To give voice to 35 workers killed on the job over the past 35 years at a massive refinery in Texas City, hundreds of surviving family members, co-workers and friends gathered there last month to erect white crosses marked with their names.
Marathon Petroleum Corp., which bought the refinery from BP two years ago, did its best to shut the mourners up. Marathon uprooted the crosses and tossed them in a box like trash within hours of the commemoration.
For years during contract negotiations, the United Steelworkers (USW) union has pressed ungodly profitable oil companies to improve safety. This fell mostly on deaf ears. On Feb. 1, USW refinery workers began loudly voicing this demand by striking over unfair labor practices (ULP). Ultimately 7,000 struck 15 refineries. Within six weeks, all but five oil corporations settled. Marathon is a hold out. It wants to cut safety personnel. It does not want to hear about dead workers.
So, someone hands you a beer, but instead of it being a recognizable brand, it's in a totally blacked-out can with nothing but the letters "TPP" printed on it.
"You're really gonna like this," says the smiling stranger who handed it to you. But you naturally hesitate and ask: "Well, who made it? What's in it?' Now the guy's smile seems forced as he says: "Sorry, pal, but those are trade secrets. Trust me though – there's nothing bad in it. Just drink up... and enjoy the buzz that it's gonna give you."
Would you swallow that? Neither would I, but here comes Barack Obama, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Speaker John Boehner, and every corporate lobbyist in Washington insisting that We the People should quickly chug-a-lug their strange brew called TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership) – without knowing what's in it. "It's just a free trade agreement," they say, with lying eyes and forced smiles.
The race for the Democratic nomination for president was transformed today as populist stalwart Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy.
The mainstream media immediately focused on the horse race – assessing Sanders’ standing in the polls (low), money prowess (small), and name recognition (little). Sanders is not young, not a pretty face, not easy.
But in a populist moment, Sanders is the real deal. He has fought on the side of working people for decades. He has been one of the few consistent champions that working people have had as the rules were rigged against them. He was against the corporate trade deals from the beginning. He fought against the tax breaks for the rich and the corporate tax havens. He stood up to save Social Security and Medicare from privatization and grand bargains. He has championed universal health care as a right, taking on the insurance companies and the pharmaceuticals. He opposed Iraq from the first lie. He has been a consistent champion for action on green jobs to meet the challenge of climate change. No one has been a greater or more impassioned opponent of the corruption of our democracy by big money.
The median wage is a lot like what Mark Twain supposedly said about the weather: Everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it.
This is ironic, because politicians are always going on about how much they want to help the middle class, and some of them actually mean it. But it’s harder than you think.
As you see in the figure above, the median, or 50th percentile, real hourly wage for men is lower than it was decades ago. The median female worker has gained more over time, but her progress stalled over a decade ago. And the current recovery has not been good at all to the median wage earner.
Former Enron trader and hedge fund billionaire John Arnold is launching a multimillion dollar national PR campaign attacking the hard-earned pensions of public sector workers. Arnold has already quietly poured tens of millions of dollars into his efforts to persuade politicians to reduce middle class retirement security and now it looks like he may really just be getting started. Watch this video to learn more about Arnold’s war on pensions - and then share it with your friends and co-workers!
January 18, 1943 marks the death of the first woman general organizer appointed by the American Federation of Labor. Mary Kenney O'Sullivan was born the only child of working-class Irish immigrants, in Hannibal, Missouri.