Replace NAFTA

by Tom Broderick

The people united will never be defeated! Good chant, but also a clear reflection of the defeat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Negotiated in secret by hundreds of corporate advisers it went down in flames thanks to the power of the people. The TPP threatened environmental laws, health and safety regulations and public interest policies. The TPP sought to limit food safety inspections on imported foods. Countries that signed the agreement could simply declare that their food safety inspections were on par with ours. The TPP would have gutted Buy American / Buy Local procurement policies which keeps our tax dollars invested in our communities. The TPP would have expanded corporate power with special investor rights and allowed tribunals of corporate lawyers to adjudicate lawsuits brought by trans-national corporations against U.S. taxpayers. These tribunals are known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Complaints would be filed and settled completely outside the U.S. judicial system and would not be subject to appeal.

Chicago DSA pushed hard to defeat the TPP. Green Party Presidential candidate, Jill Stein and Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump came out loud and strong against the TPP. With pressure from Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was dragged into the TPP fray more or less against her will, finally declaring she was against it. Of the four major candidates, only the Libertarian Presidential candidate, Gary Johnson supported signing the agreement.

As a candidate, the donald pledged he would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to make it “much better” for working Americans. NAFTA is a trade agreement between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. The donald said “NAFTA has been a catastrophe for our country; it’s been a catastrophe for our workers and our jobs and companies.” The White House web site said the donald “will withdraw from NAFTA if the U.S. doesn’t get a better deal.” This is something he could do. He could simply pull the United States out of NAFTA.

Chicago DSA and West Suburban Illinois DSA are working with Public Citizen, gathering post cards calling on the donald to replace NAFTA. The cards demand that the donald “replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with a deal benefiting working people in all three countries, not just the multinational corporations. This means ending the NAFTA investor protections and the ban on Buy American/Buy Local procurement that promote job-offshoring, removing investor-state dispute settlement, and requiring that food imports meet U.S. safety rules. A new deal must only go into effect if countries enact and enforce strong labor, wage and environmental standards. Nothing to make NAFTA even worse, like monopoly protections for Big Pharma can be included.”

Although claiming he intended to “drain the swamp,” the donald has appointed very dubious characters to the Departments of Commerce and Trade as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lightizer is referred to as a skeptic of free trade deals, but represented a business controlled by the Chinese government in a lawsuit brought against the U.S. taxpayers in 1991. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, was described by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D. MA) as “practically a cartoon stereotype of a Wall Street fat cat who has no interest in anyone but himself.” As a billionaire investor in a car parts company, he sent U.S. jobs to Mexico, taking advantage of NAFTA rules. He is also an investor in a Chinese government backed company.

Two former Goldman Sachs big wigs in the donald’s administration are Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director, Gary Cohn. Mnuchin was “part of the cadre of corporate raiders that brought our economy to its knees” according to Senator Scott Menendez (D. NJ) during Mnuchin’s confirmation hearing. Senator Ron Wyden (D. OR) referred to Mnuchin as “the foreclosure king” during the same hearing. Former President of Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn has suggested a very watered down reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act might be appropriate. According to The American Prospect, Cohn’s version would allow for increased banking deregulation. Something near and dear to any Goldman Sachs bankster heart. Scott Pruitt, a self described “leading advocate aginst the EPA’s activist agenda” is now heading that Agency He has repeatedly sued the EPA.

Although yet to be confirmed, the donald’s choice to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture is Sunny Perdue. Before he was elected Governor of Georgia, he made a great deal of money peddling fertilizer. As Governor of Georgia he signed a bill blocking local communities from enacting regulations against animal cruelty, for worker safety and against pollution at factory farms in Georgia. Georgia is the home of many large industrial farms. Quite a mash-up of the pro-investment moneybag folk.

After the Congressional recess, the donald and his pack of pirates are likely to begin the process of renegotiating NAFTA. That would begin with a letter notifying the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee stating that the donald wants to begin renegotiating NAFTA. Both committees would have to agree to renegotiation. It will be our responsibility to make trouble for the well-heeled one-percenters who don’t give a rat’s ass for democracy, workers’ rights, and the health of people and planet. No top secret negotiations allowed. Let the leaks spring forth.


More from DSA:

Not This NAFTA (1993)

Renegotiate NAFTA (2008)

Fair Trade Not Free Trade from the New Ground archives

Remembering Harold Washington

In These Times reposted an article they published back in 1983, on the occasion of Washington’s election as Mayor of Chicago. The article mentions, in passing, DSA’s involvement in the election. It begins:

CHICAGO—“We were slow to move from the protest movement into politics,” Harold Washington said just after he won the Chicago Democratic mayoral primary in February. “We were lulled to sleep thinking that passing a few laws was enough. But we’ve got to be involved in the mainstream political activity. That’s what’s happening here in Chicago,” he added. “And that’s the lesson that’s going out across the country.”

This “coming into political maturity” of minority groups that, as Washington says, once thought simple street protests were enough took a giant leap forward on April 12 when a sizable majority of Hispanic voters and enough left and liberal whites joined the overwhelming majority of blacks to give Chicago its first black mayor.

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At Monthly Review Online, Michael Hoover provided a retrospective, where he judged:

It is, perhaps, unfair to have expected the institutionalization of populist policies and programs in such a short period of time. And long-term change might not have occurred even if Washington had lived longer. Reliance upon individual leaders does not address how urban growth policymaking and the competitive character of global cities respond to the dictates of capital markets. Thus, proactive restructuring without popular mobilization will surely result in business as usual. Neither an episodic “politics of the streets” nor an incremental “politics of the suites” can by themselves overcome the conventional way of doing things. A convergence of the two is necessary to both combat political stasis and to develop an enduring progressive politics.

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Your editor doesn’t pretend familiarity with all of Washington’s biographies, but generally DSA gets mentioned in passing. Our involvement in that election was rather more than peripheral: One of Washington’s first stops outside the Black community was DSA. His victory had rather mixed consequences for the organization. This is something that deserves a more extended examination.

Wage Theft Must End

by Tom Broderick

From 2013 through 2016, the Chicago City Council enacted three new employment laws. In 2013, the Wage Theft Ordinance was passed. The Minimum Wage Ordinance was passed in 2015 and in 2016, the Council enacted the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.

Who is minding the store on this legislation? In Chicago, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) is supposed to protect workers’ rights. The Department’s web site states: “The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection licenses, regulates and empowers Chicago businesses to grow and succeed as well as, receives and processes consumer complaints.”

Faith – Labor – Action is the motto of ARISE Chicago. The group’s mission is to end workplace abuse. ARISE Chicago announced their campaign to have the City of Chicago create a Chicago Office of Labor Standards (COoLS) at a press conference at Roosevelt University on Thursday, February 23rd. It appears that ARISE is calling for the COoLS to be under the Dept. of BACP and take responsibility for enforcing Chicago’s employment laws.

Data obtained by The Chicago Reporter through a Freedom of Information Act request, shows that between July, 2015, when the Chicago minimum wage law took effect, and December, 2016, the Dept. of BACP received 454 complaints about violations regarding the minimum wage. Of those, 112 complaints led to investigations, just shy of 25%. Workers are required to submit affidavits attesting to violations. The Dept. of BACP forwards a copy of the complaint and the affidavit to the employer: A recipe for employer retaliation against the worker.

While 51 workers recovered wages totaling $82,000 according to The Chicago Reporter, not a single fine was assessed to any Chicago business, even though the law states that businesses shall be subject to fines of $500 to $1,000 per day. Nor has the business license been revoked for any company found in violation of the ordinance: Not a successful track record of enforcement.

In her opening remarks, Reverend C. J. Hawking (Executive Director of ARISE Chicago) welcomed us as a “congregation of believers.” She said we gathered in the spirit of Jane Addams (who along with Ellen Gates Starr opened the settlement house known as Hull House for arriving European immigrants in 1889) and Frances Perkins, the first woman appointed to head any U. S. Cabinet position – the Department of Labor. Rev. Hawking continued “We rise up against the current political climate of hostility toward workers and unions.”

She was followed by Maria Leon, a restaurant worker who spoke of how her former employer regularly refused to disperse tips that had been added to restaurant bills that were paid with a credit card. After repeatedly asking for the tips that restaurant patrons had charged, she was fired. Tips, whether paid in cash or charged have been earned by the worker. Tips are not donations to the bottom line of those who manage or own restaurants. The denial of earned tips is wage theft and the firing is illegal.

Janice Fine, PhD, Professor of Labor Studies at Rutgers University took to the podium and said that municipalities, large and small, have established Offices of Labor Standards with enforcement capabilities. She stated that Chicago could join San Francisco, Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, Seattle, New York City, Minneapolis and Austin, Texas in working to shore up workers’ rights. As a major center for the economy in the mid-west Chicago could lead the way in regional support for promoting and enhancing the rights of workers.

Local enforcement of existing laws/policies must be handled by local governmental agencies working in collaboration with worker centers. Workers are often hesitant to go to governmental agencies for fear of being reported to their employers. Workers may not even understand that they have rights as workers. Worker centers are well known to low-wage workers. These centers provide support to workers and that builds trust among the workers and with the centers. The centers can be a bridge between the workers and the governmental agency tasked with enforcement.

According to Dr. Fine, workers will know which industries or segments of industries regularly violate the rights of workers: wage theft, including “working off the clock,” overtime pay, minimum wage payment and the theft of tips as well as accrued sick leave pay violations. Industries with a record of violations could be taxed a percentage of profit to finance the Office of Labor Standards.

According to a University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC) report published in 2009 (The Breakdown of Workplace Protections in the Low-Wage Labor Market), nearly half of the sampled low-wage workers experienced at least one pay-related violation in the previous work week. The average worker lost $50 out of their weekly earnings of $322. That’s a 16% loss in earnings. The report extrapolated that low-wage workers in Chicago and suburban Cook County lose more than $7.3 million per week as a result of employment and labor law violations. Not only do the workers lose, but the taxing bodies also lose. Wage theft cheats workers, families and communities.

Four members of the Chicago City Council took part in the press conference. Council member Ameya Pawar (47th Ward) said he is in fear of the current federal administration. He is concerned that at the federal level as well as the state level, there is no concern for the rights of every day working people. The creation of a Chicago Office of Labor Standards is about decency and human rights. The Office must have enforcement capabilities to protect and safeguard justice for the working people of Chicago.

Ameya Pawar has announced his candidacy to become the next Governor of Illinois. Pawar is not just another rich white guy running for re-election or election to the Governorship of Illinois, he has staked out a clear position as to which side he is on when it comes to the 99%.

Council member George Cardenas (12th Ward) was introduced as Chair of the Latino caucus. He said he is product of his neighborhood and that his family suffered workplace problems. “The Latino community is hard hit by wage theft.” Cardenas called for establishing a regulatory framework to protect workers.

Council member Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th Ward) was introduced as a member of the Latino and the Progressive caucuses. He added “and a proud member of the Gay and Lesbian caucus.” He spoke of being approached by ARISE Chicago to help a worker facing wage theft in his ward. “We need stronger citywide enforcement, connected to community groups on the ground . . . Chicago won’t have the first Office of Labor Standards, but working with experts, groups on the ground and workers, we can have the best Office of Labor Standards.” Carlos Rosa will be the keynote speaker at the Chicago DSA Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner on Friday, May 19, 2017 at the Crowne Plaza Chicago Hotel.

Council member John Arena (45th Ward) was also introduced as a member of the Progressive caucus. Along with Rev. Hawking and Adam Kader who directs the ARISE Chicago Worker Center Program, Arena visited with some of the staff in the Seattle Office of Labor Standards to understand how their program operated. He said “it’s important to bake in” enforcement mechanisms covering workers under Chicago’s employment laws. He said he met with Samantha Fields, Commissioner of the Dept. of BACP and feels she is open to understanding what the COoLS would do.

Robert Reiter is the Secretary-Treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL). He said that the labor movement is greater than organized labor and that local protection for worker standards is necessary. On a national level, the current administration is looking to roll back labor standards, so local offices like the proposed Chicago COoLS would be critical in protecting workers. If employers are allowed to steal workers wages, “we need a way to get that money back.” The City Council has passed important employment laws. The next logical step is to create a Chicago Office of Labor Standards.”

The final speaker was Sophia Zaman, the Executive Director of Raise the Floor Alliance, a collaborative effort to amplify the voice of workers. Raise the Floor Alliance was launched in December, 2015. The founding members are ARISE Chicago, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, Chicago Community & Worker Rights, Chicago Workers Collaborative, Latino Union of Chicago, Restaurant Opportunities Center, Warehouse Workers for Justice and Workers Center for Racial Justice. Ms. Zaman indicated Raise The Floor Alliance would be in a strong position to bridge the gap between workers and the Chicago Office of Labor Standards.

What can Chicago DSA do to promote the creation of a robust Chicago Office of Labor Standards? If you live in Chicago, contact your elected city council member. Tell them that labor laws recently passed by the Chicago City Council need to be vigorously enforced. Advise them that workplace violations will continue unless the city creates a strong Chicago Office of Labor Standards that is fully funded and dedicated to enforcing Chicago’s employment laws.

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Raise the Minimum Wage

The stagnant minimum wage in Illinois, stuck at $8.25 per hour, is holding back our economy. More than 40% of all workers in Illinois earn less than $15 per hour, including 46% of women, 48% of African Americans, and 61% of Latinos. Raising the wage floor in Illinois to $15 per hour would benefit the future of 2.3 million workers. It would be a historic economic stimulus for our communities, from Carbondale to the Quad Cities. $15 would revive our middle-class by keeping billions of dollars in the Illinois economy, putting more money in working families pockets immediately, and creating tens of thousands of family-supporting jobs. EVERYONE would benefit.

SIGN THE PETITION. (Legislation is pending introduction, more HERE and HERE.)

Keep Illinois Working

We count on public service workers in state government to keep us safe, protect kids, care for veterans and people with disabilities, protect the environment, help those in need and much more. Child protection workers, caregivers, correctional officers, emergency responders and other public service workers have a right to a voice on the job through their union. They use that voice to advocate for all of us — for better public services, for fair treatment on the job, and for fair pay and affordable health care. But Governor Rauner is making extreme demands that would harm public services, strip the rights of workers to have a voice, and drive down their middle class standard of living.

State employees are willing to do their part. But in January, Rauner walked away from the bargaining table and has refused to even meet with the union ever since. Just like he’s holding the state budget hostage, Rauner walks away whenever he doesn’t get his way.

Tell the governor to drop his unreasonable demands, come back to the bargaining table and negotiate fairly with the public service workers who keep Illinois working. SIGN THE PETITION.

Trump’s War on Dissent

Noted civil liberties attorney Flint Taylor writes:

On the heels of the much ballyhooed meeting that an obsequious Donald Trump conducted this week with local law enforcement officials from across the country, the president titillated the gendarmes with a threat to destroy — COINTELPRO style — an unnamed Texas state senator rumored to be introducing legislation to prevent law enforcement from financing police operations by seizing arrestees’ property before they have been found guilty in a court of law. On Thursday, Trump followed up with an executive order that gave the recently confirmed Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions a carte blanche to bring down the wrath of the federal government on anyone who is unfortunate enough to have a confrontation with a cop, a prison guard, a border patrol officer or who knows who else outfitted with a badge and carrying a gun.

At first blush, the order could be seen simply as a wildly unpopular president playing macho man to our nation’s police departments and their reactionary police unions. The unions have been chafing over being curbed by the previous administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ), which, by means of pattern-or-practice investigations and consent decrees, started to put the brakes on racist police violence. On its face, Trump’s new order looks like much bluster, with no enforcement mechanisms. Many of the provisions will need to be passed by Congress, receive funding and ultimately, pass constitutional muster — a hurdle that the authoritarian Trump administration, with its white supremacist hatchet men at the helm, seems unwilling to pay even a trifling respect.

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170-3 Politics

The U.S. Economy in 2016

At Democratic Left, Bill Barclay and Peg Strobel begin:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. This phrase from Charles Dickens’ novel about the French Revolution, Tale of Two Cities, aptly describes the starkly different views of the U.S. economy in 2016 and progress (or not) in the years since the financial panic of 2008.

The best of times: by the end of 2016, official unemployment dropped from 5.0% to 4.7%, reaching what Federal Reserve Bank (“the Fed”) Chair Janet Yellen called close to “full employment.”  The worst of times: at his first press conference as president, Trump insisted that “there are 96 million [people] wanting a job and they can’t get [one].”  Since 60% of Trump voters believed that unemployment went up during Obama’s eight years in office, Trump’s claim makes perfect fantasy sense.

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It’s Only a Law, Unless…

There is actual enforcement. At the Chicago Reporter, Melissa Sanchez writes:

Several aldermen and workers’ advocates have launched a campaign to spur Chicago to toughen enforcement of its minimum wage and other labor ordinances with a new Office of Labor Standards.

The campaign comes just weeks after The Chicago Reporter found that enforcement of the city’s 2014 minimum wage ordinance has been largely ineffective. The city has investigated just a quarter of the 454 complaints filed since the ordinance went into effect in 2015, has recovered lost pay for only a few dozen workers and has yet to fine a single company for violating the ordinance. After questioning by the Reporter, the city said it would begin issuing fines.

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Rauner & the Legacy of PATCO

At Labor Notes, Chris Brooks writes:

For the first time in four decades as a union, 28,000 Illinois state workers could be going on strike, facing down a Republican governor who campaigned on the promise to force a showdown with the union.

In a 20-day vote that ended February 19, members from the 70 locals that comprise AFSCME Council 31 voted in favor of strike authorization.

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You can show your support for public employees and place yourself on a list to be mobilized by going to Keep Illinois Working.

The Alabamafication of America

Guess who really won the Civil War? At Harvard Political Review, Drew Pendergrass writes:

The lesson is simple: populism rises above all other concerns in Alabama. Demagoguery has a long track record of success in the South, and a politician who sufficiently channels that energy can say and do most anything — “grab them by the pussy,” for example — and still win by a landslide. George Wallace’s racism cost Alabama millions in economic development and outside investment, yet his populist appeal won elections. He served several nonconsecutive terms as governor, including one as late as the 1980s.

Trump won the election with the same flair as Folsom. With his cabinet picks and his agenda, it looks like Trump will govern like an Alabamian as well, with the classic strategies of a Montgomery politician.

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Be the Change Congress Needs

by Tom Broderick
Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) will be conducting an Advocacy Training in Oak Park. This training will be free of charge. It will be conducted by Maiya Zwerling, National Field Organizer for FCNL.

Date: Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM start and 9:30 PM end
Location: Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church, 405 S. Euclid Avenue, Oak Park, IL 60302
RSVP: David Kelm 708.975.9300
For more information CLICK HERE or call Tom at 708.386.6007.

FCNL is a national Quaker Lobby in the Public Interest group that works to empower people like you and me to influence our national legislators (Representatives and Senators).

Person to person meetings with our elected officials and their staff are the most effective way to influence policy decisions. We all need to become more effective in influencing the policy decisions of our elected officials.

Time to hone our effective selves and move our elected officials to follow our lead.

170-2 Politics

Trump Mussolini

History Has Been Hacked

At Jacobin, Mike Davis provides an extended analysis of Trump’s victory. He writes:

Trump’s victory, of course, may turn out to be the ghost dance of a dying white culture, quickly followed by a return to Obamian, globalist normalcy or, conversely we may be heading into the twilight zone of home-grown fascism. The parameters of the next four years are largely unknown. Much depends on whether the Republicans succeed in incorporating the old industrial states of the upper Midwest into their mid-continental reich of solidly red Southern and plains states. In this case, their structural electoral advantages, as the National Review recently pointed out, might override the popular vote for another decade.

But whatever the scenario, the issue of the utmost immediate importance to the Left is whether or not the Sanders coalition, including the progressive unions that backed him, can be kept alive as an independent movement bridging the racial and cultural divides among American working people. An extraordinary restructuring of political camps, cadre, and patronage is taking place in an atmosphere of chaos and uncertainty, but we need to understand more clearly whether 2016 actually reflects, or necessarily anticipates, a fundamental realignment of social forces.

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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Combating this new era of “alternative facts,” a research team led by Dr. Dana R. Fisher, Dr. Dawn M. Dow and Dr. Rashawn Ray from the University of Maryland, College Park provides data-supported facts about participants at the Women’s March. Teams of 2 surveyed participants throughout the march (full details of sampling and methodology available upon request) to understand who was protesting and why. In total, 527 people completed the survey (representing a 92.5% response rate).

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