On Sept. 11, 2001, Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania as the crew members and passengers prevented an attack on our nation’s capitol.
Twelve years later on the eve of that day, TWU members, some accompanied by their children, joined over 31 flight attendants from seven different carriers to request that members of Congress make voluntary personal contributions to close a $1.5 million funding gap for the Flight 93 National Memorial which officially opened to the public on September 10, 2011.
Dressed in their uniforms, the members of The Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions distributed a letter to every member of the United States Congress asking that they set an example by making a personal contribution towards funding the memorial’s Tower of Voices and educational programs.
The creation of the national memorial in Shanksville, Penn. was authorized by Congress in 2002 to not only mark the final resting place of those who selflessly gave their lives to save others, but to also honor and be a permanent tribute to them.
It is the only national park commemorating the events of September 11, 2001.
“Twelve years ago, 25 Flight Attendants took action as first responders in a war we didn’t know we were fighting. These heroes were among the first to relay the intelligence that alerted our country and our flying partners on Flight 93, who in turn sacrificed their own lives to save countless others on the ground. Since that fateful day, our country’s history has been changed forever. We promise to never forget the events of that day and to ensure they never happen again. As our work continues and evolves, the role of first responder has been added to our responsibilities in aviation’s last line of defense. Our heroes will forever unite us. We will never forget,” repeated the Coalition.
You can also donate to help build the Flight 93 National Memorial by clicking here: https://myaccount.nationalparks.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=438
On Sept. 11, 2001, Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania as the crew members and passengers prevented an attack on our nation’s capitol.
Today (Sept. 9, 2013), in a culmination of months of listening sessions and reflection, the AFL-CIO announced that any U.S. worker can join the labor movement and that the labor federation will develop several new pathways for workers to join the labor movement, either through affiliate unions, AFL-CIO’s community affiliate Working America, worker centers or as students. In addition to opening the labor movement to all and the commitment to building enduring community labor partnerships, the AFL-CIO passed two other important resolutions in the Monday morning session at its quadrennial convention in Los Angeles.
A Broad, Inclusive and Effective Labor Movement
To start growing the labor movement again, delegates at the AFL-CIO Convention passed a resolution calling for a more broad and inclusive labor movement that is not confined within bargaining units that are not defined by workers themselves and limited by unscrupulous employers. The AFL-CIO is going to expand existing forms of participation in the labor movement and create new forms of membership that are available to any workers not already covered by a collective bargaining agreement or who are not members of unions or represented by unions.
The AFL-CIO is inviting workers to join the labor movement by joining one of the federation’s affiliates or through Working America. AFL-CIO will work together with the affiliates and Working America to develop new forms of workplace representation and advocacy that help members outside of collective bargaining units, seek to extend non-collectively bargained benefits to those members, educate and train new members and mobilize new members in electoral and political efforts.
The second major avenue for expanding the labor movement is for the AFL-CIO to expand its associations with worker centers, particularly in ways that don’t undermine other unions and collective bargaining agreements. The federation also will work to find opportunities for worker center members to become union members.
Finally, in recognizing that students are not only the future of much of the workforce, they also have vital interests in making sure that workplaces are fair and just, the AFL-CIO is going to authorize Working America to create a student membership, expand their work with campus-based student organizations, advocate for issues of importance to students and work to make sure that student workers have the ability to exercise their right to organize and collectively bargaining.
See the full text of the resolution here: http://www.aflcio.org/About/Exec-Council/Conventions/2013/Resolutions-and-Amendments/Resolution-5-A-Broad-Inclusive-and-Effective-Labor-Movement
Excerpted and resposted from: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-09-09/indiana-right-to-work-law-ruled-unconstitutional-by-state-judge
Indiana’s right-to-work law making it a crime to charge union dues as a condition of employment was ruled unconstitutional by a state court judge.
Enacted by now-former Governor Mitch Daniels last year, the measure made it a misdemeanor to require a worker to pay fees, assessments or other charges to a union or a third party to get or keep a job.
Opponents called the legislation a wage-lowering union buster. State court Judge John M. Sedia in Hammond concluded it was unlawful because it forced unions to provide benefits to non-members without just compensation.
“There is no court which is more loathe to declare any state statute unconstitutional than this one,” Sedia said in a Sept. 5 ruling, saying he had no choice other than to void the law.
The judge delayed enforcement of his ruling during an appeal.
State Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office said today it will seek to reverse the ruling.
“The state will take an immediate appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court of this declaratory judgment which we contend is incorrect,” Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for Zoeller, said in an e-mailed statement, noting the court rejected some arguments by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and six individual plaintiffs including its president, James M. Sweeney.
“This is a huge victory for the middle class,” Sweeney said in a statement posted on the union’s website. “These laws are nothing but thinly-veiled tools to weaken unions, and this is a big win for workers who rely on unions to provide decent wages and benefits.” The union is based in Countryside, Illinois.
Daniels, a Republican, signed the law on Feb. 1, 2012, after it passed the state senate on a 28-22 vote, making his state the 23rd to enact such legislation.
“This law won’t be a magic answer but we’ll be far better off with it,” Daniels said then. “No one’s wages will go down, no one’s benefits will be reduced, and the right to organize and bargain collectively is untouched and intact.”
The case is Sweeney v. Zoeller, 45D01-1305-PL-52, Lake County, Indiana, Superior Court (Hammond).
Reposted and excerpted from: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/09/10/2595421/infuriating-facts-subprime-ceos-years-financial-crisis/
Five years ago this week, the investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. declared bankruptcy and triggered the financial collapse that brought us the Great Recession. Things have turned out quite well for former Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld and four other industry executives whose work contributed substantially to the cycle of subprime lending and financial swindling that caused the crisis. Fuld and his colleagues haven’t just avoided legal repercussions for the crisis. They’re also among the wealthiest people in the country.
As part of a series commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) published a look at Fuld and executives from Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, and Bank of America on Tuesday. Here are three infuriating facts CPI unearthed about the masters of the financial universe.
1. Dick Fuld walked away with half a billion dollars and three homes. Fuld’s $529 million fortune is actually a lot less than he could have been worth had he been able to cash out all of his stock before the Lehman bankruptcy. He had been paid $889.5 million in salary and stock between 2000 and 2007, and at one point his stock options were worth a full $900 million. CPI offers a digital tour of Fuld’s three homes: mansions in Greenwich, Connecticut and Jupiter Island, Florida, and a ranch in Sun Valley, Idaho. When Lehman settled for $90 million with former investors who the firm had deceived through an accounting trick approved by Fuld, it was an insurance company that paid, not executives like Fuld.
2. The former Bear Stearns CEO who walked away with over $300 million plays high-stakes bridge in retirement. Jimmy Cayne oversaw Bear Stearns’s massive gambling on home loans and related financial products prior to the company’s collapse. Today, he oversees a different sort of gambling. Cayne is the number 22-ranked bridge player in the world. He walked away from the company two months before it went belly up, having cashed out $289 million in stock and received another $87.5 million in direct cash bonuses from 2000 to 2007. Cayne and his wife own two Manhattan apartments, a mansion on the Jersey shore, and a $2.75 million condo in Boca Raton, Florida. “He’s paid no judgments or settlements from any lawsuits,” CPI reports.
3. Three bailed out CEOs whose “golden parachutes” were worth a combined $272 million are doing just fine. Charles Prince left Citigroup in 2007 following the announcement he’d lost the firm $11 billion in mortgage-backed gambles. The company paid him $28 million to leave. Stan O’Neal was fired by Merrill Lynch the same month, and the firm sent $161.5 million out the door with him. Ken Lewis left Bank of America in 2009 with a parachute payment of $83 million. All three of their firms had to be bailed out by taxpayers. The three men’s exit payments dramatically understate their total compensation. O’Neal and Prince each have vacation homes in the islands off of Cape Cod. Lewis has sold two homes in recent years but retains a condo in Naples, Florida.
While these stories of huge personal success in the face of clear business failure are infuriating, they are far from exceptional. Fully one-third of the highest-paid financial industry CEOs of the past two decades have been fired, bailed out, or busted for fraud.
Meanwhile, 11.3 million Americans remain unemployed, with tens of millions more having dropped out of the workforce or struggling to survive on low-wage part-time service industry jobs. Those who do have work are earning less than they did prior to the crisis, and American workers as a whole have experienced a lost decade in wage growth despite boosting their productivity substantially. By contrast, the financial industry that caused the crisis has bounced back rapidly, with record profits and near-record bonuses for its executives.
Excerpted and reposted from: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/09/11/1238167/-5-Signs-of-Hope-for-Working-Families-In-Yesterday-s-New-York-City-Elections?utm_source=buffer&utm_campaign=Buffer&utm_content=buffer72bab&utm_medium=twitter#
Local and municipal elections matter.
Just ask a service worker in Philadelphia who can’t afford to take a sick day because the city council was one vote short of overriding Mayor Michael Nutter’s veto of a paid sick days ordinance.
Or ask a retail worker in Washington, D.C., where the City Council is currently one vote short of a veto-proof majority in favor the Large Retail Accountability Act (LRAA), which would establish a living wage for big box retail workers.
You can also ask anyone who sends their child to public school in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has closed dozens of public schools, and where the city’s students are being moved around like chess pieces to make room for a pro-corporate education “reform” agenda.
Yes, city leaders of both parties have been too willing lately to kowtow to corporate interests over the needs of their constituents. But in last night’s New York City primary, there were some signs of hope for working families.
1.) Voters approved of plan to raise taxes on super-rich to pay for schools. To succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the richest people on the planet and a staunch defender of rich people’s interests, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio ran on a plan to raise taxes on New Yorkers making $500,000 or more and using the revenue to establish universal Pre-K. The plan was derided by Bloomberg and much of the the city’s wealthy elite.
But yesterday, de Blasio took 40 percent in a crowded primary, a sign that some of the folks in NYC making less than $500,000 a year (roughly, shall we say, 99 percent?) favor balancing out our tax system to bolster basic services.
2.) Opposition to earned paid sick days was a liability. The longtime expected frontrunner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, saw her support recede and then evaporate over the summer. Partly, because she was seen as the main obstacle to a paid sick days ordinance for New York City. The ordinance was introduced in 2010 but Quinn refused to bring it to a vote, saying that it would put “undue burden” on NYC businesses, according to the New York Times.
It took three years of pushing from a broad coalition, including the Working Families Party and well-known activist Gloria Steinem, to finally get Quinn to compromise on a sick days ordinance, which sailed through with overwhelming support. Yet her long-held intransigence, which she never truly explained, hurt her in the race, particularly with woman voters.
“We were pleased the bill finally passed,” says Donna Dolan, Executive Director of the New York Paid Leave Coalition, “But all I could think about when I was at the press conference was the number of people I met who had been fired in the past three-and-a-half years.” Voters apparently agreed, giving the once-frontrunner Quinn a third place finish.
3.) The real estate lobby spent big money to beat a local labor leader, but he won anyway. In a crowded primary for the Queens-based 27th council district, I. Daneek Miller came out on top last night. Miller is president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 and a supporter of affordable housing, so naturally the city’s powerful real-estate lobby was determined to stop him. A real-estate backed PAC spent $261,533 backing up one of Miller’s opponents, but Miller prevailed: the current count gives him a lead of 396 votes.
“There have been tough times for labor and working families,” Miller said last night, “The consensus is: we need a voice. Now we have that voice we set out to represent.”
4.) This 32 year-old won a huge upset in Brooklyn to become council’s first Mexican-American. Sara Gonzalez sat in Brooklyn’s 38th council district for decade, and regularly was a no-show at council meetings and public events. She may have expected a smooth reelection this time around. But Carlos Menchaca, a 32 year-old openly gay Latino community activist, unseated her last night by a 16-point margin. (“Men-shocka!” was the headline in The Brooklyn Paper.)
Menchaca will be the first openly gay elected official to represent Brooklyn and the first Mexican-American on the New York City Council. He was active with the Office of Emergency Management after Hurricane Sandy, especially in badly-damaged Red Hook.
“I’m going to be present. I’m going to be visible and vocal,” Menchaca told supporters last night, “I’m going to be someone that’s on the streets talking directly to the people of Sunset Park about your needs.”
5.) Pro-worker candidates won across the board. The New York Central Labor Council endorsed 43 candidates for City Council in run up to yesterday’s election. 39 of those candidates won outright last night, with two races (Kirsten John Foy in District 36 and Austin Shafran in District 5) still too close to call.
After 12 years of a Bloomberg Administration that was cold to outright hostile to New York’s labor community, it’s heartening to see advocates of working families have such a good night at the local level.
Excerpted and reposted from: http://www.tulsaworld.com/article.aspx/Labor_Day_weekend_recalls_relevance_of_labor_movement/20130831_222_A23_CUTLIN623506
Over the last couple of years, as union membership has declined across the country, Oklahoma has seen an increase in union participation, currently representing some 140,000 Oklahoma workers.
Unions face an uphill battle in representing the working men and women of Oklahoma. From fighting recent changes to Oklahoma’s workers compensation system, to efforts to raise the minimum wage and secure paid sick leave, to ensuring voting rights, unions take up the fight for all workers, not just their memberships.
Historically, labor unions and their members fought for the eight-hour day, overtime pay, weekends, retirement benefits, workplace safety standards and so many benefits that most working Americans take for granted. All of which helped to create the American Dream for millions while also helping to create the economic and cultural superpower that we are today.
These gains did not come without cost.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 in New York City, in which 146 workers lost their lives in conditions much like we have recently seen in Bangladesh’s clothing factory fires, started labor’s push for workplace safety regulations. The mining standards we now have after countless lives lost and workers across America who would go on strike to make a better life for themselves, their families and their community all made possible through organizing.
We currently work politically for a government that will invest in creation of good jobs, decent wages and benefits, affordable health care, and a quality education system. We believe in extending a ladder to the middle class for those who play by the rules and work hard.
The unions of the Northeast Oklahoma Central Labor Council do this work more locally and directly. The unions of the Oklahoma Building and Construction Trades Council have literally built our communities. They also offer free education in technical trades through their apprenticeship programs, providing careers without the burden of student loans.
The Transport Workers Union has been working with the city of Tulsa, state of Oklahoma, and the state and local chambers of commerce to minimize job losses and keep American Airlines in Tulsa as it reorganizes through bankruptcy and a potential merger.
With American as a major employer in our community, these losses wouldn’t just affect union members’ jobs but our entire community. Keeping the Tulsa maintenance facility open is also in the best interest of national security as most of the maintenance work at the other airlines has been moved over seas.
The American Postal Workers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers have been working to ensure customer service remains the focus of the U.S. Postal Service, as Congress discusses ways of cutting back services to meet their mandate to pre-fund 80 years of retirement benefits within a 10-year window. That is a standard that no private company meets or faces, which is the sole reason for the economic problems currently facing the postal system.
The International Association of Fire Fighters have organized firefighters around the country to volunteer their time this weekend to “Fill the Boot” for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Even as they save our lives every day as first responders, they raise millions every year for this worthy cause. All this happens while our elected officials make cuts to their pay, staffing levels, and are now looking to make potentially damaging changes to their pension plans.
For all of these reasons we pause this Labor Day weekend to honor and recognize the working men and women who build this nation through blood, sweat, sacrifice and innovation for all of us, regardless of union membership, class, race, gender, sexuality, belief, or creed.
PITTSBURGH, Sept. 4, 2013 — /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) held its first training conference focused on workplace issues facing members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community during its Diversity Week of events in August. The AFGE Pride Training Summit provided participants with tools and information regarding equal employment opportunity law, and organizing and messaging around LGBT labor issues.
The training also included a session on LGBT labor leadership development, which illustrated how LGBT members and allies can hone their leadership skills for union building and effectively representing all federal and D.C. government workers. As part of the leadership course, participants also discussed terminology, health and safety concerns and ways to ensure LGBT members are included in the labor movement.
"The issues facing our LGBT brothers and sisters on the job are very serious and it is our responsibility to represent workers equally," said AFGE National Vice President for Women’s and Fair Practices Augusta Y. Thomas. "In a majority of states in this country workers can be legally discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. This is unjust and absolutely a cause to be taken up by the union. This training arms our labor activists with the tools they need to represent and provide an inclusive environment for LGBT members."
During the training participants heard from speakers including Thomas, AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Eugene Hudson Jr., AFGE District 3 National Vice President Keith Hill, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance Executive Director Gregory Cendana, Transgender Law Center Executive Director Masen Davis and Pride at Work Executive Director Darren Phelps.
"For far too long issues facing LGBT workers have been pushed to the side," said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. "As the leading labor union for federal and D.C. government workers, AFGE is committed to actively fighting on behalf of our LGBT brothers and sisters, and fostering a space where all members are welcomed and motivated to participate in the growth of our union."
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/09/04/5707359/nations-largest-federal-and-dc.html#storylink=cpy
Walmart workers and supporters plan to mount protests in fifteen cities Thursday, a mobilization that the union-backed group OUR Walmart expects will be its largest since last November’s Black Friday strike. This week’s rallies follow an August 22 civil disobedience action at which the campaign announced a Labor Day deadline for Walmart to raise its wages to at least $25,000 per year, and reverse the terminations of twenty workers who participated in a June strike.
As The Nation has reported, nearly eighty OUR Walmart members have been disciplined by the company since returning from the June walkout. OUR Walmart’s response to the alleged illegal retaliation has included protest rallies, pressure on Yahoo! CEO and Walmart board member Marissa Mayer and outreach to members of Congress. The campaign has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the discipline violated federal labor law. Walmart has denied wrongdoing; a spokesperson told The Nation last month that “no associates were disciplined for participating in any specific protests.” The company did not respond to a Monday request for comment regarding the strikers’ demands and their deadline, which passed yesterday without any public concession by Walmart.
A Sunday mass e-mail to supporters from the allied Making Change at Walmart campaign referenced “intensified actions nationwide” Thursday if the retail giant didn’t respond by Labor Day. Fired employee Barbara Collins told The Nation prior to last month’s civil disobedience that “if they don’t reinstate us, our actions are going to be bigger and stronger every time, and this is just the beginning.”
Thursday’s actions will include a march through downtown Los Angeles to the site of a proposed Walmart in Chinatown, and a demonstration in Washington, DC, where all sides are awaiting word on whether Mayor Vince Gray will veto a bill (passed by City Council in July but formally sent to his desk last Friday) that would require “large retailers” like Walmart to pay employees at least $12.50 in total hourly compensation. Thursday actions are also planned for cities in the East, West, South and Midwest: Baton Rouge, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Sacramento, San Francisco and Seattle.
According to the campaign, Thursday’s rallies will have the largest total turnout by Walmart employees, and the biggest overall number of participants, of any Walmart mobilization since the one-day November 23 strike last year, in which organizers say 400-some workers walked off the job and thousands of supporters turned out to support them. Since then, organizers say hundreds of workers took part in collective confrontations with local management over scheduling on April 24, and over a hundred participated in the longer June work stoppage, which included a week of protests in and around Walmart’s Arkansas hometown. United Food & Commercial Workers union official and OUR Walmart strategist Dan Schlademan told The Nation in April to expect “much bigger actions” in 2013, saying, “Either we prove it’s growing or it’s not. And we’re certainly going to prove it’s growing this year.”
The OUR Walmart campaign has asked the National Labor Relations Board, whose pace and penalties labor has long charged are insufficient for protecting workers, to seek an injunction to more quickly address Walmart’s recent alleged retaliation. (The NLRB did not respond to The Nation’s request for comment last month.) According to the campaign, the NLRB recently indicated that it has found sufficient merit in some charges filed against Walmart in California last fall—including alleged illegal intimidation in the lead-up to the Black Friday strike—to issue a complaint (similar to an indictment) unless the Labor Board reaches a settlement with the company.
Excerpted and reposted from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/05/us/as-debate-reopens-food-stamp-recipients-continue-to-squeeze.html?_r=0
DYERSBURG, Tenn. — As a self-described “true Southern man” — and reluctant recipient of food stamps — Dustin Rigsby, a struggling mechanic, hunts deer, doves and squirrels to help feed his family. He shops for grocery bargains, cooks budget-stretching stews and limits himself to one meal a day.
Tarnisha Adams, who left her job skinning hogs at a slaughterhouse when she became ill with cancer, gets $352 a month in food stamps for herself and three college-age sons. She buys discount meat and canned vegetables, cheaper than fresh. Like Mr. Rigsby, she eats once a day — “if I eat,” she said.
When Congress officially returns to Washington next week, the diets of families like the Rigsbys and the Adamses will be caught up in a debate over deficit reduction. Republicans, alarmed by a rise in food stamp enrollment, are pushing to revamp and scale down the program. Democrats are resisting the cuts.
No matter what Congress decides, benefits will be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires.
Yet as lawmakers cast the fight in terms of spending, nonpartisan budget analysts and hunger relief advocates warn of a spike in “food insecurity” among Americans who, as Mr. Rigsby said recently, “look like we are fine,” but live on the edge of poverty, skipping meals and rationing food.
Surrounded by corn and soybean farms — including one owned by the local Republican congressman, Representative Stephen Fincher — Dyersburg, about 75 miles north of Memphis, provides an eye-opening view into Washington’s food stamp debate. Mr. Fincher, who was elected in 2010 on a Tea Party wave and collected nearly $3.5 million in farm subsidies from the government from 1999 to 2012, recently voted for a farm bill that omitted food stamps.
“The role of citizens, of Christianity, of humanity, is to take care of each other, not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country,” Mr. Fincher, whose office did not respond to interview requests, said after his vote in May. In response to a Democrat who invoked the Bible during the food stamp debate in Congress, Mr. Fincher cited his own biblical phrase. “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Department of Agriculture released a 2012 survey showing that nearly 49 million Americans were living in “food insecure” households — meaning, in the bureaucratic language of the agency, that some family members lacked “consistent access throughout the year to adequate food.” In short, many Americans went hungry. The agency found the figures essentially unchanged since the economic downturn began in 2008, but substantially higher than during the previous decade.
Experts say the problem is particularly acute in rural regions like Dyersburg, a city of 17,000 on the banks of the Forked Deer River in West Tennessee. More than half the counties with the highest concentration of food insecurity are rural, according to an analysis by Feeding America, the nation’s largest network of food banks. In Dyer County, it found, 19.4 percent of residents were “food insecure” in 2011, compared with 16.4 percent nationwide.
Over all, nearly 48 million Americans now receive food stamps, an $80 billion-a-year program that is increasingly the target of conservatives. Robert Rector, a scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation, argues that the food stamp program should be overhauled so that benefits are tied to work, much as welfare was revamped under President Bill Clinton. He advocates mandatory drug testing for food stamp recipients — a position that draws support from Mr. Rigsby, who dreams of becoming a game warden and said it irritated him to see people “mooch off the system.”
But when benefits drop in November, the Rigsbys, who say they receive about $350 a month, can expect $29 less.
“People have a lot of misimpressions about hunger in America,” said Maura Daly, a Feeding America spokeswoman. “People think it’s associated with homelessness when, in fact, it is working poor families, it’s kids, it’s the disabled.” Hunger is often invisible, she said, and in rural areas it is even more so.
Hunger was easy to see on a recent morning in Dyersburg. Hundreds of people, many of them food stamp recipients, lined up at the county fairgrounds for boxes of free food — 21,000 pounds of meat, potatoes, grains and produce — that had been trucked in from a food bank in Memphis. About 80 volunteers set up an assembly line in a warehouse to distribute the food.
More than 700 families get help each month from the charitable program, Feed the Need, which was founded in 2009 by Mark Oakes, the chairman of the local Salvation Army, after a string of nearby factories closed.
“We couldn’t absorb the work force back into our community,” Mr. Oakes said, “and people were hungry.”
Among the first in line at the fairgrounds was Kathy Baucom, 61, a former welder disabled by lupus. She lives alone in a trailer, hunts deer — “last year I bagged seven,” she said — and makes burgers, roasts and jerky out of venison. Her food stamp benefits of $125 a month were recently reduced to $117.
“I don’t buy milk because it’s so expensive,” she said. “I don’t buy cheese.”
Excerpted and reposted from: http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/In-The-States/Singing-Deemed-Illegal-in-the-People-s-Rotunda
“It’s like getting punched in the gut. It’s like you’re not even in America.”
The middle-aged man was just an onlooker, on his lunch hour in the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda. He’d been watching a crowd of 100 people singing when two police officers held up a powerful “long-range acoustic device” (also used to ward off pirates off the coast of Somalia) and the recorded voice of Capitol Police Chief David Erwin—Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) former bodyguard—echoed through the dome:
“I have determined that your group does not have the required permit. I am declaring this an unlawful event….If you do not [disperse], each participant is subject to arrest.”
A woman in an Ian’s Pizza T-shirt pointed to her husband—a retired chief petty officer in full Navy whites, half-a-dozen medals hanging from his jacket pocket.
“I don’t think they’re going to arrest him,” she said.
He had come to the rotunda, not to sing, but to support—he’d been upset by TV news video of a Veteran for Peace arrested and escorted out of the sing-along.
The handcuffs come out. Twenty-five new arrests: civil rights and union rights protesters hauled away for singing.
• Daithi, a former union teacher and virtuoso Irish fiddler (VIDEO);
• Joan, an 80-year-old retiree;
• Margit, a paralegal at a corporate law firm;
• Kristin, a cabdriver for Union Cab, the co-op that created a blockade during the 2011 mass protests (VIDEO);
• Jerry, union leader and computer tech at Dane County;
• Steve, the college math instructor who first brought a book of 10 civil rights songs, modified for the Wisconsin uprising, to the rotunda on March 11, 2011—and triggered an uninterrupted 635-day-plus streak of song.
March 11 is the date Walker signed the union-killing Act 10 into law. And for an hour every weekday since, a progressive voice shakes the dome. (Except Fridays, when the singing happens outdoors, with string bands.)
What is it now with Wisconsin?
SUCCESSOR TO WINTER 2011
A kind of lyrical “Wisconsin UpriSING” has become the daily successor to the 100,000-strong rallies of February and March 2011. (VIDEO)
There is no “skipper,” despite the Navy whites. No conductor. The people come, on their own, to say that Walker is not governing the Wisconsin they thought they knew.
The Walker administration in December 2011 created rules requiring that groups of four or more, wishing to have an event in the rotunda, must obtain a permit from Capitol police, pay for any additional required monitoring and accept possible liability for damage, including, in some cases, advance insurance.
But the sing-along has no legal or group structure, so there is no one to seek a permit. Moreover, the peaceable gathering is respectfully unamplified, delivered when Capitol offices are closed for lunch and expressive of protest about ongoing legislative issues. The singers have argued this kind of protest is protected by the First Amendment and by Wisconsin’s constitution.
A few weeks ago, a federal judge declared unconstitutional the rule that limits rotunda rallies to four people, in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed on behalf of a University of Wisconsin employee who couldn’t get an answer about when he could legally sing. When the judge offered advice that permits might be applicable to rallies of more than 20, the police promptly began their crackdown, on July 24.
The first day, they nabbed the 80-year-old retiree with her husband, 85. News photos flashed across the nation. (VIDEO)
AFSCME Council 24 assistant director Jana Weaver, The Progressive magazine editor Matt Rothschild, a 14-year-old girl and three members of the Raging Grannies were arrested Aug. 14. (VIDEO)
By Aug. 19, police had arrested more than 150 people.
A ‘SING-OUT STRIKE’
The very first sing-along was called by Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice coordinator and math instructor Steve Burns, who felt sure that the massive crowds who’d chanted and sung in the rotunda in winter 2011 would want a continuing outlet to protest and petition the government after the legislation was signed.
One musician “localized” the chorus of “This Land Is Your Land” to Wisconsin—to feature Lake Geneva, Madeline Island, rolling prairies and lovely dairies, in place of California and the New York islands—and this incarnation of Wobbly corner sing-alongs was off and singing.
During its two-and-a-half years, the sing-along has grown to a “gentle-angry” variation on the sit-down strike. A “sing-out strike,” once a day.
Singers are petitioning their government in a space constructed just for that purpose. Judge William Conley’s recent injunction acknowledged this special history:
“The Capitol rotunda is closer to an out-of-doors, traditional public forum…with a unique history as a place for government and public discourse, which…was designed for a certain level of disturbance that would not be proper in a typical state office building.”
A trial to determine the precise constitutional boundaries is scheduled for January 2014. In the meantime, there is no end in sight (or hearing) to the unharmonious arrests.
THEY HAVE THEIR REASONS
Each singer—in a changing cast of hundreds—seems fluent on her or his reasons for singing out. Among the issues that circulate:
• Destruction of union voice and community by Walker’s self-proclaimed “bomb,” Act 10;
• Mandatory ultrasounds before abortions;
• Voter ID;
• A new iron mine that will pollute northern Wisconsin tribal waters with sulfides;
• More charter schools, fewer Medicaid options; and
• The physical presence of Koch Brothers Inc.—who own both pipelines and politicians in Wisconsin.
Add to this the umbrella organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC’s right-wing fingerprints are on many of these “reforms” in Wisconsin law.
Legislators have refused requests to produce ALEC communications, as they are obliged to do under the state’s comprehensive public information laws. Madison’s Center for Media and Democracy has broken open many of the gates that ALEC-bought legislators have constructed to keep the public out of politics, helping to suffuse the singers with rare and accurate information.
In 2012, sing-along participants were instrumental in leading protests against the mining bill. It failed by one vote—a victory. (But in 2013, the Republicans passed the law.)
The sing-along has grown independently of any institutional union presence. One-third of the singers on any recent day are active or retired union members, coming from AFSCME, Teamsters, Electrical Workers (IBEW), Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA), American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) and the National Writers Union (NWU). The most avid union participants have been Madison teachers.
The NWU just passed a resolution at its convention, pointing out lightheartedly, “Whereas this land is our land and there is power in a union and it is important to keep our eyes on the prize, not letting nobody turn us around….” (Download the full resolution here.)
Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt and many other union leaders have come to sing and receive a round of cheers, but the sing-along participants also have been highly critical of the state’s unions and the Democratic Party for failing to more broadly consult progressives last year when selecting a candidate to run against Walker in a recall election.
Many singers, whether at brief pronouncements at sing-alongs or in blog posts (a dozen singers regularly post on blogs), expressed a preference that a hero of the Uprising—a new voice—be presented to the public.
Primary voters instead selected a milquetoast candidate, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who had run against Walker before. He was again beaten handily.
The sing-along fists go up high to the tune of “We Don’t Want Your Millions, Mister,” on the verse that goes “take those two old parties, Mister, no difference in them I can see. But with a real progressive party, we could set the people free!”
On Aug. 15, Marty Beil, the executive director of Wisconsin’s AFSCME Council 24 (which includes State Capitol Local 1, which began AFSCME in the 1930s) posted to Facebook: “These brave women and men…have become part of our history. They have assembled every day since March of 2011. It’s time for union members and leaders, public and private sector, to join in and vocally and visibly speak out. It’s time for union shirts and union songs.”
The man on lunch hour and his wife watched as a friend was handcuffed and escorted out of the rotunda. She began to cry. “Fascist,” she said to nobody in particular.
The couple watched Capitol police surround a 70-year-old Vietnam veteran (a member of Veterans for Peace), handcuff him and hurry him out through a dark hallway.
As they turned a corner, the handcuffed man fell, landing on his back on the marble steps. Police lifted him to his feet, still handcuffed. The man ended up going to the hospital by ambulance. (He was released later, no broken bones.)
It wasn’t the first time an ambulance had been called. The previous week, a retired Lutheran minister with a heart condition suffered cardiac distress while handcuffed and in custody. He spent the night in the hospital but vowed to continue speaking out against the Walker administration.
After another major episode of arrests on Aug. 26, attendees at a huge sing-along Aug. 27 included “cops for labor” and even the county sheriff.
The administration has vowed to continue the arrests.
Meanwhile the sing-along regulars let their captain-less ship of solidarity float into the rotunda each day—propelled not by a current, but by current events.
They drop anchor for an hour, belt out their protest, then slowly drift away. But not before the Capitol Police, in spiffy new uniforms and hats that cost the price of about 100 citations at $200.50 each, haul away more singers to the basement. The remaining circle sings: “May the Circle Be Unbroken.”