Nearly 47 years ago, civil rights activists of different races, ages and walks of life were attacked by armed officers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., as they marched for racial justice. This day became known as Bloody Sunday.
If you can’t be there in person, you can be there online. Click here to sign a pledge of solidarity with the marchers and tell us why you are joining the virtual march. Your comments will be shared with the marchers on the ground so they know there are tens of thousands standing with them.
As AFL-CIO Executive Vice president Arlene Holt Baker says, “The onslaught of coordinated attacks on workers’ rights, voting rights, public education and immigration reform is an affront to our democracy.”
There’s a bigger question at play here than who wins the prettier headline on a Beltway paper tomorrow, and it’s a question we’re sure to keep fighting about all year. It’s “what is the economy for, anyway?”
It’s a good question, because how you measure the answer says a lot about what you think we need to do to fix it. Do we measure the economy purely by whether a line on a chart is pointing up or down? Do we measure it by whether the very wealthiest people are able to make themselves endlessly wealthier? Or is the health of “the economy” measured by something a little more tangible, a little broader?
You don’t have to pretend President Obama has been perfect on every issue facing working people to notice that there’s a difference in how he and Republican candidate Mitt Romney talk about the auto rescue program—a program that, largely, has worked to keep the industry alive and make it profitable again. While Romney used his time in Michigan to bash the auto rescue as a “bailout” for unions and push an economic agenda that would shift money away from Medicaid into upper-class tax cuts, Obama defended the auto rescue as part of an economy where we all have a stake in each other’s success.
You know why the “bailout for unions” storyline completely collapses under examination? Because union members—the people who, after all, built these companies—gave up a lot to save them. They made concessions on wages, benefits and retiree pensions. They offered to lose things that they had fought and bargained for because they wanted to protect the industry not just for them but for workers after them. It will not be easy to win back the things that were promised them, things they let go at personal cost. As the president said, that’s actual sacrifice. That’s not the action of a greedy special interest looking to loot the taxpayer, that’s the action of a group of people who understand what “the economy” really means.
If you think “the economy” is purely about the bank accounts of the 1%, maybe a program like the auto rescue doesn’t make a lot of sense. But if—like our members do—you think of the “the economy” as meaning how we’re all doing, then saving those jobs, for the past three years and for the future, is vital.
When the people we talk to talk about the economy, they mean something simple. Can I get a job? Can I stay out of debt, feed my family, and not go bankrupt if I get sick? Will I and my neighbors be able to stay in our homes? Will my kids be able to get a decent education and build a life for themselves? After a lifetime of hard work, will I be able to retire? Candidates of both parties need to look at what they’re saying about “the economy” and figure out how it answers those questions.
United Steelworkers (USW) Local 207L members ratified by a 2-to-1 margin a new five-year contract with Cooper Tire and Rubber Company The vote ends a three-month lockout at the company’s Findlay, Ohio tire plant.
USW Local 207L President Rodney Nelson says:
We are proud to have remained united and delivered a fair contract, despite Cooper’s best attempts to divide us.
The workers were locked out by Cooper on Nov. 28, despite the union’s good-faith offer to continue working under the terms of the previous agreement while negotiations toward a new one proceeded, says USW District 1 Director Dave McCall.
Cooper needs to acknowledge that its loyal, productive and efficient USW workforce is the company’s most valuable asset in Findlay and treat them with the respect and dignity they have earned. For many years, Cooper was a good example of how workers and management could work together toward common goals and the greater good of the community.
Several Cooper Tire workers and Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers (BCTGM) locked out by American Crystal Sugar just ended a 1,000 mile Journey for Justice. The group traveled from American Crystal offices near Fargo, N.D., to Cooper Tire’s headquarters in Findlay.
The journey highlighted the corporate greed that marks their lockouts, and the growing drive by corporate CEOs to drive down wages and benefits to pad their own pockets. Says Teresa Brown, a 12-year Cooper employee:
We set out to spread the message that we must stand together to make a difference, and we sent that message loud and clear. Our fight and the fight for justice for thousands of other workers continues every day.
Adds Becki Jacobson, a 30-year American Crystal worker from Moorhead, Minn.:
The support we’ve received over the last five days has strengthened my resolve to keep up our fight for a fair contract.
As this video shows, 2009 was a time of great uncertainty for Michigan’s autoworkers. It closed out a decade of enormous economic pain for the state – 27 percent of all private sector jobs lost in America since 2000 have been from Michigan. But thanks to decisive action and the restructuring agreements between the government and management, as well as the great sacrifices of unionized auto workers, the American auto industry is once again profitable, and is giving a lift our whole economy.
This is great for 99 Percent of us, but not so great for one man: Mitt Romney. The presidential candidate suggested in a 2008 op-ed that the best way to handle the auto industry would be to “let Detroit go bankrupt.” This wasn’t a small part of the piece: the title of the op-ed was “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
Let’s look back and see how right Romney was:
If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.
But what about the workers, who depend on their jobs in the auto industry to pay for groceries and support their families? Romney refers to them here:
A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs.
He closed out with:
In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.
Look, no one is saying that Romney should have been able to predict the future. But what comes across so clearly in this op-ed is Romney’s callousness and disregard for the workers who would be most affected by the industry’s fate.
We’ve come to expect a level of enmity towards union workers from Republican candidates – it’s no surprise given their corporate sponsors – but in this case it’s extra offensive. One of the key reasons the auto industry survived was the givebacks and sacrifices made by UAW workers: freezing wages, waiving the right to strike for six years, reduced pay and benefits for new hires, and more.
It’s very unlucky now for Mitt Romney that his presidential campaign rests on the votes of those same Michigan workers who are now receiving paychecks thanks to the sacrifices they made in 2009 and 2010, the “excess labor” Romney wanted to “shed.” I wonder if he’ll refer to them as “excess labor” when he is pleading for their votes over the next two days.
Last year, Pennsylvania residents saw drastic budget cuts to very important resources and services. K-12 public education was cut by $860 million. Health care and programs that help Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens were cut by $651 million. At a critical time when many are still out of work, it would seem that now would be an ideal time to put more resources in to the community; however, we are seeing the exact opposite of that. On Feb. 7th, Gov. Corbett laid out his plan for the Pennsylvania 2012-2013 state budget which includes even more cuts.
We are still seeing the devastation caused by last year’s budget. School districts like Chester Upland ran out of money half way through the school year and many more are on the brink of financial emergency. While citizens in the state are doing their best to recover from last year’s cuts, there are now even more cuts that have been piled on top. The truth of the matter is this; most of these cuts that have been implemented and currently being proposed do not have to occur. 70 percent of corporations in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania currently do not pay income tax because of the Delaware tax loophole. Corporations have been able to escape paying income tax by simply having their headquarters (or in many cases P.O. box) in Delaware. By closing this loophole, additional revenue would be created that could restore many key programs and services in Pennsylvania.
Working America members are coming together to take action to stand up to these devastating cuts. On February 21st, three Working America members met to discuss the budget, how it’s impacting their neighborhoods, and ways to take a stand and fight back. They’ve written letters to their state legislators and are talking to family, friends, and neighbors to shed light on the inequality that is taking place. The budget cuts hit Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable communities the hardest.
Karen, from Northeast Philadelphia, has experienced firsthand the impact of the budget cuts. She has been diligently striving to find work for the past 16 months. “I am terrified about what will happen to me and my two children if I do not find work soon,” Karen says. In addition, she is also disheartened that key programs are being cut that have helped her family stay afloat during this recession. “I can’t believe that they would cut programs like Medicaid, LIHEAP, and CRISIS. These programs help families like mine keep healthy and stay warm during the cold winter months.”
Vicki, a retired teacher says, “I have worked for 35 years with special needs children. I have a grandson that qualifies for early intervention programs. Fortunately for me, he lives in a state where he will be able to get the attention he needs.” She shares that she is deeply concerned for those children who will not get the proper attention needed as a result of these continued cuts. She knows that these programs are vitally important. “I am particularly disturbed about what these cuts will mean to our youngest students in Pennsylvania as 100 million is being cut from full day kindergarten.”
“I have seen both friends and neighbors trying to take care of their families in this economic downsizing but it has been difficult since many are currently unemployed,” says Terry, a retired clerical worker. Terry has gotten involved so that she can give something positive back to her country and community. “I feel privileged to be giving something back so that generations to come will benefit.
Vicki, Terry, and Karen have this in common. They want to make their communities a better place in which to live both now and for future generations. They are each taking active steps to make that dream a reality by standing up for equality.
Welcome to Friday, Working America! We started the week by celebrating our Presidents, but by the end of the week we were cheering for the power of the people.
We had a bittersweet (temporary) end to the story about unemployment insurance: the House and Senate voted to extend UI for a full year, but included some caveats that really stink. Seth detailed the good, the bad, and the ugly of the payroll tax/UI “compromise” – notice the use of heavy quotes.
But we left the Beltway and traveled to Marcus Hook on the Pennsylvania-Delaware border, where our Field Manager Ruth Oditt told the heartbreaking story of canvassing in a town where jobs are disappearing. Her post reminds all of us of why we fight so hard for jobs: with work comes not just a paycheck, but also purpose and dignity.
Across the country, we covered the Journey for Justice: the Steelworkers and BCTGM workers who are marching 1,000 miles across the rust belt to raise awareness of the worker lockouts at Cooper Tire in Ohio and American Crystal Sugar in Minnesota. Just yesterday, we got the word that Cooper Tire and USW had reached a tentative agreement. While this is a great first step, the journey isn’t over, and the lockout at American Crystal Sugar continues. We’ll keep you updated with news as it happens.