Rants and Raves for the Week of March 1st


US Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) waged a one-man war against the extension of unemployment benefits for 1.2 million long-term laid off workers and other measurers to help with the jobs crisis. While he eventually relented, his use of ancient Senate rules that allow one Senator to tie the entire Upper Chamber into knots shows both how dysfunctional the US Senate has become and how low some Republican ideologues will sink to grandstand.

California unemployment was up in January, tying a post World War II record of 12.5 %. The news underscores the increasing realization that California is still mired in deep recession even as the rest of the country begins to emerge. Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget cuts will further delay recovery at a time when California is already facing its worst economic crisis in generations.

Toyota’s decision to close the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont will cost California taxpayers $2.3 billion, displace more than 25,000 workers statewide (including 5,000 in the plant) and further delay California’s economic recovery, says a new report released this week by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and the Blue Ribbon Commission he appointed to study the economic impact of the proposed closure. The report underscores the importance of a campaign by NUMMI workers, union members, environmentalists, clergy and community allies to get Toyota to make a U-Turn on its decision and keep the plant open. A delegation acting on behalf of the commission left for Japan today to present the report to Toyota executives and urge the company to do the right thing and keep NUMMI open.


Congratulations to New Speaker of the Assembly, John A. Pérez! A longtime advocate for working families, Pérez was an organizer with the Painters Union, political director of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324 and the California Labor Federation. Few elected officials know the power of organizing and solidarity as well as Speaker Pérez.

Thousands of students, parents, teachers and union members marched statewide in protest of cuts to public education in California on March 4th, a “Day of Action for Public Education.” This is exactly the kind of in-the-streets activism that’s needed to focus our legislators and Governor on the very real danger that budget cuts pose to our children’s future.

The California Federation of Teachers, along with unions and community allies, will keep the street heat going with a 48-day March for California’s Future from Bakersfield to Sacramento that kicked off today. Marchers will raise awareness about the need to transform a crumbling California to the prospering state it once was by investing in public services vital to maintaining our quality of life: our schools, parks, libraries, safety net services, infrastructure and more. Click the link above to watch their progress or join them along the route.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, a real champion for working people in the US Senate, will join hundreds of union members and leaders next week at Labor’s annual Joint Legislative Conference in Sacramento.

Sick and tired of candidates who say they support working families then turn their backs on us? So are we. On Tuesday, the AFL-CIO endorsed a primary challenger to Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), who’s shown she cares more about listening to Wal-Mart than working families. Sen. Lincoln’s failure to support workers’ priorities on issues like health care reform and the freedom to join a union, and her opposition to qualified appointees to the National Labor Relations Board were key issues in the decision to support her primary challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. AFSCME President Gerald McEntee summed it up: “The time has come to draw a line in the sand regardless of your party affiliation. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. Labor’s support is not to be taken lightly.”