"Saying the Senate health care bill is less mean than the House bill is like saying you prefer smallpox over the bubonic plague."
-- AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, commenting on the supposedly more moderate version of the health care bill offered by the U.S. Senate. Today, the Senate postponed a vote that had been touted for this week, thanks in large part to working people across the nation who bombarded senators with messages opposing "repeal and replace" of the Affordable Care Act. https://twitter.com/RichardTrumka/status/879435349486964742 See item 3.
"These are people that are great, brilliant business minds, and that's what we need, that's what we have to have so the world doesn't take advantages of us. We can't have the world taking advantage of us anymore. And I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions I just don't want a poor person. Does that make sense? Does that make sense?"
--President Trump, speaking at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. http://bit.ly/2rZ3CoR
"We're in Texas. They pretty much grow dumb-ass crazy here."
--The character Tulip on Sunday's episode of the comic-book TV show "Preacher" discussing why anyone would shoot at the show's protagonists (and just about anyone else in the show's universe). https://www.tvfanatic.com/quotes/were-in-texas-they-pretty-much-grow-dumb-ass-crazy-here/
"You know, house-elves get a very raw deal! It's slavery, that's what it is! That Mr Crouch made her go up to the top of the stadium, and she was terrified, and he's got her bewitched so she can't even run when they start trampling tents! Why doesn't anyone do something about it?"
--Hermione Granger, on the treatment of Winky the house-elf in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Harry Potter fans recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first appearance of the literary character. See item 6 on Harry Potter and labor unions.
4-Texas AFL-CIO Joins in Anti-SB 4 Protest as Federal Judge Considers First Steps in Lawsuit Against 'Show Me Your Papers' Law
1) The Texas AFL-CIO's 58th Constitutional Convention delivered, building solidarity in our movement, planning for the next two years of labor activism in Texas and, in fact, improving the Texas AFL-CIO Constitution to include a stronger anti-discrimination provision and make other needed changes in our operational blueprint.
I intend to go deeper into the committee reports and constitutional changes in tomorrow's e-mail. In the interest of keeping today's e-mail somewhere in the novella range, let's start with the Daily Reports, which outline what happened on the main agenda:
Day 1 Report - June 23, 2017
Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick gaveled the convention to order at 10 a.m. After warm welcomes from Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Brother Zeph Capo of the Texas Gulf Coast ALF, Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick delivered a review of the 140-day legislative session and a preview of the special session to come.
Patrick said unions were "at the core of a mighty resistance." He thanked delegates and the United Labor Legislative Committee for an outstanding session, saying he has witnessed "ULLCO's finest two hours" in the battle to stop anti-worker legislation both in 2015 and 2017. Patrick said the Texas AFL-CIO readily opposed discriminatory bills like the "show me your papers" SB 4 and anti-LGBTQ SB 6 for two reasons: Discrimination always affects workplaces and all forms of discrimination are wrong. "We know it in our hearts," Patrick said. Patrick also recounted successful fights against private school vouchers and anti-union bills like SB 13, an attack on public employee payroll dues deduction.
In an introduction, Patrick thanked Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez for his service as one of the greatest U.S. Secretaries of Labor. Perez declared, "When unions succeed, America succeeds." He called on Democrats not just to criticize the "trail of broken promises" emanating from the Trump administration, but to positively promote core values, including a promise that full-time work should lead people out of poverty. Citing a famous letter by Albert Einstein to his son, Perez said America has a "gyroscope" that ultimately corrects injustice and that he believes the gyroscope still works.
Brother Mike Mosteit, reporting for the Credentials Committee, said 310 delegates, seven alternates, 16 guests and nine fraternal delegates were present for a total of 342 attendees.
MaryBe McMillan, Secretary-Treasurer of the North Carolina AFL-CIO, told delegates, "If we want working folks everywhere to get their fair share, we must organize the South." McMillan said the organizing culture in the South must extend to "places we never dreamed of," in some cases requiring a "leap of faith." Citing her own "gospel," she described a labor movement that is "reborn, revitalized and reinvented." "Forward together!" she said. "Not one step back!" delegates responded.
Fred Redmond, International Vice President of Human Affairs at the United Steelworkers, discussed the role of civil rights in a thriving labor movement. He said labor and the civil rights movement are "dynamic change engines" that turn "moments of despair into fountains of hope."
UNITE HERE President D. Taylor said his union grew from essentially zero to "3,000 by the end of the year" in Texas, including the Hilton-Americas Hotel in Houston where the convention is being held. Taylor said he views the notion of a "resistance" skeptically, declaring, "We have to advance, not resist." He said the labor movement needs alliances and needs to hold politicians of both major political parties accountable.
After a lunch break, Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rick Levy covered a range of the labor landscape, offering shout-outs to new attendees and young workers, discussing new ways the union movement is building connections in Texas, reviewing the legislative session and looking toward a better future that has to include organizing. "If you're just sitting there, you're going to get run over...We have to be honest...Unless we grow, we're going to have no chance to reach the goals that we seek."
A panel consisting of Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, discussed their open support for labor unions and how that has affected their policy-making. Jenkins discussed living wage policies, health care improvements and other ways working people are moving to the middle class in Dallas County jobs. Hinojosa decried the loss of a middle-class majority in the U.S. and promoted a revitalized public education system as one vehicle for returning to that course.
The convention adjourned to committee meetings and caucuses. Delegates, some of whom are apparently ringers, prepared for the first-ever Texas AFL-CIO Karaoke Competition and Open Mic Night.
Day 2 Report, June 24, 2017
Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick gaveled delegates to order at 9 a.m. The updated count: 318 delegates, seven alternates, 32 guests and nine fraternal delegates, for a total of 366. Patrick announced the winner of the 1st Texas AFL-CIO Karaoke Championship as Richard Salazar of AFSCME.
Former Sierra Club President Aaron Mair spoke of the intersection between the goals of organized labor and the goal of saving the planet. Mair said both depend on democratic processes and that labor and environmentalists need to build power to make certain that new jobs related to clean energy become solid middle-class jobs.
AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, an immigrant from Ethiopia, drew a strong ovation as he accused the White House of trying to change the nation's "DNA" of enabling outsiders to find freedom. That, Gebre said, is the real meaning of "land of the free." Gebre called the GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act to make way for tax cuts for the wealthy "un-American," "mean" and "pure evil."
Brother Claude Cummings of CWA reported on a legislative "session of hate" in which a majority of lawmakers attacked "everyone who wasn't like them." Cummings saluted the coalition that fought bad legislation: "If we are going to be attacked together, we damned well ought to fight back together."
Former Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller delivered the "COPE Pitch." The convention has seen an unusually large number of COPE signups. Moeller made a particular appeal to women, who have been threatened with a reversion to the days when maternity-related care was not included in standard health insurance.
Sister Maria Jimenez announced awards. Among these are Texas Labor Hall of Fame nominees, set to be inducted at the COPE Convention: the late Linda Bridges of Texas AFT; Clara Caldwell of Texas APRI and Rick Diegel of IBEW.
Brother Jeff Darby made a Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship report. Delegates approved an increase in the amount of the scholarship grants from $1,000 to $1,500.
The first Ruth Ellinger Leadership Academy graduating class received certificates and tokens of appreciation for completing a Texas AFL-CIO course that has prepared them to take on leadership skills relevant to the labor movement.
U.S. Rep. Al Green brought down the house when he vowed that no amount of threats, no amount of intimidation will stop him from pursuing the impeachment of President Trump. Green called Trump a "rogue President" and a "plutocrat" who thinks a wealth test should determine whether someone holds a high position in his administration. The congressman called for health care for "every person who is a child of God." Green, who has received death threats over his impeachment effort, said he would come back and haunt Congress if he experiences "an untimely transition"; he also said he expects a well-funded political challenge, to which delegates shouted, "We've got your back!"
Brad Markell of the AFL-CIO called for a Texas Industrial Union Council to spark a union-friendly dialogue on jobs in manufacturing. Markell said Trump "stole Hillary Clinton's lunch" on the issue and it is time to seize back the discussion on middle-class jobs. In Texas, an IUC would be a revival of an organization that last existed in the 1990s.
A panel on SB 13 discussed various ways the message against Paycheck Deception legislation was delivered and is being delivered ahead of a special legislative session. Representative of the Fire Fighters (Johnny Villarreal), Texas State Employees Union (Anthony Brown), Houston Federation of Teachers (Andy Dewey) and AFSCME Correctional Officers (Jackie Parsonage) discussed acts of solidarity that have held the measure at bay.
District and International Union Caucuses took place to elect members of the Texas AFL-CIO Executive Board.
After a lunch break, Nate Zeff and Michael Smith, representing BCTWGM workers in the Nabisco plant in Chicago who saw their jobs exported to Mexico, called for delegates to refrain from buying Nabisco products made in that nation. The workers are traveling the nation to deliver that message, including how to examine product labels.
A panel on SB 4, the "show me your papers" immigration bill, discussed the ongoing fight to stop the legislation from taking effect and the need for the labor movement to stay involved. Hany Khalil of the Gulf Coast ALF noted the bill is about not only discrimination but about taking power from local governments. Montserrat Garibay of Education Austin said she has seen the difficulty of teaching children whose parents face deportation proceedings. Kenneth Sumberlin of IBEW reported on that union's efforts to register a growing Latino population to vote. Hugo Romero of the UCLA Labor Center described himself as "undocumented and unafraid" and poignantly recounted the deportation of his mother. "We are going to show our papers at the ballot box," Garibay said.
Delegates adjourned to workshops, a joint constituency group meeting and an evening reception.
Day 3 Report, June 25, 2017
President Patrick gaveled the convention to order at 9 a.m.
Brother Mike Mosteit's final credentials report counted 318 delegates, seven alternates, 42 guests and 10 fraternal delegates for a total of 377 registered attendees.
Delegates adopted seven committee reports, including a report suggesting 10 changes to the Texas AFL-CIO Constitution. A committee proposal to expand the anti-discrimination provision in the constitution was adopted, but not before delegates launched a thoughtful floor debate that resulted in expanding the proposal. Delegates voted to broaden protection covering religious belief and to newly include age discrimination, in addition to committee proposals to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. Race, creed, color, sex and national origin remain covered in the anti-discrimination policy as well.
Another constitutional change adds an Ethical Practices Code and anti-discrimination/anti-harassment policy. Other changes removed archaic language and adapted or eliminated operating provisions that no longer apply to the state labor federation.
Prof. George Green, retired from UT-Arlington, discussed the history of labor in Texas and took note of the labor archives he launched at the university.
Delegates proceeded to morning workshops, then returned to the convention floor for the swearing in of the new Texas AFL-CIO Executive Board and other closing matters. With the traditional rendition of "Solidarity Forever," the convention adjourned shortly after noon.
2) Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick's prepared report to the convention serves as a review of the 140-day legislative session, a preview of the next one and a statement on the essential nature of civil rights advocacy in the Texas labor movement. If you were not at the convention, it is worth a read:
3) Facing what would be an extraordinarily embarrassing defeat, the U.S. Senate's GOP leadership today postponed this week's planned vote on the "repeal and replace' of the Affordable Care Act until sometime after the July 4 recess, which includes the possibility of eternity.
The New York Times reports the Republican caucus lacked the votes to ram the measure through after the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reported the measure would subtract 22 million Americans from the health care rolls in the next 10 years (not to mention line the pockets of the wealthiest taxpayers in America). That number is remarkably close to the loss of coverage under a House bill that cuts coverage and threatens lives in more straightforward fashion.
The bill is so bad that the Senate leadership hid it until it had no choice. The cascade of opposition that ensued after the big reveal was remarkable, and that's just from the Republican Party. Senate Democrats unanimously oppose the bill and, by all accounts, were not participants in creation of this monster.
We may be in Stage 1 of a giant victory, but that would require continuing action by opponents of the legislation. Count me in the group of Americans who believe "repeal and replace" is more about an attack on President Obama's legacy - an attack on one of the historic accomplishments in the history of Congress, too - than a sincere legislative play to improve health care in America. That's a political assessment, but the American people seem to have caught on very quickly to the more practical aspects of one of the meanest bills to ever get this far in the legislative process.
It's time for President Trump to pull the plug on this circular firing squad and move on:
WASHINGTON - Facing intransigent Republican opposition, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, announced on Tuesday that he will delay a vote on his legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, dealing President Trump an embarrassing setback on a key part of his agenda.
Republican leaders had hoped to take a page from the playbook used to get a bill over the line in the House, appeasing the most conservative members of their conference while pressuring moderates to fall in line with fewer concessions.
But as opposition mounted in both camps, even against a vote just to take up the bill, Mr. McConnell decided he would delay consideration until after the Senate's weeklong July 4 recess.
That delay does not guarantee the senators will come together. Opposition groups will mount pressure campaigns on lawmakers in their home states, and policy divisions are deep.
"It's hard to see how tinkering is going to satisfy my personal concerns," Ms. Collins told reporters.
Negotiations on Tuesday that leaders hoped would move senators toward yes only exposed the fissures in the Republican Party. Conservatives were demanding that states be allowed to waive the Affordable Care Act's prohibition on insurance companies charging sick people more for coverage and are asking for a more expansive waiver system for state regulators. They also wanted more money for tax-free health savings accounts to help people pay for private insurance.
Read more: http://nyti.ms/2sYcInf
The Economic Policy Institute, a think tank associated with the AFL-CIO, calculates that alongside the out-and-out loss of coverage in the Senate's health care proposal, Americans would lose $33 billion in out-of-pocket expenses for health care under the legislation and 1.1 million fewer jobs would be created by 2020:
If the Senate votes to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA), millions of Americans will be unquestionably worse off. In addition to the 23 million Americans who will lose their health insurance coverage by 2026, the economic impacts of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are large and wide-reaching.
Read more: http://bit.ly/2rZ8bPP
Meanwhile, AP reports, President Trump has given an indication of just how reliably he will have the backs of senators who cast potentially career-ending votes to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act:
President Donald Trump says that if the health care bill fails to pass in the Senate, he won't like it - but "that's OK."
Trump spoke Tuesday at a gathering of Senate Republicans after their leaders shelved a vote on their prized health care bill until at least next month.
Trump says, "This will be great if we get it done and if we don't get it done it's going to be something that we're not going to like and that's OK and I can understand that."
Read more: http://www.statesman.com/news/the-latest-trump-says-health-bill-doesn-pass/snXodGhtwYZ5ncTN5EBF8O/
4) Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rick Levy delivered brief remarks at an anti-SB 4 protest at San Antonio's federal courthouse on Monday, part of a protest against the "show me your papers" law that drew more than 600 people, including a strong labor contingent. The United Labor Legislative Committee opposed SB 4 and the Texas AFL-CIO is continuing that opposition to the law.
Meanwhile, inside the courthouse, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, a former state representative who got his start in politics under the wing of the late civil rights activist and state rep Matt Garcia, heard testimony raising constitutional issues related to the bill.
Among the points made by opponents was the bill's civil penalties against public officials who advocate against "voluntary" cooperation with federal immigration holds. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff was not enamored of the idea:
Wolff said he generally speaks his mind, but "there is a little chilling effect" if he speaks out against SB 4 if it's allowed to take effect.
"I mean $25,000, my wife won't be too crazy about that," Wolff said. "If the governor or lieutenant governor had to pay a fine for every unconstitutional school funding bill, every unconstitutional law," Wolff continued. But he was cut off by the judge after lawyers for the state objected.
"Being removed from office doesn't concern me, but paying such a big fine, personally, does," Wolff resumed.
Wolff testified that Bexar County has always been responsive to federal immigration officers who submit detainer requests and that the local jail holds undocumented immigrants with detainers for 48 hours after their criminal cases have concluded. The jail gets about 500 immigrants with detainer requests a year, and it currently has 159 locked up on detainer requests That is expensive, he said. More than a decade ago, the federal government was reimbursing the county $500,000 a year, but that has since been reduced to about $90,000, Wolfftestified. Over the past 11 or 12 years, the county estimates that the feds owe it $22 million to $23 million, Wolff said. "Local taxpayers are paying that tab, and I hope they are paying attention to this trial because it's going to hit
Read more: http://bit.ly/2ti9gpP
5) The Tideland Houston Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute has scheduled a gala event "Honoring Our Living Legends."
The "legends" include union family and allies in Texas: Bishop C.D. Boulden, the Rev. Andrew and Thyra Burke, Steve Flores, Rayford Foley, Cynthia Ginyard, Ruthie Johnson, Lee Medley, Lillie Schechter, Linda Morales and Vivian Willis.
I want to call particular attention to Vivian Willis, the long-time administrative assistant at the Texas AFL-CIO who is usually the first person anyone sees when they enter our office. The calmest presence at our office, Willis is planning to retire (though she has agreed to stay an extra month because of the upcoming special legislative session), and she richly deserves this honor.
The event takes place 6 p.m. (seating at 5:30 p.m.) Saturday, July 15 at the Carl Walker Jr. Multi-Purpose Center, 4300-B Noble St., in Houston. All proceeds will go to the APRI Scholarship Fund.
For tickets or information, please contact Clara Caldwell at (713)449-1596 or (713)733-9644.
6) The 20th anniversary of the entry of Harry Potter into the world of fictional heroes and blockbuster movies is worth a mention in any labor newsletter because of author J.K. Rowling's tilt toward social justice in the novels.
Fans of the series know of house elves and of Hermione Granger's effort to start a union on their behalf. A few years ago, Wired magazine offered this take on the subject a few years ago, noting it among several unusual cases in which the world of fantasy/sci-fi takes on labor unions:
Labor Issues: Racism, exploitation of the service industry, devaluation of care work (domestics, childcare, etc.), activism
House elves first appeared in the Harry Potter novels in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, where we met Dobby, the elf who worked for the mostly-evil Malfoy family before Harry tricked them into giving him his freedom. House elves exist at the bottom of the food chain in the magical world; essentially domestic slaves to (usually rich) magical families, house elves cook, clean, wear rags and can be beaten without consequence, despite the fact that they actually possess impressive magic powers. Passed down from generation to generation, they are also instinctually compelled to hurt themselves if they dare act against the best interests of their "family" (see: Dobby's self-harm when he attempts to keep Harry from going back to Hogwarts, to protect him) and can only be freed when their masters present them with an article (or articles) of clothing. Despite it being commonly understood in the magical world that house elves' status is "just the way it is" and has been for centuries, Hermione Granger -- a Muggle-born witch and thus heretofore unaware of such a species hierarchy -- is outraged by the mistreatment of house elves, and even more horrified to learn that Hogwarts employs house elves in its kitchens.
Hermione starts the Society for the Protection of Elvish Welfare (S.P.E.W.) and continues promoting fair treatment and ultimately freedom for house elves, even when the elves themselves wish she wouldn't shake up the status quo. It turns out not all elves want freedom like Dobby does; others just want to be treated with respect, as living creatures with identities all their own. The elves who receive respect and fair treatment (as in the Hogwarts kitchen staff) sometimes prefer to keep their jobs without conflict; her attempts to "free" them actually disturb them, despite her best intentions, because she presumes to know what's best for all elves, deciding on their behalf that freedom is the solution to every elf's problems. When Dobby's friend Winky is freed, she becomes unsure of what to do with herself and nearly suicidal with despair at being turned away from her family. Hermione's desire to liberate all elves at all costs, regardless of their circumstances or desires comes across as presumptuous, and a bit of a savior complex on her part that is problematic in its own right.
Author J.K. Rowling explores these politics deftly, especially in an allegorical context intended to be read for children. Discussion of racial and labor politics in the service industry is tricky yet intensely important, especially with kids who might grow up in an environment where domestic labor is employed frequently, possibly abused, and often staffed by people who look different from their families (see: the nanny chain). Using a powerful-yet-oppressed magical people like the house elves to explore those issues, in addition to having a character like Hermione who is staunch in her activist beliefs even while derided by her all-magical classmates, allows kids (and adults!) to draw a clear and powerful parallel between the fantasy they love and the realities they are forced to confront in their everyday lives.-Devon Maloney.
See other examples of labor unions in fantasy/sci-fi: https://www.wired.com/2013/08/sci-fi-labor-issues/