News and Updates
Right to Organize
November 3, 2011
A festive atmosphere reigned in Oakland’s Civic Center Plaza late Wednesday afternoon as workers from the United Food and Commercial Workers union carried tray after steaming tray of burgers, beans and rice in for a mass feast.
The union was one of many under the Alameda Labor Council umbrella that staged the giant foodfest for thousands of Occupy Oakland demonstrators, who called for a citywide “general strike” Wednesday to protest economic conditions. The line wound around the corner.
For more of this story from the LA Times, click here.
October 28, 2011
Statement of Joe Chorpenning, President, Local 700 United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) On Interim Study Committee on Employment Issues
The Republican -backed recommendation in support of so-called right-to-work (r-t-w) legislation is a direct assault on Hoosier working families. The Republican proposal will lower wages, cost good jobs, reduce economic growth, and lead to higher taxes with fewer services.
The Republican majority on the study committee chose to ignore the overwhelming empirical evidence that r-t-w will drain billions of dollars from the Indiana economy with lost wages, eliminated health care and pension benefits, and more workplace deaths and injuries. At the same time, public services will face an increased burden of more families in poverty and a smaller tax base.
There was no empirical evidence presented to the study committee that r-t-w will result in a net increase in jobs. None! Not a single fact was presented or a single instance of an identified company declining to locate in Indiana because of the lack of a r-t-w law. In fact, Indiana already outperforms most r-t-w states in key measures such the unemployment rate and national rankings of states for business location.
R-t-w is an unwarranted government intrusion in the private sector. It restricts the ability of private parties—private sector workers and private sector companies—to negotiate mutually beneficial contracts. State government interference will not improve the collective bargaining process.
There is an economic crisis in our country. Poverty-rates and economic inequality are at record levels. Unemployment, loss of health and pension benefits, and home foreclosures threaten the middle class. From Montana to Mississippi, r-t-w states lead the nation with the highest poverty rates. Indiana should not go done the low wage path to increased poverty.
We need an honest economic plan with an emphasis on education, training and community development. Hoosiers are ready to move forward. The Republicans on the study committee are taking us backward.
(UFCW Local 700 represents 13,000 members working in neighborhood grocery stores and food processing plants across Indiana.)
October 20, 2011
The following is a statement from UFCW International President Joe Hansen:
I am proud to announce that the UFCW is endorsing President Obama’s reelection campaign because our members understand how much is at stake in this election. President Obama has stood up for the jobless, the uninsured, the middle class taxpayer, Medicare recipients, working women, and accountability from Wall Street. UFCW members are ready to mobilize for the president and to elect more leaders who will stand with him in Congress and statehouses across the country.
Cashiers and grocery workers are ready to stand up to elect leaders who will ensure good jobs stay in their communities and that their children can achieve their dream for a better life. Meatpackers and food processors are ready to stand up to elect leaders who will keep fighting to hold Wall Street gamblers accountable to the home owners and retirees who have invested in their future and deserve security and honesty from financial institutions.
Working families are struggling during this recession – a recession created by Bush-era tax breaks, lack of financial regulation and unnecessary military escalation. Turning our economy around is going to take a tremendous effort – an effort that must be led by a president who speaks for the 99 percent of Americans who clock into work every morning, instead of those who simply watch stock tickers all day.
UFCW members are energized because corporate-backed politicians at the federal and state level have launched an all-out assault on working people. President Obama is fighting back.
UFCW members have never stopped fighting back in statehouses and in their communities. They are ready to win the fight for the White House in 2012. The UFCW will be mobilizing, organizing and energizing our members, their friends and families to keep President Obama in the White House and to elect a Congress that works hard for hard working Americans. Ours is an enthusiastic choice to stand with President Obama as he fights against political opposition that seeks to enrich a select few at the expense of millions of regular Americans.
October 19, 2011
UFCW Local 75 Members Join Teamsters, Public Employees, and Faith Leaders in Toledo and Cincinnati to Rally for Good Jobs
On October 11, nearly 800 UFCW Local 75 members turned out for a joint rally with Teamsters Joint Council 26. Then, on October 12 in Toledo, almost 300 Local 75 members turned out, joining members of Teamsters Local 20.
Local 75 members took the time to come out for these rallies because they know how important it is to fight for good jobs in their neighborhoods – and that includes fighting to defeat Issue 2, Ohio’s harmful anti-worker law. Both rallies featured local firefighters and faith leaders, and Local 75 was proud to be joined by Teamsters International President James P. Hoffa.
“Good jobs grow our communities. Good jobs allow parents to put dinner on the table, make a home, and to send their kids to college,” said UFCW Local 75 President Lennie Wyatt. “Politicians shouldn’t tell us that good jobs are destroying our neighborhoods; good jobs are what make safe, vibrant communities for all of us.” To see more photos from the rallies, visit Local 75 on Facebook.
October 19, 2011
“The protest that began as Occupy Wall Street has now bloomed into a mass movement spanning more than 300 cities nationwide. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest corporate greed and demand good jobs now.
“The movement is spreading like wildfire, with Americans standing up for economic justice across the nation. This is a movement started by ordinary Americans, fed-up with the growing inequality in this country – people who simply want good jobs and a shot at the American Dream. The UFCW shares that vision for America.
“The people “occupying” cities across the country are workers, students, and the unemployed. They are our friends and relatives, our neighbors and co-workers. They are fighting for the same things we are: good jobs, fairness, and an end to corporate greed and attacks on workers. And it’s part of a larger movement, one that started earlier this year as workers fought back against corporate greed and right-wing politicians in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and across the nation.
“In Wisconsin, hundreds of thousands of workers and outraged community members stormed the capitol in Madison after anti-worker politicians rammed through legislation attacking the rights of workers. In Ohio, over a million signatures were gathered to repeal Ohio’s SB 5. Corporate America has launched an unprecedented attack on our jobs and our rights, but the other 99% aren’t just rolling over.
“So exactly what do we – the 99% – have to be so angry about? To begin with: worker productivity has been rising over the past decade, but wages have remained stagnant while the cost of health care has skyrocketed, leaving the average American struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the gap between the richest 1% and the rest of us has gotten even wider.
“What we have seen over the past few weeks is more and more ordinary Americans standing up and demanding their share of the success that’s being hoarded by the wealthiest 1% of the country. UFCW has been encouraging its members and local unions to join Occupy actions in their communities. We are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these brave Americans as they fight to make America a better, more just nation.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream.
October 16, 2011
The fight to repeal SB 5 is heating up.
Voter registration continues until October 11. And – between now and October 11, you can register to vote AND vote early at the same time. Please take advantage of this opportunity. You can vote in person or by mail. Don’t wait … vote NO on Issue 2 TODAY! Click here for more information.
ISSUE 2 is UNSAFE, UNFAIR and HURTS Ohio’s Middle Class Families
- Issue 2 puts all our families’ safety at risk. It makes it harder for emergency responders, police and firefighters to negotiate for critical safety equipment and training that protects us all.
- Issue 2 will make our nursing shortage worse. It makes it illegal for nurses, hospital and clinic workers to demand reasonable and safe staffing levels—so nurses will juggle more patients while their salaries and benefits are cut
- The same Columbus politicians who claim “we all must sacrifice” left themselves a gaping loophole in the law, making a special exception for politicians and upper management.
- Ohio’s public employees have already sacrificed—saving Ohio taxpayers more than $250 million through pay freezes and unpaid furlough days, and an additional $100 million in increased health care contributions from employees.
- It’s not Ohio values to let firefighters, police and teachers lose their rights and see wages and benefits gutted, while insiders, politicians and people at the top sacrifice nothing.
HURTS US ALL
- Instead of creating jobs to fix our economy, politicians like Gov. Kasich gave away hundreds of millions in corporate tax breaks—draining our state budget without creating jobs—and passed flawed laws like SB 5 to pay back their campaign donors.
- Teachers, nurses, firefighters are not the reason Ohio’s budget is in trouble. Big corporations, their high-paid lobbyists and the politicians they fund are blaming middle class Ohioans for a problem they caused.
Issue 2: Another example of the politicians turning their backs on the middle class.
October 6, 2011
There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear, but we may, at long last, be seeing the rise of a popular movement that, unlike the Tea Party, is angry at the right people.
When the Occupy Wall Street protests began three weeks ago, most news organizations were derisive if they deigned to mention the events at all. For example, nine days into the protests, National Public Radio had provided no coverage whatsoever.
It is, therefore, a testament to the passion of those involved that the protests not only continued but grew, eventually becoming too big to ignore. With unions and a growing number of Democrats now expressing at least qualified support for the protesters, Occupy Wall Street is starting to look like an important event that might even eventually be seen as a turning point.
What can we say about the protests? First things first: The protesters’ indictment of Wall Street as a destructive force, economically and politically, is completely right.
A weary cynicism, a belief that justice will never get served, has taken over much of our political debate — and, yes, I myself have sometimes succumbed. In the process, it has been easy to forget just how outrageous the story of our economic woes really is. So, in case you’ve forgotten, it was a play in three acts.
In the first act, bankers took advantage of deregulation to run wild (and pay themselves princely sums), inflating huge bubbles through reckless lending. In the second act, the bubbles burst — but bankers were bailed out by taxpayers, with remarkably few strings attached, even as ordinary workers continued to suffer the consequences of the bankers’ sins. And, in the third act, bankers showed their gratitude by turning on the people who had saved them, throwing their support — and the wealth they still possessed thanks to the bailouts — behind politicians who promised to keep their taxes low and dismantle the mild regulations erected in the aftermath of the crisis.
Given this history, how can you not applaud the protesters for finally taking a stand?
Now, it’s true that some of the protesters are oddly dressed or have silly-sounding slogans, which is inevitable given the open character of the events. But so what? I, at least, am a lot more offended by the sight of exquisitely tailored plutocrats, who owe their continued wealth to government guarantees, whining that President Obama has said mean things about them than I am by the sight of ragtag young people denouncing consumerism.
Bear in mind, too, that experience has made it painfully clear that men in suits not only don’t have any monopoly on wisdom, they have very little wisdom to offer. When talking heads on, say, CNBC mock the protesters as unserious, remember how many serious people assured us that there was no housing bubble, that Alan Greenspan was an oracle and that budget deficits would send interest rates soaring.
A better critique of the protests is the absence of specific policy demands. It would probably be helpful if protesters could agree on at least a few main policy changes they would like to see enacted. But we shouldn’t make too much of the lack of specifics. It’s clear what kinds of things the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators want, and it’s really the job of policy intellectuals and politicians to fill in the details.
Rich Yeselson, a veteran organizer and historian of social movements, has suggested that debt relief for working Americans become a central plank of the protests. I’ll second that, because such relief, in addition to serving economic justice, could do a lot to help the economy recover. I’d suggest that protesters also demand infrastructure investment — not more tax cuts — to help create jobs. Neither proposal is going to become law in the current political climate, but the whole point of the protests is to change that political climate.
And there are real political opportunities here. Not, of course, for today’s Republicans, who instinctively side with those Theodore Roosevelt-dubbed “malefactors of great wealth.” Mitt Romney, for example — who, by the way, probably pays less of his income in taxes than many middle-class Americans — was quick to condemn the protests as “class warfare.”
But Democrats are being given what amounts to a second chance. The Obama administration squandered a lot of potential good will early on by adopting banker-friendly policies that failed to deliver economic recovery even as bankers repaid the favor by turning on the president. Now, however, Mr. Obama’s party has a chance for a do-over. All it has to do is take these protests as seriously as they deserve to be taken.
And if the protests goad some politicians into doing what they should have been doing all along, Occupy Wall Street will have been a smashing success.
August 31, 2011
Let’s remember how this all started. Scott Walker and GOP senators tried to ram through a Budget Repair Bill that reversed 50 years of collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin – despite falsely claiming to have campaigned on the proposal – and 14 Democratic senators fled to Illinois to prevent a quorum, and thus a vote on the bill.
A very public standoff ensued. Walker and Republicans considered and tried everything under the sun to get Democrats back to Wisconsin to hold a vote on their union-busting legislation. They threatened to arrest. They passed legislation levying fines. They tried to lure them back by cutting off direct deposit and making them pick up paychecks in person. They denied Democratic staffers parking and copying privileges and considered even pettier moves, arguing “we have to make it hurt for their staff as well.”
When none of Walker and the GOP’s strong-armed tactics worked, they resorted to their ultimate escalation – filing to hold recall elections against the eight eligible Democratic senators in Illinois. Many forget the “Wisconsin Recall Wars” of these last six months were, in fact, initiated by Republicans. Democrats responded in-kind, threatening recall of Republicans backing Walker’s anti-worker bill.
Now that the recall fight Republicans initiated is over, let’s step back and take a sober look at the results. While we are surely disappointed to have fallen just short of a 3rd GOP pickup that would have shifted control of the state Senate, Republicans have suffered an enormous political toll for their attacks on working families. In addition, the results suggest a very favorable outlook for Wisconsin Democrats moving forward. Most notable:
- Organizationally, Republicans were able to get just 3 of the 8 Democrats they threatened with recalls on the ballot. Despite starting later, Democrats put 6 of 8 targeted Republicans on the ballot in heavily-GOP turf – with record signature totals, collected in record time.
- In the 3 districts Republicans were able to generate recall elections versus Democrats, all considered swing districts in Presidential years, incumbent Democrats mopped the floor with their GOP challengers. The closest race appears to be Kim Simac, and Democratic performance improved on Walker 2010 numbers by at least 10 points.
- In the 6 GOP-held recall seats, Democrats went into heavily-Republican turf and ousted 2 entrenched GOP incumbents. Our side came up just short of a 3rd pickup that would have flipped the chamber, narrowly losing a district in which a Democrat hasn’t won since 1896.
- Democratic challengers gained in every single Republican district over Walker’s performance in 2010, averaging a 4% boost in each, and netting more than 25,000 votes statewide in districts carried comfortably by Walker in 2010.
- Scott Walker’s working majority in the Wisconsin state Senate is over. The recall fight picked by Wisconsin Republicans boomeranged on them – fundamentally altering the make-up of the state Senate from a 19-14 Republican majority to a 17-16 advantage. Most notably, the chamber now boasts a pro-worker majority that would not have passed the Budget Repair Bill that touched off this entire fight, given Republican Dale Schultz’s firm opposition to the bill.
- Scott Walker has paid a huge political price for his power overreach. Over the last 6 months, his polling numbers have tanked, both overall and amongst independents. Walker has consistently polled underwater by double-digit margins, eclipsing the 20-point net negative threshold on more than one occasion. We Are Wisconsin’s internal polling has consistently shown Walker is upside down in every single recall district, including by double digits in GOP-held districts, through our final tracking ending this weekend.
The message from the Wisconsin recall fight Republicans picked in February is loud and clear: Attacking the interests of middle class working families and the politicians who defend them carries a hefty political price, and the voices of workers will not be silenced.
August 9, 2011
Six months after protests and counter-protests briefly made Madison the epicenter of American politics, Tuesday is a day of reckoning for six Republican state senators in Wisconsin.
The legislators represent the first targets of Democrats outraged by Gov. Scott Walker’s push to curtail the collective bargaining rights of most state employees. Democrats need to win at least three of the six races in order to take control of the narrowly divided chamber. If they do, Democrats will almost certainly claim momentum toward their budding efforts to recall Walker.
But even if Democrats do wrestle control of the state Senate away, they could just as easily lose the chamber right back a week later, when two more Democratic state senators face their own recalls, months after they fled the state in an attempt to block Walker’s legislative push.
“We’re in uncharted waters here,” said Bill McCoshen, a Republican lobbyist and former Tommy Thompson strategist. “We’ve never had more than one person recalled in the history of the state, and now we’ve got six races going on the same day. It’s extraordinary.”
Rocking the boat has been millions of dollars in TV spending that is typical of federal races in the national spotlight, but unheard of for a state-level legislative contest. Political media trackers estimate more than $30 million has been spent on the recalls, and ad buy tracking data obtained by POLITICO indicates that the spending has been roughly divided evenly between Democratic- and Republican-leaning groups and their candidates.
“It’s an unprecedented amount of money that’s being spent here,” McCoshen said.
In addition to more than $4 million spent by the candidates themselves, more than 10 outside groups have showered the local airwaves with TV money, including the conservative Club for Growth, Democratic-leaning We Are Wisconsin, the Republican State Leadership Committee and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
“There’s never been a set of state legislative contests that have generated the national interest this has,” said prominent Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who is working for the state Senate Democrats. “Wisconsin’s really been a focal point for looking at and reacting to the extremism of this new Republican Party that’s been taken over by the far right.”
Each side is hoping its turnout operation will carry it over the top.
“We’re bracing for massive turnout,” GOP state Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald told POLITICO. “Some clerks are estimating presidential-level turnout, which is amazing.”
Strategists on both sides caution that polling can only be so precise for a rare set of recall elections in which voter turnout is almost impossible to predict.
“Turnout is the whole deal,” Mellman said. “No one knows for certain and nobody knows whether these polls are remotely accurate because you’ve never had six people up for election in the middle of August in the history of the state. So it will all come down to turnout. whichever side does a better job of identifying, motivating, and getting its voters out to the polls will win.”
“Many people have stopped paying attention to the fliers and the ads on TV. It’s too much,” said state Rep. Sandy Pasch, the Democratic challenger taking on Darling.
And if Democrats win the chamber Tuesday, both sides are bracing for an astronomical spending binge ahead of next Tuesday, when Democratic state Sens. Jim Holperin and Robert Wirch face their own recalls.
“We’ve already seen $30 million here. If the chamber flips on Tuesday, we could see another $4 million just spent in that next week. “McCoshen said. “Anyone who says they know what will happen is simply not telling the truth, because there’s just no precedent for this.”
But despite the volatility of this new political ground, there is surprisingly widespread agreement among operatives on both sides about the lay of the land just hours before polls open:
— La Crosse state Sen. Dan Kapanke is the Republican most likely heading toward defeat. His Democratic challenger, state Rep. Jennifer Shilling, holds healthy leads in both public and private polls. Kapanke represents an increasingly blue district in southwest Wisconsin, lost a congressional bid last fall and has long been pegged as the most vulnerable recall target.
— State Sens. Robert Cowles and Sheila Harsdorf are the Republicans most likely to survive. Cowles represents a GOP-friendly Green Bay district that went handily for state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser in the April election that turned into a warm-up for both parties’ political machines. Harsdorf, of the Milwaukee-area River Falls village, benefited from significant early spending by the Club for Growth, which quickly defined Democratic challenger Shelly Moore as a hardcore union activist.
— State Sens. Alberta Darling, Luther Olsen and Randy Hopper occupy the swing seats that will ultimately decide which party controls the chamber. Hopper was considered a goner when reports surfaced that he cheated on his wife with a staffer, but he has since made up some ground in the GOP-leaning district. Darling’s suburban Milwaukee 8th District, where the candidates and outside groups have broken spending records, and Olsen’s 14th District, where the incumbent has never drawn a serious challenge, are the fiercest battlegrounds. “This thing will be won or lost in 8 or 14,” RNC political director Rick Wiley told POLITICO.
August 8, 2011
After months of partisan turmoil solved not all that much in Washington, the political world will turn its attention to Wisconsin this week in search of some clarity.
The Badger State will hold six recall elections for state senators on Tuesday, the final battle of a war between Gov. Scott Walker (R) and organized labor that began months ago. Walker’s decision to strip public-sector unions of their collective-bargaining right set off a national firestorm — with the labor movement promising retribution for legislators who voted in favor of the proposal.
Democrats hope Tuesday will provide that retribution as they seek to retake control of the state Senate and give the party a bit of a boost nationally.
“I think it’s a chance to disrupt the overall news arc, which is horrific particularly for [President] Obama,” said Democratic pollster Paul Maslin, who is based in Madison, Wis.
Democrats have targeted six Republican state senators for recall, while two of their own face recall fights. Republicans have a 19-14 majority in the chamber, so to seize control, Democrats must win three GOP-held seats and lose none of their own.
Most analysts consider Sen. Dan Kapanke (R) the most endangered, because his district gave Obama more than 60 percent of the vote in 2008. Many Democrats are counting that seat as a pickup. Sen. Randy Hopper (R) also faces a tough race in a Democratic-leaning district. Sens. Luther Olsen and Alberta Darling, both Republicans, are vulnerable, too, and their races are likely to decide whether Democrats get to the majority on Tuesday.
Observers on both sides acknowledge the possibility that Democrats could win the majority by a seat only to lose it again on Aug. 16, when Sen. Jim Holperin — one of the two Democrats targeted by Republicans — faces his recall election.
The practical importance of controlling the state Senate is far outweighed by the symbolic message-sending that both parties hope to do in the balloting.
Tens of millions of dollars have poured into the state — some experts estimate that more than $30 million has been spent — as every interest group on either side of the aisle is trying to make its voice heard before the vote.
Democrats — and especially organized labor groups — have cast the Wisconsin recall elections as a sign that they retain significant political power and are more than willing to fight when they think Republicans have overreached.
“Wisconsin is something of a referendum on the uncompromising extremism of the Republicans and the tea party,” said pollster Mark Mellman, who is involved in Democratic efforts in the state. “This is the first time the GOP will find out whether there is an electoral price to pay for their adamant refusal to compromise on their extreme agenda.”
Democrats hope to use a state Senate takeover to build momentum for an effort to recall the governor. Walker, who was elected last year, must serve for one year before he is eligible to be recalled.
Republicans, who acknowledge they are playing defense in Wisconsin, consider anything short of losing the state Senate majority a victory — and a sign that national Democratic groups are out of touch with average voters.
Even if they do come up short, Republican State Leadership Committee President Chris Jankowski, who is monitoring the Wisconsin races, insists that the impact would be isolated.
“On a state level across the country, there will be little effect at this point,” he said. “Most states are done or almost done with their budgets. The 2011 state legislative elections look a lot like the 2010 elections so far: net gains [for Republicans] in chambers picked up and net gains in seats.”
Although the spin game about “what it all means” is well underway, strategists for both parties acknowledge that they are in uncharted water when it comes to who will vote — given the unprecedented nature of the elections and the fact that they come in the middle of many people’s summer vacations.
“Anyone who makes any prediction on Tuesday’s result with extreme confidence needs to be sat down and have the concept of knowns and unknowns explained to them,” said Kelly Steele, spokesman for We Are Wisconsin, a Democratic-aligned group.