Wednesday, December 24, 2008

No Benefit Cuts to Auto Workers

The American auto industry problems are not due to the wages, health benefits and pensions that Union auto workers have fought for through the UAW for many years. These benefits helped to create a broad, diversified, and healthy working and middle class. They enabled millions of workers to raise and educate their families, unlike the benefits provided by the newer foreign-owned companies.

To enable the American-owned manufacturers to compete in the future, government assistance must include two major items:
1. The government should take over the automakers future payments to the auto industry health benefit plans, with no cuts in benefits or increased cost to present and future autoworkers. The plan should be governed by a board made up of UAW and government representatives. This would also be a big step towards health care for all.
In addition, foreign-owned automakers must immediately be required to either provide equivalent health benefits to their workers, or to pay into the UAW-sponsored fund to provide benefits for their workers. The workers in the home countries of these automakers receive health benefits through social insurance paid for by general tax revenues; their U.S workers should have the same benefits!

2. The pension liability of the U.S auto companies should also be taken over by a government assisted fund, again governed by a joint Union and government Board.

There must be no cuts in benefits earned by these workers.

-- Bill Morico

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Fight of Our Life to Change the Direction of Our Country

by Dorothy Johnson

NEW HAVEN, CT – There was much to celebrate at the 89th anniversary of the Communist Party USA in New Haven on December 7. Our allies, unionists and friends, joined together this year to work diligently to elect our first African American president Barack Obama. Folks in the pavement in Bridgeport Connecticut to defeat the last standing Congressional Republican Chris Shays . Newly elected Jim Himes is vowing to take the people’s agenda forward.

There is a movement in our country that America can get back on the right track. This even will never be forgotten.

The Amistad awards were given to three outstanding fighters for their resounding struggle for justice.

Juan Hernandez, assistant district leader SEIU 32 BJ Justice for Janitors has been involved in not only political campaigns but helped organize the first successful union drive in Fairfield County and New Haven County for janitors. This organizing drive helped increase wages and improve health benefits. Juan knows that he must continue to be the leader that he is so that we can get the Employee Free Choice Act and good immigrant rights.

Kathy Jackson is president of the Connecticut chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, vice president of the Hartford Labor Council, member of Voting Rights Act committee. Kathy’s dedication and outspoken manner has helped others to join the movement in our struggles for equal rights for all. She was very appreciative that she was even thought of for this award. Her years of work speaks for itself.

Al Marder a leader and activist has been in the forefront for decades. Al was an organizer for the Communist Party in 1952. Where there was injustice you would always find Al. He organized with others the City of New Haven Peace Commission in the late 80's. He has served on the United Nations International Association of Peace Messenger Cities. One of his projects was to reproduce the vessel the Amistad in 1994. It is hard to find Al who keeps on keeping on. You might get tired but Al won’t let you stop. It’s forward we go.

Our guests were entertained with music by the Rabble Rousers who would get you clapping and stopping to the beat of the music. One of the musicians Bill Collins spent time in Virginia prior to the election organizing and playing music for the union members in Virginia.

This year’s greeting book is dedicated to the memory of Merrilee Milstein, a friend, wife and mother. Most people remember her from her 1199 days as an organizer. She was a person who would take you by the hand and help you to the finish line. Merrilee’s presence is till with us when we go through these tough organizing drives. Just remember the courage and efforts of a woman who helped change the labor movement.

Now that the election is over and people prepare for a great inauguration we must keep the unity that we have in 2008 and work and push the people’s agenda to the White House. The ball is in our court.

This year’s event and greeting book put Connecticut over the top in the People’s Weekly World fund drive and is help cover the cost of the papers that are distributed on a weekly basis all year round.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Goodwin Workers Get Support

A spirited rally of 200 in support of the workers at the Goodwin Hotel in Hartford took place on Wednesday. CT AFL-CIO president John Olson, Mayor Perez and Councilman Larry Deutsch
all supported the workers demands. Goodwin has been open since 1989 and will close Dec. 31, this year. The demands are for: 1. Severance Pay 2. Health Care 3. Recall Rights. The march went around the Goodwin Hotel. The Mayor also pledged to look for other investors and to fight to insure that the new hotel is union and the recalls are honored.

The lesson from the sit-in by Republic Window workers in Chicago is that with united action the demands of the workers can be won. Hopefully in this case jobs will be retained with a new owner. These workers deserve full support.

-- Tom Connolly

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Springtime of Possibility

We were all inspired by the wonderful anniversary event Sunday, Dec 7 hosted by
the People's Weekly World in Connecticut where the Amistad Award was presented
to Juan Hernandez, Kathy Jackson and Al Marder. We celebrated the great election
victory, and carrying on the fighting spirit of Merrilee Milstein, we committed ourselves to continuing together in the hard work for the big, bold changes our nation cries out for. The audio will be posted next week.

Attached below is the report by Sam Webb to the meeting of the National Committee
of the CPUSA held on November 15, 2008 just after the election, "A Springtime of
Possibility." Also Joelle Fishman's report from the Political Action Commission, "Landslide Mandate for Change."

Comments welcome. Send to:

A Springtime of Possibility:

Landslide Mandate for Change:

See you on the frontlines to realize the possibilities for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, massive federal funding for jobs to rebuild our infrastructure and meet our needs, health care for everyone, an end to raids and deportations and a path to citizenship, and to bring our troops home and establish a new peacetime economy and foreign policy.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Connecticut conference highlights Declaration of Human Rights anniversary

by Joelle Fishman

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A coalition of labor, peace, civil rights and human rights organizations in Connecticut will join in the international commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with a conference at Quinnipiac University on Saturday, Dec. 6.

Rep. John Conyers, chair of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives and sponsor of HR 676 for universal single payer healthcare, will be keynote speaker.

Conference convener, Al Marder, had recently returned from the European Theater in the fight against fascism during World War II when the Declaration was adopted. It made an indelible impression on him. He now chairs the International Association of Peace Messenger Cities of the United Nations, and leads many local organizations concerned with peace and equality.

“Look back historically,” he says. “Even though the cold war was starting, the United Nations was laying out a vision of the future. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights would change our society drastically.”

Marder points out that, “while the State Department uses the Declaration to talk only about free speech, they never mention the obligations of jobs, education, medical care, gender equality, peace, and all the requirements for the full expression of the human personality.”

The Connecticut conference, called around the theme “Fulfilling the Promise,” is bringing together activists from a wide range of groups and relating their issues with the Declaration of Human Rights.

Connecticut AFL-CIO president John Olsen says popularizing the Declaration gives strength to the campaign for the Employee Free Choice Act and the rights of workers to form unions. A resolution in support was passed at their convention.

In addition to the plenary speech by Rep. Conyers and a presentation on the Declaration by Prof. James Silk of the Yale School of Law, the conference will feature six workshops highlighting the right to a living wage, the peace economy as key to sustainability, social and economic struggles in Connecticut, and issues of political injustice and humanizing the judicial system.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. Eleanor Roosevelt, drawing upon the Constitution of the United States, was instrumental in drafting the document which enumerates the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights necessary for the dignity and well being of all people and for world peace including every person’s human right to food, health care, housing and public education.

The steering committee, whose meetings were hosted at Planned Parenthood in New Haven, reached out widely. The conference has been endorsed by 45 organizations including the Connecticut Bar Association, Connecticut Library Association, Connecticut Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, and a host of labor, peace and social justice groups.

The conference will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Alumni Hall on the Quinnipiac University campus. For information visit the conference website at

The following day, on Sunday, Dec. 7, Al Marder will be one of three honorees to receive the Amistad Award from the People’s Weekly World at a reception at 4:00 pm at the New Haven People’s Center, 37 Howe Street. Other recipients are Kathy Jackson, chairwoman of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists in Connecticut and Juan Hernandez, Assistant District Leader of SEIU 32 BJ Justice for Janitors. For information on this event call 203-624-8664 or visit

Reprinted from Peoples Weeky World on-line

Monday, November 24, 2008

“The Election of Our Lifetime– Where from Here?”

Three labor and community leaders will be honored with the Amistad Award on Sunday, December 7 at 4:00 p.m. at the New Haven Peoples Center at 37 Howe Street, New Haven.

The annual award, presented by the People’s Weekly World, will recognize the accomplishments of Alfred Marder, Kathleen Jackson and Juan Hernandez for social change..

The public is invited to the afternoon reception whose theme is “The Election of Our Lifetime – Where from Here?” Community and labor activists from around the state will come together to celebrate change and begin the work of organizing in a new political climate to meet the pressing economic and social needs facing working families

The Irish music group Rabble Rousers, with Bill Collins and Gary MacConnie. will perform labor songs. Hartford area labor leader Merrilee Milstein who passed away in June will be remembered. An international gift table and home made buffet will round out the program.

Al Marder, chair of the Amistad Committee, Connecticut African American Freedom Trail and City of New Haven Peace Commission is being honored for his vision and steadfast activism for equality, peace and social justice.

Kathleen Jackson, chairwoman of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists in Connecticut, is being recognized for consistent organizing which has inspired activism and brought forth new grassroots leaders.

Juan Hernandez, assistant district leader of SEIU 32 BJ Justice for Janitors, has organized low wage and immigrant workers to win union recognition, respect and dignity on the job with his leadership, persistence and courage.

The reception is hosted by the Peoples Weekly World on the occasion of the 89th anniversary of the Communist Party USA. Tickets are $10 or what you can afford. For information call 203-624-8664.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Election of Our Lifetime – Where from Here?
Reception and Greeting Book December 7, 2008

Join in with other labor and community activists to celebrate this year's
turning point election victories, and get ready for the struggle ahead.

This year's Amistad Awards will be presented by the People's Weekly World
on Sunday, December 7 at the annual anniversary reception at 4:00 pm at
the New Haven People's Center, 37 Howe Street, New Haven (203) 624-8664

Recognize and celebrate the contribution of three grass roots leaders
and organizers for social change.

Al Marder, chair of the Amistad Committee, CT African American Freedom
Trail and City of New Haven Peace Commission has strengthened unity with
his vision and steadfast activism for equality, peace and social justice.

Kathy Jackson, chairwoman of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists in
Connecticut, has inspired activism and brought forth new grassroots
leaders with her hard work and consistent organizing to turn our country

Juan Hernandez, assistant district leader of SEIU 32 BJ Justice for
Janitors, has organized low wage and immigrant workers to win union
recognition, respect and dignity on the job with his leadership,
persistence and courage.

We invite you to participate in our annual greeting book to recognize
the recipients. This year, the book is dedicated to the memory of our
great friend Merrilee Milstein, who received the Amistad Award in 2006.
She dedicated her life to the cause of working people and equality which
we carry on. The greeting book deadline has been moved to November 20.
Call 203-624-8664.

Enjoy the music of the Rabble Rousers, just back from campaiging in
Virginia! International gift table. Home-made buffet.

The reception is hosted by the Peoples Weekly World on the occasion of
the 89th anniversary of the Communist Party USA.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Day Voting Rights - Tuesday, November 4
  • Verify your polling place. Call your local Registrar of Voters or election officials.
  • Bring identification, preferably a government issues photo ID with your name and registered address
  • Ask for help from poll workers and check posted signs if you have a question or need assistance
  • Make sure to cast a vote. If you are in line when the polls close, stay in line. You are entitled to vote.
  • If you are offered a provisional ballot ask if you can cast a regular ballot by providing additional ID or by going to another polling place. If no alternative is available cast a provisional ballot.
  • If you have a voting rights problem ask to speak with the chief election official or a voting rights volunteer at the polls or call the national Election Protection Hotline:
English language: 1-866-OUR-VOTE
Spanish language: 1-888-Ve-Y-VOTA
Asian languages: 1-800-966-5946 (Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese or Khmer)

Issued by: CT People’s Weekly World (203) 624-8664

See below re: Vote No on Constitutional Convention (posted 10/10/08)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Merrilee Milstein Day puts working families’ needs first

by Joelle Fishman

New Hampshire attracted a lot of excitement in 2004 as the only state in the country to flip from red to blue in the presidential elections. There was jubilation that night as Kerry defeated Bush by just over 9,000 votes, before the national results were counted.

What happened in New Hampshire? A big part was labor’s role.

“An anti-union right wing has been active in the New Hampshire State Legislature for years,” Merrilee Milstein, then AFL-CIO deputy northeast regional director, told the People’s Weekly World at the time (10/16/04).

She credited local unions and the help from neighboring states with “creating a new sense of the labor movement in New Hampshire. Thousands and thousands of people have been involved in a very personal way to fight George Bush and the right wing.”

As labor coordinator in New Hampshire, Merrilee didn’t go for the vote alone. She organized in a way to develop new leaders and lay the basis for a stronger, more united movement that could win better wages and working conditions and increase political power for working families.

When Merrilee died this June at age 61 it was devastating not only in Hartford, Conn., where she lived but in New Hampshire and elsewhere as well.

Like the song “Joe Hill is at your side,” the call went out from the New Hampshire AFL-CIO throughout the state and to Connecticut and Massachusetts for a special Merrilee Milstein Memorial Labor Walk on September 27 to honor “a great woman, great activist and great friend.”

SEIU had organized buses of volunteers from surrounding states, and also declared September 27 as “Merrilee Milstein Day.”

Honoring the memory of their union sister brought the New Hampshire AFL-CIO and SEIU together, even though they had been conducting separate election efforts.

Nearly 50 of Merrilee’s family and friends traveled to Nashua by van and car from Connecticut to knock on the doors of union members and talk about why Barack Obama’s election is so important for working families.

Mark MacKenzie, president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, gave a big thank you. “I think for our members the choice is really clear,” he said. “Barack Obama supports the Employee Free Choice Act, he has made a commitment to put forth trade agreements that make sense, he is for universal health care, and he will make sure our pensions and retirements are kept secure.”

It was enjoyable to knock on doors and find voters who were enthusiastic and inspired by Obama’s historic candidacy, like the teacher who said her whole family was spreading the word. There were several families of divided opinion and others who declined to say. The most challenging conversations were with voters who did not want to support Obama because they were caught up in the lies and rumors undermining his integrity and patriotism. Those who were ready to discuss appreciated the comparison of McCain’s anti-worker record with Obama’s near perfect score.

It was exciting to be part of the quarter million union volunteers across the country, the biggest election mobilization in labor’s history, which has influenced the political climate in working class swing states and districts, laying the basis for a much larger labor movement.

The example set by labor’s top leaders talking directly with white sisters and brothers about how Obama represents their best chance for a secure future will have a lasting impact.

The idea that it takes unity and struggle to win big gains was something that Merrilee carried everywhere. Insisting on sharing this lesson earned her deep respect.

Merrilee was determined to win on the side of the working class. Her enthusiasm, creativity and persistence were contagious.

On election night 2004, after scores of volunteers had finished their assignments, word came that voters were leaving the polls because of long lines. Campaign workers were immediately dispatched to the polls with bags of candies, chips and other snacks to give encouragement and keep the parents and kids, older voters and young first time voters from leaving. It worked.

This year the chance to uproot ultra-right corporate political dominance is much greater. Voters want to be part of history. They see that the policies of the Bush administration, which McCain-Palin would continue, are bankrupting the country and endangering the world.

This year New Hampshire will not be alone. Merrilee would have been building for a landslide.

Labor’s giant effort along with massive organizing by African American, Latino, women’s and youth groups has turned historically Republican states’ House and Senate seats into battlegrounds, including the Senate seat in New Hampshire.

A landslide victory for Obama and Congress will open the door for big new struggles to organize workers into unions and place the needs of working families front and center in this economic crisis.

See related story: Merrilee Milstein mourned

From the People's Weekly World October 25, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Key Facts about the Ballot Question
on a Constitutional Convention

from the CT Vote No Coalition:

Haga clic aquí para español

  • The question on the ballot will read: “Shall there be a Constitutional Convention to amend or revise the Constitution of the State?” It doesn’t say anything about who goes to the convention or what will be proposed.
  • State legislators appoint the delegates to the convention. Average citizens have no say in who goes. The politicians in Hartford will appoint lobbyists, special interests and party operatives – not regular citizens and taxpayers.
  • Convention delegates can propose anything, without limits. Voters have no say in what is proposed at the convention. They will do what’s in their best interest,not the public interest.
  • The group pushing for the convention is a political organization dedicated to banning marriage for gay people and outlawing abortion. They will use the convention to take away people’s rights.
  • In other states, big businesses like health insurance companies and tobacco companies have used this process to get special tax breaks, overturn environmental laws and take away workers’ rights and benefits.
  • The state constitution has been amended 30 times since 1970 – without holding a convention. We can make changes to the constitution without holding a taxpayer-funded convention.

  • Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and other experts on the state constitution have come out against the convention.

Friday, October 17, 2008

McCain Links to Anti-Union Casino No Surprise to Workers

by Paul Neal

When scores of dealers and their supporters rallied at Connecticut’s Foxwoods Casino last May for their right to representation by United Auto Workers Region 9A, which they had voted for overwhelmingly, passersby were quick to honk in support.

A year earlier, Sen. John McCain enjoyed a gambling weekend at Foxwoods with lobbyists Scott Reed and Rick Davis, in seeming conflict of interest with his role as chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Davis is now McCain’s campaign manager.

Casino management ties to McCain, exposed last month in The New York Times, come as no surprise. McCain is an ardent foe of workers’ right to organize.

Foxwoods’ management is refusing to recognize the dealers’ union vote on the grounds that the casino, located on Mashantucket Pequot sovereign territory, should be exempt from National Labor Relations Board rulings.

Because the casino is a corporate entity at which nearly all workers and customers are not tribe members, a court ruled that the casino workers are covered by the NLRB.

Commenting on the ruling last year, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called that ruling a “historic victory” that “opens a new era for working men and women at tribal casinos in Connecticut and across the country.

“While we respect the principles of tribal sovereignty, this ruling guarantees that basic rights deserve respect, no matter who the employee,” Blumenthal said.

This week, casino management responded by filing an appeal of the NLRB order to negotiate a contract, and announced the layoff of 700 workers.

This billion dollar casino is the world’s largest, and Connecticut’s biggest private employer. The dealers’ union web site is in eight languages, indicating the diversity of the workforce.

Since the union election Foxwoods has been stalling for time, trying to create an atmosphere which causes dealers to quit or be fired. The management has also seen fit to award across-the-board raises to virtually every other occupation in the casino complex while dealers’ salaries have remained stagnant.

Dealers recruited from the original casino to work in the new MGM tower are required to serve a three-month probationary period which allows Foxwoods to fire them at will with no recourse for reinstatement at either casino. The net result of these firings is one less union dealer for Foxwoods to contend with.

Dealers have been required to meet certain physical characteristics in order to be considered for work in the MGM tower. Men are required to remove all facial hair and have a physique that can adorn the cover of GQ Magazine and women must have the proportions of a Barbie Doll.

As irritating as these requirements might seem, the issue that caused the Foxwoods dealers and the UAW to set up informational picket lines last May is the fact that Foxwoods separated Foxwoods and MGM dealers tips (tokes). “One casino, one union, one toke, no smoke” was the most popular chant, also addressing the demand for a smoke-free work environment. The UAW and the dealers feel that this is yet another attempt by Foxwoods to divide and destroy the solidarity of the dealers after their legally awarded election victory.

The May support rally was attended by local, state and national politicians and union officers including Connecticut AFL-CIO President John Olsen; UAW Region 9A Director Bob Madore and state Attorney General Blumenthal, as well as members of other unions and organizations. Of course, the real honored guests were the Foxwoods dealers themselves.

McCain’s ties to the gambling industry raise the stakes of the presidential election for the dealers as their struggle for a union contract continues.

From the People's Weekly World

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Courtney-Sullivan Debate

Joe Courtney’s debate on Tuesday evening was clearly a success. Before the debate opened at the Garde Arts Center the street outside was well attended with Courtney supporters. His opponent’s supporters were lost in the crowd since they were in such small numbers. Courtney, not the best speaker, nevertheless easily parried the criticisms of his opponent, Sean Sullivan, and used his opponent’s critiques as an opening to expand on his own message. At one point Sullivan recycled the Reagan, Palin response of “there you go again Congressman” to one of Courtney’s statements. The first time may have worked for Reagan but the third time at the Garde Arts Center brought derisive laughter from the audience, not at the comment but at the commentator.
-- Mulligan

Monday, October 13, 2008

New Haven Upholds Its Stand for Immigrant Rights

New Haven, Conn., has been picketed, sued and targeted with massive hate mail by national anti-immigrant organizations since last year when the Elm City Resident Card was launched. Available to any resident regardless of immigration status, the photo ID includes access to city parks, libraries and other programs.

On Monday night, after a packed and emotional hearing, the Finance Committee of the Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to accept private grant funds raised to continue the ID card. Eloquent testimony by dozens of immigrant workers, city officials, union leaders, clergy, educators, police officers and community activists proved the overwhelming success of the program now used by more than 6,000 people.

Three representatives of the extremist Community Watchdog Project with ties to FAIR (the misleadingly named Federation for American Immigration Reform), Numbers USA and other hate groups, received no support for their claims that immigration is destroying African American workers and the entire economy.

The Elm City Resident Card is premised on the idea that the health and well being of the whole community depends on inclusion and opportunity for all residents of the community. New Haven has received many national awards for this project, which is being duplicated in other cities across the country.

The following testimonies of Art Perry, political director of Local 32 BJ SEIU, and Kenneth R. Brown II of the Center for New Community in Chicago emphasize the power of unity to achieve the needs of immigrants and all workers in our country, and respond to the negative impact of division and hate.

— Joelle Fishman

Testimony of Art Perry, political director Local 32 BJ SEIU:

I am here on behalf of the 85,000 members of Local 32BJ SEIU, including 4,500 members in Connecticut.

Just two years ago, hundreds of janitors here in New Haven organized to be part of Local 32BJ. The vast majority of our new brothers and sisters are Latino immigrants who live in and around New Haven. And like all immigrants, they are here to work hard, support their families and achieve the American dream.

We testified in support of the ID card in May 2007 and we are here tonight in support of the identification card for the City of New Haven again for all of the reasons that we supported it before.

This card will serve as a means of safety and security for New Haven residents, including immigrant workers. The card will improve public safety — cardholders will be more likely to report witnessing a crime or being a victim of a crime, as well as provide identification if required by law enforcement.

In addition, the card will help residents access services, such as the library, parks and other public facilities. It will assist people in opening bank accounts, providing a safe place to keep their money instead of at home or carrying it in public. The card will also serve as means of identification for those who don’t have a driver’s license, such as the elderly.

This card is a good idea for all of New Haven’s residents and it is especially good for immigrant workers and their families, who are anxious to become full participants in their communities. By helping immigrants better integrate into city life and city services, we’ll build a better, safer and more diverse city.

Testimony of Kenneth R. Brown, II, Center for New Community, Chicago, Ill.:

The Center for New Community is a national organization committed to building community, justice and equality. The center is grounded in many faith traditions, respecting all traditions and secular efforts in building community where the dignity and value of all humanity is manifest.

The work of the center includes organizing against hate groups (such as white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups), hate music and the growing anti-immigrant hate movement. A part of this latter effort is an initiative which I am director of called “Which Way Forward: African Americans, Immigrants and Race,” which includes a network of nationwide African American leaders concerned with the dangers that the anti-immigrant movement poses toward the Black community.

We, as a center, encourage the Board of Aldermen to approve funding for the continuation of the Elm City Resident Card program. The card is a major step in the building of a safe, healthy community for all those who call New Haven home, a step for which we commend city leaders. The program’s facilitation of secure financial services for immigrants, better communication with law enforcement personnel, and increased utilization of city services is a boon to the New Haven community which we applaud, and which, no doubt, others this evening can extol more eloquently than I can. I want you, however, to also be aware of the crucial position of leadership the city of New Haven is taking nationally in the effort to build a healthy society for our residents, both immigrant and native-born.

While the debate on immigration rages around us, the need for safe, growing communities is still present, and cannot wait on protracted political battles. In instituting the Elm City Resident Card program, New Haven has demonstrated its understanding of this, and shown its commitment to addressing the needs of all those who contribute to its diverse social fabric. I dare say New Haven is being looked at for leadership in this arena of society. As various municipalities around the country wrestle with how to foster a vibrant community for all their residents, regardless of standing or country of origin, New Haven is showing that there are positive steps a city can take toward cultivating a safe atmosphere for its people. Your continued leadership in this is essential.

A notable point of success of the program is the fact that funds have been raised to support it, thus alleviating much of the burden on municipal funds. We applaud the efforts of the city to do what’s necessary for its residents even in the face of fiscal challenges.

Do not succumb to the hate and the xenophobia manifested by anti-immigrant groups nationally and here in southern Connecticut. As one examines the increasingly virulent attack in this country on foreign-born persons, one must be greatly concerned by its roots in racism, in white supremacy, in the retention of power and privilege for some at the expense of quality of life for all. We don’t have the time this evening to talk about organizations — some of which are recognized hate groups — such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Center for Immigration Studies, the Minutemen and other such manifestations of bigotry. If you wish, the Center for New Community can provide further information on such. It’s come to our understanding, however, that there are similar groups here in southern Connecticut whose vitriolic ranting — not only against much of the immigrant population but against city personnel as well — is diametrically opposed to the society-enhancing endeavors of this city. For such thought to, in any way, sway the leaders of New Haven from your goal of providing a healthy atmosphere for all would be a major blow against the building of community.

Continue the leadership you’re providing the country on the creation of safe space and community. Continue, as a city, to be true to your name: let this be, indeed, a new haven — a new place of safety — for all of your residents.

Reprinted from the People's Weekly World


It was refreshing to see the immigration issue raised as it has gotten lost in the election debates. Xenophobia is a good framework. It brought to mind that excellent film - The Visitor. Thanks, Len

Thursday, September 25, 2008

When Your Union Contract Expires -- Who Do You Want in the White House?

by Art Perlo

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — As 4,000 workers at Yale University gear up for a contract fight next year, and 2,000 workers at Yale New Haven Hospital continue their organizing drive, the question of who will be president looms large.

Asked “Who do you want in the White House when your union contract expires?” the answer was near unanimous for Barack Obama.

“I just know in my gut that Obama is interested in the well-being of common working people, and McCain is interested in the well-being of big business,” said Susan Klein, a worker in Yale’s library system.

Her gut feeling is echoed by a report on the AFL-CIO web site: “Obama backed working family issues 95 percent of the time in the U.S. Senate, while Sen. John McCain — who voted 95 percent with Bush against working family issues — sides with wealthy bankers and Wall Street.”

Ernie Thompson, a dining hall worker at the university, reflected on the coming contract negotiations. “We’re losing power every minute the Republicans are in office.” Most of his co-workers support Obama, but a few still need to be convinced to vote, said Thompson, who carries voter registration forms with him on the job. “They don’t believe in the political system. They’ve been had too many times.”

For those co-workers who are confused by extremist ads portraying Obama as unpatriotic and inexperienced, Thompson brings the facts about the candidates’ voting records. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm among the African Americans. Some white guys in the skilled trades had no problem with Bush, but a lot are coming over to our side because with the Republicans, unions and job security are out the window,” he said.

Tammy Porter, who works in the hospital cafeteria, supports Obama because “he’s down with the union.” Co-worker Mamie Evans said, “We’ve gotta have Barack to survive.” These workers, who have been trying to organize the hospital’s other departments into the union in the face of illegal management intimidation, are most concerned about passage of the Employee Free Choice Act to back up workers’ right to organize. Obama is a co-sponsor of the EFCA. McCain voted against it.

Food service worker Ray Milici described the stakes: “If we get a pro-labor president, we can change the labor board. We can pass the Employee Free Choice Act. McCain is anti-union. If McCain wins, there’s no chance for the rest of the workers at the hospital to get a union.”

Yale workers are also worried about protecting their health benefits. Their hard-won union contracts include full family health coverage at no cost. McCain’s health care proposal would tax those benefits, costing Yale workers up to $3,500 per year.

Union spokesperson Evan Cobb described this as “adding tax burden to us while shifting taxes off the wealthiest Americans.”

Unite Here, the parent union, was an early endorser of Obama. “It’s important to our international union to support a candidate who believes health care is a right,” said Cobb adding that McCain’s proposal would weaken the excellent health plan now enjoyed by union workers at Yale.

Cobb also addressed presidential appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. He cited the NLRB’s decision, under Clinton, affirming graduate teachers’ right to union representation. But the labor board appointed by Bush revoked those rights. At Yale, graduate teachers are still struggling for recognition.

After winning the congressional elections in 2006, “there’s a much greater sense of hope,” said Cobb. Union members are volunteering in Virginia, as well as locally. “People are aware of the relation between the federal election and the local impact at the community level.”

“The Republicans are stockpiling military weapons, but there’s nothing for heating assistance, schools, crime, environmental cleanup,” said Ernie Thompson. “We’ve lost all our afterschool programs, summer jobs for kids. The Republicans say there’s no money, but they bail out the financial companies.”

Obama’s experience as a community organizer who stresses workers’ involvement is encouraging to the Yale unions, who emphasize membership involvement to organize co-workers and build alliances with the New Haven community,

The unions say their commitment to organizing will continue after Election Day, providing grassroots muscle to pass EFCA.

Milici thinks the election outcome will have an impact on workers’ attitudes: “If McCain wins, the employer will feel empowered. If Obama wins, the workers will feel empowered.”

Thompson agreed: “We need a victory. If Obama wins, people will say we’ve got a voice now.” This will help mobilizing the membership for the next contract negotiations.

Reprinted from the People's Weekly World

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Connecticut labor gears up for big election drive

By Joelle Fishman

July 10, 2008

HARTFORD, Conn. — Lightening storms may have kept national AFL-CIO President John Sweeney’s plane from landing here in time for the Connecticut AFL-CIO convention June 23, but nothing could stop the delegates’ determination to prepare for their strongest mobilization ever in the 2008 elections.

“We’re at a turning point,” said state AFL-CIO President John Olsen, calling on everyone to go out and organize. “We got the House and Senate back in 2006 and now we have to get the presidency back so we can win the Employee Free Choice Act, universal health care and an energy policy like the Apollo plan.”

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd was warmly welcomed by the delegates. Decrying the disparities in America, he lauded the labor movement for hard fought battles for workers’ gains “not given benevolently by corporate America,” and passionately called for an all-out push to elect Barack Obama on Nov. 4.

Saying he hopes the Employee Free Choice Act will be the first bill on the new president’s desk, Dodd emphasized that “this election will determine what kind of country, what kind of world, we leave to our children and grandchildren … We can’t afford four more years of Bush.”

The convention unanimously adopted a resolution reaffirming opposition to the war by national and state labor bodies, and asserting that Obama “shares labor’s opposition … while John McCain supports the war and President Bush’s military policy.”

The resolution urges unions to inform their members “of McCain’s pro-war position and how it is directly related to his anti-union economic policies; and how the continuation of the war is fueling the current economic crisis.”

Bill Shortell, representing the Machinists Union and the Bristol Labor Council, recalled asking, when the war began, “Is this an issue for us?” to which his buddy replied, “Who’s going to speak for me if the union doesn’t speak for me?” Shortell called on the delegates to “take a strong position and back candidates committed to get us out of Iraq and end this bloodshed as soon as possible.”

A heated debate took place over the endorsement of Jim Himes, a pro-labor, antiwar Democrat challenging incumbent Republican Chris Shays (4th Congressional District), a leading proponent of Bush’s Iraq war policies. Shays was the only representative from Connecticut to vote for additional funding of the war last month. He had angered the endorsement committee during an interview in which he objected to a question on the war, saying, “Why are you asking me about that? That’s not a labor issue.”

Delegates from the Building Trades said Shays helped get them contracts and work, and therefore asked that the endorsement for Himes be withheld.

AFSCME delegate Blair Bertaccini got a round of applause when he called on the convention to “support candidates who support us as a class, as workers, not just one particular sector. Otherwise we will keep losing numbers and become irrelevant.” Himes won the endorsement overwhelmingly.

The convention also committed to help Democratic Reps. Chris Murphy (5th CD) and Joe Courtney (2nd CD) return to Congress. They both defeated Republicans in 2006 and have been targeted by the Republican National Committee for smear attacks.

Speaking to delegates from the 3rd CD, which she represents, Rep. Rosa DeLauro thanked the labor movement for enabling her to win by large majorities. “With big margins I can take on the strong fights, which those with small margins many not feel free to do,” she said, referring to the vote against further funds for the war.

Delegates signed up for the Labor 2008 program, including speaking to members in their workplace and at home. Signatures were collected on postcards for the Employee Free Choice Act which will be presented to the new president in January.

A moment of silence honored prominent union leaders who recently died, including Merrilee Milstein, former District 1199 vice president and then deputy regional director of the AFL-CIO, known for her dedication and commitment to organizing and building diversity within the labor movement.

The convention adopted a strategic plan for the elections and legislative and organizing goals. A Diversity Dialogue will be held Sept. 20 with the aim of developing new union leaders. AFL-CIO representative Barbara Nicole Holtz urged delegates to attend, projecting the conference as a model for other states.

Reprinted from the People's Weekly World

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