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:

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.