Monday, March 27, 2006

Immigration Reform

Sunday, March 26th, 2006

They are Latin American immigrants tending the manicured lawns in wealthy New York neighborhoods. They are Indian computer programmers working for major corporations. They are women, born in Mexico and Africa, who tend our children. They pay taxes and have been contributing members of our communities for years. Many have families. We rely on their labor each and every day. Yet the basic rights of these workers - to a minimum wage, a safe workplace and fair treatment - are routinely trampled upon. This exploitation hurts all of us, foreign and native-born alike. It must end, and the overhauling of our nation's broken immigration laws is essential to achieving this goal.

Tragically, all immigration reform proposals currently circulating in the halls of Congress fail to protect even the most basic rights of immigrant workers and their families. Just last week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) put forth his own makeshift proposal - topping the list of legislative failures. He wants to criminalize immigrant workers, deepening the potential for abuse and exploitation while undermining wages and labor protections for all.

To achieve comprehensive immigration reform, we have to give up the illusion that enforcement of laws alone can fix our broken system. Effective reform must include three interdependent goals. First, our government must uniformly enforce laws on workplace standards. All workers, including immigrants, should earn a minimum wage, have safe jobs and receive fair treatment. When immigrants are treated poorly, workplace standards are dragged down for all workers. Second, we must reject guest worker programs. Because these workers are wholly dependent on host employers for both their livelihoods and legal status, guest workers are ripe for exploitation. Finally, there must be a path to permanent residency for immigrant workers already here.

Undocumented workers are under constant threat of deportation, and employers cheat them out of due wages. They work the most dangerous jobs - among foreign-born workers, workplace fatality has increased by an alarming 46% between 1992 and 2002. When immigrant workers try to correct these injustices by forming unions, they are harassed, intimidated and terminated. When all else fails to break a union drive, employers simply call in the immigration authorities and everyone gets deported for standing up for basic rights.

Criminalizing undocumented workers makes them easy prey for unscrupulous employers. That in turn drives down working standards for all Americans and creates an undemocratic, two-tiered society.

We need an immigration policy that provides a real path to citizenship for those workers already here and that helps meet the future needs of workers in a fair way. We should recognize immigrant workers as full members of society - permanent residents with full rights that employers may not exploit.

As a nation that prides itself on fair treatment and equality, we simply cannot settle for anything less.

Chavez-Thompson is executive vice president of AFL-CIO.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Steelworkers to Rally

The Fox government in Mexico has replaced Napoleon Gomez Urrutia as president of Los Mineros, the National Miners and Metallurgical Union. The Steelworkers Union has labeled Fox's actions "naked aggression" and demanded that he immediately reinstate Gomez and restore his personal assets and those of the union, all of which were frozen by the government.
"The USW views your actions as naked aggression against Los Mineros," Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard wrote in a letter to Mexican President Vincentc Fox. The letter condemned the Mexican government's actions as "a blatant attempt to stifle the voice of workers and all progressive unions in Mexico," coming as they have a short time before the Mexican elections.
Gomez has been a leading voice in opposing changes to Mexican law sought by the Fox regime that would outlaw strikes. He has rallied support among independent unions in opposition to the legislation and is one of a growing number of Mexican leaders openly condemning the negative impacts of NAFTA and so-called free trade policies.
The government's action came on the heels of a strike by Los Mineros in protest to the decision of the Mexican government to seal the mine owned by Grupo Mexico and prematurely end the rescue efforts to reach 65 miners trapped as a result of a Feb. 19 underground gas explosion.
"These actions by Fox's government make a mockery of Mexican `democracy,"' Gerard said in making public his Executive Board's resolution. "This kind of blatant suppression of free trade unionism rips away what little pretense remains that the Fox regime is anything but thugs in three piece suits."
The Steelworkers and Los Mineros signed a strategic alliance last April, in which they committed to defend the human rights of each other's members. In fact, Gomez led hundreds of his members in a protest in Mexico City last year on behalf of Steelworkers in the U.S. who had been forced out on strike by Asarco, a mining company owned by Grupo Mexico.

Rally at the
We will gather at the Pan Am Plaza located at South
Capital and Georgia St.
Monday March 27
11:30 am
For more information contact Sal
or Brett at the United Steelworkers

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Republican boot lickers

Indiana’s Governor, Mitch Daniels and his boot licker legislators in the General Assembly have gone against the wishes of Hoosiers by leasing the Indiana Toll Road to a foreign company for 75 years. As I understand it, only the Democrats chose to follow the peoples wishes.
There’s only one way to deal with scoundrels like that…..make sure they get booted out of office at the first opportunity.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Representatives are better than so called “leaders”

My Indiana State Representative, Steve Heim, has been posting links on his blog directing people to editorials which suggest that Indiana’s legislators should be “leaders” and go ahead and lease Indiana’s toll road, disregarding the fact that the people of Indiana don’t want this to happen.
That’s exactly how arrogant the politicians were in Michigan in regards to the minimum wage. Even though the people of Michigan wanted the minimum wage to be increased, the politicians thought that they knew what was best for the people and that they would be “leaders” and do what the hell they wanted.
Then, the folks in Michigan prepared to put the issue on this Fall’s ballot as a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage from the disgusting $5.15 per hour to $7.40 by June of 2008 in three incremental increases. The same thing is happening in Arizona.
Well, the Republican controlled Senate in Michigan started to feel the heat and knew that workers would boot their asses out this November if they didn’t do what the people wanted, so they voted unanimously to increase the minimum wage 44%.
Well, guess what the stinking minimum wage is in good old Indiana. Yep, a lousy $5.15 per hour. Indiana always does the minimum when it comes to workers. That’s exactly what “leaders” in congress do. And it hasn’t changed in nine long years. If I was working a job in Indiana which paid the minimum wage, I’d be packing my bags and moving to a more progressive state……like Michigan.
And while the minimum wage stays the same in Indiana, workers fall further and further behind. It's time for the so called “leaders” of Indiana begin to truly represent workers in our state and increase the minimum wage or face our boot in the next election. The same goes for the Indiana Toll Road.
And…if they refuse to do the will of the people, the people should fire them.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

United Steelworkers Union

On Wednesday, March 1, 2006, The Steelworkers Union had their Installation of Officers and Members of their Executive Board.

Below is listed the members of the USW Executive Board:

Leo W. Gerard, International President
James D. English, International Secretary-Treasurer
Thomas M. Conway, International Vice President (Administration)
Fred Redmond, International Vice President (Human Affairs)
Ken Neumann, National Director for Canada
Richard “Dick” LaCosse, International Vice President
James E. “Jim” Pannell, Administrative Vice President
David McCall, Director, District 1
Jon Geenen, Director, District 2
Stephen Hunt, Director, District 3
Bill Pienta, Director, District 4
Michel Arsenault, Director, District 5
Wayne Fraser, Director, District 6
Jim Robinson, Director, District 7
Billy Thompson, Director, District 8
Connie Entrekin, Director, District 9
John DeFazio, Director, District 10
Robert Bratulich, Director, District 11
Terry Bonds, Director, District 12
Gary Beevers, Director, District 13
Ron Hoover, Executive Vice President (R/PIC)
James Dunn, Associate Secretary-Treasurer
Lewis Peacock, Vice President (Organizing)
James K. Phillips, Vice President at Large
Gerald Johnston, Co-Director, District 1
Gary B. Cook, Co-Director, District 4
William Gibbons, Co-Director, District 7
Robert Smith, Co-Director, District 8
Lloyd Walters, Co-Director, District 9
Donald Langham, Co-Director, District 9
Ken Test, Co-Director, District 10
Roger Heiser, Co-Director, District 12

They took the following Oath of Office:

“I,________________, do hereby sincerely pledge my honor to perform the duties of my office as prescribed by the Laws of the organization, and to bear true allegiance to the United Steelworkers. I will deliver to my successor in office all books and other property of this Union that may be in my possession at the close of my official term. All of this I solemnly promise, with full knowledge that to violate this pledge is to stamp me as a person devoid of principle and destitute of honor.”

Our Union

The USW is 1.2 million working and retired members throughout the United States and Canada, working together to improve our jobs; to build a better future for our families; and to promote fairness, justice and equality both on the job and in our societies.

Our union is a resource, an organization that helps us achieve those goals, a network made up of hundreds of thousands of workers just like you, united to face the challenge of an ever-changing workplace in a constantly changing world.

Our members work in just about every sector of the North American economy, from metals and mining and manufacturing, to health care and various services in both the public and private sectors. Together, we make our union one of the most diverse in the world.

Many Industries, One Strong Union

In the USW, diversity isn't some politically correct buzzword for the new millenium. It's a tradition as old as the union itself.

Established as the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) in 1936 to coordinate the massive drive to organize the North American steel industry, our organization grew in just six years to become the United Steelworkers on May 22, 1942.

Within two years of its founding convention, the USW began to broaden its ranks, when the Aluminum Workers voted unanimously to join the Steelworkers on June 30, 1944. The USW wasn't just for Steelworkers any more.

The Aluminum Workers was only the first of ten unions to join the USW. Each brought a new wave of diversity to our union, eventually spreading Steelworkers through virtually every industry on the North American continent.
Source: Installation of Officers program booklet & the USW web site

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Sneak Attack In The Dark of Night

Six minutes before the deadline for filing amendments to all bills this legislative session, Representative Cindy Noe (R-Indianapolis) introduced an amendment which would have turned Indiana into the 23rd Right to Work state. Debate on this amendment to change a statute which has stood unchallenged for fifty plus years in Indiana began at nearly eleven p.m. Reversal of this long-standing law in Indiana would have thrust our state backward to a day when workers had no collective voice in their workplaces or the statehouse, where workers earn substantially less money, work in harsher, more unsafe conditions, have less insurance, less public education, and more infant mortality.

The amendment was passionately debated, but was destined to fail. Its introduction and the vote was likely intended to attract campaign donations from large, out-of-state, anti-union corporations for the 2006 election cycle. As a movement, we need to be prepared to counter this influx of anti-union campaign funds with all of our energies – grassroots, get-out-the-vote, and funds of our own - this election cycle.

In the end, sixty-three percent of all Republicans voting on the amendment voted for this attack on working families. The amendment was defeated with the full support of the Democratic caucus and some fair-minded Republicans who joined in opposition to this attempt to turn back Indiana’s clock.

The vote record is below. Know how your representative voted on this strike at the heart of organized labor and the right of Hoosiers to work with dignity and democracy in their workplaces.

The following Indiana State Representatives voted against the workers of Indiana.

R Robert W. Behning
R Matt Bell
R Randy L. Borror
R William E. Bright
R Tim Brown
R Woody Burton
R Bill Davis
R Richard (Dick) Dodge
R Jeffrey K. Espich
R Ralph M. Foley
R William C. Friend
R David Nason Frizzell
R Eric A. Gutwein
R Timothy Harris
R Phillip D. Hinkle
R Robert A. Hoffman
R Dan Leonard
R L. Jack Lutz
R Luke Messer
R Tim Neese
R Cindy Noe
R Phyllis J. Pond
R Kathy Kreag Richardson
R Michael Allen Ripley
R William 'Bill' J. Ruppel
R Marlin Stutzman
R Jeffrey Thompson
R Gerald R. Torr
R P. Eric Turner
R Jacqueline Walorski Swihart
R David Alan Wolkins

The following Indiana State Representatives voted for the workers of Indiana:

D John C. Aguilera Jr
D Terri Jo Austin
D Dennis T. Avery
D Jeb Bardon
D B. Patrick Bauer
D Robert J. Bischoff
D Carlene Bottorff
D Charlie Brown
D Duane Cheney
D William C. Cochran
D William A. Crawford
D David L. 'Dave' Crooks
D John Day
D Jerry L. Denbo
D Mae Dickinson
D Chester F. Dobis
D Ryan Dvorak
D Craig R. Fry
D Benjamin (Ben) GiaQuinta
D Terry A. Goodin
D F. Dale Grubb
D Earl L. Harris
D George Philip Hoy
D Clyde Kersey
D Sheila Johnston Klinker
D Thomas S. Kromkowski
D Robert D. Kuzman
D Linda Lawson
D Edmund M. Mahern
D Carolene Mays
D Joe Micon
D David Orentlicher
D Dennie Oxley II
D Scott Pelath
D Phillip Pflum
D Matt Pierce
D Gregory W. Porter
D Scott Reske
D Paul J. Robertson
D Vernon G. Smith
D Dan Charles Stevenson
D Russell L. Stilwell
D Vanessa Summers
D Vern Tincher
D Dennis Tyler
D Trent Van Haaften
D Peggy Welch
R Ralph Donald Ayres
R Bruce Borders
R James Russell Buck
R Mary Kay Budak
R Lawrence Lee Buell
R Suzanne Crouch
R Cleo Duncan
R Eric Koch
R Don Lehe
R Richard W. McClain
R Michael B. Murphy
R Thomas E. Saunders
R John Smith
R Andy Thomas
R John Ulmer
R Matthew D. Whetstone
R Troy A. Woodruff
R David B. Yount

The following Indiana State Representative was excused from voting:

R Steven Heim

Note: Steve Heim is my own State Representative. I asked him how he would have voted had he had the chance. His response was as follows:

“As I mentioned to you before, I have not given the issue much thought since I don't sit on the labor committee or any other committee that deals with these types of issues. As with any issue, I am willing to listen to both sides before making a decision. Unfortunately, I was sick Tuesday and not present for any of the debate that took place, so I honestly can't tell you how I would have voted.

I can tell you that I prefer legislation implementing significant policy changes to go through the committee process rather than being enacted via second reading amendment on the floor of the House.”

I will attempt to help Representative Heim give the issue more thought.

The following Indiana State Representatives did not vote:

D Winfield C. Moses, Jr.
R Brian Bosma
R Robert Cherry