It was a Wednesday evening in July and I managed to find a good parking space at the Teamsters hall in Lawrenceville. Inside the union hall all the windows were open; it was very hot and humid that night and there was no AC inside the meeting hall. I guess the climate was appropriate considering that our topic that night was organizing workers in Vietnam. [caption id="attachment_753" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Jackie Bong-Wright"][/caption] Amnesty International was the driver of this particular get-together because they have been publicizing the case of three union organizers who have been jailed in Vietnam. Their names are Tran Quoc ...
Each year, after the sun sets on the 14th day of Hebrew month of Nisan, Jews retell the story of the Exodus at an annual family feast. The transition from slavery to freedom, orchestrated by God's hand, is a great story with universal appeal. I never grow tired of telling it. Last week I received in the mail a Passover appeal from the Jewish Labor Committee. The headline read, "Pharaoh refuses to negotiate; hundreds of thousands of Israelite workers walk of job site." While catchy and humorous, it none-the-less reminds us of a simple fact about slavery— it's all about ...
During difficult economic times it shouldn't be surprising that many people have gone back to borrowing books instead of running down to B&N to spend $30 on the latest best seller. photo by Bernadette Kazmarski One of my assignments as borough councilman is to hold a seat on the board of our local public library. It is a duty I sought out not only because of my belief in the importance of libraries, but also because of my fond memories of spending time in this special place as a youngster. Our library, the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, is also an ...
In the wee hours of Saturday morning I readied myself for the long day trip to Washington. I talked Debbie into giving me a ride downtown because I wasn't sure if there would be a bus at 5:15 AM on a Saturday. Fortunately, because it was Saturday, that drive downtown was only 10 minutes. Close to 180 union members and supporters gathered at the United Steel Workers headquarters building on the Boulevard of the Allies in the chilly, 48° darkness. Our group was mainly comprised of USW and UWUA members, but there were some college kids there who, I believe, ...
Mass transit is the life blood of any city. An increasing number of workers can't afford cars and depend on public transportation to get to and from work. Likewise for college students. In Pittsburgh, severe transportation funding cuts are likely forthcoming in the next state budget and both workers and employers are very concerned about how they will manage. Transit workers will be furloughed. And non-bus riders are worried about the impact on traffic congestion as commuters switch from bus to car. Last week, a downtown employer (Dial America) announced it was expanding its operations— somewhere else. Bill Griffin manages a ...
[caption id="attachment_1515" align="alignright" width="300"] SD officers at the March (from left): YSD Chair Michael Mottern, Treasurer Patty Friend, National Co-Chair Rick D'Loss[/caption] Yesterday, the SD tabled at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. It was a beautiful day— bright sunshine, pleasant temperatures; God did not rain on our parade. Patty said that her angels were taking care of things for us. Patty flew in from LA and joined Michael and Peng in Buffalo. Together they drove down to Pittsburgh on Friday to pick me up and get some some rest before the early morning Saturday drive to Washington. We got ...
[caption id="attachment_1740" align="alignright" width="300"] Rick D'Loss (left) SD National Chair and Michael Mottern, Chair of YSD[/caption] Each year the Coalition for Economic Justice holds a dinner to celebrate the efforts of various groups and individuals. The CEJ is an amalgam of groups who work together on the behalf of workers, the poor, the disabled, immigrants, and the environment. I was pleased to attend along with Michael Mottern, our local leader in Buffalo. Admittedly, it is an easy drive from Pittsburgh to Buffalo (a little less than 4 hours). The weather was great. Mid week, mid day travel presented no traffic obstacles except for ...
Senators Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have called for rallies throughout the country to protest Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Called “Our First Stand” to suggest that these rallies are only the beginning of resistance to efforts to eliminate Federal health care for more than 20 million people and to butcher Medicare and Social Security, the rallies are remarkable for their leadership beyond the left of the Democratic Party. The protest gatherings will be held on Sunday, January 15th, and you can locate a nearby rally on www.berniesanders.com. A live streaming of Sanders’ speech will be broadcast on Sunday afternoon, and if you can’t get to a rally, you can register for Bernie’s speech at www.ourrevolution.com.
No retreat, no compromise, no surrender!
The National Committee of Social Democrats USA has issued the following statement:
Social Democrats USA joins working people throughout the United States in urging the Senate
to reject the nomination of fast-food executive Andrew Puzder to be Secretary of Labor. We urge members, supporters, and friends to sign the AFL-CIO petition against his confirmation.
The petition can be found at www.aflcionow.org.
The Secretary of Labor is charged with oversight of measures to improve wages and working conditions and with enforcing labor laws, but Puzder is, in the words of AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, “a man whose business record is defined by fighting against working people.” Puzder has been a strong opponent of increasing the Federal minimum wage, now set at a pitiful $7.25 per hour, barely over the Federal poverty standard for a single person. As for the possibility that he would be an effective enforcer of the labor laws, it is worth noting that Puzder’s fast-food chain has a history of cheating workers of their wages.
Toward the end of his term of office, President Obama sought to improve workers’ conditions by issuing Executive Orders. One required Federal contractors to grant up to seven days per year of paid sick leave. This order is not likely to survive under Puzder. Another increased the eligibility to receive overtime pay of workers earning up to $47,476, and this measure is now tied up in the Texas courts. Puzder can kill this order by simply not appealing the lower court decision.
Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor would be a disaster for American working families, and we urge the Senate to reject his nomination for that office.
For the last several decades neoliberal Democrats and conservative Republicans have greeted proposals to help working families as “class legislation.” Throughout this time a very small part of the population has taken most of the productivity gains, unions have been all but destroyed, and working families have found it increasingly difficult to meet the costs of health care and education. This has been class war- a deliberate war against the working class.
We have come to an acute crisis in this war, when the conservatives have captured the three branches of the Federal government. Conservatives now have the power to destroy or drastically modify many of the social programs that began with the New Deal. We have to fight back, and a major weapon for us is to spread information about the costs to working families of the conservative attacks. In the months ahead Socialist Currents will publish a series of articles
about the right-wing attempts to destroy what is left of the safety net in America under the overall title “The Class War.”
No retreat, no compromise, no surrender!
Senators Warren and Schumer will discuss the Senate Democrats’ strategy to stop the repeal of the Affordable Care Act in a teleconference tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern Time. The call-in number
is 855-808-5137, followed by the PIN 113043#. The call is limited to 5,000 participants, so promptness is essential.
This teleconference is part of the efforts of Senators Sanders, Warren and Schumer to rally nationwide opposition to the Republican priority of repealing the ACA.
Since 1932 there has been a part of the Republican Party that has consistently resisted the New Deal, the Great Society and whatever we have had for the last eight years. As Democratic administrations enacted Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, this faction fought the descent of the country into the pit of “socialism.” Their nadir came when the Eisenhower administration accepted the basics of the New Deal, but they roared back in 1964 with the Goldwater nomination. The Republican right-wing has continued to grow, and the once-plentiful Republican moderate has gone the way of the dodo. Today these reactionaries are on the verge of control of the three branches of the Federal government, and early indications are that they plan significant damage, and even destruction, to the great achievements of Democratic administrations since Franklin Roosevelt took the oath of office. The super-wealthy 1% have already gained a share of the national wealth not seen since 1929, and destroying an already frayed safety net will take us closer to that halcyon year for the rich. Maybe Herbert Hoover will at last have his revenge.
The reactionaries have long held control of the Republican caucuses in the House and Senate,
but a new feature is Cabinet secretaries devoted to the destruction of the social programs administered by their departments. We will likely have an Attorney General who was rejected as a Federal judge because of a suspicion of racism, a Treasury Secretary who is a Goldman Sachs alumnus (big surprise!) and whose bank played fast and loose with California’s foreclosure laws, a Health and Human Services Secretary who has been the House Republicans’ expert on gutting the Affordable Care Act, a Labor Secretary who is a fast food executive, who opposes raising the minimum wage and who would prefer employing machines rather than people, an Environmental Protection Administrator who has sued the EPA, an Energy Secretary who, when enumerating agencies he wanted to abolish, forgot the name of the department he will now head, and so it goes. The leader of this assault on the safety web is a real estate billionaire who proposes a massive tax cut to aid the 1%.
While the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party is still stunned and largely silent, there are signs that progressives are girding for battle. Perhaps most important they have developed an attitude expressed by our comrade Don Seastrum: No retreat, no compromise, no
surrender. Had this attitude prevailed throughout President Obama’s administration, perhaps
the Congress would not have been lost in 2010 and the presidential election of 2016 would have had a different outcome. The President would have had to explain the Affordale Care Act on a class basis: millions of poor and middle class people were going to get the health care they deserved. Those who opposed the Act or who sabotaged its implementation, such as
the Republican governors who refused to allow expansion of Medicaid, were sentencing millions of poor people to poor health and even premature death. They should have been eviscerated, not placated. Now, with repeal of the Affordable Care Act as the number one Republican priority, it should be opposed on the same class basis. We may not have the numbers to stop the reactionaries but we should make crystal-clear just what was lost, just who lost it and just who was responsible. This may not be”cool,” but when was class war ever “cool?”
Another early battle will be the confirmations of the Trump cabinet. Progressives must show clearly what each confirmation will cost ordinary people. What do we lose by a Treasury Secretary who has drunk the supply-side kool aid and who will preside over a tax gift to those who already have too much? What does an anti-worker Labor Secretary cost the working people of this country? What is the cost in human lives and health of the plans of the proposed Health and Human Services Secretary? There is no place for politeness in this fight. The rhetoric must be blunt, and progressives must throw bricks, not cream puffs.