Category Archives: Solidarity

Trump ‘Sold Out Southwestern Pennsylvania’ With Recent Trade Deal

Sara Innamorato:  Our Democratic Socialist in Harrisburg  Sticking Up for All of Us.

By Sara Innamorato
Pittsburgh City Paper

Frb 14, 2020 – Everyone who grows up in Pittsburgh can narrate the rise and fall of the steel industry: the mills grew as immigrants arrived to take jobs in the blast furnaces, then the Great Strike occurred where industry titans ordered deadly violence upon workers calling for better wages and working conditions; later, the series of federal trade agreements were created, culminating with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), that sold out the workers and shut down the mills.

Our city’s population declined by half. Our family-sustaining union jobs crumbled, and our neighborhoods with them. But Pittsburghers are tough — we don’t like to complain, we’ve seen worse. And so we persevered and we adapted, and now Pittsburgh is widely seen as a success story. There is a sense of collective pride in our story of resiliency.

But as I knocked on doors during my 2018 bid for office, my neighbors told a more nuanced story. They told me they were working harder, but making less — getting by day-to-day was a stretch. They told me they were worried about their futures and their children’s futures.

The voters I spoke with, like so many of us in Southwestern Pennsylvania, had watched as previous trade agreements, like NAFTA, pushed local jobs overseas and drove down wages for the jobs that remained. People were fed up, and many voted for President Trump because he said he would “never sign any trade agreement that hurts our workers.”

I am no supporter of President Trump, but for the sake of the people I represent in Allegheny County, I had hoped this was a promise he would keep. Unfortunately, when he signed the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) on Wednesday, he broke that promise, betrayed those voters, and sold out Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Continue reading Trump ‘Sold Out Southwestern Pennsylvania’ With Recent Trade Deal

The Return of the Strike

The picketing GM workers and impending Chicago Teachers Union action suggest a dramatic revival of striking as a tactic.

By Sarah Jaffe
The Progressive

Oct 8, 2019 – Friday night on the picket line at the General Motors facility in Langhorne, Pennsylvania involved pizza reheated over a firepit, supporters dropping by with beers and snacks, and a dance party to Carly Rae Jepsen.

It was the eighteenth day of the strike, which shows no signs of ending as of this writing. Spirits were surprisingly high despite the cold. Strikers in their UAW shirts and supporters were cutting up pallets for firewood, and planning a potluck for the following weekend. “Maybe it’ll be a victory celebration!”

The strike at GM, now at twenty-three days the longest in decades at an American auto manufacturer, came as a surprise even to longtime labor observers like me. Certainly, the workers have ample reasons for anger. GM’s CEO made $21.87 million last year while the workforce is splintered into tiers (new hires who do the same work get paid less than longtime employees) and dotted with permatemps. But because the action of the strike has been all but dead in U.S. manufacturing for decades, a massive strike at one of the Big Three car companies has seemed like a pipe dream.

Yet now, the workers are dug in, holding picket lines twenty-four hours a day and determined to see the end of the tiered system and the use of temps, and a revived though still small left is determined to show solidarity.

Of course, we’re still nowhere near the strike frequency levels seen before Ronald Reagan’s crushing of the air traffic controllers’ union in 1981. Acts of rebellion in recent years have been more likely to be occupations, uprisings, the kinds of dispersed mass protests that spread virally from city to city, as in the Occupy movement and the Movement for Black Lives. The Trump era brought back the mass march, alongside more disruptive actions like the airport protests in response to the Muslim ban. But the strike, long considered gone, is creeping back into favor.

Chicago Teachers Took the Lead

It was the Chicago Teachers Union in 2012 that revived the strike in dramatic fashion, defeating state and city officials determined to make teachers’ strikes a thing of the past. In the process, it provided a template for a reshaping of public sector unions that have allowed those unions to survive the 2018 Janus decision, which ruled that union fees in the public sector are unconstitutional. The teachers struck “for the schools Chicago students deserve,” and rallied the community to their side. They reminded us all what it looks like when city streets are filled with workers making demands. Continue reading The Return of the Strike

Sisters of St. Joseph Work with Migrants at U.S.-Mexico Border

Setting an Example of Solidarity with Workers and the Poor

By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Beaver County Times

Aug 10, 2019 – A group of nuns and volunteers from the Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden is working with migrant families and children at the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas.

They called him a liar.

For months, the Venezuelan man waited patiently with his wife and three children for permission to leave their home country, riddled with political unrest and economic free fall in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. Once granted, the family waited for months in Mexico for consent to enter the United States as asylum seekers.

It was a long and difficult journey.

Just hours after finally crossing the border into the United States, he sat last week with Sister Janice Vanderneck, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden, at the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas.

“What a privilege it is to be able to be among the first people to welcome this family to our country,” Vanderneck said. “I was glad to be the person empathetic to their story because he told me that immigration officials called him a liar, thinking that he didn’t understand English.”

For one week, three members of St. Joseph — Sister Jeanette Bussen, Sister Patti Rossi and Vanderneck — are working at the respite center in McAllen to meet and serve migrant families seeking asylum. They are accompanied by Maureen Haggarty, former sister and benefactor, and Carol McCracken, who was inspired by the service and mission work of Rossi.

The respite center is the first stop for those released from a nearby U.S. Customs and Border Patrol holding center. Each day, the respite center serves between 500 and 900 families, providing migrants in crisis with a warm meal, clean clothes and a chance to recover from the first part of their long journeys.

How to help

The Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden has donated more than $10,000 to help replenish supplies at the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas. Items include toiletries, baby bottles, diapers, sealed snack foods and phone cards.

To donate, visit https://stjoseph-baden.salsalabs.org/bordercrisis/index.html.

The center’s volunteers work to educate parents about their rights and responsibilities as asylum seekers and help prepare them to navigate the legal process to determine whether they can remain in the United States. Continue reading Sisters of St. Joseph Work with Migrants at U.S.-Mexico Border

Erie, PA: Close To 2,000 Manufacturing Workers Just Went On Strike

After a merger with GE Transportation, the new employer “wants to turn this into an Amazon warehouse,” the union says. ..Bernie Sanders backs strikers

By Dave Jamieson
Huffington Post

Feb 26, 2019 – Nearly 1,700 workers at a GE Transportation plant in Erie, Pennsylvania, went on strike Tuesday, marking the first large-scale work stoppage in the U.S. manufacturing sector in three years.

Union members with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) say the factory’s incoming owner, Pennsylvania-based Wabtec Corp., is trying to impose mandatory overtime, a lower pay scale for new employees, and the use of temporary workers in the facility.

Wabtec just closed an $11 billion deal to merge with GE’s transportation division, which includes the Erie plant where locals have built locomotives for decades.

Workers authorized the union to wage a strike after they failed to secure an interim agreement with Wabtec extending the terms of their contract with GE. As the new employer at the plant, Wabtec is obligated to recognize the union but has the freedom to negotiate its own new contract.

Union members felt they needed to go on strike in order to protect the middle-class wages and high working standards inside the facility, where pay averages around $35 an hour, said Jonathan Kissam, a union spokesman. He added that many workers already volunteer for overtime work but don’t want it to be mandatory, fearing it could ruin weekends with their families.

He also said introducing lower pay for new hires would create a two-tier system inside the plant, causing rifts between different generations of employees.

“This is a multi-generational plant. Some of them, their grandparents worked there,” Kissam said. “So they’re unwilling to sell out their own children.” Continue reading Erie, PA: Close To 2,000 Manufacturing Workers Just Went On Strike

Ending the Shutdown: The Deeper Meaning for Us

 

By Randy Shannon

17th District PDA

Our United States passed a critical turning point yesterday. Let’s analyze this historic event and try to make our future path easier. I want to focus on two key elements in this defeat of the far-right Trump-Pence-McConnell Administration.

First is the Resistance Congress led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Resistance Congress became the conscience and the voice of the great majority of the American people opposed to the Wall and the Shutdown.

The 116th Congress now has an influential group of young people and women elected by the Resistance. In negotiations over Committee assignments, they pushed back against the corporate Democrats. This new class of Congress strengthened the backbone of the leadership. Rep. Pelosi was able to tell Trump: Hell No You Aren’t Getting a Wall! Congress had her back, and Democratic Representatives were confident the voters had their back. (As an aside, my Rep. Conor Lamb’s vote against Pelosi shows he isn’t embedded with the resistance.)

Second is the Air Traffic Controllers at LaGuardia. They exercised the economic power that made Rep. Pelosi’s Resistance insurmountable. Once workers understood that the Democrats were not going to cave to Trump’s extortion, they knew they had to act.

Here’s why they are so powerful. Capitalism is based on the economic circuit of investment-production-consumption. Until the commodity is purchased and consumed there is no profit. The critical link between production and consumption is transporting the product to the market. In this era of globalized production and on-time supply chain, transport of goods is very critical.

I’m using this hourglass to illustrate this relationship. The top well is global commodity production. The bottom well is global commodity consumption. Sitting at the choke point are air traffic controllers and longshore workers at the docks. No other workers have this kind of leverage over the circulation of capital.

The value of air cargo today is over $6 trillion and 35% of world trade. The oligarchs don’t give a hoot about lines at the airport or starving TSA workers, or DC government workers using food banks selling their homes, or being evicted. But a handful of Air Traffic Controllers at one airport can shut down the whole system of capital circulation.

These two forces – a political voice of reason backed by organized workers can stop the far-right assault on our democracy. The Resistance is growing in numbers and solidarity and poised to take back the Government in 2020.

300 Union Members Rally outside ATI’s Midland Plant after Lockout Begins

By Jared Stonesifer
Beaver County Times

Aug 17, 2015 – MIDLAND — More than 300 United Steelworkers union members locked out from the Allegheny Technologies plant rallied Monday morning not just for a fair contract, but for the chance to get back to the negotiating table.

ATI, which has 12 plants and employs more than 2,200 USW workers across the country, locked out the union members Saturday night as a result of a failure by the two sides to reach a contract agreement.

Union workers since July 1 had been working on a day-to-day basis after the last contract expired at the end of June, and negotiations had been progressing but hit a wall when union leadership failed to bring to a vote ATI’s “last, best and final” contract offer in early August.

Tony Tepsic, president of the Midland contingent of USW workers Local 1212, said more than 300 people marched through Midland on Monday morning demanding a new contract.

“We are on an official lockout as of now, and we’re spending our time picketing,” he said.

He called the rally “very productive” and said USW leadership attended, as did Beaver County Commissioner Joe Spanik.

Spanik, who worked in the union for many years, said it’s imperative to get local workers back on the job and railed against the fact that ATI plans on bringing in nonunion workers during the lockout.

“We want to see this resolved so the folks who live here in Beaver County can get back to work as quickly as possible,” he said. “We need to get them back to the negotiating table to try to settle a fair contract.”

Spanik said the march went through Midland down to the union hall and back up to the work site.

The commissioner said he also plans to contact Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to work on a solution to get workers back on the job.

Spanik said other union rallies are planned for the ATI plant in Brackenridge, Allegheny County.

A representative from ATI didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Pittsburgh’s Mayor Supports Chief McLay’s Embrace of Anti-Racism Message

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay on New Year’s Eve, holding a sign offered by the local activist group What’s Up?! Pittsburgh. The photo was widely circulated on social media. What’s Up?! Pittsburgh

City police union president objects to chief’s appearance in social media and effect on officer morale

By Michael A. Fuoco
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jan 4, 2015 Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was at home with his girlfriend on New Year’s Eve when he glanced at his smartphone and saw a Facebook posting of a photograph of Police Chief Cameron McLay holding a sign reading “I resolve to challenge racism @ work. # end white silence.”

“I thought, ‘What a great way to begin the new year,’ ” the mayor said, and he showed his girlfriend the photo. It had been taken by activists from What’s Up?! Pittsburgh, who approached the chief in a coffee shop during the city’s First Night festivities and asked him pose with their sign.

So pleased was Mayor Peduto with his new police chief’s action that he quickly posted the photograph on his own Facebook account, adding his support to restoring trust between the police bureau and the communities it serves, a stated goal of Chief McLay.

“I thought there was very little chance for someone to say this was the wrong message to send,” Mr. Peduto recounted Saturday.

He was wrong.

The photo, which continues to be shared on social media, has drawn cheers from numerous groups and individuals, but Fraternal Order of Police President Howard McQuillan isn’t among them.

KDKA-TV quoted him Friday as saying the photo amounted to the chief labeling the police force as racist. And in an email to the chief, obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Officer McQuillan wrote that the chief’s actions raised “serious concerns. … By Mayor Peduto labeling us ‘corrupt and mediocre’ and now our current Chief insinuating that we are now racist, merely by the color of our skin and the nature of our profession, I say enough is enough!”

Moreover, Officer McQuillan accused the chief of violating the bureau’s social media policy and of being “hypocritical” for disciplining two officers who violated it.

In response, Chief McLay sent an email to the entire bureau Friday with the subject line “Race and Police” in which he apologized “if any of my PBP family was offended,” adding “I saw no indictment of police or anyone else in this sign.”

Continue reading Pittsburgh’s Mayor Supports Chief McLay’s Embrace of Anti-Racism Message