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.
Co-Director, Author, Center for Economic and Policy Research
Neil Irwin had an interesting Upshot piece that noted polling data showing people do not favor much higher taxes on the rich. It questioned why it was that people were opposed to redistribution even though inequality has become a major national concern.
A major problem with this sort of analysis is that it treats distribution as though it is only a function of tax policy. This is clearly secondary. The upward redistribution of the last 35 years was overwhelmingly the result of government policies that structured the market to favor the wealthy.
For example, trade policy has been quite explicitly designed to put manufacturing workers in direct competition with low-paid workers in the developing world. The predicted and actual effect of this policy is to reduce their wages and also the wages of non-college educated workers more generally. By contrast, doctors and other highly-paid professionals (who comprise much of the one percent) have been largely protected from international competition. The argument for exposing these professionals to competition is the same as the argument for trade more generally: it will lead to lower prices and more economic growth. But because of the political power of these groups, free trade in the services of doctors and other professionals is not even discussed in polite circles.
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.
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.