Tuesday, February 14, 2017

CALLING ALL IOWA ACTIVISTS



As I write this, the Iowa Republicans are ramming through a new Koch Brothers/ALEC sponsored Collective Begging Bill, stripping 180,000 public sector workers of their accrued rights of the last half century. Koch's shills will do it despite unprecedented opposition from Iowans and nearly ZERO public support.
As Iowans, now is not the time to surrender. Now is the time to organize! I encourage Iowa activists who may be demoralized by the Koch Brothers attack, to JOIN ME at the organizing meeting above. I am not a Teamster member. This is NOT a Teamsters only meeting. It is for ALL Iowa activists desiring to come together and form something new to demand our rights and wrest political power back from ALEC, KOCH, and their bought and paid for shills in the Statehouse. 
This did not happen overnight. The corporate raiders have been working to usurp power from average Iowans for years. But the time has come for all of us to fight back in a more organized way. We can do way better than the lesser of two evils spiral we have been stuck in. 
In the words of John L. Lewis, 
Let the workers organize!
Let the toilers assemble!
Let their crystalized voice
Proclaim their injustices
And demand their privileges,
And let all thoughtful citizens sustain them,
For the future of Labor IS the
future of America!
Community activists, political activists, labor activists, and concerned citizens are all invited to attend and help plan a vision for a future where every Iowan's voice is respected at the statehouse again. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Iowa Labor War 3 - D-DAY


At the Iowa capitol building yesterday, hundreds of educators from all across the state rallied against attacks on Iowa workers and Iowa schools prior to marching in a line that surrounded the entire complex.
 
Meanwhile, several cowardly Republican legislators simply chose not to show up at their own regularly scheduled town hall meetings this weekend, apparently afraid to face constituents and answer directly for their bills that are an assault on 180,000 Iowa working families.
 
Those that did at least face the music and show up to their own forums were greeted with a few extra faces in the crowd than their usual twenty or thirty town hall attendees on a given weekend. GIVE IT A LISTEN, ALL THE WAY THROUGH...
 
 
For Iowa's workers, and the cowardly Republican Legislators who skulked away from their own town hall meetings, TODAY is D-DAY. We anticipate thousands of workers to descend upon the Iowa Capitol today between 4:30pm and 8:00pm, take back the people's house, and demand that our voices be heard.
 
We will be inside the capitol supporting speakers giving public input to legislators, and we will be outside raising hell when there is no more room beneath the capitol dome for us all. Because this day marks the beginning of a new chapter in Iowa. Where the working class states loudly and clearly that an injury to ANY one of us, is an injury to ALL of us.
 
Union, non-union, minimum wage worker, and manager, the unemployed, the underemployed, and the small independent business owner. NONE of us have anything in common with the Koch Brothers or ALEC, and NONE OF US stand to benefit or gain from these continued attacks on our wages, our pensions, our healthcare, our classrooms, or our communities. It must stop NOW.
 
 
IOWA STATE CAPITOL BUILDING
D-DAY Monday, February 13, 2017
4:30pm - 8:00pm

Saturday, February 11, 2017

IOWA LABOR WAR 2: GOP SPAMS ALEC BS


As a humble rural Iowa blogger reporting on union busting efforts by state Republicans, I was flattered when I opened my comment spam box early Saturday morning to discover a comment from one of the spearheads of this anti-worker legislation, Republican Speaker of the Iowa House, Linda Upmeyer.
 
 
At first, I wondered why Representative Upmeyer's very important message was in my comment spam box. But then I remembered that I had changed the settings on my blog to detect copy and pasted spam, as well as BS. As it turns out, her message would probably fit into either category. Because what Linda sent to me was the exact same BS ALEC talking points that Republicans have been spewing all day at town halls all over Iowa. Which brings me to another point about ALEC.
 
 

No. Not that ALEC from Saturday Night Live. I am referring to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This ALEC is a conglomerate of almost every megacorporation you can think of, and they teamed up years ago with the Koch Brothers and have bought and paid for almost every Republican (as well as many Democratic) legislators in every statehouse in the country. ALEC claims to be all about helping the little guys, but in reality, they are all about the profits of the major corporations and super-rich who fund them.
 
And, because they shell out billions of dollars to get their shills elected, and shills aren't known for being particularly bright, ALEC is kind enough to provide them with "model" bills, so their shills won't even have to write their own legislation. That's why the Iowa Union Busting bills are eerily similar to the Wisconsin ones. And it's also where all of the BS talking points probably come from.
 
I should mention for full disclosure here, that Speaker of the Iowa House, Linda Upmeyer, has served as the National Chair of ALEC. If you would like to know more about Rep. Upmeyer, I can tell you that her bio says she got her BS in nursing, but these days I think she gets most of her BS from ALEC. If you would like to know more about ALEC, please check out these links:  
 
 
While there simply isn't enough room on this here interweb thingy to post EVERY word of EVERY spammed, copied and pasted comment, I will share some of the highlights from ALEC's, errr... I mean, Rep. Upmeyer's comments, and why I call BS on them.
 
ALEC/UPMEYER: "This provides school districts with the certainty they need to begin planning their budgets for next school year."
 
WHY I CALL BS: The existing collective bargaining laws provide timelines that mandate bargaining be completed before the budgets are set. I would know. I used to bargain some of them.
 
ALEC/UPMEYER: "We value our public employees and the work they do in their communities."
 
WHY I CALL BS: ALEC Republicans have demeaned public educators and public servants for decades, blaming them for everything under the sun while teachers struggle to make ends meet and use their own money and hold fund raisers to get basic supplies for their classrooms. While they have untold hundreds of millions to doll out in corporate welfare, ALEC Republicans can just never quite seem to find the money to adequately fund public education.
 
ALEC/UPMEYER: "...many Des Moines union executives are resorting to fear mongering in an attempt to scare workers over what this bill actually does."
 
WHY I CALL BS: This bill screws over educators. Educators. They have read the entire bill for themselves (probably unlike many Republicans who had it handed to them by ALEC).
 
ALEC'UPMEYER: "It doesn’t repeal the right to collectively bargain for government employees."
 
WHY I CALL BS: It ABSOLUTELY repeals the right to collectively bargain on almost every single subject. The only thing left is wages, and even that is extremely limited and can NEVER be higher than 3%. Ever. In fact, out of the tens of thousands of state, county, city and university employees, the ONLY workers excluded from having all of their rights stripped away are cops and firemen, just like in Wisconsin. Why? Because ALEC thinks it would look bad if they screwed over heroes, and ALEC Republicans who send their kids to private schools don't think there is anything heroic about public educators, or any other public servant.
 
ALEC/UPMEYER: "It doesn’t affect pensions in any way. It doesn’t take away health insurance."
 
WHY I CALL BS: The bill takes away the right to bargain over both of these issues. Iowa's public employees have had to struggle with rising costs of insurance just like everyone else. They pay more out pocket just like you do. This bill makes it so changes are no longer a subject of bargaining. It means the state could just get rid of the pension altogether and have individual 401k accounts instead (another ALEC wet dream to move all of our retirement savings into individual 401k style accounts that financial firms and money managers can get their grubby paws on to manage at much higher rates). And it means that every public employee in Iowa could wake up to having a shiny new health plan with a gazillion dollar out of pocket premium, and a deductible and copays to match.
 
ALEC/UPMEYER: "Another provision that I’m really excited about is the opportunity for schools to reward their best and brightest teachers."
 
WHY I CALL BS: This bill, like Wisconsin's, is designed to lower wages and benefits for all non-heroic public employees. Period. While I am sure that ALEC UPMEYER probably really is excited about it, nobody else is. No one elected them for this crap. They did not campaign on a platform of screwing workers. They sold Iowans a bill of goods to get elected, and now they are only representing ALEC. 
 
 
Those were just a few of the highlights. I wish I had room for more, but hopefully ALEC UPMEYER can find somewhere else to sell their BS in the radical left wing media outlets (75% of ALL media in the U.S. is owned by about 8 Republicans). And before you go to the barn to find your pitchforks and light the torches and come out after me for being so mean spirited, know this...

We, the working classes of this nation, are not engaged in a casual discussion about minor political differences anymore. THIS BILL, and THIS LEGISLATOR, and the corporations she represents, are literally trying to take food off of the table of working families. They are literally trying to rob workers of their hard earned pensions, slash their wages, and strip them of their rights to bargain, to grieve when wronged, and every other right we have accrued as a working class over the last 150 years.
 
There is an absolute class war being waged on workers in this nation. This IS NOT about getting even with some imagined union fat cat in Washington DC. This is about protecting the teachers and janitors and bus drivers and city workers and state road crews and 911 operators and every other "non-heroic" dedicated public servant in this state.
 
But even more than just those workers, THIS FIGHT is about drawing a clear line in the sand and saying NO MORE. No more looting of the pensions and wages and benefits and rights we have earned, one company and one group and one union and one state at a time. We, the people, aren't going to tolerate it any more. An injury to ANY one of us, is truly an injury to ALL of us.
 
And while ALEC UPMEYER and other Statehouse Republicans are busying themselves union busting and stealing food from the plate of working families, they are using pieces like this one, to act surprised and injured and hurt. Today, these very same corporate shills are whining publicly about a union lobbyist who accidentally sent an email referring to some of them as "douches." And one legislator was even referred to as "cute, but still a douche." To hear Republican legislators talk today, they are almost beyond words with shock and horror by this supposed outrage and affront to all that is decent about humanity.
 
Allow me to help put this into perspective. These very same people just elected a President of the United States who brags about grabbing women by the p&ssy, and being able to shoot people in the face, and mocks disabled people, etc., etc., etc. And, in my humble opinion, if you can elect someone like that and then act so afflicted by something like this... you probably really are genuinely an actual douche.
 
If you have ANY further questions regarding ALEC UPMEYER's message today or her BS degree, you may feel free to contact her directly here:
 
ALEC UPMEYER: " please let me know your thoughts. You can reach me at linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or (515) 281-3521."
 
And from the Iowa House Republicans Website:
 
Linda Upmeyer
1811 N 8th Street
Clear Lake, Iowa 50428 
Phone: (641) 357.8807


WHAT YOU CAN DO:

1) If you are an Iowa resident, PLEASE contact your legislators in the house and senate immediately and often. You may find them here: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find
 
2) If you are ANYWHERE in the vicinity of Des Moines on Monday, February 13th after 4:30pm, PLEASE come and join us in support of public employees at the State Capitol. 4:30pm - 8:00pm INSIDE IF YOU CAN GET IN THERE. RALLY OUTSIDE IF YOU CAN'T!!!
 
3) Share this on social media with ANYONE who may be in or around Iowa. We NEED your help and support.
 
This is Wisconsin all over again, folks. And our sitting governor has been appointed as Trump's man in China, so he will sign this crap and ride off into the sunset.  
 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Labor WAR Brewing in Iowa


The title says it all. The Koch Brothers, ALEC, and all of their Republican puppets have chosen Iowa as the next battleground in their war on the working classes.
 
Statehouse Republicans looking to one up Wisconsin Legislation, have introduced HF 291 and SF 213 to gut the public sector rights of collective bargaining. The proposals as written strip workers of ALL mandatory subjects of bargaining, except for wages. But wages too, are restricted to cost of living, or 3%, whichever is LESS.
 
If the bills pass as expected, public workers will LOSE grievance procedures, seniority rights, bargaining over healthcare, pension, sick pay, vacation pay, and working conditions. Dues deduction from payroll will be gone, and labor unions will be REQUIRED to re-certify their bargaining units at the expiration of every contract, and many entities only bargain one year agreements.
 
Republicans have even openly admitted that the only reason for not outright repeal of the entire Chapter 20 is to maintain the provision outlawing the right to strike by public employees.  
 
 
At the Iowa capitol complex, things have already begun to heat up as workers have begun to descend upon the building. This Sunday, February 12th, Teachers from across Iowa intend to rally at 2pm at the state capitol, with the largest planned event to follow on Monday, February 13th at around 4:30pm in anticipation of public input from 6:00-8:00pm.
 
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
 
1) If you are an Iowa resident, PLEASE contact your legislators in the house and senate immediately and often. You may find them here: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find
 
2) If you are ANYWHERE in the vicinity of Des Moines on Monday, February 13th after 4:00pm, PLEASE come and join us in support of public employees at the State Capitol.
 
3) Share this on social media with ANYONE who may be in or around Iowa. We NEED your help and support.
 
This is Wisconsin all over again, folks. And our sitting governor has been appointed as Trump's man in China, so he will sign this crap and ride off into the sunset.
 
We can ill afford to sit idle by and continue to allow them to pick off unions one by one, to pick off retirements one by one, and strip workers of rights, one by one. The Republicans in Iowa, with complete control and bought and paid for by ALEC and the Koch Brothers, are working tirelessly to ram this through and not give anyone an opportunity to fight it. This will all be over in a week.
 
The next few days will be our only chance to stop the hatchet job on half a century worth of collective bargaining law and gains. If there is anyone you can call to rile, rile them today.
 
For Iowa public employees about to lose your rights, please know that this is your last chance to make a stand for your livelihood. If you are waiting for your union to do something about it, you need to think again. YOU ARE THE UNION. And if this thing passes, I can assure you that in short order, you won't have a job, or benefits, worth keeping anyhow. Thousands of Iowa workers and union members will be behind you, but YOU must lead the way.
 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Shannon and Sari's Sandwich Serendipity Story


A while back some local union officers I know (Shannon & Sari) were raising funds to help the Water Protectors out in North Dakota. I had just been discussing the Water Protectors with some other union staffers who wanted to go out and join the protest. But since they were from warmer climates, I strongly advised them against it. Because nothing can prepare southerners for North Dakota cold in the winter time if you have never experienced it before. It can be dangerous cold. And I was afraid we might only be making things worse by showing up unprepared. So, instead I sent some cash to the Standing Rock Sioux, and made a small contribution to Sari's effort so she could help out as well.
 
All this week, I have been working with Shannon and Sari, to visit various locations represented by their local union. The very last stop on my list was in Fargo. It is cold in Fargo. Ridiculously cold. And the last few days in this part of the country has had me re-evaluating my choices in life, walking out in the morning to be blasted by cold wind that penetrates your clothes and stings your face and makes every body part you have ever injured ache.
 
If it sounds like I am whining, it's because I am totally whining. And this morning when I walked outside into that cold wind I stepped right off the edge of the sidewalk and slammed into the ground. I should add that I am not a small man... or a particularly young man. While not quite in danger of breaking a hip yet, I am of the age where I don't exactly spring back up. I pulled myself to my feet and looked around for witnesses, relieved when I saw none, and assessed my injuries. Yes... it looked a lot like the picture above.
 
My pants were ruined. My knee and palm were scuffed on one side. On the other, my wrist and ankle and elbow were all slightly sprained and my back hurt even more than usual. Oh yeah... and did I mention it was cold outside?
 
I hobbled back up to the room and thought about cancelling my meeting today. But that's not what union people do. Union people press on. They endure. They get through it. So, I changed my pants and limped out to the car.
 
I was having a luncheon today on behalf of Shannon and Sari's local union. There are about twenty people at the location, so I went and picked up nine foot long sandwiches and had them cut in half. So all told, I went in with 18 sandwiches. 
 
Inside the building no one was there. The office was nearly empty. Apparently, most of the folks were smarter than I was and opted to stay inside today, and the people who did come to see me were gluten-free. The end result was I left with 17 sandwiches. 17. That's a lot. When I do it right, I end up with 2 or 3 leftover. Enough to give to a security guard or buy some goodwill with a manager. But not 17. It's a ridiculous number. I have, a few times in the past, missed the mark to that extent and found homes for the food at a homeless shelter or a woman's shelter or the like, but those are getting are harder to come by and most of them just don't accept ready-made food like that any more. 
 
I was literally standing outside a gas station smoking a cigarette and pondering my dilemma about what good I could do on behalf of this local union with 17 leftover sandwiches when I looked up and saw them. There, at the gas pumps was a van with 12 people crammed inside of it. The ones in the very back were sitting on the floor. And behind the van was a car with another 5. 17. The men who got out to pump fuel looked homeless. They wore layers upon layers of dirty clothes, and long slicker trench coats that had clearly seen better days.
 
The men pumping gas were two big Indians and they went in the station. I thought about it, and by the looks of the rag tag bunch in the van, they looked like people who could use a sandwich. I walked over and knocked on the passenger's window. He startled and rolled it down only slightly, unsure of the giant scary looking white guy who was staring back in at him.
 
"Do you guys want a sandwich?" I asked. "I have a lot of sandwiches."
 
His eyes brightened. He smiled and jumped out of the van. I walked him to my car and gave him the bags with the sandwiches in them. He told me they were Water Protectors, all of them. They had just been to court and released from jail and were on their way back out to stand up for their rights, their lands, their water, and their people. They had not eaten. All were hungry and it was a long way back to the fight.
 
He passed out all of the sandwiches to people who smiled and waved and shouted thank you when they got one. Then he came back, fist bumped me and gave me a big hug and thanked all the union people who have helped them along the way. And then they left. Drove off, back out into the relentless wind and cold to be sprayed with water cannons and beaten with clubs and arrested and who knows what else. Whatever the case, they were at least going out with a sandwich in their bellies. Fuel for their internal fires for just a bit.
 
And that is why we all press on and why we keep putting one foot in front of the other and fighting for what we believe in through it all. Because just when you want to give up and quit, something happens that reminds you why you do it, and you see people who are giving more than you, and doing more, and working harder, and it inspires you.
 
And while Shannon and Sari and I just thought we were doing our one thing, everything came together, almost accidentally, and almost serendipitously, for me to be right there, right when they needed us. 17 sandwiches. 17 warriors. Thank you, ladies, for putting me right where I needed to be, right when I needed to be there.