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#EndorseThis: On Labor Day, Angry Boss Asks What Unions Have Done For Us

Facing a unionization drive or a contract dispute, many an irritated boss has denigrated the labor movement. Far too many Americans swallow the anti-labor rhetoric spewed by management, which is why our middle-class is struggling, our living standards have declined, and our democracy is in danger from powerful plutocrats.

“What have unions ever done for us?” is an appropriate question for Labor Day. The answer deserves to be shared today and every day.

Labor And Women’s Rights Activists Plan Mass Protests To Fight Trumpism

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Sectors of the U.S. labor movement are throwing their weight behind an International Women’s Day call for mass actions to protest the gendered violence wrought by neoliberalism, from workplace harassment to environmental destruction to the gutting of welfare systems.

Timed for Wednesday, March 8, the global day of action was “organized by and for women who have been marginalized and silenced by decades of neoliberalism directed towards working women, women of color, Native women, disabled women, immigrant women, Muslim women, lesbian, queer, and trans women,” according to the International Women’s Strike, which describes itself as a grassroots movement.

The mobilizations also have the backing of the organizers of the January 21 Women’s March, the largest inaugural protest in U.S. history. While Women’s March organizers have termed March 8 “a day without women,” actions will include rallies, protests, direct actions, and teach-ins, in addition to a more traditional work stoppage. Similar actions are slated to sweep nearly 30 countries, from Mexico to Bolivia to Russia.

Tithi Bhattacharya, who is active with the U.S. arm of the International Women’s Strike, is a longtime activist for Palestinian justice, a professor of South Asian History and the director of Global Studies at Purdue University. She told AlterNet, “We knew very well when we used the word ‘strike’ that women (and men) in the vast majority of workplaces will not be able to go on strike. How could they? Union density is currently at its lowest in this country. Moreover, even where unions exist, they usually carry no-strike clauses in their contracts. A vast number of people work in states where striking has been criminalized for years.”

“But despite these challenges,” Bhattacharya continued, “the involvement of labor unions and labor groups has been amazing.”

Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools just announced it will close down March 8 because it expects large numbers of employees to go on strike.

Under the banner, Women Workers Rising, major unions and workers’ organizations are calling for a demonstration at the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., to “end workplace violence and harassment and promote pay equity, one fair living wage, paid leave, and labor rights at work.” The action is being organized by One Billion Rising in coalition with at least eight union or worker organizations, including National Nurses United, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, OUR Walmart, the American Federation of Teachers, Jobs with Justice, the Domestic Workers’ Alliance, and other labor and social justice groups.

“Every day, we see the Trump administration’s attack on women’s bodies and lives, especially immigrants and women of color,” Andrea Cristina Mercado, the campaign director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, told AlterNet. “Our work, contributions, and humanity continue to be undervalued. That is why we endorsed A Day Without Women—as a way of showing opposition to the terrorizing and criminalizing of our communities.”

“While some domestic workers are participating, we did not call on members to strike, because it’s hard for many who are caring for elders or children to take a day off,” Mercado continued. “But there are so many ways to show resistance, and on March 8, we will stand together, and embody radical sisterhood.”

The day of action has earned the endorsements of union locals and workers’ organizations, including Labor for Palestine, Rutgers AAUP-AFT and UAW Local 2325 — Association of Legal Aid Attorneys. Among the endorsers is the SEIU Lavender Caucus, which describes itself as “the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/ Transgender (L/G/B/T) Caucus of the Service Employees International Union, whose purpose is to facilitate open and respectful communication between the L/G/B/T community and the labor movement.”

Megan Moskop is a New York City teacher and an organizer with the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), the social justice caucus of the United Federation of Teachers. Moskop said MORE officially endorsed the March 8 day of actions “because 70 percent or more of the teaching profession in New York City is women. Sexism in our profession is rampant. We only have the most basic family medical leave. Part of the reason it is such a hard job is because it’s a job women have traditionally done.”

“When women are standing up in the international community and saying sexism is real, we want to stand alongside them,” Moskop said.

The U.S. platform for the International Women’s Strike includes calls for labor rights, a halt to gender violence, environmental justice, and an “anti-racist and anti-imperialist feminism,” stating: “This means that movements such as Black Lives Matter, the struggle against police brutality and mass incarceration, the demand for open borders and for immigrant rights and for the decolonization of Palestine are for us the beating heart of this new feminist movement.”

In addition, the platform calls for “full social provisioning” and issues the demand “that the welfare system work to support our lives rather than shame us when we access such rights.”

Organizers say they draw inspiration from mass protests far beyond U.S. borders. “Following the example of Icelandic women in 1975, Polish women went on a day-long strike to halt plans for criminalizing abortion and miscarriage on Oct. 3, 2016,” the International Women’s Strike writes. “That planned legislation was immediately withdrawn by the government. Similar issues brought Korean women to protest several times that same month against introduction of higher penalties for doctors performing abortions. On Oct. 19, 2016, Argentine women responded with massive hour-long strikes and rallies to an inhuman femicide and brutal repression [by police] of the Women’s National Meeting.”

Union members told AlterNet that these kinds of mass protests are sorely needed in the United States, and that labor’s participation is often driven by the rank and file. “It’s important to see labor use its power to move protests further and go from demonstrations to strikes,” Peter Lamphere, a member of MORE-UFT and a teacher in New York City, told AlterNet. “We’ve seen that already in the immigrant community and with New York City taxi workers.”

On February 16, thousands of people across the United States walked off the job, shut down their stores and restaurants and stayed home from school to participate in an immigrant strike against the deportation policies of the Trump administration. The strike was accompanied by mass protests in cities and towns across the country, including Chicago, Raleigh, Austin, and San Francisco.

Those mass protests followed a one-hour strike on January 28 by the New York Taxi Workers, in solidarity with large-scale protests against Trump’s travel ban targeting Muslims. “Drivers stand in solidarity with thousands protesting [the] inhumane and unconstitutional Muslim ban,” the 19,000-member strong union declared over social media.

“We see the Trump administration as posing an existential threat to the labor movement, so right after the election we immediately got involved in pushing UFT to take whatever action it could to challenge what Trump was doing,” Lamphere emphasized. “So we pushed for the union to endorse the Women’s March and sent buses. The women’s strike is the next step coming out of that.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet.

IMAGE: People gather for the Women’s March in Washington. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

U.S. Communications Union Endorses Sanders’ Presidential Bid

By Amanda Becker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Communication Workers of America (CWA) union endorsed U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential race on Thursday, a move that could bolster his campaign in early-voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.

CWA President Chris Shelton said the decision to back Sanders, a Democratic socialist, over party front-runner Hillary Clinton came after a three-month process driven by the union’s rank-and-file members rather than its leadership.

“They voted decisively for Bernie Sanders,” Shelton said in a press conference in Washington. “The executive board stayed out of this.”

The CWA, which has 700,000 members, is the third national union to endorse Sanders, after the American Postal Workers Union and National Nurses United.

Clinton has the backing of 18 national unions or alliances that collectively represent more than 11 million workers. Roughly 14.6 million workers – about 11.1 percent of the workforce – are union members, according to U.S. government data.

“Hillary Clinton is humbled to have such tremendous support from labor unions who represent a diverse coalition of millions,” said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the former secretary of state’s campaign.

Though the U.S. labor movement has shrunk in recent years, union activists are often crucial foot soldiers for Democratic candidates, willing to put in long hours to knock on doors and help register people to vote.

While acknowledging that Clinton may be able to raise more campaign money than him using Super PAC political groups, which he has pledged to avoid, Sanders said individual contributions and the CWA’s manpower could help him in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Democrats will hold their first nominating contest in Iowa on Feb. 1, followed by one in New Hampshire about a week later.

“That’s a lot more important than a 30-second TV ad and that’s what the CWA brings to the table and that’s why I’m appreciative of their support,” Sanders said at the same press conference.

“The CWA will do everything possible, every single thing possible,” Shelton said, referring to its support of Sanders.

Larry Cohen, a former CWA president, acts as a labor liaison to the Sanders campaign.

(Additional reporting by Eric Walsh; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao)

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters during an off the schedule campaign stop at Portsmouth Book and Bar in Portsmouth, New Hampshire December 15, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

5 Reasons White Working-Class Voters Are So Scared

Why do data journalists keep missing the political story of the year?

That’s the challenge posed by the Washington Post‘s Dave Weigel to FiveThirtyEight‘s Nate Silver and The Upshot’s Nate Cohn, two key numbers maestros who have continually predicted the demise — or understated the rise — of Donald Trump.

The political story of the year is that Trump has consolidated non-college educated white Republican voters in a way nobody expected could happen. His appeal is driven largely by these voters’ anxieties, manifested as racism and xenophobia.

We see this in the way his campaign lifted off after his attacks on Mexico and Mexican immigrants in his announcement speech. And his further ascent, which comes after weeks of lying about “thousands and thousands” of American Muslims celebrating 9/11.

Reckoning with Trump’s very classy bigotry is tough for many who seem reluctant to accept that it is the animating force behind his rise. It feels inappropriate to ascribe those motivations to millions of Americans, years after the Supreme Court declared that we’d pretty much solved racism.

This political story of the year is just a comically exaggerated version of the crackdown predicted by analysts like The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent — and the GOP autopsy itself — if Republicans didn’t pass immigration reform. It’s the tragedy of California’s conservative backlash against immigrants from the 1990s, repeated as farce.

Decades ago, white voters in California felt the changes that much of the country is now experiencing. Demographic shifts combined with the natural consequences of conservative economics sparked a partisan crucible of bad intentions —  which resulted in California’s GOP winning some pyrrhic victories that have given way to a general decimation of the party.

There are some unabashed racists who support Trump, but his larger support is the sign of a seriously troubling phenomenon that cannot be ignored. Aging white voters — especially those who have no college education — feel an acute loss of status, opportunity, and security. To deflect their angry anxiety away from the conservatives who have engineered the hollowing of the middle class, they’re being encouraged to rage against ethnic minorities.

Race baiting is a potent distraction, and one that has been either an undercurrent or a driving force of American politics for centuries. Given that the demographic shifts we face are inevitable, we need to take seriously the concerns of these voters, in the hope that they can direct their concerns more constructively.

Here are five reasons why scared white voters can be tricked into sucking up to a billionaire who thinks they’re overpaid.

1. They’re dying faster.
White anxiety has literally become an existential crisis. “Since roughly 1998, disease and death rates for middle aged white men and women has begun to rise,” Josh Marshall wrote in a recent post about a Princeton university study from Angus Deaton and Anne Case on mortality rates. Marshall says you can’t understand politics without understanding this study. His hypothesis about why people are dying at increased rates? “Let’s put this clearly: the stressor at work here is the perceived and real loss of the social and economic advantages of being white.” He doesn’t think the anger at this loss is driving Republican “nihilism.” He thinks both emerge from a common cause. That cause could be the loss of economic strength and hope.

2. They’ve lost bargaining power.
As union membership rates decrease, middle-class incomes shrink
Conservatives want to destroy labor unions. They have no problem admitting it and campaigning on it. Coincidently, as union membership decreases, so do incomes. If there’s no one to lobby for your interests or to bargain from a position of equality, your ability to demand better wages deteriorates. And that works for people who own businesses, while leaving those among us who grew up in an age of growing incomes feeling as if we’ve been denied a natural right.

3. They’ve lost job security and pensions.
Mother Jones‘ Kevin Drum took a look at the same mortality study and finds that all white people from 30-65 are seeing more deaths from preventable causes like “suicide/alcohol/drugs.” One factor directly addressed by the study’s authors is the loss of financial security for workers: “The United States has moved primarily to defined-contribution pension plans with associated stock market risk, whereas, in Europe, defined-benefit pensions are still the norm. Future financial insecurity may weigh more heavily on US workers, if they perceive stock market risk harder to manage than earnings risk, or if they have contributed inadequately to defined-contribution plans.”

4. America is changing quickly.
Backlash politics thrives on a sense that the world is going to hell all around you. Whether its same-sex marriage, a black president, a possible woman president, any sense that the old order would endure — and the belief that America would exist forever in its prejudices (but with jet packs) — is nearly gone. While these things seem positive to the ascending majority of America, they terrorize those who’d been promised that they’d be better off than their parents. We cannot overstate how much the demographics of America will change in the next few decades and how disturbing that is to “traditionalists. This passage from pollster Stanley Greenberg makes these monumental changes vivid:

Consider that nearly 40 percent of New York City’s residents are foreign-born, with Chinese the second-largest group behind Dominicans. The foreign-born make up nearly 40 percent of Los Angeles’s residents and 58 percent of Miami’s. A majority of U.S. households are headed by unmarried people, and, in cities, 40 percent of households include only a single person. Church attendance is in decline, and non-religious seculars now outnumber mainline Protestants. Three-quarters of working-age women are in the labor force, and two-thirds of women are the breadwinners or co-breadwinners of their households. The proportion of racial minorities is approaching 40 percent, but blowing up all projections are the 15 percent of new marriages that are interracial. People are moving from the suburbs to the cities. And in the past five years, two-thirds of millennial college graduates have settled in the 50 largest cities, transforming them.

The world middle-aged white Americans were born into bears almost no resemblance to the one where they are dying. And unfortunately conservatives have convinced them that the promise of immigrants who we desperately need to grow our economy and fund Medicare and Conservatives is nothing more than a threat.

5. The right wing media thrives on fears.
It’s no coincidence that some of the right-wing media’s biggest advertisers are companies marketing gold, survival gear, and miracle cures that the scientists don’t want you to hear about. Keeping you focused on all the wrong things is essential to the conservative project. And it’s even more important for the conservative media project. The right’s ability to shape narratives — and harass the mainstream media into accepting them — has no parallel in modern life. No matter how many people in the “objective” media may vote or lean left, it’s no match for the nation’s most popular news channel and nearly all the most popular talk radio shows serving as perpetual commercials against the Democratic Party and the unmitigated evil of compromising with liberals. Every day millions of white Americans wake up to find out what they should be terrified of today — a time of unprecedented peace globally and some of the lowest violent crime rates in generations at home. And the right wing media never disappoint them.

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the USS Wisconsin battleship in Norfolk, Virginia October 31, 2015.  REUTERS/Joshua Roberts