You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Labor’ tag.
While the relationship between President Obama‘s administration and labor has at times appeared strained, there have been significant steps made toward fulfilling campaign promises and the broader labor agenda, but there is plenty of unfinished business.
This was the theme of a special breakfast forum, “Labor Under Obama,” on Friday, Jan. 21, at the Murphy Institute, part of the CUNY School of Professional Studies.
The presentation and lively discussion were led by Bill Samuel, director of government affairs at AFL-CIO, and Anne Marie Lofaso, associate professor of law at West Virginia University College of Law.
Samuel’s presentation included an examination of labor’s relationship with the administration and what is likely to happen in the wake of the recent midterm elections, labor’s expectations and demands, and missed opportunities on the part of both labor and the government.
Lofaso offered a retrospective analysis of the government’s performance with regard to labor, how it has fared in terms of protecting worker rights and job security, the key appointments and interventions in the labor market, and legislative actions that have been of particular importance to unionization and to working people.
Lofaso said that although Obama missed many legislative opportunities, he has made excellent executive appointments that help labor. Further, she said, Obama’s less publicized actions show his support for labor.
Samuel praised Obama as the best educated president on labor the country has had, but he also pointed out that among the challenges that the president faces are some immovable objects on Capitol Hill on labor issues, such as the Free Choice Act.
Martin A. Mbugua is the Communications and Marketing Manager at the Murphy Institute, part of the CUNY School of Professional Studies. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Northeastern Political Science Association.
I was seven years old when I found out Santa Claus did not exist. Up to that point I had been a very good boy, always treading carefully to make sure that I’d be on the good list at the end of the year –as if getting some dispensable presents was the most important thing in the world. It was in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve when I lay quietly on the floor behind our living room couch and watched my mother put the presents under a Christmas tree. And the next day when I opened my gift –it was a remote control car –she proceeded to tell me how much Santa loved me and how he had come in the middle of the night to deliver the toys for my brothers and I.
I was never tricked into believing Santa existed ever again, but since then I have often thought about what a simple toy can do for a child. Those who have very little to survive on, cannot afford to give their children the simple toys that I scoffed at as a child. But a toy can brighten a kid’s life in such enormous ways. Children’s imagination allows them to make something out of nothing –and that is a fact that I can attest to, having spent a good deal of my childhood coming up with creative ways to entertain myself.
I recently saw a news clip where a young boy was talking about a program where he was given the chance to pick any gift to give to his family members. I thought it was interesting that he’d pick gifts for his loved ones and not himself –I suppose he knows more about Christmas than I ever will.
But with all thoughts about Christmas and toys, a few moments must be spared to think about those who make the toys that mothers fight over at the stores and people line up for. Most toys are made by low wage workers in under-developed countries and developing countries. Their cost of living might be lower than ours –and one can even make the argument that at least they have a job –but there is a certain level of demoralization that comes with being a low wage worker. Low wage workers don’t get the respect or the adoration that high earners get, and one has to imagine it is worst in countries where the focus is on production at all costs. Worst of all, they don’t get the benefits afforded to others.
Labor laws are not the same in all countries, and we cannot expect others to hold the same standards in terms of the treatment of workers, but when this time of the year comes, it is perhaps a minimal gesture to think about the things we buy, where we buy them from, and the conditions under which they were made. Whatever our interpretations of what Christmas means, we cannot hide away from the fact that while we drink our eggnog and unwrap our gifts, the majority of people who make those items have a hard time getting through the holidays.
Charles Hedji is pursuing a BA in Communications and Culture. He is the author of “Fields of Discovery”, and “On the Eve of Departure”. He is also an avid Arsenal and Real Madrid fan.
Today is Election Day, and we could quite possibly see many changes in Congress and in governships. It’s just not the kind of change that President Obama and his supporters were hoping for. See, the Democrats are on track to lose seats in both the House and the Senate, with a very good chance of losing control of one or both of them. The writing has been on the wall for months, as unemployment continues to remain high and foreclosures hit record numbers. This has made people angry, very angry, and they are targeting their anger at the party in power—the Democrats.
The most visible, and I stress visible, example of citizen outrage has been the Tea Party. Some have argued that their size and strength are not as massive as the media has made it out to be. Regardless, their message has received immense media coverage. Tea Party supporters not only call for a reduction in government spending and tower taxes but also accuse the President of being a socialist. The latter, and of course the former, are most vocally expressed by Fox News personalities like Bill O’Reilly and Glen Beck.
The first casualty of voter backlash happened in January, in Massachusetts, when Republican Scott Brown, in a special election, won the vacant U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy—a hero among liberal Democrats. Brown campaigned on a platform that railed against the healthcare bill and decried the woes of government spending. Now enter organized labor.
The very next day, the president of the AFL-CIO, Rich Trumka, released a video discussing the results in Massachusetts. He rightfully pointed out that pundits in the corporate media were going to attribute the outcome to voters punishing the Democrats for overreaching in policy-making, when the opposite is true. For example, on issues like healthcare, many Americans feel that the bill did not go far enough! Trumka stressed that working people feel like Wall Street and the bankers are being taken care of but working people are not. He said that Scott Brown’s victory should be a wake-up call to both Democrats and Labor. It signaled that people want action and not excuses. It was an excellent address. However, what kind of action would Labor take as part of their wake-up call?
Well, even before the Brown victory, Trumka threatened to cut support for Democrats who didn’t push for a more comprehensive healthcare bill and who didn’t back the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Specifically concerning healthcare, Trumka issued a threat:
Well, we need to send them a special message: it’s that you may have forgotten what the labor movement did to get you elected; but, by God, we never will! And if you stab us in the back on health care this year don’t you dare ask us for our support next year!
Fast forward to the present. What has happened? Healthcare passed without a public option, EFCA is not even being talked about, and the government is not taking adequate measures to spur job creation—like something along the lines of a public works project of some sort. Then, don’t forget that we have two wars going on and something called climate change. Oh, boy! Watch out! Labor must be planning to run more progressive candidates against Democratic incumbents who did not follow through, right? Wrong.
Instead, all of the blame is being put only on Republicans and Fox News. Labor is scrambling, at the tune of millions of dollars, to get the very same Democrats who should be on the chopping block re-elected. Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this situation? Didn’t these people betray us?
I am in no way advocating that Labor throw their support behind the Republicans as a way to smite the Democrats. I am saying that if Labor truly wants to fight on behalf of working-class people, it needs to be able to flex its muscle and make good on its promises (and threats). Otherwise, our elected officials have no reason to listen to us. As Trumka, himself, noted, Americans truly want change in a progressive direction. The labor movement should be at the forefront of providing a vehicle for that change, and to get on that path, the unions out there might want to question their relationship to the Democratic Party.
I would also like to make a suggestion to labor leaders and rank-and-file workers, alike. We should always work to get the most pro-labor candidates in office, but time after time, we see politicians fall very short on their promises. There is a way, however, to increase the chances that our voices are heard and our demands met. And that way is to mobilize the power we have as workers outside of the ballot box. Sometimes we need to vote with our feet in the streets. We could definitely learn from our fellow workers in France about that.
John Cronan Jr is a restaurant worker, organizer, and a masters student at the Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies. Currently, he is a volunteer organizer for the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY). John is also an avid Boston sports fan.