Monday, April 27, 2009

Rally to Save American Jobs

Click on the flyer above to enlarge
Suggested transportation:

§ CTA Blue Line comes right to Federal Building

§ South Shore train from N.W. Indiana to Van Buren Station arrives at 1:17 p.m. and cost is $11.00 roundtrip, $5.50 for Seniors.

§ Van Buren train station is 5 blocks from Federal Plaza.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Russ Stilwell on Employee Free Choice

Representative Russ Stilwell is the Indiana State House Majority Leader and also a former member of the UMWA. A friend to labor, Representative Stilwell has always stood up for the working class of Indiana and now is no different. Rep. Stilwell understands why America needs the Employee Free Choice Act and is not shy about telling people.

“The opponents of this legislation, mainly big greedy corporations, think that after years of trampling all over workers rights that now we’re going to believe them when they say they want to protect their employees by forcing the secret ballot election process on them, that is just ridiculous,” said Stilwell. “We know better than to trust that these corporations have their employees best interests in mind, if they did they would allow their workers to organize if they wanted to. Not to mention the Employee Free Choice Act does not do away with the secret ballot, it just lets the employees decide if they want it or not.”

“I encourage all of you to get involved in this grassroots campaign,” urged Stilwell. “We need to write, call, and meet with our Senators and Representatives so they know that working families are counting on them to support the Employee Free Choice Act.”
Source: Indiana AFL-CIO

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Unions and Rights

Chicago - In this wonderful Country of ours where freedom of speech is a tradition, the spokesman for the National Right to Work Committee abused the privilege with his confusion about unions, in his letter to the "Voice of the People" last week.

The truth about the Right to Work Committee's philosophy is the so-called right to work in a union shop getting:

  • union wages and benefits
  • union protection and security
  • union representation, and
  • union collective bargaining...
all without paying union dues.

Isn't that the same as:

  • Getting the benefits of a community without paying taxes?
  • Subscribing to the Tribune without paying the carrier?
  • Being a member of a (religious) congregation without contributing?
If a worker does not want to pay union dues he has the free, American right to find a job where the workers have not elected to have a union. In this Great Country a citizen does not say the President is not my President because I did not vote for him. In this Great Country a worker should not be able to say I refuse to pay union dues because I did not vote for the union -- but I want the same wages, hours, benefits and job protection that the union negotiates for its dues-paying members.

Union members are citizens, voluntarily joined together by majority vote, for the benefit of them all. That, too, is an American tradition.

Lawrence Keller
The above letter was first published in the "Voice of the People" section of the Chicago Tribune on June 1, 1984

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Marijuana – what a beautiful plant it is.

Believe it or not, graduating from high school in 1961 and serving in the navy during the Vietnam era, and living several years in Starke County, Indiana, where the stuff is (so I’m told) growing all over the place, I just never did know what it looked like.

Then one day, a friend of mine brought the subject up and I mentioned that I’d like to grow a plant to see what it looked like. He brought me five seeds which I planted. The one that germinated first looked the most healthy, so I discarded the others and nurtured the one plant.
Eventually, after repotting it several times until it was finally in a pot about a foot in diameter, it reached the ceiling of my greenhouse. What a georgeous plant it was with such beautiful leaves.

I was going on vacation, so told my friend that he better come and get it. It wasn’t until later that I learned that growing the stuff was against the law.

What a stupid law, and what a dumb thing it is to try to eradicate it. The state police and sheriff’s office will dig and spray and burn, while the kids just follow them down the road and throw seeds out the car window.

What a waste of manpower and money.

It’s down right stupid to make illegal the growing of a plant that God put on this earth.

Most of the stuff that the law “eradicates” (about 98% of it, so I’m told) is just ditch weed and doesn’t contain the chemicals that would make a person high anyway.

Oh well, what a world we live in.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Unemployment Insurance Benefits at Risk

Click on Flyer to enlarge it.

Let’s make our voices heard – Please:
Get on the Bus and help us tell our
Representatives to protect benefits for
laid off workers!
Bus leaves McBride Hall at 6:00 A.M. sharp &
will return around 3:00 P.M. – a morning snack and a box lunch provided!
Seating on the bus is limited ACT NOW

Please call 219-886-2596 to reserve your spot on the bus.

Don’t forget that you will pass through metal detectors to enter government building.
Call Robin at 219-881-6224 if you have any questions regarding the trip.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

CEO Pay A Bitter Pill for Seniors

Struggling to afford your medicines? Wondering where your prescription money goes? The AFL-CIO’s new Executive PayWatch web site, reports that much of it goes straight into the CEOs’ wallets. And I’m not just referring to the drug companies, either.

A few examples of annual pay:

Johnson & Johnson $29.1 million
Abbott Laboratories $28.3 million
Merck $25.1 million
Wyeth $24.2 million
NiSource $2.5 million

According to The New York Times, the 2003 Medicare Part D drug law has proven to be “a financial windfall larger than even the most optimistic Wall Street analysts have predicted.” The law prohibits Medicare from negotiating volume discounts with drug manufacturers, and as a result retirees in the now-privatized Part D plans pay 58% more than under plans administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs which is allowed to negotiate price discounts. NIPSCO retirees fall into this category.

Greedy CEO’s are ruining our country. Would NIPSCO see their way clear to increase the pensions of their retirees even the slightest? Hell no! Why? Because the genius bosses in charge of NiSource and NIPSCO under funded the pension plan. They’re the ones who have NIPSCO and NiSource reeling after their bad decisions. Well then, what about a small bonus to help retirees on Medicare pay for their lousy Medicare Part D (prescription drug plan)? Hell no! Why? Because their retirees “can’t help us out of this deep hole we’ve gotten ourselves in”.

A little $300 bonus paid to each of NIPSCO’s 2,150 retirees would amount to $645,000. That’s just about half of what this Skaggs fella took in as his increase in compensation. That’s right, 102% increase in his compensation. Over $2.5 million. But hey, I think he should have got 112% increase like his NiSource buddy board of directors.

And now……we can all look forward to their 15% increase in electric rates!

I’m not going to bother looking up the compensation of the cheapskate feather-their-own- nesters who run NIPSCO. No need. I have their quotes and know the value they place on the people who made that company. They're the ones who can't pay death benefits in a timely manner. They're the ones who speak with forked tongue. They're the ones who cheat their retirees.

I have no good words for the NIPSCO or NiSource........ Well, maybe one.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Robert C. Skaggs Jr., CEO of NiSource Inc.

According to the AFL-CIO Executive Pay Database:

Robert C. Skaggs Jr.
Chief Executive Officer
NiSource Inc.

In 2007, Robert C. Skaggs Jr. raked in $2,494,755 in total compensation. In the previous year the CEO of this company made $1,232,745. Total CEO compensation has increased by 102%.

NiSource is the parent company of the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO).

By going to the Executive Pay Database, you can see how that compares with your wage.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Generations Must Stand United for Employee Free Choice Act

By Barbara J. Easterling
President, Alliance for Retired Americans

Our nation’s economic crisis is affecting nearly everyone. Unless you are getting one of those big Wall Street bonuses, you are probably struggling to pay your bills, keep your home, or afford to see a doctor or fill a prescription. There is no longer any doubt that the fundamentals of our economy are broken.

One way out of this mess – and a way to help both current and future retirees – is for Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

The Employee Free Choice Act recognizes that our middle class is in trouble because more and more, big corporations hold all the cards. As they lavish their CEOs with bonuses and golden parachutes, they slash jobs and cut all the wrong corners on customer service and safety. They break their promises to workers and retirees, leaving millions without health care and retirement plans.

But standing up for yourself by forming a union hasn’t been easy. One in five workers trying to form a union is fired. Decades of “hear no evil, see no evil” enforcement of labor laws has given management the green light to harass and intimidate anyone who tries to exercise their rights on the job. Too often federal officials fail to protect law-abiding employees, and instead act like the lookout man at a bank robbery.

Ever since I joined a union – on my very first day as a telephone operator in Akron, Ohio – I have seen firsthand how collective bargaining is the best hope workers have for good jobs and good wages. Now, as president of the Alliance for Retired Americans, I see that as middle class jobs disappear, so does the prospect of a safe and secure retirement. Did you know that workers in a union are nearly three times more likely to have pensions and five times more likely to have health insurance benefits? A union contract helps you long past when your working days are done.

Most of my generation is no longer in the workforce. But we worry about our younger friends and family who struggle to either find a job or hang onto the one they have. If things stay as they are, will they ever be able to retire?

In times this tough, we must all stand together. All of us must educate our neighbors – and particularly our lawmakers – about how our right to collectively bargain is broken. Only through restoring fairness to our labor laws can we restore our nation’s middle class to the greatness that it once was.

Barbara J. Easterling was elected president of the Alliance for Retired Americans in February of this year. She was previously the secretary-treasurer of the Communications Workers of America. For more information, visit or call 1-888-633-4435.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Religious Organizations and Faith Groups Working Hard for the Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act

Post by Stewart Acuff
March 10, 2009

Led by Interfaith Worker Justice, religious organizations and faith groups have been working hard for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

A dozen faith groups and 50 faith leaders came together March 9 at the Methodist House on Capitol Hill to reaffirm their support for the Employee Free Choice Act and to discuss the theological foundation of that support from Judaism, Catholicism, and Evangelical Christianity.

Rev. Adam Taylor of Sojourners quoted liberally from both the Old and New Testaments including Isaiah 58, Jeremiah 22 and St. Luke to make the point that God commands the faithful to fight poverty and inequality. He went on to say that in a society and economy as unequal as ours, organizing unions and restoring collective bargaining is one of the most important ways to fight poverty and inequality.

Citing the Papal Novarum, now 150 years old, Dr. Joseph McCartin said that Catholic teaching has long held that forming unions and protecting workers rights are essential to democracy and to the work of Catholicism in the public arena. Dr. McCartin is a professor of history and a founding member of Catholic Scholars for Workers Rights. They are circulating a statement supporting the Employee Free Choice Act at Catholic colleges and universities.

Renaye Manley of Interfaith Worker Justice moderated the meeting. IWJ's founder, Kim Bobo, reminded all that "All faith traditions teach that workers should be treated with respect and dignity and paid fairly. Unions serve vital roles in ensuring workers' just treatment and pay, which is why Interfaith Worker Justice supports the Employee Free Choice Act. In this time of economic crisis, workers need a voice in the future of their companies that comes through collective bargaining. "

Rev. Baldemar Velasquez, founder and president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and ordained Pentecostal minister, was one of the last speakers. Although farmworers are not covered by federal labor law, he told of organizing 7000 farmworkers in North Carolina and thousands more in Ohio and across the midwest using majority signup.

Today, March 10, Rev. Jim Wallis, America's best known Evangelical preacher, author and founder of Sojourners, will testify for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act before the US Senate Labor Committee. Following that hearing, the Employee Free Choice Act will be formally introduced in the Congress by Senators Ted Kennedy and Tom Harkin and Rep. George Miller.
Source: Huffington Post

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Big Labor VS. Big Business

IUN prof: U.S. needs Employee Free Choice Act

We have learned there was nothing free about unregulated markets; capital was "free" to invest in anything, including worthless paper. We, in contrast, are stuck with the bill.

"Free" trade has stripped the United States of its manufacturing base and left us with declining wages and standards of living. In Indiana, the result has been a dramatic increase in plant closings as companies shipped their work first to Mexico and now to Southeast Asia.

That certainly was never my understanding of the word "free."

The Bill of Rights asserts some of our "freedoms" as citizens, including the right to free speech and free assembly. But these freedoms are equally misleading when it comes to workers and the workplace.

When we are at work, we do not have the freedom to say what we think without consequences, and we do not have the freedom to assemble. Not on private property, anyhow.

For the past three decades, when workers have mentioned the word "union," they have risked their livelihoods. Often, they have lost their jobs, though ostensibly for some other reason.

Now a bill is before Congress to amend the National Labor Relations Act so workers can exercise their legal rights without losing their jobs. Let me explain this Employee Free Choice Act.

Under the Labor Relations Act, workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively through an organization of their choosing. This right, or freedom, is also supported by international law.

Yet when workers have exercised this right, they often have faced severe retaliation. Even if, despite firings and threats, workers vote in the majority for a union, employers have refused to bargain, as the law requires, "in good faith." What seemed like a good idea in 1936 -- a secret-ballot election -- became an opening for anti-union employers to delay and threaten firings, wage cuts or plant closures.

The Employee Free Choice Act is a simple measure to bring labor-management relations back under the law. It gives workers a choice, once they have decided to sign a union card. They can gain recognition directly with a majority of signed cards, or they can call for a secret ballot election.

From the business-side hoopla on this question, you wouldn't know that workers now would be able to decide whether to accept recognition directly or have a secret-ballot election. According to business spokespeople, workers would be forced to give up their secret-ballot vote. When did corporate CEOs begin worrying so much about workers' rights? That alone should be a clue that we need to look into the Act itself.

Under the Employee Free Choice Act, if workers choose a union, the company must bargain a contract, something that rarely happens today. With money, lawyers and time on their side, employers have robbed workers of the choice to be represented by a union by refusing to agree to anything.

Under the Employee Free Choice Act, if the union and the company cannot agree, then a third party will make the decision on the contract, based on the union's last offer and the company's last offer. This is called interest arbitration, or baseball arbitration. It's nothing new to labor-management relations. With interest arbitration as a final step, both parties are encouraged to make their best possible settlement offers.

Given that less than 10 percent of the private sector workforce is unionized, companies have had too much "freedom" to do as they please, unregulated by government and not accountable to their own workforce. We have seen what unregulated and unaccountable corporations do.

If we are to create jobs, rebuild our manufacturing base and offer a future to the next generation, we need to give workers a chance and a choice. Our congressional representatives need to support the Employee Free Choice Act and stop making excuses for those who destroyed our economy.

Ruth Needleman is a professor of labor studies at Indiana University Northwest.
This Article appeared in the Gary Post Tribune

Monday, April 06, 2009

Second Bill of Rights

The Second Bill of Rights was a proposal made by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his State of the Union Address on January 11, 1944 to suggest that the nation had come to recognize, and should now implement, a second bill of rights. Roosevelt did not argue for any change to the United States Constitution; he argued that the second bill of rights was to be implemented politically, not by federal judges. Roosevelt's stated justification was that the "political rights" guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights "proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness." Roosevelt's remedy was to create an "economic bill of rights" which would guarantee:
  • A job with a living wage
  • Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies
  • Homeownership
  • Medical care
  • Education
  • Recreation
Roosevelt stated that having these rights would guarantee American security and that America's place in the world depended upon how far these and similar rights had been carried into practice.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

“The Economic Bill of Rights”
Excerpt from 11 January 1944 message to Congress on the State of the Union

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.

Source: Wikipedia & World Policy Institute

Friday, April 03, 2009

Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps

Do you know a young person age 16-24 who is looking for a job. You may be able to help them with this program. It pays $8.50 per hour.
There are eligibility requirements, of course, but it's worth looking in to.
On the website is a way to apply and there are several questions answered.
Click here if your interested in knowing more about the program.

Sounds like a great deal to me for a young person looking for work.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Congressman Joe Donnelly Supports Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)

"As you know, I believe that it is the right of every worker to organize and bargain collectively for fair pay, benefits, and appropriate working conditions if they so choose. Currently, when non-union employees want to organize and join a union, they can petition their employer simply by collecting signed authorization cards. However, the employer has the option to force an election governed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The Employee Free Choice Act would allow workers who choose not to pursue the NLRB election process to certify a union as their collective bargaining representative by collecting signed authorization cards from a majority of the eligible workforce. In addition, the bill provides terms for mediation and arbitration during the negotiation of an initial contract and establishes stronger workplace enforcement of our labor laws.

I understand that good labor policy requires a careful balance between the financial challenges facing employers and the necessity of maintaining a strong workforce. I signed onto The Employee Free Choice Act because I believe it is a positive step in the direction of a more balanced economy, and I look forward to working with employers-both large and small-to ensure they have the tools and resources they need to stay competitive in today's global economy."
Joe Donnelly