It was just a year ago that John Boehner became Speaker of the House and described his three priorities: “creating jobs, cutting spending, and reforming the way Congress does its business.” He added:
And the real question now is this: Are we going to listen to the American people? Republicans have made a pledge to America, and our pledge is to listen to the American people and to focus on their priorities, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
As November 2011 approaches, we find that the Speaker certainly has made good on his promise to cut spending, and our economy is much worse off for it.
So much for listening to the American people. So much for creating jobs. And Boehner has only “reformed the way Congress does business” in that this Congress exclusively serves the needs of the super-wealthy One Percent, with the secondary goal of defeating the President next year.
Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO isn’t waiting for this dysfunctional Congress to act. As promised in June, the unions of the AFL-CIO are investing $10 billion over five years from union pension funds in infrastructure projects, putting Americans back to work where we need it the most. Since June, $200 million have been invested in retrofitting buildings.
Former President Bill Clinton, through the Clinton Global Initiative, is helping facilitate the process. Clinton, along with CAP’s John Podesta and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, is negotiating with non-AFL affiliated unions, like the SEIU and NEA to also join the effort. Two of the largest pension funds in the country, those of California teachers and public workers have chipped in $1.1 billion as well. For added value, many of the retrofits and projects are focused on clean energy and efficiency. “This system will work and you get guaranteed savings,” said Clinton, adding, “This is not rocket science.”
It’s becoming increasingly clear that this Congress can’t be trusted to help America’s economy, and even the concession-friendly White House is getting the picture. Last week, President Obama announced plans to pass a series of measures by Executive Order, bypassing Speaker Boehner’s unruly House and Mitch McConnell’s disgustingly cynical Senate plurality. These include mortgage reform to reduce foreclosures, new student loan rules to reduce debt, and the hiring of 8,000 veterans at community health centers.
When you gather with your families for Thanksgiving, and talk invariably swings around to what is happening in Washington, be prepared. In terms of rhetoric, it seems that both sides of the aisle are focused on job creation. But the facts don’t bear that out. America’s union movement wants to put folks back to work, and the Republican Party just wants to win the next election.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released this video to reaffirm the federation’s opposition to new safety net cuts. “These ‘Super Committee’ Democrats have put all their concessions on the table up front in the vain hope that the Republicans might reciprocate,” Trumka said, “But it doesn’t work that way. In this political climate, concessions beget more concessions – not a workable compromise.”
It’s tiring and frustrating to see these Democrats on the committee walking and talking like Bush and Norquist in a vain attempt to reach a compromise. You don’t need to be a history professor to know the other side is going to take as much as they can get from the Middle Class. No need to give them a running start.
We’re with Trumka: “This is the moment we need to raise our voices to let Congress know that we will not stand for dismantling the safety net or letting Wall Street and the wealthiest Americans off the hook.”
Cuts instituted by Congress for the 2011 fiscal year eliminate some 370,000 jobs, while endangering the public and delaying necessary repairs and infrastructure work that will only be more expensive to complete in the future, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP).
The jobs losses that are a direct result of those actions will have a secondary impact on a wide array of businesses ranging from automobile producers to local restaurants and dry cleaning establishments, causing the disappearance of a significant number of additional jobs.
Already, the cuts to local law enforcement programs—which were cut by $2.5 billion compared to the previous year—are having a negative effect, Lilly reports. As an example, he turns to one California city:
Despite concessions by police officers in San Jose, California to accept a 10 percent pay cut, 66 police officers were forced to turn in their badges in June because of city budget problems. The cuts came in the midst of a recent upsurge in homicides and other serious crimes in the city
Further, with an average 19 percent unemployment rate for construction workers, Congress cut much-needed building repair projects.
Congress could choose to put Americans back to work in ways that will ensure the safety of taxpayers in their communities. Or it could continue down the path toward greater unemployment and imperiling the lives and health of the people who elected them.
As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said at this month’s Take Back the American Dream conference, right-wing politicians are intent on “ginning up this season’s version of ‘divide and conquer’ — set taxpayers against public employees.” If current trends prevail, taxpayers may soon have a taste of what life with too few public employees means for the country at large.
On Nov. 17, the union movement and our allies are rallying around a day of national action to demand “Jobs, Not Cuts.”
To download the ”Creating Unemployment: How Congressional Budget Decisions Are Putting Americans out of Work and Increasing the Risk of a Second Recession” in a PDF file, click here.
As Occupy Maine in Portland raises awareness about the excess of corporate greed in the US and the need for significant change in our economic system, these dedicated protesters have dealt with recent challenges, including violence against Occupy protesters in Maine and across the U.S. In response to a recent bomb incident at the Occupy Portland camp, Occupy Portland conducted a “We Shall Overcome” march from Monument Square in the heart of Portland to the Occupy encampment in Lincoln Park. After the march Occupy protesters talked about public support for the Occupy movement. It is apparent to us at Working America in Maine that our membership is overwhelmingly supportive of the Occupy message.
Every night we talk with people through face to face conversations at their doors and on the phone and what we are hearing is that working class people in Maine are tired of policies that benefit the 1% in this country. Our members are part of the 99% and while they might not all be able to camp out in Lincoln Park they are demanding the same kind of changes proposed by the Occupy movement. We thought it was important to let the dedicated folks at Occupy Portland know that their message is being heard across Maine.
As a way to show our appreciation for their dedication Working America in Maine put together a “book” that included member quotes in support of the movement:
I’m a disabled vet, so I can’t join you, but I’m so glad you all are there. It’s way past time that the rich cats be accountable and that the working class people of our country and the world finally had a voice. It’s important that your movement continue and grow, not only as a non-violent movement on the ground but as an organized political force that can counter and reverse the massive, well organized and financed forces of the rich.
-John from Auburn
My name is Marge. I’m originally from Philly & South Jersey, live in Maine now. I support you 100%, and appreciate what you’re doing to try to save this country from Wall Street greed & corruption. I’m 71 years old and lived through a time when you could trust banks, corporations & politicians. It’s so sad to live in this time when you can’t trust any of them. I boycott large banks; I boycott stores that don’t support American-made products. National boycotts would put a real threat in their boardrooms.
-Margaret from Brunswick
I can’t thank you enough for staying strong and fighting the good fight. What you are doing is long overdue and I am so proud of you and to have lived long enough to see that we might reach the finish line and take our country back and be the free spirits our Founding Fathers envisioned. May the Great Spirit be with all of you!
-Elissa from Berwick
In addition to member quotes, we included photos from a recent “I am Not Your ATM” event that we conducted with Occupy Portland. Occupy Portland protesters were touched to hear the stories of Mainers who stand with the Occupy movement in spirit but who are unable to attend rallies or camp out in the park. At the end of the event I was excited to know that there are so many people dedicated to fighting for the 99% in Maine. Whether it is the Working America member writing a letter to the editor or an Occupy protester camping in Lincoln Park, it is apparent that the movement for the 99% is only going to pick up steam in the weeks ahead.
When’s the last time a ballot initiative in Ohio made it onto Comedy Central?
Last night, Jon Stewart opened The Daily Show with a segment about presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and this week’s flip flops on Ohio’s Issue 2. Quick review: Mitt Romney was for Issue 2 in June, but then on Tuesday said he had no opinion on it. After a whole host of conservative commentators lept on him for distancing himself from the anti-worker measure, Mitt followed up on Thursday during a campaign stop in Virginia saying he “fully supports” Issue 2.
Whew! Now I’m dizzy.
But Romney is just doing his best to follow public opinion. Back in June, thanks to a corporate-backed marketing blitz by Governor Kasich and his allies, Issue 2 looked like it might have a chance of surviving. However, as more Ohioans understand that Issue 2 is bad for families, bad for Ohio’s economy, and bad for public safety – thanks in part to Working America’s tenacious canvassing effort – polls are showing opposition to the measure increasing.
We’re glad these incidents are getting wider coverage. If Republican establishment figures like Romney are more hesitant to back attacks on workers like Issue 2, it means they are starting to realizing that the War on Workers – launched by Kasich, Walker, and their corporate allies – are losers at the ballot box.
As I wrote last week, Michigan has been flying under the radar, thanks to the turmoil with its neighbors, Wisconsin and Ohio. But make no mistake; corporate-backed politicians and working Michiganders are battling it out this November at the polls.
Michigan blogger Chris Savage reported that efforts were launched to recall almost one third of the state’s legislators – 47 out of 148. Only one recall drive has made it to the November ballot – that of Representative Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) in the 51st District.
Why the anger at Paul Scott? His extreme, aggressive agenda against Michigan public school teachers – which he did not campaign on during election season in 2008 and 2010. As Chair of the Education Committee in the Michigan legislature, Paul Scott has been firmly committed to weakening, diluting, or outright removing the ability of teachers to advocate for themselves.
Scott cemented his position as anti-teacher crusader with House Bill 4466, a bill he sponsored that would “kick out” a union for five years if one or more public employees went on strike:
Under the bill, if one or more public school employees strike, their union would be kicked out for five years. A school superintendent or parent could report any strike activity – and, if enacted, a union could be decertified even if no actual strike occurred.
The bill would make it illegal for a union or union representative to “solicit or encourage” any public employee to strike or to “conspire” to cause a strike, even if they didn’t actually engage in a work stoppage.
Scott’s constituents were ticked off at the attacks on teachers, and organizers were able to gather 12,350 signatures in less than two weeks – thousands more than required. Then came the soap opera, detailed here, of Scott trying to get the recall thrown out by the courts, for every reason imaginable.
The fight even drew out Governor Rick Snyder, who has been far more cautious than his fellow freshman governors Walker and Kasich when it comes to disguising his corporate-backed agenda. Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette filed requests with the Michigan Supreme Court to delay the Paul Scott recall, a move that the Detroit Free Press (not exactly a liberal rag) called “clumsy and nakedly partisan.”
The Paul Scott recall is drawing in another high-profile figure, the corporate-friendly former DC superintendent Michelle Rhee, whose inappropriately named DC-based group StudentsFirst is putting a whopping $73,000 towards saving Scott’s seat.
Snyder and Rhee are both freaked at the grassroots anger against Paul Scott. If Scott goes down, it’s a demonstration that you can’t get away with attacking public school teachers, even in relatively conservative areas of the country. If Scott goes down, it’ll show that Michiganders want their teachers to have a voice at the table, and that they don’t deserve to be treated like criminals.
Now, after every level of the Michigan judicial system has weighed in on the matter, Paul Scott will face the voters for his attacks on Michigan’s public school workers on November 8th.