Today's Fair Shots - March 20th, 2017
1-Texas AFL-CIO holds Raise the Wage Press Conference. Collects almost 1,000 petition signatures in 3 days.
2-Patrick: APRI Part of a Great Labor Coalition
3-AFL-CIO Dissects Trump Budget Proposal
1. Texas AFL-CIO Legislative Director, Rene Lara, holds up petition signatures in support of raising the minimum wage in today's press conference.
2. The Texas A. Philip Randolph Institute, a constituency group of the state labor federation that advocates on behalf of African-American union members and allies, held a convention last week based in the Texas AFL-CIO office.
After acknowledging the fine work being done by APRI and organizers of the event, Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick delivered these prepared remarks, which we pass along both for historical context and the summation of where labor stands in a legislative session that will reach the halfway mark at the end of today:
Remarks by John Patrick President, Texas AFL-CIO
Texas A. Philip Randolph Institute
Texas AFL-CIO Becky Moeller Auditorium
March 17, 2017
Greetings, Brothers and Sisters of Texas APRI.
Thank you for being the cutting edge of the labor movement's advocacy for civil rights. You hold a historical place at the center of the civil rights movement and you are building a future squarely aimed at the struggle for justice in America.
When A. Philip Randolph convened the March on Washington in 1963, he benefited from the experience of decades of painstaking work that began in 1925 with his historic launch of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
Brother Randolph knew that no matter how often the company line is repeated, the details are everything in a labor-management relationship. In 1925, the Pullman Company was actually paying porters something approaching a middle-class wage and advertised itself as a benevolent employer. So how was Randolph able to cut to the heart of the chase and persuade his colleagues that they needed a union?
It was all in the details:
- Porters had to spend an hour or more every day in unpaid prep and cleanup work.
- They had to pay for their own uniforms, their own lodging while traveling, and their meals.
- Porters had to pay for anything that passengers stole, from towels to water pitchers.
- Of course, this was the era of segregation as the law of the land. Porters could ride a Pullman train for half-price, but never in the coaches, and they could never, ever become a conductor.
- Pullman did not understand why these and other details mattered so much.
Members of the union got the rules changed and aligned them with a better livelihood. Some even left Pullman's employ and went on to great things. One-time members of the Sleeping Car Porters include:
- Gordon Parks, the multi-talented Life Magazine photographer and film-maker;
- Matthew Henson, a renowned Arctic explorer who went on expeditions with Robert Peary;
- Claude McKay, a writer and poet who was part of the Harlem Renaissance;
- Simon Haley, a professor of agriculture at Cornell University and the father of Roots author Alex Haley;
- "Big Bill" Broonzy, a noted blues singer and guitarist;
- Oscar Micheaux, the first major African-American movie-maker; and
- A lengthy list of civil rights leaders besides Randolph, including the Rev. Benjamin Mays, who was a mentor to Martin Luther King Jr., and E.D. Nixon, who worked difficult turf in Alabama.
- Sleeping Car Porters connected the dots. They built the first union led by African-Americans to receive an American Federation of Labor charter. Overnight train rides are no longer at the center of our travel culture, but the accomplishments of A. Philip Randolph's union are relevant to the issues we face today.
Brothers and Sisters, in 2017 in Texas, the playing field for civil rights and voting rights is as large as ever, and the arc of the moral universe, as Dr. King suggested, needs to bend more toward justice.
At this moment, we are still trying to repair the damage from a so-called "voter ID" bill. Our state's leaders say the photo ID requirement is about voter fraud. But as a federal court found, the law's real-life impact is to reduce minority and elderly voting.
We are trying to repair the political damage from the drawing of congressional and legislative districts that maximized Republican advantage while minimizing the influence of minority voters. A federal court is on that job as well.
We are still fighting alongside...
- African-Americans who remain under-represented in the paths to power;
- Latinos who are the first targets of immigration bills like the so-called "sanctuary cities" bill, SB 4;
- Disabled Texans who continue to get short shrift in the state budget; and
- LGBTQ communities who are scapegoated in the so-called "bathroom bill," SB 6.
The Texas labor movement decided in the early going of the civil rights movement to stand with those who are oppressed. We will never waver from our support of simple justice.
In his excellent book Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era, Professor Max Krochmal credits union leaders of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, including the legendary Texas AFL-CIO President Hank Brown, for uniting African-Americans, Latinos and union members in coalitions that demanded fundamental rights and, against all odds, made gains at the polls.
Quoting Professor Krochmal: "Those coalitions were rooted in deep interpersonal relationships and broad social movements and gave life to a rather powerful liberal wing of the Democratic Party in the 1960s - and in the process those older coalitions teach us something about efforts to turn Texas blue today."
The coalitions cited by Krochmal gave us the likes of Senator Ralph Yarborough, Representative Henry B. Gonzalez, Representative Barbara Jordan and Governor Ann Richards. Thanks to a long-running political program that continues to rely on coalitions, in 2017 we have more true friends in the Texas Legislature than ever before and Texas occasionally elects some of the most progressive politicians in America.
Along those lines, labor's work in Houston and Dallas has yielded remarkable results. Even as Donald Trump handily won the State of Texas, labor-endorsed candidates, including Hillary Clinton, swept Harris County up and down the ballot. In Dallas County, directly because of labor activity, State Representative Victoria Neave knocked off an incumbent Republican of long standing and another labor-endorsed candidate came within 64 votes of pulling off a second upset. Most importantly, the level of activism and experience gained in those counties bodes well for future battles.
As we build a winning coalition for the decades ahead, the Texas AFL-CIO resists by maintaining a full-time, expert, around-the-clock, kick-ass operation to persuade the Legislature to treat working families with dignity. Our lobbyists in the United Labor Legislative Committee work the halls of the House and Senate with great distinction. This year, we have added to our firepower by operating a Unity Table that is going into legislative districts to take aim at some of the worst pieces of legislation lawmakers have to offer.
We seek nothing more - and nothing less - than a fair shot for all Texans. The Texas AFL-CIO is strongly supporting bills to raise the state minimum wage, secure Equal Pay for women, improve workplace safety and otherwise help workers who do not necessarily have a union card.
If you want to know where we stand on most any piece of legislation, the first and foremost question we ask is whether, on balance, the bill will benefit all working families in our state.
We stand in favor of expansion of health care to all Texans and are appalled that our state turned down tens of billions of dollars that was available under the Affordable Care Act for that purpose. We stand in favor of world-class public education and higher education systems, paid sick leave and a healthy Texas infrastructure. We believe in kitchen-table issues - the ones you discuss every day with your families - not ideology.
By the same token, we are AGAINST privatization through school vouchers that siphon money from our neighborhood public schools and reduce accountability. We stand AGAINST other forms of privatization, too, because going private rarely saves money and ALWAYS shifts the incentive away from public service and accountability.
The largest threat we face in this legislative session has its origins in a long-running right-wing campaign to decimate the labor movement in Texas.
Texas has a lot to answer for when it comes to union history.
As you know, we are the birthplace of so-called "right to work." Both the concept of attacking union security clauses and the lying phrase "right to work" itself, which was invented by a Dallas Morning News editorial writer, are Texan through and through.
The man who was as responsible as anyone for our "right to work" woes was Texas lobbyist Vance Muse, a man once described by his own grandson as a "white supremacist, an anti-Semite, and a Communist-baiter" who opposed women's suffrage and child labor laws.
Texas adopted so-called "right to work" in 1947 - at the earliest possible moment - and the labor movement in Texas has paid a heavy price ever since.
The sequel to the "right to work" fight 70 years later is SB 13, which would take away the freedom of state and local public employees to voluntarily pay dues to the labor organization of their choice through payroll deduction.
You are all too familiar with this "Paycheck Deception" garbage from the National Right to Work Foundation, which helped conceive the bill. Allied right-wing groups like Empower Texans and the Texas Public Policy Foundation are big promoters of SB 13.
The bad news about SB 13 is that it is a major priority for Gov. Greg Abbott, who included it in his State of the State speech, and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who gave the bill a low number signifying its importance.
Here's the good news: Bills that would harm unions have been introduced in every Texas Legislature this century, and every one to date has failed.
They have failed not because the people rose up: The truth is, most Texans don't worry about matters like payroll dues deduction in their everyday lives.
They have failed not because of luck or legislative inertia.
They have failed because with your help, we organized. And we organized some more. And then we decided we had better do some organizing.
We owe our ability to leave no stone unturned to a great resistance of 237,000 affiliated members, along with retirees and allies - a coalition that has fought valiantly for generations against long odds, a coalition that includes APRI.
I cannot promise we will raise the minimum wage, expand health care, add to our civil rights or improve workplace safety. We are going to need successful elections to get those and other jobs done.
I can't even promise we will kill every anti-labor bill.
But I can promise this: The folks who run the Texas Legislature know they will not sneak anything past organized labor. From the day a bad bill is filed and for as long as it takes, we always fight tenaciously to the finish.
The labor movement in Texas is part of a larger coalition for justice - justice in the gilded era of President Donald Trump, justice in the era of a Congress that might be perfectly content to knock 24 million Americans out of health care coverage. We want liberty and justice for all at a time when our nation tends to the needs of billionaires and threatens the working poor.
From your origins in the work of A. Philip Randolph, Texas APRI has lived the old labor axiom that an injury to one is an injury to all. You know America cannot truly be great until every American can share in opportunity.
Together, let's step up our advocacy on behalf of working people in Texas. Thank you and good luck.
3. Presidential budgets are usually "dead on arrival" in Congress, but Donald Trump's budget clearly contains kernels of what the right wing would love to do with American government.
The AFL-CIO provides an analysis of just how bad Trump's proposals would be for working people. Via AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka:
"Working people in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin didn't vote for a budget that slashes workforce training and fails to invest in our nation's infrastructure. President Trump's proposed budget attempts to balance the budget on the backs of working families. The $54 billion cut to programs that benefit working families is dangerous and destructive. Huge cuts to the departments of Labor, Education and Transportation will make workplaces less safe, put more children at risk and make improving our failing infrastructure much more difficult. The administration can and should do better."