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Posts Tagged ‘Arlene Holt Baker’

Goal of True Equality Still Challenges Us All

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Arlene Holt BakerForty-nine years ago, on June 23, 1963, tens of thousands of people gathered here in Detroit, only weeks before hundreds of thousands went to Washington to march for jobs and freedom.

In the Detroit speech, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sowed the seeds of his more widely known speech at our nation’s capital. He described his famous vision of a day when the white sons of former slave owners and the black sons of those who had been enslaved would live together as brothers, judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their characters.

Yet we know King’s dream was not merely a dream about friendship, not some story about two unlikely friends communing across a great economic divide. His dream was about true equality—economic, political and social justice.

And he knew that a chief tool for freedom and progress for all people was collective action—whether in the voting booth, in the workplace organized as a labor union or in the shared spaces of this country as nonviolent civil disobedience. It could be at a lunch counter in Alabama or in a park near Wall Street.

In the decades since King was taken from us, our nation may have made enormous strides in the direction of racial justice, but the tragedy of our time is that economic inequality has increased dramatically over the past half-century. All but the richest Americans have suffered. Nearly 100 million Americans live in poverty, almost one-third of us.

Indeed, since 1997, American families have suffered the first mass decline since the Great Depression. But it’s not equal opportunity damage. Over the past 30 years, the median wealth for African-American households fell by two-thirds, and nearly half of black children live in poverty. The black unemployment rate last month was nearly 17%, almost twice the national average.

Yet, as in King’s era, we live in a time of tremendous opportunity for change. In 2011, millions of Americans saw and experienced the strength that comes from collective action as people came together in protest in such places as Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, New York City and here in Detroit.

Read the full op-ed in the Detroit Free Press here.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO Now blog on January 16, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Arlene Holt Baker’s experience as a union and grassroots organizer spans more than 30 years. On Sept. 21, 2007, she was approved unanimously as executive vice president by the AFL-CIO Executive Council, becoming the first African American to be elected to one of the federation’s three highest offices and the highest-ranking African American woman in the union movement. In this position, Holt Baker builds on her legacy of inspiring activism and reaching out to diverse communities to support the needs and aspirations of working people.

AFL-CIO: NFL Lockout Would Hurt Communities

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Image: James ParksThe Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints kicked off the NFL season in a show of solidarity Thursday night and the AFL-CIO has taken the field in the players’ behalf. In a letter released today, the AFL-CIO’s top leaders warned NFL team owners that locking-out players next season could create significant job losses off the field and cause a “spiraling impact on communities.”

In individual letters to each NFL team owner, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Schuler and AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker said football generates hundreds of thousands of jobs in stadiums and in the cities. They said a conservative estimate is that a lockout would cost thousands of jobs and cause more than $140 million in lost revenue in each NFL city.

We strongly urge you to think about the stadium workers, hotel and restaurant workers, and thousands of other working people who support [your team] as dedicated employees and fans.

The owners terminated the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) a year early, claiming they were losing money. But like other employers, they refused to let the players’ union see the books that showed their financial condition.

In negotiations that have lasted more than a year, the owners continue to threaten a lockout and make demands for more work for less pay. Besides that, there is no guaranteed health care for players who are injured and players must play for three seasons before they are eligible for only five years of post-career health care.

This is significant because an NFL player’s career lasts, on average, between three and four years because of the physical toll on their bodies. A study commissioned by the NFL found that Alzheimer’s disease or similar memory-related diseases appear to have been diagnosed in the league’s former players far more often than in the national population—including a rate of 19 times the normal rate for men ages 30 through 49. The researchers found that 6.1 percent of former NFL players age 50 and above reported that they had received a dementia-related diagnosis, five times higher than the national average.

In the letters, the AFL-CIO officers said they will work with the NFLPA to let local elected officials in team cities and members of Congress know just how much a lockout would cost their cities. And, the officers said, where appropriate, they would call for hearings on the monies that teams got from taxpayers and the effect of the team’s non-profit status on tax revenues.

This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO NOW Blog.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections. Author photo by Joe Kekeris

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