But Fallucca is still refusing to meet with the organizing committee of the Palermo Workers Union, reinstate fired workers or recognize the union.
Workers from Palermo’s Pizza have been on strike since June 1, protesting unfair labor practices. The workers are seeking union recognition and reinstatement after Palermo’s fired more than 75 workers. Many workers at Palermo’s face serious health hazards, have no sick days and make little more than the minimum wage. After more than three months of striking, Palermo’s workers are more energized than ever.
We’ve written a lot about Rep. Paul Ryan in this space, well before this weekend’s announcement that Mitt Romney would select him as the vice presidential nominee. The reason we spend so much time on Ryan is that his worldview and his proposals are the official agenda of the Republican Party—confirmed by the House Republicans passing his budget earlier this year. Ryan has spent his life in politics and is the model of the big ideological shift in Republican economic policy over that time. Romney’s pick only cements how important a player Ryan is in the debate over what kind of country we’ll have.
A quick look through the things Ryan has proposed show where his priorities lie. There are big benefits for the richest, and nothing but pain for middle-class and working-class people. In Ryan’s America, you’re on your own.
The centerpiece of the Ryan agenda is his plan to end—yes, end—Medicare. Ryan calls it a plan to “save” Medicare. Back in the real world, you can ice a pile of dirt and stick candles in it, but you can’t do that and say you’ve “saved birthday cake.”
Here’s the simple explanation: right now, Medicare is a guarantee—a program that offers coverage to every senior citizen, regardless of their economic background. It’s popular, it’s effective, and it keeps seniors out of poverty. Ryan claims his plan “protects” Medicare, but what it actually does is replace the guarantee with a voucher that seniors will use to buy their own insurance in the private market. Older people require more care and face higher health risks, so they’re more expensive to insure, especially in the individual market—the reason Medicare works is that it’s social insurance, which everyone pays into, and where a huge pool of beneficiaries helps distribute costs. Additionally, the value of the vouchers declines relative to health care costs over time, so that more and more will be paid out of retirees’ pockets.
Anyone who has ever had to deal with the private insurance market, raise your hand if you would like to rely on it—using a voucher of ever-decreasing value—when you’re no longer employed and most in need of health care? Yup, I thought so.
Last night on “60 Minutes,” Romney and Ryan sat together for an interview, and Romney said two things about Medicare that, taken together, are a pretty clear tell: he said that on the one hand, their plan would just mean “more choices,” and on the other hand, he insisted that people over 55 wouldn’t be affected. Which leads us to an important question: if all their Medicare plan represents is “more choices” and it saves Medicare, why wait? If it’s really going to be a good thing, why not give current retires and those near retirement the benefit of the change? Why reassure older people that Medicare won’t change if the plan really “protects” Medicare? The answer, of course, is that the plan means less care and more costs for beneficiaries, and they don’t want to take the political risk of imposing more cost and less care right away.
Speaking of eroding guarantees, Ryan is also one of the architects of Social Security privatization. His plan was the model for the proposal that President Bush tried, and failed, to push through in 2005. It would have diverted funds out of Social Security and into the stock market.
Anyone who lived through 2008, and saw what the market crash did to your 401k or your home value, raise your hand if you thought to yourself, “Gee, if only my Social Security had been invested in the market, too.” Anyone?
Let’s move on to taxes. Another major part of Ryan’s budget is a plan to completely eliminate taxes on investments, meaning that only work would be subject to income tax. That’s a huge boon to the very richest—CEOs, wealthy heirs, and financial industry executives especially. Let’s take Mitt Romney as an example: under a Ryan-style tax plan, Romney would pay a tax rate of less than 1 percent. The Joint Economic Committee of Congress estimates that the richest 1 percent would get a $238,000 tax cut under Ryan’s plan, while the top 0.1 percent would get a tax cut of more than $1.1 million. That’s where the savings from Ryan’s changes to Medicare would go—higher costs for seniors on fixed incomes, lower taxes for multi-millionaires.
Going beyond Medicare and taxes, Ryan’s budget is pretty hard on all the other stuff the federal government does, too. And by “all the other stuff” I mean things like schools, roads, Pell Grants for college, food inspection, and food stamps, to name a few. Those are programs that employ people, put money in working-class people’s pockets, and help keep America growing over the long term.
It’s no wonder that the Ryan budget has been described as “the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history,” one that would cause “an even wider gap between the very well-off and everyone else.”
Raise your hand if you think that solves any of the problems America faces. Anyone?
The AFL-CIO endorsed a nationwide boycott of Palermo’s Pizza (Palermo Villa Inc.) in response to the company’s blatant disregard of its workers’ choice to form a union. The boycott covers Palermo’s brand pizza, “Classics” brand pizza and private-label brand frozen pizza produced by Palermo’s, includingCostco’s Kirkland brand. This endorsement is part of the continued support for the efforts of the Palermo Workers Union by the United Steelworkers and the AFL-CIO, community and immigrant rights groups like Voces de la Frontera and students from the United States Student Association, the nation’s largest and oldest student-led organization.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:
The twelve million union families of the AFL-CIO are proud to stand with these Wisconsin workers who have bravely joined together for a voice on the job….Their courage and strength are a model for working people around the country whose rights are being violated and voices silenced. We hope that this boycott will encourage Palermo to finally respect its workers who work so hard for them every day.
Workers from Palermo’s, a large frozen pizza manufacturer in Milwaukee, have been on strike since June 1, 2012, to protest unfair labor practices. After the workers requested that Palermo’s recognize their union and bargain with them over serious workplace problems, Palermo’s fired more than 75 workers. Many workers at Palermo’s face serious health hazards, have no sick days and make little more than the minimum wage.
Raul De la Torres, a Palermo’s worker, said,
Everyone—workers, consumers and the community—have a reason to be very concerned about Palermo’s actions. It’s shameful the company still refuses to recognize the workers’ concerns or hear the voices of the community.
A second judge issued a permanent injunction for Act 23, Wisconsin’s voter suppression law, ensuring that the policy will not be in effect for the General Election in November. If left unchecked, Act 23 would have remained one of the most restrictive voting laws in the country.
Dane County Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan ruled the law unconstitutional on Tuesday, saying that the requirement to show specific state-issued photo ID in order to vote creates a “substantial impairment to the right to vote.”
Kenneth Mayer, a political scientist for University of Wisconsin-Madison, estimated that 301,000 Wisconsinites do not have the ID that Act 23 requires voters to show at the polls. This law could have effectively disenfranchised 9.3 percent of registered voters in the state, including:
17 percent of white men and women
55 percent of African-American men and 49 percent of African-American women
46 percent of Hispanic men and 59 percent of Hispanic women
78 percent of African-American men age 18-24 and 66 percent of African-American women age 18-24
Act 23 was in effect for one Wisconsin election: the presidential primaries in February. It was during that election that Gil Paar, an Air Force veteran from Racine, was not allowed to use his VA card as sufficient ID:
Judge Flanagan is following up on a temporary injunction he issued in March, an action he took because according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel “the plaintiffs – the Milwaukee branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera – were likely to succeed in their arguments.” Another judge, Richard Niess, also issued a permanent injunction in March.
We are incredibly grateful to the efforts of advocates like the NAACP and Voces de la Frontera for creating the conditions for this judicious action to protect the voting rights of Wisconsinites. In other states, groups like the League of Women Voters, ACLU, and our brothers and sisters in the AFL-CIO are engaged in legal and advocacy battles to restore the rights threatened by the coordinated, nationwide, corporate-backed, GOP-lead War on Voting.
Palermo’s Pizza workers in Milwaukee, are marking one month on strike with two events this week.
The first event took place this afternoon at Palermo’s Pizza corporate headquarters at 3301 West Canal St. in Milwaukee where 150 workers dropped off petitions with 15,000 signatures calling on Palermo’s to stop the harassment. The workers, joined by local unions, faith leaders, community members and students, delivered stacks of signed petitions to management in pizza boxes as a “special delivery,” calling for the company to reinstate strikers without retaliation and honor the labor dispute. Palermo’s Pizza allowed only one person to drop off the petitions so 8-year-old Daniella, a daughter of one of the workers, dropped the petitions at the feet of two police officers standing by the door.
Palermo’s Pizza workers are demanding recognition for their union and seeking reinstatement of workers who were terminated for organizing and protesting the company’s unlawful conduct under federal labor laws, which is the subject of charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Their goal is to meet with the company to discuss workplace problems, including significant health and safety concerns and unfair treatment.
Thursday at 1 p.m., also outside Palermo’s Pizza headquarters, the workers will hold a “Sick of Working Sick” press conference on the lack of paid sick days. Palermo’s Pizza workers will join with the national membership organization9to5, a leader in the fight for paid sick days.
The people of Wisconsin may not see eye-to-eye on many recent political issues but one issue that most people can agree on is outsourcing. In a state like ours where manufacturing has been a major part of the economy throughout history, shipping jobs overseas has been a blow to nearly every Wisconsin community.
But here’s what you may not know: Current tax loopholes actually incentivize moving overseas for companies, while doing nothing to support companies that move back to the United States from abroad. Those tax incentives encouraged and rewarded 47 companies in Southeastern Wisconsin alone to move operations overseas – while doing very little for a company like Master Lock as it moved 100 jobs back to Milwaukee.
With such a large manufacturing base and a steady loss of jobs in the state the impact of outsourcing reaches just about everyone. Our organizers hear daily from members who either lost their job to outsourcing or know someone who did. The effects are so enormous that between 1994 and 2011 Wisconsin lost over 81,000 manufacturing jobs. A majority of those workers were certified as having lost jobs due to imports and offshoring.
Members from across the state have voiced their support for the Bring Jobs Home Act, a bill that would eliminate the tax loopholes for companies moving out of the country and reward them for bringing jobs back.
Vivian, a Working America member from Oshkosh, said, “We all want the American Dream: job, family, home and a good life. You cannot have this without a good job.”
As corporate greed increases, the American dream is disappearing. The current generation faces higher unemployment and lower wages even though they are better educated than those before them. This is first generation that will not be better off than their parents.
As Working America member Chris from Brown Deer put it, “Until we eliminate the incentives that corporations have to send high-paying, full-time jobs overseas, we will continue to suffer as a nation.”
Even now, corporate profits continue to soar and wages continue to decline; corporate CEO’s are more concerned about their bank accounts than they are about the people whose livelihoods depend on earning a decent wage. We need to reward companies that do the right thing instead of paying them to move jobs overseas. The Bring Jobs Home Act helps us move away from the “profits before people” mentality to make sure that the people of this country have the ability to buy the goods we are selling.
The thing is, many of these corporations that we pay to ship jobs away were made in America. They began here, found success here and they should be proud to attach “Made in America” to their products.
Working America canvassers are pounding the pavement every day to fight for jobs and democracy. But according to Washington Post inside-the-Beltway columnist Dana Milbank, the labor and progressive movement is “in the fetal position.” “The failed gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin showed that momentum is against Democrats and their allies,” he writes.
Since June 5th, we’ve lost count of the number of Very Serious opinion pieces about the demise of the labor movement. Outside the DC bubble, however, it’s a different story. Using new tactics and old-fashioned gumption, workers are standing up all over the country, putting their jobs on the line, and advocating for a better life.
Here are three such instances that you didn’t hear anything about:
• 1,200 Poultry Workers Win Union Representation in Alabama. Bet you didn’t think we’d start in Alabama! But in the traditionally anti-union Deep South, workers at the Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Russellville voted overwhelmingly on June 12 to join the RWDSU, the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union. “The workers at Pilgrim’s Pride know they deserve better and have proven there is a better way,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum, “This resounding vote will be heard by poultry workers throughout the South as a message of hope.”
The key issue at Pilgrim’s Pride weren’t wages and benefits, but perhaps the more deep-seeded issue of respect: the right to redress grievances and have input into the operation of the plant. “We had no respect from management, and absolutely no voice in anything that affected us,” said sanitation worker Cheryl Kowalski.
The folks at Pilgrim’s Pride didn’t take kindly to the unionization attempts. According to RWDSU, . The company held weeks of captive audience meetings where they threatened massive layoffs and hinted at the possibility of plant closure if the workers voted for the union. Desperate to cut off dialogue between workers, the company booked conference rooms at nearby hotels to try to deprive the workers of a meeting space. But after a month of this, says poultry production worker Sharon Hill, “I knew we were going to win – I could see it in the employees’ eyes…We finally had hope in the plant that someone would help us.” The final vote was 706 to 292.
Workers’ rights – 1. Desperate anti-union tactics – Zero.
• Kaplan ESL Teachers in New York Join the Newspaper Guild. The education company Kaplan, Inc. made $2.5 billion in revenues last year, yet their employees were having trouble getting paid time off for sickness and navigating the complex compensation system. Professional tutors, many with masters degrees, were getting paid “at an assortment of illogical hourly rates as low as the $7.25 minimum wage,” said Newspaper Guild President Bill O’Meara.
Teachers at three Manhattan Kaplan centers voted 2-to-1 to join the Newspaper Guild of New York, Local 31003, CWA. “This is, of course, a great day for teachers at Kaplan,” said Kaplan teacher Danny Valdes. “But I hope that this shows teachers that we can increase standards industry-wide by coming together to organize.”
Recently management has come down hard on the workers, using the threat of immigration audits to intimidate the mostly Latino workforce. “The company has used the issue of an ICE audit and the process involved in that as a means to bust the union organizing drive,” says Voces de la Frontera Executive Director Neumann-Ortiz, “in addition to other forms of retaliation.” Palermo’s is also allegedly firing workers who participate in the strike, which is illegal.
60 to 80 percent of Palermo’s workforce is on strike, and a diverse coalition of Wisconsinites who just put their governor up for recall is standing with them. On Tuesday, the Catholic social justice advocates “Nuns on a Bus” rallied with the striking workers, and Riverwest Cooperative Grocery Store just announced a boycott of Palermo’s products. The national pressure on Palermo’s to act is building.
Since he took office, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has tried to break worker solidarity. In fact, the bill that started it all, the union-busting Act 10, sought to peel off public safety workers from other public employees by exempting police and firefighters from the collective bargaining restrictions.
Of course, we now know that this was a deliberate move on Walker’s part. In a now infamous video, Walker described his plan to “divide and conquer” Wisconsin workers to one of his billionaire backers, Diane Hendricks. Not only was he trying to divide public safety and other public employees, he was trying to slice and dice all working people to further erode our collective bargaining rights, wages, benefits, and opportunities for legal recourse.
“Scott Walker’s divisive tactics and his drastic cuts to public safety funding will make Wisconsin’s communities and the officers that police them less safe,” claimed NAPO President Thomas Nee in a Barrett campaign statement.
“Tom Barrett will bring people together to ensure that Wisconsin stays a safe place in which to live, work, and raise family.”
As our Working America members in Wisconsin have told us, one of the biggest moments of the 2011 protests was when police and firefighters joined in solidarity with the marches in Madison, even though the union-busting bill would not have included them. It was a signal that even in this day and age, we still believe in solidarity: that an attack on one is an attack on all.
NAPO’s endorsement is also a recognition that the ramifications of the Wisconsin recall don’t end at the state border. Law enforcement officials nationwide are beginning to question why the Republicans they have traditionally supported are now attacking their rights, wages, and benefits (just ask Ohioans, who smacked down Gov. John Kasich’s attempt to cut collective bargaining for Ohio police and firefighters in a double-digit referendum last November).
As the Republican Party moves closer to a complete subsidiary of their corporate sponsors, the folks that patrol our streets and protect our communities are moving to support their brethren – across state borders and nationwide.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and her allies in the state legislature are seeking to use millions of dollars intended for struggling homeowners to pay for prison construction and tax cuts instead, echoing a policy put in place earlier this year in Wisconsin by Governor Scott Walker.
Remember the $26 billion foreclosure settlement, the one agreed upon by the five biggest banks and 49 state Attorneys General? As one of the hardest hit states, Arizona is getting $1.6 billion, as well as an additional $97.7 million to be overseen by the office of Attorney General Tom Horne, to be used for “housing counselors, legal aid, hotlines, and to help stressed homeowners with their payments.”
Two main things to understand about these funds: they are wildly insufficient given the scale of the problem, but all the same they are extremely crucial. In March, Arizona had the highest foreclosure rate in the country, according to RealtyTrac, with 9,497 foreclosures. If any state needs all the help it can get when it comes to homeowner education, assistance, and relief, it’s Arizona.
Even so, Governor Brewer and Republican state legislators want to siphon $50 million from those funds to “relieve pressure on the budget.” So in other words, use money intended to help homeowners for…other things.
Lawmakers say the money amounts to a pricey outreach and education fund. It won’t hurt to take half of it, House Speaker Andy Tobin said.
“We’re using the funds to relieve the pressure on the budget,” said Tobin, R-Paulden. Those stresses range from a push to replace welfare dollars lost to federal budget cuts to prison construction, he said.
How is this justified? You can thank a loophole in the settlement language, which says the funds can be used “to compensate the state for costs resulting from the alleged unlawful conduct of the defendants.” Arizona lawmakers like House Speaker Tobin are claiming that since foreclosure fraud hurt homeowners, which in turn hurt tax revenues and by extension the state budget, they can use the money for whatever they damn well please.
They can make this logical jump without acknowledging a.) that the big banks committed any actual fraud, or b.) that maybe Gov. Brewer’s $538 million tax handouts to businesses has anything to do with budget problems.
In February, Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen decided to use $25.6 million of Wisconsin’s share of the foreclosure fraud settlement to plug holes in his state budget. For justification, he used the very same loophole in the settlement language:
“Just like communities and individuals have been affected, the foreclosure crisis has had an effect on the state of Wisconsin, in terms of unemployment. . . . This will offset that damage done to the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said.
A week later, Missouri followed suit, taking $40 million from their share for the state’s general fund. Ohio decided to allocate $75 million meant for homeowner assistance to actually demolish vacant homes. South Carolina legislators insidiously pushed for using $31 million of settlement funds for corporate tax breaks.
Of all the horrific policies that have come out of the offices of governors like Walker in the past two years, this is one of the worst – and the most under-reported. With Walker and Brewer giving out huge tax handouts to businesses, cutting services and education, and then dipping into foreclosure fraud assistance to pay for their bad decisions, they are no different than a modern day Bonnie and Clyde. Robbery in multiple steps is still robbery, even if you’re a governor.
The actions of Governor Scott Walker and his allies in the legislature have made existing political divisions in Wisconsin even more acute; we don’t expect the polarization to be alleviated any time soon as the May 8 and June 5 recall elections approach.
Part of the debate, and indeed part of the Republican strategy, is to question the validity of holding a recall election in the first place. Wisconsin Republican Party spokesman Stephan Thompson referred to the recalls as “baseless,” and that the elections are being “forced” upon the state.
In using this language, Thompson, Walker, and their colleagues clearly haven’t heard the voices of Wisconsinites. Let’s look at the facts: Eighteen states allow for the recalls of public officials. Of those states, Wisconsin has one of the highest thresholds for triggering a recall. In the case of the last successful gubernatorial recall, California in 2003, those recalling Gov. Gray Davis had 160 days to gather signatures from 12 percent of those who voted for governor in the previous election.
In Wisconsin over this past year organizers, had to gather signatures from 25 percent of the votes cast for Walker in 2010 in only 60 days. That number was about 540,000 – and Wisconsinites gathered over 930,000.
Truthfully, the recall mechanism is intended for emergencies, and Wisconsin has deemed Scott Walker an emergency.
Still, the opposition messaging has broken through with some. Last week, the Racine Journal Timespublished a letter from resident Marian Andersen. “The recall is a travesty on democracy,” Andersen wrote. Andersen went on to claim that the push for the recall is by “state employees” – which begs the question of where the other 700,000 plus signatures came from.
Working America member Pam Simpson saw Andersen’s letter and decided to respond. The next day, the Journal Times published Simpson’s letter, titled “Walker is in it only for himself.”
Walker is in it only for himself
I am writing in response to a letter to the editor from Marian Andersen published on Sunday. In that letter, Marian states that “the recall is a travesty on democracy.” In running for governor of our state, Scott Walker lied, withheld information and misled many individuals. He was and is in it for himself — to follow the Koch brothers’ orders and work for ALEC. A recall is a perfect example of democracy in action.
He has brought “dirty” politics into our state. Among the damage is the harming of our children’s education. He has attempted to redirect money meant for other things to cover up his lie of a “balanced budget” — attempting to obtain money meant for health care for low-income families and for homeowners who had faced foreclosure. He was only stopped because the federal government forced him to. A recall is certainly appropriate here.
He has undermined collective bargaining; he has turned back the clock on equal pay for women, etc. He is not fighting for us; he is fighting for big business and for the Koch brothers. He talks about buses of people being brought into the state — “union thugs” as he likes to call them. But he has to go all over the country looking for money to help defend himself in his legal battles — those who are very close to him being under investigation.
I am counting on the recall to be successful so we can get back to normal Wisconsin politics.
Like many of her friends and neighbors, Pam Simpson sees the Walker agenda for what it is. Walker’s campaign rhetoric of jobs and more restrained government never materialized; instead, the Governor and his allies have devoted their time to a radical, anti-worker agenda with the singular goal of gaining and maintaining power for both himself and his corporate backers.
Yes, recall elections are for emergencies only – that’s why it’s so hard to trigger one. And with over 930,000 signatures in hand, Wisconsin is well within its rights to pull the fire alarm.