Tag Archives: Labor movement

Those Lazy Teachers in Chicago…

11 Sep

Thank goodness I have seen bits of the media coverage of the teacher’s strike in Chicago.  The media (shows like The Today Show, or what I call Fox News Lite) have taught me why it is important to vilify these glorified babysitters and why we should take the Paul Ryan and  Scott Walker approach to labor.

Let’s be honest, these teachers only work 10 months out of the year.  So what if they have to teach in over enrolled classes.  So what if they only earn on average 1/7th of the salary of the administrators.  So what if they have no school supplies and often pay for them out of their own pockets.  So what if they have to take on additional duties, thus working far more than 8 hours a day. So what if during their “time off” in the summer they have to take classes to keep their credentials.  So what if they are suddenly required to teach to tests that have no bearing on their teaching skills but are promoted and retained based on those tests. So what if they pay more in taxes than the 5% of the wealthiest of Americans. So what if they now have to parent as well as teach and then are criticized for not doing enough.

They are just labor.  What happened to the good old days when schools and companies ran easily and cheaply?  What happened to the days when we could just send children into factories and coal mines, or send immigrant women into hostile working conditions and they died in a fire? Those there the good old days. Good for Mayor Rahm Emanuel for taking us backwards in time and bullying these teachers into submission (You know, I loved him when he played Uncle Joe Stalin — he was very convincing).

Really? Really? What happened to our country? When did this dramatic shift occur that we no longer value labor? When did we start to vilify people who make little money? When will this perspective shift again, for these people like Rahm Emanuel and Scott Walker are on the wrong side of history.

I stand with the Teachers in Chicago! Ask me why if you want a lesson in history, economics, and social justice.

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The Laborer and the Economy…

3 Sep

The American Dream demands a fair chance for everyone

Labor Day was started in 1882 by labor unions, but it would be many more years before it would be recognized as a Federal Holiday. Oregon was the first state to recognize and honor Labor Day in 1887.  Finally in 1894, it became a national holiday on the first Monday in September under the Cleveland Administration.  Congress passed it unanimously, a very rare event indeed.

Reflecting back, the United States can proudly celebrate the influence of its labor unions and how they have helped to protect the too often marginalized and voiceless.  The Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire proved there was still a great deal of work to be accomplished by the labor movement.  Labor Unions also worked to protect children and helped to establish an eight hour work day, fair wage laws, and breaks for safety and meals.

Sadly, America seems to be losing its appreciation of Labor Unions while privileging profit over people.  Thanks to President Clinton’s NAFTA and similar agreements as well as vulture capitalists like Mitt Romney, we find our country sending jobs to other countries where we exploit workers for pennies and then leave those countries to find even cheaper labor.

Even sadder is that when President Obama proposes work bills for the unemployed, all of the bills are met with categorical Republican Obstructionists. All this does is end up hurting the everyday worker in the Unites States.  I have to say it takes a great deal of chutzpah for people like Romney and Ryan to talk about solving issues of the economy when Ryan has been one of the architects of the Great Obstructionist Movement, privileging the rich while crushing and reducing the middle class.

On a personal note, it also saddens me that people like Romney and Ryan are working hard to allow companies like Chick-Fil-A to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and deny us employment for being gay.  At the Federal level, pointless votes are taken to repeal the Affordable Care Act, money is wasted defending the clearly unconstitutional DOMA, and the war on women has the House attacking birth control and Planned Parenthood. They bleat about jobs and the economy but do nothing, while at the state level the Scott Walkers are dismantling unions and isolating workers from the political process.

Labor Day isn’t just an excuse for a long weekend or a chance to grill an extra hot dog before autumn sets in. It’s a chance to reflect on the work that is done at all levels of our society and the value of all that labor. It’s a chance to celebrate the collaboration that makes work better and working conditions safer. In the words of the great Joe Hill (as sung by Billy Bragg, thanks to my husband for the choice of Bragg):

Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws can not defeat us
But who’ll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackeys out to cheat us?

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone
What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child

There is power in a Union.

Happy Labor Day to all of our brothers and sisters that have to work today and that have no pension, no health benefits, and are at the poverty line.

Support Your Local Libraries

8 May

Tuesday is National Library Legislative Day. Sponsored by the American Library Association, this is a day for librarians and library supporters to contact or visit their members of Congress to talk about the value of libraries.

Libraries are ever more essential in these tough economic times. People are flocking to our nation’s libraries for job and career information, small business research and e-government services as well as support for formal and informal education and lifelong learning. Usage is up everywhere as people try to get back to work. Families borrow more books, DVDs and other materials. Students of all ages seek digital literacy skills. Teachers and administrators recognize how libraries lead to improved student performance. Communities recognize that their libraries are the primary place – and often the only place in rural areas – to find online materials and databases with no-fee access to the Internet.

The federal role in library development and funding is targeted and unique. For example, state library agencies utilize funding from the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), to build shared services and collaborations that save funding while improving public services. The need for school libraries is demonstrated by the research showing that students perform better in schools with an effective school library program. Transparency and open government are best served when open access policies assure a strong Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) in the Government Printing Office (GPO) and public access to federally funded research reports.

Facing tough budget decisions, Congress should make equitable decisions and not cut library programs twice as much as other education and cultural programs. The people using public, school and academic libraries are using libraries more than ever – libraries that are also filling the gaps made when other agencies and services are cut.

In these tough budgetary times, Congress has to make hard choices about what services to fund. Libraries are more important than ever. If you value your public, school, and academic libraries, please take a moment and contact your Representative and Senators this week.

Women’s History: May 3

3 May

Happy Birthday, Golda Meir

May 3 is a big day in Women’s History. Today we will be celebrating Maud O’Farrell Swartz, Golda Meir, and Nellie Tayloe Ross.

Happy Birthday, Golda Meir.  Meir was Israel’s fourth Prime Minister, as well as being the first woman to serve in that office.  Meir served as Prime Minister during the very difficult Yom Kippur War.  I personally feel Meir showed great wisdom and restraint and true leadership during this war. It was only a few months later that she resigned at Prime Minister.  I’m not sure how world leaders survive any type of war–regardless of the circumstances, I can only imagine that any war scars the soul.  Hard to believe this Russian born-woman, later a teacher in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, would eventually become one of the key players in establishing the state of Israel in 1948.

Happy Birthday, Maud O’Farrell Swartz.  An Irish immigrant, Swartz became a suffragist here in the States. Swartz became a strong voice in the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) and in the labor movement.  Swartz served as president of the WTUL from 1922-1926, during a period when the organizing efforts declined in a business climate less friendly to unions–sound familiar?  Wisconsin and Maine must not be too familiar with history.

Finally, I would like to recognize Nellie Tayloe Ross.  Ross was the first female Director of the U.S. Mint, appointed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Quote of the day:

 It’s no accident many accuse me of conducting public affairs with my heart instead of my head. Well, what if I do? … Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either.–Golda Meir

Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex

11 Apr

Equal Rights Equal Pay

As we witness the most vicious attack on women’s rights in my lifetime, I am reminded of what Karl Marx said: Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex. How true these words ring today and how unfortunate we have yet to learn our much-needed lessons from history. Of course, many of our elected officials don’t even know how to spell history, much less have read any (Michele Bachmann et al.).  Last night my husband and I watched Made in Dagenham which I strongly recommend.  While the movie reminded me of Norma Rae, a brilliantly done movie, Dagenham addresses workers’ rights and the need for bargaining. I especially appreciate how Made in Dagenham confronts the issue of gender disparity.  The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970 In Great Britain. While the United States passed an Equal Pay act in 1963, it is a matter of but not of practice.

Note to Scott Walker, Paul LePage, and John Kasich you are NOTHING without the laborers and unions. Back to history, I recommend the three of you look at Hegel’s master/slave dialectic.  I realize those are big words for you.  Again, we need a mandatory literacy test for all elected officials.  If the ever -growing disparity between what CEOs earn in contrast to union laborers does not bother you, you are not paying attention. Eliminating 38 million from the budget in order to save tax breaks for the rich and for corporations simply does not make sense.

From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.  Karl Marx

Women’s History: April 10

10 Apr

Celebrating Dolores Huerta

Happy Birthday, Dolores Huerta.  Huerta is best known as a labor leader, social activist, and social reformer.  Huerta and Cesar Chavez together formed the Farm Workers Association, which eventually became United Farm Workers (UFW). I would specifically like to highlight the 1965 Grape Boycott, where Huerta took the plight of the farm workers to the consumers. The boycott resulted in the entire California table grape industry signing a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the United Farm Workers in 1970. Yes, that’s right the power of collective bargaining!  Stripping workers of any collective bargaining rights is simply unconscionable–Scott Walker, Paul LePage, and John Kasich.  Is it a coincidence that all three are white wealthy men living off the sweat of the workers?

Huerta has always been a political activist and became a strong Latina feminist voice in the late 1960 and early 70’s. While attending a peaceful protest against President Bush Sr. in 1988, she was severely injured when police clubbed the demonstrators. I celebrate Dolores Huerta today and hope we have a new generation of laborers and social activist that will drown out the voices of the pigs that are the Koch Brothers and their ilk.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: March 22

22 Mar

Honoring Katherine Graham

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Katherine Graham. Graham is best known as the publisher of the Washington Post. Graham guided the newspaper during Watergate, which eventually led to Richard Nixon’s resignation. After publishing over 200 muckraking articles regarding Nixon’s misconduct, the Post published what in 1974 was the biggest headline ever: Nixon Resigns. Yes, it was the Post’s reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that helped expose Nixon. Graham was publishing the Post when there still existed journalistic integrity — I’m afraid Charlie Sheen would have been a non-story in this point of history.

Although Graham led an exceedingly privileged life, she also became quite interested in labor issues at an early age. Shortly after graduating from college, she worked for a short period at a San Francisco newspaper where, among other things, she helped cover a major strike by wharf workers.  Not sure she and Scott Walker would have seen eye to eye. Graham won a Pulitzer Prize for her memoir, Personal History in 1998. In a strongly male dominated industry, Graham proved to be one of the most influential newspaper publishers in American History.

 

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