MI., and several other corporate nabobs.

Snyder and the rightwing Republicans in the Michigan legislature have been beneficiaries of thousands, if not millions, of political dollars spent by the Brothers Koch, their rightwing advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, and other zany billionaires, including DeVos. Their message to Snyder was sign it, or else.

While they have tons of money, they represent only a small slice of voters.

Knowledgeable observers believe this Republican overreach will create a huge voter backlash in two years when Snyder and many of his tea party allies in the legislature face reelection.

But two years from now may be too late. Wages, benefits and working conditions diminished almost immediately in every state that has passed right-to-work (for less). This downward pressure on union wages simultaneously reduces nonunion wages because union wage scales set standards for all U.S. workers.
The results of the election in 2014 could depend on whether or not a certain segment of union voters get the message. Those 30 or so percent of union voters registered as Republicans throughout the United States had better wise up and start voting in their own interests.

In recent years, it has been predictable. When union voters cast ballots for Republicans, they get screwed. It happened in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and now Michigan.

Working men and women who aid and abet the Koch brothers and their ilk should wake up and recognize what is happening to their future.

They should ask themselves why these guys poured millions of out-of-state dollars into the Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin election campaigns this year.

The answer is they want to advance causes that will lower workers’ wages, eliminate benefits and diminish working conditions. They know the record profits they are reaping today will grow if our national workforce becomes a Third World workforce.

They are playing a small but relevant segment of our country’s working men and women for the fool.
The fraud perpetrated by Governor Snyder on Michigan workers is a defining moment for the American labor movement. The unions must now stand up and fight like hell for the future of the nation’s workforce.