Labor Wars: Michigan is the New Wisconsin
Akiba Solomon, Colorlines, June 29, 2011
Michigan is shaping up to be the next big battleground in the Republican-led war on unions and public workers’ rights.
In March, the state’s Republican governor Rick Snyder signed Emergency Financial Manager Law Public Act 4, a law that grants state-appointed officials broad power to run cash-strapped communities and school districts. While the state has had Emergency Financial Managers (EFM’s) for decades, critics—including Jesse Jackson, Rep. John Conyers and members of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus—say PA-4 has enhanced their authority in unprecedented ways.
For instance, in Benton Harbor, a predominantly black town of 11,000, emergency manager Joseph L. Harris effectively fired the town’s elected officials with an order “prohibiting all action by all city boards, commissions and authorities, except as authorized by the emergency manager.” (If you don’t believe it, read Order No. 11-05 here.) (Read more)
Attack On Unions May Deflate Black Incomes
Claudio E. Cabrera, News One | April 7, 2011
NEW YORK — With laws passed stripping many unionized workers in Wisconsin and Ohio of their collective bargaining rights, some African-Americans in New York City are concerned that they’re next.
“To go through what those people are going through would be a complete nightmare,” said construction worker Bernie Simmons of Brooklyn, NY.
According to Stuart Applebaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, African-Americans who are in unions are 12 percent more likely to have health insurance benefits and a pension plan than non-Black unionized workers. (Read more)
On NFL Lockout and Wisconsin Protests: People Cheer For Labor Unions
Dr. Jason Johnson, theloop21.com | March 30, 2011
Conventional wisdom suggests that Americans would support the union activities of regular teachers, cops and highway employees but roll their eyes at millionaire athletes on a worker lockout. Yet, believe it or not, public sentiment seems to support both.
From The Associated Press:
A Bloomberg National Poll conducted March 4-7 showed that 43 percent of those surveyed side with the players and 20 percent with the owners. The remaining 37 percent either don’t follow football or aren’t sure which side they favor.
“Fans live vicariously through the players, and are more sympathetic to player causes,” David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California, said in an interview.
So, on one hand you have your NFL players, making no less than a million bucks, who work — at best — about five months a year and get into every party for free while getting their picks of the hottest women (or men) in the country. You’d think it would be pretty hard to feel sorry for them. (Read more)
Attacks on unions disproportionately hurt black workers
Brian Gilmore, The News Tribune | March 29, 2011
The attack on public-sector workers in New Jersey, Ohio, Wisconsin and other states is especially threatening to blacks.
While all workers stand to lose if this assault on long-established labor rights succeeds, African American workers are much more likely than other Americans to be public workers and to belong to a union.
One out of every five blacks is employed in the public sector, according to a recent report by economist Steven Pitts of the University of California at Berkeley. This contrasts with one out of every six white workers and one out of every 10 Latino workers.
The public sector – including police officers, firefighters, nurses, social workers, clerical staff, janitors, food-service personnel, professors and more – is the No. 1 employer of black men and the second-highest employer of black women. (Read more)
Indiana Dems Return After ‘Softening’ GOP Agenda
Associated Press | March 29, 2011
Indiana House Democrats are back at work after a five-week boycott to protest a Republican agenda they consider an assault on labor unions and public education, but whether their efforts will ultimately change the outcome of the legislation they opposed is unclear.
Republicans agreed to rejigger — but not completely overhaul — their plans as lawmakers resume work in the House. The Senate had already started working around the Democrats by holding separate hearings on bills stalled in the walkout. Still, Democrats insist concessions they’ve received on several issues, including school vouchers and labor legislation, made their boycott worthwhile.
“We’re coming back after softening the radical agenda,” said House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, whose Statehouse return Monday was greeted by cheering union workers. “We won a battle, but we recognize the war goes on.” (Read more)
Why StudentsFirst Supports Teachers’ Right to Collective Bargaining
Michelle Rhee, Huffington Post | March 29, 2011
In the wake of recent efforts to eliminate collective bargaining, StudentsFirst members have been asking for my views on this critical topic in public education today.
We agree that citizens can no longer avoid the budget crises happening across the country. Governors are having to make very tough decisions. We need to reduce bureaucracies and address bloated pensions that are crippling state budgets, and introduce new models for state employees to contribute to their benefits.
However, in no way does this mean we should take away teachers’ rights to collectively bargain. (Read more)
Maine Governor Moves Mural Depicting State’s Labor History
Eyder Peralta, NPR | March 28, 2011
Despite controversy and protests, Maine Gov. Paul LePage went through with his order to remove a 36-foot mural from the building of the Department of Labor. The mural depicts events in the state’s labor history, from the first time unionists were allowed to vote anonymously to a 1973 strike that sought better working conditions for women. (Read more)
This is What Democracy Looks Like!?
League of Young Voters | March 14, 2011
Members of the League of Young Voters traveled to Wisconsin’s capitol to see how they can get more African Americans involved in the protests.
Angry Workers March, Fight Back as Wages Fall and Rights Threatened
Saeed Shabazz, Special to the NNPA from the Final Call | March 14, 2011
NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) -- William Peterson, 46, the son of a Hartsville, South Carolina, brick mason, has worked at the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx for the past four years.
Now he is in a fight to keep his $24.50 an hour union job. Management wants to lay him and 23 other workers off, saying it is cheaper to outsource their work to a private contractor.
“My father was good at what he did, but he made little money to feed his family,” Peterson told The Final Call after a rally and march against his Woodlawn Cemetery bosses. “We are taking a stand —fighting for what is ours —because if we don’t, workers will be returned to the days of slavery,” he said.
The conversation quickly turned to what was going on in Madison, Wisconsin, where pro-labor activists had started street protests and marches to the state house to protect the right to organize and fair treatment for young, poor, and working class Americans. “Seeing people in the struggle, standing up for the rights of all workers to organize, means a lot to us here in New York,” Peterson said.
“It’s time for the labor movement here in the U.S. to grow up; the rank-in-file here in New York and in Wisconsin have been held in check by union leadership for too long,” said Chris Silvera, secretary-treasurer for Teamsters Local 808, the local union negotiating the new contract for the Woodlawn workers.
“A movement has emerged; we are seeing it in the streets of Wisconsin—in the actions of public employees—who are standing against the destruction of their right to organize,” Silvera told The Final Call. (Read more)
Thousands protest once again at Capitol, undeterred by bill passage
Associated Press | March 12, 2011
MADISON (AP) -- Thousands of pro-labor protesters turned out for more demonstrations at the Wisconsin Capitol on Saturday, seemingly undeterred by the fact that a contentious collective bargaining bill had been signed into law the day before.
The demonstrators insisted the fight wasn’t over, and many said their focus would now be on recalling the Republicanlawmakers who had pushed through the bill. Efforts to recall from office eight Republican state senators and some of the 14 Democratic state senators who fled to try to prevent a vote on it have already started.
Democratic senators were expected to make their first appearance in Madison since fleeing the state later Saturday. Their departure had left the Senate one vote short of the number needed to pass measures spending money. Republicans got around that by breaking out the collective bargaining provisions of the legislation, which could be passed with fewer members present.
The proposal to eliminate most of public workers’ collective bargaining rights touched off a national debate, and its passage was a key victory for Republicans who have targeted unions in nationwide efforts to slash government spending. But labor leaders have said they plan to use the setback to fire up their members nationwide and mount a major counterattack against Republicans at the ballot box in 2012. (Read more)
Unions frame bargaining as civil rights issue
Associated Press | Mar 11, 2011
WASHINGTON (AP) — Labor unions at the heart of a burning national disagreement over the cost of public employees want to frame the debate as a civil rights issue, an effort that may draw more sympathy to public workers being blamed for busting state budgets with generous pensions.
As part of that strategy, unions are planning rallies across the country on April 4 — the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Union officials want the observances in dozens of cities to remind Americans that King was supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., the night he was shot.
By portraying collective bargaining as a human rights issue, union officials hope the rallies can help fuel a backlash against Republicans in Wisconsin and other states trying to curb collective bargaining rights for public employees.
“This is a fight for workers, this is a fight for the middle class, this is a fight to try to stave off the shift in power and wealth that is starting to become gross,” said Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
The planned rallies on the 43rd anniversary of King’s death are part of a coordinated strategy by labor leaders to ride the momentum of pro-union demonstrations and national polls showing most Americans support collective bargaining rights as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other GOP leaders in states fight to reduce or strip those benefits. (Read more)
Gutting Unions Hurts the Black Middle Class
Lynette Holloway, The Root | March 11, 2011
“The Fabulous 14.”
That’s what Rozalia Harris and other members of the Milwaukee teachers union call the renegade Democratic state senators who fled Wisconsin on Feb. 17 to stop a vote on a proposed spending plan that includes restrictions on collective bargaining by public workers. “We are grateful to the Fabulous 14 because their willingness to put their jobs on the line has helped raise awareness of the problem of the proposed collective bargaining restrictions,” Harris, a third-grade teacher and vice president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, the largest in Wisconsin, told The Root. “Without them, it might have sailed through the Legislature and no one would have been the wiser until it was time to sit at the bargaining table.”
Unfortunately, the Fabulous 14′s flight wasn’t enough to stop the Wisconsin Legislature from passing the bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most public workers. The state Senate found a way to pass the bill without the Democratic senators Wednesday night, and the state Assembly voted in favor of the measure on Thursday. Gov. Scott Walker has vowed to sign the measure.
The fight in Wisconsin has drawn international attention to a trend that Democrats say is a push by Republicans to dismantle public unions. The move is alarming to African-American leaders such as Harris and the NAACP because a disproportionate number of public-union members are African American. (Read more)
Scott Walker’s Anti-Union Bill Prompts Wisc. Student Walkouts
Huffington Post | March 11, 2011
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s bill to end collective bargaining for public employees passed the state senate on Wednesday. In reaction, Wisconsin high school students are planning a nationwide walkout in order to send a unified message in support of public education.
A Facebook event labeled Nationwide Student Walkout already has more than 5,000 people “attending.” The group asks for the nationwide walkout to happen this Friday, March 11, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. local time.
Started by statewide coalition Wisconsin Students in Solidarity, the group states their goals are “outreach, education and action.” An open letter signed by Sheboygan’s Asher Heimermann and Madison East High School senior Jesse Banks lists the three reasons students feel compelled to act: (Read more)
Wisconsin GOP Strips Union Collective Bargaining — Stay Informed
Jamilah King, Colorlines | March 10, 2011
By now, many of the country’s public sector workers are still reeling from last night’s news that Republicans in Wisconsin voted to strip workers in that state of their collective bargaining rights.
You can watch live video from the state Capitol in Wisconsin above, or find more at TheUptake.
What’s clear is that Walker’s anti-union attack isn’t just about Wisconsin. Across the country, public sector workers are fighting back against right-wing efforts to bust the trademark powers of unions — whether it’s collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, or so-called “entitlement” programs that are being cut back in cities and localities nationwide.
Walkers’ anti-union message rests on the myth that public workers, many of whom are black in states like Indiana, New Jersey, and Michigan — are overcompensated. As I’ve written before, data from the Economic Policy Institute shows how that the complete opposite is true. To re-hash: (Read more)
Unions Rights Affect Black Workers More Than Others
NPR | March 10, 2011
After weeks of protests and wrangling, the Wisconsin State Senate passed a bill that strips public employees of collective bargaining rights. As a growing number of states consider similar measures, public sector workers face a daunting future. A recent study shows that African Americans are far more likely to work for the government than any other ethnic group. The public sector is also the leading employer of black men and the second leading employer of black women. Host Michel Martin discusses the implications of budget cuts for minority workers with Steven Pitts, a labor policy specialist with the University of California, Berkeley and a co-author of that study.
NAACP to Support Unions at Image Awards But Must Do More
Jeff Mays, Black Voices | March 3, 2011
Some participants and staff members of the NAACP will wear red, white and blue ribbons in support of union workers at this Friday’s Image Awards.
The move follows the passage of a resolution in support of union workers and collective bargaining rights by the NAACP last week.
“As we celebrate the contributions of people of color in film, literature, music and television, we will be wearing ribbons to show our support for the workers and families protesting in statehouses across the nation. The NAACP remains committed to helping public employees keep their collective bargaining rights, fair pay and appropriate benefits,” said NAACP Chairman Roslyn Brock.
Unions have been coming under attack in recent weeks. In Wisconsin, the governor is trying to take away the collective bargaining power rights of state union members.
Times are rough and unions must share the pain with the rest of the country. Through contract givebacks, some already have.
“The NAACP has always supported the efforts of working people to come together to bargain for a better life. The only way we can solve our nation’s economic problems is with everyone at the table,” said Clayola Brown, chairman of the Image Awards and president of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute. (Read more)
What Wisconsin Means for America’s Unions
Shirin Sadeghi, New America Media | March 1, 2011
In the last few weeks, Wisconsin has started to resemble the Middle East and the similarities are more than striking. When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced a state budget recently that stripped state workers of nearly all of their collective bargaining rights, and cut their pay and benefits, he started a firestorm of public discontent about employment and worker’s rights that has now manifested itself in significant demonstrations. At the heart of the battle is a fight, not just by state employees, but by their families, friends and supporters to maintain the integrity of unions in the state of Wisconsin. David Bacon is a photojournalist and associate editor of New America Media. (Read more)
Black Workers Central to National Union Battle
Jamilah King, Colorlines | March 1, 2011
The battle over public employee unions isn’t just happening in Wisconsin. In states like Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, public employee unions are also under attack. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels even called union members “the privileged elite” during a speech in neighboring Ohio last week. GOP poster boy and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s made no qualms about his desire to attack unions, an approach Matt Bai studiously outlined in a recent New York Times Magazine profile. In response, workers in those states have protested in solidarity with those in Wisconsin. Evan McMorris-Santoro wrote at Talking Points Memo that as the battle over unions heats up in Ohio, protests in that state have reached their largest and loudest levels yet. (Read more)
The Long-Term Effect Of Wisconsin’s Union Battles
NPR | March 1, 2011
The protests in Wisconsin between union members and mostly Republican state leaders are entering a third week. On Tuesday’s Fresh Air, New York Times labor and workplace reporter Steve Greenhouse explains why other states with large budget deficits are also considering taking on public unions — and how the standoff between organized labor and Republican governors is likely to play out.
Attacks on Workers in Wisconsin Are Attacks on Black Workers Everywhere
Dr. L. Toni Lewis, SEIU Healthcare Chair | February 27, 2011
In Wisconsin, nearly one in four African American workers is unemployed; Black unemployment (24 percent) is more than three times the rate of Whites (7 percent), far exceeding the national Black unemployment rate; and, one in three of Wisconsin’s Black workers is underemployed— all according to a report, “The State of Working Wisconsin,” by the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS).
Similar stats are reflected in states across the country. Last year the unemployment rate for blacks is expected to reach 27 percent in Michigan while jobless rates in other states are above 20 percent for Blacks are Alabama, Illinois, Ohio and South Carolina.
Yet, Republican governors like Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker continue attacking the workers who plow our roads, teach our children, keep our families healthy, and care for our veterans and seniors.
We cannot turn a blind eye to what’s happening to workers in Wisconsin or any state—especially those with sizeable African American communities facing the most calamitous impacts of the nation’s failing economy. African Americans in Wisconsin make up 40 percent of the state’s population with many residing in Milwaukee, the 26th largest city in the country. (Read more)
Why the NBA and NFL Players Unions Need to Pay Attention to What’s Happening in Wisconsin
Mark Anthony Neal, New Black Man | February 26, 2011
All eyes were on Carmelo Anthony recently, as the NBA star got his wish to be traded to the New York Knicks. In the backdrop of this story is the fact that Anthony would only agree to be traded to the Knicks if they signed him to a contract extension—one that that had to be signed before the NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement ended in June. Collective bargaining agreements are also the minds of NFL players, where they and NFL owners face a March 3rd deadline to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, before the owners will lock the players out of their places of work. (Read more)
Is “Solidarity” Making a Comeback? Thoughts on the Return of a Long Neglected Concept
Mark Naison, New Black Man | February 23, 2011
The success of the Wisconsin movement to protect collective bargaining rights of government workers, and of similar movements around the country, depends on the revival of a concept that has been out of favor in the United States for many years- the concept of “Solidarity.” Republican lawmakers like Scott Walker were clearly expecting that this concept was dormant when they decided to attack bargaining rights of public employees. They were gambling that workers in the private sector who had lower wages, less generous benefits, and less job security than government workers would want to see them cut down to size in a Recession. They were expecting that envy, rather than Solidarity, would govern the attitudes of people hit hard by the Recession. Their experience, and their ideology, suggested that working class Americans would be more interested in lowering their own tax rates then protecting the bargaining rights of their unionized brothers and sisters. (Read more)