The Fall of Social Democrats

The leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) Martin Schulz makes a phone call during the party congress of the SPD on December 9, 2017, in Berlin.
Germany’s Social Democrats, the country’s second strongest party, agreed to kick off exploratory talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives that could lead to a new coalition government early next year. / AFP PHOTO / John MACDOUGALL

In 1875, when the General German Workers’ Union (led by Ferdinand Lassalle) and the Social Democratic Workers’ Party (led by August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht) merged, the two parties formed what we today know of as the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands) (Conradt 2018). No one could have imagined the path forward the party and the newly unified Reich would take. The Social Democratic Party’s (SPD’s) survival all these years is particularly surprising given the history of Germany and the geopolitical region. I argue that the fall of the SPD can be directly credited to actions taken by the party and its inability to respond to the political currents of the nation.

Below, I first provide a brief historical sketch of the SPD. I then discuss the political currents of Germany leading to its actions that I believe has led to the fall of the party. Finally, I provide some possible corrections that may have led to the party’s revival.

Shortly after the Social Democratic Party (SPD) formed, from 1878 to 1890, the party was officially outlawed. Despite being outlawed, the party became the largest party elected to the Reichstag (“Imperial Diet”) in 1912 (Conradt 2018). Nonetheless, their dominance did not last long because of the party’s action in 1914 supporting the war credits for World War I which led to an internal split in the party. The centrists formed the Independent Social Democratic Party while the leftists formed the Spartacus League, which in 1918 became the Communist Party of Germany (KDP) (Conradt 2018).

By 1933, the party held only 120 of the 647 seats in the Reichstag to the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers’ Party/Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) 288 and the Communists’ 81 (Conradt 2018). The NSDAP (Nazis) used their new power to elect Adolf Hitler chancellor of Germany and outlawed the SPD.

Following the fall of the Third Reich and of Hitler’s power in 1945, the SPD was revived. It became the only political party that survived both the years of the Weimar Republic and the atrocities of Hitler and the Third Reich.

Jumping ahead to the 1957 election the SPD initiated a reassessment of the party. Many voters were satisfied with West Germany’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Economic Community (EEC). The party’s emphasis on reuniting the country with a more neutralist foreign policy did not reach many voters and was thrown out. Therefore, at the Bad Godesberg 1959 special party conference, the SPD ended its commitment to socialism and instead embraced the market economy. The party also endorsed the NATO alliance (Conradt 2018).

Finally, from 1961 to 1972 the SPD made great improvements in their vote share in the federal elections by increasing their vote from 36 to 46 percent (Conradt 2018). The party in 1966 entered a grand coalition (Gross Koalition/GroKo) with the Christian Democratic Union-Christian Social Union (CDU-CSU) or in German Christlich Demokratische Union-Christlich Sozial Union.

Later, from 1969 to 1982 the SPD formed a coalition with the Free Democratic Party (FDP) or in German Freie Demokratische Partei (Conradt 2018). But the coalition was doomed. Beginning in the late 1970s the coalition had to deal with the rise of the environmentalist Green Party (Grüne Partei) (Buck 2018). The final blow to the coalition that brought it down was in 1982 when Chancellor Schmidt indicated his support of the NATO plan to deploy Pershing II nuclear missiles on West German land. This was followed by the FDP ousting the SPD and the election of the CDU’s Helmut Kohl as chancellor (Conradt 2018).

Then came the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and reunification in 1990. With it came a new political rival to the SPD, the former Socialist party of East Germany (German Democratic Republic (GDR) or in German Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR)). That party then morphed into Die Linke (the Left) and thus the SPD was attacked from the left (Buck 2018). The response from the SPD was to move to the center and adopt a more centrist agenda.

In 1998, the SPD under Gerhard Schröder was able to form a coalition with the Green Party. His platform included lower taxes and cuts in government spending. He was narrowly reelected in 2002 when thousands of SPD party members left in protest of the cuts to unemployment benefits and health care. This led to devasting parliamentary election results in 2009. The party won 23 percent and only won 146 of their previous 222 seats (Conradt 2018).

Therefore, I come to the most recent federal election in Germany, the election on 24 September 2017. In this election, the SPD lost more than 1.7 million votes (Buck 2018). The party’s vote share dropped to 20.5 percent, the worst result since the creation of the federal republic in 1949 (Buck 2018).

I believe that the SPD can be directly credited to actions taken by the party and its inability to properly respond to political currents that led to its fall. I believe the first mistake that led to this path was when the party leadership supported the NATO plan to deploy the Pershing II nuclear missiles in West Germany. The second was SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s centrist agenda including the Hartz IV programme. Hartz IV refers to a reform of welfare and unemployment regulations named after Peter Hartz. It includes deep cuts to unemployment benefits and made payment conditional on tighter rules for job search and acceptance (Buck 2018). And finally, I believe that the SPD has a youth problem. The party does not know how to include and lift up these voices, the next generation of voters.

First, I believe that the SPD should have listened and lifted up the concerns of the people in opposition to the NATO plan to deploy the Pershing II nuclear missiles. I believe that would have given the peace and environmental movements a place within the party instead of forming the Green party.

Second, which I believe was the SPD’s most harmful mistake was to adopt a centrist agenda including the Hartz IV programme. “The SPD has a leadership problem and a narrative problem,” said Andrea Römmele, a professor at Berlin’s Hertie School of Governance (Buck 2018). “The party has no story to tell the voters, and a story is what voters need.” Andrea is correct, the path to the center, I believe led to a loss of identity or an identity crisis for the party.

The SPD previously stood for, “all social and political equality,” lifting “exploitation in all its forms,” according to the Gotha programme (Buck 2018). The party called for no work on Sundays, universal suffrage, free and universal education and freedom of speech. But, now it seems to be about fighting to prop up the status quo, capitalism, and Chancellor Merkel.

Generation after generation the party fails to listen and lift up the voices of the youth, who are the next generation of voters. The party failed in the 70s-80s and in the early 2000s, and now again. The SPD youth wing was opposed to the plan by SPD leadership to form yet another GroKo with Merkel’s conservatives.

“For the first time in many years, we have a young generation where many sense that they will not automatically be able to live better than their parents. People on low salaries have seen their wages stagnate, or even fall. They can afford less than they could at the end of the 1990s. I don’t need to have a big macroeconomic debate with them: they know they do not belong to society’s winners,” said Kevin Kühnert, the chief of the SPD youth wing (Buck 2018).

The SPD must return to its core principles, the social welfare state; that the strong bear some responsibility for weaker members of society; and that everyone should have the same opportunity to fully participate in society (Mayr, et. al. 2018). I believe returning to these principles and reminding the voters of the many accomplishments of Social Democrats in shaping Western Europe will go a long way in bringing the party back.

Nevertheless, while returning to their core principles, I believe the SPD must do more to actively engage young people. I believe the party cannot do that without recognizing that it is the policies of centrism and Merkel’s conservatives that have led to young people, minorities, and union members being left behind. According to a poll by Civey for Spiegel Online, only about 13 percent of the 18 to 29-year-olds would vote for the SPD (Hagen 2018).

That same age group just under 28 percent would instead vote for the Greens, with the CDU/CSU in second place (Hagen 2018). Therefore, in a snap election, it is the Greens that could overtake the SPD as Germany’s largest left-wing force (Weise 2018).

If the SPD continues its current course, it may be the Greens turn to be the party of the youth and of the future. “The Greens got their ideas on digitization and infrastructure across very well,” said Svea Windwehr, a 26-year-old student from Munich (Weise 2018). Svea goes on to say, “Those are topics I care about, but that alone wouldn’t have been enough to vote for them [the Greens]. It was also a vote against the SPD, because of what went on in government (Weise 2018).”

In 2000, Social Democratic Parties were part of the government in 10 out of the 15 countries that made up the European Union (EU) at that time (Mayr, et. al. 2017). Currently, Social Democratic Parties are part of the government in 7 of the current 28 EU member states. Those states include Germany, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic (Mayr, et. al. 2017). However, if the SPD in Germany is unable to win back voters from Die Linke and Die Grüne, I believe the SPD will become a splinter party.

This paper illustrates a brief historical sketch of the SPD and Germany, illuminated by the impact of some key events and actions taken by SPD leadership, that I believe directly led to the fall of the party. In this paper, I have provided possible course corrections that may have changed the path that the SPD took to get where they are today with its lowest showing in the Bundestag (German Parliament).

References

Abe, et. al. (16.2.2018). German Politics Enters Era of Instability. Der Spiegel http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-political-landscape-crumbling-as-merkel-coalition-forms-a-1193947.html, 25.11.2018

Buck, Tobias. (16.10.2018). How social democracy lost its way: a report from Germany. Financial Times http://www.ft.com/content/a1f88c3c-d154-11e8-a9f2-7574db66bcd5, 2.12.2018

Conradt, D.P. (2018). Social Democratic Party of Germany. Encyclopedia Britannica https://www.britannica.com/topic/Social-Democratic-Party-of-Germany, 2.12.2018

Hagen, Kevin. (3.12.2018). SPON-Wahltrend Jüngere würden Keine GroKo Mehr wählen Der Spiegel http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/spon-umfrage-grosse-koalition-punktet-nur-noch-bei-alten-a-1241657.html, 4.12.2018

Mayr, et. al. (22.9.2017). The Slow Death of Europe’s Social Democrats. Der Spiegel http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/the-demise-of-social-democracy-in-europe-a-1168670.html, 25.11.2018

Weise, Zia. (23.11.2018). Germany’s new Green Divide. Politico https://www.politico.eu/article/germany-green-party-haidhausen-munich-elections-social-democrats-spd-is-the-new-red/, 2.12.2018

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Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) = Race to the Bottom

DSC_7198I am opposed to the President’s trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and I urge you all to oppose it too. 

Join me in speaking out and let’s STOP FAST TRACK! Visit this website to learn how to best use your voice: stopfasttrack.com

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would grant broad powers to multinational companies operating in North America, South America, and Asia. A total of 12 nations. TPP would allow companies and investors to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings – federal, state, or local – before tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations. Thus far, TPP is supported by corporate Democrats, Republicans and various businesses. The trade deal would even allow multinational companies to sue in the United States and elsewhere. Therefore, the overall priority of TPP is to protect corporate interest at the cost of the consumers.

 

“Multinational corporations are increasingly realizing this is an opportunity to gut U.S. regulations they don’t like,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in an interview with POLITICO.

These corporations will be able to do this because of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) within the TPP. ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws – potentially to pick up huge payout from the taxpayers – without ever stepping into a U.S. court. Moreover, from 1959 to 2002, there were about 100 ISDS claims worldwide. However, in 2012, there were 58 cases. Two recent cases include a Swedish company that sued Germany because Germany decided to phase out nuclear power after Japan’s Fukushima disaster, and a Dutch company that sued the Czech Republic because the Czechs didn’t bailout a bank that the company partially owned.

“Conservatives who believe in U.S. sovereignty should be outraged that ISDS would shift power from American courts, whose authority is derived from our Constitution, to unaccountable international tribunals,” said Sen. Warren (D-MA) in the Washington Post.

With more and more progressives coming out against the TPP, pro-TPP Democrats are combating our arguments by being dismissive of them, and especially of Senator Warren by saying that she has been stoking unrealistic fears. One of these pro-TPP Democrats said, “Throwing out ISDS based on trade opponents’ nightmare scenarios would be like tearing down the entire U.S. judicial system because someone sued Starbucks over spilling hot coffee.”

Another Democrat opposed to the TPP Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) had this to say, “It seems to indicate that savvy, deep-pocketed foreign conglomerates could challenge a broad range of laws we pass at every level of government, such as made-in-America laws or anti-tobacco laws. I think people on both sides of the aisle will have trouble with this.”

The TPP gets even better, under it, a member nation could be forbidden from favoring “goods produced in its territory.” Meaning that “every asset that an investor owns or controls, directly or indirectly, that has characteristic of an investment,” including, “regulator permits; intellectual property rights; financial instruments such as stocks and derivatives; construction management, production, concession, revenue-sharing and other similar contracts; and licenses, authorization, permits and similar rights conferred pursuant to domestic law.”

“You now have specialized law firms being set up. You go to them, tell them what country you’re in, what regulation you want to go after, and they say ‘we’ll do it on contingency,’” said Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch and an opponent of the TPP.

For example, in 2013, Eli Lilly took advantage of a similar provision under NAFTA to sue Canada for $500 million, accusing Ottawa of violating its obligations to foreign investors by allowing its courts to invalidate patents for two of its drugs.

It has been reported that the Obama administration hopes the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be a centerpiece accomplishment of his second term. The officials also claim they are confident in passage of both TPA and TPP, however with largely Republican support and just some Democrats. The administration is asking Congress to “fast-track” the TPP, meaning that lawmakers wouldn’t be able to amend the deal, only vote up or down on what the administration negotiates.

President Barack Obama had this to say on the TPP, “I have fought my entire political career and as president to strengthen consumer protections. I have no intention of signing legislation that would weaken those protections.”

Even so, many progressives including myself cannot stand the TPP, they make up the organized left (trade unions, environmentalists, human rights, etc.).

Conversely, a group that calls themselves “Progressive Coalition for American Jobs” claim to be progressive and supports the TPP. They say they are a group of “progressives and Democrats committed to leveling the playing field for American workers,” according to their website. It goes on to say, “It’s critical that we give the president trade promotion authority and establish the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Excuse me? Progressive?

“Who are they? Are they getting paid? And this group will convince anybody of what?” asks Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “There is zero progressive interest in this [TPP].”

24Progressive Coalition for American Jobs (PCAJ) includes some of the most senior members of President Obama’s former campaign team. Daily Kos reported Mitch Stewart, former aide the president asked to run Organizing for America (OFA), and Lynda Tran, the former OFA press secretary. Earlier this month, a press release from 270 Strategies announced the campaign firm started by Stewart and President Obama’s former field director, Jeremy Bird.

This is very upsetting for me personally as a former OFA member and as a supporter of President Obama.

“If you look at the progressives – labor unions, activists, online organizations – who are lined up against the TPP, there are no credible groups left to build a ‘coalition,’” said an aide to a progressive House member. Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi doesn’t seem to support the TPP, as she privately cautioned her members to keep their powder dry in order to negotiate the most liberal deal possible.

Candice Johnson, spokesperson for the Communications Workers of America said on PCAJ, “It’s insulting.” She went on to say, “You put progressive in your name and that’s going to convince people?”

“At this point, 270 Strategies is well known for its AstroTurf efforts to slap a progressive label to the endeavors of Wall Street Wing Democrats and their corporate masters, but this is an earth-shattering new low,” Neil Sroka, spokesperson for Democracy for America. “You can be a progressive committed to fighting for working families or you can be for this massive job-killing trade deal written by 500 corporate reps, but you can’t be both.”

PCAJ was asked about who funds the group and who the members are. Tran, the former Obama aide wouldn’t answer any of those questions. She did say, “We won’t be hosting rallies or organizing major field activities.” Instead she said they will focus on helping “get the word out” on President Obama’s trade deals.

“There is a progressive case to be made for this and I think the goal of this group [PCAJ] is to say, ‘There’s more than one kind of progressive out there with a message on trade’ and what hasn’t been heard,” said an aide to a member in the New Democratic coalition who has been working with the PCAJ.

The White House has been asked about the group, and a spokesperson said that the administration “welcomed” the group’s input. The spokesperson added, “It’s not surprising that groups that share this commitment have decided to add their voice to the discussion, and we welcome their input.”

Image found on google
Image found on google

A top progressive consultant in Washington, D.C., Mike Luz, wrote in an email on PCAJ and TPP, “Every progressive group and sector that works on economic issues – labor, consumer groups, enviros, the online groups, civil rights groups, human rights groups, you name it – is vehemently against TPP, so I don’t know what progressives are in this group’s coalition.”

Based on all of the above and additional resources, I believe I am better able to understand the TPP. Therefore, I stand against it, and I ask you all to join me in speaking out against this terrible “trade agreement.” I believe that President Obama does wish the best for our nation, however he is most definitely wrong when it comes to the TPP.

Join me in speaking out and let’s STOP FAST TRACK! Visit this website to learn how to best use your voice: stopfasttrack.com

 

*Sources: The New York Times, The Washington Post, POLITICO, and BuzzFeed News*

Problem Facing America: Politics are not focused around Young Americans

In the United States, our politics on both sides of the aisle is not on the side of young Americans. Republicans claim the only way to grow the economy and secure a future for young Americans is to cut our domestic spending programs. Democrats claim the only way to grow the economy and secure the future for young Americans is to continue the same old policies pushed forth again and again. In the end, everything stays the same.

2015-02-18-EarningsbyLifeCycleHere’s the facts from the past 40 years via the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSA found that a typical employee, has the largest income gains between the ages of 25 and 35. However, the unemployment rate of 18 and 34 years old peaked at more than 13% in 2010 (doesn’t include underemployment or discouraged workers). While the average income increase for median earners fell to zero between the ages of 35 and 55. Finally, they found that incomes decline (“negative growth”) between ages 45 and 55.

During the recession, lower-wage industries constituted 22% of losses, but 44% recovery growth and higher-wage industries constituted 41% of recession losses, however only 30% of recovery growth, noted by the National Employment Law Project.  this caused an economic and perhaps even social crisis for young Americans are trying to enter or attempt to enter the workforce. Many of these young Americans are trying to get their first job to use their money to sustain themselves as they face the many challenges they have thrust upon them once they graduate high school. Many of them even use these jobs to help pay for their own education or to feed themselves while they are enrolled in college.

Now, they are not getting these jobs. Instead they are going to the people who before the recession were in middle-wage and higher-wage industries. These were people who had already made a life for themselves in many cases. Leading to young Americans with no avenue to work to start their lives to those who had good jobs now taking the jobs that use to go to young Americans just starting out.

Now, looking specifically at the jobs that were lost during the recession, Pew Research Center made some great points. the largest declines were in specialty trade contractors, construction 319, 800 jobs and local government, education 266,800 jobs. The largest gains have been in health care 1,481,400 jobs and food services and drinking places 1,385,400 jobs. Looking at these numbers you may notice that the second largest growing industry post-recession is also one of the industries that has the lowest pay and the least benefits for their employees.

2015-02-18-WhoOwestheMostAnother striking statistic, is the total amount of student debt owed, $1.3 trillion. Even further, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average amount owed for each graduate has risen from less than $10,000 in 1993 to more than $30,000 in 2013. With the bottom 25% of households owing 58% of student debt and the top 10% owing only 3%, according to the Pew Research Center.

Republican Message:

The new Congress is controlled by the Republican Party (GOP) and they could act on these issues and take meaningful actions. Instead, they seem to be focused on repealing Obamacare (ACA), rollback of immigration reform, and destroy agencies that protect the environment, consumers, workers, and taxpayers.

20141108_gdm333_10Specifically, on immigration the U.S. House took a vote of 236-191 on funding the Department of Homeland Security to February 27, until President Obama reverses his executive order on undocumented immigrants. The vote was poised at killing the President’s effort to enforce policies that limited deportations of people who aren’t criminals or serial immigration violators. One amendment to that bill even went as far as ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA stopped over 600,000 young undocumented immigrants from being deported and allowed them to work legally.

Progressive Confront:

Progressives have a plan to confront the Republican’s and the Democrat’s standard. The progressive plan is to regulate Wall Street, transform the U.S. global tax and trade policies (oppose TTP), enforce a progressive tax rate, curb perverse CEO compensation policies, revive anti-trust, equal pay for equal work, raise the minimum wage, paid sick leave, free community college (President Obama’s plan), 21st century infrastructure (President Obama’s plan), end the outrageous amounts of money in politics (Citizens United), and take advantage of the Green Energy Industrial Revolution.

international-maternity-leave-timeline-2013The plan includes supporting progressive legislators. Thus, people who disagree with the status quo should stand with U.S. Senators taking the lead on these policies such as Sen. Sherrod Brown, Sen. Jeff Merkly, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren. It also means standing with the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the U.S. House, who are driving the same ideas.

Fundamental change comes only when the oppressed make it impossible to sustain the old order. – Robert Borosage, Campaign for America’s Future

In Mika’s Opinion:

Young Americans are our future, thus politics needs to take a major turn towards that which will benefit them. Right now, young Americans are turned off by both political parties.

Why? Could it be that both political parties have not spent much time focusing on the needs of young Americans? Could it be that both political parties are stuck in their same old ways, pushing their same old proposals?

This is why I believe in the progressive plan, the plan for our future, that includes and focuses on young Americans. That recognizes the need to take a turn and make changes. The plan includes some of the old proposals that are still relevant for today but recognizes that we are in the 21st century and need 21st century solutions. The progressive plan even will tackle social issues that many young Americans want to see dealt with. Many of these issues are not even seen as issues by many young Americans but are for older Americans and still are being debated within the two major political parties, which also turns off young Americans

It’s time we realize that immigration isn’t a side issue, it’s a national priority.marriage_equaltiy_3_0

It’s time we realize that women’s issues are not side issues but a national priority.

It’s time we realize that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA) rights are not side issues but a national priority. 

 

*Source: Campaign for America’s Future*

*Source: Politico*

 

Leaving Nebraska and Forward Equality

That Rally that started a lot of internal drama within the Omaha LGBT Community over my grassroots organizing.
That Rally that started a lot of internal drama within the Omaha LGBT Community over my grassroots organizing.

I decided to leave Forward Equality and most progressive grassroots organizing in Nebraska because I need to focus on my own well-being. Forward Equality has been a project of mine for about four years. Several friends and I formed Forward Equality in 2010 to work on progressive issues, at the time mostly queer issues. However, in the past couple of years moved to be focused on a variety of progressive issues.

Making the decision to leave Forward Equality and conclude all Forward Equality operations was very difficult for me. I personally invested a lot of my time and energy into Forward Equality and the progressive issues. Many of the issues were very personal for me.

tumblr_m6cqwlbVTa1qzhkvho1_500For instance, I am very passionate about healthcare being a universal human right because I personally know that continuous treatment for chronic medical conditions saves lives and so does preventive healthcare services. I am also very passionate about workers’ rights and a living wage because I have seen firsthand how poverty hurts children and families. Not to forget how discrimination, harassment, and bullying affects all humans especially youth and how it is literally killing our youth. 

 

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Having an awesome time rallying against HATE

In addition, it is difficult for me to leave Forward Equality and the progressive community in Nebraska because Nebraska is my birthplace. I grew up there. I don’t want to give up on making Nebraska a safe and welcoming place. I don’t want to let Nebraska continue to be a place that I feel shameful to be from. I want to someday be proud of coming from Nebraska. 

Me in Pre-op with Diane and family
Me in Pre-op with Diane and family

All of these progressive issues are so important to me, I cannot even use words to express how it feels to have worked on them for so long and then need to move on. However, after some discussions with my support network and healthcare team, I decided to conclude all of my progressive grassroots organizing in Nebraska. 

In these discussions, I also had to decide if I wanted to disclose why this is needed. I am still not sure the answer to that or if there is a right or wrong answer. Therefore, I will say this; Nebraska in general contains a lot of painful and hurtful events and statements. This includes many of the attitudes and lack of inclusion I faced there while organizing around many of the progressive issues I cared greatly about. Overall, some of what happened there and what was said was harmful to my health. Nevertheless, there was still a lot of empowering and awesome events and statements that helped me learn and grow. 

1229906_618077924899886_389975875_n
Having an awesome time with Forward Equality volunteers rallying for equal marriage rights and the defeat of Nebraska’s superhate marriage amendment (416).

 

From April of this year on, I will be moving forward and working on those progressive issues that do not hurt my well-being. Thus, I will focus my progressive grassroots organizing in Iowa and I will only exert the physical and emotional energy that is within my ability. 

Unions are Vital to Economic Justice

ohiounionsUnions are important to the working class and here’s why. We do not work for ourselves or for one another; we work for our employers who organize the workplaces so that we (the worker) cannot exert control by our actions. We do not work for the fun of it. We work because we need to, to survive, to pay our bills and to support our families.

In our nation, the ability to access money is life or death matter and the employers will exploit that to their benefit. They will objectify us, so that they can make more money. All they care about is their bottom line (profits). (Michael D. Yates, Why Unions Matter, Monthly Review Press New York. 1998)

From Think Progress
From Think Progress

We need unions because of the decline of the middle class, which began, with the decline of union membership according to a 2011 study in the American Sociological Review by Bruce Western of Harvard University and Jake Rosenfeld of the University of Washington. This is seen every day, as more Americans are working in low-wage jobs and little to no benefits. (Politico)

Legally, without unions, workers are just “at-will” employees. This means that they can be fired, demoted, or transferred for any reason and sometimes without a reason. Without unions, the employers are free to treat us as they wish, which includes cutting our pay and even eliminating our benefits.

Image from Think Progress
Image from Think Progress

Currently many of our workplaces are factories of authoritarianism destroying our democracy. This authoritarianism diminishes our standing as a democracy in the world. This is why workers who spend 8 or more hours a day obeying their employers demands with no rights, or to participate in workplace decisions that affect them, do not participate in most of our civil society outside of the workplace because of being trained to just obey. Basically, the rule of most workplaces is that the management dictates and the workers obey or they are fired. Because of authoritarianism in the workplace, workers have no right to freedom of speech, which is one of our nation’s most cherished freedoms. Nevertheless, that freedom is not granted in the workplaces because the United State Constitution’s First Amendment only applies to the encroachment by the government on the citizens’ speech not private employers. Thus, the employers teach the workers every day that democracy and their civil rights stop at the factory, store, or office door. (Why Unions Matter, Elaine Bernard, Executive Director of the Harvard Trade Union Program)

Unions are our tool to secure better wages and benefits, safer working environments, right to fair hearing for complaints against the employer, and give us a voice. Unions give us the ability to take action against employers when the employer violates their rights or discriminates against us. Simply, the union gives us a voice in our workplaces and makes us more equal with the employers.

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This is why I support unions and why I believe that unions are vital to the betterment of the United States and will assist in ending economic injustice in our great nation. Not only will unions help but so will a fair minimum wage. I support HR. 1010, the Fair Minimum Wage Act. I understand that this bill will not fix our nation’s labor laws to insurance union rights but I believe is a major step that our government can take to help the working class. I believe that the our Congress should pass a bill giving every worker the right to paid sick and holiday. These are just a couple of the steps that Congress can take to help the working class. However, there is one step that each individual can take to help better their lives and their employment environments, they can join a union or begin to organize their own places of work.

The Fair Minimum Wage would:

  • Restore the minimum wage to its historic level, making up for decades of erosion.
  • Would increase the minimum wage to $10.

How a Fair Minimum Wage would Affect us:

  • 30 million workers would receive a raise.
  • 88% of those are adults over the age of twenty, 56% are women, nearly half are workers of color, and over 43% have some college education.
  • 17 million children have a parent who would get a raise.
  • 71% of tipped workers getting a raise would be women. (ForwardEquality)

The following are some of the unions that I personally support:

  • AFL-CIO: “We are the umbrella federation for U.S. unions, with 57 unions representing more than 12 million working men and women. We work to ensure that all people who work receive the rewards of their work—decent paychecks and benefits, safe jobs, respect and fair treatment. “
  • NEA (National Education Association): ” the nation’s largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA’s 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs.”
  • SEIU (Service Employees International Union): “an organization of 2.1 million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide and dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society.”
  • AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees): “AFSCME is the nation’s largest and fastest growing public services employees union with more than 1.6 million working and retired members. AFSCME’s members provide the vital services that make America happen. We are nurses, corrections officers, child care providers, EMTs, sanitation workers and more. With members in hundreds of different occupations, AFSCME advocates for fairness in the workplace, excellence in public services and prosperity and opportunity for all working families.”
  • IWW (Industrial Workers of the World): “The IWW is a member-run union for all workers, a union dedicated to organizing on the job, in our industries and in our communities. IWW members are organizing to win better conditions today and build a world with economic democracy tomorrow. We want our workplaces run for the benefit of workers and communities rather than for a handful of bosses and executives.”

Contact Congress and tell them to pass a Fair Minimum Wage: Contact Info

*Some information was from Think Progress.