Category: Labor

ENDORSEMENT: Randy Bryce for the 1st Congressional District of Wisconsin

I proudly endorse ironworker, U.S. Army veteran, and cancer survivor Randy Bryce for the Democratic nomination in the 1st Congressional District of Wisconsin, which is currently held by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. Normally, when I endorse a political candidate, I mention the candidate’s background and/or political ideology, as well as criticize his or her political opponents. However, I’m simply going to share this web video from the Bryce campaign instead, since it’s one of the best web videos I’ve ever seen a campaign for public office in the United States produce:

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Tom Perez doesn’t get it: listening to people is not a strategy to rebuild the Democratic Party

In the third paragraph of the statement on the front page of Tom Perez’s DNC chair campaign website, this is literally the first sentence of the third paragraph of Perez’s statement:

But most of all, we need to listen.

Really? Listening is what would be Perez’s top priority if elected DNC chair? Give me a break! If listening was the most important skill set to being a successful NASCAR driver, Tom Perez would be a multi-time Daytona 500 winner. Of course, Tom Perez isn’t a NASCAR driver, and listening is not the most important skill set to being a successful NASCAR driver. The same principle applies to political party management. I’ve always been of the belief that who you listen to is more important than whether or not you listen to anybody. Tom Perez has made a living listening to President Obama and his corporate neoliberal political allies promote a globalist, pro-free trade economic agenda that destroyed rural and blue-collar America, cost America millions of jobs, and helped Donald Trump win the presidency. I strongly fear that Perez would listen to the same political professional class that destroyed the Democratic Party under Obama’s watch if elected DNC chair.

Real leaders fight for what they believe in. Keith Ellison is a fighter. While Tom Perez and other Obama Administration officials were busy trying to convince Members of Congress to approve of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal (or, as I like to call it, Obama’s economic surrender to Victor Charlie), Keith called out the Obama cabinet for supporting horrendous trade deals with foreign countries. Keith took on the Obama cabinet, fought to stop the TPP, and won!

Now, Obama’s allies, still butthurt over TPP being effectively rejected by the American people, are now leading the opposition to Keith Ellison’s campaign for DNC chair. Keith defeated the Obama Administration once before, and, although I don’t think that he’ll do it again, I sure hope he does! We need a Democratic party that is less concerned about chasing suburban women and more interested in fighting for policies designed to rebuild America’s middle class.

Obama Administration bullying, and even bribing, businesses to stop criticizing TPP

The Obama Administration is doing everything possible to silence businesses and business leaders who oppose free-trade giveaways like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In at least one documented instance (sources here, herehere, and below), the Obama Administration offered serious consideration for a Defense Department contract to a company if the company would quit publicly criticizing the TPP:

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Email courtesy of Fight for the Future

New Balance, which manufacturers some of their sneakers in the United States, was offered serious consideration for a Defense Department contract to manufacture athletic shoes for members of the U.S. Armed Forces if New Balance executives shut up about how TPP would force companies like New Balance to compete with companies that manufacture in countries like Vietnam, whose minimum wage is the equivalent of 65¢/hour. Prior to being offered consideration for the contract, New Balance officials had been critical of TPP, but they backed off of their criticism of the TPP once the Defense Department considered them for a contract. Now, New Balance officials are renewing their fight against the TPP after they alleged that the Pentagon is intentionally delaying the purchase of shoes from New Balance.

If this is even remotely true, then this represents the kind of corrupt, Chicago-style machine politics that has no place anywhere in America.

Chicago teachers go on one-day strike against Rahm-Rauner austerity

K-12 school teachers represented by the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) have gone on a one-day strike to protest budget cuts by Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and the Rahm Emanuel-appointed Chicago Public Schools (CPS) board (tweet from March 23, strike took place today):

Republicans like Bruce Rauner and his allies, as well as neoliberal corporate Democrats like Rahm Emanuel and his allies, have teamed up in an effort to destroy public education in Chicago, as well as the rest of Illinois. This is despite the fact that investing in public education, not charter schools, school vouchers, or other forms of education privatization, is one of the best investments that politicians can use the people’s taxpayer money for. The more money that government invests in public education at the elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels, the more likely students are able to go on to work in good-paying jobs, thus stimulating the economy when those who have good-paying jobs spend their hard-earned money on goods and services.

I stand with striking Chicago teachers!

U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team fights for equal pay in sports

While the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) is struggling badly in its efforts to qualify for the 2018 FIFA (Men’s) World Cup in Russia, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) is winning on the field and fighting for justice in front of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

On Thursday, five of the biggest stars on the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) — Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Hope Solo — filed a federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, charging the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) with wage discrimination.

The players, who were all key members of the Women’s World Cup championship team last year, say that while the popularity and success of the USWNT generates revenue for the federation, they are still paid less than their male counterparts.

According to USWNT member Becky Sauerbrunn, the pay discrimination complaint is supported by the entire USWNT roster:

The USWNT members are being very honest when they say that they’re being discriminated against by the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF), which is responsible for front-office management of both the women’s and men’s national soccer teams here in the United States. In fact, USWNT members get paid far less than their male counterparts, despite the fact that the USWNT is expected to become responsible for generating more of the USSF’s revenue than the USMNT, as well as the fact that the USWNT is the reigning Women’s World Cup champions while the USMNT may not be able to qualify for their World Cup. In fact, USWNT members have been paid as little as 40% of their male counterparts, despite being considerably more successful than their male counterparts.

Once again, the USWNT is proving that they are badass American heroes on and off the field. I support the fight for equal pay for equal play.

 

Bruce Rauner launches war on local government in Illinois

As reported by WTTW-TV, the PBS-affiliated public television station in Chicago, Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-IL) has officially proposed prohibiting the creation of new local governments (cities, villages, etc.) in Illinois and allowing for the elimination of local governments via referendum:

Today, Gov. Rauner introduced a plan to reduce the number of local governments. He says it will save taxpayers billions of dollars every year, but some lawmakers say his plan has little chance of getting done.

[…]

The recommendations include:

  • A moratorium on any new units of government
  • Giving voters the ability to, via referendum, decide to eliminate or dissolve units of (government)
  • Eliminating the prevailing wage on union projects, which would allow for lower wages
  • Limiting collective bargaining for local government employees

As you can tell, two of those four proposals (specifically, the latter two of the above proposals) are clearly aimed at driving down wages in Illinois and stripping workers of their rights, which makes Illinois’s already broken economy even worse. Regarding the other two, one of them (the moratorium on new local governments) is clearly undemocratic, since I strongly believe that voters should have the right to create local governments, and the other one (allowing voters to eliminate or merge local governments via referendum) is something I would be open to supporting as stand-alone legislation (but not as part of a package proposal), depending on how it would actually work. While Rauner and his ilk think that suburban municipalities and townships in the Chicago area would be most likely to be consolidated or eliminated, the fact of the matter is that most consolidation of local government would take place downstate.

Not only is Bruce Rauner trying to undermine local control in Illinois, he’s also using his push to undermine local control to sneak in an anti-worker and anti-middle class agenda.

No surrender

No surrender

I haven’t written much about Illinois state politics in recent months, largely because there’s not much going on due to the ongoing state government shutdown.

However, the website of The New York Times has published this report on how a handful of wealthy individuals, some of which aren’t Illinois residents, are holding the state of Illinois hostage by way of big-money politics:

In the months since, Mr. (Kenneth C.) Griffin and a small group of rich supporters — not just from Chicago, but also from New York City and Los Angeles, southern Florida and Texas — have poured tens of millions of dollars into the state, a concentration of political money without precedent in Illinois history.

Their wealth has forcefully shifted the state’s balance of power. Last year, the families helped elect as governor Bruce Rauner, a Griffin friend and former private equity executive from the Chicago suburbs, who estimates his own fortune at more than $500 million. Now they are rallying behind Mr. Rauner’s agenda: to cut spending and overhaul the state’s pension system, impose term limits and weaken public employee unions.

[…]

Many of those giving, like Mr. Griffin, come from the world of finance, an industry that has yielded more of the new political wealth than any other. The Florida-based leveraged-buyout pioneer John Childs, the private equity investor Sam Zell and Paul Singer, a prominent New York hedge fund manager, all helped elect Mr. Rauner, as did Richard Uihlein, a conservative businessman from the Chicago suburbs.

In short, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, who spent tens of millions of dollars of his own money on his gubernatorial campaign last year, also spent millions upon millions of dollars of money from a handful of wealthy individuals, and now Rauner is holding Illinois hostage by demanding a Scott Walker-style far-right economic agenda that would hurt Illinois’s economy in return for a functional state government.

To the Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly and the people of Illinois, I have two words for ya’ll: No surrender! Illinois cannot afford busting unions, driving down wages, making it harder for working Illinoisans who are injured on the job to get workers’ compensation benefits, cuts to pension benefits, and every other item of right-wing economic policy that would hurt Illinois’s economy by taking away disposable income from Illinois consumers. Illinois cannot afford surrendering to Bruce Rauner and his big-money cronies from the finance industry.

Bernie strongly supports paid family and medical leave…Hillary doesn’t

If you support federally-guaranteed paid family, medical, maternity, and paternity leave for American workers, then Bernie Sanders is the Democratic candidate for president that strongly supports what you believe in on this important issue:

(Bernie) Sanders also backs a bill pending in Congress that would mandate employers provide paid family leave time after a child is born. The bill would be funded by an increase in payroll taxes estimated to cost the average worker about $72 a year.

(Hillary) Clinton has spoken out forcefully for the concept of paid family leave but not embraced the particular measure because it violates a campaign pledge not to raise taxes on families making less than $250,000.

While Hillary Clinton is busy twisting her own campaign platform into a political pretzel because of her Grover Norquist-like campaign pledge to not raise taxes on the low-end wealthy, Bernie Sanders is strongly advocating for actual legislation designed to allow workers to care for their families in times of need. For Bernie, supporting guaranteed paid leave isn’t just talk, it’s something that he’s actually proposed in Congress. Earlier this year, Bernie co-sponsored legislation that would allow “mothers and fathers to receive 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a baby” and allow “workers to take the same amount of paid time off if they are diagnosed with cancer or have other serious medical conditions or to take care of family members who are seriously ill” (fact sheet here).

ENDORSEMENT: Joseph Thomas Klein for Milwaukee County (WI) Executive

While many people are trying to paint next year’s race for Milwaukee County (WI) Executive as a two-way race between conservative incumbent Chris “Boss” Abele and Wisconsin State Senator Chris Larson, I’m not endorsing either of those candidates. Instead, I’m endorsing Joseph Thomas Klein, who is also running for Milwaukee County Executive.

You may remember Klein from his failed Pirate Party bid in the 19th Assembly District of Wisconsin last year. Now, Klein is running in an officially non-partisan race in a bid to become the chief executive of Wisconsin’s most populous county. I’m not sure if he was an ancestor of the Joseph Klein who is currently running for Milwaukee County Executive, but an individual named Joseph Klein (not the same Joseph Klein who is running for Milwaukee County Executive today) was a Socialist member of the Wisconsin State Assembly for one term from 1919 to 1921.

While Klein’s campaign has gotten virtually zero attention by the corporate media, the Milwaukee-area webgazine Urban Milwaukee recently published this article on their website about the GO Pass program. The GO Pass program is a program that allows disabled people and senior citizens to ride Milwaukee County’s bus system for free, and it’s running a massive budget deficit. Klein has a very interesting idea on how he’d fix Milwaukee County’s GO Pass shortfall:

The other candidate in the county executive election is Joseph Thomas Klein, the Wisconsin Pirate Party organizer. His position on the Go Pass program?

He notes that the Milwaukee County Transit System suffers from the fact that it has little support from the current majority in the state legislature. “MCTS is in need of a dedicated funding source, such as the before proposed additional sales tax,” he continues. “I would also like to see parking revenues from County-owned parking lots, street parking, and structures go into the transit budget. I would not be adverse to metering on Lincoln Memorial Drive (or in any park served by MCTS) if the revenue could make a summertime ‘Beach-Bus’ and Park service possible.”

“I like the GO Pass idea,” Klein says, “but perhaps it should have been better planned with a goal of minimizing erosion of fare-box revenue. The fact that the GO Pass has created a budget shortfall is more a function of poor planning and a lack of realistic budgeting by the County Board, than a condemnation of a program that should have innumerable social benefits.”

I love the idea of using parking fares to fund public transit! If elected Milwaukee County Executive, Joseph Klein will bring fresh, common-sense ideas to Milwaukee County. The same can’t be said for Abele and Larson, both of whom serve political power brokers and their own egos. As county executive, Abele has repeatedly attacked organized labor, progressives, and anyone else who disagrees with him, and he’s one of Scott Walker’s biggest allies. Among the things that Abele has done in office have included pushing to gut the Milwaukee public school system, pushing to prohibit Wisconsin counties from enacting living wage ordinances, defending money in politics, and being worse than Scott Walker on labor issues. Larson, on the other hand, is best-known for handing Republican Howard Marklein a seat in the Wisconsin State Senate (17th Senate District, 2014 election) by backing establishment lackey Pat Bomhack over progressive patriot Ernie Wittwer in the Democratic primary.

Should more than two candidates make the ballot, the non-partisan primary for Milwaukee County Executive would be held in February of next year, and the two highest vote-getters would move on to the general election. The general election for Milwaukee County Executive, also officially non-partisan, will be held in April of next year.

When it comes to fighting against Wisconsin Republicans’ push to dismantle good government, Dianne Hesselbein leads

Wisconsin Republicans are spending virtually all of their time trying to dismantle what little remains of Wisconsin’s once-proud tradition of good government and enact a ton of blatantly partisan legislation. One of those blatantly partisan pieces of legislation is legislation that would dismantle Wisconsin’s civil service system and allow Republicans like Governor Scott Walker to install political cronies in every kind of Wisconsin state government job that you can think of. In a recent op-ed in the Madison, Wisconsin-based newspaper The Cap Times, State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton), described the Republican plan for dismantling Wisconsin’s civil service system:

The new Republican law will introduce an element of fear in the workplace. New employees will face a full year of probation instead of the current 60 days. (It was to be two years, but the bill’s authors started to feel a chill and backed off.) During probation, new hires will be in a free-fire zone and can be fired at will. If there are layoffs, seniority will not count. Raises will become individual bonuses awarded to the favored few.

Hiring and firing will be controlled by the governor’s political arm — the Department of Administration — not the home agency. Employees will no longer have the assurance that, so long as they show up and do their job well, their job will be secure. Now, for the first time since the Progressives created it in 1905, they will have to worry about political factors.

There’s plenty of other odious pieces of legislation that Republicans want to enact in Wisconsin when it comes to dismantling good government. These include replacing Wisconsin’s non-partisan government watchdog with two separate partisan state commissions, as well as rewriting Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws to allow more money to flow into the political system and allow campaign donors to not disclose who employs them.

I’m glad that someone like Dianne Hesselbein is strongly opposing the Republicans’ efforts to make Wisconsin more like Illinois, a state rife with political corruption and cronyism.