Tuesday, November 10, 2015

MN Workers Escalate Campaign for Higher Wages & Benefits

While Minneapolis city officials back off measures for paid sick leave and fair scheduling, hundreds of low-wage workers and supporters escalated their campaign for the “Minneapolis Works” agenda with a massive Day of Action Tuesday.

Fast food workers and retail cleaners who went on a one-day strike were joined by Walmart workers, union members, faith leaders and community activists in a march from a McDonald’s restaurant in northeast Minneapolis to the Macy’s store on Nicollet Mall, a downtown U.S. Bank branch and City Hall.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

In MN, a Strong ‘Fair Scheduling’ Law for Workers Runs Into a Corporate Roadblock

Less than a year after San Francisco passed a first-of-its-kind fair scheduling ordinance for retail employers, progressive activists in Minneapolis began pushing for an even stronger scheduling ordinance of their own—along with paid sick leave, wage theft protections, and the possibility of a $15 minimum wage. 

But the campaign, dubbed the Working Families Agenda, ran into a roadblock earlier this month when its most powerful political ally, Mayor Betsy Hodges, decided to abandon the fair scheduling component. Language in the proposed ordinance called for scheduling notice of at least two weeks in advance and extra “predictability pay” for workers who were scheduled after that threshold. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Get the Hell Out of Afghanistan Already!

The US war machine scored another win. Not in Syria, but in Afghanistan. After lying about a prolonged attack on the Medicin Sans Frontiers hospital in Kunduz, a recent decision from the White House to leave at least 10,000 troops in that country for an undetermined amount of time seems to make no sense. However, when one looks at the justification from various politicians and think tanks, the reasoning is proven to be the same as it has been for years. Let me quote a certain Rand policy analyst named S. Rebecca Zimmerman:

“There have been numerous security losses across Afghanistan, despite the 9,800 troop presence, but the government is also facing challenges of erosion of authority. It’s so focused on factions within, and pressure without that it cannot effectively govern and strongmen on the periphery are growing in influence. The presence of U.S. troops cannot halt these trends, but it can slow their progress.” (RAND website, October 16, 2015)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Defend Planned Parenthood!

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, women in at least 90 cities around the United States demonstrated in defense of the health provider Planned Parenthood. “Pink Out Day,” the organizers state, provided the opportunity to say: “Listen to over a million Americans who are sick and tired of the relentless attacks on reproductive health care. Listen to the one in five American women who has received care at a Planned Parenthood health center … Tell anti-abortion extremists and politicians that we are everywhere and we will not let them use fraud and deception to shut down the health centers so many women rely on for care. … We’re not backing down, not today, not ever.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Remembering Midwest Radical: Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson passed away Aug. 5 in Chippewa Falls, Wis., at age 84. His long life was marked by resolute opposition to war, local and national leadership in the Socialist Workers Party, government persecution, an exceedingly frugal life style, and from middle age, devoted care to his mother during her final years.

I first met Joe when I transferred from the Chicago branch of the Socialist Workers Party to the Twin Cities in the fall of 1965. After a long dry spell during the Fifties, the SWP was beginning to grow once more. This was primarily the result of a youth radicalization expressed through developments such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committees involved in civil rights, the Free Speech Movement launched in Berkeley, and the “New Left” Students for a Democratic Society—who organized the first national protest against the Vietnam War.

The party’s Young Socialist Alliance, founded in 1960, participated in and recruited from these movements. The Twin Cities had done particularly well in campus recruiting, but many transferred elsewhere upon graduation and reinforcements were needed. At the request of the party’s national secretary Farrell Dobbs, three of us from the Windy City headed to the Land of Sky Blue Waters.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Remembering Eugene Debs

In the annals of American socialism, the name of Eugene V. Debs stands out as the most prominent personality in the movement’s history. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the self-described independent socialist now campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, considers Debs one of his heroes.

It’s almost certain Debs would not have approved of Sanders running for nomination in the Democratic Party. As a leader of the early 20th-century Socialist Party, Debs once said he was more proud of going to jail for leading a rail workers’ strike than early in his career serving in the Indiana state legislature as an elected Democratic representative.

Unfortunately, there’s a tendency among defenders of the status quo to turn great historical figures into harmless icons, saintly martyrs to high ideals who loved everyone and threatened no one. This to a degree has happened with the Rev. Martin Luther, King, Jr., a radical fighter for civil rights in his day that the political establishment now treats with a kind of perfunctory reverence.

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.