Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sweatshop Goods? Ship Elsewhere!

Finally, legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that attacks the sweatshop exploitation of workers across the globe. The “Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act” has been introduced in the senate by Sen. Byron Dorgan and in the House of Representatives by Rep. Sherrod Brown. This is the bill we have been waiting on!

S 3485 and H.R. 5635 will:

• Ban the import or sale of sweatshop goods in the U.S.
• Establish strong rules for government purchasing – stops sweatshop products from being purchased with our tax $$
• Allow competitors or shareholders to sue company if it is found to be importing sweatshop goods.
• Outlaw goods made by children
• Define sweatshops as workplaces that do not meet the basic ILO standards for: minimum wages, rights to form a union and to collectively bargain and no slave labor.

There are many in Congress who have long hoped for this type of legislation and just as many or more who hoped this day would never come. They know this bill puts candidates who want our support on the spot in an election year. It’s time we demand support for workers in the global economy and this bill would do just that.

Watch for an Action Call coming soon that will ask you to contact your legislators and ask them to co-sponsor this bill.

USW Rapid Response (412) 562-2291 http://www.uswrr.org

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Tax cut for the top .27%??

Republicans in Congress are trying to abolish the estate tax. Last week they were 3 votes short of the 60 votes they needed to prevent a Democratic filibuster on the issue.
Since the estate tax repeal was pushed by Republicans, you know darned well that lies are being made to try to get support for it. Just like WMD’s in Iraq. You also know that repealing the estate tax, like all other legislation put forth by this administration will only benefit the richest among us.
They named it the “death tax”. Boy, isn’t that a scary name? Well, we all will die, won’t we? Now just stop to think about that. Who do you know that ever paid an estate tax? The only people subject to the estate tax are those single people with estates worth over two million dollars and couples with estates of four million. That’s 1% of the population. To call it a “death tax” is nothing more than a lie!
Another lie is that it’s double taxation. Well sorry, but that’s how the system works. A person pays taxes on wages, and then pays taxes when he purchases something. Nothing new here.
Here’s another lie. They say that families lose the family farm and small businesses. Please try to think of anyone that you have ever heard of that lost their family farm because of having to pay estate taxes. I’ll bet you can’t.
Getting rid of the estate tax is nothing short of immoral. The top 1% in the United States owns 33% of the wealth. How much more do they want? 40%? 50%? More? It’s nothing but greed.
Repealing the estate tax will cost 1 trillion dollars over the next decade at the same time that we have millions in poverty, millions have lost good paying jobs, 47 million without health insurance, cut backs on Medicare and Medicaid, cuts in nutrition programs for seniors and veterans benefits and student loans.
At a time of war, only 5% of cargo ship containers are inspected which would only cost 648 Million dollars to correct. And congress says we can’t afford it? Did you know that the estate tax was instituted in 1916 to pay for war preparedness?
Why does congress cater to this tiny constituency?
This bunch has got to go!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Chocola Caught Red Handed

Hello, I am Peter Smith and I’m pleased to be here today as a veteran and constituent of Indiana’s second district. First, I’d like to tell you who I am and why I’m here. I joined the NROTC program at Holy Cross College in 1957 in order to receive free tuition and books which the program entailed. In return, I promised to serve for four years as a naval officer. I served for two years on a destroyer out of Long Beach, CA, including a six month deployment to the West pacific where the ship patrolled the straits between China and Taiwan as a token U.S. deterrent against invasion. While on patrol we received the best equipment available for us to stay safe and do our job. John Brademas, Democratic congressman at the time, made the choice to support the young men and women in uniform from his district.
Republican congressman, Chris Chocola has made a different choice. On November 9, 2005, he voted against giving stiff penalties to defense contractors who intentionally overcharge the federal government for provision of goods and services in response to a major disaster, emergency, or military action. At a time when our soldiers’ lack of body armor was a national scandal, and most of us were worrying about the safety of our troops, Congressman Chocola’s attention was focused on letting war profiteers like Halliburton off the hook for overcharging our military and defrauding American taxpayers.
Over the years I have watched young men and women serve their country in the armed forces and then return to face lack of support, often cast aside once they’ve served their country. It’s the same story for veterans of the Gulf wars and Afghanistan. I find it particularly appalling that we cast aside our young people while war profiteers like Halliburton are making obscene profits by supplying overpriced equipment and services. It just isn’t right!
So like Monique, I’m here today because we need representatives who will stand up to war profiteers: I’m asking Rep. Chocola to return his contributions from defense contractors and restore honesty and integrity to the people of Indiana’s 2nd district. Rep. Chocola could make a powerful statement against corruption by standing firm against war profiteering and giving back the money from these political action committees. I’ve written a letter, like several of you have and I’d like to deliver it to Rep. Chocola’s office.
Please join Monique, Suzanne and myself in delivering these letters to Rep. Chocola.

Lt. Peter Smith
U.S. Navy
1960-1964

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Oman Free Trade Agreement

The latest item on Congress’ free trade agenda is an agreement with the country of Oman. The USW is opposed to this agreement. The Oman FTA follows the pattern of putting corporate interests far ahead of the interests of working people and lowering the standards for U.S. workers and workers around the globe.

Sweatshops Exposed in Jordan, a U.S. “Free Trade” Partner

In the last two weeks, horrific sweatshop conditions have been exposed in Jordan. When the U.S. – Jordan Free Trade Agreement passed through Congress a few years ago, their laws complied with International Labor Organization standards. Both the U.S. and Jordan also committed to enforcing their laws and committing to workers’ rights. But, even with this agreement, guest workers in Jordan have suffered from terrible conditions: 20-hour days, not being paid for months, and being beaten or jailed for speaking out.

In Oman, the situation Could Become Much Worse

Right now, Oman’s laws do not comply with basic worker standards. There are no free, independent labor unions to collectively speak out against worker abuses. Oman, like Jordan, has a high number of guest workers that are even more susceptible to having their rights violated. Without adequate laws or any mechanism to enforce standards, there is a great danger for Oman’s workers. Plus, we are all too familiar with corporations that thrive on opportunities to leave the U.S. to take advantage of weak standards that allow them to exploit people in the name of making more money for people who already have plenty to go around.

What Can We Do?
Please Call your Representative today!
Dial the Capitol switchboard toll-free at 866-340-9279.
Tell your Representative:

  1. Oppose the Oman Free Trade Agreement!
  2. We don’t need another free trade agreement that fails workers in the U.S. and abroad.
  3. Even if Oman would agree to improve its standards, there is nothing to enforce them in the agreement, or ensure that they don’t change their laws after the agreement is in place.
  4. The trade agreement with Jordan shows us that even when worker protections are supposedly in place, sweatshop conditions can thrive!