Monday, February 27, 2012

Workers win in Chicago » peoplesworld

Workers win in Chicago » peoplesworld


In response to Governor Quinn’s budget address, Keith Kelleher, President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, issued the following statement:

SPRINGFIELD, IL – In painting a bleak picture of the state’s finances, the governor’s budget proposal is another glaring illustration of why Illinois must make the rich pay their fair share in income tax.

As long as our state is a place where millionaires and greedy corporations exploit loopholes to pay effectively less in taxes than the middle class and lower-income families, we will be doomed to an endless cycle of funding shortages that lead to the kind of crippling cuts proposed today.

Just two months ago, Illinois lawmakers doled out more than $100 million in tax breaks to CME Group and Sears Holding Corp., purportedly to keep both employers in the state. Together, this giveaway totals a staggering $1 billion in the first 10 years, alone. CME earned $900 million in profits last year. For its part, Sears took its tax break and promptly announced store closures that will decimate its workforce. That bait-and-switch exemplifies how the state’s current tax policy makes winners of the rich and losers of the 99 percent. And now those losses appear destined to mount.

The proposed $2.7 billion reduction in Medicaid obligations could drastically reduce access to quality health care for working families already struggling to make ends meet in a faltering economy. It also raises questions about whether the safety net hospitals that support working class communities might suddenly find their own survival at risk. We need to protect these vital resources that provide critical care and jobs in our communities.

After the last several years of budget cuts failed to solve our fiscal woes, we should know by now that a renewal of this approach is going to yield the same result. In fact, if the economy is going to get back on its feet, we must stand up for working families – not cut them off at the knees.

We should not in good conscience heap $100 million in tax breaks on a financial colossus like CME, or a retail empire like Sears, while forcing families of modest means to give up even more in a climate of economic deprivation.

The Civic Federation and others who have advocated for drastic cuts should be asked why it’s fair to make working families sacrifice their health care and other vital needs while asking nothing more from the greedy CEOs and other corporate executives who caused our economy to implode.

This skewed approach can cause a chain reaction of inequality for the middle class and working families: They’re penalized first by an unfair tax system that goes easy on the rich, and again by budget cuts needed to compensate for what the rich don’t pay.

If we’re ever going to balance our budget in Springfield, we need to restore balance to the discussion about how to do it. That begins by shifting the focus from a cuts-only ideology to a core principle of equality: making the rich pay their fair share in taxes.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana unites more than 91,000 healthcare, home care, nursing home and child care workers across two states in the fight to raise standards across industries, to strengthen the political voice for working families and for access to quality, affordable care for all families.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What Rev. Martin Luther King’s legacy teaches us for today’s struggles

By John Bachtell

The tactics of non-violence championed by Dr. King created one of the most powerful movements in our history that confronted the highest echelons of economic and political power, shattered Jim Crow segregation, delivered a mighty blow to white supremacist ideology and radically expanded democratic rights, including the right to vote.

This was a revolution that changed the way millions of black, brown and white Americans thought and acted forever. It helped pierce the McCarthyite repression and inspired other struggles for women’s rights, students rights, Mexican American equality, for peace and the environment.

Those revolutionary changes reverberate to this day, helping produce a young generation that is the most racially diverse in history, potentially the most politically progressive and most anti-racist.

It’s fair to say, without MLK and the modern Civil Rights movement, there would have been no Mayor Harold Washington and no President Barack Obama, mighty victories over racism.

In his latter years, King foresaw that the US had reached a crossroads. Would the future be one of chaos, a society bitterly divided by racial hatred, class antagonism, extreme poverty and wealth, the 1% vs the 99%?

Or would it be a multiracial human community – united in brotherhood and sisterhood based on peace, equality, steeped in humanistic values in which all could develop freely on the basis of cooperation? Sound familiar?

In his fascinating autobiography “My Song,” Harry Belafonte writes that shortly before his assassination King attended a fundraiser at Belafonte’s house for the Poor People’s campaign.

That night after all the guests had left except for his inner circle, King expressed his deep anxiety over some of the narrow tactics being pushed by some in the movement including the call for armed struggle, that he saw as self defeating.

King was clearly agitated and argued the source of inequality was rooted in the system, if you had rich you also had poverty. If you wanted to end poverty you needed to change the system, which required tactics of mass movement building.

Belafonte goes on to describe MLK as a socialist and revolutionary.

In his famous 1967 anti-Vietnam war speech at Riverside Church, King said, “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

King was advocating people before profits.

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice, which produces beggars, needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look easily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: This is not just."

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

King saw the fight for civil rights and economic rights, the fight for African American equality, of the nationally and racially oppressed and workers rights as one in the same.

“That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth,” he told an AFL-CIO convention.

When he was killed, he was in the process of uniting several struggles: the fight for equality, for workers rights and peace. He had initiated the foundation for a great social movement to “restructure society” of uniting black, brown and white with the multi-racial labor movement, what we see as vital core forces in the labor led all people’s coalition.

If King were alive today, he would see no contradiction between political and electoral action and street heat. He was well aware of their interconnection during his own lifetime. He’d see the imperative of re-electing Pres. Obama.

Therefore to preserve and continue to advance the legacy and dream of Dr. King, we must continue to fight the new forms of pernicious racism, (attacks on President Obama, anti immigrant hysteria, voter suppression, attacks on affirmative action, etc) and anti-communism, unite our class and people and deliver a resounding blow to the Republican Tea Party right wing and their ilk in 2012.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

From Wisconsin: GOP Legislature Held Secret Meetings, Solicited Unlawful Agreements While Mapping New Voting Districts

Voces de la Frontera attorneys discover violations of Open Meetings law, Wisconsin Constitution in efforts to hide state re-districting process

Attorneys for Voces de la Frontera have discovered that employees of Republican legislative leaders, working under the direction of an attorney paid by Wisconsin taxpayers, engaged in secret, unlawful activities in redesigning the state’s electoral maps in an effort to hide from the public their goal of consolidating partisan power.

A verified complaint was filed yesterday by Voces de la Frontera’s attorneys with the District Attorney for Dane County alleging violations of both Wisconsin’s Constitution and statutes governing open meetings.

The meetings were held by Tad Ottman, Senator Scott Fitzgerald’s legislative aide, and Adam Foltz, Representative Jeff Fitzgerald’s legislative aide, under the direction of Michael Best and Friedrich attorney Eric McLeod.

In addition, Adam Foltz wrote talking points for the meetings, expressly stating that the lawmakers should ignore the public justifications given for the redistricting, because they would be different than what was explained to each of them at these private meetings.

“Wisconsin citizens will not tolerate this culture of political corruption, and it will not go unchecked. The actions of McLeod, Ottman and Foltz are both legal and moral violations. They breach Wisconsin’s Open Meetings law and the state constitution’s prohibition on secret legislative activity, and undermine our long-standing commitment to open and transparent government, which is the cornerstone of a democracy,” stated Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera.

“This is one more example of a disturbing pattern of conspiratorial actions on the part of the Walker administration.”

Peter Earle, Voces de la Frontera’s lead attorney stated, “It’s now clear why Scott and Jeff Fitzgerald tried so hard to keep these documents hidden under their bogus claim of ‘attorney-client privilege.’ We now have documents that prove that the Republican leadership of the legislature was paying hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to private attorneys with the express purpose of hiding the legislative redistricting process from the public and from those legislators who had not signed secrecy agreements. This amounts to a conspiracy to violate the prohibition of legislative secrecy contained in Article IV, § 10 of the Wisconsin constitution. The conduct is repugnant to every principle of good government.”

“The only appropriate response to these serious breaches of the public trust is to throw the maps out and begin the process again in a legal and open manner," Earle added.