The Social Security/Medicare “Crisis” Is Really a Choice - Between the Middle Class and the Wealthy

by RJ Eskow

The word for today is “choice,” not “crisis.”

It's time to stop saying the country “can't afford” Medicare, Social Security, or other programs that benefit the middle class. If I told my mother that I “can't mow the lawn” or “I can't do all that homework” when I was a kid, she'd say: “Don't say you can't. Say you don't want to.” (The outcome of these exchanges was inevitable. Hello, lawnmower …)

Now we're told there's a “crisis” and we can no longer afford the middle-class American dream. The truth is the opposite: Our long-term problems aren't caused by the middle class, but by politicians who choose to sacrifice the middle class for wealthy interests.

All this talk about a “debt crisis” is a way for politicians to avoid telling the truth: They'd rather say they “have to” sacrifice the middle class than admit they're making a choice.

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Labor Department App Helps Workers Track Wages, Hours


Want to make sure you’re getting paid what you’re due? Now there’s an app for that. The U.S. Labor Department announced last week its first application for smartphones: a time sheet to help employees independently track the hours they work and determine the wages they are owed.

Available in English and Spanish, workers can use the application to conveniently track regular work hours, break time and any overtime hours for one or more employers. Contact information and materials about wage laws are easily accessible through links to the webpages of the department’s Wage and Hour Division.

Rather than relying on their employers’ records, workers now can keep their own.

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Rants & Raves for the Week of May 9th, 2011

* Assembly GOP budget proposal more of the same failed gimmicks * CEOs claim California has bad business climate * House Republican budget plan would kick 44 million low-income families off thier health plans * Wisconsin Gov. Walker repeals paid sick days legislation * States fail to enforce labor laws *

* Rite Aid warehouse workers win five-year union organizing campaign * 'Dining With Justice Guide' highlights worker-friendly eateries * 'State of Emergency' rallies call for fair budget solutions * Assembly Banking Committee votes to regulate payroll paycards * Senate Democrats seek to repeal tax breaks for oil companies *

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Deadly Dangers in Port Trucking Exposed, Again

at the SSA Marine terminal at the Port of Long Beach that forever changed life for a 42-year-old truck driver. In February 2009, Felipe Curiel miraculously survived after suffering massive injuries from being pancaked in his rig by a cargo container at the hands of an SSA crane operator. While his career ended that day, today he manages to walk with leg braces and a cane.

SSA, the global shipping and transportation outfit jointly owned by Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, is no stranger to negligence or traumatic accidents at their terminals. Just days before Mr. Curiel was saved by the “jaws of life,” fellow port truck driver Pablo Garcia, a 40-year-old father of three, was crushed to death in a preventable accident involving a forklift and steel port machinery.

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Fighting for Fair Treatment for Farmworkers


Three years ago this Monday, María Isabel Vásquez Jiménez collapsed and died after spending 9 hours pruning grapevines in Farmington. She was 17 years old, engaged and two months pregnant. This tragic loss, however, was far from accidental.

As the temperature soared to 95 degrees that day, Maria Isabel’s employer ignored California’s outdoor heat regulations requiring adequate drinking water, shade and rest. When she collapsed, Merced Farm Labor company bosses still denied her both shade and even medical treatment, and following a failed attempt to revive her—by draping an alcohol-soaked cloth over her face—released her to fiancee Florentino Bautista. Florentino, who had been working alongside her that day, recalls supervisors “grumbling” at workers who tried to drink water. Maria Isabel died two days later at Lodi Memorial Hospital.

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Educators, All Workers Honored on ‘Day of the Teacher’


Today is ‘Day of the Teacher,’ an annual celebration of the role teachers play in shaping the lives of our kids and strengthening our communities. Because of the hard work and dedicated commitment of educators in preparing our children for the future, they play a foundational role in a healthy society.

At the Capitol this afternoon, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and many others turned out to recognize the amazing work teachers do every day. But the event turned into much more than recognition of teachers – educators also showed their appreciation to other workers who provide the services that keep our economy moving and support all California families.

Under the theme “We Are One,” teachers recognized workers in the public and private sector, and called on the legislature to pass the tax extensions necessary to prevent further devastating cuts to schools, public safety, services that impact the poor and vulnerable, and jobs.

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GOP Needs to Offer More to Budget Crisis Than “No”

Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway has an answer to just about any question directly relating to our budget crisis. “No.” No revenues. No vote of the people. No Republican budget proposal. No closing corporate tax loopholes. No spending cuts. No, No, No, No, No.

Conway explained her caucus’ flurry on “No’s” to the LA Times recently: “The reality of it is, if we put up a ‘budget’ of our own it will get picked apart, criticized.”

That may be a good answer for a politician. But it’s the last thing we need to hear from a public servant.

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Listen to the First All-Union Radio Station!

By Caroline O'Connor

Los Angeles’ Professional Musicians Local 47 launches internet radio station, promotes union musicians.

The Professional Musicians Local 47 has launched the very first all-union radio station with internet Pro Music 47 Radio. The Los Angeles local of the American Federation of Musicians is the first to feature programming geared solely to promoting union musicians.

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CEO State Rankings Latest in Deceptive Campaign on California Biz Climate


A recent survey of CEOs commissioned by Chief Executive Magazine – yes, there really is such a thing and fortunately it doesn’t feature a centerfold of Rupert Murdoch — ranked California dead last in business climate.

Now, on its face, that might be cause for alarm. But when you scratch the surface, this survey is little more than corporate honchos throwing around their weight to try to further strip working people of important protections that improve lives.

So why would a CEO rank California low on the list of so-called business-friendly states? Easy. We have some strong laws and regulations in place that protect workers from abusive conditions and our environment from being polluted. In fact, most of the regulations you hear business whine about – the eight-hour day, meal breaks, CEQA and our anti-global warming law – have the strong support of Californians. That’s because they are an overwhelming positive for our state. They make California a better place to live, work and raise a family. But according to America’s CEOs, what’s good for workers and the environment doesn’t really matter.

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Corporate Profits Soar 81 Percent but Few Jobs Created


On the eve of tomorrow’s unemployment report for April, we get this news from Fortune:

Profits of the 500 largest U.S. corporations soar by 81 percent ($318 billion), the third largest percentage gain in list history…Wal-Mart holds the number one spot for the second year in a row…Exxon Mobil leads profits with $30 billion, for the eighth year in row.

The stunning leap in profits is so excessive even Fortune writers are writhing in their leather chairs:

We’ve rarely seen such a stark gulf between the fortunes of the 500 and those of ordinary Americans….The profits derived partly from productivity gains, including workforce reductions. And many 500 companies are growing faster overseas than in the U.S.

Here’s the full list of the top moneymakers: http://bit.ly/mnrPsI.

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