Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Is The Employee Free Choice Act Being Discussed In This Electoral Cycle? It Is In Brooklyn And Staten Island-- Meet Michael DeVito


NY-11 is all of Staten Island and the Trumpiest part of south Brooklyn. In fact, the district, the most Italian district in America, has a PVI of R+3. Although Obama beat Romney there in 2012-- 51.6% to 47.3%-- in 2016 it was Trump country. He beat Hillary 53.6% to 43.8%. The GOP establishment is happy to run incumbent Dan Donovan but former Congressman Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm is our of prison and trying to get back into Congress again as a Trumpist. Trump, at the urging of Giuliani, Ryan and McCarthy, endorsed Donovan.

Goal ThermometerMeanwhile the DCCC and right-of-center shitbag, Joe Crowley, are pushing carpetbagger and Blue Dog Max Rose, who has nothing whatsoever to do with the district. Blue America has endorsed Michael DeVito and I asked him to introduce himself with a guest post. Please consider contributing to his campaign by tapping on the ActBlue 2018 congressional thermometer on the right. The primary, by the way, is 3 weeks from yesterday.

"We Are A Working-Class District. We Are Union"
by Michael DeVito

“How do you join a union, Mister?” Manny, one of my student interns, is eager to know. I’m struck suddenly by the impact of being asked two questions about unions in one day, and wonder if it’s a sign the conversation is gaining traction, especially among those in the next generation.

 In my work as a teacher and youth advocate, there is never any shortage of moments when intersectionality punches you in the face.

Manny is asking this question as we walk in a procession chanting, “No More Guns, No More Guns. Stop the Violence, Stop the Violence.” We are on the North Shore of Staten Island, and we’re walking to celebrate the life of a young man I mentored five years ago: Cesar Sanchez.  Cesar was murdered by a two-time killer in the Berry Homes (a NYCHA Housing Development) on September 24th 2014. Delano Hubert had shot and killed another kid a few hundred feet away years earlier. Hubert served just six years for that murder, because the D.A. accepted a plea of attempted manslaughter. That D.A. is the current Congressman of New York’s CD11, Dan Donovan. Hubert was released to no prospects for a job, continued education, or mental health services. He was on parole and often not showing up for probation.

Manny is asking me about unions because before we started our Walk Against Gun Violence, I gave a speech about standing united in solidarity for what you believe in and that, now more than ever, we need to stand together to fight for our civil rights and our economic freedom.

We tell the kids every year that we could have prevented Cesar’s death with better laws, and if we really looked out for each other; if we made sure we worked together to make our community strong and vibrant.

After Cesar’s death, I started a scholarship fund with his mother and each year we host a run/walk called “A Race Against Gun Violence.”  We usually do our walk down on the beach. This year, we are walking around the housing complex where Cesar lived, because next week, the NYC Parks Department-- having accepted my application-- will formally name the basketball courts there in honor of Cesar.

As we walk around the complex this time, Manny tells everyone he just dropped a track on SoundCloud. He says, “I gotta make some bank so I can fund my music career. I gotta get into a union to do it.”

Just a few hours before the walk, I was at a Democratic Party debate.

The question there: what legislation would you introduce into Congress to make it easier for those who want to unionize to have their union recognized by their employer?

The South Shore of Staten Island, the scene of the debate, is reputed to be a Republican stronghold. The reality is more nuanced, and the district in its entirety is actually a microcosm of America. Even throughout the infamously Conservative South Shore, there is an immense concentration of civil servants, and trades workers: firefighters, cops, electricians, teachers, plumbers, construction workers, nurses, bus drivers, signalmen, etc. We are a working-class district. We are union. We are a district which has largely been voting Republican for the last 30 years (although Obama was elected and re-elected right here), even as there are 1.75 times the number of registered Democrats as Republicans. More remarkably: there are about as many unaffiliated registered voters as Republicans.

NY-11 went 20 points for Trump in 2016. If we are paying attention, the message is clear: the Establishment is not welcome in this district.

We want change. We need a champion.

We know why people here voted for Trump, and really: this question is plucked right out of the minds of the middle class, which is rapidly becoming the new poor in America-- the poor who are being imprisoned by debt and lack of opportunity.

My answer is the Employee Free Choice Act.

Since Taft-Hartley, unions have been up against the ropes. As we are forced into the blinding light of the gig economy, (what Chris Hedges calls, “the new term for serfdom”) we are faced with the apparent possibility that the only way to save America is with a Labor Movement larger than the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties. In 2005, The Employee Free Choice Act was presented for the first time. According to labor leaders far and wide, it was destined to pass in 2009 when Democrats controlled all three parts of the government.

It failed.

It failed because of corporate Blue Dog Democrats who were more beholden to their CEO masters and the donor class demagogues than the working people of our country.

It failed the American Worker.

Corporate Democrats failed the American Worker.

The EFCA does three things:
1. It empowers workers to unionize without the requirement of an additional secret ballot.
2. It mandates that if an agreement were not reached after 90 days of collective bargaining, mandated mediation and then arbitration would be required.
3. It penalizes corporations should they attempt to subject workers to detriments for participating in union activities. 
This is the kind of clear message we need to send to corporations. We are standing with our workers, and we can only do so if we send people like me to Congress who are unbought.

This is what I am fighting for in NY-11 and across the country.

Right now, we have 1,800 IBEW Local 3 union families striking for 14 months against Charter/ Spectrum in New York City. They are being starved. They are losing their homes. They are being stripped of their dignity, all because Charter doesn’t want to honor the contract they acquired through the purchase of Time-Warner.

The mandated mediation/arbitration clause in the EFCA would have had these folks back to work 11 months ago.

When Bernie was defending the EFCA, he said, “Big Business does not want to ensure that workers make a decent wage.” Local 3’s fight is the perfect example.

We used to cheer at the number of Americans that climbed into the middle class in our country. Now we are mourning as droves of people fall into the pit of poverty.

Most of the young people I work with have fallen behind in high school. Some made bad choices, while many have had to make tough choices, and all of them are subject to a school system that is failing them because of a lack of vision and equity. Most of my kids are headed toward the perilous gig economy-- towards serfdom. The majority of them are not college-bound and will wind up in the service industry.

I tell Manny that we have an OSHA 30 training this coming week. I tell him he can join two unions if he wants: the carpenters union and the musicians’ union.

The first step is to be on time for OSHA training this weekend.

He says, “Word? No Doubt.”

We shake hands with the thumb snap at the end.

My commitment to my community is thirteen years renewed, after eight-plus years as a U.S. Marine in peacetime, and six more years as a graduate student/ contractor/ expat father in Okinawa.  When I got back to my hometown in 2005, I hit the ground running – right into service. Every day I get up and go to work to help just one kid succeed because I know that helping one kid is helping a whole family, and every family affects a community.

Their fight is my fight, because I have skin in this game too.

I fight for my own child who, as a newly-minted Court Stenographer, is making her way in the gig economy. Miya is working hard to pay back her school debt and is contributing to the greater good of America. She pays her dues to the National Court Reporters Association, and she’s working towards joining the Association of Surrogate’s and Supreme Court Reporters.

All my kids want an America that is going to be there for them. I believe it is up to people like me to ensure we make it so.

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At 5:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is historical fact that the democraps, while eagerly taking money from unions, have refused to do anything at all to help labor, especially unions, for over 30 years. Consider their notable refusals to help in WI after their gov and lege basically made unions illegal; their refusal to resist "right to work" lege everywhere, etc.

The same oligarchy is still in place and is not part of the anti-red wave. Thus, it matters not a bit whether this guy wins or loses. The democraps are on an anti-labor vector that won't be altered.

what else ya got?

At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a union member, I am far from satisfied about the inaction of huge labor organizations (I'm looking at you, AFL-CIO) when it comes to defending my organizational rights.

No one rose to defend PATCO when Reagan refused to negotiate with the air traffic controllers who had legitimate workplace issues which required discussion. That was the green light for corporations to push their unions out, which Phelps-Dodge and Caterpillar eagerly pursued.

Obama trimmed the ranks of the UAW and severed pension benefits from many thousands of retirees when he "saved" General Motors and Chrysler, and no one said a word.

Now, with the stolen SCOTUS aligned to rule against public sector unions, the end of organized labor is in sight. Add in the requirement of mandatory arbitration (read: "You have NO rights, peasant!"), and workers aren't far from "Take what we give you and like it, serf, for automation would be far more profitable for us than you are."

And again I'm reminded of the quote from Oliver Twist: "Please, sir. I want some more."

I can already hear the uproarious laughter at the request.

At 7:14 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

You have my vote Michael & you made two statements which are 100% true

"It failed because of corporate Blue Dog Democrats who were more beholden to their CEO masters and the donor class demagogues than the working people of our country"

"Corporate Democrats failed the American Worker"

And also money best of luck to you in the primary.


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