Rants & Raves for the Week of March 7th, 2011
How do you pass a bill that 75 percent of the people in your state oppose? How about in the dark of night when no one is looking? After weeks of trying to bully his anti-worker bill through the Legislature in the face of growing opposition from the public, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker rammed his union-stripping bill through the Senate in the middle of the night, without debate or even the presence of Senate Democrats. The bill also passed the Assembly and was signed into law Walker this morning. While Walker may have won the battle, this fight is FAR from over. Workers in Wisconsin and all around the country are more energized and motivated to protect the middle class from these sorts of politically motivated attacks than ever before. Legal challenges and recall campaigns are already in the works.
Et tu, Brutus? Talk about getting stabbed in the back. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a powerful California Republican Congressman has announced his doubts about California’s high speed rail project. As the third most influential Republican, he has the power to influence other members about the project. Making matters even worse, McCarthy is a fourth-generation Bakersfield native. The construction of high speed rail in California will create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the state—starting first in the Central Valley, McCarthy’s home turf. Given that unemployment is over 16% in Bakersfield, you would think that McCarthy would be doing everything he can to speed along construction of high speed rail in California.
It’s been widely documented that the Congressional Republicans’ proposed budget cuts would spell disaster for our economy. But those cuts would also weaken our country’s disaster preparedness. In fact, one specific GOP proposal would directly impact Tsunami warnings. In the wake of today’s tragedy in Japan, it seems the height of irresponsibility to offer such a cut. But, like so many of the House GOP’s proposals, budget cuts to disaster preparedness are less about the interests of our country and more about politics as usual.
Apparently, if you’re Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, repaying your big corporate contributors is more important than respecting the will of the people, or their legally binding contracts. Snyder is pushing a proposal that would allow him to declare any city to be in “fiscal emergency” and appoint a financial manager who would have the power to cancel that city's union contracts, consolidate cities, and even remove elected officials. The bill even goes so far as to allow a corporation to be put in charge of local government. This unprecedented power grab is being sold as another so-called ‘budget solution,’ but there is no doubt what it’s really about: silencing workers and empowering corporations. Snyder’s bill has already passed in the Michigan State Senate and now heads to the Assembly.
VICTORY for hotel workers at the Hilton Union Square in San Francisco! UNITE HERE Local 2 reached a tentative agreement with the Hilton after 18 months of negotiations. At the beginning of negotiations, Hilton proposed huge increases in health care co-pays, but workers fought back with rallies, boycotts and tough negotiations. In the end, they reach an agreement that holds down health care costs, raises wages, reduces workloads and even includes improvements to pension benefits. If ratified the membership the contract will cover 850 union doormen, housekeepers, cooks, busboys and other hotel workers. The fight is not over for Local 2—they still are in tough contract negotiations with Hyatt, Starwood and Marriott Hotels in San Francisco and members and supporters are gearing up for more actions to keep the hotels at the table.
Mad Fast Trains! Vincent Kartheiser and Rich Sommer, stars of the hit show “Mad Men,” are on a campaign to show how cool fast trains really are. Partnering with USPIRG and FunnyOrDie, they’ve brought the hip, sexy vibe of the Mad Men show to a new hilarious online video touting the benefits of high speed rail. Fast trains are convenient, easy to use, relaxing and will save the consumer on gas, which they predict will cost a dollar a gallon 2005. Best of all, fast trains are just plain cool. Their message—urge your senator to build high speed rail in the USA and make mad fast trains a reality!
Workers in Wisconsin turned out the tens of thousands nearly every day for weeks since Gov. Walker announced his proposal to strip public servants of their right to collectively bargain. While this fight continues, we wanted to just take a moment to salute all of the brave workers who have stood up to Walker and his GOP henchmen. If Scott Walker needs a primer in what Democracy looks like (and we most certainly think he does) he need look no further than the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda, which has been flooded with workers from all walks of life peacefully demonstrating for weeks to protect our rights. And if Walker thinks that these protests end just because he thumbed his nose at democracy and passed his bill over the rejections of Wisconsin’s people, he’d better think again. On April 4, the day Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, workers all across the country –including here in California — will join together in demonstrations telling Walker and Republicans in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and other states that “We are One,” and we’re going to beat back these attacks on the middle class.
At a time when so many public sector workers are seeing their collective bargaining rights in jeopardy, it is really worth celebrating the victory for Transportation Security Officers who just won those rights after a difficult, 10-year-long fight. On Wednesday, 40,000 transportation security officers began voting on whether to join the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).This victory reminds us that even as our rights are under attack, workers still need unions today more than ever. As we defend our members and our movement, we also welcome new workers in this fight to re-build the middle class.