Saturday, April 2, 2011

Activists Fight Back on Many Fronts

From Wisconsin to Connecticut, the struggle to protect the rights of public employees and the communities they serve continues. While conservatives scapegoat public employees for budget deficits, activists show it's a smokescreen to further enrich the wealthiest of Americans and big corporations. And it's those tax dodging corporations that are becoming the targets of the widening protests.

In "Connecticut Public Employee Activists Fight For Pension Justice," James W. Russell describes the hard-fought campaign for a defined benefit package, one which pits state workers against the powerful financial services industry. On September 22, 2011 an arbiter ruled in favor of Alternate Retirement Program (ARP) members that they had been unfairly steered as new employees into their plan when the much better traditional pension plan was available. They had not been given sufficient information to make informed choices nor had they been told that their decisions, once made, would be irrevocable.

As a remedy, the arbiter ordered that ARP members be allowed to voluntarily transfer to the pension plan using accumulations from their defined contribution plans to purchase credit for years of employment.

Mazher Ali provides the historical context of decades of declining union power and widening inequality in "Class, Race & the Attacks on Public Employees." 
Mazher Ali is the
Communications Coordinator
for United for a Fair Economy,

 Mazher Ali wrote; the Wisconsin uprising has become as loud a wake-up call as there has ever been that working America is under attack. Attempts by Governor Scott Walker and the Republican majority to steal away the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers – as a false premise for the state’s budgetary hardships – has triggered a national uproar by labor rights supporters. The top 10 percent of U.S. households own nearly three-fourths of the country’s total wealth; 34 percent is held by the top one percent alone. Some among this very wealthy elite have a profit-lust so insatiable that it’s causing the American middle class to fade from existence, as income stagnates and the unemployment crisis continues.

Steve Early formerly wth the CWA.
He is the author  of

Steve Early reminds us of the heightened importance of organizing low wage workers in "Caregiver Unions: Much Needed But Most Vulnerable Now." 

Early concludes; The dramatic display of labor-based “political activism at the state house” in Madison this month is not just a fight for what unions invariably (and misleadingly) call the “middle class.” It’s also a defense of the working poor who care for other poor people—and many of us in other classes—while receiving little recognition and financial compensation for the essential services they provide.

Bill Fletcher, Jr., board member of,
Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies
and the co-author of “Solidarity Divided.”

In "Modern-day Pirates: The Republicans vs. the Public Sector," Bill Fletcher Jr. focuses on the privatization goals of the Right Wing and the need for "social justice unionism."  Fletcher wrote; "What we are witnessing is a well-orchestrated effort on the part of the Republicans to cleanse the USA of viable labor unions. It is really that simple. While those Democrats who have attacked public service unions, such as New York Governor Cuomo, are little better, they have a different objective, which is more about totally subordinating the unions to their economic agenda and appeasing many conservative voters. For the Republicans, which have consolidated as a hard-line right-wing party-bloc, the aim is to weaken labor unions into irrelevance and by doing so, eliminate an institution which they believe supports the Democratic Party, as well as other liberal and progressive motions."

In "After Wisconsin: Stop the Corporate Tax Dodgers," Chuck Collins brings our attention to a lively campaign started in Britain but needed in the U.S. to target the biggest tax avoiders of all.

Chuck Collins is a
senior scholar at the
Institute for Policy Studies
Collins wrote; " This is the strategic moment to dramatically juxtapose the pain of local budget cuts with the scandal of corporate tax dodging. This April 15th Tax Day, let’s make our national focus be on stopping tax haven abuse and closing corporate tax loopholes. Every time a politician complains that “there is no money” or “we must make these cuts,” we should be pointing to the corporate tax dodging that could immediately close our budget gaps."

Collins goes on to say; " We should name names and show up at their branches. First there are the banks that wrecked our economy and accepted billions in taxpayer funded TARP funds. These include Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America. Our message: Pay up!"

"Pay up! General Electric, Carnival Cruise lines, Boeing, FedEx, News Corp, ExxonMobil, Pfizer. They pretend their profits are earned in tax havens like the Grand Cayman Islands and their losses are earned in the U.S., lowering their tax bills."

"These US companies use our shared infrastructure, but don’t pay their fair share. They enjoy our roads, national defense, emergency services, and federally-funded research. They are profitable but don’t pay their full freight. They undercut local businesses that pay their taxes while struggling to compete on an unlevel playing field."

“There’s a direct connection between corporate tax dodging and what’s happening in people’s lives,” said Carl Gibson one of the founders of US UNCUT Mississippi. “If we close those loopholes, we wouldn’t have to be cutting back on firefighters, library hours and student loans.”

Gibson started a web site after being inspired by the movements in England. “I work three jobs and can barely cover my $450 per-month rent,” said the 23-year old Gibson. “But I still pay my taxes. All I’m asking is that the wealthiest corporations pay what they owe, too.”

A national nonprofit founded in 2004, Class Action inspires action to end classism.
Class Action is a project of the Institute For Policy Studies  - Program on Inequality and the Common Good at 30 Germania St. Building L, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 USA

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