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:

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lessons from Chicago Movers’ Six-Month Strike

After nearly two years of organizing and a grueling six-month strike, in February workers at Golan’s Moving and Storage in Skokie, Illinois, ratified their first contract.

The movers organized with support from the worker center Arise Chicago, and voted in December 2013 to unionize with Teamsters Local 705. They were fed up with daily abuses, stagnant pay, and rampant wage theft.

Workers were forced to show up before 6:30 a.m. to load the company’s trucks—but only got paid for the hours they worked after reaching the customer’s house. The company regularly deducted $500 for “training costs” from workers promoted to foreman or driver positions. Fines for small infractions siphoned even more money out of paychecks.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Bringing Back The Fight Against 'Right to Work'

Wisconsin workers knew Right to Work legislation was on its way, we just didn’t know when.  Sweeping the country state-by-state, creeping out of the south and into union strongholds Michigan and Ohio in recent years, this anti-worker bill loomed over the Badger state as soon as a Republican majority was sworn in this year.

What is Right to Work?

So-called Right to Work allows individuals in unionized businesses to opt out of paying any union dues while enjoying the benefit of a union contract. Wall Street bankers might want you to believe this is about individual freedom. But really what they care about is weakening our collective bargaining agreements to lower wages. Anyone with a brain who works knows the boss wants a dictatorship. This bill is more accurately called “Right to Work for Less.”

Friday, March 27, 2015

How Shorter Work Hours Can Help the Climate and Women’s Equality

Tom Malleson: Our economy and environment are on a collision course. Right now, the only way our economy is able to provide decent jobs is through constant, perpetual growth. So the fundamental challenge is thinking how we can rearrange the economy to provide both economic security and ecological sustainability. 
One element of that is a shift from dirty jobs to green jobs. That’s right as far as it goes. But I also think that, by itself, a shift to green jobs won’t be nearly enough to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Obama on Cuba and North Korea--A Lesson in US Politics

President Obama's recent actions regarding Cuba and North Korea provide insight not only into his presidency but also the nature of US politics.   Like any calculating national politician, he plays to his base as he tries to minimize flack from the loyal opposition.  These recent actions reflect some important lessons about the nature of the US political psyche.  

Obama's basic operating principle is to thread his way through issues balancing his priority to serve the financial and security state elites with the need throw bones to the liberal establishment, which indirectly contributes to the first purpose as well.  The North Korea-Cuba episode is a case in point.

Support the BDS Movement!

The ironclad US-Israel alliance is the stuff of legend.  And no wonder.  For the US, Israel is a military platform in the Mid-East.  In exchange, Israel uses US money, weapons and political cover to continue its occupation and colonization activities with impunity.

Undeterred, Palestinians requested that the UN Security Council support a one-year deadline for a two-state settlement.  US representative Samantha Power claims that the US, too, yearns for a two-state solution but nevertheless orchestrated a defeat of the proposal in favor of more negotiations, during which time ever more Jewish only settlements will be built and ever more Palestinian homes will be demolished.

Following the UN vote, the Palestinian Authority immediately moved to join the International Criminal Court, which will allow them to sue Israel for war crimes and violation of international law.  One might wonder why the US-Israel would be so adamantly opposing this move too if they had nothing to fear.

Some Historic Perspective on Cuba

American involvement in Cuba begins long before Castro and the current socialist government. To understand the harm our government's actions have brought to the people of Cuba  requires looking at this history. To understand the present, we must look at the past.  

All through the 1800s many Americans advocated annexing, buying, or otherwise expanding U.S. influence in Cuba. Commercial gain, increasing trade, and expanding slave territory were the primary motivations. By the 1890s, the U.S. was a dominant trading partner with Spanish Cuba. When Cuban revolutionaries began fighting Spanish rule in 1895, these commercial interests were hurt financially by the disruption of war. To help protect these commercial interests, we went to war against Spain, using Cuban independence to  justify American intervention.

Friday, March 6, 2015

What's Next After "Right to Work"?

In 2011, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker introduced the innocuously named “Budget Repair Bill.” The sweeping legislation contained both fiscal measures — reduced support for public education, state Medicaid programs, and regulatory agencies, as well as lower property and capital taxes — and a labor law amendment that all but outlawed collective bargaining for public sector employees and created new barriers to union organizing.

After decades of neoliberal advance and the emergence of the Tea Party, none of this — even in a state with a progressive history — was especially surprising. But this time it sparked dogged resistance: a two-and-a-half-week occupation of the State Capitol, demonstrations topping one hundred thousand people, and “sick out” work stoppages by teachers across the state.

When the capitol was cleared, however, the mobilization that began with the demand to “kill the bill” was funneled into the effort to electorally oust Walker. In the 2012 recall, in a replay of the 2010 gubernatorial election, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett lost to Walker — by an even greater margin than before.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Say "NO!" to "Right to Work" in Wisconsin!

Reactionary legislators have announced that they have the votes to fast track a "Right to Work" bill and have it ready for the Governor to sign within a few weeks. And it doesn't sound like they're bluffing. This would devastate our state's labor movement.

Right to Work is nothing more than an attempt by Big Business to drive down wages. Despite its progressive sounding name, "Right to Work" legislation is an anti-working class proposal that would make it illegal to require all workers at a unionized workplace to join the union. This will mean smaller, weaker unions that will have a much harder time negotiating with the bosses. It will mean lower wages and benefits. 

Join us for a rally against this union-busting piece of legislation.  We'll be protesting on Feb. 26 from 5:30-6:30pm at the City Center Park at the corner of Belknap St. and Tower Ave. in front of the Superior Public Library.  Bring a friend; in fact bring ALL your friends!

Below is a link for a PDF flier for the protest.  Please print it out and distribute!

And please sign the online petition that has been set up by the Wisconsin AFL-CIO.  Here is the link for it:

Now is the time to raise our voice against this reactionary legislation. Lets stand together and show the power that solidarity still has!

Friday, February 6, 2015

More Than 1 Million Minnesotans Lack Paid Sick Leave

Forty-one percent of Minnesota workers lack access to even a single day off to care for themselves, a sick child or loved one, according to a statewide analysis.

At the news conference announcing the campaign for paid sick time, Jessica Milli, Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, reviewed the results of a studyreleased last September.