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Trade Unions Condemn US Sanction of Venezuela

Posted by randyshannon on March 10, 2015

Venezuela: ITUC Criticises US “National Security” Decision

The ITUC has strongly criticised a US decision to declare Venezuela a “risk to national security and foreign policy”, as diplomatic relations between the two countries deteriorate further.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “The US faces real threats to national security on many fronts and from within many countries, but there’s no evidence that Venezuela is one of them. Allegations of human rights abuses and corruption made by the US against seven Venezuelan officials should be dealt with according to the rule of law, and not trial by media. We urge both the US and Venezuela to accept the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights which was established for just this kind of situation. They should also respect the role of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.”

UNASUR, the regional government grouping, has been trying to re-start dialogue between the Venezuelan government and opposition, with allegations of opposition efforts to mount a coup and counter-criticism of the government’s crackdown on the opposition dominating Venezuelan politics in recent months.

During a visit to Caracas last week, UNASUR Secretary General Ernesto Samper was reported as saying “With the evidence of U.S. meddling presented us by President Maduro, we want to emphasize that all UNASUR nations, without exception, reject any attempts, either internal or from abroad, to destabilize Venezuela’s democracy. With the upcoming parliamentary elections in Venezuela, we believe it is the best scenario for both political forces to express their political differences and sort out the controversies.”

Victor Baez, General Secretary of the ITUC Regional Organisation for the Americas, TUCA, said, “Sanctions from outside will not solve the internal problem in the country and will contribute to worsening it. The way out of the problem will be through dialogue and respect of the democratically elected authorities.”

http://www.ituc-csi.org/

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47 Republican Senators Violate Logan Act

Posted by randyshannon on March 9, 2015

ztvxxvWE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:

File charges against the 47 U.S. Senators in violation of The Logan Act in attempting to undermine a nuclear agreement.

On March 9th, 2015, forty-seven United States Senators committed a treasonous offense when they decided to violate the Logan Act, a 1799 law which forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. Violation of the Logan Act is a felony, punishable under federal law with imprisonment of up to three years.

At a time when the United States government is attempting to reach a potential nuclear agreement with the Iranian government, 47 Senators saw fit to instead issue a condescending letter to the Iranian government stating that any agreement brokered by our President would not be upheld once the president leaves office.

This is a clear violation of federal law. In attempting to undermine our own nation, these 47 senators have committed treason.

Sign here.

Joe BidenWASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden is furious.

Biden, who also serves as president of the Senate, Monday night blasted Senate Republicans in a long, angry statement for their letter to Iran’s leaders, which he described as “beneath the dignity of an institution I revere.”

Forty-seven Republicans on Sunday wrote directly to Tehran to suggest that any nuclear deal with the Obama administration would not be constitutionally binding because a future president or Congress could take steps to revoke it. Biden called the move an unprecedented affront “designed to undercut a sitting president.”

“In thirty-six years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country — much less a longtime foreign adversary — that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them. This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments — a message that is as false as it is dangerous,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House.

“The decision to undercut our President and circumvent our constitutional system offends me as a matter of principle. As a matter of policy, the letter and its authors have also offered no viable alternative to the diplomatic resolution with Iran that their letter seeks to undermine,” he added.

The kind of executive agreements to which Biden refers are a consistent feature of U.S. foreign policy important for purposes like basing U.S. troops abroad, protecting those soldiers from prosecution in foreign countries and enabling intelligence and defense cooperation with other governments. They have historically been upheld by U.S. courts.

Biden, a longtime senator and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also criticized the author of the letter, freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), for willfully sabotaging the negotiations. Cotton admitted as much at a conservative conference in January.

“If talks collapse because of Congressional intervention, the United States will be blamed, leaving us with the worst of all worlds,” Biden argued. “Iran’s nuclear program, currently frozen, would race forward again. We would lack the international unity necessary just to enforce existing sanctions, let alone put in place new ones. Without diplomacy or increased pressure, the need to resort to military force becomes much more likely — at a time when our forces are already engaged in the fight against ISIL.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif dismissed the letter as a “propaganda ploy” on Monday. “I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement ‘with the stroke of a pen’ … it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law,” he said in a statement.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/09/joe-biden-iran-letter-republicans_n_6836146.html

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Join Beaver County’s Young People on March 8 for This Event!

Posted by carldavidson on March 5, 2015

RememberSelma

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Postal Workers Propose Public Banking Option

Posted by randyshannon on February 17, 2015

(Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)

Banking Goes Postal

Sixty-four unions and community groups are demanding a banking public option—at the post office.

BY DAVID MOBERG

In one year, the underbanked and unbanked pay out more in financial service charges than the federal government spends on all domestic food aid.

American Postal Workers Union (APWU) president Mark Dimondstein has an offer that should be hard to refuse, especially for the 10 million American households, mostly low-income, that do not have a checking account or other basic banking services.

Through its network of 30,000 post offices and other outlets, the United States Postal Service (USPS) could readily and cheaply provide many banking services (just as it now provides money orders), no matter where you live or what you earn. This could save people without bank access from paying the exorbitant interest and fees at currency exchanges, payday lenders, rent-to-own dealers, pawn shops and other subprime financial institutions.

Postal workers would also win: Expanding postal services would create more jobs. Moreover, the additional revenue would strengthen USPS’s finances, bolstering the four major postal unions’ ongoing fight against management’s austerity measures. Although the postal service earned a surplus on operations in 2014, it ran a deficit overall because of perverse requirementsCongress imposed in 2006 that retiree healthcare benefits for the next 75 years be fully pre-funded within a decade, a standard far more demanding than those required by any other retirement systems. Much more than the decline in first class mail, that manufactured budget crisis has fueled USPS management’s campaign of job cuts. The postal workforce dropped from about 700,000 in 2006 to less than 500,000 last year, and management hopes to reduce it by as many as 15,000 more this year. USPS management’s campaign of job cuts also involves service degradation, post office closings and privatization—such as delivering postal services at the office-supply store Staples, where jobs are low-wage and non-union. If postal unions can implement banking and roll back the retiree pre-pay requirement, they will return the postal service to solvency while expanding the public sector to address private market shortcomings.

When talks for a new APWU contract start in February, Dimondstein intends to make establishing postal banking a major demand, even though it falls outside the bread-and-butter issues unions typically bring up in bargaining. He plans to argue that creation of the bank would profoundly affect the mandatory bargaining issues of wages, hours and working conditions.

The negotiations come on the heels of a new campaign, launched this week by the postal unions—in partnership with community groups such as National People’s Action, Public Citizen, USAction and Interfaith Worker Justice—to mobilize the public in favor of a postal bank.

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Wolf to Expand Medicaid, Dump Corbett’s “Healthy PA”

Posted by randyshannon on February 9, 2015

Gov. Wolf to ditch Healthy PA, institute straight Medicaid expansion

Updated just now

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, long a critic of his predecessor’s version of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, on Monday took the first step toward replacing it.

That step was directing the state Department of Human Services to withdraw a pending piece of the Healthy PA program from further federal consideration. Wolf proposes to replace Healthy PA’s three benefit plans with a single one that the DHS is working with the federal government to develop.

“Today is the first step toward simplifying a complicated process and ensuring hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians have greater access to the health insurance they need,” Wolf said in a news release.

Former Gov. Tom Corbett billed Healthy PA, which took effect Jan. 1, as a simplification of the state’s 14 existing Medicaid plans.

Wolf disagreed, with his release citing “people not receiving important treatment, confusion among recipients, and special populations being placed into the wrong plans” as examples of “complications under Healthy PA.”

“Our approach will alleviate confusion, remove unnecessary red tape, and streamline the system so that people can see a doctor when they are sick and health care professionals have more time to concentrate on providing quality care,” Wolf said.

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Take the fight for Jobs to Harrisburg!

Posted by carldavidson on February 9, 2015

Budget Rally Hburg 2.26

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Our Metro Area Faces a Critical Challenge in the Area of Liberty and Justice for All

Posted by carldavidson on January 18, 2015

Disturbing data: Pittsburgh must get to work on racial disparities

By the Post Gazette Editorial Board

Jan 18, 2015 – When Larry E. Davis says there are wide racial disparities in Pittsburgh that translate into broad and significant disadvantages for local African-Americans, he’s not giving an opinion. He is summarizing 137 pages of alarming statistics.

The report, “Pittsburgh’s Racial Demographics 2015: Differences and Disparities,” was released Tuesday by the University of Pittsburgh’s Center on Race and Social Problems, where Mr. Davis is both director of the center and dean of the university’s School of Social Work.

The compilation paints a bleak picture of the economic, educational, health and social realities conspiring to limit opportunities for black residents. Perhaps even worse, it demonstrates — based on a comparable 2007 report — that circumstances of black Pittsburghers have not improved.

Some key findings:

• The household income for black families in Pittsburgh was just 49 percent of white families between 2007 and 2011 — $21,800 versus $44,600. That far exceeds the gap nationwide.

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Rep. Keith Rothfus Votes Against Disabled Americans

Posted by randyshannon on January 7, 2015

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

‘Hostage-Takers’: Republicans Go After Social Security on Very First Day

Advocacy groups vow to fight back against what they believe is a preliminary “stealth attack” that portends a wider assault on a program that makes survival possible for millions of vulnerable Americans

Defenders of Social Security worry that if history is a guide, this latest “stealth attack” on the program’s solvency signals the “groundwork is being laid in advance” by the Republican Party for a larger attack on the program as a whole. (Photo: File)

As Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik immediately remarked: “Well, that didn’t take long.”

An attack by the Republican Party on the nation’s Social Security program took less than one full working day. Included in a new set of rules passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday was a new measure making it more difficult to move funds between separate accounts maintained by the Social Security Administration. A seemingly technical provision on the surface, critics says it puts millions of disabled and elderly Americans at risk and sets the stage for further attacks aimed at the wider program.

“The GOP is inventing a Social Security crisis that will threaten benefits for millions and put our most vulnerable at risk.” —Sen. Elizabeth WarrenAccording to Hiltzik:

The rule hampers an otherwise routine reallocation of Social Security payroll tax income from the old-age program to the disability program. Such a reallocation, in either direction, has taken place 11 times since 1968, according to Kathy Ruffing of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

But it’s especially urgent now, because the disability program’s trust fund is expected to run dry as early as next year. At that point, disability benefits for 11 million beneficiaries would have to be cut 20%. Reallocating the income, however, would keep both the old-age and disability programs solvent until at least 2033, giving Congress plenty of time to assess the programs’ needs and work out a long-term fix.

The procedural rule enacted by the House Republican caucus prohibits the reallocation unless it’s accompanied by “benefit cuts or tax increases that improve the solvency of the combined trust funds,” as paraphrased by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.In practical terms, the advocacy committee says, that makes the reallocation impossible; it mandates either benefit cuts across the board, which aren’t politically palatable, or a payroll tax increase, which isn’t palatable to the GOP.

In response to approval of the new rule, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) chastised Republicans in the House.

“The GOP is inventing a Social Security crisis that will threaten benefits for millions and put our most vulnerable at risk,” Warren fumed via her Twitter account. “This is ridiculous. 233k people in MA receive Social Security disability benefits that could be threatened by these political games.”

“All of these divide-and-conquer strategies are intended to turn Americans against each other so that all of their benefits can be cut.” —Nancy Altman & Eric Kingson, Social Security Works

Advocacy groups like AARP and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare expressed outrage.

“It is difficult to believe that there is any purpose to this unprecedented change to House rules other than to cut benefits for Americans who have worked hard all their lives, paid into Social Security, and rely on their Social Security benefits, including disability, in order to survive,” said Max Richtman, president of the NCPSSM, who also sent a letter to Congress expressing his concerns.

According to Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson, authors of the book Social Security Works! and members of the advocacy group of the same name, what would otherwise have been the “dry, mundane exercise” of adopting new rules in the House was “turned into a stealth attack on America’s working families.”

Like previous “stealth attacks” on Social Security, write Altman and Kingson, the small rule change shows “the groundwork is being laid in advance” for a larger attack on the program as a whole and described the tactics of Republicans determined to destroy the program, regardless of the costs, as “hostage-taking.” In their analysis, the GOP ploy involves playing disparate groups within the system off one another with the ultimate goal of drastically reducing the program for everyone—current and future beneficiaries alike. They write:

One of the strengths of Social Security is its universality.  It is based on the principle that we are stronger together.  It is an old tactic of the program’s opponents to seek to divide and conquer.  They seek to turn young against old by falsely claiming that too much is being spent on the old.  They seek to turn African Americans against whites with the preposterous claim that Social Security is unfair to blacks.  (We document and refute these and many other claims in our new book).  This time they seek to drive a wedge between retired workers and disabled workers by claiming that reallocation helps the disabled at the expense of the old – another preposterous claim.  All of these divide-and-conquer strategies are intended to turn Americans against each other so that all of their benefits can be cut.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) also condemned the rule, calling it not only contentious, but dangerous. “Re-allocation has never been controversial, but detractors working to privatize Social Security will do anything to manufacture a crisis out of a routine administrative function,” Brown said in a statement. “Re-allocation is a routine housekeeping matter that has been used 11 times, including four times under Ronald Reagan. Modest re-allocation of payroll taxes would ensure solvency of both trust funds until 2033. But if House Republicans block reallocation, insurance for disabled Americans, veterans, and children could face severe cuts once the trust fund is exhausted in 2016.”

For their part, Altman and Kingson said groups like Social Security Works and their allies will take this signal from the Republican Party and use it to re-energize their campaign to strengthen, not destroy, what they consider the single most successful social program in the nation’s history.

“If senior, disability, workers, women’s, veterans, civil rights, faith-based and other groups stand together – as they have in opposition to privatization and recent benefit cut proposals,” they concluded, “this stealth effort to pull apart our Social Security will be defeated. And if citizens from around the country let their representatives know that it’s time to expand Social Security to address the nation’s retirement income crisis, not cut it, all of us will be better off.”

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Progressive Democrats in Congress Oppose Gov’t Funding Deal

Posted by randyshannon on December 11, 2014

Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Statement on Government Funding Deal

keith ellisonWASHINGTON-Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), released the following statement ahead of a House Rules Committee hearing on a deal to partially fund the government through September of next year.

“We support a government funding bill that invests in creating jobs and American families. Unfortunately, the CROmnibus fails to do that.

“Republicans, who learned nothing from the financial crisis of 2008, included a provision that allows Wall Street to engage in some of the same risky practices that crashed the world economy. The short-term funding of the Department of Homeland Security sets up another government shutdown battle in February and is motivated by Republicans who refuse to fix our broken immigration system.  Continuing cuts to education and environmental protections while spending billions on endless wars is the wrong priority for American families.  Sneaking in last minute provisions, like turning our democracy into an auction house by raising campaign contribution limits, is the wrong way to govern.

“Republicans are once again using a potential crisis with the federal budget to hurt working families. The Progressive Caucus stands with the American people and opposes the bill.”

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Gov-elect Wolf Appoints John Hanger Sec’y for Policy and Planning

Posted by randyshannon on December 10, 2014

December 10, 2014

Randy Shannon

Its hard not to get a little hopeful about the incoming administration of Governor Tom Wolf. He has appointed John Hanger, an opponent in the primary that we supported, as the Governor’s Secretary for Policy and Planning.

John Hanger certainly has a lot of connections among progressives in PA. He visited Beaver County as a guest of our Progressive Democrats of America chapter and he walked the picket line downtown with UPMC workers early this year.

What we need to do now is work for a hike in the PA minimum wage, protection of our water, expansion of medical care, and boosting our educational sector. While doing that we must find some good candidates to run in our local legislative districts. Wolf and Hanger will have a hard time getting a lot done with the right wing dominating the PA Republican Party.

tom-wolfGovernor-elect Wolf announces key staff

December 10, 2014 by Wolf Transition Press

York, PA – Governor-elect Tom Wolf today announced key staff that will join him in the Office of the Governor. Wolf announced that John Hanger will serve as secretary of planning and policy, Mary Isenhour will serve as secretary of legislative affairs, and Obra S. Kernodle IV will serve as deputy chief of staff and director, Office of Public Liaison.

“I am proud to announce that John, Mary, and Obra will be joining my staff in the governor’s office,” said Governor-elect Tom Wolf. “As governor, I intend to get things done on behalf of all the people of Pennsylvania. These senior members of my team will be key to this mission because they are seasoned and have deep relationships on both sides of the aisle. I look forward to working with them to move our commonwealth forward.”

John Hanger – Secretary of Planning and Policy

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, John Hanger came to America in 1970 as an immigrant from Ireland. After graduating from Duke University in 1979, where he majored in Public Policy and History, John attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and then became a legal services attorney at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.

John was appointed as the Public Advocate for customers of Philadelphia’s municipal utilities prior to being nominated by Governor Casey as a commissioner of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. John served as commissioner at PUC from 1993 to 1998, where he expanded low-income and energy conservation programs and led efforts to restructure Pennsylvania’s electricity and gas industries.

From 1998 to 2008, John was the president of Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future and then served as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection from 2008 to 2011. Since then, John has been an attorney at Eckert Seamans. John resides in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Mary Isenhour – Secretary of Legislative Affairs

Mary Isenhour began her career as a staffer in the Kansas House of Representatives, where from 1991 to 1995, Mary was chief of staff to the Democratic Leader. It was here where Mary worked across party lines to advance legislation that improved the lives of the citizens of Kansas.

In this role, Mary worked with leadership and committee members to develop and implement committee and floor strategies, and she worked on developing legislative strategy and building coalitions that resulted in legislation in numerous areas. Mary also served as liaison between the Leader and other elected officials, agencies, and political entities.

From 1995 to 1999, Mary served as a national political director for the Washington, D.C. based Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, and from 1999 to 2003, Mary served as executive director of the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee (HDCC). Following her time at HDCC, Mary served as executive director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and as state director for Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign.

Mary owns a consulting firm and served as senior strategist to Tom Wolf for Governor. Currently, Mary is co-chair of Governor-elect Wolf’s Inaugural Committee.

Obra S. Kernodle IV – Deputy Chief of Staff and Director, Office of Public Liaison

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Obra S. Kernodle IV is a graduate of Roman Catholic High School. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Education from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University in 2002.

Before serving in his current position as senior advisor for Governor-elect Tom Wolf’s transition team, Obra played a key role on the Wolf campaign as both deputy campaign manager and political director.

Before joining the Wolf for Governor campaign, Obra worked in Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s Administration as deputy of legislative affairs, helping to coordinate the city’s Actual Value Initiative. In 2012, Obra was part of President Obama’s reelection effort as the Pennsylvania southeast political director. Obra previously served as the political director for both Mayor Nutter’s 2011 reelection bid and District Attorney Seth Williams’ race in 2009.

http://www.wolftransitionpa.com/

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