Friday, March 13, 2009

Banksters Using Taxpayer Funds To Fight Against Workers Again


I want to put up Mojo Nixon's "I Hate Banks" video again, but I can't imagine anyone who reads this blog hasn't already seen the clip. Are we in-- or about to be in-- a Depression? Probably, although most Americans say definitely. But that doesn't mean there isn't still tremendous wealth in this country. Unemployment may be around 10%-- more in Michigan, South Carolina, Rhode Island and California-- but that means around 90% of workers still have a job. And just look at those gargantuan bonuses-- billions of dollars the big Wall Street firms and the banksters have been giving themselves! Sure, household net worth has sunk by 2% ($11.2 trillion)-- Bush's farewell present to America in his last quarter of misrule but... well let's just look at the Bank of America bonuses for a second. Under TARP, the government gave Bank of America $25 billion in bailout funds-- and at Republican insistence, with no strings attached-- to jump-start the economy by unfreezing the credit stream. Instead Bank of America bought foreign banks, bought corporate jets-- and gave top executives at Merrill Lynch (which it bought) $4 billion in "performance bonuses." Had that money been evenly divided among every person-- all 247,000 of them-- who is employed at Bank of America, each person would have walked away with $16,000-- a significant amount, not just for them and their families, but for their communities and for the country. According to a salary survey by, the median salary of BofA bank tellers was $23,597 a year as of December 28, 2008. By comparison, Bank of America's crooked CEO Ken Lewis took home $99.8 million in 2006, more than four thousand times as much as a BofA teller.

Every single dollar that goes into workers' wages generates $4 worth of economic activity, more than enough to stop the economic downturn dead in its tracks. But the wealthy and powerful who have done so very, very well under Bush misrule, like the way the country's wealth has been skewered in their direction over the last couple of decades. That's why they are so hysterical about stopping Obama's plans to regenerate the middle class. And part of that regeneration is giving workers an opportunity to organize and bargain collectively again.

The right-wing mania against Employee Free Choice-- with its attendant smear campaign against unions-- is a manifestation of a failed power elite to hold onto the undeserved gains they gobbled up under Bush. They brought on the economic meltdown because of their unregulated greed and avarice and now they're claiming that rebuilding the middle class will bring about Armageddon. The fact of the matter is, they already brought about a kind of economic Armageddon by refusing to pay workers fairly and by forcing them to borrow money-- at usurious interest rates-- to keep their families going. Until workers can afford to pay their bills, the economy is doomed. The Employee Free Choice Act is meant to level the playing field a bit between the top 1% of families and the rest of society.

This morning at HuffPo, intrepid reporter Sam Stein exposed Citigroup's latest attempt to beat down workers with some of that $50 billion in taxpayer dollars they got their grubby paws on. Yesterday they hosted a private war-room call about how to manipulate politicians and public opinion in regard to the Employee Free choice Act.
The call, which came just one day after the labor-backed legislation was introduced in Congress, represents a growing effort on Citi's behalf to air concerns about the bill, which would make it easier for employees to organize. On Tuesday, the bank downgraded Wal-Mart's rating over fears that the Employee Free Choice Act could pass.

Wednesday's conference call was led by Glenn Spencer, a senior executive at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and an ardent EFCA opponent. It was promoted as "An Update on the Employee Free Choice Act," but much of the content was focused on demonizing the legislation. EFCA will "inhibit flexibility," "hamper companies from competing effectively," and prove "cumbersome" for business, declared Spencer. "From the Chamber's perspective, and I would say probably from the whole business communities perspective, there are really no amendments you could make to this bill that would make it acceptable."

..."Citigroup and the Chamber of Commerce have no shame," said Stephen Lerner, director of the Private Equity Project at SEIU. "One day, Citi issues a report claiming it would hurt the stock of the Billionaire Walton family if free choice passes and workers win decent wages. Then they follow it up with a conference call where the Chamber of Commerce claims paying workers a living wage is bad for the economy."

Fox TV is already strategically at work spreading the misinformation and outright lies that came out of the Citigroup conference call.

Yesterday Kai Ryssdal interviewed former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich on NPR's Marketplace. If only political leaders like Harry Reid and Steny Hoyer could express themselves as clearly as Reich. Maybe their hearts need to be in it a little more.
The way to get the economy back on track is to boost the purchasing power of average Americans. One way to do this is to expand the percentage of Americans in unions.

Go back 50 years, when America's middle class was growing and the economy was soaring. Good pay meant more purchases, and more purchases meant more jobs. At the center of this virtuous circle were unions. In 1955, more than a third of working Americans belonged to one. Unions gave them the bargaining leverage they needed to get the paychecks that kept the economy going.

But now, fewer than 8 percent of private-sector workers are unionized. Middle-class wages slowed so much in the intervening years that most Americans could maintain spending only by working more hours and then, this decade, going deep into debt. But then the bubble burst, and now there's not enough purchasing power to keep the economy going.

The decline of unions isn't the only reason for the long-term slowdown in American wages. Much of what Americans used to make can now be made more cheaply abroad or by automated machines. But the vast personal-service sector of the economy is not affected by imports or automation, including millions of jobs in big-box retailers, fast-food outlets, hotel chains, hospitals, construction, and transportation.

Few of these jobs are unionized. All too often, that's because employees who want to form unions are threatened by their employers. And if they don't heed the warnings, they're fired, even though that's illegal. I saw this when I was secretary of labor over a decade ago.

We tried to penalize employers that broke the law, but the fines are minuscule. Too many employers consider them a cost of doing business.

The most important feature of the Employee Free Choice Act toughens penalties against companies that violate their workers' rights. The sooner it's enacted, the better-- for American workers and for the American economy.

That pretty much says it all. If you live in Arkansas, try explaining it to your two waivering senators, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor. If you live in Pennsylvania or Ohio, let Arlen Specter and George Voinovich, two Republicans who don't reflexively undermine the aspirations of working families at every opportunity the way most of their Republican colleagues do. And think about participating in the mass demonstrations at banks on March 19 nationwide. Meanwhile, they sure have bought Chuck Grassley lock, stock and barrel: "It won’t become law because we’ve got 41 Republicans sticking together against it. And it’s my understanding that we have some Democrats that are nervous about it, too. I don’t see how you can get around a filibuster. And it will be filibustered.” In 2007 Arlen Specter (R-PA) voted for Employee Free Choice. He says he hasn't made up his mind (on the identical bill) this year but... deals are being made. And finally someone is explaining what the bill really is about and not just allowing right-wing propaganda to mis-define it:

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At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm in Pa..we are trying to get some face time with AS. Chances are pretty slim as he never even bothers to write back let alone see us.

That chamber of Commerce guy is big time bad news. Not only for the EFCA
but for single payer and or public option in health care


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