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Category: Labor movement

Lincoln jailed my cousins


Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which seems like a good time to mention that back during the Civil War, two of my cousins were jailed by Abraham Lincoln for sedition. You can read the entire story in the March 2006 issue of Flanders Family News. (This links to a PDF file. The story starts on Page 9.)


By the way, lest you interpret this the wrong way — I’m a big fan of Lincoln. But how could I pass up this story?

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POEM: Luxury Hotel

Luxury Hotel

Room after room after room with no stopping, no let-up.
How many in a year? Five thousand? Six thousand?
The human body can only take so much.
So many liftings of the mattress, so many bends of the knees.
Then there are the chemicals, the solvents, the cleaners.
Scrubbing with your face right down in the fumes,
breathing deeply from the exertion.
Cracked skin, aching muscles, arms like rubber.
You can’t even lift your baby girl for a kiss.
Other people’s pubic hair, other people’s vomit and blood.
One time there was a man hiding in the closet.
He put one finger to his lips and told you to be quiet,
but how could you be quiet when there was a man in the closet?
So you screamed and ran and they gave you half a day off.
Another time you begged and begged for shoes,
the kind with the special soles so you wouldn’t slip.
After days and weeks and months, they ordered them
on the very day your head hit the tile floor,
the same day they cornered you in the manager’s office
and nobody called for a doctor, the same day
you passed out waiting for the bus and a passerby
took you to the emergency room. A stranger had to do that.
There are seven Dominicans and three women from Jamaica
and five Senegalese and one Vietnamese lady in the laundry
with no English who keeps to herself in the mouth of the furnace.
Eight hours, ten hours, twelve hours if it’s busy.
Then it’s home to cook and do your own laundry and help
Javi and Lisa with their homework. Make the lunches
for the next day. Shrink into the bed and fall asleep
to the throbbing in your joints. The alarm at 4 a.m.
Then it’s room after room after room with no stopping, no let-up.
How many in a year? Five thousand? Six thousand?
The human body can only take so much.

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Tasini to Paterson: Are you insane, Dave?

Labor writer and activist Jonathan Tasini

Jonathan Tasini has written a simple and compelling piece about NY Gov. David Paterson’s call for pension givebacks for state employees. Here’s the core of Tasini’s argument:

We could wipe out the budget deficit–or, certainly trim it down to something trivial–by raising taxes on the very wealthy and going back to a more progressive taxation system that we had in the 1970s. You know this: if the state replaced the existing rate structure (consisting of 5 brackets with rates ranging from 4.0 to 6.85%) with one consisting of 14 brackets with rates ranging from 2.0 to 15.0%, we could bring in $6-7 billion more, and perhaps as high as $11 billion.

Under this plan, 95 percent of the state’s taxpayers—95 percent of the people—would receive a tax cut. Like the proposals championed by President-elect Barack Obama, a more progressive taxation system would be easing the burden on the people who are the most at risk in our economically troubled times. The top one percent of taxpayers—whose average income is $2.685 million—would see their taxes go up about 5.4 percent. The four percent below that top one percent—those people whose average income is $326,000—would have their taxes rise 1.4 percent.In fact, the top five percent would have their dues burden slightly reduced because higher state taxes would lower their federal obligations.

Everyone else would realize a reduction in their taxes.

I highly recommend the rest of the article, too.

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UNITE HERE prez on GritTV

I work for the labor union UNITE HERE. This is from their Web site:

“Watch GritTV for UNITE HERE President Bruce Raynor’s thoughts on the election, the auto industry crisis and the Employee Free Choice Act. Defending auto industry workers’ right to earn a middle class living and pointing out the concessions that the United Auto Workers have already made, Raynor goes on to explain how the U.S.’s lack of national health care has disadvantaged the auto industry. He calls today’s political environment ‘a storm of need, and possibility.'”

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Support the Employee Free Choice Act

I’m a union organizer. It’s not an easy job. One of the main reasons why it’s so hard is that elections under the National Labor Relations Board rules don’t in any way resemble elections in our democracy. Employers regularly intimidate workers in forced group meetings and one-on-meetings. Even though it’s illegal, employers fire workers who try to organize unions. Employers have constant access to workers — both through conversations in the workplace, posting on employee bulletin boards, and notices included with paychecks. Workers are afforded none of these means of communication. The votes are usually conducted at the workplace, with workers often walking through a gauntlet of managers on their way to the ballot box.

These elections are more like elections in a one-party dictatorship.

The Employee Free Choice Act is trying to improve conditions for workers by allowing them to unionize through the card check process. This means that when a majority of employees sign a union card, the employer recognizes their union. This method respects workers’ rights without giving up their right to self-determination.

Please watch this video from the AFL-CIO, and then sign this petition in support of the Employee Free Choice Act. Thanks!

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