Working Life Jonathan Tasini's Ruminations on Work, The Economy, and Politics Tue, 30 Jun 2015 15:12:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Post-Euphoria: SCOTUS Gears Up To Destroy Unions Tue, 30 Jun 2015 15:12:40 +0000

I’ve kind of laughed at the analysis percolating around that, oh, surprise, the Supreme Court is a liberal bastion…or not so conservative. Well, it was a great day when marriage equality became the law of the land. But, while everyone can now marry, the Supreme Court has a very clear five vote conservative bloc when it comes to empowering business, enhancing class warfare and making it impossible to make a decent living…married or not.

And it is now gearing up to potentially destroy public sector union.

The Court has now accepted for argument Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Essentially, the case is another one ginned up by right-wing, anti-union forces to eviscerate public sector unions by challenging the right of unions to collect dues and use them for the whole range of activities unions perform, particularly political lobbying.

The Court’s conservative have been pining away for a case to destroy public sector unions.
In June 2012, The Court essentially invited a huge challenge, in a ruling in Knox v. Service Employees International Union. As the incomparable Linda Greenhouse wrote:

But Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for a five-member majority that included Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas, went beyond the confines of the case to suggest strongly that the decades-old accommodation between union members and non-members in public workplaces violates the First Amendment rights of the non-members.To avoid the problem of “free riders,” agency-shop provisions require that those who object to joining the union nonetheless pay a fee that represents the portion of union dues that goes to the collective bargaining activities from which all employees benefit. The non-members, at their request, are entitled to be excused from contributing to the union’s political activities. Since the non-members must affirmatively exercise this “opt-out” option, this system tends to favor the union; as students of default rules well understand, inertia inevitably keeps some people from bothering to assert their rights.

The opt-out system “represents a remarkable boon for unions,” Justice Alito wrote in his majority opinion characterizing the arrangement as one the court had endorsed haphazardly and without adequate thought. He went on to challenge the basic agency-shop structure, calling it “an anomaly.” Compelling nonmembers to pay any portion of their dues to a union with which they don’t care to be associated is a substantial impingement on the First Amendment right to be free from compelled speech and association, Justice Alito said, adding: “Our cases to date have tolerated this impingement and we do not revisit today whether the court’s former cases have given adequate recognition to the critical First Amendment rights at stake.”

In case he hadn’t made it sufficiently clear that 60 years of Supreme Court precedents are now hanging by a thread, Justice Alito continued: “Our prior decisions approach, if they do not cross, the limit of what the First Amendment can tolerate.” As for the special dues assessment at issue in the case, he concluded, the opt-out system was constitutionally insufficient, and the objecting employees were free of any obligation unless they chose to opt in.[emphasis added]

Then, came Harris v. Quinn–and an almost fatal blow to public unions. It was bad:

The petitioners in Harris were several home-care workers who did not want to join a union, though a majority of their co-workers had voted in favor of joining one. Under Illinois law, they were still required to contribute their “fair share” to the costs of representation — a provision, known as an “agency fee,” that is prohibited in “right to work” states.The ability of unions to collect an agency fee reflects a constitutional balance that has governed American labor for some 40 years: Workers can’t be forced to join a union or contribute to its political and ideological activities, but they can be required to pay for the cost of the union’s collective bargaining and contract-administration activities.

The majority in Harris saw things differently. Making workers pay anything to a union they oppose is in tension with their First Amendment rights — “something of an anomaly,” in the words of the majority. But the real anomaly lies in according dissenters a right to refuse to pay for the union’s services — services that cost money to deliver, and that put money in the pockets of all employees.


While a majority declined to strike down agency-fee arrangements for “full-fledged” public employees, as the petitioners had requested, and as unions had feared, the majority makes clear that such fees now rest on shaky constitutional ground, at least in the public sector, and are vulnerable to broader attack in the future.

What the Court did not do was strike down a 1977 case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which really is the basis for the framework for public sector unions being able to charge fees to pay for the costs of operations–particularly, the cost that go into collective bargaining. The only reason the conservatives did not destroy Abood in the Harris decision was because Justice Alito said that home healthcare workers were not actually “full-fledged” public employees, so putting a stake into Abood was not necessary.

That, however, is what the Court will attempt to do with this new case, which will be heard in the coming term, and likely be decided in 2016. The issue is clear:

Whether Abood v. Detroit Board of Education should be overruled and public-sector “agency shop” arrangements invalidated under the First Amendment; and (2) whether it violates the First Amendment to require that public employees affirmatively object to subsidizing nonchargeable speech by public-sector unions, rather than requiring that employees affirmatively consent to subsidizing such speech.

I am not optimistic.

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They Want Greece To Bleed Mon, 29 Jun 2015 20:25:55 +0000 The underlying issue in Greece is simple: the oligarchs wants the people of Greece to bleed, pure and simple. There are easy ways to resolve the crisis without exacting more pounds of flesh from already desperate people. But, that’s the way of the Troika.

This is right:

Thousands of Greeks rallied on Monday behind a ‘No’ vote in a referendum called for July 5 on the terms of an aid deal offered by Greece’s international creditors, a result that risks pushing Athens out of Europe’s currency union.

Many banners declared simply “No!” Others said, “Our lives do not belong to the lenders” and “Don’t back down”.


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Bernie Sanders ACA-ruling statement: We Need Single Payer, Medicare For All Thu, 25 Jun 2015 15:27:02 +0000

Look, the Supreme Court ruling is a good thing, not the least of which is that it makes the heads of three wingers on the Court and across the land explode. But, it’s important to pause for a moment and realize that the Affordable Care Act is woefully inadequate, and is the dream for insurance companies and drug companies who want to leech on people.

Bernie Sanders understands that.

Here is his statement in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling:

The Supreme Court recognized the common-sense reading of the Affordable Care Act that Congress intended to help all eligible Americans obtain health insurance whether they get it through state or national exchanges. Access to affordable health care should not depend on where you live.“At a time when the United States in the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all Americans – and 35 million of our citizens today still lack insurance – it would have been an outrage to throw 6.4 million more people off health insurance.

What the United States should do is join every other major nation and recognize that health care is a right of citizenship. A Medicare-for-all, single-payer system would provide better care at less cost for more Americans.”[emphasis added]

Like many Americans, I found a plan through the ACA–and that plan, beginning next year, will have increased almost 20 percent. That’s not health care. That’s legalized insurance robbery.Of course, it’s better to be covered than not.

But, people shelling out thousands of dollars a year to an immoral industry is not acceptable as a wise national policy.

And it’s stupid economics. The ACA guaranteed billions of dollars in profits for the insurance and drug industries–two of the most immoral industries in the country, and that’s saying a lot. We still waste hundreds of billions of dollars–the sweat and brow and productivity of the very workers who, then, have to shell out money to cover themselves and their families–better used for more productive economic uses.

I’m guessing Sanders is the only presidential candidate whose post-SCOTUS ruling statement calls for a single-payer system. And I’d be surprised if any other elected member of Congress thought to call for single payer (perhaps the Progressive Caucus? John Conyers?). Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Sanders has been for single-payer for years. He didn’t just discover it by driving around in a van and stopping for a quick bite at a Chipotle, and poll-testing whether the idea was sound.

He actually believes it’s the right course.

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Pigs At The Trough Wed, 24 Jun 2015 19:43:17 +0000 This won’t shock anyone. CEO pay is still a gold mine.

They rake it in no matter what:

Only one of the 10 highest paid CEOs ranked among the top 10% by investor performance in the survey, conducted by the consultancy Hay Group. That was Brent Saunders, chief of Actavis PLC, which has since renamed itself Allergan PLC.

Meanwhile two of the 10 best paid CEOs— Viacom Inc.’s Philippe Dauman and General Electric Co.’s Jeff Immelt—got higher compensation even though the value of their shareholders’ investments in the company fell.


Overall, total compensation for the CEOs in the Journal’s survey climbed by a median of 13.5% to about $13.6 million, nearly two-thirds of which was linked to performance. That’s well above the 2.2% average rise in wages and salaries for U.S. private-sector employees overall last year, according to the Labor Department. But shareholders did even better, with a median return including share-price appreciation and dividends for companies in the survey of 16.6%.[emphasis added]

Here is the funniest thing–funny in a horrific way:

Compensation for executives at the top of the investor-return rankings generally rose. One exception was John Hammergren, head of medical-products company McKesson Corp., whose pay slumped 49.9% to $25.9 million, while investors reaped a return of 64.6%.

The decline mainly reflected a drop in the value of Mr. Hammergren’s pension. Heeding complaints from investors, the CEO agreed last year to cut his record-setting $159 million pension benefit by $45 million, and McKesson revamped its incentive compensation program for top executives.

So, in other words, Hammergren found it in his great generous self to *only* have a pension benefit of $114 million. How will he manage in his golden years?

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Fast Track Senate Vote LIVE BLOG Tue, 23 Jun 2015 14:23:49 +0000 Fast Track is now coming up for a cloture vote in the Senate. A recap follows. And I’ll try to give a paraphrased tracking of the position and votes, and ultimately which Democrats continued to abandon workers on behalf of big corporations.

FINAL VOTE UPDATED HERE. 60-37 approved. (McConnell says Corker would have voted YES but was detained)


Michael Bennet (CO)
Maria Cantwell (WA)
Tom Carper (DE)
Chris Coons (DE)
Dianne Feinstein (CA)
Heidi Heitkamp (ND)
Bill Nelson (FL)
Tim Kaine (VA)
Claire McCaskill (MO)
Patty Murray (WA)
Jeanne Shaheen (NH)
Mark Warner (VA)
Ron Wyden (OR)

This means that tomorrow fast track will pass the Senate. We will see whether the TAA gets added.

Also want to add up top comments by Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders at the end of the debate:

Sherrod Brown: this is a celebration in corporate suites.

Bernie!!! This trade agreement was supported by virtually every big corporation, Wall Street, by the pharmaceutical industry. This agreement was opposed by every union. This will continue the policy of NAFTA,CAFTA. We need a policy that represents working people. It’s a great day for the Big Money interests.


In May, 13 Democratic Senators voted for cloture on the original fast track bill. Had four of these 13 Democratic Senators voted with the majority of the Democrats who voted against cloture, fast track would have failed in the Senate and it most likely would have died right there.

On the final passage of the Senate bill, Ben Cardin (MD) voted for passage, though he had voted no on the cloture vote.Then, the bill went to the House. And, as we know, essentially, it initially stopped there because the House voted overwhelmingly against the Trade Assistance Adjustment (which I call “burial insurance”).

The House, then, passed fast track as a separate piece of legislation, stripped of the TAA.

That requires that the bill go back to the Senate for a vote on fast track. The gamesmenship on this is simple. The president and the party he has united behind him–THE REPUBLICAN PARTY–want the Senate Democrats to vote first on fast track and, then vote on the TAA and, then, believe that the House–which rejected the TAA 126-302–will, then, pass the TAA bill.

McConnell is now bringing it up for a second reading and placing it on the calendar. Procedural stuff–reading in the House fast track bill passed.

McConnell: renewed momentum for America’s workers blah blah…barriers preventing American workers blah blah…[all poll-tested crap]. Oh, China the menace…1.4 million jobs would be created [nonsense–JT]. Final passagefor TPA tomorrow, along with TAA. Boehner said today that he would take up TAA tomorrow as well. Trust, trust, work together…[gag]

The only thing noting is the timeline. McConnell says if cloture is invoked, fast track will come up for final vote tomorrow. And obviously if cloture is invoked, then, fast track will pass. C-SPAN note below screen is showing 11 a.m. vote on cloture (those times often slip depending on length of debate, particularly Leader comments)

Harry Reid: begins with Charleston murders. Confederate flag should be removed from public places, applauds Nikki Haley. Recounts other slaughters, Fort Hood, Newton, Tucson, Aurora, Navy Yard in D.C. [Harry seems a bit irritated, asks for order in the Senate twice in a few minutes–guessing there might be some last-minute arm-twisting on cloture? Or maybe McConnell is trying to get Ted Cruz to take off his Confederate flag T-Shirt].

Hatch: Senate has considered this once, House voted twice. The U.S. is negotiating trade agreements–if Senate fails to approve this vote, Congress and the people won’t have a strong voice in the negotiations [that’s bullshit, Orrin, but whatever…]. America leads the world, yeehaw, we rock, no? And especially better than the UK. Woohoo! Bi-partisan love-fest…oh, yeah American workers will love this. I don’t like TAA but I realize that it’s not always about me [he literally said that it isn’t about him…gee, Orrin, that’s nice of you]

Wyden: [why is that as soon as he opens his mouth I think of the annoying guy in college who was a suck-up frat boy?]. End of NAFTA model, We will be left behind. China!!! Stop race to bottom on labor and environmental rights [of course that’s bullshit]. Free and open Internet preserved. We have to pass TAA [boy, this guy hits all the opposition points with heaps of dung].

10:35 a.m. Quorum call…presumably as the opposition organizes itself to speak.

According to some The Hill reporter–interviewed previously on CSPAN–there have been no announced vote changes among the Democratic Senators who previously voted for cloture.

Sherrod Brown:  Opposes cloture. [he’s a hero]. I’m incredulous at this trade non-debate. The speed at which majority leader shuts down debate. The secretness of this whole process. Fast track has been a rule book on how trade is presented, we’ve got the worse of both worlds. Member are casting their votes now when we have maximum leverage over negotiations on TPP, while we are still in the dark. Example: if small country wants to protect children from marketing of tobacco, big tobacco companies can go to court and no one will have resources to challenge. No matter which side you are on, it’s clear our trade policy creates winners and losers. People will lose jobs–we are about to pass fast track, we are about to do that, but not protect workers. How shameful is that!

Note: I sense Sherrod might believe the battle is lost.

7:52 AM PT: More Sherrod: what a betrayal of workers if we make this decision today to cut off debate and not protect workers. Even if you believe if these trade deals are net job gainers, I don’t believe that, but people lose their jobs.

7:54 AM PT: More Sherrod: [he’s focusing a lot on the need to support the trade adjustment assistance]. Today, Leader McConnell is going to cut off debate even though it will cost people jobs, moral obligation to include TAA. And we can’t send this to the president without TAA [IMHO, Sherrod’s last gasp is to seed doubt that TAA will end up being approved]

7:57 AM PT: Sherrod: people know that NAFTA, CAFTA etc lost them jobs. They told us we would create jobs. Nope. We lost jobs. [He criticizes both parties presidents, Clinton and the Bushes]


8:12 AM PT: Shaheen just votes YES and then went over at patted Hatch on the back.

8:12 AM PT: Boxer voted NO

8:13 AM PT: Most of the Senators have not voted. Because this is the first vote of the day it’s likely they are making their way to the floor.

8:16 AM PT: I’m guessing the vote will probably be very close to the previous vote on cloture in which 13 Democrats voted with Republicans. But, let’ s see.

8:19 AM PT: So far, the following Democrats have voted YES:

Michael Bennet (CO)

Chris Coons (DE)

Bill Nelson (FL)

Claire McCaskill (MO)

Patty Murray (WA)

Jeanne Shaheen (NH)

Mark Warner (VA)

Ron Wyden (OR)

8:20 AM PT: Add Cantwell to the YESes

8:20 AM PT: And now Heitkamp

8:21 AM PT: Ted Cruz voted NO…

8:21 AM PT: Kaine is a YES, as before

8:23 AM PT: Essentially, assuming previous voting patterns, the president and big corporations only need one more Democrat to vote yes and they will get the 60 votes.

8:24 AM PT: Carper is a YES, as before (what the fuck is wrong with the water in Delaware???)

8:25 AM PT: I believe this is a done deal. Cloture vote will pass

8:25 AM PT: Difi votes YES (primary please!!!!)

8:26 AM PT: That’s basically it. The vote is still continuing but cloture will be invoked and fast track will proceed and pass tomorrow.

8:33 AM PT: Cardin voted NO

8:33 AM PT: But it’s over

8:36 AM PT: Sherrod Brown: this is a celebration in corporate suites

8:38 AM PT: Bernie!!! This trade agreement was supported by virtually every big corporations, Wall Street, by the pharmaceutical industry. This agreement was opposed by every union. This will continue the policy of NAFTA,CAFTA. We need a policy that represents working people. It’s a great day for the Big Money interest.

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Fast Track 24 Hrs To Go, Clinton’s Moment Of Truth (A Hard Concept) & Numbers For YOU To Call Mon, 22 Jun 2015 14:05:52 +0000

Tomorrow, the Senate will take a new vote on fast track. It will be a cloture vote on whether to proceed to consider a “clean” fast track bill, given the (positive-result) clusterfuck that took place in the House. Though one can imagine scenarios under which fast track can be defeated even if the cloture vote wins, it’s a lot harder.

So, this is a moment of truth. I’ll break it down into three parts.

Background-State of Play

Some of this I wrote a couple of days ago. This comes down to 14 Senate Democrats who voted, in the last fast track vote, with Republicans, to destroy middle class jobs.

In May, 13 Democratic Senators voted for cloture on the original fast track bill. Had four of these 13 Democratic Senators voted with the majority of the Democrats who voted against cloture, fast track would have failed in the Senate and it most likely would have died right there:

Pro-Fast Track Senate Democrats

attribution: AFL-CIO

On the final passage of the Senate bill, Ben Cardin (MD) voted for passage, though he had voted no on the cloture vote.Then, the bill went to the House. And, as we know, essentially, it initially stopped there because the House voted overwhelmingly against the Trade Assistance Adjustment (which I call “burial insurance”).

The House, then, passed fast track as a separate piece of legislation, stripped of the TAA.

That requires that the bill go back to the Senate for a vote on fast track. The gamesmenship on this is simple. The president and the party he has united behind him–THE REPUBLICAN PARTY–want the Senate Democrats to vote first on fast track and, then vote on the TAA and, then, believe that the House–which rejected the TAA 126-302–will, then, pass the TAA bill.

Trust me, the president and his Republican allies say. This will happen–because John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are trustworthy and control their caucuses. Now, I have large tracts of Florida swampland for any of the Democrats who, in fact, proceed under the belief that they can trust these two gents (and I use “gents” quite loosely), or, on this matter, the president.

And, indeed, some Democrats are quite leery of this approach.

Which brings me to:

Hillary Clinton

For all those people who buy the new, improved, “progressive” Clinton, this is a simple vote: are you with big corporations or are you with workers/labor/environmentalists?

Candidate Clinton said just recently:


  On Thursday night, in an interview with Jon Ralston, Hillary Clinton declared that she would “probably” vote against giving Obama fast-track trade authority if she were still in the Senate, depending on the status of a companion measure assisting workers who lose jobs because of trade deals. But the pressure is still on Clinton to make it more clear where she stands.

She isn’t in the Senate. But, she has more leverage than Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley to influence the 14 Democrats. She has it in her power to shift enough votes to kill fast track.She served with the 14.

Of the 14, ten have explicitly endorsed her candidacy as of April: Cardin, Cantwell, Feinstein, Heitkamp, Nelson, Kaine, McCaskill, Murray, Shaheen and Warner.

This is simple: today, she needs to call on those 10, who support her candidacy for president, to vote against cloture as a clear sign of what she “probably” would have done in the Senate.

It’s a clear vote.

It’s a clear choice.


Whether you are just so deeply distrustful that you don’t believe a word Clinton says, or perhaps you are a tad less cynical and believe she’s purposely made a twisted, poll-tested statement that allows her to take essentially no meaningful position, it’s probably best to rely on what you can do to pressure the 14 Democrats.

Here are their numbers below; I’ve included the D.C. office and at least one state office number.

Even if you don’t hail from one of the states represented by one of the 14, pick one or more and call; you can still make the point that, as a Democrat who donates money and volunteers, this vote will determine what you will do in 2016 in terms of contributing and assisting Democrats.

Michael Bennet (CO)

Ben Cardin (MD)
(202) 224-4524
(410) 962-4436

Maria Cantwell (WA)
(202) 224-3441
(206) 220-6400

Tom Carper (DE)
(202) 224-2441
(302) 573-6291

Chris Coons (DE)
(202) 224-5042
(302) 573-6345

Dianne Feinstein (CA)
(202) 224-3841
(415) 393-0707

Heidi Heitkamp (ND)
(202) 224-2043
(701) 232-8030

Bill Nelson (FL)

Tim Kaine (VA)
(202) 224-4024
(804) 771-2221

Claire McCaskill (MO)
(202) 224-6154
(314) 367-1364

Patty Murray (WA)
(202) 224-2621
(206) 553-5545

Jeanne Shaheen (NH)
(202) 224-2841
(603) 647-7500

Mark Warner (VA)

Ron Wyden (OR)
(202) 224-5244
(503) 326-7525

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Fast Track Games: Workers Lives Depend on 14 Senate Dems & Clinton Needs To Urge A No Vote Fri, 19 Jun 2015 16:36:41 +0000

This is a bad state of affairs, if you are a regular worker (meaning, not someone worth millions of dollars who complains that her family is dead broke). Whether fast track becomes law may depend on the votes of 14 Senate Democrats–the very Democrats who abandoned workers just last month when the Senate passed fast track with the Trade Adjustment Assistance program attached.

Now, it’s game on again. Workers lives depend on 14 Senate Democrats who voted, in the last fast track vote,with Republicans to destroy middle class jobs.

That vote is coming again next week on a cloture vote.

And now this an easy question: Will Hillary Clinton call for the defeat of the cloture motion next week? That question needs to be asked every single day next week.

She is the one who can make a difference with a huge number of those 14 Senate Democrats.

If she stays silent, that will be a clear answer of what she believes.

Here is where we stand.

In May, 13 Democratic Senators voted against clotureon the original fast track bill. To be clear, had four of these Senators voted with the majority of the Democrats, fast track would have failed in the Senate:

Pro-Fast Track Senate Democrats

On the final passage of the Senate bill, Ben Cardin (MD) voted for passage, though he had voted no on the cloture vote.Then, the bill went to the House. And, as we know, essentially, it initially stopped there because the House voted overwhelmingly against the Trade Assistance Adjustment (which I call “burial insurance”).

The House, then, passed fast track on its own.

That requires that the bill go back to the Senate for a vote on fast track. The gamesmenship on this is simple. The president and the party he has united behind him–THE REPUBLICAN PARTY–want the Democrats to vote first on fast track and, then vote on the TAA and, then, believe that the House–which rejected the TAA 126-302–will, then, pass the TAA bill.

Trust me, they say. This will happen.

For this to be believed, Democrats are going to have to trust John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. Now, I have large tracts of Florida swampland for any of the Democrats who, in fact, proceed under the belief that they can trust these two gents (and I use “gents” quite loosely). But, Democrats have shown a willingness to be fooled in the past and have no clue how to play hardball.

But, you can put aside all the chess moves and speculation about how that might proceed because, today, there is a very simple question that needs to be asked:

Will Hillary Clinton call for a “NO” vote on cloture next week?

For all those people who buy the new, improved, “progressive” Clinton, this is a simple vote: are you with big corporations or are you with workers/labor/environmentalists?

Candidate Clinton said just yesterday:

On Thursday night, in an interview with Jon Ralston, Hillary Clinton declared that she would “probably” vote against giving Obama fast-track trade authority if she were still in the Senate, depending on the status of a companion measure assisting workers who lose jobs because of trade deals. But the pressure is still on Clinton to make it more clear where she stands.

She isn’t in the Senate. But, what is her position on the vote next week?Bernie Sanders has already spoke out clearly against fast track. So, has Martin O’Malley. But, in truth, Clinton has more leverage than the other two as it relates to those 14 votes. She has it in her power to shift enough votes to kill fast track.

She served with the 14.

Of the 14, ten have explicitly endorsed her candidacy as of April: Cardin, Cantwell, Feinstein, Heitkamp, Nelson, Kaine, McCaskill, Murray, Shaheen and Warner.

This is simple: call on those 10 to vote against cloture as a clear sign of what she “probably” would have done in the Senate.

It’s a clear vote.

It’s a clear choice.

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TPP-Fast Track: The Pope Exposed The Lies, POTUS Flipped Off The Pope By Ramming Through Fast Track Thu, 18 Jun 2015 17:34:48 +0000 Today was a teachable moment (beyond the horrific, racist shooting in Charleston). Sometimes you have two moments that appear together and need to be connected. As I sat out West (on the road for work), it became clear that what the Pope had to say about climate change and the desperate attempts by the president to ram through fast track are deeply connected.

The Pope was clear: it’s the economic system that is killing the planet.

Account must also be taken of the pollution produced by residue, including dangerous waste present in different areas. Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive, from homes and businesses, from construction and demolition sites, from clinical, electronic and industrial sources. The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.


Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change. However, many of these symptoms indicate that such effects will continue to worsen if  we continue with current models of production and consumption.[emphasis added]


It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded.  Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. These days, they are mentioned in international political and economic discussions, but one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an after-thought, a question which gets added almost out of duty or in a tangential way, if not treat-ed merely as collateral damage. Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population. This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality. [emphasis added]


“We note that often the businesses which operate this way are multinationals. They do here  what they would never do in developed countries or the so-called First world. Generally, after ceasing their activity and withdrawing, they leave behind great human and environmental liabilities such as unemployment, abandoned towns, the depletion of natural reserves, deforestation, the impoverishment of agriculture and local stock breeding, open pits, riven hills, polluted rivers and a handful of social works which are no longer sustainable”

Now, this is all directly connected to the so-called “free trade” model. If you read the above, and the entire document, virtually every point made that effects climate change is a feature, not a bug, of so-called “free trade”.So, it was a deeply ironic fact that as the Pope outlines the climate change crisis, the president was ramming through a policy that makes climate change worse and empowers the economic system the Pope is criticizing.

One example. More than a year ago, I wrote about how the TPP would undermine global environmental protections.

The president is oblivious–or he doesn’t care.

Fact is, by pushing fast track and the TPP, the president is uniting with a huge swath of the climate change deniers, and making the climate crisis worse, no matter what else he does about emissions and alternative energy.

You cannot continue to advance a destructive economic strategy with so-called “free trade” and, at the same time, say, “gee, I care about climate change”

So, the president essentially flipped off the Pope.

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BREAKING FROM the Pope: Reckless Pursuit of Profits Causes Climate Change. That’s Right Thu, 18 Jun 2015 13:41:41 +0000

Many people have made the point that the very economic system–the corrupt system–that leaves billions struggling to make ends meet while the elite party on and on and on is the same system that has ravaged the environment and threatened the very existence of humanity on the planet.

Now, the Pope says it.

His expected statement:

The vision that Francis outlined in the 184-page encyclical is sweeping in ambition and scope: He described a relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment, for which he blamed apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology and political shortsightedness. The most vulnerable victims are the world’s poorest people, he declared, who are being dislocated and disregarded.[emphasis added]


Francis cites the Bible’s book of Genesis to underpin his theological argument, though in a passage certain to rankle some Christians, he chastises those who cite Genesis as evidence that man has “dominion” over earth and therefore an unlimited right to its resources. Some believers have used this biblical understanding of “dominion” to justify practices such as mountaintop mining or fishing with gill nets.“This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church,” Francis wrote. The Bible teaches human beings to “till and keep” the garden of the world, he said: “‘Tilling’ refers to cultivating, plowing or working, while ‘keeping’ means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving.”

His most stinging rebuke is a broad economic and political critique of profit-seeking and the undue influence of technology on society. He praised the progress achieved by economic growth and technology, singling out achievements in medicine, science and engineering. But, he added, “Our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.”

Central to Francis’ theme is the linkage between the poor and the fragility of the planet. He rejects the belief that technology and “current economics” will solve environmental problems or “that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth.” He cites finance as having a distorting influence on politics and calls for government action, international regulation and a spiritual and cultural awakening to “recover depth in life.”

This guy must know his Marx LOL.Look, I’m no organized religion guy for a lot of reasons. But, whether you are or not, I think the Pope as an audience.

And it will drive the lovers of the so-called “free market” that the Pope is, correctly, pointing the finger at the very system is loved and almost deified by Republicans and Democrats alike. What political speech does not begin, even from the so-called “liberals”, with “Don’t get me wrong, I’m for free enterprise, competition and blah blah blah…”

Then Pope has basically indicted the entire system.

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Uber Schmuber: An Important Ruling On The Exploitative “Sharing Economy” Wed, 17 Jun 2015 17:02:58 +0000

I’m always been suspicious of the “new economy” gurus who promise that the wonders of technologies will, praise be, free everyone from the chains of hard labor–this was essentially the dumb idea behind Robert Reich’s elitist nonsense about “symbolic analysts” (that was the now-discredited idea he probably thought up after he’d pushed for NAFTA and was looking for another way to promote himself). The economy, and the ability to make a living, is always about the ability of workers to have power over their work life, and leverage power to demand decent wages.

Which is why Uber was just a bunch of new exploitation wrapped in the new lingo of the “sharing economy”. A judge has seen through all that.

A good moment, via The Wall Street Journal:

California’s labor commissioner has ruled that a driver for Uber Technologies Inc. should be classified as an employee of the company, a decision that could set a precedent for how the ride-hailing service compensates its more than 200,000 drivers.Uber has been ordered to pay Barbara Berwick, a San Francisco driver for Uber from July to September of last year, more than $4,100 to cover the costs of vehicle mileage and tolls, the commissioner said in a June 3 ruling that was filed in California state court on Tuesday.

The regulator found that Uber is “involved in every aspect of the operation,” from vetting drivers and their vehicles to setting rates for trip fares, and therefore is legally an employer of its drivers. Uber had unsuccessfully argued that because it is just a smartphone service for matching passengers with a ride, its drivers should be classified as contractors. [emphasis added]

The business press understands the threat to these exploiters:

Startups use contractors for the simple reason that they are a lot cheaper than employees. When you’re an independent contractor, your employer does not have to consider paying into Social Security or withholding taxes. It saves them money.When the home-cleaning startup MyClean switched from an independent-contractor model to one with full-time employees, the startup saw its labor costs rise by 40%.

From a financial perspective, it makes sense why companies are clinging to the independent-contractor model. But drivers have a lot to gain from rulings in their favor, including reimbursement for their expenses.

If juries rule against Uber and Lyft, drivers stand to gain more than just lost wages. These lawsuits could change Uber and Lyft’s business models entirely.[emphasis added]


In addition, drivers would be able to organize formally. Right now, drivers — especially those unhappy with their working conditions — have informally organized by region or in forums such as UberPeople. In August, Uber drivers in Southern California aligned with a local Teamsters union.

A good thing for workers. The “sharing economy” is partly about “sharing” the misery of trying to string together one or two or three jobs just to pay the bills, and Uber has tapped into that misery.We shouldn’t let Uber and its ilk build multi-billion valuations, and huge wealth for its founders, on the backs of people.

In that sense, for all the hipness and sheen of cool App functionality, Uber is no better than Wal-Mart.

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They Sure Seem In A Hurry To Hurt Workers Tue, 16 Jun 2015 22:35:46 +0000 You know, those fast track obsessed people seem in a big rush to make happen this bad brew of trade and corporate annihilation of decent wages. They aren’t giving up.

The traditional media is awash today in reports of various gambits to revive the mess after last week’s humiliation.

This in The Wall Street Journal:

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) said that pushing fast-track trade legislation through Congress without attaching a workers-assistance program that dragged down the bill last week would be “a very good option.”

The comments by Mr. McCarthy at The Wall Street Journal’s CFO Network Conference in Washington offered the clearest picture yet of House GOP leaders’ thinking as they figure out how to advance the trade legislation, a priority of the Obama administration.

The question is whether enough of the 13 pro-trade Senate Democrats who joined with Republicans to pass the fast-track legislation in May would go along with the strategy. Many Democrats support extending the workers-assistance program and insisted that it be included in the trade bill to get it through the Senate.

And over at the mostly pro-so-called “free trade” NYTimes:

The House voted convincingly Tuesday to allow Congress six more weeks to ponder ways to get a trade bill to President Obama’s desk before the August recess, just days after Democrats delivered an embarrassing defeat to the administration’s economic policy agenda.

House Republicans were set to take another vote on Trade Adjustment Assistance, which provides relief for workers displaced by global trade pacts. Democrats have long supported such programs, but last Friday voted against it as a way of undermining the president’s push for accelerated negotiating authority known as fast track.

The problem is: it’s a pretty thin margin and a very hard balance. The “Free trade” version of pulling an inside straight. Maybe harder.

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Fast Track “Walking Dead”: Put A Stake In It & Learn Two Lessons, Including “Organizing Works” Mon, 15 Jun 2015 18:06:44 +0000

It’s been amusing, sort of, to watch the corporate roaches scurrying about, looking here and there for an opening to try to revive the odious fast track legislation.

But, putting aside what we know already, there are two important lessons to learn:

1.  We always need to call out phony arguments, like “burial insurance”, that politicians want to use to cover their asses when the upshot is they are happy to sacrifice workers to keep a bad system in place.

2. Organizing works–and organizing creates movements.

Ok it’s a Hail Mary (via The Wall Street Journal):

Obama administration officials maintained Sunday that they still expected Congress would find a way to pass legislation expanding Mr. Obama’s trade-negotiating powers as the U.S. tries to wrap up a sweeping deal with 11 other countries around the Pacific. House Republican leaders said the burden would rest with the president to shore up support for his trade agenda after Democrats defected late last week, despite a burst of last-minute lobbying by Mr. Obama himself.But the Democrats, skeptical of how the Pacific trade deal is being negotiated as well as its potential repercussions for U.S. workers, said Sunday they saw little reason yet to loosen their opposition to a package of trade measures stalled in the House.

So, Lesson #1. In the same WSJ piece, this:

Although Democrats have long backed the worker-aid program, many don’t see TAA as fully offsetting the economic blow they expect the Pacific trade deal would inflict on U.S. workers.

“If nothing happens, I’m persuaded that the outcome for American workers is probably net better,” Rep. John Yarmuth (D., Ky.) said last week. Mr. Yarmuth voted against both the fast-track and worker-aid provisions on Friday.But some Democrats cautioned against letting the trade fight kill a program backed by their party and which expires at the end of September. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D., Va.) said he didn’t expect GOP leaders would make additional concessions, now that the fast-track measure has passed the House.

“Their incentive to come back to the table to negotiate new elements will be severely circumscribed,” said Mr. Connolly, who voted for both measures Friday. “This [vote] may be the last chance to make sure this program is alive and well.”[emphasis added]

My view: let the Trade Adjustment Assistance program die.

It is a phony program. It sprinkles a few hundred million dollars at hundreds of thousands of workers who had their livelihoods taken away by corporate greed, not to mention does virtually nothing for the communities devastated by decisions these corporations made to run to some other place to exploit other workers.

It tries to mask the cruel reality that the vast majority of the workers who lose their jobs will never find jobs that pay anything near the wages they had before.

And that is not something we should accept as if it is a natural phenomena.

Those are political decisions made by corporations and politicians to sacrifice people. It does not have to be that way.

So, let TAA die–to show even more clearly the foolish, bad decisions made by the president, political parties and the captains of industry who don’t give a hoot about regular people.

Lesson #2: a lot of people thought, “oh, this fast track thing is going to pass, what a waste of time, just get over it.”

Mostly, though, a lot of hard working activists–I think of the labor movement, which was united, and good citizens groups, and Global Trade Watch was head and shoulders above all the non-labor groups–who banged this and walked the pavement, literally and figuratively. They didn’t wave the white flag, and they could have if they wasted a lot of time reading the traditional press as well as, unfortunately, some of the “progressive” new media.

To be sure, we won–for now–because of a tactical campaign that exploited the particular dynamic of tying TAA to the fast track legislation.

But, the MOVEMENT was in the position to take advantage of that tactical moment because it worked really, really hard.

And that’s the important lesson: even if fast track rears head again, and even if it passes, all that work creates momentum to blow up a very bad economic system.

Why does anyone think that Hillary Clinton attempted to weasel her way out of a position on fast track? That statement (which was a classic poll-tested attempt to say something AND say nothing of substance) came because of the movement, not because the candidate has all of a sudden seen the light (I certainly respect people who believe that she has undergone a reinvention and is not a populist–I also have some swamp land in Florida for sale…).

It came because all those calls, and all those rallies, and all the organizing has reformed in a lot of peoples’ minds a new view about trade and what is right.

Something to celebrate.

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Fast Track Lament: Narrow Agenda “jeopardizing the futures of millions of men and women in America” Sat, 13 Jun 2015 16:05:09 +0000

You could pick a multitude of examples showing the forces on each side of the fast track fight. It’s the voices of workers against the voice of corporations (aided by 28 Democrats who need to face primaries).

Indeed, here is a quote that says it all: the fast track vote is “a victory for those with a narrow agenda that puts petty politics ahead of people, while jeopardizing the futures of millions of men and women in America.”

Oh, the source of that quote, the organization looking out for millions of workers?

It’s not the AFL-CIO.

It’s the National Retail Federation, one of the most anti-union trade organizations in the nation. There, that’s one of your allies, Mr. President.

The quote is here from David French, senior vice president for the National Retail Federation.

Want to know a little about the organization?

In the past few years, the National Labor Relations Board has taken a series of controversial moves that would make it easier for organized labor to unionize workers in the retail industry and other businesses, and overturn decades of well-established federal labor law. Among these actions is a decision to allow “ambush” union organizing elections to be held in as little as two weeks after a union seeks a vote rather than the current average of about five weeks for most elections.

What these cavemen see as “ambush” elections–that’s pretty funny–is an effort to try to have timely elections in the workplace so that the company doesn’t threaten and fire workers who try to unionize and drag out a process over months and years, which is one of the central reasons workers don’t get a chance to form a union.And:

NRF chairs the lobbying committee of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, which was formed to block the Employee Free Choice Act. The coalition brought a lawsuit in 2012 arguing that the ambush election regulations adopted by the NLRB were unconstitutional and went beyond the board’s authority under the National Labor Relations Act. A federal judge overturned the regulations on technical grounds, but the NLRB re-issued the regulations in December 2014. NRF called the move “the latest attempt by the Obama Administration to aid their allies in Big Labor at the expense of employers and employees” and joined CDW and other business groups in filing a lawsuit challenging the regulations in U.S. District Court in Washington. The lawsuit remains pending, but the regulations took effect in April despite legislation passed by Congress to overturn them that was vetoed by President Obama.[emphasis added]

Ah, yes, Mr. President, your allies are the very people who hate “Big Labor” and worked to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act, which was a pretty modest effort at ending the war against workers trying to organize.More? These are the same people who oppose any hike in the minimum wage, even the quite small hike to $10.10-an-hour.

This is the organization that churns out bogus study after bogus study about the effect of a minimum wage rise, even as the evidence is overwhelming that a hike in the minimum wage is a positive thing–maybe not for the greedy NRF members but certainly for the nation and the economy. Hikes in the minimum wage have almost no negative impact on employment, we could actually afford a hike in the federal minimum wage to $12-an-hour, and states with a higher minimum wage have faster job creation.

There you go, Mr. President. You preach the fight against inequality–along with the Chipotle-eating, van-driving candidate for president–but you make common cause with the most anti-union, anti-worker organizations which promote inequality.

It’s pretty clear what side you end up on.

Keep shoveling the dung arguments. Don’t tell me it’s raining when you’re pissing on millions of working Americans.

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28 Fast Track Democrats Who Voted AGAINST Workers, For Corporations, Including DNC Chair: PRIMARIES! Fri, 12 Jun 2015 19:14:05 +0000 You can all go here to look at how this unfolded today in the liveblog. Here now are the names of the votes of the 28 Democrats who voted against workers and in favor of corporate rights.

To be clear, without the votes of these 28 Democrats, fast track would have failed. It only passed 219-211.

Every one of these Democrats needs to be primaried

Here is the roll call:

Brad Ashford (2nd-Neb.)

Rep. Ami Bera (7th-Calif.)

Rep. Don Beyer (8th-Va.)

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (3rd-Ore.)

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (Ore.)

Rep. Gerry Connolly (8th-Va.)

Jim Cooper (5th-Tenn)

Jim Costa (16th-CA)

Rep. Henry Cuellar (28th-Texas)

Susan Davis (53rd-CA)

John Delaney (6th-Md.)

Rep. Suzan DelBene (1st-Wash.)

Rep. Sam Farr (20th–CA)

Rep. Jim Himes (4th-CT)

Ruben Hinojosa (15th-TX)

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (30th-Texas)

Derek Kilmer (6th-Wash.)

Rep. Ron Kind (3rd-Wis.)

Rep. Rick Larsen (2nd-Wash.)

Beto O’Rourke (16th-TX)

Scott Peters (52nd-CA)

Jared Polis (2nd-Colo.)

Mike Quigley (5th-Ill.)

Kathleen Rice (4th-NY)

Rep. Kurt Schrader (Ore.)

Terri Sewell (7th-Alabama)

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (23rd-FL)

I already wrote recently that Wasserman-Schultz should resign as DNC Chair if she voted for fast track,

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UPDATED: Fast Track Vote LIVE BLOGGING (POTUS Arrives At House To Save TAA) Fri, 12 Jun 2015 13:51:35 +0000

Hey, I have to watch this for general work so what the heck…

Setting the stage first (and apologies ahead of time for the typos).

There will be two votes. The first vote will be on the Trade Adjustment Assistance, which I’ve called “burial insurance”–it sprinkles a smidgen of money for retraining of workers who can demonstrate they’ve lost jobs due to trade…retraining for jobs that don’t exist and certainly don’t pay anything near what they currently earn. TAA, indeed, enhances inequality. Even an amendment by the Progressive Caucus would only increase the TAA amount to $575 million!!!

That said, there is a chance TAA will be voted down because a chunk of Republicans hate the whole idea–because, of course, the government should never help workers–and Democrats are opposed to the exclusion of public sector workers in the TAA. If TAA goes down, the fast track vote will not happen because they are tied together–but that doesn’t mean fast track could not be brought up again.

If TAA passes, then, fast track will come next.

9:45 a.m. I’m updating this high up: The House went into recess mid-debate on the TAA because Obama has arrived at the House. There is speculation that TAA was headed to defeat.

In terms of a vote count, oh, I’m not going to pick a number. Some of these public lists are useless. For example, The Hill has Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas as undecided but he was clear this morning on C-SPAN that he has been a “yes” vote. For once, I agree with Steve Israel:

“The only thing that is predictable is the unpredictable,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.). “Anyone who tells you they know where this is going to land is the last person you should be listening to.”

Prior to the vote, Rep. Barbara Lee made the case against fast track on C-SPAN (I’m paraphrasing):

I come from Oakland where economy depends on trade. This trade bill in no way will create jobs [clearly she’s talking about TPP]. Other trade deals diminished job growth. The president is doing what he needs to do to win, he has a legacy, quite naturally he would call everyone. I think it’s important that there be loyal opposition [basically, Lee was trying to be careful not to slam POTUS too hard]. I have not read TPP, I know in essence where it’s going.Q: How are you going to vote on TAA? A: I’m not going to vote for it. It’s not broad enough. It’s not deep enough.

Q from caller: I’m a conservative Republican. I’m not a rocket scientist but if you first have to pass a bill to help workers when they lose their jobs, hello? A: She made the case against.

Asked by moderator about 2016: not endorsed. But I think Senator Clinton is doing a fine job. She’s going to pull it off. [Then she was asked by moderator but what about Bernie Sanders?]: He’s a good friend. He’s going to make for a stronger Democratic nominee. He’s raising important issues…[Dodged it…God, this is a leader of the progressive caucus??? Very disappointing, though her vote against the Iraq War resolution will always stand.]

One observation about the people: every single caller–Democratic, Republican, Independent–spoke against fast track and TPP…

House gavels in at 9:00 A.M.[again, mostly will paraphrase, sorry for typos]: prayer blah blah blah…journal approval, blah, blah, blah…Pledge of Allegiance…Hey, the Senate has approved the reprinting of the pocket version of the Constitution!!!! One minutes speeches…some guy died in Illinois.

One minute speech. Rick Nolan (D-8th–Minn): These trade agreements are destroying the middle class. It takes 2 or 3 jobs to earn an income before these trade agreements. This is a race to the bottom. The time has come to say no to these agreements. It’s destroying the American Dream, the middle class…

One minute speech…Peter DeFazio (D-ORegon): How many times will Congress be fooled? first there was NAFTA. Now Obama Administration? A new paradigm! Now the TPP…we need to retrain workers for McDonald’s and it’s being funded by cutting Medicare. They’ve got the votes to jam this through unless we kill TAA.

Note here: DeFazio seemed to indicate, though it could be just rhetoric, that he acknowledges the votes are there to pass fast track and only way to stop fast track is to kill TAA.

Apparently, Obama is meeting with House Democrats this morning, which means they are still trying to make the case–doesn’t mean there aren’t enough votes for fast track but likely Obama wants as many Dem votes as possible…after all he, has already united the Republican Party in the Senate, he’d probably like to show that he still leads his own party…

Lloyd Doggett (35th–TX): This Congress can be fast tracked or it can be right tracked. We can backtrack or move forward. Tried to make changes in committee. Asked that they meet environmental standards of the last Bush Administration. All changes were rejected.

6:18 AM PT: Paul Ryan is calling up the bill.

6:19 AM PT: Ryan and Sander Levin will control the time on each time.

6:22 AM PT: Ryan: if we want to create more jobs in America we have to make more things here and sell them over there (yeah, right, for what wages, you bozo?). There are 262 free trade agreements across the world. Since 2007, when fast track expire, there have been 100 trade agreements negotiated and signed–we are a party to none of those (damn, was that an argument against fast track??? LOL). blah blah, lowering trade barriers (idiot, this has nothing to do with lowering trad barriers at this point–you want to lower trade barriers…that takes a deal written on one page, not hundreds with corporate rights…my editorializing…)

6:26 AM PT: Ryan: this TPA will give us in Congress the leverage…Congress says to president you have to pursue certain objectives, you have to keep us informed, we get access to negotiating documents…transparency! Not again!!! When America gets agreement, we make it public for 60 days…(Oh, c’mon, now you have to outright lie…uh, it’s meaningless…god, talk about trying to put lipstick on a pig…not to mention Ryan is talking not to members of Congress but clearly to viewers)

6:32 AM PT: Ok Sander, kick Ryan’s butt:

Sander Levin: I have worked all my years here to expand trade to the many, not to the few. To strike the right balance. No currency manipulation provisions (He is really referring to TPP, not fast track). Wrong direction on access to medicines and environmental protections. Worker rights violations by Mexico and Malaysia (Levin clearly focusing on TPP and I’m guessing that this is about keeping any undecided Democrats to vote against fast track). We should be using our leverage to impact the negotiations. This bill (fast track) does not do this. We in Congress will be in the back seat. This is not about protectionism versus free trade. I want a TPP that is worthy of broad bi-partisan support. TAA should not be a bargaining trip to get a deeply flawed (fast track) across the finish line. This TAA bill includes shortcomings.

Letter today from AFL-CIO to House:

Dear Representative,
H.R. 1314 Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA): Vote No
H.R. 1314 Fast Track: Vote No
H.R. 644 Customs Bill: Vote No

On behalf of the AFL-CIO, I write urging you to oppose H.R. 1314, the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan “Fast Track 2015” legislation. We oppose both the current Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and the Fast Track Trade Promotion authority contained in that bill. We also oppose H.R. 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (Customs Bill).

The misnamed “Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015” (Fast Track 2015) is unfortunately another reincarnation of prior, failed “Fast Track” policy. It gives the executive branch the opportunity to negotiate—in secret and out of public view—as many trade agreements as it can through at least June 30, 2018 (and likely an additional three years), and send them to Congress, which may then only vote yes or no on each.

Fast Track 2015 fails to hold the executive branch accountable for achieving negotiating objectives, addressing the job-killing U.S. trade imbalance (which currently stands at $505 billion), or ensuring that trade deals do not continue the current race to the bottom in terms of pay and benefits, worker rights, environmental protections, access to affordable medicines, food safety rules, and other vital protections for working families. In short, it will do nothing to prevent repeating the mistakes of failed trade policies that have contributed to stagnating wages, increasing inequality, and the closure of more than 60,000 factories since 2000.
The AFL-CIO has been clear that any new Trade Promotion Authority must include improved transparency, public participation and congressional oversight. Hatch-Wyden-Ryan fails on every single criterion.

The Right Track alternative proposed by Ranking Member Levin, but denied a vote both at the Committee and on the Floor, represents a strong improvement over traditional Fast Track legislation. It limits trade promotion authority only to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and provides mandatory oversight and instructions from Congress, as opposed to the unenforceable and aspirational objectives in Fast Track. USTR Ambassador Froman and other TPP-nation trade ministers have recently made it clear: the TPP negotiations are almost finished. They are not interested in further input by Congress. Granting Fast Track to the Administration would be giving USTR carte blanche to finish TPP with no requirement to heed input from Congress. The Levin alternative would have ensured that Congressional marching orders given to USTR must be certified as achieved by both House and Senate trade advisors before the agreement could be completed. Unfortunately, this superior legislation will not be considered. The AFL-CIO strongly believes that a vote to reject Fast Track 2015 is a vote to improve Trade Promotion Authority and will provide Congress an opportunity to incorporate reforms that the AFL-CIO has been seeking for many years.
America’s working families cannot afford more trade policy made by and for global corporations and economic elites—trade policy that does nothing more than shrink paychecks and further diminish America’s struggling middle class.

Trade Adjustment Assistance: Vote No

We will continue to oppose TAA unless the funding levels are restored to a minimum of $575 million and public-sector workers are eligible for the program. The labor movement has strongly supported TAA for decades, but an inadequate version of TAA should not clear the way for a disastrous trade bill. We need a better TPA and a better TAA and defeating the current versions is the only way to achieve this.

H.R. 644—Customs Bill: Vote No

The customs bill, which when it emerged from the Senate had bipartisan support and included enforcement provisions supported by both labor and industry, has been loaded by the House Republican leadership with numerous controversial and partisan provisions that weaken or unacceptably alter it and make it more difficult to negotiate agreements that are good for workers and the environment.
Stripped from the customs bill is a currency provision the administration opposes. This bipartisan provision, supported by labor and business, was potentially the most critical enforcement tool in the entire package. It would have allowed the U.S. to treat currency manipulation as a countervailable subsidy.

The customs bill also amends Fast Track bill in a way that prevents the United States from making commitments on climate change in trade agreements. Such provisions are important to creating a “21st Century” trade agenda and ensuring that trade policy does not thwart climate policy.

Also added to the customs bill is unacceptable language weakening the Menendez amendment, which requires countries to thoroughly address human trafficking before they could be included in a fast-tracked trade deal with the U.S. Weakening this provision undermines the U.S. commitment to lead on human trafficking and raises doubt regarding the ability of the TPP to protect workers and ensure compliance by trading partners with internationally recognized ILO labor rights, including the right to be free from forced labor.

The enforcement package has also been weakened in a number of places, including Green 301 and the ENFORCE Act, undermining years of work by those standing for better, fairer trade policies. The bill also excludes other important provisions contained in the Senate bill regarding funding to enforce and monitor trade agreements.

Not one of these changes moves the customs bill in a stronger direction and we urge you to oppose it. The AFL-CIO supports the version of the bill that passed the Senate.
William Samuel, Director
Government Affairs Department

6:36 AM PT: Lloyd Doggett: some have referred to TAA as burial insurance […]

6:38 AM PT: David Nunes (R-22nd-CA): blah blah (I love when people stand up and try to say something really consequential, sound important, knowledgable and start with something like, “this is a moment when we have to step back”, “geopolitical”…blah blah…and really it’s stupid talk.)

6:40 AM PT: Sander Levin gives Ron Kind time to pimp for fast track and TPP..fuck, make that time come off Ryan’s time, Sander!

6:45 AM PT: The House has now recessed

6:45 AM PT: Recess because Obama has arrived at The House

6:46 AM PT: Apparently TAA was headed to defeat, thus Obama’s visit.

10:03 a.m. We are in a holding pattern here while the House is in recess as Obama is making his case to Democrats.

7:41 AM PT: […]
President Barack Obama went to Capitol Hill Friday morning to meet with House Democrats in a last-minute bid to salvage his trade agenda.

The meeting was a big, risky moment for the president and his second-term agenda, as a package of trade bills is stalled because of Democratic opposition. The president needs to convince Democrats to back a measure, known as Trade Adjustment Assistance, that would provide aid and retraining to workers who lose their jobs due to trade agreements. The aid legislation, which is in serious jeopardy, must pass before the House can vote on the central Trade Promotion Authority legislation. That would give Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Republicans and Democrats were predicting that TAA was potentially headed for defeat — bringing fast track down with it — unless the dynamic dramatically shifted this morning. Obama’s visit to Capitol Hill, a rare round of personal lobbying by a president not known for his relationships with lawmakers, was designed to do just that.

7:51 AM PT: Gene Green from Texas: Obama didn’t change my mind, voting against all of it.

7:55 AM PT: Aside: I do always like how the C=SPAN anchors politely get rid of the really crazy, unhinged callers…wonder if they get specific training for that?


8:00 AM PT: John Lewis (D-GA): opposed NAFTA. Reflection of values. I’m not for trade at any price or any cost. Vietnam: no right to organize unions. America should not have to compete with starvation wages. I’m going to cast my lot with the working people of America. Do what is right, stand up for the working people of this country. (love this guy!)

8:03 AM PT: Danny Davis (D–7th IL): opposes, especially for using a single cent from Medicare. I want a trade bill that create s economic opportunity for the communities that I represent. I don’t want a fast track–jobs left communities fast enough. I’m voting against this. I’m going to be voting with the people who I represent, who sent me here.

8:07 AM PT: Earl Blumenauer (D-OR): (fuck this guy…and why should Sander give time from his time? Make Republicans give time): pitching Obama’s pitch. (Sounds like the Republicans). Strongest labor and enviro provisions (dude, you are full of shit–would you send your CHILDREN to work in those factories???)

8:10 AM PT: Bill Pascrell (9th-NJ)Remember, we are giving assistance to workers who already lost jobs. Wouldn’t it make sense to save the jobs first? Who are we kidding here? Past trade deals have hurt the American worker.

8:15 AM PT: Linda Sanchez (38th-CA) Nothing in this that requires countries to bring labor and enviro laws into compliance. This should not be a race to the bottom for standards for workers. Offered amendment to protect people from being put to death for their sexual orientation.

8:17 AM PT: Peter Roskam (R 6th-IL): Recede or move forward blah blah blah stupid shit about American exceptionalism…oh Israel: amendment to shield Israel against boycotts! If you want to trade with US, you can’t boycott Israel…(SMH, head hits table)

8:22 AM PT: Marcy Kaptur (9th-OH): What a figleaf…TAA…it’s too little for the damage abut to be done. This latest job outsourcing deal serves only the one percent. (she’s awesome). A few thousand people will benefit, but America won’t. I urge, no, no, no votes.

:26 AM PT: Nydia Velasquez and Rosa DeLauro yucking it up in the background.

8:30 AM PT: Nydia Velasquez:  time and again we are promised trade deals will offer opportunity. Time and again, jobs are sent abroad. This agreement will make things work. The only people who are pushing fast track are lobbyists and big corporations. That is not who I represent.

8:34 AM PT: Some dopey Republican…Without TPA the president alone sets objectives…more blah blah stupid shit…(it’s on the Internet!!! woohoo!)

8:35 AM PT: Brad Sherman (D–30th-CA): If you are against fast track, vote no on TAA. What’s the good of having a little trade adjustment when it sends millions of jobs overseas (and then he makes a stupid reference to NANCY REAGAN!!!)

8:36 AM PT: Sellout Henry Cuellar (D-38th-TX): Let’s support fair trade…what? (shilling for it all).

8:39 AM PT: Rosa DeLauro (3rd-CT): the debate today is about one question. Do we support hardworking Americans or do we abandon them? TAA is underfunded. We must stop fast tracking bad trade deals. Fast track denies public scrutiny. It relinquishes congressional authority. our job is to vote down this bill. (She led the whipping against this crap).

8:45 AM PT: Time for debate over. The vote will happen at about 12:45 p.m. EST

8:48 AM PT: David Schweikert (R-AZ) Big Labor-Goebbels (ok we’ve gone to the wingnut arguments…)

9:00 AM PT: Boehner: (oh no)…we’re not hear to debate a particular trade bill. American leadership!!! When America leads, world is free, China is really bad for everyone, it’s the Red Menace! Watch out, for our kids, our grandkids (can Boehner order the Star Bangled Banner to be played while he speaks???)

9:08 AM PT: Xavier Becerra (34th-CA)Everyone agrees, we have to stop countries from manipulating their currency. Yet this legislation would prohibit us from going after the countries that are allowing companies to cheat? Vote this down

9:10 AM PT: Steve Scalise (R: LA, Majority Whip): It’s China menace again. Transparency (it’s online!!! God, the faith in the Internet over executive power is amazingly…stupid)

9:13 AM PT: Debbie Dingell (12th-MI): I promised the working men and women who I represent that they would have a seat at the table. We cannot compete with the Bank of Japan and Bank of China. The Korea deal was a great deal for Korea…Congress cannot abdicate its responsibility, it’s our responsibility to protect the American workers.

9:27 AM PT: OK, so, on both sides, we’re sort of getting repetitive at this point. The votes are coming soon, within the half hour. Will update if someone says something really new and/or interesting.

9:43 AM PT: Keith Ellison (5th-MN): Trade Adjustment assistance shouldn’t pave the way for trade promotion authority. The only reason we’ve been lobbied for TAA is so that we can give up our constitutional authority.

9:59 AM PT: We’re coming to a close on the debate. First vote will be on Trade Adjustment Assistance

10:06 AM PT: Pelosi: thanks to just about everyone…(she lists everyone but the ushers…and your position is???). We all understand we live in global economy. I was hopeful we could find a vote to YES. Each week, we go home to our districts, we put a hand on a hot stove, concerns of so many families. Why are we fast tracking but slow walking the transportation bill. We have an opportunity to slow down. We want a better deal for American workers. (Have to say, pretty, incoherent rambling speech so far)

10:08 AM PT: More Pelosi: fast track, vote it up or down, I find that unnecessary. (It appears she will vote NO but use the Republican “bad bill” as the reason…preserve Obama relationship…but who knows?)

10:09 AM PT: More and more Pelosi: (oh no invoking a Pope!). economic justice, I don’t see that happening in this bill. Increasing the paycheck of American workers should be the purpose.

10:11 AM PT: Pelosi still going on: bringing in climate change. Rejected fast track for Clinton. When Democrats had majority in the House under Bush, we didn’t have fast track. (still smelling like NO vote)

10:13 AM PT: Pelosi: prepared to vote against TAA to slow down fast track!!!

10:14 AM PT: Pelosi: IF TAA bill fails, fast track is stopped. It’s stuck in the station. For that reason, sadly, I will vote against the TAA. Will vote to slow down fast track.

10:23 AM PT: Votes starting.

10:35 AM PT: With four minutes left in vote, 114 Nos versus 86 yeses on TAA

10:50 AM PT: well you see you never know: the other two bills are going to be voted on.

10:54 AM PT: It’s a very close vote as predicted


11:07 AM PT: see my update on where we are now in the body of the text, bolded and blockquoted.

11:22 AM PT: Friends: need to do some other stuff. Will post names of renegade Dems when official roll call vote is posted.

11:29 AM PT: Statement from Public Citizen. Note emphasis on the word package, which confirms my view of where we are:

The Fast Track package sent over from the Senate was rejected today by the House because two years of effort by a vast corporate coalition, the White House and GOP leaders – and weeks of procedural gimmicks and deals swapped for yes votes –could not assuage Americans’ concerns that more of the same trade policy would kill more jobs and push down our wages.Passing trade bills opposed by a majority of Americans does not get easier with delay because the more time people have to understand what’s at stake, the angrier they get and the more they demand that their congressional representatives represent their will.

Welcome to the weekend as the millions of Americans across the political spectrum actively campaigning against Fast Track will intensify their efforts to permanently retire the Nixon-era scheme and replace it with a more inclusive, transparent process that instead of more job-offshoring can deliver trade deals that create American jobs and raise our wages.

Today the allegedly unstoppable momentum of the White House, GOP leadership and corporate coalition pushing Fast Track to grease the path for adoption of the almost-completed, controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal just hit the immovable object called transpartisan grassroots democracy.

The crazy gimmicks employed to try to overcome what polls show is broad opposition to Fast Track actually backfired. Yesterday, the House GOP leadership put most GOP representatives on record in favor of cutting Medicare by $700 million with a vote on a procedural gimmick. Today, it was Democrats’ ire about a gutted version of a program to assist workers who will be hurt by the trade agreements Fast Track would enable that was the proximate cause of the meltdown. That program was included only to try to provide cover for the two dozen Democrats who would even consider supporting Fast Track at all.

Today’s outcome is a testament to the strength and diversity of the remarkable coalition of thousands of organizations that overcame a money-soaked lobbying campaign by multinational corporations and intense arm-twisting by the GOP House leadership and the Obama administration. The movement now demanding a new American trade policy is larger and more diverse than in any preceding trade policy fight. It includes everyone from small business leaders and labor unions to Internet freedom advocates and faith groups to family farmers and environmentalists to consumer advocates and LGBT groups to retirees and civil rights groups to law professors and economists.

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8 Democrats Who Voted AGAINST Seniors & FOR Corp Trade; Defazio Calls POTUS Position “Bullshit” Thu, 11 Jun 2015 23:54:47 +0000

The vote was close on the rule that allows fast track to proceed to a vote. It would have gone down to defeat.

Except for EIGHT Democrats who sold out seniors (because Republicans are seeking cuts in Medicare as part of this piece of dung), workers and the environment.

Some Democrats are calling the President’s position on workers’ aid attached to fast track (which I call “burial insurance”) like it is: bullshit

So, here are the eight pieces of dung who sold the people out in this vote, which only passed 217-212 (with five members not voting):

Earl Blumenauer (OR): what the fuck is happening with the water in Oregon, with Suzanne Bonamici and Kurt Schrader also being counted as “yes” votes in the final vote.

Gerry Connolly (Va.): really no surprise.

Jim Cooper (Tenn.): which likely means that while he has been called “undecided” on some prognosticating lists, he’ll probably vote for the bill tomorrow.

Henry Cuellar (Texas)

John Delaney (Md.)

Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas)

Ron Kind (Wis.)

Rick Larsen (Wash.): who made this stupid statement when he announced his support for fast track–“I believe presidents should have the authority to negotiate trade agreements based on Congressional direction.” That’s Congressional malpractice since fast track explicitly gives away the right for Congressional direction since you can’t amend the so-called “fast track” deals, unless this moron thinks “direction” means telling the president your opinion, which isn’t worth a bucket of piss, whole he’s flying you around on Air Force One.

OK, there’s some spine and sanity from Oregon:

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said he told McDonough that the White House’s position was “bullshit.”“Mr. McDonough comes in and he says, ‘It’s all on you. We can’t do anything if you don’t accept this bad (Trade Adjustment Assistance),” DeFazio said, complaining that it would cut Medicare. He said Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) then asked McDonough whether the president could use his leverage with Republicans — who “desperately want” fast-track to pass — to push for a more robust TAA package to help workers.

“McDonough just blew that off,” DeFazio said. “So I got up and said, ‘You’re telling us we’ve got to facilitate your deal on this TAA — which is not a very good package — and the president can’t do anything. And I said, ‘That’s bullshit.’ And it is. It’s bullshit.”[emphasis added]

By the way, this same piece says:

President Barack Obama’s push for a large-scale trade deal with the Pacific Rim cleared an important hurdle Thursday — barely — but faces a much stiffer test on Friday amid growing opposition from House Democrats to his trade agenda.Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) plan to bring a package of trade bills to the House floor is proving to be a big gamble, as both senior Republicans and Democrats are privately wondering whether they will be able to pass Trade Adjustment Assistance, a program to help workers who lose their jobs due to free trade, in a do-or-die Friday vote.

I have previously written that TAA is “burial insurance”–it’s bullshit and every Democrat who uses this as a cover to vote for fast track or so-called “free trade” is selling off the country for a few millions bucks to retrain workers for jobs that don’t exist at wages that can’t sustain a decent living above the poverty line.

But, hell, Republicans don’t want to even give that pittance to workers. So, if that’s what has to sink this pile of crap, so be it.

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