Friday, April 28, 2017

Murder for Hire, American Style


I need not remind anyone reading this of the horrors that forever changed our world on 9/11. We lost 2,977 innocent souls that day, due to the cowardly acts of 19 (mostly Saudi Arabian) hijackers.
 
That day would be scarred into the nation's collective memory, and it changed the way we live, and travel, and think. We waged wars as a result of it that still rage on, and according to the CBO, we have spent an estimated $2.7 TRILLION in Iraq and Afghanistan.  


Remember this gem from the war, when we were sending airplanes filled with cash for contractors, and how we lost billions in cash that has still not been accounted for to this day? But we're not counting money today, we're counting bodies.
 
Together, in Iraq and Afghanistan, we had direct troop losses of 6,877 American soldiers. In Iraq, it is estimated that fatalities of soldiers and civilians topped 500,000 souls, and over 20,000 in Afghanistan, not to mention the tens of thousands of US soldiers who were injured, and the thousands sent home missing pieces.
 
 
 
Despite 17 of the 19 hijackers coming from Saudi Arabia, and despite initial funding being traced back to the same nation, we never did anything there at all. But never mind that either, right now, because we are talking about over half a million people having lost their lives, and having spent $2.7 trillion because some people killed 2,977 Americans. And NOBODY EVER gets away with killing 2,977 Americans. Not on our Toby Keith loving, flag waving watch... unless you're a capitalist, that is.  
 
  
Because remember those corporate raiders with that big table full of Uncle Sam's cash during the war effort? As it turns out, they and their company owning friends back home, managed to kill 4,836 in the workplace in 2015, and 4,821 the year before that, and between 4,551 and 5,840 American workers each and every year for the last decade. Prior to OSHA being passed in 1970, those numbers skyrocket to an estimated 14,000 workers every year.
 
So, what is the point, you ask? Excellent question. The point is that in a capitalist, corporate dominated America, when someone kills 2,977 Americans, we are more than happy to throw literal mountains of cash at it, and send untold thousands to their deaths as long as we can rake in ever greater profits as a result. But when it comes to the almost 5,000 workers who die needlessly in the workplace each and every year, nobody in corporate America gives a fuck.
 
Even now, President Chump is looking at every conceivable way he can deregulate, deregulate, deregulate. Maybe now is a good time to tell you that OSHA is one of those pesky regulatory agencies that cost corporations money to comply with, and his hardline, yes man, Acosta, just got appointed as head of the Department of Labor, of which OSHA is a part. Already notoriously underfunded and understaffed, keep a sharp eye out for how they gut this regulatory agency of manpower, funding, and what precious little teeth it still has to punish employers.  
 
Remember all of the resources we threw at those 9/11 deaths? To protect American workers, we issue fines of about $2,500 for "serious" penalties under OSHA, and have about 1 inspector for every 60,000 workers. And in Donald Trump and Toby Keith's America, that is 1 too many inspectors, and that's $2,500 that employer could have used to buy a weekend getaway package at one of Trump's luxurious golf resorts, so fuck the workers they kill.
 
 
Not to worry though, because those 13 American workers who die every day and are tossed out like yesterday's garbage by capitalists are not alone. Because remember those wars we fought to avenge our 2,977 Americans? Our young WORKING CLASS men and women who fought those wars, and who didn't get their share of those huge piles of money, have spent the last decade committing suicide at a rate of 22 per day.
 
You can almost set your watch by it. With over 7,000 US Veterans killing themselves each and every year, you can anticipate that another one just gave in to the effects of war almost every time your clock ticks off one hour. The suicide rate is cut in half when veterans receive their care at VA facilities, instead of the private sector, but that doesn't stop the capitalists, whose aim is to continue to underfund and starve the VA system into submission, all with the intent to privatize healthcare and pass off billions to the corporations who will be happily killing them because they lack the expertise to treat them all.
 
And why? Because those same greedy fucks who were figuring out how to load stacks of hundred dollar bills into their private jets in Iraq, are now looking at our working class veterans, and trying to figure out how they can profit off of them again before they die off, without actually stopping them from dying off, because just think of how much money we save when they continue to do so.  
 
While we always have trillions of extra dollars lying around gathering up dust when it comes to wars, we never quite seem to have enough to pay the people who fight them for us. And while we can always afford another tax break for corporations, we can never seem to find the cash to fully fund things like OSHA, or, well, anything that might accidentally benefit the masses. 
 
Do not be fooled by the false prophets of flag waving patriotism, brothers and sisters. And do not be fooled by every time you hear them say things like, "we should take care of our veterans before we take care of... __________." Because, neither the capitalists, nor congress, nor Chump, nor his flag waving, Toby Keith loving, all American followers, are doing a fucking thing to prioritize the welfare of the working class, or to avenge OUR deaths in combat or in labor. That is up to us.
 
Another war looms large on the horizon with North Korea, and elsewhere. DO NOT be distracted. The real war is being waged right here on our own soil every day. It is a war between the classes, and only one side is fighting it, and ALL of the casualties are ours.  



Make no mistake, when the next big, money laundering war does come, NONE of these people will be fighting it. It will be, same as it always is, our sons and daughters who pay the price. The top of another hour draws near. What have you done to stop it?

Some Christmas time working class fatalities:

12/19/16 Peter Kubek drowned when his front end loader toppled over into a canal. Killed by RKC Land Development of Loxahatchee, FL

12/19/16 Gilbert Villanueva died in a fall from scaffolding. Killed by DD&B Construction of San Antonio, TX

12/20/16 David Ambrose was crushed between a transfer cart and a doorway. Killed by Graham Packaging Company of Cartersville, GA.

12/20/16 Curtis Popkey was struck and crushed by a piece of equipment during loading. Killed by Central Florida Underground of Altamonte Springs, FL

12/21/16 Mario Morales was struck and killed by a pipe. Killed by Womble Co., Inc. of Houston, TX

12/21/16 James Loran was struck and killed by a tractor. Killed by Quality Implement Company or Newcastle, TX

12/21/16 Bobby Sellars was crushed between two port cars. Killed by Nucor-Yamato Steel, Inc. of Blytheville, AR

12/21/16 Jose Hernandez was killed in a fall from a roof. Killed by Jorge Perez Construction of Galveston, TX

12/21/16 Mike Kane was struck and killed by a crane basket. Killed by Jamison Construction, LLC of McEwen, TN

12/21/16 John Brooks was fatally crushed by pipes. Killed by Diamond Plastics Corporation of Macon, GA

12/22/16 Randy Skaluba was struck and killed by a train. Killed by Elite Express of Selah, WA

12/23/16 Angel Tubens was struck and killed by a box truck. Killed by Superior Vending, LLC of Brooklyn, NY

12/23/16 Delbert Lisk was killed in a fall from a roof. Killed by Roof-Over America, LLC of Sanford, FL

12/23/16 Mahamoudon Marega was killed in a fall from height while he was pouring a concrete floor. Killed by Highbury Concrete, Inc. of New York, NY

12/24/16 James Rogers was directing traffic when he was struck and killed by a vehicle. Killed by TDOT of Nashville, TN

12/24/16 Shannon Guinn was killed in a fall through a skylight. Killed by Barnard Roofing Company, Inc. of Johnson City, TN


No one bothers to try and list all of the names of the fallen veterans who succumb to the war through suicide. It is up to us to remember them.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Rising Socialist Threat to the Dems


There are a lot of alarm bells sounding about the rise of socialism among younger Americans. None seem to be louder than those being rang by the Democratic establishment. With the bad taste in their mouths and still blaming Bernie and his supporters for having lost the election, the party elite is going about business as usual, hopeful that this fad will simply dissipate, and that Trump and Comp. will be enough to push voters back into the lesser of two evils politics that has dominated the landscape since time immemorial.
 
You would have to be living in a cave as a leftist not to have heard the arguments and debates, with so many wondering now, will the Socialists vote Democratic? The answer I find most likely is... it depends on the Democrats.
 
While I am certainly no millennial, I feel like my own experience is a pretty good example of what is happening, and why the incremental politics of the two party, corporate dominated system just isn't going to cut it any more. For me, it all started with this guy...
 
Then Presidential Candidate, US Senator John Kerry. When I first saw this on the news during his campaign, I said, "Oh fuck. We just lost the windsurfer vote now, too.
I was a 31 year old organizer for a construction union when John Kerry ran for President. I had only recently been plucked from a world of pouring concrete and digging ditches, where men suffered unimaginably to most, simply to earn their daily bread. It was my first election cycle as a union staffer, and being in Iowa, that meant the cycle started long before everyone else in the country had really put much thought into it.
 
As Iowans, you get a lot of attention from candidates. If you are any kind of union official, or party hack, they will come and mow your lawn during the caucuses. They practically live in the state, and it seemed pretty cool to be hanging out with senators and governors all of a sudden. In fact, when the union (LiUNA) I worked for at the time came out as an early endorser of House Leader, Dick Gephardt, I got to follow him around to all of his events. I thought it was awesome hearing about how his dad was a Teamster and a milk truck driver...at first.
 
Sixty days into it though, and I would rather stab my own ears out with campaign pin back buttons than hear the same speech again. I mean, nice guy, but he literally only had one fucking speech, and after twenty or thirty times, it started sounding cheap, and pandering, and less authentic all the time. I was actually almost secretly relieved when someone else got the nomination... until I got to spend some time around John Kerry.
 
Not that Kerry was a bad guy. He was fine as far as Democrats go, but he was so fucking dry. Like stale, white toast left on a window sill in Arizona on a hot windy day, dry. He was rich too. Really rich. I remember being asked about that time and again on jobsites where I went to talk to our members about him on their lunch breaks.
 
"What's the difference between one rich fuck, or the other rich fuck," one guy said to me. "Aren't we pretty much screwed either way?"
 
"No," I said, explaining the nuanced differences between one party that wanted to crush our unions, and strip America of what was left of the middle class, and the other party that would at least slow the hemorrhaging. Of course, rhetorically speaking they were worlds apart, but to a guy who stands out in the heat of the sun, and the cold of the Iowa winter, and works with his hands and his back for a living, I was forced to wonder, what is the fucking difference to him, really? I mean, we all knew that Bill Clinton and NAFTA had crashed our collective boat into the rocks. Is that the kind of thing we were working for again?
 
When Bush Jr. was elected, I got to see the differences, of course. His administration was able to use the attacks of 9/11 to undermine our collective strength as unions, attacking pension funds, weakening regulatory agencies, and allowing big business to wreak havoc upon workers through the further erosion of rights and protections, and starving the agencies meant to protect us. Not to mention, he was the dumbest guy I had ever seen in politics. I mean, he literally couldn't complete a sentence.
 
Governor Culver. Iowa Democrats answer to Bush's dumbness.
 And, on that dumb note, along came a Senator's son to run for Governor of Iowa. He seemed to us like a lump of clay that we could mold and shape to get real gains for working people. We worked our asses off for him and gave him a truckload of cash.
 
The same week he got elected to the governor's mansion, Culver came to one of LiUNA's larger staff meetings, took the stage, and began talking about how our relationship was going to get even better after he was elected to the US Senate. I mean, here is a guy that just won the governor's race and he is already talking about the senate instead of the job he was literally just elected to perform. What a piece of... work.
 
During Culver's administration, labor worked our asses off and won him the trifecta in Iowa. We had a Democratic Senate, House, and the Governor who Labor had elected. It was the perfect storm. And in the end, we got absolutely NOTHING to show for it. That's right. We won nothing, nada, zero, zilch. In fact, the only real piece of labor legislation we managed to squeeze through the weasels in the statehouse, this prick vetoed, because he had a hard-on for the guy over at AFSCME.
 
It was then that the LiUNA national leadership (who fucking loved Culver because for $100k per cycle, he would go golfing with them any time they came to Iowa), does exactly what national leadership always does. They said, "we need to get a bigger majority in the house!"
 
There it is. Right there. It's where labor and the party fails every single fucking time to "get it." In the field, we had been working the rank and file over like crazy to get them out door knocking and phone banking and opening their wallets to these pricks. We got two out of three and said, we just need one more piece of the puzzle and then Iowa workers will win big. We filled in that piece, won the trifecta, got nothing out of it, and then had to go back, look those same members in the eyes, and say, "we need a bigger majority in the statehouse and THEN Iowa workers will win big!" We as staff didn't even believe it by then, and neither did they.
 
Most Labor Union Leadership to every buffoon with a 'D' behind his name.
I have said it before. Organized Labor, and the two parties, are the ONLY business model in the world that will invest $10 million dollars in something, get absolutely nothing out of it, and then think it wise to double down on that investment the next cycle. I have literally sat in meetings and listened to national presidents of building and trade unions say, "last cycle we gave $8 million dollars to candidates. Next cycle, we are going to try and double that to $16 million so we can really make a difference and be players!" But when the fuck does it all end, and when do workers start winning in this game?
 
In 2006, I drove to Illinois to sign a petition started by Senator Dick Durbin, to get a young Senator to run for President. I had the good fortune of having met this guy, and after bums like Bush and Culver, I wanted somebody I knew was smart and had the interest of working people in his heart. I was the first Democratic County chair in Iowa then to endorse Senator Barack Obama for President. I was also the first union official to do so. When he announced on the steps of the old capitol in Springfield, Illinois, I was there freezing my ass off with my family. When his staffers came to Iowa to setup shop, I was the first one to go and meet them even before they had an office. I was a believer.
 
As far as Democrats go, I still believe he was among the best. As far as the two party political system goes, I still doubt that anyone could have done much more with Congress. But when it came right down to it, and when working people's rights were being threatened in Wisconsin, he never showed up. He never "laced up his sneakers and walked the picket lines" like he had promised me to my face and had promised many others during his campaign. He never said much of anything about it at all. And that, for me, was the last straw.
 
With the Iowa trifecta, and Obama disappointments fresh, and the members of the local I was then president of seeing raises disappear into rising healthcare and pension costs, and their living standards continuing to decline, I simply couldn't stand in front of them, look them in the eyes, and tell them again that anyone with a 'D' in front of their name is going to really do much of anything for them beyond NOT attacking them like a Republican would. But this just isn't enough for me any more. It wasn't enough for the men and women of my local then, and it shouldn't be enough for anyone struggling to survive and make ends meet in America's working class any more. We all deserve something better.
 
That year, I resigned my post as the County Democratic Chair. That same year, I took tens of thousands of PAC dollars under my control that would have gone to Iowa Democrats, and gave every last penny of it to local charities instead. It was the best PAC money I ever fucking spent, too, and accomplished more for actual working families than it ever could have if I had merely handed it off to every lump with a 'D' behind their name who showed up with a hand out.  
 
Now, don't get me wrong. I am still a registered Democrat. I still work to get candidates elected. I still give a little money to union PAC funds too. But if I am ever going to be expected to go all in again for Democrats, or anyone else for that matter, it will be on my terms, and not the terms established by the Democratic establishment.
 
My terms are simple really. Candidates need to recognize that labor (union or otherwise) and corporations have absolutely nothing in common. If a candidate accepts money from corporations, then he or she hadn't ought to expect my support, financial or otherwise. If a candidate accepts PAC moneys or party moneys that include bundled corporate moneys, then he or she hadn't ought to expect my support. Then, and only then, can we begin to have a reasonable expectation that a candidate might actually be working for we, the people again.
 
So, in answer to the question plaguing the left at the moment, of will Joe Socialist support Democrats in coming elections, while I can't speak for all of them, I can tell you with absolute certainty that what I will do, or not do when it comes to future elections will depend entirely upon the actions, or lack thereof, of the party itself. And right now, I'm not seeing anything that might draw me back into the fray and have me pushing all of my chips into the middle of the table to once again support a  lesser of two evils candidate.
 
The establishment has always held it over our heads that, while they might suck, imagine how much worse it would be if the other side won? It worked for a long time, too. But the worst case scenario is here and now with Republican dominated states and total GOP control of Washington. The slow downward spiral of the working class has finally plummeted into a deep abyss, and the incremental politics of a two party, corporate dominated system, is not going to bring us back, or undo the damage in any of our lifetimes.
 
 
 
So, what am I going to do on election day? Maybe I'll be busy voting, or doing GOTV work for certain Democrats. Or maybe I'll just be protesting somewhere instead. The answer to what happens to all of the Bernie Democratic Socialists is not a choice for any of us to make. It is entirely up the Democratic Party at this point. But I can promise you this much: the status quo isn't fucking cutting it any more, and if you think it still might hold water, then figure on another great big surprise come November of 2018.
 
Fiat Justicia Ruat Caelum  
 
 

 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Absolute Must Read for Radicals


Every hundred books I read, or so, I discover one to be so important and influential that I add it to my "legacy" collection. These are books that I will ultimately buy dozens of copies of to give to fellow activists, radicals and union leaders, as well as rereading it myself multiple times. Nelson A. Denis' War Against All Puerto Ricans, is now among that small handful of books.
 
You may be wondering how a book compiling events from decades ago in Puerto Rico is relevant today. It is relevant, because author Nelson A. Denis, in War Against All Puerto Ricans, has painstakingly researched and reported on events that represent a microcosm of every movement from our shared history that has ever sought to alter the status quo and threaten the status of unrestrained capitalism and the American government that exists, first and foremost, to protect profits over people.  

Pedro Albizu Campos,  leader of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico,
who devoted his entire life to the independence of his country
While Denis has the rare ability to compile historical evidence and facts into a compelling tale about the Puerto Rican Nationalists and their struggle for independence, the modern significance of this book for all of us is really about opposition research. It is, again, a condensed microcosm of how the United States Government and the capitalists it represents, have historically responded to every threat in the form of people's movements, trade unionism, and any activism that seeks to put the interests of people or the environment ahead of capital and the profit motive.
 
There have been hundreds of times when rights activists in this country were imprisoned, beaten, shot, harassed, followed, surveilled, hunted, and murdered. The story of the Puerto Rican people and the Nationalist fight for independence has all of this and more, in a condensed time-frame, and in a place where the American press showed little interest in reporting on the facts as they occurred. In short, it is THE manual to illustrate how far the 1% will go to achieve greater profits.
 
Again, this book is not merely another history book. It is a guide for modern activists, and modern radicals, providing real opposition research, and an understanding of exactly what to expect from capitalists, the government, local police, and every entity we, the people, are taught to believe in.
 
I urge every LGBT activist, every trade unionist, every civil rights activist, and every environmental warrior, to buy and read this book. Our shared interests are in our singular common enemies.
 
Link to buy this book on Amazon:
 
 
 
Author's Book Website:
 
 
 

 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Even Amidst ACA Debacle, GOP Makes Time for UNION BUSTING


One might imagine that with all of the hoopla in recent days surrounding the GOP's infighting around the ACA, and healthcare reform, that they might be too busy for union busting. Sadly, you would be wrong. Even amidst the ACA debacle, GOP leadership has been quietly pushing their agenda of busting the federal sector unions, and stripping hundreds of thousands of federal employees of their rights.
 
H.R. 1364 would even cause federal sector union stewards and local officers who use official time for representation to have their pensions seized when they are on more than 80% official time, and the legislation leaves it open for interpretation on whether that is for future or past service, meaning that hundreds of individuals who have dedicated their lives to protecting their fellow workers and improving their agencies, could have their pensions stolen outright. And legal arguments to get them back could be tied up under a Trump Supreme Court, until every pensioner has died of old age.
 
 
It's easy for people who don't work with federal employees to think this isn't such a bad thing, because, after all, who cares about fat cat federal bureaucrats in Washington DC, right? The reality, however, is that we aren't talking about the bonus bloated, overpaid bureaucrats that the GOP would like you to believe run rampant on the federal payroll.
 
We are talking about the nurses and technicians and electricians and janitors at the local Veterans Hospital, who often earn less than their private sector counterparts. We are talking about the men and women who work at the Army and Air Force bases keeping our planes flying, our troops supplied, and our nation safe. We are talking about the workers at the Social Security offices who make sure that your parents and grandparents get the benefits they have earned. And, we are talking about hurting veterans as well, because the federal government workforce is comprised of around 40% US Veterans, many of whom are disabled from their military service.
 
These attacks on the federal sector workforce are a typical GOP solution for a problem that does not exist. They point to things like the Phoenix VA scandal as proof for the need to make it easier to fire federal workers and weaken their unions, but in reality, it is almost always union members using official time who bring these scandals to light. In the VA alone, there are over 120,000 veterans working for the agency who get their care at the same healthcare facilities. If anyone should be entrusted with working to make the services better, it is these men and women. Stripping them of their workplace protections only puts them at risk from the same inept management who create the poor service environments for veterans and lie about wait times. And if they don't get squeamish about killing veterans, how do you think they treat their employees?
 
This most recent round of attacks are only part of a master plan devised by the likes of the Koch Brothers who hope to rid the entire nation of unions, and insurance and healthcare profiteers to get organized labor out of the way, so they can attack and privatize the pensions benefits of the federal worker, and privatize the care of our nation's veterans, and many other essential government services. With private sector unions on the ropes, public and federal sector labor unions represent a last bastion of union strength to corporate interests and the politicians they have bought and paid for.
 
Now that the war to protect healthcare has lulled, I implore everyone to take a moment to stand up with our brothers and sisters in the federal workforce and make a call to your representatives. This is our fight too, and we have got to stand together to beat these attacks on workers on every level. PLEASE make this important call. An injury to any one of us, is an injury to us all, and these bills hurt veterans!
 
 
 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

New Tool Unveiled for Iowa Progressives


Cedar Rapids, Iowa 3/18/17
 
This Saturday, March 18th, marked an exciting day for the Iowa progressive movement. Iowa Teamsters Local 238 Secretary Treasurer, Jesse Case, unveiled the new 501(c)3 Teamsters Community Action Network, or TeamCan. The event was attended by nearly 200 leaders and activists representing labor unions, civil rights groups, environmentalists, progressive religious leaders, and many recent  local start-ups working to fight the Trump/Koch agenda at every level.  
 
Case outlined TeamCan as a non-profit with the multifaceted agenda of connecting the dots for the entire movement, as an umbrella group to offer coordination, training, and support. From now on, when a small group of activists in rural Iowa are wondering how best to build a local strategy, TeamCan will be there to assist them with planning, leadership training, and link their efforts and needs with other progressive groups in the area.
 
Far from settling for just accomplishing the seemingly impossible dream of a coordinated progressive movement, TeamCan also has devoted resources to putting community organizers on the ground in rural Iowa communities long ago abandoned by other progressives.
 
Such an unprecedented organizing effort has the ability to strike at the very heart of the right wing strongholds in the state, by reaching out to the growing number of minority and under-represented working families struggling to survive there, telling their story to give a voice to their quiet desperation, and offering a link to the power and support of organized labor and progressives of every ilk throughout Iowa.
 
"We can continue to focus on the little things that divide us," said Case, "or instead focus on the larger goals that we all share in common. Our enemies don't waste time fighting over tiny differences, and neither should we."
 
TeamCan is the most exciting new tool for activists in the state of Iowa in recent memory, and has the opportunity to bring all of our efforts into coordinated laser focus toward achieving larger shared goals of defeating our mutual enemies. Please check it out, and think about how your group or organization could contribute to the effort and benefit from being part of this movement. 
 
   

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Your Vote Counts. It Just Doesn't Matter.


Right now, every union official and most activists in the country who have dedicated their lives to expanding voting rights and getting out the vote, are thinking I have completely lost my mind. So, allow me to explain the title of this piece before serving my head on a platter.
 
My last blog inspired a few people to send emails stating that I sounded like a typical union hack, and that my singular motivation is to simply elect Democrats. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, because right now, in this country, when it comes to so many of the biggest issues confronting us... how you vote matters a lot less than many people would like you to believe.
 
Granted, Republicans are currently gutting organized labor and worker protections like a fish. As I write this, they are in a blood thirsty frenzy to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replace it with something else that will further benefit the wealthy. So, let us more closely examine healthcare as a primary example for my argument (meh... healthcare and numbers ALERT.. please bear with me!).


 
From the beginning, Republicans labeled Obamacare as socialized medicine, complete with "death panels" and invoked images of Soviet era breadlines for near death citizens. In reality, it was little more than a minor restructuring of the current capitalist health insurance system. Republicans are going to jockey a few things around again and make sure to throw in some tax gifts to the wealthy, but at the end of the day, it will be a slightly repackaged version of the same shitty for-profit capitalist system we have been suffering under for decades.


The age old argument of the right was that healthcare costs are the direct result of patients and doctors who game the otherwise perfect free market system, and the high costs of greedy lawyers filing lawsuits and the resulting costs of malpractice insurances.

But those numbers do not add up at all, because while the BLS pegs the average physician at earning $187,000, and the average attorney pulling in just a little over $77,000 per year, all of that AND for profit hospitals and clinics still fail to account for where all that fucking money goes.

Where all the money goes is no secret. It goes to the insurance providers and pharmaceutical companies, and the numbers are absolutely staggering.

Of the one hundred or so major healthcare insurance providers in the United States, I pulled the financial reports of just four (UnitedHealth, Anthem, Humana, and Cigna). A look at the compensation of the top five senior executives of each revealed total compensation of $132.5 million... for just twenty people. That came out to an average of $33 million per insurance provider. If you multiply that times just 70 companies (for those who argue that not all 100 are created equally) that amounts to $2.3 billion.

In the Pharmaceutical Industry, I did the same thing using the public financial records of just four companies (Pfizer, Merck, Amgen, and Gilead), and their rounded average came out to $47 million per corporation for the top five executives. Multiplying that by 30 to account for the major industry players, and you get top five officer total executive industry compensation to the tune of $1.4 billion.

But even all of that is peanuts compared to the profit margins of those corporations, and the returns that investors have been experiencing. Using those same corporations as an average, then multiplying them by the same conservative factors, you get a total annual combined PROFIT margin of $1.5 Trillion. That's Trillion with a capital T.

And that, boys and girls, equals $4,717 for every single one of America's 318 million citizens. And with a 2014 national average per capita spending of $7,025 on healthcare, that means that the cost without private for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical companies would really be about $2,308 per person. That means that these fat cat capitalist fucks are raping the American citizens to the tune of over three times the actual cost of healthcare.

In fact, if you had only taken between $70,000 and $100,000 at the beginning of Obama's presidency in 2009 and invested it into these stockholder cash cows, right now, you would literally be a millionaire. That's right. While every other conceivable aspect of the American economy was in the tank, and only the richest of rich had money to invest, and during the awful, horrible forced supposed profit killing insurance pooling of Obamacare, the CEO's and investors in these corporations still managed to rake $1.5 trillion a year, every year, right off the top. Think about that shit next time you are choosing between canned Spam and your heart medication, or not taking your kid to the doctor because you have to fix the alternator on your car this week instead so you can get to work just to pay for your family healthcare plan this month. 

$1,500,000,000,000.00...in PROFIT and EXECUTIVE PAY EVERY SINGLE YEAR.  

And if that didn't piss you off, then maybe this will. According to Opensecrets, in the 2012 cycle alone, the healthcare industry as a whole dumped $260.4 million dollars into campaign contributions and lobbying, and just to be fair, and to make sure that neither party would really be working for we, the people, they split it almost right down the middle between the two major parties.

That amounts to one cycle expenditures of $468,728 for each and every US Congressperson and Senator. And that, boys and girls, is why I say that you can vote, and your vote will probably be counted, but when it comes to things like healthcare, we are fucked no matter who we vote for until we find a way to take back our country from complete corporate domination.

Healthcare is one of the ways they (the 1% or whatever you want to call them) are literally killing the working class for the profit motive. Retirement savings are right up there and will only get dramatically worse under Republican control, and deregulation ALWAYS eventually leads to some financial collapse or another.

But right now, the worst case scenario for progressives and labor unions and working families is already upon us with complete Republican control. So, right now is the time to finally stop worrying about the worst case scenarios, and choosing the lesser of two evils and saying that things could always be worse. Now is the time to start working toward something better for the future. We literally have almost nothing left to lose.

We need to recognize that unless we dramatically change the way we do business as citizens, then fighting to get out the vote, or keep your right to vote, or get your right to vote, or making sure your vote is counted... well, none of it will really matter that much, will it?

If you have to ask yourself if your best interest is more or less important to the person you are working to elect than $468,728 then you are already completely fucked before you even start knocking on doors, or phone banking or anything else. And healthcare is just one example. Just one. Then you've got Banking, and Wall Street, and the Military Industrial Defense Complex, and the Payday Loan Industry and Gambling, and all of them with their own Trillions in profits coming out of your ass somehow, and each of them with their own $468,728 to doll out to "your" elected official.


It's like you've made the final three at the World Series of Poker. You have a pile of say, 50 chips, and the guy to your right has 2 chips. The other guy is telling you that the guy on your right is screwing you because he wants more chips in the form of welfare, or a raise in the minimum wage, or free healthcare or he is an immigrant trying to steal your chips or some bullshit, and meanwhile, this prick has chips stacked all the way around him that reach to the vaulted ceiling, and every card in his hand is a fucking ace.

And if you're pissed about that, then don't worry, we've got another election cycle coming up in two years and you can shove all of your angst and worry and anger and fear and energies into that great big election funnel, and if you're really lucky, you'll get a brand new dealer. But unless we do something, the cards will all be the same, and so will the chip count and absolutely nothing will really change.  


It's time, right now, to organize, to mobilize, to change the rules of the game, or kick over the card table, and take back our cities, our counties, our states, our workplaces, our government, and our nation. If not now... then when?

    
"If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, keep moving forward." -Martin Luther King Jr.-

Monday, March 6, 2017

Big Labor's Biggest Secret Revealed


As an organizer for a major labor organization, I remain surprised and dismayed by how many of our own union members don't really understand how it all works and where Union Power comes from.
 
To that end, I would like to herein offer a little bit of insight and reveal what is apparently the biggest secret about the union business.
 
Ready for it? The biggest secret about the union business is... THERE ARE NO FUCKING SECRETS ABOUT THE UNION BUSINESS! That's it. There is no secret springfed well of power that flows beneath the marble palaces in Washington DC. There is no secretive Skull and Bones-like society of union leadership pulling strings, even if a few of them up there might wish that were true.  
 
Generally speaking, the union business looks a lot like this... National Presidents and Executive Board members meet and TRY to establish agendas and plans, all the while wondering at what point their local unions and membership are going to wakeup and do something about the current crisis state of the movement. Mid-level and Local union leadership meet and wonder why the national office isn't doing more, and wonder when their membership is going to wakeup  and do something about the current crisis state of the movement and the workplace.
 
And Union Members, generally speaking, are wondering why their local unions aren't doing more, but more alarmingly, live under the bewildering assumption that the National Union will take care of it all for them somehow. This, after all, is why we pay union dues, right?
 
In fact, recently, in a meeting with union members, I was making them aware of some of the legislative efforts currently underway and one local union elected officer shook his head and said, "the national union will never allow that to happen. The attorneys will stop that."
 
 
To which I replied with the above face, only my jaw was much, much lower... and paler... with more of a double chin with graying reddish brown whiskers.

Answering that member, and so many more just like him, I felt the need to delve into exactly how a labor union works in these matters.

First, during political cycles, labor unions work to convey the importance of voting to their membership. Why? Because so many legislative issues effect us as working people that it would be a complete dereliction of duty NOT to inform members about the issues effecting their pocketbooks and rights as workers, and how respective candidates for office WILL vote on those issues.

Many union members get upset about this when they receive calls and mailers and volunteers knocking on their doors. The general belief has become that the unions are little more than the funding arm of the Democratic Party. Indeed, it is a correct assertion that the vast majority of labor unions DO support the vast majority of Democratic Candidates. But why, especially when so many Democratic Candidates are so obviously flawed?

The answer can be found in the currently Republican controlled state and national congresses and administrations. Because while many Democrats are flawed and spineless and do little in the way of helping advance the cause of workers and organized labor, Republicans, as a general rule, want to bust every union in the country, and turn back the clock on worker's rights about a hundred years, just as they openly promise their big corporate donors during their campaigns, and just as they are actually working to do right now. For those of us in the business who follow politics closely... all of the attacks currently being waged on workers amount to the biggest "WE FUCKING TOLD YOU SO" of modern times.  

Now in power, we have seen Wisconsin style union busting successfully introduced in Iowa, and anti-worker "right to work" legislation being introduced in numerous states as well as a national version being pushed in Washington. Attacks of every conceivable sort are being launched against our pensions and retirements savings, healthcare plans, and wages. Workers compensation is being dismantled in many states, safety nets like unemployment insurance are being hacked to pieces, and even child labor laws are being railed against by Koch controlled Republicans as holding back our youth from reaching their full potential.

In a nutshell, Democrats seldom do anything for us, but Republicans want to outright destroy us. Period. The fight is about the wholesale dismantling of the remainder of the American Labor Movement, and the ultimate destruction of every financial gain made by workers since they began striking for a ten hour workday in the 1830's. This matters to every single wage earning worker in the country and every single small business owner. The corporations who are in control of our governments right now have absolutely nothing for us, and share absolutely nothing in common with our collective interests. And labor leaders elected to represent workers have an unquestionable duty to try to educate members about it.

Understanding what unions can really do about it requires knowing how unions really work and where their power comes from. It is so simple that it should not require any explanation, really, but apparently something has been largely lost in the translation of communications between Washington DC and the rank and file.

I will use some basic rounded numbers from my current employer to try to illustrate further. Our national union employs a few hundred staff people, including attorneys, and representatives and organizers and political organizers and accountants and communications folks, etc., etc. and represents almost a million workers. 

There are people whose job it is to essentially read every line of every bill and look for things that effect our membership. These people are paramount to what we do because in modern times you can have a 6,000 page bill in Congress entitled the Potato Farmer Rejuvenation Act, and on page 4,867 you might find a rider attached that inexplicably can, say, raise the individual cost of pension benefits to all workers. Yes... it is just this ridiculous. Really. 

When things like this are discovered, they send teams of lobbyists to tell Congress we are against the Potato Farmer Rejuvenation Act in whole or in part, because of how it adversely effects members. The national union also sends out emails or text alerts or calls, or whatever communication the union of your choosing prefers, to educate membership about the bill and why we ought to be for or against it.

The union president and all of the lobbyists talk to whoever will listen about the bill. But here is the thing; and it is the most important thing; if there are almost a million people represented by a union with a few hundred staff people, then it defies logic and common sense to assume that "the union" is going to take care of all problems. "Union power" lies almost completely with the masses.


I believe the problem often lies in how members view the union. They say "the union" referring to some faraway mystical place in D.C. that is an all powerful Wizard of Oz. I have dedicated my life to this thing of ours and I can tell you with all certainty that I did not do so because I believe in the power of national union leaders in Washington DC. I did it because I believe that the power of working people banding together for mutual aid and protection as the ONLY true source of power against an unjust society designed to benefit the very wealthy propertied classes. In the photo above, "the union" is neither St. Michael, nor the Devil. Rather, the union is the sword.

It is a tool or a weapon to be wielded by activists against injustice. That is it. That is all. The man behind the curtains really is us. If someone is being treated unjustly, the union is a sword that can be wielded BY US and swung as a weapon to fight for them. If we want to improve our lot in life, the union is our best tool in working toward achieving our shared goals. But that is it. That is all it is. It is a tool and a weapon, but without someone who cares enough to pick it up and use it, then it is nothing at all. If the members and the masses do nothing with it, then it becomes merely what the corporate interests want you to believe it is... a machine for collecting moneys from your check. Nothing more.


People need to know this. People need to understand that "the union" is nothing without us. They also need to understand that we desperately need more powerful unions in this country to combat the coming tsunami of legislation being drafted against all of us. The unions ARE the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike holding back the surge of rising waters. They are our last line of defense. There is NO ONE else.

And here is a big P.S. to members who think that attorneys will win the day for them: It doesn't fucking matter how many attorneys you employ, or how awesome their legal argument is when the enemies of the working class control the U.S. Supreme Court. All roads lead to it, and there is NO JUSTICE to be found in it when all branches of government are controlled by the same party.


I don't want to sound as if the sky is falling, but please understand that the fucking sky is literally falling right now. If you are waiting around for "the union" to do something about it, then quietly go to your boss right now, hand in your resignation, and go apply at Wal-Mart while they are still hiring because pretty soon they are probably going to be one of the best employment options around. 

So, pray tell, what to do? That is the question of the hour isn't it? I say when in doubt, do SOMETHING. And here are a few thoughts to get you started...

First, when it comes to making your voices heard legislatively, get used to calling and emailing your state and national representatives. Most unions nowadays have it setup to make this ridiculously easy for you to do, because they recognize that 2,000 phone calls from a representative's home district is more powerful than 20,000 calls from all across the country. It sounds and feels stupid and pointless, but sometimes... every once in a while, it actually works and pressures an elected official in to backing out of their bought and paid for position on a  bill.

We see the difference in the union business when our lobbyists go in to talk to elected officials. They are either like, "now what do you guys want?" or they are like, "yeah, yeah... we know why you are here... we've received 2,000 calls from your members in our home district, and here is how we are prepared to work with you on that."

But even more powerful (as we have recently seen) than 2,000 phone calls and emails, is the presence of 200 constituents at a town hall, or 20 gathered at a local congressional field office.

For more about fighting back, and even forming groups of your own to do it, check out Indivisible. These folks are making a real difference just bringing people together and providing them with some very basic tools for getting started.

 https://www.indivisibleguide.com/

There is much more to do than simply lobbying too. This shit storm of labor hating didn't begin suddenly last election cycle. The Koch Brothers and their cronies have been organizing quietly for decades. Now we must do the same.

I implore you, I beg of you, if you are a lifelong activist, or a person who is just fed up and ready to do something but you don't know what yet... DO NOT WAIT for someone else to plan it for you, or tell you what to do. That is exactly the sort of thing that got us all into this mess to begin with. We have all relied upon someone else to wield our swords for far too long. Use the tools on Indivisible to form your own group in your own community.

To win back the day in the long run, we have to fight like hell to stop the advance of union busting and anti-worker legislation today, and start building in every county and state and city and town in the nation, something worthy of people actually believing in again. If you wait for someone else to do that for you, then the exact same people will do the exact same things, and a decade from now we will all be voting in the presidential election of Donald Trump, Jr. VS. Chelsea Clinton. Great kids, I'm sure, but fuck them. This is our country and our children's future we are talking about here... not theirs.

For my brothers and sisters across the land... sign up for email alerts from your union... and READ the damned emails! If they ask you to do something... DO IT. And DO NOT wait for your national union or your local union or the AFL-CIO to think up some great fucking solution for you. Get off your asses and do something yourself. If it helps to use the union as a resource when organizing, use it. If it doesn't, use some other tool, or make your own sword. But now is the time to DO SOMETHING!!


For those of you in my great State of Iowa, please consider RSVP'ing to attend the following event. This is not strictly a union event. Every progressive and pissed off working class person in Iowa is welcome to attend and join the discussion on a new kind of organizational sword we can use to fight for social justice. I plan on being there and I hope you will consider joining us. 

Thanks For Reading,
Buzz