Posts Tagged ‘Richard Trumka’
Thursday, February 4th, 2016
In a new op-ed for the Hill, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka explains the key reasons why the Trans-Pacific Partnership is bad for working people, both in the United States and overseas. Trumka describes the deal by saying that “the TPP is a giveaway to big corporations, special interests and all those who want economic rules that benefit the wealthy few.”
We’ve been down this road before. The Wall Street and Washington elite always tell us that this time will be different. The truth is these trade deals have ripped apart the fabric of our nation. We see the shuttered factories. We visit towns that look like they are stuck in the past. We talk to the workers who lost everything, only to be told they should retrain in another field—but Congress has been slow to fund and authorize those programs. From NAFTA to CAFTA to Korea and now the TPP, these agreements have continually put profits over people. By driving down our wages, they make our economy weaker, not stronger.
In many ways, the TPP is a new low. A quick search of the agreement shows no mention of the terms “raising wages” or “climate change.” And by ramming through fast track legislation earlier this year, Congress effectively barred itself from making a single improvement to the TPP.
Working people deserve a better process and a better product. We understand better than anyone that the TPP is just another tool to enrich corporations at the expense of everyday families. We cannot and should not accept it.
Because it can’t fix the TPP, Congress has to take the step of saying to 11 other countries, “No, not this TPP.” Taking that brave step is necessary to create trade rules that lift people up, not crush them under crony capitalism.
Read the full op-ed.
This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on February 3, 2016. Reprinted with permission.
Kenneth Quinnell is a long time blogger, campaign staffer, and political activist. Prior to joining AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as a labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars. He was the past Communications Director for Darcy Burner and New Media Director for Kendrick Meek. He has over ten years as a college instructor teaching political science and American history.
Tuesday, October 12th, 2010
In the past decade, more than 5 million manufacturing jobs and 850,000 information sector jobs have disappeared—many of which have been shipped overseas. This outsourcing is encouraged by faulty trade and tax policies that corporate executives use to boost record-breaking profits and outrageous and obscene executive salaries.
But finding out specific information on specific companies sending American jobs overseas and devastating their communities has been nearly impossible—until today. The AFL-CIO and Working America’s new Job Tracker database lists information on more than 400,000 corporations that have exported jobs overseas, violated health and safety codes or engaged in discriminatory or other illegal practice. (Check it out at http://t.co/qbg7wwm.)
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, in a conference call with reporters this morning, said Job Tracker’s searchable by ZIP code and the interactive database gives
everyday people the opportunity to actually see what is happening in their community and shine the light on what corporations are doing. For the first time, working people have one place to see the real impact of the failed policies of the past that gave corporations the ability to ship American jobs overseas.
With this new data as a benchmark, working people will have the ability to separate the economic patriots from the corporate traitors at the ballot box.
Karen Nussbaum, executive director of Working America—the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate— said, “Because of Job Tracker, corporations who have taken advantage of lax trade policies in America and abroad will no longer”
be able to hide behind the veils of bureaucracy. Every night on our neighborhood canvasses, we hear from people who want to know which companies are profiting off the loss of their jobs. Corporations have created a global race to the bottom and working people won’t stand for it.
A recent Wall Street Journal poll shows 83 percent of blue-collar workers say outsourcing of manufacturing jobs is the reason the U.S. economy is struggling and why companies are not hiring. Jobs are the No. 1 issue for working family voters this year, said Trumka.
We must demand that our leaders show that they stand with working families—fighting to create jobs, rejecting unfair trade deals and putting us on a path to make things in America again.
Here’s how Job Tracker works. Simply enter a ZIP code, for example Toledo, Ohio’s 43606. A few clicks of your mouse will find 20 companies—from Ace Packaging Systems to Tecumseh Products—have exported jobs, mostly manufacturing jobs. Another 19 firms have laid off workers because of the impact of trade and 61 companies have made or filed notice to make mass layoffs.
Also, 39 companies had cases involving workers’ rights violations under the National Labor Relations Act, and 1,170 have received health and safety violations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
Trumka said the Job Tracker provides the kind of information to help working families make their choices at the ballot box Nov. 2 and working families can use to determine who is on the side of working families.
The choice is clear—leaders who will fight to create and keep good jobs here in America, or the corporate traitors who insist on the policies that have rigged the playing field.
Job Tracker information draws on sources, including the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance records, Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notices, OSHA records and more. The Job Tracker site also enables visitors to use Facebook and Twitter and e-mail to report companies exporting jobs in their communities.
As part of Job Tracker, Working America also is releasing a “white paper,” OUTSOURCED: Sending Jobs Overseas: The Cost to America’s Economy and Working Families, which details how trade policies have outsourced good jobs. Working America will share the results with members of Congress and the economic community as a new analysis on what policies must be passed to turn our economy around.
This article was originally published on AFL-CIO Now Blog.
About The Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and have written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.
Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
The 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
Friday, April 30th, 2010
For the past 80 years, radio stations have used the publicly owned airwaves to make billions of dollars playing music without paying anything to the artists who created it.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) President Roberta Reardon and American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) President Thomas Lee joined with members of Congress today to announce a strong push by the union movement to pass legislation that supports the fundamental right of American musical artists to be paid for their work.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (third from left) jams with Rep. Jerrold Nadler, AFTRA President Roberta Reardon, musician Peter Yarrow and Reps. John Conyers and John Garamendi.
The Performance Rights Act, H.R. 848, would close a loophole in copyright law that allows AM and FM stations to duck royalty payments to performing artists. The United States is one of a handful of countries that do not provide fair performance rights on radio. The others include Qatar, Iraq, Iran, North Korea and China.
Trumka told a Capitol Hill press conference that workers should not be cheated out of their wages:
The labor movement was founded on the principle that a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. That’s the principle at stake in the fight for the Performance Rights Act.
The reckless greed that drives Wall Street is the same as the unconscionable greed that drives the handful of conglomerate corporate radio executives that control 75 percent of our nation’s radio stations.
The bipartisan legislation, introduced by House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has 46 co-sponsors. Both the Obama and Bush administrations endorsed the legislation along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and former House Minority Leader Dick Armey.
Reardon told reporters:
The Performance Rights Act will help thousands of hard-working, middle-income recording artists, legacy artists, and session singers earn a living, provide for themselves and their families and support an economy that works for everyone.
Big Radio has launched a propaganda campaign against the legislation led by Cathy Hughes, owner of the African American mega-company Radio One, which claims the legislation would hurt African American and small radio stations.
Last year, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) and the NAACP endorsed the legislation saying it would not hurt black radio and that musicians, like all workers, deserve to be paid a fair wage.
Radio One is a classic example of corporate greed, Trumka pointed out. In the middle of the recession, Radio One executives fired workers, cut salaries and slashed benefits while setting themselves up with millions of dollars in bonuses.
Trumka issued a challenge to members of Congress and activists across the country:
If you care about music, if you care about the right of Americans to get paid for their work, if you care about doing what is right, be a part of the good fight for our performing brothers and sisters.
The Music First Coalition, which includes AFM, AFTRA and the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), is leading an effort to pass the bill. The AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees (DPE) also is backing the bill.
*This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on April 27, 2010. Reprinted with permission.
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 saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He has also been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. 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.
Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
When the world’s banks were going under, governments jumped to their aid. Now with record numbers of people out of work, it’s past time for governments to put working people first, or the fledgling economic recovery could fall apart. Leaders from the G-20 nations issued this warning while in Washington, D.C., this week for the first-ever meeting of G-20 labor ministers and employment ministers with labor and business leaders April 20-21.
The meeting stems from the efforts by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and others at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh last September to make jobs the central element in any global economic recovery. The G-20 includes the leaders of the world’s top 19 economies and the European Union.
During their meetings at the AFL-CIO before the labor ministers’ summit, the union leaders again strongly urged their governments to support the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Global Jobs Pact, which includes comprehensive measures to stimulate employment growth and provide basic protections for workers and their families.
Sharan Burrow, president of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), told the ministers:
Governments must show the same political will to attack global unemployment and underemployment as they did to tackle the banking crisis in late 2008. We cannot afford a lost decade of stagnant labor markets.
Trumka made it clear that if the jobs of the future are to be good, family supporting jobs, workers in all nations must have the fundamental right to form unions and bargain collectively:
In the U.S, tens of thousands of workers are fired every year for attempting to form unions. For example, there can be no excuse for T-Mobile, the U.S. telecommunications company, to viciously oppose unions in the U.S. while its corporate parent, Deutsche Telekom supports bargaining rights and unions throughout Europe. Unless workers’ rights are enforced in all countries, there will be a “race to the bottom” in wages and working conditions, a race that will undermine decent work everywhere.
For more information on the ongoing campaign to bring justice to T-Mobile, click here and here.
The union leaders also insisted that governments not reduce stimulus efforts until employment rates return to pre-crisis levels on a sustainable basis, and called for an equitable sharing of the cost of the recovery costs through more progressive tax systems, including the adoption of a financial transactions tax, actions the AFL-CIO strongly backs.
ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder said:
We must halt the continuing rise in unemployment and create new jobs. Furthermore, there needs to be an ongoing role for labor ministers within the G-20 in order to address the employment impact of the crisis with effective measures to help all workers, including the most vulnerable.
John Evans, general secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), added:
Increasing economic inequality over two decades helped cause this crisis. Fairer income distribution and restoring real purchasing power to working people is essential for sustainable economic growth in the future.
Check out the detailed proposals presented by the union delegation here. Read the ITUC/TUAC evaluation of the meeting’s outcomes here.
*This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on April 22, 2010. Reprinted with permission.
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 saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He has also been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. 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
Friday, January 22nd, 2010
Credit: Joe Kekeris
Massachusetts voters sent a strong signal to Washington lawmakers Tuesday that they want results—and aren’t seeing any. Not on health care reform, not on job creation and not on fixing the nation’s economy.
Voters also sent another powerful message for Democrats: Ignore the working class at your peril.
Some 79 percent of voters polled on election night said the most important issue for them was electing a candidate who will strengthen the economy and create more jobs. Controlling health care costs was next on their list, with 54 percent citing that issue as the main determinant of their vote.
The poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates among 810 voters for the AFL-CIO on the night of the election, also found that although voters without a college degree favored Barack Obama by 21 percentage points in the 2008 election, Democratic candidate Martha Coakley lost that same group by a 20-point margin.
And as AFL-CIO Richard Trumka has pointed out, Massachusetts voters have the same goals for reforming health care, creating good jobs and strengthening the economy as they did in November 2008—but President Obama and the Democrats have done too little:
“Voters showed they don’t think Democrats have overreached—they think that the Democrats underreached.”
In fact, voters were not worried about Democratic “overreach”—47 percent said their bigger concern about Democrats is that they haven’t succeeded in making needed change rather than tried to make too many changes too quickly (32 percent). Even voters for Scott Brown were more concerned about a lack of change (50 percent) than about trying to make too many changes too quickly (43 percent).
These results puts a lie to the corporate media spin that Democrats have gone “too far” in pushing a reform agenda.
Nor was the election result about health care reform. Brown actually lost among the 59 percent of voters who picked health care as one of their top two voting issues (50 percent for Coakley and 46 percent for Brown). Voters for Brown (55 percent ) were less likely to cite health care as a top issue than were voters for Coakley (66 percent).
The election also should be a wake-up call for those in Washington who support taxing working families’ health care. Voters who thought their health care would be taxed voted by 64 percent for Brown, while those who did not think their health care would be taxed voted by 54 percent to 40 percent for Coakley.
Our polling results show the election was not an endorsement of a Republican agenda or a call to abandon health care reform. Voters strongly disapprove of the job being done by congressional Republicans (26 percent approve and 58 percent disapprove), a much lower rating than they give to congressional Democrats (37 percent approve and 51 percent disapprove).
Other polls show the need for Democrats in Congress to take immediate action to create jobs, reform health care, stop catering to Wall Street and address the needs of America’s working class. As John Judis wrote, the election showed Democrats have lost ground primarily among white working and middle-class voters and senior citizens.
The Suffolk University poll in Massachusetts…singled out two white working-class towns, Gardner and Fitchburg, as bellwethers. Obama won Gardner, where Democrats hold a 3-1 registrations edge, by 59 percent to 31 percent in 2008. Brown won it by 56 percent to 42 percent. Obama won Fitchburg, with a similar Democratic edge, by 60 percent to 38 percent in 2008. Brown won it by 59 percent to 40 percent. That suggests a fairly dramatic shift among white working-class voters.
Summarizing the findings from election night polling conducted by Research 2000 Massachusetts Poll, MoveOn.org said the results show voters worry that Democrats in power “have not done enough to combat the policies of the Bush era.”
Both sets of voters wanted stronger, more progressive action on health care reform as well. In summary, the poll shows that the party who fights corporate interests—especially on making the economy work for most Americans—will win the confidence of the voters.
The working class has spoken. Will Democrats listen?
*This post was crossposted from the AFL-CIO blog on January 21, 2010. Reprinted with permission.
Thursday, January 7th, 2010
More than 100 union members, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and UNITEHERE! President John Wilhelm were arrested at a sit-in demanding justice and a fair contract for San Francisco hotel workers last night. The workers have been without a contract since August.
The sit-in in front of the Hilton San Francisco followed a march by nearly 1,000 members of UNITEHERE! Local 2, other union members and community and political supporters. Says Ingrid Carp, a cook for 29 years at the Hilton:
“We’re determined as ever to win a good contract. It’s wrong for corporations to position themselves to make billions with the coming economic recovery, and expect us to go backward.”
UNITEHERE! President John Wilhelm (left) and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka were among the 140 arrested at a San Francisco hotel sit-in for justice.
At the rally before the march, Trumka told crowd:
“A job is a good job because working people fight to make it one. It doesn’t matter if the job is in a coal mine or a hotel, a classroom or a car wash.
“That’s why the struggle of hotel workers here in San Francisco and across our country is so important. If we don’t protect the wages and benefits and health care of hotel workers no job is safe, no worker is safe no family is safe.”
Tomorrow, Trumka will join workers for a rally and picket in front of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles. Along with the demand for justice for hotel workers, Trumka is in California this week to spotlight the need for job creation. We’ll have more on that later today.
The action is part of a campaign to win fair contracts at several national hotel chains, including Hilton, Hyatt and Starwood. The profitable chains are using the recession as an excuse to demand health care benefit cuts in contract talks with more than 16,000 workers at dozens of hotels in San Francisco, Chicago and other cities.
*This article originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on January 6, 2010. Reprinted with permission from the author.
About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. I came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and have written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When my collar was still blue, I carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. I’ve also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold my blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen me at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. I was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still have the shirts, lost the hair.
Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
More than 5,000 people are packing the streets of downtown Chicago this morning, chanting, marching and rallying against Big Bankers and financial institutions that have taken taxpayer money and are using it to give big bonuses to CEOs and to lobby against financial reforms that would ensure they don’t go back on the public dole.
The crowd is marching to the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, site of the American Bankers Association meeting, to protest the banking industry’s greed and irresponsibility that crippled our economy, leaving millions of workers behind.
Photo by SEIU
After the house of cards they built collapsed, bankers and the financial industry took $700 billion in taxpayer funds for a bailout. But rather than reform their failed practices, they want to go back to business as usual—with the chance of again precipitating another financial collapse and need for taxpayer bailout in coming years.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who is joining union members and allies at today’s events, has a clear message to bankers: You work for us.
Business as usual is over. We are shutting it down. You work for us—not the other way around. Your job is to be stewards of our savings, to put and keep working families in homes, to lend the money companies need to create jobs. And you have failed. You’ve turned the American economy into your own private casino, gambling away our financial future with our money, and driving us to the brink of a second Great Depression—then sticking out your hand for taxpayers to bail you out.
Praising Barack Obama’s administration for trying to stop the out-of-control bonuses paid to executives at bailed-out banks, Trumka says we need to go further by setting tough new rules so that the financial industry can’t run our economy into the ground again.
Trumka calls for four key principles to be part of any financial reform:
- A new Consumer Financial Protection Agency to monitor banks and credit card companies and prevent abuses.
- Reform the Federal Reserve Board or create an agency capable of stopping systemic risk.
- More transparency so that hedge funds, derivatives and private equity markets can have real oversight.
- Reform of corporate governance and executive compensation to make the finance industry work on behalf of the real economy, not vice versa.
This shouldn’t be a moment, Trumka says, where we pretend we can go back to the old broken economy that benefited only a few at the expense of everyone else.
Our economy has been all but destroyed. We have to build a whole new one, based on good jobs, not on bad debt; with America investing in and exporting technology and world-class products, not financial crisis; where hard work is rewarded, not colossal failure; where workers have a real voice because they have the freedom to have a union if they want one; and where all of us have the health care we need.
Appearing on the local Fox affiliate this morning, Trumka said it’s an outrage the financial industry took billions in taxpayer dollars, yet uses its resources to lobby against regulations to prevent a crisis like this from happening again:
The bankers who took all the risk and now are doing everything that they can to block reform so that it doesn’t happen again. Now that’s the problem. They want to do the same things over and over again, and they want us to pay the price again.
This article originally appeared in AFL-CIO Now on October 27, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.
About the Author: Seth Michaels is the online campaign coordinator for the AFL-CIO, focusing on the Employee Free Choice campaign. Prior to arriving at the AFL-CIO, he’s worked on online mobilization for Moveon.org, Blue State Digital and the National Jewish Democratic Council. He also spent two years touring the country as a member of the Late Night Players, a sketch comedy troupe.
Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced in a Capitol Hill press conference today that he will send a health care reform bill to the Senate floor that includes a public option. States will have until 2014 to decide if they want to participate in the public plan.
Reid said he was optimistic that health care reform will pass:
“I feel good about progress we have made within our caucus and with the White House, and we are all optimistic about reform because of the unprecedented momentum that exists.
“I believe that a public option can achieve the goal of bringing meaningful reform to our broken system. It will protect consumers, keep insurers honest and ensure competition. And that’s why we intend to include it on the bill that will be submitted to the Senate for consideration.”
In a telephone press conference this morning, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said any real health care reform bill must include a robust public option that helps lower premiums and keeps insurance companies honest by guaranteeing competition.
Real reform also must require employers to pay their fair share by providing health coverage or contributing to help pay for subsidies, Trumka said. Real reform should ensure that working families who already are struggling to pay for health care insurance are not asked to pay even more in the form of a new excise tax on their coverage, he added.
There are still things that still need to be fixed in the Senate bill, according to the Health Care for America Now (HCAN) coalition, but Reid deserves thanks for including a public option. Click here to add your name to an HCAN the petition thanking Reid for fighting for America.
This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on October 26, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.
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 saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He has also been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. 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.
Tuesday, October 20th, 2009
Unions are popularly known as “the folks who brought you the weekend.” In contrast, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the distinction of trying to take away the weekend–along with overtime pay, the minimum wage, Buy America rules, workers’ freedom to form unions, child labor standards….The list is long and ugly.
So it’s farcical that today the Chamber launched a campaign estimated to run in the tens of millions of dollars to promote job creation.
The Chamber’s campaign originally started out as an attack against financial regulation–until the Chamber found out how strongly U.S. taxpayers support reining in Big Banks and the financial industry’s widespread shady practices. So the Chamber conveniently changed the packaging to purportedly focus on jobs, which in fact the American people desperately need.
Look at who accompanied the Chamber suits while they were announcing their Orweillian-named “free enterprise campaign.” As Sam Stein reported here:
Many of the individuals featured on Wednesday are long-standing donors to Republican candidates and groups that have fought efforts to enhance regulation. And, in one case, the business leader appearing alongside [Thomas] Donohue to decry the interference of government in the market place received business through the benefit of government contracts.
Yet, while millions of America’s workers struggle to find jobs in an economy where there are more than six workers searching for every one job, the Chamber repeatedly opposed extending unemployment insurance. Can’t have government interference in the marketplace, after all. Or aid to jobless workers. The same workers the Chamber’s smoke-and-mirrors campaign is supposed to be all about.
The Chamber also is joining with Big Banks and financial giants to try and kill a proposed agency that would protect U.S. consumers from being preyed upon by unscrupulous banks, mortgage lenders and many of the same financial institutions that helped create our nation’s economic disaster. The Obama administration’s proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which this week is being considered in the House Financial Services Committee, would regulate products such as credit cards and home loans, while ensuring the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission oversaw the $450 trillion “derivatives” market that sunk the world economy.
The Chamber is spending $2 million in attack ads, claiming that the new agency would hamstring even your local butcher from extending you credit for a week. It’s the same sorry effort at deception and outright lies that the health insurance industry now is trying to pull in the debate over health care reform. Tell enough lies and hope someone believes you.
As President Obama said in response to the Chamber’s distortion:
“We’ve made clear that only businesses that offer financial services would be affected by this agency. I don’t know how many of your butchers are offering financial services,” Obama said to laughter.
The Chamber is so twisted up in deception it seems unable to even provide accurate membership numbers. Writing in Mother Jones this week, David Corn points to a big discrepancy between the Chamber’s public membership numbers and reality.
In testimony before Congress, statements to the press, and on its website, the Chamber claims to represent “3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions.” In reality, the number is probably closer to 200,000.
Not sure if the 200,000 includes Apple Inc., Pacific Gas & Electric and the other giant corporations that recently have pulled their membership from the Chamber because of its draconian stand on climate change.
The Chamber’s so-called “free enterprise” campaign has been tried before. After World War II, the National Association of Manufacturers led a similar such effort. That campaign to sell capitalism to U.S. consumers incurred the derision of no less than the editors of Fortune magazine, who found similar sentiments among business executives represented on the boards of the business associations that supposedly represented them.
In dismissing the campaign as ludicrous, one such executive described it this way:
The best way we can demonstrate the importance of Free Enterprise is to make it work.
It’s clearly not working now. And although the Chamber may try to wrap itself in the shiny trappings of a feel-good campaign, its repeated attacks on consumers and workers demonstrate who the Chamber stands for: Wall Street not Main Street.
This post originally appeared in Campaign for America’s Future on October 15, 2009. Reprinted with permission by the author.
About the Author: Richard L. Trumka was elected AFL-CIO president in September 2009. He served as AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer since 1995. Born in Nemacolin, Pa., on July 24, 1949, Trumka was elected to the AFL-CIO Executive Council in 1989. At the time of his election to the secretary-treasurer post, he was serving his third term as president of the Mine Workers (UMWA). At the UMWA, Trumka led two major strikes against the Pittston Coal Co. and the Bituminous Coal Operators Association. The actions resulted in significant advances in employee-employer cooperation and the enhancement of mine workers’ job security, pensions and benefits.