Archive for November 2008

Obama Speaks About the EFCA

November 30, 2008

In this Service Employees Union International video, Barack Obama declares his support of the Employee Free Choice Act.


Scott – “That One” – Gets a Raise and Benefits…In His Dream

November 29, 2008

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), when signed into law after Barack Obama becomes president, will:

  • allow employees to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation on a job
  • establish stronger penalties for businesses that violate employees’ rights when workers seek to form a union and during first contract negotiations
  • provide mediation and arbitration for first time contract disputes.

The EFCA is important to American workers, because, in the words of Senator Edward Kennedy, it will “level the playing field between management and labor” when it comes to forming a union. This is a tremendous point, especially when we consider that 60 million workers say they would join a union if they had the opportunity.

There are several websites that provide helpful information about the Employee Free Choice Act for those who want to know more about it.

One is the AFL-CIO’s website. On their EFCA page you will find a definition of the EFCA as well as be able to read the EFCA text. There are videos of lawmakers and workers expressing their views about the Act, along with a tremendous amount of other information that will help you to better understand and advocate for the passage of the Act.

Another website is that of American Rights At Work. America Rights At Work says that the EFCA will help American workers get better health care, job security and benefits.

The Service Employees International Union amd Employee Free Choice websites both have information about the Act and some very interesting videos that inform, entertain and promote the passage of the EFCA.

So, whether you’re in favor of the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act or not, or you just want to be know about it, check out the websites above.

In the meantime, enjoy this EFCA promotional video.

Obama and the Employee Free Choice Act

November 28, 2008

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama declared his support for the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and workers’ rights to form unions on the job.

To document Obama’s support of unions and the EFCA, the AFL-CIO has posted an article, “Barack Obama Will Restore Workers’ Freedom To Form Unions And Bargain”, on their website page, “Obama On The Issues.” The article is posted under the “Workers’ Rights” heading.

The article notes the following:

Obama Voted for Employee Free Choice Act. Obama co-sponsored and voted for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would restore workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions without employer harassment. (H.R. 800, Vote 227, 6/26/07)

Obama Promises to Sign the Employee Free Choice Act into Law. Obama says, “We will pass the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.” (Chicago Tribune, 3/4/07)

Obama: Employee Free Choice Act Gives Workers Majority Sign-Up. Obama said, “The Employee Free Choice Act will allow workers to form a union through majority sign-up and card-checks, and strengthen penalties for those employers who are in violation. The choice to organize should be left up to workers and workers alone. It should be their free choice.” (Obama Senate Press Release, 6/20/07)

Obama Says Choice to Form Unions Belongs to Workers. “The choice to organize should be left up to workers and workers alone. It should be their free choice.” At an AFSCME forum, Obama said, “In this country, we believe that if the majority of workers in a company want a union, they should get a union. We can do this.” (Take Back America Conference, 6/19/07; Obama Senate Press Release, 6/20/07)

Obama Says Workers Are Victimized by Current Law. Obama said workers are being victimized by current organizing laws. “The employers are abiding by the letter of the law…but it turns out we (still) have an overwhelming number of voters who would want to join a union….It would seem to me that we should change the law.” (Investor’s Business Daily, 3/30/07)

Obama Rallied With Resurrection Health Care Employees Promoting Passage of Employee Free Choice Act. Obama attended a rally of 2,000 hospital employees, union members and supporters promoting passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. “Keep marching for justice,” Obama told the Resurrection workers. “Where there is injustice anywhere, it suppresses justice everywhere. And organized labor has a history of bringing about justice.” The rally brought attention to the Resurrection workers’ campaign to form a union with AFSCME. (AFSCME 31, 3/5/07)

Obama Voted for Collective Bargaining Rights for Airport Screeners. Obama supported an amendment granting 43,000 airport screeners limited collective bargaining rights without the ability to strike or negotiate for higher pay. (S.Amdt. 316 to S.Amdt. 275 to S. 4, Vote 64, 3/7/07)

Obama Publicly Supports Workers Trying to Form Unions and Gain Contracts. In addition to his support for Resurrection staff , Obama has publicly supported workers in organizing and bargaining campaigns many times, from walking a picket line with Congress Hotel employees last year in Chicago to refusing to cross the picket line of striking television writers and urging the head of WMUR-TV in New Hampshire to negotiate a fair contract. (AFL-CIO Now blog, 11/26/07, 12/4/07, 12/28/07)”


President-elect Obama has expressed his support of labor by word, action and vote. He has declared labor’s right to form unions on the job and his support of the EFCA.

As Barack Obama prepares to enter the White House and officially begin his work as the president of the United States, it is, and will be, our job to follow-up on his commitment to labor, hold him to his word, and see to it that the Employee Free Choice Act becomes a reality.

Labor Matters

November 27, 2008

rooseveltIn the early 1980’s I was employed by what was then General Telephone & Electric, Co. In 2000 Bell Atlantic bought GTE and renamed itself Verizon.

For a short period of time before I resigned from GTE to go to graduate school, I was a member of the Communication Workers of America (CWA).

When I joined the union I really did not have a conviction about the value and work of CWA, or any other union for that matter. I joined simply to get ready for the union’s contract re-negotiations with the company.

Today, however, I have a greater understanding of and appreciation for the work of unions – their history in the United States, their role in the development of the country and the many benefits that labor unions have fought for and gained for American workers.

Texas, the state in which I live, is a right-to-work state. There are unions and union activity here, though, but there is no union representaion in the school district where I am employed. Many of the teachers in the district are members of various state teacher associations but these are more like societies for education professionals than unions. I personally have made several contacts with one particular teacher’s union about associate membership with it but have never received any return correspondence. If there was union representation in this district, I would be among the first to join.

I share all of this not only because I am very interested in labor, labor unions and working class issues, but because labor issues, including the Employee Free Choice Act, were campaign issues in this year’s presidential election.

Over the next week or two I intend to post several articles that pertain to labor, labor unions and the working class. The articles will address the benefits of unions for union members and workers in general, low union representation and labor density in the US, how to revive the labor movement, and the Employee Free Choice Act.

Book Wish List

November 26, 2008

Here are several books that I have either seen references to or have read reviews about that I would storage-books1like to have and read sometime.

The books pertain to class, economic, and labor issues.

  • Labor and Monopoly Capitalism: The Degradation of Work in the 20th Century – Harry Braverman
  • Rules for Radicals – Saul Alinsky
  • Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disiater Capitalism – Naomi Klein
  • Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice – Bill Fletcher and Fernando Gapasin
  • Subterranean Fire: A History of Working Class Radicalism in the United States – Sharon Smith
  • The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker – Steve Greenhouse
  • The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition – Upton Sinclair
  • The Working Class: America’s Best Kept Secret – Michael Zweig
  • Wealth and Inequality – Dollars & Sense (ed.)
  • What’s Class Got To Do With It?: American Society in the Twenty-First Century – Michael Zwieg

If you have read any of these books I would appreciate hearing from you and any comments you might like to make about them.

(Note: Saul Alinsky was the Chicago community organizer and labor activist that greatly influenced Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and their respective philosophies and approaches to community networking and political strategizing.)

Recession and Poverty

November 26, 2008

Yesterday, I received an email in my in-box from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (,  an organization that addresses local, state and federal fiscal policy, budgets and public programs that affect low- and middle-income families and individuals.

It was interesting to me that the email, which is about recession and poverty, came on the heels of my recent posts on poverty and homelessness.

The article, with an accompanying 15 page document entitled, “Recession Could Cause Large Increases In Poverty And Push Millions Into Deep Poverty”, by Sharon Parrott, begins:

Like previous recessions, the current downturn is likely to cause significant increases both in the number of Americans who are poor and the number living in “deep poverty,” with incomes below half of the poverty line. Because this recession is likely to be deep and the government safety net for very poor families who lack jobs has weakened significantly in recent years, increases in deep poverty in this recession are likely to be severe. There are a series of steps that federal and state policymakers could take to soften the recession’s harshest impacts and limit the extent of the increases in deep poverty, destitution, and homelessness.

Goldman Sachs projects that the unemployment rate will rise to 9 percent by the fourth quarter of 2009 (the firm has increased its forecast for the unemployment rate a couple of times in the last month). If this holds true and the increase in poverty relative to the increase in unemployment is within the range of the last three recessions, the number of poor Americans will rise by 7.5-10.3 million, the number of poor children will rise by 2.6-3.3 million, and the number of children in deep poverty will climb by 1.5-2.0 million.

Already there are signs that the recession is hitting low-income Americans hard. Between September 2006 and October 2008, the unemployment rate for workers age 25 and over who lack a high school diploma – a heavily low-income group – increased from 6.3 percent to 10.3 percent. Yet low-income workers who lose their jobs are less likely to qualify for unemployment benefits than higher-income workers, due ot eligibility rules in place in many states that deny benefits to individuals who worked part time or did not earn enough during a ‘base period’ that often excludes workers’ most recent employment.”

As the article continues, Ms. Parrott presents and discusses several options that are available to policymakers, that if implemented, could help “stave off large increases in severe poverty and hardship” that may be ours as the result of the recession. These options include:

  • A temporary increase in food stamp benefits
  • Additional rental assistance through the housing voucher program
  • Expand and increase the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) contingency funds
  • Expand and extend unemployment benefits (see post below)
  • Provide significant fiscal relief to states

The document has great tables and graphs that help us better understand the impact of recessions on the already poor and “deep poor,” including children, as well as on those who may become poor during this current recession that is projected to be severe and long in duration.

As we address the nation’s financial crisis in its early stages, we also need to be making plans to address the fall-out of the recession and the toll it is and is going to take on the poor among us.

To read CBPP’s report on recession and poverty, click here.

Educate, Participate, Advocate

November 24, 2008

ts21As I have been thinking and writing about poverty and homelessness, I have been asking myself, “What can we do to help end poverty and homelessness, or at least help lessen its effect and impact in the lives of people?

Individually and collectively, we can support and vote for legislation at the local, state, and federal levels that seek to bring relief to the poor and help them better themselves, legislation that addresses public services such as medical care, childcare, food and shelter needs, adult education, job training, and job creation.

On a more personal note, each of can be involved in three different ways:

Educate myself and others about poverty and homelesseness, their causes and effects on people and society, and the poverty and homeless population and needs in my/your community.

Participate in meeting needs by:

  • Being a friend
  • Working at a shelter and doing clerical work, serving food, washing dishes, sorting and distributing clothes, and providing transporation to those needing rides to job interviews
  • Joining a volunteer construction crew and helping repair houses and shelters
  • Offering your technical and professional skills to assist in job training programs in your community
  • Giving an unemployed worker a job if you are an employer
  • Working with the children of the poor and homeless and conducting after school programs, play days, and field trips
  • Contributing good, clean clothes and household and kitchen items to those on need

Advocate for the poor and homeless. As the NHC says,

Advocacy is critical to creating the systemic changes needed to end (poverty) homelessness. Advocacy means working with people experiencing (poverty) homelessness to bring about positive changes in policies and programs on the local, state, and federal levels. It means working with various sectors of the community (e.g., city/county officials, members of Congress, direct service providers, and the business community) to develop workable strategies for responding to (poverty) homelessness. It also means changing your language and behaviors in small ways that may contribute to larger changes in the way people experiencing (poverty) homelessness are seen and treated in our society.”

The number of the impoverished and homeless in our nation is great and their needs are immense and seemingly overwhelming. With the current economic situation in our nation and world, and the promise that it is going to get worse, the number of the poor and homeless is going to increase and the needs to meet will continue to grow in number and complexity.

So, it’s time for us to recognize the need and our responsibility to address it. It is time to educate ourselves and others about poverty and homelessness, to participate in meeting people’s needs, and to advocate for those in need.