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Why they hate unions

First of all, listen to this song by Tom Morello. It’s great — and catchy as all get out.

Yesterday someone with Working America knocked on my door to ask me to vote for their candidate in our upcoming primary. I told him I was already voting for him.

We started talking, and I asked him what kind of response he was getting. “Very positive,” he said.

“Really?” I said, pleased. He reminded me that he was only visiting houses that had a union affiliation. (Which, in my neighborhood, is a lot.)

He said the union voters he’d visited were watching “everything” very closely. “They’re paying attention to everything, they don’t like what’s going on, and not just locally.”

Yes, union members tend to be a lot smarter about what’s going on. That’s why the bosses hate unions.

Speak up

Color of Change has done a good job of moving sleazebag Andrew Breitbart out of the mainstream of acceptable discourse, but now Bill Maher’s having him on as a guest tonight and they’re asking people to register their opposition.

I like their work. This kind of thing is important, because the constant stream of crazy in our media is what makes the right-wing positions seem “reasonable” to so many people who aren’t really informed.

I’m sure Bill thinks this is a noble protection of Breitbart’s free speech; I don’t agree. There’s a big difference between featuring dissenting opinions (which doesn’t bother me in the least) and helping an amoral prick sell his fabricated PROPAGANDA. What else would you call someone whose “scoops” always feature later-debunked, deceptively edited video?

Can you make a quick phone call to Maher’s show? The script below makes it easy (or you can come up with your own).

(323) 575-7700 – Real Time with Bill Maher

Our suggested script:

Hi, I’m calling because I’m outraged that your show is hosting Andrew Breitbart. He has been exposed over and over again as a race-baiter and a liar, and now he’s trying to repair his reputation. Breitbart has been considered a fraud by most of the media since he smeared Shirley Sherrod and the NAACP using deceptively edited video. But in September, Bill Maher had him on the show and referred to him as a journalist and publisher. Bill Maher shouldn’t help sanitize Breitbart’s image. If he still plans to have Breitbart on tonight, he needs to make it very clear that Breitbart is someone who uses lies to stoke racial fear and conflict, for personal and political gain. Anything less would be irresponsible and shameful.

Once you’ve called, please let us know by sending an email to calls@colorofchange.org.

Paul Ryan

Is a fucking liar.

Health care

Why it costs so much here.

We’re No. 14!

Philadelphia, one of the top beer cities in the world!

Workers fight back in China

Some good news from China:

We’ll never know the names of all the people who paid with their limbs, their lungs, or their lives for the goodies in my home and yours. Here’s just one: think of him as the Unknown Worker, standing for them all. Liu Pan was a 17-year-old operating a machine that made cards and cardboard that were sold on to big-name Western corporations. When he tried to clear its jammed machinery, he got pulled into it. His sister said: “When we got his body, his whole head was crushed. We couldn’t even see his eyes.”

So you might be thinking – was it a cruel joke to bill this as a good news story? Not at all. An epic rebellion has now begun in China against this abuse – and it is beginning to succeed. Across 126,000 Chinese factories, workers have refused to live like this any more. Wildcat unions have sprung up, organised by text message, demanding higher wages, a humane work environment, and the right to organise freely. Millions of young workers across the country are blockading their factories and chanting, “There are no human rights here!” and, “We want freedom!” The suicides were a rebellion of despair; this is a rebellion of hope.

Last year, the Chinese dictatorship was so panicked by the widespread uprisings that it prepared an extraordinary step forward. It drafted a new labour law that would allow workers to form and elect their own trade unions. It would plant seeds of democracy across China’s workplaces. Western corporations lobbied very hard against it, saying it would create a “negative investment environment” – by which they mean smaller profits. Western governments obediently backed the corporations and opposed freedom and democracy for Chinese workers. So the law was whittled down and democracy stripped out.

It wasn’t enough. This year Chinese workers have risen even harder to demand a fair share of the prosperity they create. Now company after company is making massive concessions: pay rises of over 60 per cent are being conceded. Even more crucially, officials in Guandong province, the manufacturing heartland of the country, have announced that they are seriously considering allowing workers to elect their own representatives to carry out collective bargaining after all.

Just like last time, Western corporations and governments are lobbying frantically against this – and to keep the millions of Yan Lis stuck at their assembly lines into the 35th hour.

This isn’t a distant struggle: you are at its heart, whether you like it or not. There is an electrical extension cord running from your laptop and mobile and games console to the people like Yan Li and Liu Pan dying to make them. So you have to make a choice. You can passively let the corporations and governments speak for you in trying to beat these people back into semi-servitude – or you can side with the organisations here that support their cry for freedom, like No Sweat, or the TUC’s international wing, by donating to them, or volunteering for their campaigns.

Yes, if this struggle succeeds, it will mean that we will have to pay a little more for some products, in exchange for the freedom and the lives of people like Yan Li and Liu Pan. But previous generations have made that choice. After slavery was abolished in 1833, Britain’s GDP fell by 10 percent – but they knew that cheap goods and fat profits made from flogging people until they broke were not worth having. Do we?

The U.S. can’t lecture China about human rights while helping corporations suppress workers rights. Capice?


You may remember that I wrote a few months ago about food prices being driven up by hedge funds? Now the chairman of Starbucks is blaming them for the rising cost of coffee.

For this very reason, it used to be that this kind of speculation wasn’t allowed. Not only are they driving up the cost of food during a major recession, they’re also affecting foreign politics as we see people rioting for food.

Free markets! Progress!

Rental squeeze

I haven’t noticed it in Philadelphia. How about where you are?

The housing bust horror flick is now giving way to a very unwelcome sequel: a big squeeze on the cost of renting.

The number of renters paying more than half of their income towards rent has hit record levels, according to a new study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) of Harvard University.

Rental affordability is a critical issue for seniors, who live on fixed incomes and already are coping with low yields on their savings, fast-rising healthcare expenses and stagnant Social Security benefits. Yet the struggle with affordability is found most often among low-income Americans; JCHS found that 75 percent of renters in the lowest quartile of income are spending more than half of their income on housing. JCHS also found that lower-middle class renters also are having trouble finding affordable rental housing.

For example, 33 percent of renters with annual income of $14,500 to $30,000 are facing “severe burdens” in finding affordable rent. And the problem is growing most rapidly among demographic groups traditionally less likely to have affordability problems, including younger households, married couples with children and renters with some college education.

“These are astounding numbers,” says Eric Belsky, managing director of JCHS. “If you are spending half of your income on housing, you have very little to spend on everything else.”

Royal wedding

Honestly, do you care? I like weddings in general, but not big public carnival versions. Plus, you know, bread and circuses…

Groupons for healthcare

The Republicans are reassuring the voters who are worried about Paul Ryan’s Medicare “reform” that they’re not getting stiffed — “just” their kids.

It’s a scam, of course. You do understand what Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan is, right? Groupons for healthcare! We’re supposed to be thrilled at getting healthcare for 50% off (or whatever their Deal of The Day is). Who doesn’t love a deal, right?

They think this is a brilliant plan. They’re wrong. They’re forgetting about women. We’re the ones who always know when a deal isn’t a good deal.

The women 45 and older who, statistically speaking, are the ones dealing with the brunt of their elderly parents: overseeing medical care, trying to figure out what’s best for their parents and wrestling with the Medicare paperwork.

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that Medicare made my parents’ final years far more comfortable than it would have been without it. Yes, my dad had a union pension and some investments, but that just covered the basics. Without Medicare, my parents — a father with pancreatic cancer and a mother with congestive heart failure and an eroding spinal column that required several surgeries — would have been impoverished.

And if the women who are dealing with their parents are anything like me, we’re not only thankful our parents had Medicare, we’re counting on it for ourselves, because we don’t want to be a burden to our children.

We also want that security for them.

Now, amoral politicians have one serious handicap: They assume everyone else is as selfish and uncaring as they are. They really don’t understand mothers.

They think we don’t care about our kids? Morons.

Every chance I get, I fight like hell for Medicare and Social Security, even though my own kids don’t even believe it’ll be there. One of them even believes the conservative propaganda that Baby Boomers selfishly bankrupted the country.

I fight anyway. I’m a mother. I know that even if I’m not here to see it, they’ll thank me later.

And so will my grandchildren.

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