Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren opened the AFL-CIO’s quadrennial convention in Los Angeles yesterday with a stirring tribute to the legacy of organized labor and a call to arms for the country’s progressive cause.
Speaking before about 5,000 cheering delegates at the L.A. Convention Center, Warren rolled out a list of issues near to labor’s heart. These included a raise in the minimum wage, tougher policing of Wall Street and government investment in infrastructure, jobs and education. She also called for transparency in the Obama administration’s ongoing secret negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.
She reserved some of her harshest words for what she called “the increasing corporate capture of the federal courts” and charged that Supreme Court Justices Alito and Roberts topped the list of the most pro-corporate and anti-consumer justices of the past 50 years.
The remarks were in sync with those of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka,
It’s not coincidental that at this very moment both the labor and racial justice movements stand at a crossroads in our nation’s consciousness. The people who fight to undo worker’s rights and assault unions are often the very same folks who craft laws and policies that allowed Trayvon Martin’s killer to walk free, that disenfranchise black voters and expand the use of racial profiling. Moreover, the public rhetoric of post-racialism is closely tied to the false promise of rampant corporate profiteering that casts the labor movement as an irrelevant “special interest.”
In 2013 the landscape of the national labor movement could charitably be described as “receding.” Last year the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a national union membership rate of 11.3 percent — down from 11.8 percent in 2011.The ever-declining number of union members in 2012 was 14.4 million, while in 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available,
It was announced over the weekend the bipartisan Senate “Gang of Eight” came to an agreement in principle on a major aspect of creating a commonsense immigration process that benefits all workers.
This agreement includes a new kind of worker visa program called the W-Visa, which will work for everyone, not just employers.
Here are five things you need to know about this new employer-based visa:
The agreement passed last night is a breakthrough in beginning to restore tax fairness and achieves some key goals of working families. It does not cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits. It raises more than $700 billion over 10 years, including interest savings, by ending the Bush income tax cuts for families making more than $450,000 a year. And in recognition of the continuing jobs crisis, it extends unemployment benefits for a year. A strong message from voters and a relentless echo from grassroots activists over the last six weeks helped get us this far.
But lawmakers should have listened even better. The deal extends the Bush tax cuts for families earning between $250,000 and $450,000 a year and makes permanent Bush estate tax cuts exempting estates valued up to $5 million from any tax. These concessions amount to over $200 billion in additional tax cuts for the 2 percent.
Analysis of swing-state voting in last week’s election demonstrates that the massive on-the-ground mobilization of union members and volunteers directly aided Obama and other pro-labor candidates in carrying Ohio, Nevada and Wisconsin. Unions prevailed in beating back anti-labor legislation in California and Wisconsin, and succeeded in three separate living wage campaigns.
On the national level, will labor remain vigilant and hold Obama and other newly elected Democrats accountable to workers? AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka vows that this will be the case.
In an interview with Salon, Trumka is quoted as saying:
“One thing that we’re doing different than we’ve ever done before … is we’re not dismantling our program today.” Instead, he promised, it will move “from electoral politics to advocacy, and from advocacy to accountability.”
As an example of the continuing momentum for labor advocates, Trumka points to Ohio, where “AFL-CIO members are 83 percent white.