Aljazeera America reports that Senator Bernie Sanders and progressive allies in the Senate and House are proposing a new measure to help working Americans. The Workplace Democracy Act would make it easier for employees to unionize. It would also require that employers negotiate with unions within 10 days of a request to negotiate. This measure is a good thing, but it’s more of a political statement than a realistic attempt to change law. Republicans control the House and Senate, and they are very pro-employer. That said, Democrats and Independents like Sanders need to present a new vision for how working people will be treated. This bill along with the Fight for $15 is part of that vision.
P.S. John Nichols of The Nation connects this issue to changes in the TPP and other international agreements that protect the right of workers to form unions.
Laura Clawson of Daily Kos looks at the dilemma faced by labor unions in the upcoming Democratic primary. Most experts still think that Hilary Clinton will win the nomination. That view is opposed by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which supports Bernie Sanders. Unions will have to walk a tightrope in making endorsements. Many see Sanders as more pro-union. That said, Clinton has supported unions as well and has called for an increase in the minimum wage.
I’m a big fan of Bernie Sanders. However, if Hilary Clinton is the nominee, I would happily support her. Given our current political climate, the Democrats are the only real alternative to a party that is anti-union and opposes raising the minimum wage.
Today the U.S. Senate voted to give the President “fast-track” authority to pass a new, comprehensive trade agreement with Asia-Pacific countries (better known as the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership/TTP). U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has fought this measure. He notes that similar trade deals have led to a decline of the middle class and wealth inequality in America. TTP could make these problems worse. Sanders notes that American workers will now have to compete with workers in Vietnam, where the minimum wage is 56 cents an hour. Who wins this game? Major corporations and the billionaires who invest in them. Who loses? Look in the mirror.
The TTP has not been approved by either the Senate or the House. What happened today means it will likely pass the Senate. One thing we can count on: Bernie Sanders will keep fighting for working people and the middle class.
Today in the Washington D.C., Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said he did not believe in the minimum wage and compared it to welfare. Instead, he wants to increase the earned income tax credit to help the poor. He didn’t explain how a person making less money would be helped by the credit.
Huffington Post, which reported Senator Alexander’s comment, offered a second article examining the ways employers evade paying the minimum wage. One method of doing this is by classifying employers in a way gets around the law, including calling them contractors, which also lets employers dodge tax obligations. Between 2004 and 2011, the number of federal suits related to the minimum wage has nearly doubled.
What is the value of work? We need to answer that question, especially in a time when unemployment makes many low wage, low skill workers open to exploitation. Justice and morality require a minimum wage – except for Senators from Tennessee.
As reported in Daily Kos, camera-loving senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, has introduced a national right to work [for less] bill. The real purpose of this bill, like the ones passed at the state level, is to gut unions. Paul claims that closed shop rules hurt workers' freedom by making them pay dues to unions that negotiate their contracts and protect their rights. However, isn't any individual free to work in any non-union [lower paid] position she wishes? Paul says every worker deserves “freedom of association” by which he means freedom not to join a union. His concern is not the individual, unless that person is a CEO of a large corporation.
The real problem is that Paul and other servants of corporate wealth have worked for decades to gut the “freedom of association” that enables workers join in a union. Laws have been passed that make organizing more and more difficult. Large corporations and small companies intimidate organizers and pay off other workers to bash unions. The corporate megaphones of conservative talk radio and Fox News have turned “union” into a dirty word for many American who can’t think critically and are ignorant of history.
When union membership was highest, so were wages of the working and middle classes. As union membership has fallen over the last three decades, so have wages. Maybe Senator Paul has confused poverty with freedom. The American people need to wake up and stop listening to lies that only serve to make the rich richer.
The Nation’s John Nichols reports that the U.S. Post Office is a target for major cost and job cuts. However, these cuts will not be needed if relatively simple reforms are made. A group of Senators, led by Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is advocating reforms to the USPS pension system (which collects too much money) and restructuring of service, which will enable post offices to earn more revenue. That’s a good jobs program, one that will pay for itself while letting the post office provide its customers better service. Who could be against that?*
*Yes, it is a rhetorical question.
Today’s USA Today featured a claim that over 18% of Americans are relying on “entitlements” to survive. There’s just one problem: working people paid for these alleged entitlements. Because of the Social Security reform enacted under President Reagan, some of us have paid for our parents’ generation as well as our own. Now, alleged reformers want to transfer the money we have paid into these programs to insurance companies, banks, and financial services firms. They also want to introduce limits and means tests. This is a joke. No, it’s not a joke. It’s a crime.
It’s a crime that has happened before. Both private and public employers have failed to make their contributions to pension funds. Workers made their contributions, which were deducted from their paychecks. However, when a pension fund fails because of an employer’s failure to meet an obligation, it is the worker who receives a smaller pension. How is this a matter of entitlement? A contract was made and broken with no consequences to the party that failed to live up to its obligation.
Too many working people in America are first class suckers. People who will lose their retirement income and health care cheer Paul Ryan’s plan because it is labeled “conservative.” Please tell me what is conservative about cutting Medicare and transferring funds to insurance companies? What is conservative about giving greater tax cuts to the most wealthy individuals and corporations? Ryan’s plan is a redistribution of wealth, and it is class warfare. Bernie Sanders has put it best in calling it “Robin Hood in reverse.” Ryan’s plan takes from the poor and gives to the rich.
Don’t buy this Frank Luntz-inspired nonsense about “entitlements.” What about the entitlements for companies like GE or BP that make billions and pay no taxes? What about entitlements for billionaires who manipulate the tax code so they pay a lower tax rate than a person making $50,000 a year? (Yes, my good conservative friends, the rich do pay more taxes. But they are paying less on a dollar than they have in decades, and they are often paying less per dollar than middle class and working Americans.)
Whenever you hear a word being repeated again, again, and again, it’s time to ask why this word is being repeated and who is behind the message. Our political leaders are weak, and they owe their existence to special interests that want to transfer public funds to support private interests. We as working people have paid for Social Security and Medicare. We are entitled to what we have paid for. Let’s send a simple, direct message: Hands off!