You Have a Secret Weapon in this Election (Tell Your Friends)

It’s not news to anyone that the Koch brothers have billions to spend on influencing elections. But they only have two votes to cast between them. That’s where you come in.

Joyce and Karen Koch, aka the Koch Sisters (they’re not related to each other, or the Koch brothers, but are sisters where it counts), remind us on National Voter Registration Day that our power as people is in our voices and votes, if we use them.

Today, the Koch Sisters challenge you to find at least three people to register to vote.

It’s really easy to register, all it takes is a simple click (no tech savvy required).

Share this link and tell friends and family to register to vote today (even if you think you’re already registered, it doesn’t hurt to check to make sure your registration is up to date).

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Maine Gov. Paul LePage Afraid to Debate Steelworker Mike Michaud

Apparently Maine Gov. Paul LePage (you know, the guy who previously removed the labor mural from the Maine Department of Labor and said the state’s child labor laws were too burdensome for business) has indicated he will not debate his challenger in this election, United Steelworkers member Mike Michaud.

The Maine AFL-CIO reacted to LePage’s duck:

“Paul LePage has spent four years advocating for policies that harm working people, and now he won’t even face them in person,” said Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO. “No matter how many debates LePage ducks, there will be no hiding from his failed, divisive record of putting special interests and billionaire funders before working-class Mainers.”

Check out “6 Reasons Union Member Mike Michaud Is a Candidate Who Cares About Working Families.”

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Working Families See Big Wins in Tuesday’s Elections

Yesterday, working families saw major wins in the elections held in New York, Virginia, Boston, Ohio and New Jersey.

The impact of grassroots power was especially evident in the groundbreaking minimum wage increase in New Jersey.

In Boston, voters elected union member Marty Walsh (D) for mayor. In Virginia, a bellwether state, Terry McAuliffe (D) won the governorship. In Ohio, Cincinnati voters overwhelmingly–78% to 2%–defeated a city charter amendment that would have eliminated the defined benefit pension plan for newly hired city employees. And in New York City, voters elected Bill de Blasio, the first Democratic mayor in more than two decades.

Union City’s Chris Garlock spoke with Northern Virginia Area Labor Federation President Daniel Duncan who talked about the importance of working families turning out to vote, “We did our part in Northern Virginia and I’m just so proud of everyone who showed up and helped out.”

Garlock writes:

Union members, staff and leaders had crisscrossed the state yesterday in a final effort to turn out the labor vote for union-endorsed candidates. “No vote can be taken for granted,” said Roxie Mejia, director of Political Affairs for Painters and Allied Trades District Council 51. “Electing labor-friendly folks makes all the difference,” District Council 51 Business Agent Lynn Taylor said.

New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech reflects on the raise the wage campaign working families waged in New Jersey:

The New Jersey State AFL-CIO was proud to fight on the front lines of an epic battle to raise the state minimum wage, and did so as a founding partner of the statewide grassroots coalition Working Families United for New Jersey Inc., which united the efforts of 256 labor, community, religious, civil rights, student, progressive, women and retirees groups as part of the “Raise the Wage” campaign….Raising the minimum wage was an unequivocal victory for the labor movement that will give hardworking men and women a financial boost and raise the standard of living for all working families.

Read more from the New Jersey State AFL-CIO.

New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez says:

Today, New York City’s labor movement took a stand against 12 years of austerity politics that have taken precedence over the needs of everyday New Yorkers. Together with our affiliates, we took to the streets to make our voices heard, and together, we voted against policies and deals designed to favor the wealthy, while ignoring the needs of our cities working families….Throughout the five boroughs, residents cast their votes for Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio, a man who understands the severity of our city’s income equality problem, and who is ready to tackle that problem head-on.

In Washington State, another groundbreaking minimum wage increase ballot measure affecting more than 6,000 low-wage airport workers is currently leading, but votes are still being counted. The measure would increase the minimum wage for SeaTac workers to $15.00 an hour and would provide sick days and other benefits.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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5 Signs of Hope for Working Families In Yesterday’s New York City Elections

City Council candidate Carlos Menchaca

Local and municipal elections matter.

Just ask a service worker in Philadelphia who can’t afford to take a sick day because the city council was one vote short of overriding Mayor Michael Nutter’s veto of a paid sick days ordinance.

Or ask a retail worker in Washington, D.C., where the City Council is currently one vote short of a veto-proof majority in favor the Large Retail Accountability Act (LRAA), which would establish a living wage for big box retail workers.

You can also ask anyone who sends their child to public school in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has closed dozens of public schools, and where the city’s students are being moved around like chess pieces to make room for a pro-corporate education “reform” agenda.

Yes, city leaders of both parties have been too willing lately to kowtow to corporate interests over the needs of their constituents. But in last night’s New York City primary, there were some signs of hope for working families.


1.) Voters approved of plan to raise taxes on super-rich to pay for schools. To succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the richest people on the planet and a staunch defender of rich people’s interests, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio ran on a plan to raise taxes on New Yorkers making $500,000 or more and using the revenue to establish universal Pre-K. The plan was derided by Bloomberg and much of the the city’s wealthy elite.

But yesterday, de Blasio took 40 percent in a crowded primary, a sign that some of the folks in NYC making less than $500,000 a year (roughly, shall we say, 99 percent?) favor balancing out our tax system to bolster basic services.


2.) Opposition to earned paid sick days was a liability. The longtime expected frontrunner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, saw her support recede and then evaporate over the summer. Partly, because she was seen as the main obstacle to a paid sick days ordinance for New York City. The ordinance was introduced in 2010 but Quinn refused to bring it to a vote, saying that it would put “undue burden” on NYC businesses, according to the New York Times.

It took three years of pushing from a broad coalition, including the Working Families Party and well-known activist Gloria Steinem, to finally get Quinn to compromise on a sick days ordinance, which sailed through with overwhelming support. Yet her long-held intransigence, which she never truly explained, hurt her in the race, particularly with woman voters.

“We were pleased the bill finally passed,” says Donna Dolan, Executive Director of the New York Paid Leave Coalition, “But all I could think about when I was at the press conference was the number of people I met who had been fired in the past three-and-a-half years.” Voters apparently agreed, giving the once-frontrunner Quinn a third place finish.


3.) The real estate lobby spent big money to beat a local labor leader, but he won anyway. In a crowded primary for the Queens-based 27th council district, I. Daneek Miller came out on top last night. Miller is president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 and a supporter of affordable housing, so naturally the city’s powerful real-estate lobby was determined to stop him. A real-estate backed PAC spent $261,533 backing up one of Miller’s opponents, but Miller prevailed: the current count gives him a lead of 396 votes.

“There have been tough times for labor and working families,” Miller said last night, “The consensus is: we need a voice. Now we have that voice we set out to represent.”


4.) This 32 year-old won a huge upset in Brooklyn to become council’s first Mexican-American. Sara Gonzalez sat in Brooklyn’s 38th council district for decade, and regularly was a no-show at council meetings and public events. She may have expected a smooth reelection this time around. But Carlos Menchaca, a 32 year-old openly gay Latino community activist, unseated her last night by a 16-point margin. (“Men-shocka!” was the headline in The Brooklyn Paper.)

Menchaca will be the first openly gay elected official to represent Brooklyn and the first Mexican-American on the New York City Council. He was active with the Office of Emergency Management after Hurricane Sandy, especially in badly-damaged Red Hook.

“I’m going to be present. I’m going to be visible and vocal,” Menchaca told supporters last night, “I’m going to be someone that’s on the streets talking directly to the people of Sunset Park about your needs.”


5.) Pro-worker candidates won across the board. The New York Central Labor Council endorsed 43 candidates for City Council in run up to yesterday’s election. 39 of those candidates won outright last night, with two races (Kirsten John Foy in District 36 and Austin Shafran in District 5) still too close to call.

After 12 years of a Bloomberg Administration that was cold to outright hostile to New York’s labor community, it’s heartening to see advocates of working families have such a good night at the local level.

Bonus.) Dante de Blasio’s hair wins mayor’s race, observers say.

Check out this actual headline from USA Today. And this Twitter account. And this cartoon. We can’t remember the last time one person’s haircut played such a decisive role in an election.

What did you think of last night’s election? Let us know in the comments.

Photo of Carlos Menchaca by @lingene_1 on Twitter

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Pro-Working Family Candidate Unseats Entrenched Incumbent in Milwaukee

Source: via Working America on Pinterest

The big news on the cable channels last night was the continuing battle for the Republican presidential nomination. But down the ballot in Milwaukee, amidst the unprecedented Scott Walker-inspired anti-worker fervor, a community organizer defeated a longtime Alderman in a nearly overlooked upset.

Pro-working family candidate Jose Perez challenged three-term Alderman James Witkowiak on a platform of economic fairness. A lifelong Milwaukee resident, Perez worked in real estate, economic development, and with the faith community as Executive Director of MICAH, a social justice coalition of city congregations. He took the incumbent Witkowiak to task for voting against policies working families need – and won.

“The people of District 12 went to the polls to make a change,” said Working America State Director Peter Drummond. “Yesterday, they united across demographic lines to get good representation for their families and communities.” Witkowiak used to be popular in this district, in which 49 percent of registered voters self-identify as Latino and 43 percent identify as white.

Working America supported Perez against Witkowiak—who became a symbol of candidates who take labor’s support for granted even as they undermine basic tenets of economic fairness. “Working people are tired of politicians who claim to represent their interests and then vote against minimum job requirements such as a decent wage or the ability to earn time off for maternity leave. That’s not who they want representing District 12,” Drummond said.

This victory would be significant on its own, but think about what’s going on in Wisconsin right now. After six straight months of job loss in the state, major figures like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are standing fast with the incredibly divisive policies of Gov. Scott Walker. Since he has no evidence that his policies are good for Wisconsin, Walker is relying on millions of dollars in attack ads against workers and their unions. “There is a lot of poisonous rhetoric coming out of the right-wing noise machine,” Drummond said, “but, as evidenced yesterday, working families in District 12 know who stands with them and who doesn’t.”

So despite the endless attack ads on the airwaves, the vicious anti-worker agenda coming out of the Governor’s office, and the contentious political atmosphere in the state, this was at the end an election about bringing pro-worker leadership to a city that needs it now more than ever. “We shared our vision of Honesty, Integrity, and New Leadership for our Neighborhoods and the people of the 12th District responded clearly,” Perez wrote last night, “Tonight, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we get to work and begin bringing the leadership to City Hall that the people of the near south side truly deserve.”

The Milwaukee Area Labor Council, SEIU and We Are Milwaukee also played critical roles in this upset.

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The Republican Primary’s Parallel Universe

In case you couldn’t tell from the 20 debates, constant news coverage and firehose-like flow of ads, there’s a Republican presidential primary underway. But to listen to the candidates—particularly on the economy—you’d think they were running for president of a different planet, one eerily like ours but facing totally different problems.

Let us count the ways that the Republicans’ economic conversation is totally out of touch with actual reality here on Earth.

Clap louder, Mitt.

  • Jobs. At Wednesday’s debate, the word “jobs” was uttered hardly at all, and zero times by candidate Rick Santorum. In a larger sense, when these candidates talk about “creating jobs” they mean one thing: directing more money to the very wealthiest and to big corporations—through tax cuts or through removing regulations designed to protect consumers and workers. This might make a little bit of sense if the biggest problem facing the economy were corporations not having enough money. It’s not. The problem is a lack of consumer demand, because too few people have jobs and wages are falling behind.

  • Debt and Deficits. These aren’t the most important economic issue we face—continued too-high unemployment is. But by the standards of the Republicans’ own rhetoric, they’re important enough to serve as the basis for attacks and talking points. So it seems strange that the plans proposed by Romney, Santorum and Gingrich would increase the debt—and, more specifically, increase the debt by more than Obama’s proposals would. And they don’t build up this debt by investing in long-term needs: they do it by demolishing revenue through massive tax cuts aimed mostly at the wealthiest. Which brings us to…

  • Taxes. The public consensus is overwhelmingly clear—to afford the things we need, we should be able to ask a little bit more from the very richest than the current historic low rates. All of the Republican plans do exactly the opposite. For example, Romney’s plan would deliver a $264,000 tax cut to the top 0.1%. As economist Justin Wolfers noted, “Romney’s new tax plan is massively regressive relative to current code. Most of the spoils are going to the rich” – and the same is true of the other Republican candidates. And even as they propose these massive tax cuts for the wealthy, they propose devastating cuts to Medicaid and other programs that working-class people rely on. It’s redistribution, upwards.

  • Housing. In many ways this is the most baffling omission of all. In recent days, Republican candidates have been avoiding the subject entirely even as it’s clearly one of the most important factors in the financial crisis. A few months back in Nevada, Romney offered up “let it run its course and hit the bottom” as his solution to the foreclosure crisis (the housing version of “let Detroit go bankrupt”), though he softened how he talked about it in Florida a few weeks later. But mostly it’s been crickets and tumbleweeds. Forgive me if I’ve missed this, but has any Republican candidate, or even any Republican in Congress, weighed in on the mortgage-fraud settlement or the underlying issue of mass abuse of the foreclosure process?

Let’s not get into issues like the minimum wage, rebuilding infrastructure, keeping teachers in classrooms or protecting the freedom to form a union and collectively bargain—all issues that matter to our economy. We’d be naïve to expect this batch of Republican candidates to say anything constructive.

During Republican primaries, the candidates are pitching to a small audience, and their proposals are kept in line by harshly ideological enforcement mechanisms like talk radio’s Rush Limbaugh and the Wall Street-funded Club for Growth. But with their pledges and proposals now, they’re committing themselves to a totally fictional vision of the economy in the fall.

Out in the real world, Working America staff talk to around 20,000 people every week in neighborhoods across the country and stay in close contact with our members, so we have a pretty good sense of what a broad group of working- and middle-class people care about in this critical year. They want to make sure they can get and keep a good job, be covered if they get sick, send their kids to good schools, stay in their homes and retire with some security. I don’t know what world the Republican primary is taking place in, but it’s not the one where our members live.

(Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr.)

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A Paycheck and a Threat

How would you feel if you were in a lousy economy, working hard at a job that doesn’t pay well and doesn’t get a lot of respect, and then your boss told you who to vote for? That’s what happened at one Ohio McDonald’s.

Along with their recent paychecks, employees received a pamphlet from their employer on company letter head that stated “as the election season is here, we wanted you to know which candidates will help our business grow in the future.” While pointing out that the vote is the employee’s “personal decision,” the pamphlet explicitly states, “if the right people are elected we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above our present levels. If others are elected we will not.”

Think Progress notes:

In explicitly endorsing gubernatorial candidate John Kasich (R), Senate candidate Rob Portman (R), and House candidate Jim Renacci (R), the pamphlet — which was directly inside the envelope with the paycheck — appears to directly violate Ohio Revised Code regarding elections.

Must be a pretty scary thing to get in your paycheck, especially when unemployment in your state is at 10%.

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Military service brings issues to the frontline

by Tommy Todd—Missouri

The other night, I met a Marine who had just returned from a two year tour in Iraq. When I started to talk to him about the issues, he stopped me and said that he was a Republican. What he said next was quite a shock: This election, he was going to vote for whichever Democratic candidate gets the nomination.

The people he met through military service and the things he saw while he was deployed had all culminated in him realizing what is really important: To take care of our own. Making sure that health care is affordable, that we are keeping good jobs here in America, and that we’re providing a first class education for every child.

It’s amazing how the experiences people go through can change their outlooks on life.

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The click

by Phil McCahill—Pennsylvania

“I remember you!” the young man said as he opened the screen door and stepped out on his front porch to greet me. I remembered him, too, from my first time getting involved with Working America in 2006.

“Yeah, you came by with another guy to endorse Jason Altmire for Congress. I wasn’t too involved, but you convinced me.”

It was all very new to me at the time of those pre-election evenings, but it felt so very vital. Almost 2 years later, I saw the results of those nights, now walking the same streets with Sharpie-covered hands and shooting out more words a night than most folks go through in a week.

“I’m very happy with Jason Altmire and think it’s really cool that you are doing this.”

The idea of being able to influence reality in some beneficial way is what motivates our minds and muscles to do things that matter.

“Thank you,” I told him as he took my clipboard and renewed his membership with Working America. It’s the perpetual head click that hits with absolute certainty that this is a part of Working America in action.

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