Monday, September 07, 2015

One Big Union-- Bernie, Shakespeare, Tim Buckley, Elizabeth Fraser, Ted Lieu...


Chances are you've gotten Labor Day messages from politicians all day today. Even Democrats who devote their entire careers to super-serving the interests of Wall Street, like Florida New Dem Patrick Murphy (a member of the House Financial Services Committee, where no Republican ever outdoes him in his commitment to fellating the banksters), felt obligated to make some noises about the dignity of labor. "Today," Murphy tweeted, "we recognize the hard work and sacrifice of American workers who are the heart & soul of our economy." Problem with that, of course, is that the other 364 days a year he is devoted to the Wall Street predators who have financed his miserable anti-working-family career.

Democrats more legitimately interested in American working families weren't just blowing smoke. Cincinnati City Councilman, and Senate candidate, P.G. Sittenfeld told his supporters:
Labor Day is a time to reflect on what this campaign is about-- not the partisan politics we see too much of in Washington, but building true economic opportunity by investing in the people who make our country strong: American workers. The 40 hour work week, child labor laws, and the minimum wage are guarantees too often taken for granted. These are laws that were passed by fighting and winning difficult Labor battles. Now, new fights are on the horizon: a livable minimum wage, paid sick leave, equal pay for women, and protecting workers’ rights. In order to build and protect a strong middle class, we must win these upcoming battles and I vow to do all I can.
L.A. area Congressman Ted Lieu sent a similarly inspiring message out to his constituents:
This Labor Day, we celebrate and honor the American labor movement and the millions of hard-working men and women across our great country. At a time when unions and working families are still recovering from the Great Recession, and too many are struggling to put food on the table, this holiday is more important than ever. The strength of our economy depends on the strength of our working families. Unsurprisingly, the increase in income inequality in America is sharply correlated with the declining rate of union membership.

Historically, labor unions have been the driving force for vital reforms to our country’s working conditions, including the forty hour work week, abolition of child labor, and implementation of a minimum wage. Before passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, working men and women often met violent resistance for demanding basic human protections. We owe a great debt to these first champions of workers’ rights.  In the tradition of great American labor leaders like Eugene Debs, Larry Itliong, Cesar Chavez, Samuel Gompers, and Mother Jones, we should continue the struggle by ensuring all workers are paid a livable wage and preventing unfair trade deals that push more American jobs overseas. When unions are strong-- America is strong.
Sean Illing, writing for Salon, asserted that Bernie Sanders is the most authentic pro-worker warrior in American politics. He's the polar opposite of worthless young Mr. Murphy, an "ex"-Republican spoiled rich brat who has already endorsed Hillary Clinton (even after voting with the GOP to destroy her credibility.) Like Murphy, the Republicans have supported a Wall Street agenda that undermines the economic interests of working families.
[T]here are two candidates who matter in the Democratic race right now: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. If you’re concerned with the rights and welfare of workers, it’s not even close: Bernie Sanders is the most credible candidate. Clinton is conscious of Sanders, so she’s moved slightly to the left in recent months, but if you look closely at their positions on middle class issues, the contrast is clear.

In the last week or so, an image has gone viral which highlights the opposing views of Clinton and Sanders. From Wall Street chicanery to worker-owned cooperatives to the Trans-Pacific trade deal to financial corruption to military adventurism, Sanders is on the side of the working class-- and Hillary is not. And even on an issue like raising the minimum wage, something of direct and immediate benefit to the poor, Clinton is tepid in her support, and opposes a national $15 minimum wage-- the goal of the "Fight for 15" movement. Sanders, on the other hand, is unequivocal in backing the Fight for 15, as he is on most subjects.

Not to belabor the point, but the differences between Sanders and Clinton go beyond their policy positions. Sanders’s campaign is voter-financed, consisting almost exclusively of small individual donations. Clinton’s campaign is financed in the same way every other establishment candidate’s campaign is financed-- through large donors, well-heeled donors. I don’t necessarily begrudge Clinton for going this route; she’s operating in a political ecosystem that incentives corruption. But the contrast between Sanders and Clinton on this front is striking to say the least.

Union leaders, the people closest to the labor movement, know Sanders is the more authentic candidate, but they have a difficult decision to make: Do they vote with their heads or their hearts? Do they endorse the candidate who most personifies their ideals (Sanders) or do they endorse the candidate most likely to win a general election (Clinton)? Individual voters face this choice, too. And it’s not an easy one.

I’m sympathetic to (if not quite convinced by) the pragmatic arguments in defense of Clinton. While she may not be as strong a candidate as Democrats once believed, she remains the frontrunner by any measure. And given her campaign infrastructure and organizational resources, she’s more equipped to defeat a Republican in a general election than Sanders. But make no mistake: Clinton is a flawed candidate, and Sanders has far more appeal than the skeptics imagined.

Pro-labor voters will likely remain split on Sanders and Clinton, and for understandable reasons. But they should be honest about what they’re choosing between. The choice here is between ideals and electability, between values and pragmatism. Of course reality isn’t so neat-- Sanders may well be electable, but until that happens we won’t know for sure; it’s a gamble either way.

Impressive as she is, Clinton still sounds like a politician’s politician: She’s on-message, rarely veering from poll-tested talking points. And that’s precisely why she lacks the authenticity of Sanders, particularly on populist issues. Sanders’s strength is his straightforwardness. He is exactly who and what he says he is and no one, on either side, doubts that. Unlike most politicians, Sanders hasn’t shape-shifted over the years. He doesn’t flop with the political winds the way Clinton and almost every other candidate has-- that’s why he’s more believable.

It’s entirely possible that Clinton would serve the interests of the working class as president, but there’s good reason to doubt that. Not so with Sanders. His record and anti-establishment bona fides are unmatched in Washington. Thus when Sanders says he’ll fight for labor, for blue-collar Americans, you know he’s sincere.

As you no doubt would expect, Bernie's message today was all about standing together and fighting back, a union message not unlike the one in the Matthew Grimm song at the top of the page. Bernie:
Labor Day is a time for honoring the working people of this country. It is also a time to celebrate the accomplishments of the activists and organizers who fought for the 40-hour work week, occupational safety, minimum wage law, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and affordable housing. These working people, and their unions, resisted the oligarchs of their day, fought for a more responsive democracy, and built the middle class.

Today we can-- and we must-- follow their example. It’s time to rebuild the crumbling middle class of our country and make certain that every working person in the United States of America has a chance at a decent life.

Against overwhelming odds, the men and women of the labor movement changed society for the better. If you’ve ever enjoyed a paid vacation, a sick day, or a pension, they are the people to thank. And if you don’t have those benefits on your job today, they are the people who can help you get them.

The economic reality is that while our economy today is much stronger than when President George W. Bush left office 7 years ago, the middle class is continuing its 40-year decline.

Almost all new income and wealth is going to the people on top, while millions of Americans work longer hours for lower wages. In fact, wages actually fell for 90 percent of Americans between 2009 and 2012, even as they rose for the top 10 percent. While we have seen in recent years a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires, 51 percent of African American youth are now unemployed or underemployed, and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth.

As a result of an explosion of technology, productivity has risen in this country, but working people are not sharing in the wealth. For three decades after the end of World War II, productivity and wages grew together. Business profits rose, and the workers who made those profits possible did well along with their bosses. That’s not happening today. Productivity has continued to soar, but workers have been cut out of the profits.

The time is long overdue for us to create an economy which works for the middle class and working families of this country, and not just the one percent. It is time for us to have a government which represents all Americans, not just wealthy campaign contributors.

At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, we need a tax system which demands that the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes.

With real unemployment at over 10 percent and youth unemployment off the charts, we need a massive federal jobs program to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create millions of decent paying jobs.

With many of our people working at starvation wages, we need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next few years, and implement pay equity for women workers.

When hundreds of thousands of bright and qualified young people are unable to afford a higher education, we need to make public colleges and universities tuition free and lower student debt. And we can do that by a tax on Wall Street speculation.

At a time when 35 million Americans lack any health insurance and many more are under-insures, we need to move toward a single-payer health insurance program which guarantees health care to all as a right.

We also need to join other wealthy counties by guaranteeing that all families have paid medical and family leave and paid sick time and vacation time.

Instead of cutting Social Security or disability programs, as most Republicans want, we need to expand Social Security benefits so that every senior citizen in this country can enjoy their retirement years in dignity.

When many businesses are making it harder and harder for workers to enjoy their constitutional right to form a trade union, we need legislation which makes it possible for those workers who want to join a union to be able to do so. We need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

In the wealthiest country in the history of the world we CAN accomplish all these goals, but we can’t do it without a political revolution. We can’t do it unless millions of Americans stand up and fight back to reclaim our country from the hands of a billionaire class whose greed is destroying our nation.

Here’s the good news: we faced challenges like these before in our history, and we won. We won when working people across this country came together-- in the workplace, in peaceful demonstrations, and at the ballot box-- and said “No more.” That victory is part of what we celebrate on Labor Day.

By all means, enjoy the holiday weekend. But this Labor Day let’s also honor the men and women who have fought for the rights of working people in this country ever since it was founded-- by pledging to carry on with the work they’ve started.
There has never been a serious presidential candidate like Bernie in our lifetimes. It's our chance. For many of us, there's little chance we'll get another one like it before we shuffle off this mortal coil. Even if you've never contributed to a political campaign in your life, this is the one to do it for. Bernie is the one to do it for.

El Presidente signed a new executive order. (Great Scott Walker quote too!) Imagine if we had a Congress that wasn't so filled with hatred towards working men and women and so dedicated to the interests of Big Business and Wall Street tycoons!

And, by the way, speaking of shuffling off this mortal coil, I can't help myself... I hope you don't mind:

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