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Rev. William Barber’s New Book Reminds Us Why We Must Vote

October 23rd, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2014 Election, racism, rightwing, safety net, Voting Rights

 

441_Forward_TogetherBy Terrance Heath

Progressive America Rising via Ourfuture.org

Oct 22, 2014 – With Election Day just two weeks away, the words of Paul Wellstone Citizen Leadership Award  recipient and Moral Mondays movement leader Rev. William Barber remind us, “If we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now!” His new book reminds us of the moral power of progressive values when we march “forward together.”

Rev. Barber’s words come from his 2012 address to the NAACP, but as timely as ever with so much at stake in this election, as Denise Oliver Velez writes:

Election Day 2014 is on Tuesday, November 4, a little over two weeks away. This election will make a profound difference in the lives of many of our citizens. For some, it is a matter of life and death—given the refusal of some states to accept Medicaid expansion. We are all too aware of right-wing extremist efforts in many of those same states to suppress the vote, and to construct obstacles to voting.

One of the most powerful voices in the nation, fighting to mobilize a broad-based coalition of social activists to fight voter suppression, is that of the Rev. Dr. William Barber II. What is disconcerting is that with only a few exceptions, the major traditional media have managed to ignore his voice and the Moral Mondays movement he is leading—from his home base of North Carolina, to as far north as Wisconsin.

How did much of the press manage to ignore 80,000 people who marched in Raleigh, North Carolina, back in February?

While the traditional media is willing to pay homage to Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in memorials and tributes, journalists are far too willing to pretend that the civil rights movement was buried with Dr. King. Contrary to those who speak as if the movement ended in 1968, it is alive and growing. Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, women and men—straight and LGBT, religious and non-religious, young and old—have come together in a breathtaking and extraordinary fusion movement, Moral Mondays, spearheaded by the Rev. William Barber, head of the North Carolina NAACP. His book about that movement, Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation, is being released by Chalice Press November 1.

Just in time for the election, Rev. Barber’s new book from Chalice Press, Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation, recalls the beginnings of the historic Moral Mondays movement, puts progressive values in a moral context we can take with us into the voting booth.

Last summer, after seven years of grassroots organizing, “Moral Mondays” grabbed the nation’s attention as thousands protested North Carolina’s General Assembly in Raleigh in support of the poor, voting rights, health care, immigrant rights, and other issues. Over 13 consecutive weeks, the protests against legislative extremism resulted in the arrests of nearly 1,000 people, making it one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in U.S. history. As thousands more gathered in support each Monday, Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, became widely recognized as the leader of a new civil rights movement in the South. More than 100 “Moral Monday” connected events have since taken place, and the spirit of the movement has spread to Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, and New York. This reflection on the movement’s beginnings introduces Barber, the sources of his courage from both a biblical imagination for justice and a deep connection to “fusion” civil rights history, and the inspiring story of the Southern freedom movement’s revival.

Barber invites readers into a big-tent, faith-based movement for justice that has room for black, white, and brown, gay and straight, rich and poor, old and young, Republicans and Democrats, people from all walks of life. Offering his unique analysis of what he has called the “Third Reconstruction,” Barber locates North Carolina’s struggle in the spiritual and political landscape of 21st-century America. With civil rights and social justice battles with a deep moral narrative, particularly in southern statehouses that then move to federal courts on appeal, what happens in North Carolina can shift the center of gravity in political discourse, debate, and decision—and thereby change the nation.

“Messages of moral dissent are designed not to just be spoken and heard but to shape the prophetic consciousness of a movement and of society,” says Barber. “The prophetic voice rises when government systems and sometimes even religious systems have abdicated their responsibility to the least of these. When the forces of extremism have become so overwhelming and have depressed the hope of the people, the prophetic voice and mission is to connect words and actions in ways that build restorative hope so that there can be a movement for restorative justice. So this book is an attempt to capture the practice of ‘preaching’ in the public square, which is where prophetic inquiry and critique must function.”

Check out Rev. Barber’s book when it drops on November 1st and take his message into the voting booth on November 4th!

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The South’s Victim Complex: How Right-Wing Paranoia is Driving New Wave of Radicals

October 7th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Civil Rights, elections, GOP, racism, rightwing

The South's victim complex: How right-wing paranoia is driving new wave of radicals

(Credit: AP/Dave Martin)

New wingnut neo-Confederates may be laughed at as they enter Washington, D.C. But here’s why their anger is deadly serious

By Matthew Pulver

Progressive America Rising via Salon.com

Southern voters will go to the polls in November 150 years, almost to the day, after Gen. Sherman commenced his March to the Sea, breaking the back of the Confederacy and leaving a burnt scar across the South. The wound never fully healed. Humiliation and resentment would smolder for generations. A sense of persecution has always mingled with the rebellious independence and proud notions of the South’s latent power, the promise that it “will rise again!” Congressman Paul Broun Jr., whose Georgia district spans nearly half of Sherman’s calamitous path to Savannah, evoked the “Great War of Yankee Aggression” in a metaphor to decry the Affordable Care Act on the House floor in 2010. The war, in Broun’s formulation, was not a righteous rebellion so much as a foreign invasion whose force still acts upon the South and its ideological diaspora that increasingly forms the foundation of conservatism.

The persecution narrative deployed by Broun, so woven into Southern culture and politics, has gained national currency. Contemporary conservatism is a Southern politics. Ironically, the Southern persecution narrative, born of defeat, has spread nationwide to form the basis of Republican victories since Reagan and the conservative hegemony that moderated President Clinton, establishing through President George W. Bush nearly 40 years of rightward movement at the national level.

It is the South’s principal political export, now a necessary ideological substrate in Republican rhetoric. Lee Atwater, the Karl Rove of the Reagan era, explained the nationalization of Southern politics accomplished with the 1980 campaign and election of President Reagan: “The mainstream issues in [the Reagan] campaign had been, quote, ‘Southern’ issues since way back in the Sixties,” Atwater said in 1981. Likely the foremost representative of that Southern mood was Alabama’s George Wallace, who in his 1963 gubernatorial inaugural address, the infamous “Segregation Forever” speech, invoked Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis and raged that “government has become our god.” Just months later, that omnipotent force would defeat Wallace when President Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard and forced desegregation at the University of Alabama. Wallace, though, would be rewarded for his stand, and the governor carried five Deep South states in his 1968 presidential run.

A century after the Civil War and Reconstruction, the 1960s was a sort of second federal invasion, with the White House strong-arming Wallace, Supreme Court decisions finally implementing Brown’s desegregation order, and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts radically reshaping Southern politics and culture. “The South went from being behind the times to being the mainstream,” Atwater said. It is helpful to consider the inverse: The mainstream GOP adopted the ’60s-era mood of the South. Atwater does not suggest that the South caught up with a modernized conservatism — i.e., that it ceased to be “behind the times” — but that the larger movement regressed, albeit with rhetorical coding to evade charges of old-school racism.

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Does Fox News Cause Ignorance, or Do Ignorant Viewers Prefer Fox News?

June 10th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Media bias, racism, rightwing, Tea Party

A new study reveals the gap between the channel’s fans and the rest of America

By Danny Vinik @dannyvinik

Progressive America Rising via The New Republic

Immediately before the presidential election in 2012, Fox News viewers were certain of one thing: Mitt Romney was going win. It didn’t matter that poll after poll had President Barack Obama winning by a comfortable margin. Conservative pundits Michael Barone, George Will and Dick Morris all expected Romney to earn more than 300 electoral votes. Even after Obama’s victory was certain on election night, Karl Rove wouldn’t admit defeat.

For those of us reading Nate Silver and other election forecasters, those conservative predictions were laughably bad. And election night proved us correct: Obama won with 332 electoral votes. The millions of Republicans who were shocked and disappointed on election night were not let down by their hubris, although it undoubtedly played a role. The real fault lies with conservative media system, which had become an echo chamber of right wing talking points that did not reflect the national landscape.

In the aftermath of Obama’s reelection, smart conservatives argued that the right wing media was putting their party at a disadvantage by obscuring the truth. “You haven’t just been misinformed about the horse race,” the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf wrote. “Since the very beginning of the election cycle, conservative media has been failing you.” While Friedersdorf hoped the shellacking would be an awakening for the party, he doubted it would be. Nineteen months later, Friedersdorf is looking prophetic: A new Brookings and Public Religion Research Institute poll shows just how out of touch Fox News viewers are with both their fellow Republicans and the rest of the country. They learned nothing from 2012.

The Brookings/PRRI report surveyed 1,538 adults focused on immigration reform, but also included questions on their news preferences and a collection of other policy issues. The focus on new preferences allowed the researchers to divide the Republican respondents into two groups: those that most trust Fox News “to provide accurate information about politics and current events” and those that most trust a different network. The former, whom the authors label “Fox News Republicans,” made up 53 percent of Republican respondents. “Non-Fox News Republicans” made up the remaining 47 percent. This was an easy split to make, but for Democrats there was no clear divide on news preferences. Thirty one percent of Democrats most trusted broadcast news stations (ABC, NBC, and CBS) while another 26 percent chose CNN. Smaller percentages chose public television (14 percent), MSNBC (10 percent) and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart (9 percent).

Trust in Television News Sources

PRRI/Brookings

In other words, the Republican Party is extremely polarized among its news choices while the Democratic Party is scattered among a number of networks.

This makes a huge difference for the policy preferences among Republicans. For instance, 42 percent of Fox News Republicans support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. For Non-Fox News Republicans, it’s 60 percent. That puts the views of Non-Fox News Republicans closer to those of Independents (61 percent support a path to citizenship) and Democrats (70 percent).

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As the Global Economy Continues to Crumble, Old Fascism Finds a New Voice

May 26th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in elections, Europe, rightwing

Photo: Hungary’s Far Right

By Robert Koehler

Progressive America Rising via Truthout

Things rip apart. More and more people fall into desperation. Some of them decide it’s the fault of immigrants. Or homosexuals. Or . . .

"Today, Nazi influences are growing in Europe for the same reasons they did back then. The social safety nets have been torn, and people are left behind. Left alone. The hopelessness is what comes first, then the hatred. It’s never the other way around."

A campaign led by Sweden’s Social Democratic Party (quoted above), in the run-up to the European Union elections on May 25 — which features Rainer Hoess, grandson of the commandant of Auschwitz, warning people that democracy and human rights can never be taken for granted — is called: NEVER FORGET. TO VOTE. Its point is that far right politics, including a blatant neo-Nazism bent on rekindling the old agenda of "blood purity," racial solidarity and loyalty to the homeland, is spreading across the EU just as unemployment and austerity are spreading and Europe’s economy comes to resemble, more and more, the economy of the 1930s.

In other words, malignant racism combined with a bad economy can still foment social poison. Hatred seeks power and power seeks hatred, and they sometimes find each other. And what we call the "social safety net" might better, perhaps, be called the social immune system — because society is a living organism.

Europe’s history informs the whole planet that social caring isn’t simply an abstract principle.

In Greece, for instance, Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party, shocked the country by winning 18 parliamentary seats in 2012. This is a group with a serious us-vs.-them agenda, organizing itself around the scapegoats of the moment.

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Republicans’ Insane Political Strategy: Ruining Our Country Hurts the Democratic Party

May 14th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election, GOP, rightwing

By Thom Hartmann

Progressive America Rising via Alternet

May 13, 2014 – The Republicans have their strategy, and they’re sticking to it, even though it involves destroying lives and even killing people.

It’s working so well based on a simple statistical reality.

The majority of Americans – depending on which survey you look at, between 60 and 75 percent – cannot name which political party controls the House of Representatives, which party controls the Senate [3], or either.

Because most Americans don’t know who controls Congress, when Congress misbehaves, as they have been doing for six years, most Americans aren’t sure who to blame.

Enter the Republican Chaos Strategy, based entirely on this statistical and political reality.

And common sense suggests that well over 90 percent of Americans know that Barack Obama is the president and that he is a Democrat.

The Republicans know this, too, and it’s the other half of their strategy.

Therefore, what the Republicans know, is that if they can cause damage to the American economy and to American working people, the average voter, not realizing it was exclusively the Republicans who did it, are going to assume that the president – and the Democratic Party he is a member of – must bear some or maybe even all of the responsibility.

It’s a brilliant strategy: Damage the country and you damage the Democratic Party.

And just in time for the midterm elections.

For six years now, Republicans have been hard at work damaging America and the American people. When the Democrats briefly controlled Congress, Nancy Pelosi got passed legislation that removed tax incentives for big companies to move jobs overseas and reversed those incentives to encourage companies to move factories back to the United States. This would seem to be a no-brainer, but Republicans filibustered it in the Senate and it died.

Why? Because it would’ve helped the economy, it would’ve lowered unemployment, it would’ve brought back good paying jobs, and it would’ve helped the American people.

The Republican Chaos Strategy dictates that you cannot allow these things to happen when there is a Democrat in the White House. Under their theory, if anything positive is done for the American people by Congress, the American people –  who don’t know which party controls Congress – will assume that the president and his Democrats must’ve had something to do with it. And therefore, the Democrats will get the credit.

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An Armed Standoff in Nevada Is Only the Beginning for America’s Right-Wing Militias

April 16th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in GOP, rightwing, Tea Party

A standoff between federal agents and right-wing militia members came very close to bloodshed last week. Photo by Shannon Bushman via Facebook

By Grace Wyler

Progressive America Rising via Vice News

For two decades the US government has tried to get Cliven Bundy to remove his cows from federal land, and for two decades the Nevada rancher has steadfastly refused, defying court orders and attempts to negotiate a settlement for the $1.1 million he owes in federal grazing fees. Finally, last week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) took matters into its own hands and started seizing cattle that had been illegally grazing on government property. Things went downhill from there.

What began as an arcane land dispute rapidly escalated into an armed standoff in the desert. A ragtag band of anti-government militants, Tea Party politicians, and Old West ranchers descended on the area, responding to a call to arms posted by the Bundy family on their blog and circulated throughout the internet by conservatives and libertarians. Spurred on by YouTube videos of physical altercations between federal agents and the Bundys, the protesters aggressively confronted law enforcement, which in turn escalated things by gathering a huge force of armed BLM rangers and FBI agents. On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration placed a month-long flight restriction over the ranch after the Bundy family posted aerial photos of the assembled authorities.

For right-wing militias and paramilitary groups founded around a collective paranoid belief that the federal government is just looking for an excuse to impose martial law, images of armed federal agents forcibly seizing cows basically means it’s DEFCON 1. By Saturday, as many as 1,000 anti-BLM protestors from as far away as Virginia, New Hampshire, and Georgia had set up camp in Bunkerville, an arid patch of land where the BLM was rounding up the Bundy cattle. Packing handguns and assault rifles, the protesters carried signs featuring slogans like “Tyranny Is Alive,” “Where’s the Justice?” and “Militia Sighn In [sic]," and many said they were prepared for a shoot-out with the federal government. The mood was such that even Glenn Beck was wary of the crowd, announcing on his show that “there’s about 10 or 15 percent of the people who are talking about this online that are truly frightening."

“We were prepared to do whatever it takes to protect their cattle, and their ranch, and their home,” said protester Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who is on the board of Oath Keepers, a militia founded by a former Ron Paul aide and made up mostly of current and former US military personnel and law enforcement. “The government was prepared to do anything, including shooting at unarmed people." (On Monday Mack told Fox News that organizers had been “strategizing to put all the women up front” in a firefight so that the image of the BLM shooting women would be televised.)

The government blinked first, announcing Saturday afternoon that it would stop seizing Bundy’s cattle because of "grave concern about the safety of our employees and members of the public." A few hours later, protesters stormed the BLM’s corrals, demanding that the bureau release the 400 cows it had already captured.

"Everyone was up there trying to get the cattle back and the BLM and all of the agents kept yelling, ‘Step closer and we’ll shoot!’ Everybody had their hands up, and we just kept moving forward," said protester Kevin Gillman, a 24-year-old military veteran who volunteered with the state militia coalition Operation Mutual Aid at Bundy Ranch. "They ended up releasing the cattle, because it was either that or shoot us."

The government described the situation slightly differently. “Due to escalating tensions, the cattle have been released from the enclosures in order to avoid violence and help restore order," BLM Director Neil Kornze said in a statement.

Bundy’s allies have cautiously declared victory, although most of the protesters I spoke to remain predictably suspicious that the stand-down was just another government “ruse” to lure them into complacency. "We don’t want to be taken by surprise by another onslaught, so we’re still being careful," Mack said. He estimated that about a third of the protesters had remained at Bundy Ranch this week to provide "security."

Emboldened by the strong showing in Nevada, right-wing militia organizers are now looking to capitalize on the momentum, hosting marathon conference calls in which hundreds of militia volunteers strategize and coordinate their next big move.

"There have been more organizations putting out the word about what’s going on, how the [federal government] is taking away our freedoms and liberties," said Gillman, who is one of roughly 400 new volunteers to join Operation Mutual Aid in recent days. Gillman added that he hadn’t known much about the militia movement before last week.

"Most of them are just citizens who want to go out and help the cause of other Americans in need who don’t have backup," he said of his right-wing comrades. "I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a militia, but we did bring our guns out there, because the federal agents went out there with their sniper rifles and their guns. We’re just going to be prepared for whatever [the government] wants to do. It’s hard to talk to someone who has a gun unless you have one yourself."

Meanwhile, the tenuous stalemate has basically put the BLM right back where it started. In a statement I was given on Tuesday, the agency insisted that it had not cut a deal with Bundy and that it would still try to force the rancher into compliance through administrative and legal channels. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, also weighed in on the conflict this week, telling Reno’s NBC affiliate KRNV that the conflict isn’t finished.

“We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it,” Reid said. “So it’s not over.”

Legally, Bundy doesn’t have a leg to stand on. His disagreement with the federal government dates back to 1993, when he stopped paying federal grazing fees in response to new regulations aimed at protecting the desert tortoise habitat in Golden Butte, a federally owned 600,000-acre swath of land northeast of Las Vegas where Bundy’s family has been raising cattle since his Mormon ancestors settled there, in the late 1800s. In response, the BLM revoked Bundy’s permit and sued him twice in federal court. Both times, a judge ordered Bundy to get his cows off public land or face fines of $200 per head for each day that he refused to comply. The government now claims that Bundy owes $1.1 million in fines and grazing fees. (The right-wing website Breitbart has compiled all of the court orders—and provided a lengthy analysis—here.)

In response, Bundy has argued that the federal government doesn’t actually own the land in question, and thus doesn’t have the right to tell him what to do with his cows. The land, he says, actually belongs to the state of Nevada—a claim that is very obviously untrue.

“I think this is the sovereign state of Nevada,” Bundy told conservative talk-radio host Dana Loesch Thursday. “I abide by all Nevada state laws. But I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.”

Bundy’s larger point—that the feds shouldn’t own 80 percent of the land in Nevada, or nearly 50 percent of land in 11 Western states—demonstrates the long-running tension over state’s rights and federal land-use policies that invariably pick winners and losers among environmental and business interests. Even if Bundy wanted to pay the government fines, he would still be forced to remove his cows from Butte Gold thanks to a 1998 conservation deal that eliminated grazing in the area in exchange for allowing the county to destroy desert tortoise habitats for private development. Bundy is now the sole surviving cattle rancher in Clark County.

At the same time, environmentalists have criticized the BLM for not dealing with the Bundys’ trespass cattle sooner, and they were outraged this week when the agency called off the roundup. “The BLM monumentally failed to remove the trespass cattle, collect fees, or protect the land for more than 20 years,” Rob Mrowka, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Now it backed down in the face of threats and posturing of armed so-called ‘sovereignists.’ This is absolutely pathetic and an insult to ranchers and others who hold permits and pay their required fees to use the public lands.”

For most of the Bundys’ far-right allies, though, the showdown in Nevada wasn’t as much about the rancher and his land as it was a flashpoint in their growing beef with the federal government.

"Progressively, the federal government is just getting stronger," Gillman said. "I don’t understand why they need to go out there with 200 federal agents and set up sniper positions. I don’t see the need for the federal government to take up guns against its own people.

"We’re willing to go as far as they are willing to go," he added. "We’re not here for violence… But if they’re coming in, guns blaring, to hurt citizens, then we’re just going to defend ourselves. We’re not going to go out and attack or anything. When someone goes in and takes away your freedoms, the only thing you can do is stand up against them. If you don’t stand up against them, how far will they go?"

Follow Grace Wyler on Twitter.

What’s With South Carolina’s ‘Neo-Confederates’?

April 9th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Civil Rights, GOP, racism, rightwing

 

McConnell at his memorabilia store in 1999

Glenn McConnell Began Selling Segregationist’s Products in Wake of Boycott

By Josh Glasstetter

Progressive America Rising via Hatewatch

After a segregationist businessman’s products were dropped from major grocery chains over his promotion of slavery, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell – who was recently selected to head the College of Charleston – went out of his way to sell the man’s products.

Maurice Bessinger, an unrepentant segregationist who ran the Piggie Park chain of barbecue restaurants in South Carolina, sparked a controversy in 2000 when he began flying the Confederate flag over his restaurants – a reaction to the state government removing the flag from the capitol dome. Soon it was discovered that Bessinger was selling pro-slavery materials at his restaurants, including a pamphlet entitled “The Biblical Justification for Slavery.”

Bessinger, who wore a white suit and appeared atop a white horse in promotional materials, had made a name for himself during the Civil Rights era for refusing to integrate his restaurants and leading the National Association for the Preservation of White People. He posted signs at his stores telling African Americans they were not welcome. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually forced him to integrate and his restaurants went back to, more or less, business as usual.

By 2000, South Carolina had changed, but Bessinger hadn’t. According to The State, Bessinger was “distributing pro-slavery audiotapes and gave customers a discount if they bought his literature.” He claimed that slavery in South Carolina was “biblical slavery,” which he argued was more ethical than other forms.

Customers began boycotting his restaurants, and the NAACP and other organizations called on major grocery chains to drop his products – one after another, they did. Bessinger wrote in his 2001 memoir, “Defending My Heritage,” that six major grocery chains, including Walmart, had dropped his products by the end of 2000, and wholesale sales were down 98%.

When you read his memoir, it’s not hard to understand why. Here are a few choice quotes:

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Michigan Rightwing Legislature Wants to Pass Bill To Fine Citizens Up To $1k Per Day For Picketing

February 27th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Civil Liberties, rightwing, Voting Rights

 

Michigan Tea Party Legislature Passes Bill To Require Judges To Fine Citizens Up To $1K For Picketing

Bye-bye First Amendment rights, Michigan GOP and Tea Party reps pass a law requiring judges to fine citizens up to $1k per day, for picketing an employer. Image: Kheel Center

By Randa Morris

Progressive America Rising via addictinginfo.org

Feb 26, 2014 – This week, the Michigan House of Representatives took up HB 4643, legislation which was introduced by Republican Tom McMillin, that imposes massive fines against citizens who exercise their basic first amendment rights.

Under this law, citizens can be fined up to $1,000 per day for picketing.

Michigan’s extreme right wing Governor, Rick Snyder, along with the state’s predominately GOP/tea party legislature, have passed some of the most controversial laws in the country. From the state’s insane Emergency Manager law, which grants the governor power to remove any elected official and replace that official with a hand picked lackey of the governor himself, to the much hated Right To Work legislation that was passed by the legislature only after the voters were locked out of the capital, to the state’s extreme anti-abortion legislation and it’s widely condemned ‘rape insurance‘ bill, the fanatical right wing politicians that have seized hold of Michigan have made it all too clear that what the voters want is of no consequence to them.

As if all of that were not enough, however, this week the Michigan House of Representatives took up a bill that will require judges to impose a fine of up to $1,000 a day for picketing workers. An additional fine of up to $10,000 a day is also to be levied against any labor organization found to be leading or organizing a strike.

Not only is this law a direct attack on labor, but a direct attack on rights guaranteed to all citizens under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Here’s a video from the House Floor. Representative Jim Towsend (D) introduced three amendments to the proposed house bill, in order to protect citizen’s constitutionally guaranteed right to peaceful assembly. At the end of the video the Speaker of the House can be heard to say “Amendments not adopted.”

 

Are Michigan workers making too much money?

What’s up with all of these anti-worker bills in Michigan? Why would the state’s representatives be launching attacks against workers? Are Michigan’s super high wages keeping employers from opening businesses in the state? Not hardly. In fact, Michigan workers are not earning anything close to super high wages.

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UAW: Unions Need New Strategy

February 18th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in GOP, Organizing, rightwing, trade unions

Reflections on the defeat suffered by the TN workers in Volkswagen

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Progressive America Rising via BillFletcherJr.com

Feb 18 , 2014 · The election loss at the Chattanooga plant of VW was, first and foremost, a loss suffered by the workers.  Secondarily it was a loss suffered by the United Auto Workers.  The workers at that facility lost the chance to bargain collectively and to obtain a voice in their workplace.  This was a loss that was mainly the result of the all-out right-wing offensive that took place in TN against the workers and their–the workers’–decision to seek representation. And, as is the case for all workers who lack collective bargaining (or the even rarer personal contract), they remain in a free-fire zone where they can be removed from their job for any reason or no reason as long as the reason does not violate statute.   I am sorry; i just needed to cut to the chase.

Yet, we cannot stop there with our reflections on what transpired.  This was a situation where the company–VW–agreed to be neutral and, in many ways, seemed to welcome the union.  Nevertheless, by a relatively slim majority, the proponents of workers’ rights did not prevail.   This reality emphasizes the point that employer neutrality, while important, is insufficient.  There are larger factors at stake when workers must make a decision on union representation, particularly in a period where labor unions have been under such vicious assault.  The decision, in this case, of the Republican Party and others on the political Right to draw a line in the sand and go all out to intimidate the workforce is a case-in-point.  The workers, their families and friends had to decide whether the threats coming from the political Right were genuine or just rhetoric.  Given the history of anti-worker repression in the South, along with the on-going racist efforts to secure a ‘white bloc’ against progress, the messages of the political Right came through loud and clear.

At the same time there was another factor that i found particularly striking.   It was mentioned in an article on the election in the Washington Post yesterday (Monday).  They indicated that within the anti-union vote there were those who were angered by the UAW’s willingness to keep the wages and benefits of VW workers in TN ‘competitive.’  This was particularly interesting because herein lay a critique of the UAW that may have surprised many people.  The workers were saying that they did not want to guarantee to VW that their wages would stay below those of Chrysler, Ford or GM workers.

The UAW finds itself in a bind.  For more than thirty years it has engaged in concessionary bargaining with employers under the banner of “jointness.”  Only a few years ago it approved a two-tier agreement by which the wage and benefit package for incoming workers would differ from veteran workers.  Two-tier systems are by their very nature demoralizing and undermine any real sense of solidarity.  They are also a poison pill that can kill the patient over time as the newer workers come to resent the benefits that they do not have, but which are held by the veteran workers.  Jointness, two tier concessions and a failure–until relatively recently–to develop innovative approaches toward organizing auto “transplants” and auto parts manufacturers in the South have come back to bite the UAW, and to bite with fangs of steel.

The defeat in TN will lead some commentators to suggest that organizing in the South, or in any hostile environment, is pointless short of changes in labor law.  Such conclusions, which we hear periodically, are ahistoric and defeatest.   Yet there are sobering conclusions, or at least suggestions that must be considered.  With all due respect, let me propose a few.

One, the UAW needs to build a local union in that TN plant.  The fact that the election was lost should not mean that the union disappears.  Rather, there is the notion that has become increasingly popular over the last 20 years of what are called “non-majority unions,” that is, unions that are organized in a situation where they have not won majority status and, therefore, cannot bargain collectively, but where they can organize the workers and build alternative forms of representation.   The UAW needs to make that commitment and flip the script.

Two, as is being attempted by the UAW in Mississippi, organizing must look very differently than in the past.  The battle is not simply, only and some cases, mainly between the workers and the employer.  In the case of Chattanooga, VW was not opposed to the union, for example.  Yet in organizing a labor union we must be clear that this is and always has been about power–who has it and who does not.  Thus, organizing a union really must be a community affair.  It must be a matter that involves and engages not only the directly affected workers but also their families, friends and neighbors.  The community must see in unionization an economic development strategy that makes sense. They must also see in unionization a strategy to fight back against the gross injustices that workers feel every day.

Three, grass roots political education and political action is key.  The political Right mobilized its various forces against this unionization effort.  Workers and their unions cannot sit back and await a Democratic Party response to such a travesty.  Workers need locally-based political associations and organizations that can mobilize in order to both advance a progressive project but to also move against the political Right.  Champions of workers rights must create a bit of mischief thereby destabilizing our opponents.  That ranges from an active presence in the media to legislative initiatives that advance workers’ rights to electoral campaigns against the demons who wish to keep the workers in bondage.

Four, and this is a difficult one, the UAW will need to look at itself.  The UAW is not by itself in this challenge, i might add.  Today’s unions were constructed in a very different environment.  In many cases they are led–at the national and local levels–by very sincere individuals who continue to fight the ‘last war.’  In the case of the UAW, the leaders and members probably need to seize this time to reflect on the strategy of jointness; on two-tier systems; on their failure to take an aggressive approach to organizing the auto parts industry; and why it has taken so long to make a serious and on-going effort to unionize the South.  Such a discussion will be complicated and painful, but in the absence of such an examination, the UAW will continue to die the death of a thousand cuts.  And, more importantly, workers in this country who so desperately need unionization, will continue to feel the boot of corporate America and their right-wing allies on our collective necks.

‘The Common Good’, Dirty Words to Today’s GOP

December 9th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Education, GOP, rightwing, safety net, trade unions

Progressives Must Stand Up Against the Right Wing War on Public Employees

By Robert Creamer

Progressive America Rising via Huffington Post

Dec 9, 2013 – For many years the American Right — and many of the most powerful elements of corporate and Wall Street elite — have conducted a war on public employees.

Their campaign has taken many forms. They have tried to slash the number of public sector jobs, cut the pay and benefits of public sector workers, and do away with public employee rights to collective bargaining. They have discredited the value of the work performed by public employees — like teachers, police and firefighters — going so far as to argue that "real jobs" are created only by the private sector.

Last week a conservative court ruled that by going through bankruptcy the city of Detroit could rid itself of its obligation under the state constitution to make good on its pension commitments to its retirees.

It should surprise no one that the Republican Chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, is demanding that a budget deal with the Democrats include a 350 percent increase in pension contribution by all civilian federal employees. That would effectively mean a pay cut of about 2 percent for every federal worker. And that cut would come after a three-year pay freeze and multiple furloughs caused by the Republican "sequester."

Unbelievably, in Illinois the right wing Chicago Tribune and the state’s corporate elite snookered the Democratic-controlled legislature into passing changes in that state’s pension laws that slashed the pensions of its public employees. The changes affected all state employees and many of Illinois’ teachers. All of them had faithfully made their required contributions to the state’s pension funds for years, even though the legislature regularly failed to make its required payments so it could avoid raising taxes on the state’s wealthiest citizens.

Illinois cut teacher pensions, even though many do not participate in the Social Security system and the state pension is their only source of retirement income.

All of these attacks on public employees — and cuts in public sector expenditures in general — are premised on two myths that are simply untrue.

Myth number one. The Right claims we live in a period of scarcity that requires extreme public sector austerity. They claim "we just can’t afford" to pay people like teachers the pensions that we had agreed to in the past, because "America is broke."

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