Latest Solidarity Issue

Bob King on Ed Schultz Radio Show

10/19/11

Occupy Wall Street: ‘We are the 99 percent’

10/19/11

UAW retiree describes mood as ‘energizing and inspirational’

UAW Local 2110 Vice President Booker Washington shows Solidarity with the Occupy movement | Photo courtesy of Region 9A

Dave Elsila is a retired UAW Local 1981 (National Writers Union) member who is part of the nationwide Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement.

Elsila was assistant director and Solidarity magazine editor in the UAW Public Relations Department from 1976 until he retired in 1998.

We’ll reprint his future reports on the Occupy Wall Street section of uaw.org.

 

 

 

 

 

Here are Elsila’s first three installments detailing his experiences on the ground amid the OWS rallies:

Oct. 12, 2011
Report #1 from New York City


Dear Friends,

Energizing and inspirational are words that describe the scene at Occupy Wall Street.
I was there last night along with 1,000 or more others who are speaking out, displaying signs, performing music, painting posters, silk screening T-shirts, sending out electronic updates, serving donated food and keeping NYC’s Zuccotti Park [in lower Manhattan] clean with a volunteer sanitation crew.  Participants are going out of their way to deny police any excuse to crack down, and the atmosphere is festive yet peaceful. I was also there Wednesday when 30,000 people from unions, environmental, faith-based, community and other groups marched from Foley Square to Zuccotti Park.  I plan to go back later today.

The participants have published two issues of a broadsheet “Occupied Wall Street Journal” and distributed them throughout the city.  There’s a big mix of people: You see everything from IWW signs to people wearing Ron Paul T-shirts. A double-decker Grey Line tour bus went by while I was there; the tourists sitting on the open-air top deck cheered and applauded the occupiers.

It seems that participants perceive that the building of a large popular opposition movement of resistance is the best way to effect change and make politicians of all stripes sit up and take notice.  Perhaps Todd Gitlin said it best in Sunday’s New York Times when he quoted a historian as saying: “This is the Obama generation declaring their independence from the administration.”  Gitlin went on to write, “By allying itself with the protest, the left at large is telling the president that a campaign slogan that essentially says ‘We’re better than Eric Cantor’ won’t cut it in 2012.  ‘We are the 99 percent’ would be more like it.  If President Obama takes this direction, the movement’s energy may be able to power a motor of significant reform.”

Unfortunately, my vintage Macbook laptop doesn’t want to recognize my little iPhone camera, so I can’t send you any photos. (Go to Democracynow.org for good photo and video coverage.)  However, here are some of the signs I saw that give a flavor of the scene:

  • “I can’t find a job, but I found an Occupation.”
  • “99:1 – consider the odds.”
  • “Fox News: Don’t worry; I don’t take you seriously either.”
  • “Wall Street needs an enema: It’s full of crap.”
  • “Jesus is with the 99%. You cannot serve God and wealth (Matthew 6:24),” carried by a man in a clerical collar.
  • “I’ve been in two wars; in this one I know who my enemy is” (carried by a man in military fatigues).
  • And “The working class is waking up.”

I hope you have a chance to participate in this new movement wherever you are. There are Occupy Wall Street spinoffs in several hundred areas around the United States. Look for one in your community.
Perhaps the “Arab Spring” that we all cheered has now given rise to the “American Autumn.”

Dave


Oct. 14, 2011
Report #2 from New York City

Photo courtesy of Region 9A



Dear Friends,

Occupy Wall Street participants beat Mayor Bloomberg to the punch Thursday (Oct. 13).  After Bloomberg announced that city workers would begin evacuating protesters in order to “clean” the park, dozens of volunteers started scrubbing down the area with soap and water and scrub brushes, eliminating any excuse that the city had for its “cleanup” scheme.

“Today we clean up our community, tomorrow we clean up Wall Street” read several signs that I saw.  We saw volunteers with scrapers cleaning up chewing gum from the pavement, polishing brass plaques and making the park cleaner than many of the surrounding streets or, as several members of the city council noted, cleaner than a lot of other parks in the city.

The occupiers also mobilized supporters, who came together by the thousands at 6 a.m. to show solidarity.  In particular, New York unions were a strong presence. When I went to the park, the first sign I saw, held by an Ironworker, read: “I’m union, I vote, I’m pissed, so I’m here.”  Other union signs bore the logos of the AFT, AFSCME, IATSE, UAW, Public Employees Federation (PEF) and more.  And the AFL-CIO sent out an emergency message on the Internet yesterday asking people to sign a petition or to telephone or e-mail Bloomberg to stop the evictions.

The result of all this activity led to a big victory this morning.  As you’ve probably heard by now, the city backed down and the owners of this “public-private” park have, for the time being, withdrawn their request for the cleaning.  Had the city gone through with its plan, protesters would have been allowed back but without sleeping bags, tarps, tents and other supplies they needed to keep up the round-the-clock protests.  People are jubilant.

Tomorrow they are planning a 3 p.m. march across town to Tompkins Square Park. In the meantime, it’s been announced that there are more than 1,100 occupations taking place in cities and towns across the United States. The protests are getting more and more media attention and this morning were the lead stories on many TV news shows.

The protests seem to be spawning a good deal of creativity: In Chicago the other day, 40 people dressed as Robin Hood took to kayaks on the Chicago River, with supporters lining the banks. If there’s a protest where you are, take some time this weekend to get involved.
For Detroit friends, don't forget to show up at 4 p.m. today at the Spirit of Detroit statue downtown. We’ll be going to Philadelphia tomorrow to visit our son and his family, and we plan to be part of “Occupation Philadelphia” on Sunday. 

Dave


Oct. 17, 2011
Report #3 from Philadelphia

Photo courtesy of Region 9A

Dear Friends,

Sunday morning (Oct. 16) when I went down to visit Occupy Philadelphia with my grandsons, a sea of colorful tents ranging in size from small pop-ups to full-size camping models filled the plaza in front of City Hall and an area halfway around the side. Today’s edition of Metro, the free Philadelphia daily, made the Occupation its lead story and reported that the number of tents had exploded during this second weekend to 322.  That’s a remarkable and impressive number.

Also impressive was seeing a large number of people of color and people who appeared to be homeless becoming part of the Occupation – an indication that this movement is growing not only in numbers but in breadth. Several people were distributing copies of “One Step Away,” a newspaper “produced by those without homes for those with homes.”

Many of the signs were handmade and bore slogans similar to those seen at Occupy Wall Street.  One new sign declared, “I want bread and roses, just like my grandmother did.”

At a round-circle meeting of about 30 participants in the lower courtyard, a woman described two favorite slogans: “Our politicians are the best that money can buy,” and “Occupy your mind.”

There are tents for food and beverage distribution, for medical care, for media and outreach, and even for a book exchange.  Signs reflect the presence of several unions and faith-based community groups. A Jewish group has erected a sukka, a structure for observing the Jewish holiday of succot, and there is an area identified as “Evangelicals for justice.” 

There is also a family area and an “Idea Wall” where children have written such slogans as “fair,” “love for everyone” and “food for everyone.”  Like other Occupations, this one seemed to have no political “demands” but rather a list of concerns: “Nothing indicates change; we still have the same problems; we’re still trying to be heard,” one occupier said.

“I care about local issues. How are my kids going to be educated in Philadelphia? How are jobs going to be created in Philadelphia?” they added.
Some political groups are suggesting answers to these questions through literature distribution, information tables and teach-ins, but, as in New York and elsewhere, no one group seems to be dominating the discussion or controlling the movement.

The Metro reporter quotes another occupier: “In order to peacefully change the status quo, you have to celebrate while you’re doing it.  Revolutions have to be celebratory. They can’t solve things with simple anger.”

It’s encouraging to read that the Occupation movement has spread to so many places.  Back here in New York, I’ve heard from friends in Durango, Colo., in San Mateo, Calif., in St. Clair Shores, Mich., and, of course, in Detroit, that Occupations are under way in all those towns plus hundreds more.

I hope you’re participating wherever you are.

Dave
 

 

UAW statement on retirees and 2011 Big Three negotiations

The UAW has a long history of fighting for and protecting its retirees, and through the years, we have been able to bargain good pensions, Christmas bonuses, pension increases, health care benefit improvements and other improvements for our retirees.  We accomplished all these gains for retirees even though many years ago a Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that we do not have the right to strike over retiree issues.  

In 2008, when the economy collapsed and General Motors and Chrysler were teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, many Republicans wanted to strip retirees of all health care benefits and throw our pensions to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC).  If they had succeeded, GM and Chrysler pensions would have been reduced to about 65 percent of the basic pension, and retirees would have been left without any health care.  The UAW fought for retirees in the congressional hearings, through lobbying, protesting and many other activities.  GM and Chrysler retirees’ pensions and health care were saved as a result.

In the current round of auto bargaining, we were faced with two insurmountable obstacles to winning the gains we wanted for our retirees.  First, in the past we were able to fund pension increases and Christmas bonuses out of the UAW Big Three pension funds because the pension funds were either fully funded or, in some years, even overfunded.  This year, we face the worst shortfall in our history of pension underfunding.  Because of Wall Street’s continuing problems, the GM, Ford and Chrysler hourly pension funds are all underfunded.  Obviously, because of this shortfall, we could not use the pension funds to pay for the Christmas bonuses or any other improvements.

The second insurmountable obstacle to winning Christmas bonuses for retirees is the current retiree to active member ratio.  The current active UAW membership at GM, for example, is 48,000 members to 405,000 UAW GM retirees, making it nearly a 10-to-1 ratio of retirees to current working members. During these negotiations, the UAW also explored the idea of paying for retiree Christmas bonuses by having each active member contribute to a fund to pay these bonuses. With the almost 10-to-1 ratio of retired to active workers in GM and similar ratios at Chrysler and Ford, funding a $600 retiree bonus for GM retirees would require nearly $6,000 contribution from each active UAW GM member.  The problem is similar at Ford and Chrysler. At Ford, the retiree to active ratio is about 3.5 retirees to each active, and at Chrysler, there are almost four retirees to every active member. Obviously, it is not possible in these economic times with these ratios to fund retiree lump sums out of active members’ earnings.
Finally, we were able to negotiate and ratify a 10 percent contribution from active members’ profit sharing that will be diverted to the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA).  This diversion helps to make possible the modified dental and vision coverage that will be restored by the VEBA for our UAW Big Three retirees in January 2012.

Our hope is that all of the Big Three – with the continued dedication of our UAW members – will return to being a strong and viable company which will help the profitability and stock of these companies rebound, and that the economy and our pension funds will also rebound, making it possible to win yearly bonuses for our retirees in future negotiations.
 

UAW and General Motors agree to contract extension

09/15/11

DETROIT – Yesterday the UAW and General Motors agreed to extend the current collective bargaining agreement while we continue negotiating toward a tentative agreement.

The current contract was set to expire at midnight Sept. 14, 2011.

The UAW will not provide further comment regarding negotiations or speculate about timing or the potential outcome these negotiations at this time.
 

UAW and Chrysler agree to contract extension

09/15/11

DETROIT – Yesterday the UAW and Chrysler Group LLC agreed to extend the current collective bargaining agreement while we continue negotiating toward a tentative agreement.

The current contract was set to expire at midnight Sept. 14, 2011.

The UAW will not provide further comment regarding negotiations or speculate about timing or the potential outcome of these negotiations at this time.
 

Media Advisory: UAW and Chrysler Group LLC Kick Off 2011 Labor Talks

07/21/11

What:
Chrysler Group LLC executives Scott Garberding aoo AI Iacobelli will join UAW leaders Bob King and General Holiefield for the official handshake signifying the start of the 2011 labor negotiations.

Where:
Chrysler Group LLC Headquarters
1000 Chrysler Drive
Auburn Hills, Michigan 48326

When:
Monday, July 25, 2011 - 10 a.m.
Press Room opens at 9:15 a.m.

Who:

  •  Scott Garberding, Senior Vice President - Manufacturing/World Class Manufacturing, Chrysler Group LLC
  •  Al Iacobelli, Vice President - Employee Relations, Chrysler Group LLC
  •  Bob King, President, UAW
  •  General Holiefield, Vice President and Director, UAW Chrysler Department
  •  Negotiating teams from Chrysler Group and UAW


Details:
RSVP required by close of business Thursday, July 21 to ks855@chrysler.com.


Media parking is in the Tower visitors' lot. Enter through Tower lobby. Check in at the registration table in the lobby for pre-assigned badge.
For Satellite and Microwave truck parking, follow signs to Visitors' Parking entrance, but enter staging area through lower level gate.
A live satellite feed from the event will be available starting at 9:45 a.m. at the following coordinates:

amc 3 k16 slot A
DOWNLINK 12006.5 VERT
FEC 3/4
SYMBOL 6.1113

Additional information and news from Chrysler is available at
http://www.media.chrysler.com.

Update Wisconsin: Sweep!

07/15/11

Workers’ candidates in Wisconsin went six for six in primary elections July 12 against conservative opponents masquerading as Democrats. The Republican state party admitted to running fake Democrats in the primary to buy time for their candidates at a cost to Wisconsin taxpayers of more than $425,000.

Six Republican senators were targeted for recall by grassroots activists because of their support of Gov. Scott Walker’s radical agenda to dismantle the middle class and weaken GOP political opposition by destroying workers’ unions.

Tuesday’s victors (the real Democrats) will face off against the Republican state senators, who voted to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers, in general elections July 19, Aug. 9 and Aug. 16. Three Democratic senators targeted for recall by Republicans (for leaving the state to prevent a vote on the union-busting bill) also will need to be re-elected in the general elections.

Here’s a complete schedule of labor-endorsed candidates and election dates:

District

Location

Union-Endorsed
Candidate

Primary Election Date

General Election
Date

2

Green Bay area

Nancy Nusbaum

July 12

August 9

8

Milwaukee area

Sandra Pasch

July 12

August 9

10

Hudson/River Falls/Menomonie area

Shelly Moore

July 12

August 9

12

Rhinelander area

Jim Holperin

July 19

August 9

14

Ripon/Baraboo area

Fred Clark

July 12

August 16

18

Fond du Lac/Oshkosh area

Jessica King

July 12

August 9

22

Kenosha area

Bob Wirch

July 19

August 16

30

Green Bay area

Dave Hansen

None

July 19

32

La Crosse area

Jennifer Shilling

July 12

August 9

Democrats will need to pick up three seats to retake control of the Senate.

The Republican-forced primaries also gave GOP leaders time to quickly redraw the state’s districts to grab even more power and better their chances in future elections. According to the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, the GOP’s new map places Bob Wirch, Nancy Nusbaum and Fred Clark outside of their own districts. It also eliminates heavily Democratic areas and adds heavily Republican areas to District 8, where Republican Sen. Alberta Darling faces a tough challenge from Democrat Sandra Pasch.

Republican leaders have scheduled an "extraordinary session," which has only been used 10 times since it was instituted in 1977, for July 19 to push through their redistricting plan before Democrats have a chance to retake the Senate. While the redistricting is not expected to affect the outcome of this summer’s recall elections, it will give state Republicans – as well as Sen. Paul Ryan and Rep. Sean Duffy – a formidable advantage in 2012.

Noted author and UAW member supports immigrant rights, social inclusion

07/12/11

Forty years after it was first published, the book Occupied America: The History of Chicanos has been banned, and its author, Rodolfo Acuña, a widely published professor and prominent immigrant-rights activist thinks he knows why.

To Acuña, a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981, it boils down to two things: numbers and control. He says that banning his book and shutting down an ethnic studies program that has been widely successful in Arizona are part of an effort to undermine social inclusion and financial uplift for Chicanos, or people of Mexican descent. Not only has his work come under fire, but Acuña has received numerous death threats from unidentifiable individuals who are at odds with his commitment to improving the system of education and living conditions for Chicanos. 

This work is very much tied to the immigration issue, which Acuña, who was born in Los Angeles to Mexican immigrants, says, “puts panic in people [and makes them think] ‘We’re losing our country.’”

This might be why so many politicians have rallied against his groundbreaking work in Chicano Studies – an academic program he helped develop in the late 1960s at California State University, Northridge. While this initiative remains the longest running and largest such program, many others have since been established at universities across the country, and even some middle and high schools. 

Not everyone is so keen on seeing Chicano studies expand. Among the program’s most vocal critics is Arizona’s attorney general, Tom Horne, who has called it a sort of “ethnic chauvinism.” He has also claimed that the program is “an officially recognized, resentment-based program,” even though the National Education Association has shown that such curriculum instead increases interracial understanding and significantly enhances students’ interest in academic pursuits. 

These were the very reasons why Acuña first decided to promote Chicano studies. “To me, it’s a pedagogy: everyone has to feel proud of themselves.” And in a society where immigrants are so often made to feel inferior, teaching students their heritage means giving them access to a sense of personal pride and social worth.

Acuña has been called the “father of Chicano studies,” but he scoffs at such a title. “No one could control this movement,” he says of the continued push for educational institutions to teach about the influence of Mexico natives on the United States. Now that the program has been cut from the public education curriculum in Arizona, students are taking a stand to show how much their education means to them. Many of them have expressed their views on the legislation that banned ethnic studies through Tucson Students Rise Up, and some staged a demonstration at a Tucson Board of Education meeting in April at which they chained themselves to board members’ seats.

Acuña and those he has educated through his books and classes think that there is inherent importance in learning about the history and culture of Chicanos – not only for those who are Chicano themselves, but for all Americans. Latinos already make up the largest minority population in the United States, and their population figures are only expected to grow in the coming decades. 

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, a Pew Research Center Project, the Latino population will increase exponentially in the coming decades. They predict that Hispanics will make up 29% of the U.S. population by 2050, compared with only 14% in 2005. “A group that size deserves some attention,” says Acuña. 

He also sees a clear parallel between the immigrant rights movement, and the labor movement. Walter Reuther was instrumental in providing support to Chicano leader Cesar Chavez as he formed the United Farm Workers to demand fair wages and respect for agricultural workers who are often Mexico natives. 

Invited as a speaker at recent meeting of the National Writers Union (NWU) in Detroit, Mich., he had a simple message for his fellow UAW members: “Help us raise funds, help us get the word out, help us to tell other people what is happening.” 

Larry Goldbetter, the president of the NWU, hopes to see increased awareness among UAW members for this cause, and is happy to report that his local has already made a financial contribution to the campaign to save the ethnic studies program in Arizona. 

“Unions are about more than dollars and cents,” he says, “We’re about social justice and fighting racism and this anti-immigrant hysteria in Arizona. We need to mobilize the whole union around supporting the struggle in Tucson.”

To find out more about the campaign to save ethnic studies programs in Arizona, visit saveethnicstudies.org.

Wisconsin’s conservative high court green-lights anti-worker bill

06/20/11

Wisconsin workers opposed to Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators’ anti-union budget repair bill protested at the Capitol Tuesday, June 14, the same day the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that the bill’s passage violated the state’s constitution.

With lightening speed, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided to let stand Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill that takes away public workers’ collective bargaining rights.

The June 14 ruling, issued the same day the case was considered by the justices, tracks the court’s 4-3 conservative majority and overturns a lower court decision that halted implementation of the anti-union, anti-middle class budget bill.

In May, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi ruled that in passing the governor’s budget bill – which includes a measure stripping teachers, nurses and all other public employees (except police and firefighters who supported Walker’s 2010 election) of their bargaining rights – the Republican-controlled legislature violated the state’s open meeting law, and issued a permanent injunction against the bill.

The majority justices found GOP legislators did not violate the constitutional provision that states “all meetings of all state and local governmental bodies shall be publicly held in places reasonably accessible to members of the public and shall be open to all citizens at all times unless otherwise expressly provided by law.”

In her dissenting opinion (pg.37), Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson said the majority justices "make their own findings of fact, mischaracterize the parties' arguments, misinterpret statutes, minimize (if not eliminate) Wisconsin constitutional guarantees, and misstate case law, appearing to silently overrule case law dating back to at least 1891.”

Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites have been protesting at the state Capitol since the budget bill was first introduced in February, and opponents have vowed to fight on. To that end, on June 15 a broad coalition of Wisconsin unions filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The suit charges that the budget repair bill violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution by stripping away basic rights from most Wisconsin public sector employees to bargain, organize and associate to engage in union and political activity.

UAW Region 4 Director Ron McInroy said the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision has more to do with partisan politics than upholding the law. “They are basically sending the message that Governor Walker and the Republicans in the Statehouse can do whatever they want because the rule of law doesn’t apply to them,” McInroy said.

“But the people of Wisconsin who work hard and play by the rules will not be silenced,” he said. “They will have the final say by voting against the Republicans facing recall elections because of their extreme anti-worker, pro-wealthy votes.” Recall elections for six Republican senators will take place July 12.
 

Ohio bikers ride to kill SB 5

06/03/11

Motorcycle riders from throughout Ohio will descend on the state Capitol June 11 to protest Senate Bill 5, legislation passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich.

SB 5, which takes away collective bargaining rights for teachers, police, firefighters and other hardworking public-sector employees, is deeply unpopular with a majority of Ohioans and is
quickly heading toward a referendum vote this November.

The event, Ride to Kill the Bill: Thunder at the State House, is sponsored by the grassroots group
We Are Ohio. Bike enthusiasts will gather from noon-5 p.m. at the corner of Front and Rich streets in downtown Columbus to show their opposition to SB 5 and the harm it will cause to working families. An anti-SB5 ride around the Statehouse will take place from 1-2 p.m.

Food and drink will be available for purchase from
Proud Ohio Workers a group of small business owners who support Ohio’s public-sector workers.

Get the flyer.

Ohio Republicans attempt to restrict minimum wage
The Ohio State Senate slipped into the omnibus budget measure an amendment that would roll back minimum wage protections for an untold number of Ohio workers. The
amendment (pg.4) would alter the state constitution by exempting from the state minimum wage law workers who are not already protected by the federal minimum wage law (those who work at companies with an annual gross under $500,000).

If enacted, the Republican amendment would
upend 78 years of wage protection for Ohio working families. 

Republican ruse on right-to-work in Maine
GOP state lawmakers in Maine are trying to put one over on the voters. In an attempt to deceive their constituents, Republican senators circulated a release June 2 under the heading "Right to Work Dead This Session."

Thing is, it's not.

The release refers to LD 788, a union-busting bill targeting private sector workers that generated an angry backlash from the community and lacks support in the legislature. But LD 309, another right-to-work bill that would weaken public sector collective bargaining, is still very much alive.
LD 309 conveniently emerges at time when Gov. LePage and his
$295-an-hour lawyer, who helped draft the amendment, are in negotiations with Maine's largest state workers' union.
More than 1,000 protesters jammed the State House June 2 ahead of an 11th-hour public hearing on LD 309, which would allow state employees to receive all the benefits of union representation and union contracts without having to pay a "fair-share" fee (about $5 a week).
Julie Kushner, director of UAW Region 9A, which includes Maine, called LD 309 “an attack on all Maine workers.”
“Governor LePage and Republican legislators should be focusing on policies that create good jobs in Maine. Instead, they're ripping down labor murals, weakening child labor laws, cutting pensions for teachers and other state employees, and pushing so-called right-to-work laws that will drive down wages across the state,” Kushner said.
“It’s time these politicians stop their partisan gamesmanship and start working together to find fair and reasonable ways to build the state's economy."