Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Wal-Mart Backlash in Baltimore

07.28.10

Baltimore’ alternative weekly City Paper published a story last week titled “Big Box Backlash” ## a summary of the opposition that has arisen in the five months since Wal-Mart announced it wanted to build its first store inside the city limits

Written by Andrea Appleton and Hannah Bruchman, the story provides a good overview of the situation, including the role of a new group that combines the efforts of the UFCW and the NAACP

Some excerpts below:

“In February, city residents learned that a proposed 11-acre housing and retail development at 25th and Howard streets would include a nearly 94,000-square-foot Walmart. The news has since spurred a lot of dialogue, to put it nicely. Everyone from John Waters to Denise Whiting, the owner of Café Hon, has weighed in on the matter (the former con, the latter pro).

In fact, the proposed development has incited a hydra-headed opposition. While many of the affected community associations quietly negotiate concessions with the city and the developer, other groups have taken a more vocal stance. To date, the development has triggered the formation of at least three organizations. These groups run the gamut from those who oppose Walmart on principle to those seeking large concessions from the developer to those who take issue with the way the city is addressing the inevitable spike in traffic the development will bring.

The announcement that Walmart would be included in the development proved to be particularly galvanizing. A Facebook group entitled “Keep Wal-Mart Out of Remington”## now more than 1,500 strong## appeared, with members vehemently criticizing Walmart’s employment practices and effect on local businesses. Bmore Local, which formed shortly thereafter, took a more nuanced approach. The organization has proposed that 13 amendments be added to zoning legislation for the project. (For the development to go forward, the City Council must approve a planned unit development, or PUD, which would allow the mixed-use development to sit on a patchwork of land zoned for divergent uses.) The amendments include requiring the developer to preserve and reuse the stone church at 24th and Sisson streets; to maintain a certain percentage of occupancy or incur heavy fines; and to ensure all tenants pay the state definition of a “living wage,” $12.25 an hour. Bmore Local is applying for nonprofit status and plans to move on to other projects once this one is settled. “We would love to see community standards city-wide,” Vice President Genny Dill says.”

“Baltimore CAN, another new organization inspired by the specter of a Remington Walmart, has similar aims. Currently composed of 25 groups## including Bmore Local, as well as local branches of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the NAACP## the coalition’s aim is to promote city standards for new developments, with guidelines governing everything from wages to transportation to health impacts. “We’re pro development,” says Matthew Weinstein, Baltimore region director for Progressive Maryland, one of the convening organizations. “But we want to deal with development in a coordinated way so that communities don’t get run over.” The coalition aims to have 100 member organizations by Aug. 5, when the Planning Commission will hold a hearing on the 25th Street Station project.

That meeting is likely to be a tad crowded. It is also the deadline for any appeals regarding the city’s Traffic Impact Study (TIS) for the new development. (Studies that assess a development’s likely traffic impact on surrounding communities and transportation corridors are required for large developments such as this one.) Because the final draft was released late last week, it’s too early to say whether anyone will appeal it. But judging by initial reactions, the chances are good.

Remington Neighborhood Alliance (RNA) President Joan Floyd has been engaged in a contentious back and forth with the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) since the first draft was released nearly two months ago. In a letter to the DOT, she pointed out that the study## conducted by a company called VHB## included no information as to how data was collected (such as dates), which in Floyd’s opinion made it null and void. She wrote that the draft made such basic errors as miscounting the number of lanes in certain roads. And she took issue with some of the assumptions in the study. For instance, it took as a given that 25 percent of shoppers will walk, bike, or take the bus to the shopping center## which will feature Walmart and Lowe’s as its most prominent stores## resulting in what Floyd calls “the unrealistic removal of 1,000-2,000 and more cars per day from future projections.”

DOT Acting Division Chief Valorie LaCour responded to some of Floyd’s complaints in a letter dated June 16. She wrote that the department arrived at the 25 percent figure by using Institute of Transportation Engineers standards and reviewing data from the Home Depot on Eastern Avenue and Kane Street, which she says “has similar demographic and land use characteristics.” LaCour did not address the question of miscounted lanes, and in the new draft they do not appear to have been corrected, according to Floyd. “It’s something that doesn’t instill confidence,” she says. “This is not difficult stuff to get right.” As to the dates of data collection## which are included in the new draft## Floyd points out that many of the counts were conducted late last year before the TIS study began, which “raises questions,” though such data is allowable by DOT standards. A number of the traffic counts were also done during Johns Hopkins University’s spring break, when traffic is diminished.”

“Members of the Historic Fawcett Community Association, yet another new organization, are also worried that traffic will clog their small neighborhood. The area## bound by West 24th Street, the CSX tracks, Howard Street, and North Avenue## encompasses perhaps 100 families. In the development plans, it sits near the parking garage and a loading dock for Lowe’s, “right at the butt end” of the proposed project, steering committee member Megan Hamilton says. “In our view, we are the neighborhood most at risk.”

Maryland State Education Association Endorse Shelton Martin for Delegate

07.27.10

For more information
wandasmartin@aol.com
(202) 330-2022

Maryland State Education Association Endorse Shelton Martin for Delegate

Lanham, MD- Today the Friends of Wanda Shelton Martin are pleased to announce the endorsement of the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) in her campaign for the House of Delegates from the 47th District. “I am honored and humbled by this endorsement. The Maryland State Education Association is the workers who take a significant responsibility in developing our children. That is why this endorsement means so much to me. I am committed to strengthening our Education system while recognizing the hard work of the members of the MSEA.”

When Wanda kicked off her campaign she announced a platform of three E’s, one of them being education. For more than a year Wanda has been sharing with the residents of the 47th district her plan to improve our education system and prepare our young people for stronger futures. A product of public schools herself Wanda put both of her daughters in the public school system as well and knows the challenges we face as a community. Educators and parents will have no greater champion of education in Annapolis than Wanda Shelton Martin.

Wanda Shelton-Martin is a candidate running for the Maryland House of Delegates in the 47th Legislative District. Her campaign is focused on the four E’s of Economy, Education, Environment, and Elderly.

New Report Charges Exploitation of Immigrant Labor on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

07.18.10

AFL-CIO Blog is reporting on a new academic study that documents exploitation of immigrant labor in the seafood industry on Maryland’s famed Eastern shore. James Parks writes:

“In a stinging indictment of our broken immigration system, a new report shows that crab-picking houses on Maryland’s Eastern Shore rely mainly on hundreds of immigrant women workers who are forced to pay excessive and illegal fees to foreign recruiters only to end up in low-paying jobs in isolated rural areas with poor housing.”

“The report, “Picked Apart: The Hidden Struggles of Migrant Worker Women in the Maryland Crab Industry,” was released today by the International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University’s Washington College of Law and Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (CDM). The transnational non-profit organization is dedicated to improving the working conditions of migrant workers in the United States.”

“The immigrant women, who are in the country on H-2B guest worker visas, must work only on the job for which they were recruited and cannot work elsewhere. Many employers exploit the women by paying them low wages and threatening to send them back home if they complain about living or working conditions.”

“More than half of the women reported serious housing problems and payroll deductions for knives, gloves and safety equipment. Several also said that male immigrant workers who wash the crabs were paid more and given more hours, and some said older women were not treated as well as younger women. One said she was asked to perform sexual favors, according to the report.”

“Jayesh Rathod, an assistant professor of law at American University, said under the nation’s current guest worker system, unscrupulous employers who don’t want to address unjust working conditions can “just decide to send workers home, and that happens.”

“Migrant pickers are paid by the pound, earning typically between $2 and $2.25 a pound, with those who can’t pick fast enough often sent home, the authors said.”

“The report calls for changes to the H-2B visa program, including regulating recruitment practices and sanctioning employers who use recruiters who charge excessive or improper fees to workers. The authors also recommend that the visas no longer tie workers to one employer, which would allow the workers to leave abusive working conditions.”

“Further, the report calls for extending the Maryland minimum wage and overtime protections to seafood workers and educating migrant workers before each season about their rights.”

Teamsters reach agreement to save union jobs at Maryland food distribution center

07.07.10

By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Giant Food, the region’s largest grocery chain, has reached an agreement with the Teamsters union that will save hundreds of jobs at its dry-goods distribution business when it outsources the work to a Jessup firm later this year.

The head of Teamsters Local 730, the union that represents workers at the distribution plant, said Tuesday that 341 full-time workers will keep their jobs at the Giant dry-goods business that’s being contracted out to Jessup Logistics LLC, an affiliate of C&S Wholesale Grocers. Some part-time workers will become full-time under the deal, said Ritchie Brooks, president of Teamsters Local 730.

Landover-based Giant announced in April that it planned to outsource the business to Jessup Logistics, which had agreed to adopt the contracts of three local unions representing workers at the plant. Giant said at the time that Jessup would hire many of the workers, but it wasn’t ruling out layoffs.

Giant said in a statement that it is still negotiating with two other unions. The grocer would not comment about the Teamsters agreement beyond the statement issued late Tuesday.

“We have reached agreement with Teamsters Local 730 concerning the effects of the transfer and hope to reach agreement with the remaining local unions impacted by this tentative transaction in the coming weeks,” Kim Brown, vice president of public affairs and community relations, said in the statement.

Giant officials declined to say whether any of the 130 nonunion workers at the facility would be laid off.

Brooks had worried that jobs would be lost and work moved to Pennsylvania, where Jessup Logistics has many automated factories. Brooks said Gov. Martin O’Malley and Ron DeJuliis, state commissioner of labor and industry, called Giant on the union’s behalf.

“We stood our ground for almost three months and let them know we wanted guaranteed jobs and we would pass out information leaflets in the stores if we didn’t get them,” Brooks said.

Giant officials have said they decided to outsource as a cost-cutting measure and to put the operations with a company with more expertise. They also wanted to focus more on the distribution of fresh produce, where they saw potential to expand.

Giant will continue to run its own transportation and recycling division.

Grocers have been looking for ways to cut costs and operate more efficiently as the industry has become more competitive. Jessup Logistics also handles Giant’s frozen-food division.

Alliance for American Manufacturing Video by Baltimore Music Happenings

07.06.10

From Maurice Morales

July 6, 2010 at 8:30am

Subject: Alliance for American Manufacturing Video by Baltimore Music Happenings

- MySpace Video http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=101605682

from a rally i videotaped resently.please share www.youtube/maurice11 for more of my work

Baltimore Health Care Workers Rally for Union Rights

06.28.10

by GISELLE CHANG

BatimoreBrew

Around 400 people, joined by actor and activist Danny Glover and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, crowded Mt. Vernon Square yesterday afternoon for 1199SEIU’s the Heart of Baltimore rally to demand that all health care institutions and employers allow workers to freely, without employer intimidation, vote on having the union at their hospital, nursing home or health care institution.

Many area hospitals and nursing homes employ unionized health care workers, with Johns Hopkins Medicine being the first to do so over fifty years ago. But participants in the rally said that others, such as the University of Maryland Medical Center, dissuade their employees from pursuing unionization with fear campaigns and punishment.

“How much do I like my job?” Gary Miller, a technician at St. Agnes Hospital Emergency Department mused out loud before deciding to answer why he supports unionization.

“St. Agnes Hospital is not yet unionized and we’re letting the union make the first move, otherwise we [workers] could get in big trouble.”

Wade Hilton, a physical trainer who has a private practice but worked in a hospital for many years, shared similar sentiments, saying that some workers “are afraid it’s going to affect their jobs” if they join the Heart of Baltimore campaign and demand unionization. While they may not lose their job, they may be demoted to a lower-paying one, Hilton added.

Why take that risk?

The crowd of nurse’s aides, technicians and laundry, food service and other workers — many of them still wearing their scrubs and carrying stethoscopes, all of them enduring the blistering heat — said they need to organize to improve their sector’s chronic problem of low pay and poor working conditions.

Many said they are currently barely making poverty wages and are unable to afford the health care benefits they provide for other patients. Organizers said the problem is disproportionately worse in Baltimore and that nurse’s aides here make less than their counterparts in every other major East Coast city.

They are two-and-a-half times more likely than other Maryland workers to be on Food Stamps, and more than half of them make so little, their children qualify for the state’s low-income health insurance plan, according to the union.

As one in every five Baltimoreans works in the health care, the 1199SEIU campaign the Heart of Baltimore, aims to not only improve the livelihoods of these workers by raising wages and guaranteeing health care benefits through unionization but, in effect, heal the ailing Baltimore economy as well.

“It is about strengthening the economy for the entire city,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said to the crowd, a sea of people in purple shirts waving yellow inflatable batons. “When health care workers have a voice, we all win.”

Workers with a sense of ownership, control and say over their environment perform better Miller said: “With the union, when we voice our concerns we will have much better of a chance of controlling what will be implemented, which is good not only for us but for the patients too.”

Rawlings-Blake echoed that sentiment, saying that every health care worker deserves a voice on the job and that when they do, “you can assure that every patient gets the right care.”

Annie Henry, an instrument processor with Johns Hopkins Medicine, has been a member of the union for 41 years in order to battle racism she says she sees in the work place. Henry said that after working for Hopkins for only six months she was ready to walk out the door and that it was joining the union that gave her a “voice without retaliation.”

Since then she said the union’s strength increased but that subtle bias persists even in workplaces like hers where the union is allowed. When she was applying for a position a few years ago, she said, she was rejected on the basis of being a union member.

Still the benefits outweigh the setbacks. Laura Pugh, a cook and delegate also with Johns Hopkins Medicine, joined the union in 1970 and says she did so because she “wanted to see change.” She describes how at the time she could only go in one door because she was black and that she was afraid to speak back to white employees. But “we have gotten better” Pugh stated, “better wages, better health benefits, we got a pension.”

Despite successes, the campaign is far from over. The local Baltimore union, which had been in existence since 1969 merged with the regional 1199SEIU (Service Employees International Union) five years ago, launching the Heart of Baltimore campaign for free and fair union election. Last fall the campaign was strengthened through resolutions passed by both the city and county councils calling on all health care institutions and health care providers to free and fair union election. The resolutions cannot mandate, however, that employers allow union election.

Thus the rally, advertisements in magazines and newspapers, radio support and other forms of publicity are needed, organizers said, to raise awareness about the Heart of Baltimore campaign and put pressure on health care CEOs to adopt a free and fair union election code of conduct.

“We have now learned that change is possible and we have to make [employers] realize that we are a partnership,” Pugh said. “We’re trying to get everyone involved because everybody should have health insurance.”

Henry explained that she urges health care workers to join the campaign for unionization because there is safety in numbers. “At some point in time everybody is going to want to make more money and why wouldn’t you want to pay workers to make a decent living?” she demanded.

John Reid, the Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU Maryland/D.C. invigorated the crowd declaring that Baltimore health care workers have long suffered in comparison with their fellow counterparts just down the road in D.C.

Reid addressed the audience urging health care workers to stand up and assert their rights saying “we are ready to make our voice heard because we are the heart of Baltimore.”

MAJOR LABOR UNIONS ENDORSE ROGER MANNO FOR STATE SENATE

05.27.10

MAJOR LABOR UNIONS ENDORSE ROGER MANNO FOR STATE SENATE

Press Release

Silver Spring, MD - The Washington D.C. Building and Construction Trades Council (WDCBCTC), and Communications Workers of America have announced early strong endorsements for Roger Manno, candidate for Maryland State Senate in the 19th District.

Appearing with Manno at his May 16th State Senate kickoff, WDCBCTC Executive Secretary and Treasurer Vance Ayres, representing 25,000 workers, stated “If we had more folks like Roger Manno in Annapolis, there wouldn’t be all the problems with people losing their houses, who have no health care. I know a lot of legislators. I know good legislators, and I know great legislators. He’s one of the great ones, and so we, the Washington DC-region building trades, formally endorse, Roger Manno.”

Echoing these statements, Ron Collins, Vice President of CWA District 2 said “Communication Workers of America is pleased to announce our strong, early endorsement of Roger Manno for the Maryland State Senate. While many legislators simply vote the right way on labor issues, Roger has tirelessly carried the water and walked the walk for workers in the State of Maryland. The 76 locals and 35,000 members of CWA District 2 stand united in our commitment to ensure that he is our next State Senator.”

Thanking WDCBCTC, and CWA for their early endorsements, Manno stated “I am honored to stand with these important AFL-CIO labor unions in their daily fight for decent wages, reasonable working conditions and comprehensive health care for the hard working families in our communities. By working together to build broad coalitions we can ensure that there are no compromises when it comes to the working families of Maryland. Today’s endorsements are a recognition that Leadership takes teamwork and I look forward to continuing this fight together.”

For more information or to join the Team, please visit www.rogermanno.com.

33 States Reported Job Growth in March

04.17.10

33 States Reported Job Growth in March

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania recorded sizable gains in employment in March and were among 33 states posting increases.

In its monthly look at state job trends, the Labor Department said Friday that Maryland led the country with a gain of 35,800 payroll jobs last month. Virginia and Pennsylvania also posted increases that topped 20,000 in the month.

By contrast, Michigan continued to have the nation’s highest unemployment rate and also led the country in job losses in March with a decline of 9,500. Nevada and Florida also posted sizable job losses and were among 17 states recording job losses in the month.

Nationally, the unemployment remained unchanged at 9.7 percent in March while payrolls grew by 162,000, the biggest gain in three years.

The department’s report Friday showed how the job gains and losses were distributed among the states.

The increases in nonfarm payroll employment occurred in 33 states and the District of Colombia. In February, only 23 states had seen job gains while 27 states and the District of Columbia had recorded job losses…..

Read the rest of this article at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/17/business/economy/17jobless.html?th&emc=th

Debate on TSA collective bargaining rights March 31

03.15.10

Frends, Brothers and Sisters:

I will be debating the Executive Director of an anti-union group in the Senate Dirksen Building at 2:00 p.m. on the issue of collective bargaining rights for TSA officers. For those not familiar with my history I’ve included a couple of links below.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41820-2004Dec6.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/22/AR2006042201016.html

Please spread the word!

In Solidarity,

Ron Moore
301-495-7832
## ## ## ## ## ## ## ##
EDITOR’S NOTE: For those of you who do not already know, Ron Moore is a great pro-union writer and union activist. This going to be a great event. I urge all who can attend make an effort to do so.

MARYLAND PUBLIC LIBRARY EMPLOYEES FIGHT FOR CHOICE FOR A VOICE

03.10.10

MARYLAND PUBLIC LIBRARY EMPLOYEES FIGHT FOR CHOICE FOR A VOICE

Library workers from across Maryland went to Annapolis yesterday to protest the hiring of “union avoidance” and lobby firm of Alexander & Cleaver by several Maryland counties to oppose legislation granting collective bargaining rights to county library systems. The librarians, represented by UFCW Local 1994, testified in Annapolis on Tuesday in support of the bill.

Click here http://www.dclabor.org/ht/display/ArticleDetails/i/83874 for more on this issue, including why Del. Tom Hucker (D, Maryland Dist. 20), called it “ironic” that “at a time of tremendous pressure on county budgets and serious budget cuts, the Maryland Association of Public Library Administrators has found enough discretionary revenue to hire one of the most expensive firms in Annapolis to deny librarians the basic right to association and free speech.”

## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## -
EDITOR’S NOTE: First published by the Metropolitan Washington Council, an AFL-CIO “Union City” Central Labor Council whose 200 affiliated union locals represent 150,000 area union members. JOSLYN N. WILLIAMS, PRESIDENT.

SENATOR CARDIN CALLS SENATE PASSAGE OF UI BILL CRITICAL FOR AMERICAN FAMILIES STRUGGLING DURING THIS RECESSION

11.04.09

SENATOR CARDIN CALLS SENATE PASSAGE OF UI BILL CRITICAL FOR AMERICAN FAMILIES STRUGGLING DURING THIS RECESSION

Senator Urges Adoption of Senate Language That Extends Unemployment Insurance Benefit 14 Weeks to All Americans

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) today praised Senate passage of a strong Unemployment Insurance (UI) bill that would extend unemployment benefits another 14 weeks to all states, including Maryland. The House has passed a bill that would extend UI benefits only to states with unemployment rates of 8.5 percent or higher.

Senator Cardin urged the adoption of the much stronger Senate version of the bill that “guarantees an additional 14 weeks of UI benefits to Americans who – through no fault of their own – have found it extremely difficult to get a job in this recession.”

The Senator stressed that while the Maryland September unemployment rate was 7.2 percent, below the national average of 9.8 percent or the 8.5 percent cutoff contained in the House bill, six Maryland jurisdictions have high unemployment rates at or above 8.5 percent. Those six Maryland counties are: Baltimore City (10.6 percent); Caroline County (8.8 percent); Cecil County (8.6 percent); Dorchester County (10.9 percent); Somerset County (9.5 percent) and Washington County (9.4 percent).

“We are in the most serious recession since the Great Depression and unemployment knows no state boundary. Individuals who have lost their job and cannot find employment should be entitled to this extension solely because of their job status, not because of where they live,” said Senator Cardin, a co-sponsor of the amendment to HR 3548, the Workers, Home Owners and Business Assistance Act.

“We need to pass the strongest possible UI bill to help all jobless Americans who are facing financial catastrophe because of this recession.”

The latest Department of Labor figures show that almost 215,000 Marylanders looked for a job last month, but were unable to find employment. It is projected that more than 25,000 Marylanders will exhaust their unemployment benefits by the end of December if an extension is not passed.

## ####

Susan Sullam

Office of U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin

Communications Director

CARDIN, DEMOCRATIC SENATORS URGE SWIFT PASSAGE OF UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS EXTENSION

10.21.09

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 20, 2009

CONTACT:

Sue Walitsky 202-320-0819

CARDIN, DEMOCRATIC SENATORS URGE SWIFT PASSAGE OF UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS EXTENSION

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), along with 13 fellow Democratic Senators today called on Senate Republicans to stop playing politics and immediately help pass legislation that will provide relief to jobless workers by extending unemployment insurance for the nearly 2 million Americans who will exhaust their benefits by the end of the year. The pending bill would extend unemployment insurance by up to 14 additional weeks for jobless workers in all states and up to 20 weeks in hard-hit states with unemployment levels at or above 8.5 percent. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this extension would be fully offset. Every $1 spent on unemployment benefits has been found to generate $1.61 in new economic demand.

“Families are hurting. In every region of every state, there are people who cannot find jobs today. Minorities are being hit even harder. Extending unemployment benefits is the right thing to do for those who can’t find employment and for our economy. We have to pass this now. There should be no obstacles put in the way of passing this bill promptly,” said Senator Cardin.

7.6 million Americans have lost their jobs and the deficit has grown massively since the recession began under President Bush in 2007. Now, hundreds of thousands of Americans have exhausted unemployment insurance benefits and another million are expected to exhaust these benefits by the end of this year.

Despite the urgent economic imperative, Republicans have held up the bill for nearly two weeks by offering amendments that have nothing to do with helping the unemployed.

###

Republicans had held up vote on O’Malley’s former labor secretary

10.07.09

Republicans had held up vote on O’Malley’s former labor secretary

By Paul West

October 6, 2009

WASHINGTON

Thomas E. Perez, the Maryland lawyer picked by President Barack Obama for the administration’s most important civil rights post, is expected to win Senate confirmation today after months of delay.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has scheduled an afternoon vote on Perez’s nomination to head the Civil Rights division at the Justice Department. The nomination is expected to be approved by a comfortable margin, according to aides to Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin…..

(read more at link below)

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bal-md.perez06oct06,0,4362594,print.story

The Wealthy Elites Play the Racists for Pawns at a Town Hall Meeting in Maryland

08.13.09

The Wealthy Elites Play the Racists for Pawns at a Town Hall Meeting in Maryland

BuzzFlash Guest Commentary

http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/9188

By Maria Allwine

On Monday night, Maryland Senator Ben Cardin held a town hall meeting at Towson University, just north of Baltimore. A long-time BuzzFlash reader and Baltimore activist, Maria Allwine, provided this account.

I was at the protest before Monday night’s town hall meeting on healthcare hosted by Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin. Here are my impressions of last night:

I went to the rally and got there about 5:35 – already there were signs posted saying the event (a huge line already waiting to get in) had reached capacity. I hoped members of Healthcare-Now of MD were there early.

The organized right-wingers were there in droves – I estimate (and I am not the best guesser) at least 1,000, maybe more. They were bused in from all over MD from what I was hearing. There were maybe 500 of us, perhaps more – again a guesstimate. Osler Drive was lined up on both sides for a very long way but the majority of them were the right-wingers. They were all along the west side of Osler and a good deal of the east side where we were. I’ll be interested to read the estimates from a more reliable source than myself.

I have never seen such hatred, vitriol and racism in all my life – and I do not say that lightly. It made me physically ill – I could stand the heat, but I couldn’t stand the hatred and racism. We all read about it, we know it – but having it in your face in such large and angry numbers is hard to deal with. There were posters of Obama as Hitler, the Democratic Nazi Party, Keep Your Laws Off My Body (except for abortion – I asked) and various and sundry examples of ugliness. Some Lyndon LaRouche supporters along with anti-immigration and tort reform. Also a lot of “killing the elderly, euthanasia” type signs. And of course, our favorite – “No Socialism.” As I looked across Osler at these people, they were screaming and angry – and they often came over to where we were to provoke us and to out-shout us. The comments to me as I walked up and down with my signs were appalling. Just ugly, ugly, ugly.

I am telling you this for a reason.

Folks, this is NOT about healthcare or anything remotely resembling policy or any particular issue. This is about the naked anger of the right wing being out of power and not accepting a black man as President combined with their own racism – it’s thinly veiled at best, but it’s racism. I venture to say that this is the least thinly veiled racism I’ve seen for a long time – they have taken those gloves off.

When people say “I work, I’m not paying for anyone else” – that’s about African-Americans and Latinos - period. I stated so to a couple of young women and of course they countered me with extreme anger and then one took my picture to show her children what’s wrong with America (I worry about that – these people love to post pictures of people they want to make targets). Later I asked one older woman very calmly – she was calm herself – if she cared about other people besides her own family and loved ones. She looked me in the eyes and said “NO, I don’t”. I was lost for words. I heard over and over people saying “I work, I don’t want to pay for anyone else.”

And a lot of “healthcare is a privilege, not a right” – “ you people just keep wanting more” - a lot in that vein. And of course excoriating “socialism” was a favorite. I asked one man, who was screaming at us how he could live with so much hatred every day. He whipped around and yelled at me “I keep it coming every day” – he was so angry I thought he was going to have some kind of attack. These are people we see on the street every day, I’ve worked with them – and when I say they are filled with hate, I do not exaggerate. I finally had to leave around 7 pm – I couldn’t take any more of the ugliness. I was literally sick to my gut.

Make no mistake – these people are lying and have been told to lie. They have no facts and are not dissuaded by those who do and want to discuss them. There is NO engaging these people – they are way beyond that. That’s not what they’re there for. That’s why I say we must stop discussing policy and start discussing strategy and tactics.

In my opinion, we (the left, the progressives and the Congresspeople who are with us) are making a mistake by ignoring these people. This is not about the people at these events; it’s about who is controlling them. And that is the wealthy elites who will do anything, including destroying what is left of the democracy we remember, to protect what they have, the corporations who control Congress and who actually rule this country and the extremists who are driven by hatred and racism. They are working together and if we do not develop an effective strategy and new tactics to counter them, this country – and us – are doomed.

There is an excellent article on AlterNet regarding fascism. If you haven’t read it yet, I urge you to do so. We have all talked about this over these past years and we all worry about it but I think this article is absolutely right. And I think we better pay attention to what is happening right underneath our noses. It might be reassuring to say that these people are fringe, the minority, etc. But it’s not just them – it’s the most powerful moneyed interests in this country who are bankrolling and controlling them. The angry mobs are the storm troopers and they are the angriest people I’ve ever seen. They are happy to be controlled and happy to do the bidding of their masters. In my opinion they would be happy to do away with the likes of us.

Think we aren’t about to lose what’s left of this democracy? I urge you to think again. And then I urge all of us to rethink our strategy and tactics. The first thing we need to do is call what is happening by its right name – fascism – over and over again. And we need to call out the corporations and bad actors who are bankrolling these people.

Here is another good article which mentions a Baltimore law firm’s involvement with Dick Armey and its lobbying efforts to kill healthcare reform – not to mention the enormous sums of money they rake in doing it. Scroll down to the “FreedomWorks and the K Street Lobbyist” paragraph for info on a once-venerable Baltimore law firm. This is the kind of thing that needs to be exposed in the media and talked about. The only way the media will discuss it is if we discuss it constantly.

I hope the report from inside Sen. Cardin’s meeting is more positive than mine! I’m posting this because what I witnessed tonight must be a wake-up call to us – not something to ignore. This will not go away – and indeed will only get worse.

BUZZFLASH GUEST COMMENTARY

Right Wing site that posted my tag number shows no concern for my safety- Are they trying to instigate political violence against me?

08.08.09

Here is some communications that follow-up on the article below (the site link is posted at the end of the previous post and again is http://sbynews.blogspot.com/2009/08/report-from-rock-hall.html

3 Responses to “Obama-Allied Unions Threatened With Gun Violence For Town Hall Participation”
Administrator Says:

August 8th, 2009 at 4:43 pm e
I sent the site this email:

“I do not recall you asking my permission about posting my car license plates on the Internet since the Healthcare Reform Town Hall disrupters have a record of violence. Are you trying to make me a target of political violence?

Sincerely,

Stephen Crockett”

They responded:

“Were you parked in a public parking space.”

NOTICE THEY DID NOT RESPOND TO THE QUESTION!!!!

Administrator Says:

August 8th, 2009 at 4:47 pm e
They followed-up with this:

“If you believe I am in any way, shape or form trying to bring political violence upon you, you’re nuts. Secondly, have you looked at the bumper stickers on your vehicle???? How dare you ask ME if I’m trying to bring something upon you. Get a life. ”

Of course, stickers on my car sometimes get his kind of people to make obscene gestures but it is much different than posting them on a Far Right website. I do believe they are targeting me intentionally. A respectable site would have offered to block out the tag number.

Administrator Says:

August 8th, 2009 at 4:55 pm
They ended with this jewel:

“I am saving your suggestive messages. I will no longer reply to you and I’ll ask that you no longer send any messages to me. Have a great weekend. BYE “

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EDITOR’S NOTE: I hope that my union brothers and sisters will assist my family in taking legal action against this Far Right website should I fall victim to political violence.

Obama-Allied Unions Threatened With Gun Violence For Town Hall Participation

08.08.09

Obama-Allied Unions Threatened With Gun Violence For Town Hall Participation

by Sam Stein

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/07/obama-allied-unions-threa_n_254204.html

One of the country’s largest unions has been hit by a wave of hostile calls and even death threats from people upset with its involvement in town-hall health care debates.

The Service Employers International Union was, as one aide put it, “deluged” with calls on Friday after several conservative media outlets accused the organization of trying to assault demonstrators who had showed up to protest Obama’s health care agenda. Making it even scarier for union employees, the address of the union’s St. Louis headquarters was mentioned on air by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Callers who reached both the front desk and the communications department compared the union officials to Nazis, union aides say. On Twitter, organizers of the town hall protest urged people to take pictures and write down the license plate numbers of attending SEIU officials. More alarming than anything else, angry callers and protesters pledged to take up arms against the union.

“If ACORN/SEIU attends these meetings for disruptive purposes, and you have a license to carry….carry,” read one tweet.

“I suggest you tell your people to calm down, act like American citizens, and stop trying to repress people’s First Amendment rights,” one caller warned. “That, or you all are gonna come up against the Second Amendment.”

The union had actually put up a petition on Thursday for its organizers and members to attend these town hall events and “honor the long-standing American tradition of town hall meetings and public forums to allow citizens to participate in our democracy.” Things got a bit hairy during the evening, however, when the SEIU helped turn away people at a forum in Tampa Bay, Florida, and a near riot ensued. Similarly, in St. Louis, an SEIU staffer was arrested after a scuffle ensued with protesters at a town hall event with Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.).

The SEIU wasn’t the only Obama ally receiving threats on Friday. An official of the AFL-CIO, which has pledged to counter conservative protests at these town hall events across the country, said that union received angry emails throughout the day as well ## mostly accusations that it was promoting communism and socialism.

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A Right-Wing site in Maryland posted photos of my car covered with union stickers after I attended a Kratovil Town Hall event which I believe is a not very subtle suggestion to target me personally for harassment and/or political violence. Otherwise, they could have shot the sides…. only the sides do not show my license plates! They did not have my permission but frankly I am not afraid of the crazy Right!

http://sbynews.blogspot.com/2009/08/report-from-rock-hall.html

Congressman Kratovil wins how ?

08.07.09

Congressman Kratovil wins how ?

Frank Kratovil of Maryland’s 1st Congressional District faces a very difficult re-election race because the district historically leans Republican. However Kratovil has a very effective secret weapon. It is an active and well-financed coalition from an element of the Republican Party mostly from the extreme Far Right wing of the Republican coalition. They are the “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall disrupters” you have been seeing on television and reading about in your local newspapers!

This group is not really representative of the typical Republican voters from sprawling Maryland 1st. Most Republicans I know from the dozen or so counties comprising the 1st Congressional District are relatively moderate and always reasonable.

They dislike taxes like everyone else. However, they believe government does on most occasions some things very well (like Social Security, the American military, Medicare, national parks, etc.)

The Republicans I know simply dismiss the nonsense about Obama not being born in America. Obama’s Hawaiian original birth certificates in all forms (long and short) have been made public. The birth announcement was published in the Hawaiian newspapers when he was born.

These local Republican voters would never deny other citizens their right to interact with their member of Congress just to score political points. This kind of rude behavior has never been tolerated by either major political party in recent memory. I have lived in the District for over 35 years.

Today, I had the opportunity to attend two Kratovil citizen contact events in my home county. Both were mobbed by “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters.” I honestly do not know what to call them. The majority of those at the events trying to disrupt them seem to fall into all 3 categories. Basically, the same people are involved in all 3 media stunts.

They make good copy for reporters because they are real wingnuts!!! It appears that crazy as a bedbug sells. Financing fake grassroots movements is a booming business since the Democrats won control of Congress and the White House. The usual Right Wing billionaires have been typically generous and now the health insurance industry has exploded the cash available. It does not take big bucks to rally the extreme Right so the organizing can be a very lucrative business. All you need is a near total lack of ethics or concern for your fellow American citizens. The sentiment being sold is a dressed-up version of “let them die” combined with “I got mine.”

For some strange reason, the wing-nuts seem to thing radical behavior strengthens their cause. They actually think they are a mass movement instead of a fringe political element. They are living in a fictional alternative reality where the vast majority of Americans oppose healthcare reform. All major polls state otherwise. The current system is clearly broken and most Americans know it is broken. There is little healthcare security outside Medicare for most Americans.

Kratovil handled both crowds with ease. He understands his District very well and is clearly in the political mainstream on almost every issue. Obama lost the 1st District by large margin while Kratovil won the same year!
Kratovil is both moderate and extremely personable. Charisma is a frequently over-used term in politics but Kratovil has it. The guy is reasonable, patriotic and caring. Although I wish he was a little more reliably Democratic in his voting record, I know his views are closer to the District’s majority than are mine. The man is smart, young and wise. He is also very patient man.

The tone and attitude of the vocal leadership of the “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters” made it clear they were there to disrupt. A couple of the signs at the second event were especially insulting. One sign read “I was once afraid of terrorists but now am afraid of our government.” The other read “Save America, Impeach Obama.” After reading them, I realized this people were far, far, far outside mainstream political thought.

The leadership was intentionally insulting, aggressive and angry. They disrupted answers over and over again. For some reason, about 50% of the crowd was holding identical copies of the same talking points and style directions- same font, some colors and same text! The guy clearing in charge at the first event told a staffer that he was from Howard County which is not part of the 1st Congressional District.

I only recognized a single person from Cecil County. He is a local Republican officeholder. It seems the vast majority of people in the crowd from Cecil County were supporters of Frank Kratovil which is not surprising. Kratovil did receive the endorsement of the previous moderate-conservative Republican Congressman in 2008! There is a huge and growing Republicans for Kratovil movement.

The trick for keeping this Congressional District is the nature of the extremist opponent State Senator Andy Harris. Harris is the most Far Right state legislator in Maryland. To be any worse, Harris would have to become the Maryland version of David Duke. Harris is not quite there. Even the majority of the “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters” are not quite there. A few seem to have made it there.

Kratovil certainly is catching a clear break from the nature and high visibility of wing-nut opponents! Having “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters” running around this very traditional district is keeping the Republicans for Kratovil from returning to the Republican column. Mainstream Republicans remain highly wary of “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters.”

Kratovil is clearly a fiscal conservative. Whatever internal Democratic opposition that might have normally arisen from the left over policy or votes has been muted because of the visibility of the “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters.” Even if Kratovil is not always a reliable Democratic vote, he certainly has the right enemies in the “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters.”

That crowd is closely identified with State Senator Harris. They are a scary bunch of wing-nuts. They do not help Harris but Harris still needs them. Without them Harris has almost no base.

After today, I am still not afraid of my government! Why? Because the “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters” are not running the government, I am not afraid. Because the “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters” are who they are, I believe they will never be running our government. I trust the voters!

Written by Stephen Crockett (Cecil County resident, host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com and Editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com http://www.midatlanticlabor.com ). Mail: P.O. Box 283, Earleville, Maryland 21919. Email: demlabor@aol.com. Phone: 443-907-2367.

New Registered Apprenticeship Grants for the State of Maryland

08.06.09

Congrats to these building trades for their successful grant awards from DoL.

Marianne Kreitner, Director

Constituent Services

US Senator Barbara A. Mikulski

The U.S. Department of Labor today awarded $6,499,992 to assist national industry and employer associations and labor-management organizations in advancing Registered Apprenticeship through the development of innovative programs that utilize an updated 21st century Registered Apprenticeship framework.

The state of Maryland has been awarded the following:

Grantee
Headquarters
Grant Amount

Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Association of the United States and Canada
Beltsville, MD
$622,562

Finishing Trades Institute
Hanover, MD
$622,757

United Association of Journeyman and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada
Annapolis, MD
$624,300

The National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee
Upper Marlboro, MD
$614,943

International Masonry Institute
Bowie, MD
$545,149

Registered Apprenticeship is an ‘earn while you learn’ model that provides a combination of on-the-job learning and related classroom instruction in which workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a highly skilled occupation. Apprenticeship programs are sponsored by joint employer and labor groups, individual employers, and/or employer associations. Currently the Registered Apprenticeship system includes a network of approximately 30,000 program sponsors nationwide, offering nearly 1,000 different career opportunities.

The grants will fund the development and adaptation of innovative national apprenticeship guideline standards that incorporate competency-based progression or hybrid-style progression (a combination of traditional time-based programs and competency-based models). Funds will also be available to support the development and use of interim credentials to track an apprentice’s skill progression; as well as the use of technology-based learning to provide related technical instruction. Funds will also be used to support partnerships with the workforce and education communities. Finally, funds are also available to train staff, apprenticeship instructors and members on these revised and innovative program designs

For more information on Registered Apprenticeship and the array of Department of Labor training and employment programs visit www.doleta.gov. For more information contact:

Adri Jayaratne

Senior Legislative Officer

Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs

U.S. Department of Labor

P: (202) 693-4600

F: (202) 693-4644

E: jayaratne.adri@dol.gov

Aging Worker Initiative Grant for Maryland

07.30.09

News you can use from Senator Mikulski

Marianne Kreitner

Notice of funding from the U. S. Department of Labor

The Aging Worker Initiative: Strategies for Regional Talent Development is designed to train workers age 55 and older for jobs in high-growth, high-demand industries, and increase the public workforce system’s capacity to effectively serve an aging worker population. The grants target older individuals who have been laid off and are seeking re-employment; need to stay in the workforce beyond the traditional retirement age but need training to increase their skills; and face other barriers to employment such as disabilities or low levels of English proficiency. Below is information on the grant:

Grantee: Baltimore County Office of Workforce Development (Maryland)

Industry Focus: Healthcare

Location of Grant Activities: Baltimore City and Baltimore County, Maryland

Key Partners: Baltimore County Workforce Development Council; Mayor’s Office of Employment Development; Baltimore Workforce Investment Board; Governor’s Workforce Investment Board; Baltimore County Department of Aging (SCSEP grantee); Baltimore City Commission of Aging and Retirement Education; Maryland AARP; Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare; Johns Hopkins Health System; University of Maryland Medical Center; Northwest Hospital; Maryland Hospital Association; Community College of Baltimore County; Baltimore City Community College; University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Grant Amount: $967,005

Leveraged Funds: $829,216

Challenge: A shortage of skilled workers is a pressing concern among healthcare employers, and vacancy rates for skilled positions are steadily increasing even though older workers could meet the industry’s workforce demand. Older workers – many of whom are displaced or retirees attempting to return to work – face unique challenges as they seek employment, such as lack of computer/technological skills, gaps in employment history, and desire for flexible or part-time hours. In addition, One Stop Career Center professionals are not sufficiently trained to address barriers to employment among older workers, and regional employers are not developing comprehensive strategies to attract or retain older employees.

Addressing the Challenge: To address the region’s high demand for skilled workers in healthcare, the Maturity Works: Tapping Older Workers for High Growth Healthcare Careers project will strengthen the pipeline of entry-level older workers into the industry; move lower-skill older workers up career ladders; and retain experienced technical and professional workers after retirement age. One- Stop Career Center capacity will be expanded to provide job readiness opportunities tailored to older adults’ learning styles and to provide career guidance to older workers on employment and training opportunities in the healthcare industry. Participants in the project will receive training in four types of health occupations, as well as basic skills training in language and math targeted to the health field. In addition, a regional campaign that encourages employers to hire and retain older workers will be implemented.

Projected Outcomes:

312 older workers will begin education/training activities.
260 older workers will complete education/training activities and receive a degree/certificate.
249 older workers who complete education/training activities will enter training-related employment
20 workforce development professionals (Older Worker Specialists) will receive training on serving older workers.
A self-paced instruction tool for the Older Worker Specialists will be developed.
500 employers will be educated through various employer engagement strategies.
An employer outreach communication toolkit will be developed.

MIKULSKI ANNOUNCES STEP FORWARD IN PUTTING MORE THAN $57 MILLION IN THE FEDERAL CHECKBOOK FOR THE PORT OF BALTIMORE

07.30.09

SENATOR MIKULSKI SUPPORTS THE PORT OF BALTIMORE

Marianne Kreitner

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 30, 2009

CONTACT:

Rachel MacKnight

Cassie Harvey

202-228-1122

MIKULSKI ANNOUNCES STEP FORWARD IN PUTTING MORE THAN $57 MILLION IN THE FEDERAL CHECKBOOK FOR THE PORT OF BALTIMORE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced Senate passage of the fiscal year 2010 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill. It includes nearly $70 million for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects in Maryland, including more than $57 million for the Port of Baltimore.

“This bill is a federal investment in the lives and livelihoods that depend on Maryland’s waterways. These projects will help ensure that freight carriers and cruise ships can safely navigate Baltimore’s channels so the Port of Baltimore can continue to serve as an important economic engine that creates and sustains jobs in Maryland,” Senator Mikulski said. “I will continue to make the Port of Baltimore and Maryland’s waterways a priority in the federal checkbook.”

The Port of Baltimore is a major economic engine for Maryland and America, supporting more than 50,000 jobs in Maryland, including more than 16,500 direct jobs. Among U.S. ports, Baltimore receives the top rank for handling noncontainerized roll on/roll off cargo, trucks, imported forest products gypsum, sugar and iron ore. It ranks 12th in the nation in total value of foreign cargo handled. It also is the largest automobile exporter in the country, the second largest in total automobile tonnage, and the 13th largest in foreign cargo tonnage. The Port’s activities support approximately $2 billion in business revenue, $3.6 billion in personal wages and salaries, and $388 million in state, county and municipal taxes annually.

Funding for the Port requested by Senator Mikulski and approved by the Appropriations Committee includes:

• $20 million for annual maintenance dredging of the Baltimore Harbor and its shipping channels.

• $28.4 million for operation and maintenance dredging of the C&D Canal and approach channels. The C&D Canal currently carries 40 percent of all ship traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore. It provides a shortcut for vessels traveling between Baltimore and points north.

• $8.6 million for the continuation of the Poplar Island environmental restoration project, which is taking clean dredged materials from the shipping lanes leading to the Port of Baltimore and using it to stabilize the shoreline, create habitat areas and restore the wetlands of one of the Chesapeake Bay’s most valuable island ecosystems in Talbot County.

• $483,000 for the Mid Chesapeake Bay Island Study, which is examining the potential beneficial use of placing clean dredged material from the Port of Baltimore’s shipping channels to restore the habitat and protect the shoreline of James and Barren Islands in Dorchester County.

In the next step of the appropriations process, the House and Senate will work out the differences between their versions of the bill, which will then be voted on by both Houses of Congress. After it’s passed, the Appropriations bill will go to the President for his signature. Once these steps are completed, the funds will become available in Maryland.
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Rachel MacKnight

Communications Director

Office of U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski

202-228-1122