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When most people hear about hunger strikes, they think of Mohandas Ghandi, who engaged in several to protest British rule of India. It was Ghandi’s nonviolent way of communicating his message against an unconscionable offense to achieve dramatic results.
The way Tony Hall sees it, Congress’ proposed budget cuts are an offense to conscience.
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry has joined the hunger fast to support workers who can barely make ends meet. Photo by Rick Reinhard.
Nearly two decades ago, the former Ohio congressman fasted for 22 days in response to budget cuts that would have had a devastating impact on poor people at home and around the world. That was 1993.
Fast forward to 2011, and Hall is at it again – provoked by similar budget cuts under consideration by Congress. Hall he was joined by other prominent religious leaders including Jim Wallis of Sojouners, Rev. David Beckmann of Bread for the World, and Ritu Sharma of Women Thrive Worldwide who are enduring open-ended fasts in protest of the proposed budget cuts.
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, also joined the fast stating, "I am fasting for the nurses' aide who holds the hands of our elders by day, but does not have the means to care for herself by night. For the security officer who puts his life on the line for us, but whose own life is at risk because he can barely make ends meet. I'm fasting for the child care provider who nurtures the promise of the next generation, yet fears that her own children will not have a better life than she had."
The Republicans’ proposed cuts (including a 30 percent cut to development assistance, 14 percent reductions to child survival programs, 8 percent cuts in HIV/AIDS treatments and 40 percent cuts to the Global Fund) put the lives of millions of children at risk, will harm seniors and those with disabilities, and unnecessarily plunge tens of millions around the world deeper into an already desperate struggle with severe malnutrition and hunger.
According to his website, hungerfast.org, the former Democratic member of Ohio’s House of Representatives began this hunger strike on March 28 for three reasons:
According to feedamerica.org, more than 45 million Americans live in poverty, including 15 million children – the highest poverty rate since 1960. Meanwhile, Americans face high unemployment with skyrocketing food and energy prices. Globally, about 25,000 people die from hunger-related causes every day, 925 million people suffer from severe hunger and malnutrition, and 2.1 billion live on less than $2 a day.
There’s no doubt that Congress must address America’s long-term fiscal challenges. No nation can spend without limits. But in the name of deficit reduction, some in Congress have called for irresponsible cuts to vital domestic and international anti-poverty and hunger programs. As Americans, such cuts not only run counter to our sense of compassion and the common good, but they also distract us from the real problem.
Suggesting that the budget can be balanced on the backs of poor people not only ignores the two largest slices of America’s budget — tax cuts for the wealthy and military spending — it betrays a fundamental lack of conscience. Poor people did not cause America’s financial problems, and hurting them is not the right solution. In fact, cutting programs for low-income people actually hurts the economy; every dollar spent on food stamps yields $1.73 in stimulus benefit.
The first time Hall began a hunger strike, in 1993, Congress had eliminated the House Select Committee on Hunger, a bipartisan panel created to address the needs of poor and hungry people at home and around the world. Hall inspired thousands across the country to join his crusade. Through their efforts, the World Bank pledged increased support for hunger programs and the nonprofit Congressional Hunger Center trained future leaders in the hunger movement.
Not everyone may be able to go on a hunger strike, but there are other ways to participate. For information and to sign a commitment form, visit hungerfast.org.
Gwynne Marie Cobb
As UAW members, we know how important it is for consumers to buy quality, union-made products and services.
Members of other unions support us. And we do the same when we look for union-made goods and services. UAW members not only support their brothers and sisters from the Communications Workers of America when they sign up for AT&T service, but they also qualify for a sweet 15 percent discount on those services.
It’s easy to sign up: Just fill out this form and go to your local AT&T store (not a kiosk or retailer) or go online. Active and retired members will need their union identification card to qualify. Some restrictions exist so carefully read your plan details.
When you sign up for AT&T service, know that you are getting service from the nation’s only unionized wireless carrier, and you are helping support the jobs of 40,000 union-represented workers and their families.
How we talk about income inequality has a lot to do with how the wealthy and the poor are viewed, says Anat Shenker-Osorio. The way we talk about wealth assigns moral superiority to the wealthy, she writes in this excellent opinion piece that ran in the Christian Science Monitor.
On March 17, UAW President Bob King and Region 1C Director Norwood Jewell hosted a tele-town hall with the region's leadership and activists. The call covered ongoing legislative issues in Michigan and the UAW's plans to defend the middle class. Participants posted questions to the hosts. If you missed the call, here is the recording of it.
Leaders of the People Before Banks Coalition -- an alliance of labor, faith and community groups -- will speak April 6 in support of the Homeowner Protection and Neighborhood Preservation Act that Wayne County Commissioner Martha Scott plans to submit to the County Commission on April 7.
Citing the economic and social devastation of the foreclosure crisis, Scott is calling for a one-year moratorium on sheriff sales of occupied foreclosed homes, as well as an investigation of the "extent to which the county and its citizens have been victimized and economically harmed by the fraudulent practices of banks and mortgage servicers."
UAW President Bob King will join the call for action to "deal with the foreclosure problem and give Americans a hand up -- not a hand out."
More than 100,000 Michigan homes were foreclosed in 2010, according to the Center for Responsible lending. Wayne County alone accounted for one-quarter of that total and more than 400 foreclosure auctions a week, according to RealtyTrac.
The call for action at the local level is spurred by mounting evidence of fraud, as cited in Scott's bill, "from the predatory lending practices of subprime mortgage companies, to the deceptive practices of Wall Street underwriters, to the misrepresentation of security valuations by ratings agencies, to the improper recording of mortgage assignments and evasion of county fees, to the counterfeiting of mortgage documents and robo-signing of affidavits at foreclosure."
"Federal efforts to aid distressed homeowners have been a disappointment," said the Rev. D. Alexander Bullock, whose church will host the press conference in the commissioner's home district. "The Making Home Affordable Program promised to modify three million to four million mortgages to keep people in their homes, but the actual number of permanent modifications is a fraction of that."
The most recent report indicates only 540,000 permanent modifications nationally and only 11,000 in the metro-Detroit area.
Scott will formally submit the bill to the full commission at its regular meeting Thursday morning in the ground-floor auditorium of the Guardian Building at 500 Griswold St. in Detroit.
Who: UAW President Bob King, Wayne County Commissioner Martha Scott, Pastor D. Alexander Bullock, president, Rainbow PUSH Detroit Chapter and Saundra Williams, president, Metro Detroit AFL-CIO.
When: Wednesday, April 6, 5 p.m.
Where: Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church, 396 Labelle St., Highland Park
(Directions: Exit the Lodge Freeway at Linwood and follow Linwood south a half-mile. Turn left on Oakman Boulevard and go one mile to Hamilton and turn right. Go two blocks to Labelle and turn right.)
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is taking advantage of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression to impose new taxes on seniors, cut unemployment insurance for laid-off workers and gut education funding by nearly $800 million.
And, thanks to the governor and Republican state legislators, Michigan is now the only state in the union that will provide fewer than 26 weeks of benefits to workers who are unemployed. On March 28, Snyder signed into law a bill that cuts the maximum number of weeks Michigan’s laid-off workers can receive unemployment insurance from 26 weeks to 20 weeks.
“Governor Snyder and Republicans in Lansing should be working to create jobs and revive our state’s economy, but that clearly is not their agenda,” said UAW President Bob King. “At the very least they should keep in place protections for people who are out of work through no fault of their own.”
King also said the governor’s proposed budget will cause deep hardship for working and middle class families.
“Gov. Snyder should require CEOs to share in the sacrifice to move Michigan forward,” said King. “Instead, he is giving them a $1.8 billion tax cut at the expense of our seniors, children and working families.”
Snyder’s proposed budget will:
All to pay for a massive $1.8 billion in tax breaks for corporations.
No surprise then that these budget cuts are backed by big energy companies and the secretive billionaire Koch brothers. They are the same forces that pushed the union-busting efforts in Wisconsin. Koch Enterprises has spent more than $1 billion lobbying politicians in Lansing. In fact, the head of their Michigan group said their group’s goal was to “take the unions out at their knees.”
"This is not what we the people of Michigan need,” said King. “It’s just more political payback and partisan games. It’s time to work together to stop the power struggles in Lansing, focus on improving our economy and creating quality jobs for working and middle class families.”
Michigan residents are delivering that message at “People’s Town Halls” this week and next, highlighting the fact that the GOP legislature is out of town and out of touch.
And a rally is planned for April 13 at the state Capitol. Watch for e-mails from UAWire and GimmeFIVE, and check back here for more details.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The acquisition of a glass production plant by Carlex Glass America will protect the jobs of about 600 UAW members. Carlex and the UAW worked together to save the Nashville plant and the distribution center in Lebanon, Tenn., when Zeledyne put the plant up for sale.
"Our members are very excited and supportive of this acquisition," said Gary Casteel, director of UAW Region 8, which covers Virginia, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Delaware, and Franklin, Cumberland, Adams and York counties in Pennsylvania.
"The cooperation between Carlex and the UAW is an example of the positive results that can be achieved when companies and unions work together. Without that cooperation, there is a good chance the plant would have closed," Casteel added.
"Our members understand the importance of the long-term viability of this company and keeping jobs in the community and their input will aid in the success of Carlex and the production of quality products in Tennessee," said UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, who directs the union's Competitive Shop/Independents, Parts and Suppliers (IPS) Department.
UAW Local 737 members ratified a collective bargaining agreement with Carlex that left wages, benefits, and working conditions intact while at the same time positioning Carlex to be very competitive in the glass industry.
The plant manufactures float glass and fabricates automotive glass. Zeledyne purchased the plant in April 2008 from Ford Motor Co.'s Automotive Components Holdings LLC.
"With Carlex's diversified customer base and the partnership we are developing, it is our goal that they will become the No. 1 glass manufacturer in the United States," said Casteel.
"This agreement with the UAW and Carlex has not only saved these jobs, but also allows these hard-working union members to continue supporting their families and contributing to their communities," said Casteel.
For more information, please contact Michele Martin, director, UAW Public Relations Department.