Yesterday someone asked me if Blue America is cracking the whip on the candidates we raised money for during the election cycle to make them oppose cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Cracking the whip? On who? Bernie Sanders? Tammy Baldwin? Elizabeth Warren? Alan Grayson? We didn't back candidates who need whips cracked to get them to fight to protect working families. We backed candidates who were running so they could protect working families. Let me start with our old friend, Matt Cartwright, who ran against corrupt corporate shill and Blue Dog Tim Holden and whipped his ass in the primary. Matt is now the Congressman-elect from PA-17. Matt is the quintessential example of why Blue America doesn't have to remind any of the candidates we backed to stand up for working families. This is why we backed him when others hung back and when Steny Hoyer was hysterical about "party loyalty." Please read what he told me this morning very carefully:
With every bit of respect, I will tell you that I don’t need anyone to remind me what my core values are. I’ve spent my entire life standing up for working families in courtrooms all over northeastern Pennsylvania.Grotesquely corrupt New Dem, Joe Crowley, a new member of the House Democratic Leadership Team (Go Team!) co-authored a letter with committed progressives Raul Grijalva, Keith Ellison, and John Conyers insisting Social Security not be on the bargaining table in the Obama-Boehner Grand Sellout. He's now in a position to better undermine the progressive position. He's not the kind of candidate Blue America would ever recommend for reelection. He's the kind of candidate we'll trying to find a primary opponent for. Yesterday Obama's cat's paw in the Senate, Dick Durbin, was on Meet the Press insisting he's against raising the Medicare eligibility age. He probably is. But when push comes to shove, can there by any doubt-- any at all-- which way Senator Durbin will vote? If Obama needs his vote to raise the eligibility age, he won't have to ask twice. Dick Durbin has never been endorsed by Blue America-- and never will be. We endorse candidates who represent the interests of working families. That's it-- clear and simple. No Republicans and none of the corporate whores among the Democrats. Instead, we endorse candidates like Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), who wrote in an OpEd in one of her district's newspapers "I will not vote to reduce Medicare and Social Security. You can bet on that." And we endorsed Bernie Sanders, whose entire political career has been predicated on defending working families against the greed-mad predators who run the GOP and have more and more influence over DC Democrats. And we endorsed Alan Grayson, who spent part of his Thanksgiving holiday protesting WalMart with Orlando strikers. CNN's Carol Costello asked him why.
I live in a part of the world where we have a culture of standing up to the powerful forces that would make serfs of working men and women if they could. Permit me to quote one of my heroes, a trial lawyer named Clarence Darrow, who spoke these words almost 110 years ago, in February, 1903, to begin his closing argument on behalf of the miners in the Pennsylvania Anthracite Coal Mine Strike case of 1902-3:
I have listened for nearly three days to the arguments of counsel for the operators [mine owners]… I have heard my clients, one hundred and forty-seven thousand working men who toil while other men grow rich, men who go down into the earth and face greater dangers than men who go out upon the sea, or out upon the land in battle, men who have little to hope for, little to think of, excepting work-- I have heard these men characterized as assassins, as brutes, as criminals, as outlaws, as unworthy of the respect of men and fit only for the condemnation of courts.Outside our courthouse in Scranton, the Lackawanna County Courthouse, where Darrow tried that case, and where I tried most of mine, we honor the mine workers with a magnificent statue of John Mitchell, who organized that strike, who helped get the children out of those mines, and who helped bring about the 8-hour day and the 40-hour workweek.
I know that it is not true. I have too much respect for the State of Pennsylvania, I have too much respect for any body of my fellow men wherever they live, to believe that any great mass of them have turned into criminals and cut-throats, excepting for some cause that drives them to it. These are men, men like any others, men who, in the midst of sorrow, travail, and a severe and cruel crisis, demeaned themselves as nobly, as bravely, as loyally as any body of men who ever lived and suffered and died for the benefit of the generations that are yet to come.
We have had a six months strike. We have had a three months arbitration. We have had a condition in Pennsylvania where man was set against man, family against family, class against class. We have had a body of wealthy and respected gentlemen… who stood against the tide of progress and who boldly said to those in their employ, we will do nothing, we will pay you no higher wages, we will not submit your disputes to any body of men either secular or clerical, we will post our notices upon our doors and that shall be your contract. We give you notice that for one year your wages are so and so and that is all. We have seen, as a consequence of this act, one hundred and forty-seven thousand men lay down their tools of trade and we have seen seven hundred and fifty thousand men, women and children reduced to want and starvation for six long months.
This is the place I’ve worked my whole adult life. Reminding me to stand up for working families is like reminding me to breathe.
COSTELLO: You attended a walkout at a Walmart in Orlando on Black Friday, and you showed your solidarity the night before by delivering bagged meals to Walmart employees who had to work on Thanksgiving, and that caused Walmart to call the cops. So tell us what happened.2014 is a long way off, right? Not really-- and not far enough away for Blue America to start figuring out who we'll be supporting and who we'll be opposing. You want to guess who the first Member of Congress we endorsed for reelection is? We can see for yourself, right here.
GRAYSON: Well, we went to Walmart to hand out Thanksgiving dinners to them because they had to work on their Thanksgiving. They couldn’t be with their families. So we brought a bag; the bag had three things in it. A turkey sandwich, because it was Thanksgiving. A bag of chips. And a letter explaining to them their rights to organize.
COSTELLO: So the cops were called? What did the cops do when they arrived? Tell us about that.
GRAYSON: Well, it was the security staff. Walmart always has security staff around. Once they saw that we were handing out the bags, they objected to that, asked us to leave, and we left. The security staff simply escorted us, as they often do. But the important thing is we showed the workers, first of all, what their rights are, because Walmart tries to keep them in the dark. And we showed them that they’re not alone, that people actually care. That we want the working poor to have a better life in America.
COSTELLO: You posted a letter on your Facebook page and you wrote this: “Walmart accounts for more than 10% of all the retail sales in the United States. It is the largest private employer in the world, with more than two million employees. And even though those employees comprise barely ten percent of its cost of doing business, Walmart exploits them mercilessly. Now Walmart employees are starting to organize, starting to fight back.” I had a conversation at dinner last night with someone who says, “Hey if you don’t like working at Walmart, get another job.”
GRAYSON: Well listen, all the people who have those kinds of jobs suffer from the fact that we have 8% unemployment. But we all suffer from the fact that Walmart underpays its employees. The average associate at Walmart makes barely $1,200 a month. That’s $1,200 a month. Could you live on $1,200 a month? I couldn’t.
And the fact is that they don’t [live solely on that], because the taxpayers end up subsidizing them. Because Walmart underpays them, the taxpayers end up paying for their Medicaid. Because Walmart underpays them, the taxpayers end up paying for their food stamps. In fact, each Walmart associate costs the taxpayers over $1,000, and it is time to end that. Walmart needs to pay for its own employees, and give them a living wage.
The minimum wage needs to be higher. Walmart and other employers need to pick up the tab on health insurance and health coverage for their own employees, and stop handing that tab off to the taxpayers.
COSTELLO: When many of those protests happened on Black Friday, we noticed that not a lot of workers comprised the big crowds. It was mostly union people, community leaders, and a few Walmart workers. Some might say that really the unions are behind this, the employees aren’t behind this so much.
GRAYSON: Well, in fact, at one Walmart not too long ago, 200 Walmart employees walked out, and shut down the store. But the Walmart employees in general are afraid. They’re being intimidated. They’re being told in many cases, “If you even talk about a union, you’ll be fired.” Here in Orlando, one of the employees who talked about a union was fired. He came back a few days later just to talk to his former employees, his former staff, his former colleagues, and they led him off the premises in handcuffs, in a way that everyone else could see. So these employees are being intimidated. They want to help. They want to join. They want to make their lives better, but Walmart is doing everything it can to prevent that.
COSTELLO: Well, frankly it seems like Walmart is winning. It had one of its biggest Black Fridays ever. It didn’t stop people from shopping, these protests.
GRAYSON: The protests are not meant to stop people from shopping. The protests are meant to inform workers of their rights to organize under the law and under the Constitution. And to make sure that they understand that they’re not alone, and they will be protected if they exercise their rights. It’s not meant to raise prices. It’s not meant to interfere with shopping. It’s meant to organize people who desperately need to be organized, to make a better life for themselves.