Tag Archive: AFL-CIO

AFL-CIO’s Wowkanech on the Democrats’ Tense Week

After a late-night last night of the official welcoming reception at the Democratic State Conference, followed by a Hudson County Dems-sponsored shindig, followed by Atlantic City bar-hopping and after-parties, this morning was the convention’s official Welcome Breakfast. And it turned into something of an ad hoc solidarity rally, because the first buzz topic that needed to be addressed was why and how the Democrats moved a conference scheduled for weeks at the Tropicana Casino, to Bally’s. You already heard about some of this. But NJDSC Chair John Wisniewski gave an account of the tense week of not knowing and hoping for a resolution, then getting the word that wasn’t going to happen in time. And nobody here would cross a picket line if there was one, or much want to reward Tropicana’s owner with conference business if they were playing hardball with workers who already gave concessions. Tropicana’s owner is Carl Icahn, the real-life inspiration for Wall Street‘s “Greed is Good” Gordon Gekko.

AFL-CIO NJ President Charlie Wowkanech took the stage to talk about the labor dispute at the Trop, and the flurry of calls between labor and Wisniewski and talks were disintegrating.

There’s some irony that this breakfast was so union-focused. Steve Sweeney is the event’s first-listed sponsor but Sweeney – who carries the title of General Organizer, International Association of Ironworkers – wasn’t here. I don’t know why or have any theories why. Sweeney is of course at the top of a short list of Democrats many union members resent. The subject of unflattering protest signs at the huge Trenton rally of union firefighters and cops in March. The recipient of a large inflatable rat outside his office 2 years ago, a pointed gesture of disrespect. But that isn’t much of a discussion here; these conferences take on a rah-rah attitude of Democratic unity, win in November, and let’s argue the details later.

Either way, NJDSC’s decision, chaotic as it is to move hundreds of people to a conference across town, was the right one. AFL-CIO’s Charlie Wowkanech on labor’s tense week, and the NJDSC’s:

Are Toll Collectors about to be Schundlered?

When the New Jersey State Department of Education was competing for $400 million in federal funds last Spring, then-Education Commissioner Brett Schundler reached an agreement with the teachers’ union on an approach to utilize the money. This didn’t sit well with Governor Christie, who abhors workers, especially those in unions. Consequently, Schundler was fired for having the temerity to negotiate with the union, Christie’s minions modified the grant application at the last minute, and New Jersey lost out on the federal funds.

This action apparently did not go unnoticed by Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson. At a hearing of the Assembly State Governance Committee today, it became apparent that Simpson got the message and in the last several months his office went from cooperation to obstruction in dealing with the toll collectors on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway.

While the hearings, which were held in a packed meeting room, were ostensibly billed as a discussion of the privatization of toll collection services, it became quickly apparent that this initiative is another move by the Christie administration to punish union workers.

CWA pickets Sen. Teresa Ruiz in Newark

UPDATE: I’ll post video I just got – after the jump.

Last night, members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), who are currently engaged in tough negotiations with the state, joined by members of NJEA, AFL-CIO, SEIU, IFPTE and other unions, launched the first in a series of efforts calling on legislators to stand up for the basic collective bargaining rights of public workers.

Working families in NJ are fighting to stop a proposal to unilaterally strip health care benefits out of the collective bargaining process. And the first legislator to feel the unions’ unity was Senator Teresa Ruiz. Union members congregated outside her offices in Newark last night. Here are some pictures:

CWA pickets Ruiz 2

CWA picket Ruiz

Front Page of The Sunday Ledger…..

…..says it all!  “Disgusting”, “Idealogue”, “Arrogant”, “Jerry Springer Show”.  And that’s before one even reads the accompanying article. OK. So the sides are definitely drawn if in a rather inelegant manner.

And let’s skip to the last quote in the article from Mike DuHaime:  “Some of them (the legislature) are going to want to work with the Governor,” he said.  “Some of them are just going to want to throw stones.”

So does this quote mean that the Governor, himself, has no responsibility to work with the legislature?  In fact, though I don’t want to be accused of “throwing stones”, I believe this Governor would like to make the legislature as irrelevant as possible.   His vetoes of bills which some could say for completely illogical reasons (read medicaid funding which won’t cost the state any money).

I am generally not a “conspiracy theorist“, but the undermining of our press corps (read: “elitist” and unfunding NJN); the undermining of our Judiciary: (read: former Supreme Court Justice John Wallace and accolades to current Justice Rivera-Soto), the undermining of public employees, particularly our teachers (read: No I won’t let the NJEA support our request for $400 million from the feds even if it’s helpful); his sometimes “selective” rooting out of government waste and fraud (read: fill in the blanks yourself); refusal of cabinet members to appear before legislative committees (read: the Treasurer’s not appearing at the Assembly Budget Committee); his administration’s continually stonewalling legitimate OPRA requests (read: too many to list)  – all leads me (and I hope others) to examine a troubling and developing pattern.  How about giving tax money (through EDA) to a company to move from Seacaucus to Newark? (read: how does this help New Jersey’s economy?)

Does this Governor really believe that, given his national press reviews and his “Jersey Style” gravitas,  he can steer this State unilaterally without much regard for the other two branches of government?  Do we in the Legislature have the intellectual ability and the guts to stand up and start calling attention to this troubling pattern?  

I am anxious to hear from Blue Jersey readers on whether you think we are on to something here, or have I really fallen prey to “conspiracy theories”? If I’m right about looking at this as a pattern, how do we go about it?

more below!

State House Rally with Wisconsin Workers & National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

Wisconsin workers, who’ve lit up TV screens and fired up unions all across the country, are rolling into Trenton Friday noon to rally at the State House. With them will be Richard Trumka, national AFL-CIO president and one hell of a speaker. Charles Wowkanech & Laurel Brennan (NJ AFL-CIO) will meet them as they arrive in NJ’s capital. So will many others.

CWA’s Hetty Rosenstein invites you here.

Where are the great New Jersey labor writers?

Assembly Race to the Top hearing is still going on. Listen here LIVE.

Prepping for Labor Day’s morning News Roundup, I pulled a lot of great national Op-Eds about labor and the world of work. Mother Jones‘ profile of Mother Jones. AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka reminding me of the “greeters” at Wal-Mart. Later in the day, Michael Moore hit us (and Rahm Emanuel) with humor, and Roger Ebert & Open Left provided the soundtrack.

Norma Rae

But I only linked the national stuff when I gave Google  “Labor Day + NJ” I got mostly weather. Beach traffic. So, here I am.

Where are the great New Jersey labor writers?

Look, I admit ignorance here. My father was a union organizer, back when that got you blacklisted, and tracked by Sen. Joe McCarthy. My mother, in a teachers union. But I have never been a union member, despite my sometime nickname Norma Rae. And I frankly think the days of Which Side Are You On? have grown more complicated in this suburbanized state where a union-busting governor pits the rest of us against union workers and tells us they’re our trouble. More complicated because sometimes unions are, as E.J. Dionne, Jr. points out (in a post outing himself as a union romantic), union movements can have failures; corruption, undemocratic action, some union contracts excessive, “solidarity” that can turn into intimidation.

This site is dedicated decoding the political zeitgeist, but I’m convinced we’re not telling the whole story. The issues, problems, and victories of work, of working people, and of unions? Women’s wages. Immigrant working conditions. Cooperation/struggles between unions. Successes. Failures. Challenges. Stories.

Who is staying up late nights thinking about this? Who wants to write about that here? Drop us a line.  

“Good Jobs Now! – Make Wall Street Pay”

Promoted from the diaries by Rosi

Teaneck, a progressive community, not only feels the pain of the recession but has a tradition as a willing host for protest demonstrations. With attention now moving away from health care reform, President Obama and congress have to address the public’s most pressing three concerns: Jobs, Jobs, and Jobs. AFL-CIO has launched a nation-wide series of rallies “Good Jobs Now! – Make Wall Street Pay.” Teaneck was a site last night for 30 demonstrators.  It was in front of a branch of Bank of America which brought upon itself congressional and criminal investigations and large fines over its purchase of Merrill-Lynch and sub-prime lender Countrywide.

“Good Jobs Now!” is a message which President Obama and congress need to hear and act upon.  NJ union and non-union members are suffering. Last week the President signed into law a jobs bill passed by the Senate with a vote of 68-29.  It gained Republican support because it was emasculated to provide tax relief to businesses hiring unemployed workers. This indirect route of fostering employment is not the strong measure needed. Unemployment remains very high (US: 10.4%, NJ 10:3%). Americans without a job, concerned about losing their job, reduced to a part-time position, or down-sized to a minimum wage role expect more. If the President focuses on jobs and does something about it, he will garner public support for other landmark legislation.  If people perceive him as disinterested, he should update his resume for a new position in 2013.

Union workers in the Teaneck demonstration were well aware of how banks have ripped us off. Their populist slogan is “Make Wall Street Pay.” Tim Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury, has never understood this populist rage. President Obama and congress must understand it to survive.   As AFL-CIO says in its flyer: “Big Wall Street banks helped cause the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Millions have lost their jobs, homes and retirement savings. But the biggest banks gave their execs $145 billion in pay and bonuses last year.” That makes me mad, and it should make Obama mad.  

Over a year into his administration the President has not yet signed a financial regulation bill. The House passed a bill, but in the glacier-like Senate, Chairman Dodd  has to find a few Republicans to raise the 60 votes needed or go through reconciliation. And the bill being constructed is tepid. Banks of course are spending millions to weaken the bill further. These are the same banks that took billions in taxpayer loans (bail-outs), borrow money from the Fed discount window at 0%, and are in no rush to help small business, credit card holders, or mortgagors.

I hope Obama joins in the spirit of the Teaneck demonstrators and repeats frequently that movie moment when Howard Beale screams, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

March 18 – Make Wall Street Pay! Good Jobs Now Rally in Jersey City

On Thursday, March 18, 2010, union members and community allies will join together at Owen Grundy Park in Jersey City to demand good jobs now. America needs 11 million jobs and big Wall Street banks should pay to rebuild jobs and the economy they helped destroy.

The rally will be held from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm at Owen Grundy Park at Exchange Place in the heart of Jersey City’s financial district, right across the Hudson River from Wall Street.  

Let us know you’ll be there to fight for good jobs. Register here.

AFL-CIO will have 15K Volunteers reaching out to 225K Union households

From the AFL-CIO blog:

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and other union leaders will pay a visit to New Jersey tomorrow, accompanying Corzine as he goes on an Election Day get-out-the-vote bus tour. In addition, union member-to-member outreach tomorrow will involve 15,000 volunteers reaching out to some 225,000 union household voters through 500 phone banks, door-to-door canvassing and 125 worksite leafleting visits. This final push builds on several weeks of volunteer effort by union members educating other union members about Corzine, Christie and the stakes in tomorrow’s election.

I plan to be in Cherry Hill when Governor Corzine holds a meet and greet with labor before they head out to get out the vote.

Biden coming back to Jersey for Corzine

From NJ.com:

Vice President Joe Biden is expected to campaign for Gov. Jon Corzine at a union event in Atlantic City next week, it was announced today.

Biden will appear alongside the Democratic governor at the New Jersey State AFL-CIO Legislative Conference at the Borgata on Wednesday, according to Corzine’s campaign.

The Governor will need a good turnout from union voters. Here’s more about the appearance:

Biden and Corzine are scheduled to address more than 600 union members between 9 a.m. and noon, Oct. 7. Other speakers then and Oct. 6 will rally members for the governor and the 70 candidates endorsed by the union.

Biden joined Corzine as he kicked off his campaign back in June. Here is some video of that appearance: