Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Saturday, November 25, 2006
So they're taking it to new places.
The United Steelworkers of America have been on strike against Goodyear Tires for a couple of weeks now. Unlike the Service Employees strike, this is a traditional industrial strike--but with a twist. The USW is trying to alert the public to the fact that the last time there was a tire-maker strike, we ended up with the Firestone Tire fiasco. Replacement workers (or scabs, as we like to refer to them) don't do as good a job as real workers, you see.
So the USW is putting their message for all the world to see on youtube. The video is here. The video itself is nothing special, it looks like a political-season negative hit ad, but I do like the car which flies off the road onto the viewer, while the voice-over asks "Which tires will you buy?"
Here's another radio spot they put together. It ends with bagpipes playing at a funeral. They are not using subtle messaging here, kids. I can't say as I blame them, as their backs are really against the wall here.
I'll leave you with this message from striking steelworkers who are thankful this year:
"A lot of places in the world, you couldn't do this, stand up for what you
think," said Wayne Mart, who has worked at Goodyear for 37 years. "You'd think
maybe with this going on, we don't have a lot to be thankful for, but actually
we have a lot to be thankful for."
"I think I'm just really, really thankful that in a battle like this I have
all these people with me," she said. "Our strength just comes from being
together. Because if you sat at home by yourself and worried about how you're
going to pay the mortgage without a job, you'd go crazy."
Me too. I'm thankful for solidarity. And industrial democracy. And the freedom to type these words. And lots of other things.
Hope you had a great thanksgiving. I'm down in the Old North State, and enjoing the family and the sixty-degree weather.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
1.) the participants were women;And yet they did it. They got raises of better than 50% of their wages. By the end of the contract, they will have added two more hours onto their work day, upping their wages even more. By the third year they'll have health insurance. They get paid sick days, and even vacation days immediately. They have the freedom to organize some of the other companies in Houston.
2.) the strikers were Latino
3.) many were illegal immigrants
4.) they were some of the most invisible, lowly paid workers in America
5.) This was Houston. Like a colleague of mine said, it's not just the south...it's
They did it by using nontraditional tactics (like pressuring the employers and their customers--the big oil companies in Houston). They built community relationships with key religious and political leaders. They won. People's lives are irrefutably better as a result of it.
It's the kind of thing that crystallizes for me why I'm not just part of the labor movement, but that I love it, too. I'm constantly warned by other staff that this is just my job, and on some level it is. But if you didn't feel this way, there's no reason you would commit to a lifetime of it. It's too risky, putting hope in your fellow man to work with his brother and sister to better their livelihoods and fight for what's right. There are too many disappointments. There are too many historic losses to believe it's possible.
But it is.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Others, not so sure.
But what was priceless was the last half of the show, when Wolfie had on several neoconservatives--the guys who were the architects of the current mess in Iraq. Surprisingly (by which I mean it's no goddamn surprise at all) Wolfie did not lay into these gentleman for what we might call 'A blunder, an enormous blunder' which has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands.
Not once did Wolf look at David Frum for instance, and go "Jesus, why should anyone give half a rat's ass about what you have to say? You completely blew this whole war thing."
He did not look at Ken Adelman and say "What kind of soap do you use to get all the blood of these innocents off your hands? Just curious."
No, he asked these people (who are dear readers, batting .000 when it comes to policy prescriptions for Iraq) what their advice was for policy makers now on Iraq.
Jesus wept. Our country is read by people who have the policy sophistication of Nelson Muntz.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
This weekend, Smithfield agreed to hire those people back. Solidarity beats apathy every time, man.
Thanks to the determined two day walkout by hundreds of workers at Smithfield's Tar Heel, NC plant, backed by thousands of supporters across the country, Smithfield agreed to a negotiated settlement with the workers to halt the wholesale firing of immigrant workers.
The Smithfield Justice internet network generated thousands of calls to the company from national religious, civil rights and immigrant rights organizations demanding that the workers' rights be respected. Smithfield Justice allies notified the company about their support for the workers, including the National Baptist Convention, the Progressive Baptist Convention, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the North Carolina NAACP, National Council of Churches and Rainbow Push. Eric Schlosser, whose new movie Fast Food Nation opens this weekend, issued a public statement condemning the company for its victimization of the workers.
The catalyst for the protest was a disagreement between the workers and the company about the Smithfield's implementation of immigration issues. In Smithfield operations where workers are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), contract language provides for a systematic and constructive process for workers and the employer to resolve issues such as immigration and work status. Workers at the Smithfield Tar Heel plant have been struggling for the protection of a union contract for over a decade.
Following the walk out, the company agreed to negotiate around the workers' issues through the Catholic Church and their attorneys. The company acknowledged that they had misinterpreted the law and agreed to make appropriate adjustments to comply.
The company, for the first time, also agreed to meet with an elected group of workers' leaders to further negotiate about plant issues on Tuesday. Specifically, the two parties agreed to:
- Smithfield has agreed to increase the time allowed for employees to respond to "no match" letters from the Social Security Administration.
- Employees who have been laid off for failure to resolve Social Security issues may return to work while they sort out these issues.
- Smithfield's Human Resources Department will designate a staff member to help process "no match" Social Security issues and respond to questions.
- Smithfield has agreed that if mistakes have been made, they will be addressed.
- No disciplinary actions of any kind will be taken against those employees who participated in the walkout.
- Tar Heel plant manager Larry Johnson will meet again with a group of Smithfield employees on Tuesday, November 21 at 2:00 pm.
I am so proud of my union brothers and sisters in Smithfield. La lucha sigue!
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Sunday, November 12, 2006
I've felt like a stranger in my own land, which was increasingly growing stranger by the day.
I thought 2004 would repudiate all of that. It didn't. I groaned. I got depressed. Seriously depressed.
So I put all my hope that this election, finally, finally, most Americans would wake up and realize that these people can't govern, they just play at it on TV.
And I'm happy to say that this is exactly what happened. Wednesday morning greeted me with open arms, and I hit the road for a trip to Springfield (staff meeting). All the way down, I kept searching for NPR affiliates so I could get the latest dish. And revel. And revel. The sun came up, and I felt like, man, we've finally won something--something big.
And while some can't shut up about how we won (it's because we're apparently now conservatives), we know the truth. Like Bowers said, we pushed for the idea that this was a disastrous failure long before it was considered politically expedient. We demanded that our candidates state the obvious truth. We were laughed at out of hand for doing so.
We were right, bitches. So I wanted to include a few true stories from my experiences as one of the ground troops that helped make this so. Real stories, mind you.
- I encountered a Latino gentleman who had tried to vote on an electronic machine, but the vote for Congressman was the only vote he was offered. No judge races, state rep races, state senate races, or governor's races. Odd, no?
- I encountered a gentleman who told me he hoped I wasn't the one making all those calls on behalf of Tammy Duckworth. I told him the Republicans were behind that, not Tammy herself (which has since been proven true). He laughed at me, and told me he was glad that the Republicans were behind it, because he hated Tammy Duckworth. I shit you not.
- I got into an argument with a local rent-a-cop who did not want me handing out information at his polling site. As our lawyer explained to him (twice), this is perfectly legal activity, so long as the pamphleteer (in this case, me) is 100 feet away from the door to the polling site. He threatened to call the cops on me, but backed down.
- I watched two old white ladies get into an argument over whether or not the country needed more democrats in office.
- I had one woman who voted for Tammy, ask me whether she really wanted to let all the illegal aliens take social security benefits away from everyone. I told her no, that this was a lie created by Roskam's people, and she told me she felt better about voting for Tammy.
- The DuPage Republican party pulled a cute trick on election day--they stuffed Republican yard signs tightly on either side of Democratic yard signs on major intersections To remove them outright would be illegal, you see. To obstruct people from seeing them is just plain good politickin'.
But this picture still makes me smile. Look at Dick Cheney's face, and know that all we've been through is worthwhile.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Although some glitz has come off Mr Rove, Republicans have been more eager to blame botched campaigns and individual ethics scandals. “Bob Sherwood’s seat [in Pennsylvania] would have been overwhelmingly ours, if his mistress hadn’t whined about being throttled,” said Mr Norquist. Any lessons from the campaign? “Yes. The lesson should be, don’t throttle mistresses.”
Friday, November 10, 2006
I was at a union staff meeting yesterday, and a presenter from Wellstone Action was giving us a presentation on organizing for power. One of the statistics that he laid out was that back when labor represented a third of all workers in the 50's, we were 20% of the electorate. Now that we represent only 13% or so of American workers, we're 20% of the electorate. We're getting much better at getting people to the polls and getting to vote their interests.
That's why they hate us on us. Playa, don't hate. Negotiate.
The worst part--the homeless that they hired never knew they were snookering people on election day. They thought what they were doing was legit. Said one:
"These people think we're too stupid to understand the magnitude of what we did."
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
The progressive movement brought in the money to close the fundraising gap. We brought in the message that the war in Iraq was not a good idea. We repeatedly stood up to both Republicans and the established media when even Democrats themselves wouldn't. We unearthed numerous Republican scandals. We built an alternative media empire on a shoestring budget so the progressive and Democratic message could directly reach millions of rank and file Democrats every single day. We fired up the base and kept them eager to vote, not the leadership. We stood up to "progressive" advocacy organizations who were selling out their members. We stood up to corruption and conflicts of interest in our own caucus. We fought tooth and nail against voter suppression of every kind. We brought in the hundreds of thousands of new activists for campaigns and we took over tens of thousands of vacated party offices and precinct captainships around the nation. We looked for a candidate to run in every single race in the entire country. We always supported the Democratic nominee once the primary was over, which our own leadership most definitely did not do. We fought for all Democrats, progressives, moderates, conservatives, and libertarians--even when others refused to do just that.I agree. I have never been prouder to be a member of this movement. To be honest, this is the first election that I've busted my ass for that wasn't a losing effort. I mean, it was in the races I was intimately involved in*, but by and large, as a progressive, fighting for progressive control of Congress, we won. I helped us win. So did you. It feels good finally to say that.
*Thanks, Rahm, (again) for throwing away $3 million to fund a candidate with no original local backing in my district, all because Christine Cegelis was too liberal for ya. Paid off well, didn't it?
And while I'm at it, Chris' larger point in that post is that the professional election-masters have all failed us. Each of the defining points of htis election came straight from the Democratic base and netroots, not the upper echeclon. They deserve little credit for this, except for Howard Dean, who had the foresight to start organizing all over the country and not just in districts where we already win.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Folks, if the pigs who are awash in cash aren't coughing enough for their employees to share in wartime profits, we're all screwed.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Dr. Dean nails it. Dr. Mrsinallmyyears and I voted already, and I cast my ballot for all the Greens at the top of the Illinois ticket as well as Mrs. Duckworth. The reason I voted for the Greens is simple. Rod Blagojevich is going to win anyway, and there's no risk my vote will throw it to the Republicans. On the other hand, Rod is truly an execrable politican. Many of the Democrats are hideously corrupt in the Chicago area. The Greens present a better alternative for a political outlook.
I voted on an electronic machine, but it had a paper ballot.
It was fun. I'm glad I did it. You should too.