Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Iron Range Miners Rally as Contract Set to Expire

Hundreds of Steelworkers and supporters from across Minnesota’s Iron Range marched and rallied on Thursday as part of nationwide actions by the union as it fights concessions demanded by mining companies U.S. Steel, ArcelorMittal and Cliffs Natural Resources.

The union began bargaining new contracts with U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal in June. The two master agreements, which cover about 30,000 workers in all, are scheduled to expire on Sept. 1. 

The contract with Cliffs Natural Resources, which is set to expire Oct. 1, covers more than 2,600 Steelworkers from four local unions in Minnesota and Michigan.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Why Obama’s epic climate plan isn’t such a big deal

The carbon regulations that President Barack Obama is unveiling today sound like they’ll be a bit stronger than the toothless draft rules he unveiled last year. That doesn’t mean they’ll be strong. And it certainly doesn’t mean they’ll be “the strongest action ever taken to combat climate change,” as The New York Times breathlessly referred to them in its news pages yesterday morning.

It’s not yet clear exactly what they’ll be, because so far the Obama administration has only revealed some non-binding national goals, not the hard emissions targets that states will be required to meet. But the early leaks suggest that the Clean Power Plan will require the electricity sector to decarbonize slightly more than it would have under the draft plan. The sector’s emissions are expected to drop 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, up from 30 percent in the draft. The plan now anticipates renewable energy to rise to 28 percent of the grid’s capacity by 2030, instead of 22 percent, and coal to drop to 27 percent of capacity, instead of 31 percent.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Screwed by vulture funds, Puerto Rico is the US's 'Greece'

The world has been focused on the spectacle of the “Troika” of the International Monetary Fund, European Union and the European Central Bank crushing the Greek people, but it is far from the only example of strong nations using a “debt crisis” to extract more wealth from those that are weaker.

A case in point is the US colony of Puerto Rico. In a June 28 New York Times interview, the governor of the Caribbean archipelago nation declared its debt of US$73 billion “is not payable. There is no other option. I would love to have an easier option. This is not politics. This is math.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

$15 Wage Movement Makes Gains

June was a good month for the fight for a $15 minimum wage. On June 13, Los Angeles, the second largest city in the country, saw the mayor sign the bill passed by the city council that raised the minimum wage from $9 to $15 over the next five years. This will keep the city ahead of the statewide minimum wage, which was raised to $10 in 2016.

The California State Assembly is now considering raising it to $13 in 2017. Last November, the people of San Francisco voted to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2018. And not to be outdone, a nearby city, Emeryville, raised its minimum wage to $16 by 2019. On June 2, its city council unanimously passed the ordinance, which will be adjusted annually for inflation.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Last-Minute Assault on Wages & Workers in WI State Budget

The Wisconsin legislature sent a $72 billion biennial budget bill to Governor Walker's desk last week, giving him just four days to process and sign the budget before his July 13 scheduled presidential announcement. The bill slashes $250 million from the University of Wisconsin System, advances school vouchers and the corporate privatization of Wisconsin public schools, and is chock full of public policy provisions that did not have public hearings or public input.

Although the governor has recently been projecting surpluses for the next fiscal year, the drastic cuts in state programs will still leave the state facing a structural deficit of some $490 million, according to the Wisconsin Budget Project.

Last weekend, the Joint Finance budget-writing committee produced a large addition to the budget, an anonymous "999 motion" that took 24 pages just to summarize. Tucked into the motion were major changes to Wisconsin's open records law, a direct response to CMD's lawsuit against the governor over his efforts to axe "the search for truth" and the Wisconsin Idea from the budget. On Tuesday, Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick acknowledged for the first time that the governor's office played a role in developing the records proposal.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

TPPA: Capitalism at its Predatory Best

President Obama was granted “Fast Track” authority by Congress on June 24, thus clearing the way to rapid passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

The TPPA has been 10 years in the making, including the last six under the aegis of the Obama administration. The agreement, written in secret by some 600 top corporate advisers, will encompass 40 percent of world trade. It is slated to be signed by 12 Pacific-rim countries—United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Free Leonard Peltier!

This June will mark the 40th anniversary of the shoot out at Oglala on the Pine Ridge reservation. Leonard Peltier has been wrongly imprisoned for the shooting of two FBI agents at this shoot out between the U.S. government and American Indian Movement activists. Events are planned all over the country to mark the event, raise awareness about Peltier's case, and to call for his release from prison.

Please join us for a one hour picket at the corner of Lake Ave. & Superior St. in downtown Duluth on Friday, June 26.  We'll be there from 4:30 to 6pm.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Necessary and Just Transition From Fossil Fuels

Alister Doyle writing in a recent Reuters story said,
“An apparent slowdown in the pace of global warming in recent years may be an illusion based on skewed data, according to a study on Thursday that found no break in a trend of rising temperatures. In 2013, the U.N. panel of climate experts reported a ‘hiatus’ in warming since about 1998, despite rising man-made emissions of greenhouse gases. That heartened skeptics who say the risks of climate change have been exaggerated. The new U.S. study in the journal Science, based on a re-analysis of worldwide temperature data, found no pause in the warming blamed by most climate experts for producing heatwaves, downpours and higher sea levels. ‘There is no discernible … decrease in the rate of warming between the second half of the 20th century and the first 15 years of the 21st century,’ experts led by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wrote.”

Monday, June 8, 2015

Gentrification & Inequality in Duluth

As a child, I loved trips to Woolworth's with my mother and great-grandmother.  They shopped while I coveted the soft pretzels.  Little did I know that these were the last of downtown's good old days.  As years passed, business after business closed its doors, leaving sad relics of storefronts.  Duluth continued its careen into economic depression, of which our shuttered downtown was a visceral symbol.

Fast forward to 2015.  Downtown is home to art galleries, microbreweries and indie movie theaters.  Again it is a symbol, this time of a city on the rebound.  But is it?  While Duluth is thriving in many ways, not all of us share the benefits.  Twenty-four percent of us live in poverty, including half of Black and Native Duluthians.  Rental housing is the best affordable in the state, while wages are among the lowest.  In other words, Duluth is going as the rest of our nation: into growing economic disparity.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Workers Rally in Defense of Duluth Mail Processing Center

Fifty people gathered in front of the post office on West Michigan Street in a rally to save the Duluth mail processing center.

"What do we want?" a man with a megaphone asked the crowd Wednesday. The crowd shouted, "Permanently restored services!" "When do we want it?" "Now!"

The Northland's city, state and federal officials joined members of the unions affiliated with the United States Postal Service in calling for the mail processing center to be kept open permanently because it serves as a regional hub. The center processes mail for Duluth and Superior as well as the Iron Range, North Shore and other parts of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Duluth's mail processing center has been slated to close as part of the Postal Service's consolidation plan to save money.

Friday, May 22, 2015

In Wisconsin, A Test Case for Right to Work

Three years after losing a ten-week strike over the right to collect dues, about 200 union members at Manitowoc Cranes in northeast Wisconsin face continuing efforts to decimate their treasury—an experience other unions may soon also face under the state’s new so-called “right to work” law.

“A lot of workers feel pressure,” said Bill Brault. A 40-year member of International Association of Machinists (IAM) Local Lodge 516, he abhors the company ultimatum that ended the strike: make dues voluntary and get a raise; or resist and lose jobs to replacement workers, otherwise known as “scabs.”

Brault won’t say the “S” word or give an opinion about workers who don’t pay dues. According to the company’s post-strike harassment policy, “I would lose my job,” he said.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Minnesota CEOs Paid 305 Times More Than Average Worker

Five hundred Minnesota CEOs made an average of $13.9 million in 2014 – 305 times more than the average worker, according to the AFL-CIO’s annual Executive PayWatch report. The highest paid was Target CEO Brian Cornell, who made $28.2 million in 2014, 779 times the average worker’s pay.

The Executive Paywatch report, the most comprehensive searchable online database which tracks CEO pay at S&P 500 companies, showed that nationally in 2014, the average worker earned approximately $36,000 per year, while CEO pay averaged $13.5 million per year – a ratio which has grown to 373-to-1.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Iron 5 Win the SMI Strike!

After a hard fought 127 day strike the Iron 5 have prevailed against Specialty Minerals Inc.  The workers and the company announced a tentative agreement this week that included all of the workers demands. 

We offer our heartfelt congratulations to these five brave men who have been out there every day since Jan. 1, from 5:30am to 6:30pm, walking the picket line.  They endured a lot of brutal weather, the absence of a paycheck and the uncertainty that inevitably comes from taking on a deep pocketed corporation like SMI.  But despite the odds, they stood their ground, refused to accept the concessionary contract SMI was demanding, and they won!  And in doing so they have inspired workers across the region!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

May Day in Superior: No Cuts to the UW!

This year to mark International Workers Day, workers and activists held a rally in Superior, Wisconsin.  The theme of this year's May Day protest was opposition to the proposes $300 million cuts to the University of Wisconsin system.

About three dozen people attended the event at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.  The first part of the event was a powerful rally with the following speakers: Michael Raino, Kym Young, Scott Wallace, Meghan Krausch and Joel Sipress. 

Afterwards there was a march through campus with chanting, culminating with a picket at the intersection of Belknap Street and Catlin Ave.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Workers Memorial Day: Speak Out for Safe Jobs

Workers Memorial Day will have a special focus this year on the threats facing mental health workers. In addition to events at construction sites and union halls on April 28, AFSCME will march at six treatment centers.

Workers Memorial Day, the anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, is commemorated each year as a day to remember those killed or injured at work and to renew the call for workplace safety.

This year, AFSCME has organized demonstrations to protest management’s lack of action on the assaults occurring on workers at state-run mental health facilities. See related story.

Here is a schedule of Workers Memorial Day events: