Thursday, September 1, 2011
My response to Leo Gerard's call for no protests and demonstrations on Labor Day
United Steel Worker's President, Leo Gerard, has offered (see his blog posting below) a very typical example of what is wrong with organized labor in this country today.
Gerard, in advising and counseling against protests on Labor Day is “covering Obama’s back;” a pledge Leo Gerard made to Obama while backing Obama during the 2008 campaign. How would it look for Obama to be addressing a hundred-thousand workers at Detroit's Labor Day march and rally with the leaders of the AFL-CIO and Change To Win promoting his re-election with workers in Detroit and across the country protesting Obama's wars which he is trying to pay for by shoving the most Draconian austerity measures down the throats of working people?
Gerard knows that labor protests will result in working people making demands for peace and jobs on Obama which would call into question workers supporting Obama.
Gerard knows that Obama’s response to these protests will be to unleash the police against workers just like what happened in Haymarket Square many years ago.
In fact, the head of the Chicago Police Department has already publicly stated that his police department is preparing for mass arrests of protesters during the G-8/NATO meetings to be held in Chicago at Obama’s request May 15 to 19.
Gerard is afraid that his members will show up at protests and demonstrations with signs asking:
How is Obama’s Wall Street war economy working for you?
Gerard is irate that members of his union showed up with signs like this Tuesday as Barack Obama addressed the national convention of the American Legion at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
Leo Gerard doesn’t want to see workers protesting in the streets demanding an end to these dirty wars that kill jobs just like they kill people because these kinds of protests aren’t conducive to Obama’s re-election campaign.
I don’t know if any labor leader in this country has ever had the “brass” or “the balls” to undermine the struggles of working people to protect the jobs, lives, rights and livelihoods like Leo Gerard has done in this disgraceful essay which he arrogantly placed on the FireDoglake web site not intending to respond to anyone.
Labor Day and May Day are two days where the actions of workers should strike fear in the hearts of every employer and serve as notice to the blood-sucking, parasitical Wall Street coupon clippers that they are being challenged for power.
Working people would be well advised not to take Leo Gerard’s advice and bring their concerns and demands into the public square where they rightfully belong.
A good start would be for Obama to receive the kind of welcome to Detroit he really deserves during the Labor Day march and rally.
Obama should be met with signs calling for:
* Dump Obama.
* Primary Obama!
* Wars kill jobs the same way they kill people.
* How is Barack Obama’s Wall Street war economy working for you?
* W- Wasted
What the hell is wrong with Leo Gerard? The AFL-CIO Executive Council, of which he is a member, just four weeks ago pointed out that these wars need to end so we can use that money to create jobs putting people to work solving the problems of our own country.
How does Gerard think we are going to take this from AFL-CIO statement to government policy without protests and demonstrations after he has the unmitigated gall to admit that, like the Employee Free Choice Act and every other promise for “change” that Obama made, there will now be no jobs programs?
Oh, yes; according to Gerard the problems are all the fault of the Republicans— but, even if this is true— which it is not— it will for sure take one hell of a ruckus in the streets to turn this country around.
Leo Gerard has traversed the country talking all militant and tough; but, now that it is time to act he counsels that Labor Day is no time to act. And he backs up his stupidity with quoting fellow "Progressive for Obama," Frances Fox-Piven when he should be quoting Marx encouraging the working class to step up the class struggle.
Of course, the AFL-CIO and Change To Win have seen fit to turn the Detroit Labor Day march and rally into a mammoth effort to launch Barack Obama’s re-election campaign when this should be a militant display of working class anger calling for a Primary challenge to Obama with Obama’s opponent speaking instead of Obama who will use his oratorical skills to try to hoodwink the working class, again; again with the help of labor “leaders” like Richard Trumka and Leo Gerard who sold working people this Wall Street flim-flam man in the first place— what a couple of cowardly, two-faced, worthless hypocrites.
And what do Trumka and Gerard propose for a working class response to Obama inviting the G-8/NATO to Chicago to make plans to enforce austerity measures and plan more wars? All we hear is defeaning silence.
No doubt Trumka and Gerard would like us to forget the kind of struggles it took to win the Eight Hour Day— remember Haymarket, Mr. Gerard?
Left to labor “leaders” like Leo Gerard, May Day never would have been born out of the struggles for the Eight Hour Day which originated in Chicago— but, oh yes, we are talking about Labor Day, not May Day; yes, by all means, workers should applaud Wall Street’s president as he prepares for more war paid through austerity measures destroying the standard of living of the working class. Do not Leo Gerard and Richard Trumka understand that these wars are making us all poor as Wall Street coupon clippers amass greater wealth?
Better check out your dictionary, Mr. Gerard, for the definition of “class collaboration.”
Leo Gerard and Richard Trumka have not offered one single solution to what it will take to save U.S. plants being closed like the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant where Leo Gerard and Carl Pope held a press conference at the plant gate when Ford announced the closing of the plant. Gerard and Pope pledged at this press conference that they would "fight to save the plant and two-thousand jobs." Neither Gerard nor Pope were ever to be heard from again after this press conference--- the plant is now closing as a special Labor Day "gift" from Ford Motor Company to its employees. And Gerad counsels workers: No Protests.
What we need to do is to begin using Labor Day, May Day and protests and demonstrations during the G-8/NATO meetings in Chicago as building blocks toward a general strike--- a global general strike by workers would be appropriate considering that Wall Street is working with Bay Street, The Square Mile and the other financial centers against working class interests in creating massive unemployment leading to growing poverty as a way to depress wages on a global scale as workers are deprived of the rights won over years through tremendous sacrifices and struggles.
"Workers of the world unite!"
In struggle and solidarity,
Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council
Labor Day: Build Esprit de Corps for Action
By: Leo W. Gerard Wednesday August 31, 2011 8:44 am
"San Francisco Labor Temple Wall Painting" by xeeliz on flickr. The San Francisco Temple of Labor was built to house the San Francisco Labor Council and labor union offices and to provide a meeting hall for San Francisco's unions.
Celebrate Labor Day. Really, celebrate. It’s important.
Wear a t-shirt announcing to the world the name of your union and march in a parade, chanting and whooping it up about how glad you are to belong to an organization whose members are devoted to looking out for each other. If you’re among those without a union, proclaim your profession and declare your pride in the hard work you do. Make some happy noise. Infect your fellow marchers with your zeal.
Invite your most beleaguered neighbors, friends and co-workers over for a picnic. Raise a pint, braise some burgers and praise your companions for their skill, devotion and compassion. Recognize them for all they’ve persevered through since this relentless recession began in December of 2007. Build esprit de corps among your fellow workers.
This is one day devoted to labor, to the middle class, to the majority. One day out of 365. On this holiday, everyone gives an obligatory nod to workers. So don’t fret this Labor Day. Don’t waste it away in apathetic doldrums. Don’t let the minority rich and their purchased politicians take this celebration away from us too.
Some, including former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, have called for protests on Labor Day. They say workers must use this opportunity to demand that Washington solve the real crisis debilitating this country – dogged joblessness.
Reich is right. But it’s too early for that. Ultimately, workers must flip this ugly situation upside down so that once a year it’s Rich People’s Day. Once a year, the middle class gives the frivolous Kardashians and tax-shirking GEs of the world an obligatory nod. But every other day, 364 days a year, is labor day.
Then, we would have a country committed to the wellbeing of the majority, the middle class, the workers, whose labor creates wealth.
Getting there is a long haul from where we are now, though. We must develop some self-confidence before we start protesting. Achieving the change we want requires an uprising of hope and anger. There’s plenty of anger out there.
The populace is seething after suffering years of “no, not-for-you” politics from country club conservatives:
No more unemployment insurance extensions. No more Social Security and Medicare as you and your parents know it. No public option, providing health insurance for all. No end to tax breaks for corporations that off-shore jobs. No more Trade Adjustment Assistance workers who lose their jobs because of off-shoring. No end to tax breaks for corporate jets. No end to tax breaks for oil companies making billions. No end to income tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.
No extension of the payroll tax break for the middle class. No reasonable restrictions on the big Wall Street banks that got bailed out with taxpayer money. No help for unemployed homeowners threatened with foreclosure. And no, there won’t be any jobs program. The country club conservatives must sustain high unemployment to regain the White House.
So too bad for the jobless.
These unremitting attacks on the middle class have left workers feeling beaten up and beaten down. Workers are suffering from what author, psychologist and social critic Bruce E. Levine calls “battered people syndrome.” Exhausted, depressed, and blaming themselves for the country’s problems, too many workers feel unable to challenge the elite overlords.
This combination of anger and hopelessness produces destruction and self-destruction, like the riots that left London burning last summer. Hopeless about their future and angry at the rich for bilking the poor and at expense-padding British politicians imposing “austerity,” the city’s jobless ruffians abandoned morals, just as the wealthy and the ruling class had.
Frances Fox Piven counsels in her book, Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America that hope is crucial, that constructive change arises from the mix of hope and anger. In places like Libya and Egypt this Arab Spring, wealth proved insufficient to overpower the majority invigorated by hope and anger.
The bitch for the rich in a democracy like America’s is that majority rules. And, frankly, the rich and corporations (newly dubbed persons by the U.S. Supreme Court) are a tiny minority in America.
Even though we’re the majority, workers can’t win until we hope we can, until we feel some assurance that we can overcome. It’s a long haul to hope from resignation and pessimism.
So let’s put some effort into fostering optimism. Let’s strengthen each other this Labor Day. We must raise that hope before we organize Reich’s protests.
Rile yourself up and pump up a friend this Labor Day so we can unite in anger and hope to push back the naysayers and make every day Labor Day. This video helps.
Leo W. Gerard also is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee and chairs the labor federation’s Public Policy Committee. President Barack Obama recently appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. He serves as co-chairman of the BlueGreen Alliance and on the boards of the Apollo Alliance, Campaign for America’s Future and the Economic Policy Institute. He is a member of the IMF and ICEM global labor federations and was instrumental in creating Workers Uniting, the first global union. Follow @USWBlogger
Leo Gerard was responding to this blog post by Robert Reich:
Robert Reich's Blog---
This Labor Day we need protest marches rather than parades
It's been the worst decade for American workers in a century. That hardly calls for a celebration.
By Robert Reich, Guest blogger / August 25, 2011
"Labor Day is traditionally a time for picnics and parades. But this year is no picnic for American workers, and a protest march would be more appropriate than a parade."
[Robert is chancellor's professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Clinton. He has written 13 books, including 'The Work of Nations,' 'Locked in the Cabinet,' and his most recent book, 'Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future.' His 'Marketplace' commentaries can be found on publicradio.com and iTunes.]
Not only are 25 million unemployed or underemployed, but American companies continue to cut wages and benefits. The median wage is still dropping, adjusted for inflation. High unemployment has given employers extra bargaining leverage to wring out wage concessions.
All told, it’s been the worst decade for American workers in a century. According to Commerce Department data, private-sector wage gains over the last decade have even lagged behind wage gains during the decade of the Great Depression (4 percent over the last ten years, adjusted for inflation, versus 5 percent from 1929 to 1939).
Big American corporations are making more money, and creating more jobs, outside the United States than in it. If corporations are people, as the Supreme Court’s twisted logic now insists, most of the big ones headquartered here are rapidly losing their American identity.
CEO pay, meanwhile, has soared. The median value of salaries, bonuses and long-term incentive awards for CEOs at 350 big American companies surged 11 percent last year to $9.3 million (according to a study of proxy statements conducted for The Wall Street Journal by the management consultancy Hay Group.). Bonuses have surged 19.7 percent.
This doesn’t even include all those stock options rewarded to CEOs at rock-bottom prices in 2008 and 2009. Stock prices have ballooned since then, the current downdraft notwithstanding. In March, 2009, for example, Ford CEO Alan Mulallyreceived a grant of options and restricted shares worth an estimated $16 million at the time. ButFord is now showing large profits – in part because the UAW agreed to allow Ford to give its new hires roughly half the wages of older Ford workers – and its share prices have responded. Mulally’s 2009 grant is now worth over $200 million.
The ratio of corporate profits to wages is now higher than at any time since just before the Great Depression.
Meanwhile, the American economy has all but stopped growing – in large part because consumers (whose spending is 70 percent of GDP) are also workers whose jobs and wages are under assault.
Perhaps there would still be something to celebrate on Labor Day if government was coming to the rescue.
But Washington is paralyzed, the President seems unwilling or unable to take on labor-bashing Republicans, and several Republican governors are mounting direct assaults on organized labor (see Indiana, Ohio, Maine, and Wisconsin, for example).
So let’s bag the picnics and parades this Labor Day. American workers should march in protest. They’re getting the worst deal they’ve had since before Labor Day was invented – and the economy is suffering as a result.
[The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. This post originally ran on www.robertreich.org.]
As I have been pointing out there are alternatives to paying for wars through austerity measures---
A program for real change...
* Peace--- end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and shutdown the 800 U.S. military bases on foreign soil.
* A National Public Health Care System - ten million new jobs.
* A National Public Child Care System - three to five million new jobs.
* Works Progress Administration - three million new jobs.
* Civilian Conservation Corps - two million new jobs.
* Tax the hell out of the rich and cut the military budget by ending the wars to pay for it all which will create full employment.
* Enforce Affirmative Action; end discrimination.
* Raise the minimum wage to a real living wage
* What tax-payers subsidize in the way of businesses, tax-payers should own and reap the profits from.
* Moratorium on home foreclosures and evictions.
* Defend democracy by defending workers' rights including the right to collective bargaining for improving the lives and livelihoods of working people.
* Roll-back and freeze the price of food, electricity, gas and heating fuels; not wages, benefits or pensions.
* Defend and expand Social Security.
* Wall Street is our enemy
How is Barack Obama's Wall Street war economy working for you?
Let's talk about the politics and economics of livelihood for a real change.