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The little incremental changes in the outlook for American workers have begun to reach a critical mass, and major changes could come very suddenly. Jobs with Justice activists met on 5/9/07 at Oak Cliff Methodist Church. As always, they had exciting activities to share.
AFL-CIO Field Organizer Don Slaiman (picture) completely convinced us of the crucial importance of the Employee Free Choice Act for working people and for all conception of future democracy in America. Basic information is at http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/EFCAsenate or at www.employeefreechoice.org.
It will take a social movement, not just union members, to pass this world-changing bill. Our tentative plan is to invite Senator Cornyn to a Workers Rights Board meeting to be held at Reverend Stovall's church, Munger Place United Methodist, 5500 Bryan, in East Dallas on the evening of June 19. Cornyn has, so far, refused to meet on this topic. We will conduct an all-out campaign to get him to come, and to make sure that the public knows how important it is. At the meeting itself, we will take testimony from workers who need organization, who have tried to organize, and who have suffered under the present system that essentially prevents organizing.
Brother Slaiman said he is one of 20 organizers "in the field" working on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Slaiman dates the decline of America's labor movement from 1978, when we failed by one vote to beat a filibuster in the Senate over labor law reform. Currently, only a little more than 12% of American workers are organized.
The new EFCA labor bill passed the house by 141-185, with 13 Republicans on board. We have 47 Senator co-signers and we think we have 52 votes. It's a majority but won't beat a filibuster and, anyway, Chaney says that Bush will veto it. We have to start now if we hope to get this passed after the 2008 election.
EFCA is necessary here. Slaiman said, "It will change the whole economic equation in this country." He expects a vote in the Senate around the 3rd week in June. Local runoff elections will take place June 16. Ramping up now causes presidential candidates to take positions. Slaiman said that passing EFCA is, "tantamount to overthrowing a totalitarian regime!"
Even though the legal system for organizing new unions has been subverted by right-wing government officials, unions can still gain many new members through a process called "card check." In certain cases, just signing up 51% of a workforce creates a union. EFCA would make "card check" the law of the land, and it would have provisions making a first contract a certainty. Employers who fired people for trying to start a union would have to pay triple damages. They commonly do now with no fear of punishment. Slaiman said, "Our membership will double or triple in 2 or 3 years." Canada, which has similar legislation for card check now, has 35% of their workforce organized.
Slaiman associates the decline of unionism in America with the decline of democracy
and living standards. There are so many shocking statistics today that people
might not take notice, but Brother Don Slaiman gave us one that shocked everybody:
In 2006, for the first time in American history, a larger percentage of Gross
Domestic Profits went to profits than to wages!
Brother Hobie Hukill added, "U.S. workers are the most productive, least paid, and have the least leisure time."
Slaiman concluded, "You can't have a democracy without a free trade union movement."
The question-and-answer session gave us much stronger ideas about the importance of this legislation and our role in getting it put into law. The present fight over immigrants' rights, for example, would be greatly solved if union organizing became more possible. The best news of all was when people asked Don Slaiman about his opinion of our chances of success. He said, "I am tremendously optimistic." He believes that the current wars will soon end, and that a period of progress usually follows wars in American history. Further, the American people are already aware that serious changes are necessary for working people.
The special role of Jobs with Justice in creating the necessary social movement was emphasized. Unions will do what they can, but mostly they are limited to working with their own members. Especially in our area, Jobs with Justice is best equipped to launch and increase a broad social movement. The group agreed to ask Reverend L. Charles Stovall, the leading civil rights activist, to host a meeting on the evening of June 19. All of us will work to build a big meeting and to get Senator Cornyn to come. National Jobs with Justice has a number of sample petitions, sample letters, sample resolutions, and the other materials necessary for building a social movement among unions, churches, community groups, and civil rights organizations.
Several volunteers agreed to serve on the task force, and more volunteers are needed.
Rusty Feasal has contacted the Mexican Solidarity Network, and they are going to send him a consignment of handicrafts from the politically hot Chiapas area. He is looking for progressive groups and meetings that would let him set up his table.
Bandele and Akwete Tyehimba's recent trip to Cuba made a fascinating report. They went for 11 days. Bandele said, "Every worker belongs to a union." Unemployment is only 1.9%. "Cuba was beyond great," he smiled. Akwete added that women's rights were evident. 43% of their Gross Domestic Product goes into social development. They have free medical care. One million marched to celebrate the 8-hour day on May 1.
The Tyehimba's are working on African Liberation Day, May 26.
Bill Bennett talked about the terrible dropout rate in Dallas public schools. The actual rate is 50%! It is even worse for Latino students. Bennett works with the Quintanilla Middle School, 2700 Remond Dr Dallas TX 75211 972-502-3200X8200. They have come up with an original idea to try to get students to stay in school.
Dr. Ron Wilhelm and Kim Batchelor said that a peace center film festival is coming with a collection of movies on immigrant rights. Owen Ross of Christ Foundry UME and other churches are holding October events in the Mid Cities. On each First Friday at 6:30 PM, Northaven Methodist holds film presentations. In June, they have "The Ground Truth." Their organization is the Dallas Area Christian Progressive Alliance
Jorge and Margarita Del Cid are working to educate African American communities
about immigration problems.
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