Thursday, November 30, 2017

Constitutional Convention

Yes, we, today, are smart enough to rethink our Constitution and should not be afraid to do it. To change our Constitution, 34 states must vote to hold a national convention. To amend the Constitution, it takes 38 of the states to ratify the changes. There are many things that should be looked at—good or bad. The bad things include a long obsession by the conservative movement for a so-called balanced budget amendment. This would make the government powerless to borrow its way out of a recession. The government would have to cut spending at the very moment it was most needed. The cuts would most likely be made to benefit programs instead of raising taxes on the wealthiest and eliminating the inheritance tax. The effort to change the Constitution is being funded by the Koch brothers, Coors, DeVos and the Walton families, who produce op-eds and other positive-sounding propaganda that touts the need for such a convention. At this time, 29 states have voted to a hold a Constitutional convention. Only five states are needed to reach the magic number of 34. Now what might be very good for the 99 percent maybe the abolition of the Electoral College, which was originally designed to bolster the power of the slaveholders. The Electoral College now just acts like a political life support for the outdated racial ideological descendants. The convention might also come to an agreement on term limits for U.S. Supreme Court justices. Why should a president be able to appoint justices who shape the life of a nation to a particular political ideology for many years after they have left the bench? Some think an eighteen-year-nonreturnable term, which would see a new justice every other year. Using term limits could restore some sanity to the U.S. Supreme Court delation process. Other issues could be raised, such as the right to healthcare, education, housing, the right to vote, minimum wage based on cost of living, and implementing a universal basic income. To have people selected for the convention, we could use a lottery to select a few hundred Americans. This is just some things to think about. It has been 156 years since the Constitution was adopted. Maybe we need to reboot and tune up some things.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Where Is This Country Headed?

Today, we are still fighting for a living wage at a minimum of $15 an hour, when, in fact, it should be $24 an hour had it kept up with inflation. This fight has been going on for a very long time, and nothing seems to change. In 1905—a 112 years ago—the International Workers of the World (IWW also known as the Wobblies) held a convention in Chicago to lay the groundwork for one big union. IWW members were the “shock troops” of labor. Their prime purpose was to make the first breaches in the entrenched industry. They fought and won the free speech fights so they could continue to educate the workers on what should be their right to a safe work place, fair pay and reasonable work hours. Some died exercising this right. These Wobblies traveled the country in search of work, as timber fallers or on farms (they were known as fruit tramps). Many worked to unionize the textile workers, long before the New York Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911. Here in 2017, we are still fighting for full-time work, along with pensions and healthcare. Retirees, and people forced into retirement, who are finding their pensions or Social Security isn’t keeping up with the cost of living (inflation) are now in the same position as the old IWW workers. The IWW used to hop railroad cars or walk the country in search of work. Today, people, if they’re lucky, travel the country in travel trailers, motorhomes, vans or tents. These people are called “workampers” (pronounced work campers), “van dwellers,” or “rubber tramps.” Noticed how these people, who are trying to make a living are tagged with condescending descriptions? They chase short-term gig jobs at farms, but mostly at warehouses, like Amazon, which hire workampers through temp agencies, especially during the holiday season, mainly Christmas. This has been described by workers as backbreaking work with no safety nets in place, like workers’ compensation or healthcare. These workers are mostly white (which explains the angry white voters, political pundits talk about—voters so angry with the establishment they vote against their own self-interests). Many of these workers are still lucky to have some kind of roof over their heads, food and can make enough money for fuel to get to the next gig job. The sad thing is, there is no end in sight in the search for the next gig job, except maybe death. There is no retirement, no healthcare, no savings, and when their vehicle breaks down, there’s no money to fix it or if their body becomes sick, there’s no money for a cure. Is this what millions of our workers get to look forward to? What happened? Did we vote the wrong people into office? Did we help break the labor unions by voting these people in? Did workers experience some bad luck along the way? Did we get sick or did we make some bad decisions in our life? Or was it some or all of the above? Doesn’t really matter, we are human beings and this is still the richest country in the world were it not for the greedy and selfish who have forced us into these conditions yet again. Living conditions could be and should be so much better, but it’s up to us. We have to run for office at any level, or listen to, research and question the candidates and vote otherwise we will continue this path towards the despair that Charles Dickens wrote about in 1838 in Oliver Twist or in 1843 in A Christmas Carol—we’re better than to allow this.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Time to Get Angry

How much money do people really need? Is it decided by how you fit into the Have Nots, Have Littles and Used to Have or the Have More and Have Everything? If you are one of the Have Everything, you might think you need Balenciaga’s Triple S sneakers for $850. A pair or three houses, at least a jet and yacht and a fleet of cars for a start. Then there is the Have Mores. They are making between $150,000 to $2 million a year at least. They can send their children to a private school, ensuring they get a better education and can make as much or more money than their parents. And they, too, will be able to afford big houses, lots of cars, nice vacations, healthcare, and a good retirement. What will your children have? Then there are the Used to Haves, who are the old bitter people who voted for Trump. They once had the More, but have now lost it and now blame the government, but take all they can get. Then there are the Have Littles, who are like children with their faces up against the candy store window. They can see what they want and just about smell it, but they cannot touch it or afford it with their minimum wage jobs with probably only 30 hours a week or less with no healthcare, pensions or unions, but they are the backbone of every business and corporation, and make those businesses and corporations a lot of money from their labor. Then we have the Have Nots. These are the people who were just one or two pay checks away from the streets or one large event, like a medical emergency or accident and they start the spiral down, losing their living accommodations. Sooner or later they may turn to drugs and eventually have a run-in with the law. Why is this? Is it that the money is hoarded by the people at the top and not put to good use? Like starting a company with living-wage jobs and helping the workers get ahead, the workers who made the owners wealthy from their labor. Is it because of the wage inequality and lack of a living wage, like $15 to $24 an hour, which could take people off the streets, lessen crime and maybe even go to night school to better themselves. Money is the tool of capitalism. For it to work, capitalism is driven by about 77 percent of spending. In order for money, which is just a tool to work, the oligarchies must not sit on it and just play the stock market, spend it buying back shares of corporations and paying millions to top CEOs. If they keep doing what they are doing the system will fail and with it all democracies, and countries, not just the U.S., for their policy is eating their seed corn. Trump's tax plan is a gift to the wealthy and we get to pay for it in cuts to programs many of us depend on. A lot of people took advantage of the Afford Care Act. Gone. Tax breaks for adopting children, having children, special needs children and buying a home. Dust. They're coming after Medicare and Social Security. They're behavior and greed is not going to stop until we make them. It's time to get angry and fight back. First at the ballot box, and if necessary in the streets. In order for the workers to win, we must understand how things work. Then vote for the right people and support them and ensure they stay on track. At this time, the Have Nots are growing in numbers fast and when you are at the bottom, you have nothing to lose—and hungry people can get nasty. This is might be the time for universal basic income to help even things out.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Gilded Age Redux

The dreams the old International Workers of the World (IWW) could very well come true because of the capitalist attacks against workers worldwide. At this time, the French workers’ unions are under attack by President Macron, who is out to destroy unions. Then there is the Spanish government’s all out efforts to prevent the referendum on Catalonia’s independence, but 2.3 million people braved law enforcement attacks and voted for independence. The fight was lead by dockworkers, firefighters, public workers and most of all labor groups. Then we have the Kurds, who are fighting for an independent Kurdistan. The Kurds are 30 million strong and have no country to call home. The Kurdish struggle shows that it is possible to stand up to oppression and win. Poland has been slipping into an authoritarian rule for the last two years as the country’s government is cracking down and restricting people’s human rights and ignoring the European Union’s insistence that the government refrain from what it is doing to the people of Poland. This is what the capitalist rulers and Washington, D.C. fear the most that the Kurdish struggle will inspire workers and farmers to fight for their own interests in Puerto Rico and all other colonial rule. But the workers and their unions all over the world, like the UK, Russia, Ukraine, all of South America, and Canada are fighting the capitalist oligarchs, who want to do away with the minimum wage and unions, but with the Internet all workers now can exchange tactics and strategies, and even help with money. This is something the old IWW could only have dreamt of this in the 1900s. Now is the right time to stand up for a living wage, pensions, free education, and healthcare—and also good unions. Today, the U.S., especially under the Trump administration, has returned to the Gilded Age, the period between 1870 and 1900, when capitalists’ greed, rampant corruption, conspicuous consumption by the wealthy and illegal corporate dealings ruled the country. Mark Twain coined the term, “Gilded Age” to reflect that on the surface everything looked glittery and prosperous, but underneath the surface, corruption, scandal and greed was hurting people, if not killing them. Sound familiar?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

ALEC Using States to Block Wage Hikes

The fight for a living wage continues. Workers are asking for a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour, but in reality it should be $24 an hour had it kept up with inflation and CEOs exorbitant incomes. When workers finally get their local leaders to support a better wage, they then have to deal with a handful of states with conservative lawmakers who get ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) to write wage preemption laws to block increasing the minimum wage. There are now four states with such laws. This template for states to block cities and counties from raising the minimum wage in their own communities is taking the voice and vote away from low-wage workers. In order to fight back, there needs to be unions and local lawmakers who should be incensed by what the states are doing in supporting the large food and retail corporations. The corporations don’t leave their profits in these cities, counties and even states. They just take from our coffers by forcing their employees to use government assistance programs and leave in their wake wage pollution. If there was a good living wage in these cities and counties, there would be more tax payer support systems. We need to elect good, honest people to the state government, who will support a living wage and people who will support workers at the local level of government and the workers need to keep up the fight and ask for union help. The unions can hold education classes on how to get this done and maybe even run the organizing of local leaders who will—in the long run—benefit by receiving jobs that pay a living wage, which keeps children in housing and in school. It is cheaper to pay up front than to try to clean up afterward when families are destroyed by drugs, divorce, crime and homelessness.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Support Our Canadian Union Brothers

Capitalist bosses standing on the shoulders of workers and pushing them into the quicksand of profits is just greed at the expense of the workers, which is just what is happening at to train engineer Tom Harding and train controller Richard Labrie in Canada. Both are union members of the United Steelworkers. They are being framed by their bosses in Ottawa for following orders, and when those orders resulted in a derailment, dumping 1.5 million gallons of crude oil, causing an explosion and fire that destroyed the town of Sherbrooke, Canada. Many in this area consider Harding a hero for risking his life to aid firefighters in moving a number of unexploded tankers thereby limiting the devastation. Transport Canada’s Minister of Transportation Denis Lebel ruled in 2012 that a train crew could be cut to just one engineer to increase profits while ignoring health and safety rules. Harding wanted to engage the breaks on each of the cars, he was overruled and told to engage them on the locomotive, but the air leaked out and there were no brakes to prevent the wreckage that ensued. Now the two men are facing 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death and life in prison. If you’re unable to attend the trial in Sherbrooke, Canada, you can show your solidarity by sending a message of support to Harding and Lebrie to USW Local 1976/Section locale 1976, 2360 De Lasalle, Suite 202, Montreal, OC Canada H1V 2L1, with copies to Thomas Walsh, Attorney, 165 Rue Wellington, N., Suite 310, Sherbrooke, QC Canada J1H 5B9 or email him at: thomaspwalsh@hotmail.com.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Unions & Dems: Reclaim Rural America

Rural America was seceded to the GOP by the Democrats, likewise the labor trades seceded the rural counties to non-union shops. In the old days, unions, in these rural areas, got bigger and bigger until they decided they could leave the rural counties' side, and compete in the large cities, foregoing smaller populated counties, which used to be union sanctuaries. This type of strategy is not working. Retreating never works. It is just like going into a fort or a castle, which sooner or later, the fortifications will be breached. All that is happening is just buying time and the Democrats and labor unions have both run out of time. It is time now for an offense and come out of the forts and castles and take back rural America. They, the labor and Democrats, should work together with all their resources combined, such as money and people power. If used wisely, they both could become relevant again in our rural countrysides. By attending all public meetings, using the time before each meeting to promote whatever is relevant to the Democrats or labor at the time, such as healthcare, $15 minimum wage, jobs, union support on jobs, and supporting people who we have elected. Sometimes, these board members need to be reminded not only who they work for, but also where the tax base comes from. The 99 percent have to retake their state’s government and local local government agencies, such as water boards, fire boards, school boards, city and county boards, and then take these people to the state government, and then take the best of these and run the for federal government positions. This is the strategy the Koch brothers and the Tea Party used and were successful at it. If we do this, only then will the 99 percent start to have their basic needs fulfilled in things like a living wage, free education, right to join a union, free healthcare, good pensions, or UBI (universal basic income) since workers are being replaced by automation and robots. UBI can be achieved by charging rent for our Commons. We need our elected people to deal with climate change and stop going to war in a pathetic attempt to look macho and make their corporate cronies lots of money. This all can be done if we have the will and elect the right people.