A century ago, Carl Sandburg dubbed Chicago the City of Big Shoulders: “hog butcher for the world, tool maker, stacker of wheat, player with railroads and the nation’s freight handler; stormy, husky brawling.”
All of this was true of America itself as well: Nation of big shoulders. The United States was a brawny country that would intervene to help win World War I and later quickly retool factories to serve as munitions mills to win World War II. Now, though, as America’s tool makers and freight car builders are furloughed, their factories shuttered and offshored, America is wasting. Ill-conceived free trade deals are reducing it to a nation of stooped shoulders.
The newest proposed deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), signed in New Zealand last week by representatives of its 12 member states, would further enfeeble American manufacturing. The first of the ilk, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), devastated U.S. manufacturing. Allowing China into the World Trade Organization and the bad trade deals that followed NAFTA all pummeled American manufacturing when it was already down.
From cookies to car parts, factories fled America for places like China and Mexico. There, corporations pay workers a pittance and pollute virtually penalty-free. CEOs and shareholders roll in the resulting royal-sized profits. Meanwhile, formerly middle-class American workers and their families suffer. Communities bereft of sustaining mills collapse. And the United States atrophies, losing more and more of those once-bulky industrial shoulders.More ...
Democrats, especially congressional Democrats, need a coherent and down-to-earth economic message, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says.
And it’s a message, he adds, that must successfully counter simplistic notions pushed by the congressional GOP and the hatred of minorities and Moslems pushed by several leading Republican presidential hopefuls, notably business tycoon Donald Trump, he adds.
Trumka brought his criticism of the Democrats’ message – actually, lack of it – to the House Democrats’ retreat in Baltimore at the end of January. He praised party members for sticking with workers to beat back anti-labor measures fostered by Congress’ ruling Republicans. But he said that’s not enough to win workers to their sides in this year’s election.
“In too many races,” in the 2014 off-year election, “the Democratic candidate lacked a coherent economic message that made sense to regular working people – union and non-union,” Trumka said. “This is not about casting blame. It’s about working together and finding solutions so we can better communicate with our shared constituents.”
The AFL-CIO, he admitted, sometimes lost the message war, too, so it’s “been looking for new ways to reach out to America...to union, non-union, and never-heard-of-union” people. The fed’s extensive messaging research shows values, not policies, move most people, he said. On policy, the U.S. majority agrees with labor’s positions on good wages, affordable health care and retirement security. But they don’t feel values behind those stands.More ...
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has been rightly criticized for how he has handled the water crisis in Flint. In his State of the State speech earlier this month, he had a chance to take the crisis head on and failed to do so. Working people, on the other hand, are stepping up where Snyder has failed.
Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, responded to Snyder's speech:
The people of Flint deserve answers and accountability, but the governor didn’t provide either tonight. Until the governor waives his [Freedom of Information Act] exemption and releases all materials on the Flint water crisis—including those from his senior staff—his promise to release a handpicked number of emails is hollow. To help the people of Flint start to heal and ensure a disaster like this never happens again, the governor needs to be fully transparent with the public and start telling the truth.