Making Labor Pay

From Dollars and Sense: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2012/0912sciacchitano.html

Recent battles in Wisconsin and San Jose show why we need universal pensions.

By Katherine Sciacchitano

This article is from the September/October 2012 issue of Dollars & Sense magazine.

The political economy of the recovery is making the United States even more unequal than it was during the bubble years. Incomes fell across the board during the crisis: median family income is 6.3% below what it was in 2001. But the top 1% garnered 93% of income growth in the first year of recovery. Housing, still the main source of wealth for middle-income families, remains depressed while stocks are close to pre-crash highs. Moreover, the drive for more tax cuts for the wealthy continues. And policy initiatives to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would weaken the safety net even as it is most needed.

A spate of attacks on state and local public-sector pensions now threatens to make inequality even more entrenched and painful, and to undermine both short- and long-term economic growth.

The power of labor is dead center in this agenda. Despite a long-term decline in workers covered by union contracts, unions have over 16 million members: they are still the social force most capable of combating the assault on workers’ incomes and militating for greater equality. Crippling their political power therefore remains both a tactical and a strategic objective on the right. With only 6.9% of workers in the private sector covered by union contracts, versus 37% in the public sector, public-sector unions are bearing the brunt of the attacks. And public pensions are the battering ram.

Attacking Unions, Eroding Pensions

The trip wire for the assault on pensions was the combined fall in state and local revenues from the bursting of the housing bubble, and the steep losses suffered by pension funds during the resulting stock market slide of 2007-2009: by 2010 there were widely acknowledged public pension funding shortfalls totaling nearly $800 billion

While pension funds are slowly making back market losses, conservative advocates like Andrew Biggs at the American Enterprise Institute are arguing for new measures of shortfalls that would bring them to over $4 trillion, and using this $4 trillion figure to call for a national movement to slash both public-sector pensions and union rights. The implicit threat is that taxpayers will have to pay these trillions now and into the future, even though they themselves may not have pensions. The stated policy objective is to convince taxpayers and politicians that defined benefit pensions are too expensive in the public sector and should be replaced with defined contribution plans.

Defined benefit pensions are a form of deferred compensation—pay for work performed; they provide guaranteed lifetime payments in retirement. Defined-contribution plans give workers tax breaks for individual savings; workers invest these savings and then pray they don’t run out. Over the past three decades, defined benefit pensions have been nearly eradicated in the private sector for non-union workers; their abandonment in the public sector would effectively end defined benefit pensions as a norm for retirement security and shift the burden of retirement savings almost entirely to individuals.

Continue reading at:  http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2012/0912sciacchitano.html

Posted in Class War, Corporate Abuse, Economic Issues, Employment, Hard Times, Human Rights. Comments Off on Making Labor Pay

Did slaves catch your seafood?

From Salon:   http://www.salon.com/2012/05/21/did_slaves_catch_your_seafood/singleton/

Thailand, a major source of fish imported to the US, depends on forced labor for its product

By , GlobalPost
Monday, May 21, 2012

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

PREY VENG, Cambodia, and SAMUT SAKHON, Thailand — In the sun-baked flatlands of Cambodia, where dust stings the eyes and chokes the pores, there is a tiny clapboard house on cement stilts. It is home to three generations of runaway slaves.

The man of the house, Sokha, recently returned after nearly two years in captivity. His home is just as he left it: barren with a few dirty pillows passing for furniture. Slivers of daylight glow through cracks in the walls. The family’s most valuable possession, a sow, waddles and snorts beneath the elevated floorboards.

Before his December escape, Sokha (a pseudonym) was the property of a deep-sea trawler captain. The 39-year-old Cambodian, his teenage son and two young nephews were purchased for roughly $650, he said, each through brokers promising under-the-table jobs in a fish cannery.

There was no cannery. They were instead smuggled to a pier in neighboring Thailand, where they were shoved aboard a wooden vessel that motored into a lawless sea. His uncle had fallen for the same scam five years prior and escaped to warn the others. But Sokha told his son, then just 16, that this venture would turn out differently. He was wrong.

“We worked constantly, for no pay, through seasickness and vomiting, sometimes for two or three days straight,” he said. “We obeyed the captain’s every word.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2012/05/21/did_slaves_catch_your_seafood/singleton/

Posted in Abuse, Class War, Fascism, Globalization, Hard Times, Human Rights, Nazism, Slavery, Workers. Comments Off on Did slaves catch your seafood?

The First Domino Falls in Greece

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/05/21-2

by Shamus Cooke
Published on Monday, May 21, 2012 by Common Dreams

Greece’s situation is not an isolated event, but a bellwether for the industrial world and beyond. The fallout from the 2008 global crisis hasn’t reached bottom yet, and the depths will be dug deeper as the Euro crisis spreads — political crisis will create economic crisis and vice versa, as periods of calm and stability are replaced by international turmoil and panic.

The media and politicians have portrayed the Greeks as indolent and stupid, refusing to swallow the economic medicine needed for a healthy recovery. But the austerity medicine of the bankers — slashing and privatizing the public sector, cutting wages and benefits, mass layoffs, etc. — is a cure that threatens to kill.

What will happen in Greece? Its future was hinted at in the last elections. The centrist parties were devastated by the reality of economic extremes; the “middle ground” simply fell out from under them, since society had been torn asunder by the inequality of the very rich versus everybody else.

In consequence, the radical left party SYRIZA is polled to come in first in the next elections, based on its firm stance against austerity and its uncompromising attitude against the bankers of Greece and beyond. The corporate politicians wanted SYRIZA to take part in a “unity government” that would magically rebuild the country’s lost middle ground and continue the pro-banker austerity policies.

But unity in an economically polarized country like Greece is impossible, especially when the continued existence of the bankers and wealthy rests on the continued suffering of everybody else.

Since unity failed during the last elections, Greek “technocrats” are now overseeing the government until the next elections. What is a technocrat? Someone who supposedly lacks any class bias; the professional strata of professors, lawyers, or doctors that attempt to sit astride an uneven society perfectly balanced, blind to special interests, while keeping their sights set on the “national interest.” But the Greek technocrats are continuing the wealthy’s austerity program, exposing their fake objectivity.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/05/21-2

Posted in Anti-Globalization, Austerity, Class War, Corporate Abuse, Fascism, Globalization, Human Rights, Workers. Comments Off on The First Domino Falls in Greece

Trans Canadians fight for recognition on legal documents

Lately they’ve started requiring a passport to cross the boarder between the US and Canada. An extra expense for working people who live along the border.

But for pre-op TS folks or TG folks this becomes an oppressive burden due to their being denied passports that reflect the gender they live full time. I know this tread the line between sex/gender but when people commit to living full time as a member of a particular sex even if they don’t actually have SRS to become a member of that sex it seems a matter of human rights to permit them necessary identification documents that do not place an extra burden upon them by automatically revealing their being TS/TG to petty bureaucratic border enforcement officers.

I’m tired of the government spending so much energy on snooping in the lives of individual citizens while they totally ignore the crimes of the corporations and rich.

From Xtra Canada: http://www.xtra.ca/public/National/Trans_Canadians_fight_for_recognition_on_legal_documents-11256.aspx

Andrea Houston
Sunday, December 18, 2011

Talia Johnson is nervous to travel. One look at her passport tells a border guard everything they need to know about her gender status.

Johnson, who has had her name legally changed, now wants to change the sex designation on her passport – a simple correction from “m” to “f” – to ensure all her documents accurately reflect her gender.

The federal government says trans people must undergo sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), or provide a letter guaranteeing the procedure will take place within a year.

The Ottawa resident has not yet had SRS, mainly due to the financial cost of the surgery. She would also have to take time off work and travel to Toronto. “The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto is the only organization in Ontario that offers SRS. There is a long wait and it’s not easy to get.

“The status now is I don’t have a passport. Without the sex designation change, trans people are put in constant danger while traveling under the assumed sex. At this point in my life, I will have trouble if I travel.”

Susan Gapka, chair of the Trans Health Lobby Group, has been working on this issue for years. Her group is pushing to make transitioning easier by opening up access to SRS and removing the red tape around changing legal documents.

“If your legal documents don’t match at the border there could be problems,” Gapka says. “I have had bad experiences at the airport. You can be singled out for looking different. A police officer could ask questions. It opens the door to harassment and discrimination.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.xtra.ca/public/National/Trans_Canadians_fight_for_recognition_on_legal_documents-11256.aspx

Posted in Civil Rights, Equal Treatment, Human Rights. Tags: , . Comments Off on Trans Canadians fight for recognition on legal documents

Oral Arguments Heard in Golinski DOMA Case

From Frontiers LA: http://www.frontiersla.com/Blog/FrontierBlog/blogentry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10327929

By Karen Ocamb
December 16, 2011

The Obama administration appears to be keeping its word regarding the Defense of Marriage.

On Thursday, Dec. 15, the Dept. of Homeland Security agreed to join in a motion with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”)—according to Immigration Equality—to stop the removal of Michael Thomas, whose legal marriage to Massachusetts resident John Brandoli did not prevent the threat deportation because of the Defense of Marriage Act. The government has also closed cases for other binational couples—though others still have not yet been so lucky, according to Stop the Deportations.

While Michael and John celebrated on the East Coast, Friday on the West Coast, in San Francisco, federal employee Karen Golinski—who has been fighting for years to secure health insurance for her wife Amy Cunninghis—found that the DOJ sent one of its top senior lawyers to help argue in U.S. District Court that DOMA is unconstitutional.

Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner has been following the story. Here’s an excerpt from his excellent report:

Golinski’s case, which began as an ordinary request to include her wife, Amy Cunninghis, on her federal employee health insurance plan, became, initially, a dispute between the branches of government about how court employees are managed—and who can do so. Since then, however, it has evolved into its current status as a challenge to DOMA.

Continue reading at:  http://www.frontiersla.com/Blog/FrontierBlog/blogentry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10327929

Posted in Civil Rights, Equal Treatment, Human Rights. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Oral Arguments Heard in Golinski DOMA Case

Obama’s “Mission Accomplished”

From Ted Rall:   http://www.rall.com/rallblog/2011/12/15/syndicated-column-obamas-mission-accomplished

Posted by Ted Rall
December 15th, 2011

Wars and Prisons Move, Wars and Torture Never Ends

Most Americans—68 percent—oppose the war against Iraq, according to a November 2011 CNN poll. So it’s smart politics for President Obama to take credit for withdrawing U.S. troops.

As it often is, the Associated Press’ coverage was slyly subversive: “This, in essence, is Obama’s mission accomplished: Getting out of Iraq as promised under solid enough circumstances and making sure to remind voters that he did what he said.”

Obama’s 2008 campaign began by speaking out against the war in Iraq. (Aggression in Afghanistan, on the other hand, was not only desirable but ought to be expanded.) However, actions never matched his words. On vote after vote in the U.S. Senate Obama supported the war. Every time.

As president, Obama has claimed credit for a December 2011 withdrawal deadline negotiated by his predecessor George W. Bush—a timeline he wanted to protract. If the Iraqi government hadn’t refused to extend immunity from prosecution to U.S. forces, this month’s withdrawal would not have happened.

“Today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” Obama bragged reporters on October 24th.

The UK Guardian noted: “But he had already announced this earlier this year, and the real significance today was in the failure of Obama, in spite of the cost to the U.S. in dollars and deaths, to persuade the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to allow one or more American bases to be kept in the country.”

Continue reading at:   http://www.rall.com/rallblog/2011/12/15/syndicated-column-obamas-mission-accomplished

Posted in Constitutional Rights, Human Rights, Uncategorized. Comments Off on Obama’s “Mission Accomplished”

Die-In tonight; Tomorrow is International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers

From Feministe: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2011/12/16/die-in-tonight-tomorrow-is-international-day-to-end-violence-against-sex-workers/

by Clarisse Thorn
on 12.16.2011

Reposted with Permission

Tomorrow is the International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers. For some 2011 event locations, click here.

Sex Worker Activists, Allies and You has a bunch of great links and 101 materials about sex workers’ rights.

Here in Chicago, the Sex Workers Outreach Project is holding a Die-In tonight and another event tomorrow at the best feminist site ever, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum:

“STOP SHAMING US TO DEATH”
Die-in Action for the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Hosted by: Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Chicago
When: Friday, December 16, 2011 at 11:45 AM
Where: 18th and State Street, in front of the Chicago Police Department in the South Loop
Who: Current & former sex workers, allies, friends, families, and communities.

Join SWOP-Chicago in a die-in action to protest violence committed against sex workers

Chicago — On December 16th, sex workers and their allies in the Chicago area will gather at the Chicago Police Department for a “die-in” action. Participants will fall to the ground “dead” holding signs bearing our messages. Through this action, we hope to raise awareness of the violence committed against sex workers and other marginalized groups. Law enforcement, those whose job it is to “serve and protect,” often either ignores violence committed against these groups, or is a direct perpetrator. IT IS TIME FOR THIS VIOLENCE TO STOP.

This event is part of the annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. On the following day, Saturday, December 17th, sex workers and their allies will gather at vigils around the world to commemorate the annual Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, honoring sex workers who have died at the hands of violent crimes, and declaring an end to all violence against sex workers.

PLEASE JOIN US AT THIS IMPORTANT EVENT! And don’t forget to dress appropriately for the weather conditions!

And here’s the info about the Saturday December 17 event.

Feel free to link to your own posts about sex work, the International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers, and relevant events in the comments.

Posted in Civil Rights, Economic Issues, Feminist, Human Rights, Murders, Police Abuse, Rape, Sex Workers, Sexual Assault, Social Justice, Violence. Comments Off on Die-In tonight; Tomorrow is International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers