Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Medicare For All via H.R. 676


Medicare For All via H.R. 676

It is obvious that none of the major Presidential candidates of either the Democratic or Republican Parties are supporting the right approach to providing universal healthcare. Frankly, all the Republican candidates are going to be major obstacles to achieving this national goal. While the top Democratic candidates (Clinton, Edwards and Obama) do support the concept, they are all offering Band-Aid approaches for a life-threatening economic and health crisis in America.

A bill has already been introduced in The House by Congressman John Conyers that effectively addresses the issue. H.R. 676 expands Medicare to cover all citizens.

The scope of the healthcare crisis in America is huge. It has very serious economic and moral implications. It is crippling our nation in terms of protecting American manufacturing, competing in the global economy and undermines our national security. It reflects badly on us as a just and moral society. It is literally killing Americans in huge numbers.

The number of Americans without health insurance is currently 47 million and growing rapidly. The number of underinsured Americans is much larger than the number of uninsured Americans. In America, over half of all personal bankruptcies are the direct result of medical crises. Over half of those bankruptcies are from individuals who had health insurance when their medical crises started.

Industry friendly studies of the number of Americans who died because they had no health insurance place the number at around 50 per week. The number is absurdly low and illogical.

Doing without healthcare at any point in life for a significant period of time will likely create health issues and physical damage. This damage accumulates over a lifetime and shortens your lifespan. You die younger than you would have if you had always had adequate healthcare. You might die at 70 instead of 85. In addition, the last years might have much lower levels of quality. Since most people die after reaching the age where Medicare coverage is already in effect, those deaths are not counted as resulting from a lack of healthcare insurance although they can be directly traced to an earlier lack of coverage. Most of the deaths resulting from a lack of healthcare insurance are thus concealed.

Even using the fraudulent 50 per week figure, killing Americans to preserve the profits of HMO’s and insurance companies is completely immoral. Bankrupting Americans because of illness is a national disgrace. It does not happen in other industrialized nations. Out of the top 75 most industrialized nations in the world, only in the United States are citizens not provided by their government with universal healthcare.

In the United States, we saddle our businesses and corporations with the cost of providing for the healthcare needs of their employees. Our international competitors do not. This is one of the major reasons why good paying manufacturing and service sector jobs are leaving our nation. It is economic suicide.

None of the Band-Aid approaches advocated by the top Democratic Presidential candidates deal effectively with the trade implications of healthcare policy. I am personally supporting Edwards because he is more inclined to advance fair and balanced trade agreements than Clinton and Obama. For example, Clinton and Obama supported the most recent “so-called free trade” agreement with Peru while Edwards did not. However, even Edwards has not yet addressed the clear connection between international trade and healthcare.

The best solution for providing universal healthcare is expanding Medicare to cover all American citizens. Medicare is a proven program. It is popular and cost-effective. Our current private system has much higher levels of overhead costs than does Medicare. The only inefficient aspects of Medicare are the “privatized” programs added by the Bush White House and their Republican allies in the Senate. Medicare has been hugely successful despite ongoing Republican and corporate attempts to undermine it.

We can count on Republican politicians to label any move toward universal healthcare as “socialized medicine.” They attempted mightily to destroy Medicare in the past using such tactics and failed completely. Politically, providing universal healthcare by expanding Medicare will be much easier than any other approach.

The private, profit-drive healthcare system is terribly unfair and inefficient. We spend 17 percent of our total economy on healthcare while our international competitors spend only 8 percent. They cover everyone and we do not. The numbers speak for themselves!

Expanding Medicare to cover everyone will not prevent citizens from buying supplemental healthcare if they can afford it. It will greatly help doctors who are General Practitioners by making medical need become effective demand. It will help hospitals by removing the burden of providing healthcare to those who cannot pay for it. It will make our workers healthier and more productive.

There must be a grassroots movement built behind “Medicare For All.” Local activists, union leaders, businesses and politicians must all exert their efforts in a common movement. Most national union organizations and state AFL-CIO organizations are supporting H.R. 676. They are joined by many members of Congress. The legislation has 89 co-sponsors with more being added frequently. Many candidates are backing it!

Local leaders are already getting organized all over the nation. People like Amos B. McCluney, Jr. in Delaware and Alena Bandy in Maryland are actively organizing Medicare For All state chapters. Both leaders are grassroots Democratic activists with roots in the United Auto Workers. Both are reaching out into the community recruiting civil rights leaders, churches, community organizations and local politicians behind H.R. 676. They are not alone. I personally have talked with local activists from Tennessee, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and several other states who are working on building support for this legislation.

Pressure must be placed on all opinion leaders to support Medicare For All. Presidential, Senatorial and Congressional candidates should be pressured to support H.R. 676. All candidates should be placed on record that they would not veto Medicare For All nor place legislative obstacles in the way of passing H.R. 676, even if they do not actively support passage. Candidates failing to make such public pledges should not be supported by any American citizen.

Average Americans must reframe the debate over healthcare. Instead of calling for universal healthcare or single-payer healthcare, we should simplify the debate. We should be calling for “Medicare For All” and supporting H.R. 676.

Written by Stephen Crockett (co-host of Democratic Talk Radio and Editor of Mid-Atlantic ). Mail: P.O. Box 283, Earleville, Maryland 21919. Email: . Phone: 443-907-2367.

Feel free to publish without prior approval.

Edwards Only Top Dem to Take on Wall Street


Edwards Only Top Dem to Take on Wall Street

By Dean Baker, Comment Is Free
December 26, 2007

It would be difficult to identify much difference between the three leading Democratic presidential candidates’ positions on major economic issues. They have come forward with comparable positions on taxes, healthcare and trade. Insofar as it is possible to identify differences between Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama, it is primarily due to judgments about their level of commitment and the powers to whom they will answer.

On taxes, all three candidates have said they want the wealthy to pay a larger portion of the bill, which starts with taking back the Bush tax cuts on families earning more than $200,000 a year. All three have proposed eliminating various loopholes that primarily benefit the wealthy.

Edwards has gone the furthest in this respect, calling for raising the capital gains tax rate back to the pre-Clinton level of 28%. This tax increase almost exclusively affects the wealthy. Most of the capital gains earned by middle-class families are either from selling their home, which is generally not taxed, or in retirement accounts that are subject to normal income tax rates.

All three contenders have proposed a national healthcare system that is a variant of the plan developed by Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker. The basics of the plan are to require that all firms either insure their workers directly or pay a fee to the government. The government then uses this money to heavily subsidise insurance for low- and moderate-income families. It also establishes an expanded Medicare-type public plan that people will have the option to buy into. In addition, it reforms the private insurance market, most importantly by requiring that insurers not discriminate based on pre-existing conditions.

Both Clinton and Edwards would impose a mandate that everyone buy into this system. Obama has claimed that he would not require a mandate. As a practical matter, the healthcare system that any of them are able to put in place will depend on the arms they twist and the pressure they can bring to bear against the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry and other powerful actors who will be hurt by real reform.

Any serious plan will require a mandate - this directly follows from its requirement that insurers take all comers. Without a mandate, no one would buy insurance until they had serious bills. This would be like letting people buy car insurance after an accident, and then sending the company the bill. That doesn’t work.

All three contenders have said that they want to break with the Bush-Clinton-Bush trade agenda. Since recent trade deals like Nafta and Cafta are hugely unpopular, especially among Democrats, this position is not surprising. What their position means in practice remains to be seen. For example, in spite of her newfound opposition to these trade deals, senator Clinton found the time to vote for the recent Peru trade pact, which is largely in the Nafta/Cafta mode. (Obama supported it, but didn’t vote)

As a practical matter, the country has already gone about as far as it can in placing its manufacturing workers in competition with low-wage workers in the developing world. The impact of any future trade deals on the US economy will be almost imperceptible. A decline of the dollar by an additional 10% against the currencies of our trading partners would swamp the impact of all currently pending trade deals.

On this issue there are likely to be substantial differences among the candidates. Former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin is likely to be the guiding light for economic policy in a Clinton or Obama administration. Rubin was the architect of the high dollar policy of the 1990s, which led to the massive trade deficits of recent years. He remains an enthusiastic supporter of a high dollar. Therefore Clinton or Obama would be more likely than Edwards to sacrifice the jobs and wages of manufacturing workers in order to prop up the dollar.

Rubin’s Wall Street agenda would also apply to other areas of economic policy, most importantly the budget. Rubin places balanced budgets and even budget surpluses at the centre of his economic vision.

A push to a balanced budget will seriously curtail the ability to extend healthcare coverage, promote access to childcare, promote clean technologies and address other neglected priorities.

By contrast, Edwards has clearly stated that he does not view a balanced budget as a priority, arguing instead for deficit targets that prevent the debt from growing relative to the size of the economy. The willingness to accept deficits may prove especially important in the context of an economy that could be in recession when the next president takes office.

In short, Edwards has set himself apart from the other two top candidates by indicating a clear willingness to challenge an agenda set on Wall Street. If a President Edwards actually carried through with this course, he would pursue a very different economic agenda than his two leading rivals.
Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

State Presidential Primary and Caucus Dates


State Presidential Primary and Caucus Dates

Very good list for Democratic and Republican contests!

State of the Unions


Published: December 24, 2007

New York Times link

Once upon a time, back when America had a strong middle class, it also had a strong union movement. These two facts were connected. Unions negotiated good wages and benefits for their workers, gains that often ended up being matched even by nonunion employers. They also provided an important counterbalance to the political influence of corporations and the economic elite.

Today, however, the American union movement is a shadow of its former self, except among government workers. In 1973, almost a quarter of private-sector employees were union members, but last year the figure was down to a mere 7.4 percent.

Yet unions still matter politically. And right now they’re at the heart of a nasty political scuffle among Democrats. Before I get to that, however, let’s talk about what happened to American labor over the last 35 years.

It’s often assumed that the U.S. labor movement died a natural death, that it was made obsolete by globalization and technological change. But what really happened is that beginning in the 1970s, corporate America, which had previously had a largely cooperative relationship with unions, in effect declared war on organized labor.

Don’t take my word for it; read Business Week, which published an article in 2002 titled “How Wal-Mart Keeps Unions at Bay.” The article explained that “over the past two decades, Corporate America has perfected its ability to fend off labor groups.” It then described the tactics — some legal, some illegal, all involving a healthy dose of intimidation — that Wal-Mart and other giant firms use to block organizing drives.

These hardball tactics have been enabled by a political environment that has been deeply hostile to organized labor, both because politicians favored employers’ interests and because conservatives sought to weaken the Democratic Party. “We’re going to crush labor as a political entity,” Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist, once declared.

But the times may be changing. A newly energized progressive movement seems to be on the ascendant, and unions are a key part of that movement. Most notably, the Service Employees International Union has played a key role in pushing for health care reform. And unions will be an important force in the Democrats’ favor in next year’s election.

Or maybe not — which brings us to the latest from Iowa.

Whoever receives the Democratic presidential nomination will receive labor’s support in the general election. Meanwhile, however, unions are supporting favored candidates. Hillary Clinton — who for a time seemed the clear front-runner — has received the most union support. John Edwards, whose populist message resonates with labor, has also received considerable labor support.

But Barack Obama, though he has a solid pro-labor voting record, has not — in part, perhaps, because his message of “a new kind of politics” that will transcend bitter partisanship doesn’t make much sense to union leaders who know, from the experience of confronting corporations and their political allies head on, that partisanship isn’t going away anytime soon.

O.K., that’s politics. But now Mr. Obama has lashed out at Mr. Edwards because two 527s — independent groups that are allowed to support candidates, but are legally forbidden from coordinating directly with their campaigns — are running ads on his rival’s behalf. They are, Mr. Obama says, representative of the kind of “special interests” that “have too much influence in Washington.”

The thing, though, is that both of these 527s represent union groups — in the case of the larger group, local branches of the S.E.I.U. who consider Mr. Edwards the strongest candidate on health reform. So Mr. Obama’s attack raises a couple of questions.

First, does it make sense, in the current political and economic environment, for Democrats to lump unions in with corporate groups as examples of the special interests we need to stand up to?

Second, is Mr. Obama saying that if nominated, he’d be willing to run without support from labor 527s, which might be crucial to the Democrats? If not, how does he avoid having his own current words used against him by the Republican nominee?

Part of what happened here, I think, is that Mr. Obama, looking for a stick with which to beat an opponent who has lately acquired some momentum, either carelessly or cynically failed to think about how his rhetoric would affect the eventual ability of the Democratic nominee, whoever he or she is, to campaign effectively. In this sense, his latest gambit resembles his previous echoing of G.O.P. talking points on Social Security.

Beyond that, the episode illustrates what’s wrong with campaigning on generalities about political transformation and trying to avoid sounding partisan.

It may be partisan to say that a 527 run by labor unions supporting health care reform isn’t the same thing as a 527 run by insurance companies opposing it. But it’s also the simple truth.

Is A 2008 Consensus Emerging Against “Free Trade” Policies?


By Doug Cunningham

Pollster and Democratic political strategist Doug Scheon says a consensus is emerging on changing course in U.S. trade policy because the reality of what our so-called free trade policies have done to hurt U.S. workers, businesses and consumers is becoming clear. Scheon says unions have been instrumental in helping create this shift, but they no longer alone in their positions on the issue.

: “I think labor unions have been and will remain influential. But I think today we’re looking at a new consensus on trade, involving labor, working people and also business people who recognize that you can’t compete fairly - you can’t have free trade - if other nations are playing by rules that are very, very much different from our own.”

Scheon believes trade will be very important in the 2008 presidential election.

: “Unless we pass legislation quickly to protect American working people and American consumers, we are making a profound mistake as a country. I think this election will be a watershed in terms of changing attitudes on trade and policy. And I believe that the net winners will be the American people if we develop a new consensus on trade.”

Edwards is FDR with a Southern Accent


Edwards is FDR with a Southern Accent

The Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards is potentially the person most likely to realign the two major political parties for the next generation or two. Edwards is a Democratic political leader who is not only closely mirroring FDR as a historical figure but is doing so by following in the same political and economic traditions as FDR. The main differences are personal backgrounds and accents.

During the 1930’s, President Roosevelt essentially ended the dominance of the “Bourbon Democrats” in national Democratic politics and moved the Democratic Party solidly behind a political program of economic populism. As a result, the nation saw a couple generations of solid economic growth and mass prosperity. A vibrant middle class emerged from the policies promoted by FDR. The Democratic Party clearly replaced the Republicans as the stronger of the two major parties as a result.

Beginning with the election of Ronald Reagan, many Democrats in power drifted away from the core values of the Democratic Party and started running as “Republican-lite” candidates. They started trying to compete for corporate campaign money by permitting awful trade agreements that undermined the health of the American economy and weakened the American middle class while helping the economic elite become even more powerful.

Some Democrats playing footsie with Republicans and large corporations failed working Americans and the poor by letting the obscenely wealthy start paying much lower percentages of their incomes in federal taxes than the middle class majority. Many Democrats started turning their backs on some common sense elements of the Roosevelt tradition of having those able to pay higher taxes pay them. We call this progressive taxation. The rich pay should be paying higher tax rates since they have more influence on government policies and benefit more from them.

They completely abandoned our federal government commitment to preventing monopoly control by large corporations of many important aspects of everyday life. Price-gouging has become routine. Insider trading and excessive executive pay has become routine in the corporate world. Wealthy foreign corporations are often having more impact on government policies than the needs of average Americans. Media consolidation has blocked out almost all non-corporate voices in the discussion of public policy issues. Edwards wants less corporate control over everyday life and has specific programs in mind to move in that direction.

The wages of Americans have been suppressed. The ability to unionize in order to achieve higher standards of living has been attacked by federal legislation, right wing court rulings and harassment by oppressive federal government regulation by the Bush Administration. Edwards is the most labor-friendly Presidential candidate of the top-tier candidates. With Edwards, we have a candidate who both walks the walk and talks the talk. Edwards is strongly opposed to outsourcing American jobs and is committed to ending unfair international trade deals or tax policies that encourage corporations to move jobs out of the nation.

Poverty in America has largely been ignored by our political leadership since the 1980’s. We waste trillions of dollars fighting unnecessary wars but seem unwilling to seriously commit to eliminating institutionalize poverty. Edwards is the only candidate really talking about poverty in America. Poverty is a serious issue in many rural American communities and inner cities. Most candidates ignore the poor because they do not write big campaign donation checks. Edwards can give the poor hope and get them voting.

We remain the only nation out of the 75 most economically advanced nations not to have government guaranteed universal health insurance. We cripple our corporations in international competition by forcing them to provide for healthcare. As a nation we spend 17% of our economy on healthcare while our competitors spend 8%. Our competitors cover all citizens while we have 47 million uninsured citizens and even more underinsured. If we had not abandoned our FDR political traditions, this situation would have been corrected long ago. Edwards is committed to universal healthcare.

John Edwards is uniquely focused on returning Democrats to their FDR roots of economic populism. The Bush Republicans are committed to short-term “Greed Capitalism” that is as self-destructive as the Republican policies of the 1920’s. FDR saved American capitalism by reforming it with the New Deal. Edwards can do the same.

Edwards can restore the FDR coalition by running as an economic populist. He can win in places like North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, Virginia and Oklahoma. Edwards might even win in places like Texas. He can win without abandoning Democratic traditional values. Edwards can carry rural communities and small towns without going Republican-lite. Edwards will carry all the traditional Democratic areas and much more because he truly represents Main Street instead of Wall Street.

Although from a working class background instead of coming from great inherited wealth, Edwards is much like our greatest American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Edwards has similar views with a Southern accent.

Written by Stephen Crockett (co-host of Democratic Talk Radio and Editor of Mid-Atlantic ). Mail: P.O. Box 283, Earleville, Maryland 21919. Email: . Phone: 443-907-2367.

Feel free to publish without prior approval.

Carter Tried To Stop Bush’s Energy Disasters - 28 Years Ago


Carter Tried To Stop Bush’s Energy Disasters - 28 Years Ago
by Thom Hartmann

In his recent news conference, George Bush Jr. suggested that our nation’s “problem” with high gasoline prices was caused by the lack of a national energy policy, and tried to blame it all on Bill Clinton. First, Junior said, “This is a problem that’s been a long time in coming. We haven’t had an energy policy in this country.”

This was followed by, “That’s exactly what I’ve been saying to the American people ## 10 years ago if we’d had an energy strategy, we would be able to diversify away from foreign dependence. And ## but we haven’t done that. And now we find ourselves in the fix we’re in.” As is so often the case, Bush was lying.

Consider President Jimmy Carter’s April 18, 1977 speech. Since it was given nearly three decades ago, when many of the reporters in Bush’s White House were children, it’s understandable that they don’t remember it. But it’s inexcusable that Bush and the mainstream media (which, after all, has the ability to do research) would completely ignore it. It was the speech that established the strategic petroleum reserve, birthed the modern solar power industry, led to the insulation of millions of American homes, and established America’s first national energy policy. “With the exception of preventing war,” said Jimmy Carter, a man of peace, “this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes.”

He added: “It is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century. “We must not be selfish or timid if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grandchildren.

“We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources. By acting now, we can control our future instead of letting the future control us.” Carter bluntly pointed out that: “The most important thing about these proposals is that the alternative may be a national catastrophe. Further delay can affect our strength and our power as a nation.” He called the new energy policy he was proposing, “[T]he ‘moral equivalent of war’ ## except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy.”

When Carter had become president three months earlier, the nation was still recovering from the “oil shock” of the 1973 Arab oil embargo, and scientists were realizing our nation was just then hitting the point of domestic peak oil production predicted more than a decade earlier by scientist M. King Hubbert. (The rest of the world is hitting the Hubbert Peak right now.) As Carter noted in his speech, “The oil and natural gas we rely on for 75 percent of our energy are running out. In spite of increased effort, domestic production has been dropping steadily at about six percent a year. Imports have doubled in the last five years. Our nation’s independence of economic and political action is becoming increasingly constrained.” Hubbert had predicted that the peak of oil production for the USA would come in the 1970s, and it did, hittin g us with a shock.

“The world has not prepared for the future,” said Jimmy Carter. “During the 1950s, people used twice as much oil as during the 1940s. During the 1960s, we used twice as much as during the 1950s. And in each of those decades, more oil was consumed than in all of mankind’s previous history.” Hubbert said we must begin to conserve. Carter agreed.

“Ours is the most wasteful nation on earth,” he said, a point that is still true. “We waste more energy than we import. With about the same standard of living, we use twice as much energy per person as do other countries like Germany, Japan and Sweden.” Carter directly challenged the fossil fuel and automobile industries. “One choice,” he said, “is to continue doing what we have been doing before. We can drift along for a few more years. “Our consumption of oil would keep going up every year. Our cars would continue to be too large and inefficient. Three-quarters of them would continue to carry only one person ## the driver ## while our public transportation system continues to decline. We can delay insulating our houses, and they will continue to lose about 50 percent of their heat in waste. “We can continue using scarce oil and natural gas to gen erate electricity, and continue wasting two-thirds of their fuel value in the process.”
But that would be unpatriotic, anti-American, and essentially wrong. Who but a traitor sold out to special interests, or an idiot, would countenance such insanity?

The year 1977 was a turning point for America. If we didn’t make clear and rapid progress, we would face painful times ahead. The Saudis would have their fingers around our necks. We’d face war in the Middle East to secure future oil supplies. “Now we have a choice,” Carter said. “But if we wait, we will live in fear of embargoes. We could endanger our freedom as a sovereign nation to act in foreign affairs.”

Failure to act in the 1970s and 1980s would inevitably lead to a time when the only way to maintain our lifestyle would be to rape our planet and seize control of oil-rich nations in the Middle East. If we didn’t begin to develop alternatives like solar power, and dramatically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, then, Carter said, even our cherished personal freedoms would be at risk. If we continued to simply follow past policies that enriched the oil industry and the Saudis, instead of becoming energy independent, Carter said, “We will feel mounting pressure to plunder the environment.”

If we failed to develop alternative sources of renewable energy and conserve what we have, the alternative could be nasty. As Carter pointed out: “We will have a crash program to build more nuclear plants, strip-mine and burn more coal, and drill more offshore wells than we will need if we begin to conserve now. Inflation will soar, production will go down, people will lose their jobs. Intense competition will build up among nations and among the different regions within our own country. “If we fail to act soon, we will face an economic, social and political crisis that will threaten our free institutions.”

Carter’s speech drew a strong reaction from the Saudis and the oil industry. Think tanks soon emerged - many whose names are today familiar - to suggest there was really no energy problem, and they led the charge to establish a permanent right-wing media in the US. Within two years, Saudi citizen and oil baron Salem bin Laden’s sole US representative, James Bath, would funnel cash into the failing business of the son of the CIA’s former director, political up-and-comer George H. W. Bush. With that money from the representative of Osama Bin Laden’s half-brother, George Bush Jr. was able to keep afloat his Arbusto (”shrub” in Spanish) Oil Company. And he would be in the pocket of the bin Laden and Saudi interests for the rest of his life. But Carter was incorruptible.

“We can be sure that all the special interest groups in the country will attack the part of this plan that affects them directly,” he said. “They will say that sacrifice is fine, as long as other people do it, but that their sacrifice is unreasonable, or unfair, or harmful to the country. If they succeed, then the burden on the ordinary citizen, who is not organized into an interest group, would be crushing.” But that would be wrong. It would be un-American. It would lead to future oil shocks, and the probable death of American soldiers in Middle Eastern oil wars. Instead of caving in to the Saudis and the oil industry, Carter said: “There should be only one test for this program: whether it will help our country.”

Two years later, as the bin Laden family’s sole US representative was bailing out George Bush Junior’s failing oil business, Jimmy Carter gave another speech on energy, further refining his national energy policy. He had already started the national strategic petroleum reserve, birthed the gasohol and solar power industries, and helped insulate millions of homes and offices. But he wanted to go a step further. “I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States,” Carter said on July 15, 1979. “Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 ## never.

From now on, every new addition to our demand for energy will be met from our own production and our own conservation. The generation-long growth in our depend ence on foreign oil will be stopped dead in its tracks right now and then reversed as we move through the 1980s…” In addition, we needed to immediately begin to develop a long-range strategy to move beyond fossil fuel.

Therefore, Carter said, “I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation’s first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.” But then came the Iran/Contra October Surprise, when the Reagan/Bush campaign allegedly promised the oil-rich mullahs of Iran that they’d sell them missiles and other weapons if only they’d keep our hostages until after the 1980 Carter/Reagan presidential election campaign was over. The result was that Carter, who had been leading in the polls over Reagan/Bush, steadily dropped in popularity as the hostage crisis dragged out, and lost the election. The hostages were released the very minute that Reagan put his hand on the Bible to take his oath of office. The hostages freed, the Reagan/Bush administration quickly began illegally delivering missiles to < st1>Iran.

And Ronald Reagan’s first official acts of office included removing Jimmy Carter’s solar panels from the roof of the White House, and reversing most of Carter’s conservation and alternative energy policies.
Today, despite the best efforts of the Bushies, the bin Ladens, and the rest of the oil industry, Carter’s few surviving initiatives have borne fruit.

It is now more economical to build power generating stations using wind than using coal, oil, gas, or nuclear. When amortized over the life of a typical mortgage, installing solar power in a house in most parts of the US is cheaper than drawing power from the grid. (Shell and British Petroleum are among the world’s largest manufacturers of solar photovoltaic panels, which can now even be used as roofing shingles.) And hybrid cars that get 50-70 miles to the gallon are increasingly commonplace on our nation’s highways. Instead of taking a strong stand to make America energy independent, Bush kisses a Saudi crown prince, then holds hands with him as they walk into Bush’s hobby ranch in Texas. Our young men and women are daily dying in Iraq - a country with the world’s second largest store of underground oil. And we li ve in fear that another 15 Saudis may hijack more planes to fly into our nation’s capitol or into nuclear power plants.

Meanwhile, Bush brings us an energy bill that includes eight billion dollars in welfare payments to the oil business, just as the nation’s oil companies report the highest profits in the entire history of the industry. Americans struggle to pay for gasoline, while the Bush administration refuses to increase fleet efficiency standards, stop the $100,000 tax break for buying Hummers, or maintain and build Amtrak. George Bush Jr. is arguably right that gas prices are spiking because we don’t have an energy policy. But instead of blaming Clinton, he should be pointing to the Reagan/Bush administration, and to his own abysmal failures over the past four years.

Thom Hartmann’s bestselling book on peak oil is titled “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, published by Random House/Three Rivers Press. His articles archive is at

Employee Free Choice Act action links- Please use them


Find out if your member of the U.S. House of Representatives voted for or against the Employee Free Choice Act

Please vote against all members of Congress who oppose this legislation. No American worker should ever support an opponent of this badly needed reform in labor law!

Find out if your U.S. Senator is a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act

Please contact your Senator and tell that person that if their name is not on this list then you will be voting against them.

Here is a link with a summary of the Employee Free Choice Act

Here is a link to my column on this subject titled The Employee Free Choice Act and Republican Disinformation

Democratic National Committee Backs Employee Free Choice


Democratic National Committee Backs Employee Free Choice
by Mike Hall, Dec 3, 2007

The long list of supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act got a significant new addition last week when the Democratic National Committee gave unanimous approval to a resolution calling the workers’ rights legislation “a top priority” for any new Democratic administration and Congress in 2009.

The presidential candidates who attended the Virginia meeting spoke out in support of the legislation that was passed by the House this spring, but was blocked by Senate Republicans. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Sens. Joe Biden (Del.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) and Rep. Dennis Kucinch (Ohio) voiced their support for the measure to protect workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain collectively.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) was forced to cancel her appearance at the meeting because of the hostage crisis—which was peacefully resolved—at her New Hampshire headquarters. Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) was on the campaign trail in Iowa. Both Dodd and Clinton support the Employee Free Choice Act. Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) has not take a postion on the measure.

The DNC resolution addresses the routine use of illegal tactics by employers to thwart workers’ efforts to join unions and the insignificant penalties for violations of workers’ rights. It also points to the Bush administration’s anti-worker, anti-union National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as among the major obstacles for the 60 million U.S. workers who say they would join a union if given the opportunity.

The DNC resolution says the work by the bills’ chief sponsors, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), to build support for the Employee Free choice Act is an important prelude to final passage in 2008, or at the very latest during the first 100 days of the 111th Congress. The resolution says:

If the Employee Free Choice Act is not passed by Congress in 2008, the DNC urges the new Democratic president and Democratic leadership in Congress to make passage of the Employee Free Choice Act a top priority in 2009.

The resolution also calls on Democratic officeholders and candidates at all levels to support local organizing and collective bargaining campaigns. The DNC did just that last week when it moved its meeting to a unionized hotel in Virginia from its original location at a Maryland hotel, where the new owners are refusing to negotiate with the workers’ union.

The DNC joins a long list of organizations and national, state and local lawmakers and legislative bodies that have passed resolutions or signed letters supporting the Employee Free Choice Act.

In 2005, the DNC approved a resolution backing the Employee Free Choice Act that was before the 109th Congress.

Workers Lose Jobs to Trade—and Now Republican Trio Blocks Their Benefits


Workers Lose Jobs to Trade—and Now Republican Trio Blocks Their Benefits
by James Parks, Dec 20, 2007

AFL-CIO Blog Link

Three Republican senators led by Jon Kyl of Arizona ruined the holidays of tens of thousands of working people whose jobs were shipped overseas because of the flawed U.S. trade policies that encourage employers to move offshore. The senators blocked a unanimous consent agreement to extend the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program for three months.

TAA provides financial assistance and training to workers who lost their job due to imports or offshoring. The program is set to expire Dec. 31. Even though the House approved an extension last week, the Senate failed to do so yesterday before adjourning for the year.

Nearly 120,000 workers were certified as eligible to receive TAA benefits from Oct. 1, 2005, through Sept. 30, 2006, according to the Congressional Budget Office. During that same period, roughly 60,000 individuals started to receive cash and training benefits.

The three Senate Republicans weren’t even concerned with TAA—they held the bill hostage because they wanted to make changes to the Federal Aviation Administration trust fund.

Because of their political pettiness, thousands of workers throughout the country will be denied vital benefits to support their families under this important program. They will receive no financial assistance, no job training, no help maintaining health insurance and no wage insurance if they are forced to take a lower-paying job.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) blasted the Republicans, saying:

Holding American workers hostage to leverage unrelated priorities is bad enough at any time of year, but it’s hard to believe that in the week before Christmas, a political move will stop training, money and other assistance for hard-working folks in need.

Baucus, who introduced comprehensive TAA legislation in July, secured a promise from the U.S. Labor Department to continue the program through 2008 with funds provided in the omnibus appropriations bill passed Tuesday. But Senate Democrats say the reality is that the funds are not guaranteed until the program is reauthorized and they will mount an effort to renew the program when they return to work in January.

The Union News newspapers in Pennsylvania


Below you will find numerous articles from the Lehigh Valley (PA) edition of the Union News. This is an excellent publication. It is edited by Paul Tucker and has first-rate labor journalism. They publish a Northeastern PA edition along with the Lehigh Valley one. Since they have entirely different articles, I subscribe to both editions.

The yearly subscription rate for each edition is $25.

The mailing address is:

521 Fifth Street
Whitehall, PA. 18052

I advertise currently in the Lehigh Valley edition and next year will probably start advertising in the Northeastern PA one. I urge all unionists, political campaigns and businesses to consider running ads. I urge everyone to subscribe.


Stephen Crockett

Editor, Mid-Atlantic

UFCW Local 1776 and Rite Aid disagree on union representation


Local 1776 and Rite Aid disagree on union representation


January 2008 edition of the Union News

REGION, December 10th- The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776 contends former Echerd Pharmacy and Brooks Pharmacy employees now Rite Aid Pharmacy workers should become union members. Previously Eckerd Pharmacy and Brooks Pharmacy employees were nonunion.

In the spring of 2007, Rite Aid announced they purchased the Eckerd and Brooks Pharmacy chains and would intergrate the stores into their own, becoming the third largest drug store chain in the nation with more than 115,000 employees in more than 5,000 stores.

Throughout Southeastern, Central and Northeastern Pennsylavnia UFCW Union Local 1776 represents Rite Aid Pharmacy employees.

Local 1776 has three separate contracts with Rite Aid. Rite Aid employees in the Philadelphia area are covered under one contract while the employees of the Reading area are covered under another and the employees of Northeastern Pennsylvania are covered under the third contract. Lehigh Valley employees are represented by the Northeastern agreement. The Reading and Northeastern contracts will expire in September 2008 and the Philadelphia area contract will expire in June 2008. Local 1776 represents Rite Aid clerks, pharmacy cashiers, technicians and shift supervisors.

According to Wendell Young IV, President of Local 1776, the union discussed the merger with Rite Aid officials, and believes the new stores employees should be members of the union. Rite Aid officials want the issue discussed when negotiating meetings are conducted for a successor agreement.

There were approximately fifteen Eckerd stores and eight Rite Aid stores in Lehigh and Northampton Counties at the time of the purchase.

Former Eckerd Pharmacy employees remain nonunion, despite now working under the Rite Aid Pharmacy name.

William Epstein, Communications Director of Local 1776, stated the union contract language clearly states the former Eckerd and Brooks stores employees should be union members.

Mr. Epstein did not know how many former Eckerd workers should be union represented.

Mailroom Printing becomes unionized while Schlechter Printing no longer authorized use union label


January 2008 edition of the Union News

Mailroom Printing becomes unionized while
Schlechter Printing no longer authorized use union label


REGION, December 12th- Schlechter Printing Inc., formerly of Walnut Street in Allentown, the only printing shop listed in the Directory of Allied Union Printers in Pennsylvania in the Lehigh Valley, will no longer be authorized to place the union label on printed material.

According to Robert Baum, President of the Pennsylvania Allied Printing Trades Council, Drexel Hill, the proprietors of Schlechter Printing have been notified by mail, the company will not be allowed to continue to place Allentown Allied Union Label #6 on printed material if the company no longer operates printing equipment.

The newspaper spoke to a company representative by phone and was told Schlechter Printing no longer operates a print shop at the Walnut Street address, and uses a post office box mailing address. The company representative said the company has a union contract with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and no longer actually prints any work.

According to Ron Miller, International Representative for the CWA, the union contract with Schlechter Printing will expire in December, 2007 and will not be renewed. Mr. Miller told the newspaper he is aware the company will no longer be considered a union print shop.

However, Mr. Miller said the Mailroom Copy and Digital Print Center on Airport Road in Allentown employees are represented by the union. He said the company proprietor Rob Fetherman signed a three year contract agreement with the CWA during the summer. The union has around five members employed by the Mailroom Print Center.

The company is authorized to place CWA Union Label #1 on printed material.

According to Mr. Fetherman, his company has already began to receive orders by members of the labor community for printed material. “We are the only union print shop in the Lehigh Valley. Hopefully, the unions will send their work to us,” said Mr. Fetherman. Mr. Fetherman stated he is happy the company is unionized.

Mr. Baum said under Allied Printing Trades Label rules, before a company can place the union label on materials, the printing work must be done by union members. Not just the typographical composition, but also the actual printing of the material.

UFCW members protest Wal-Mart health care policies


January 2008 edition of the Union News

UFCW members protest Wal-Mart health care policies


SCRANTON, November 28th- The United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union, a long-time critic of the employment policies of Wal-Mart, conducted a 34-city community event outside their stores urging customers to demand the retailer threat their workers fairly.

On November 21st, members of, a organization supported by UFCW, held a informational event in 34 cities across the nation.

Union members of UFCW Union Local 1776 participated in the event and asked customers to join them in urging the world’s largest retailer to act responsibly by paying fair wages, being less of a burden on American taxpayers by providing affordable health care to its employees, and making product safety a priority.

Earlier this year Wal-Mart attempted to improve its image by making changes to its health care policies for their employees.

However, according to a survey done by the company during its open enrollment period, most “associates” at the company choose not to participate in the plan at all. Critics said the reason is that even with its improvements, Wal-Mart health plans are still not affordable for many of its workers.

The survey showed that 90 percent of the 1.3 million person American Wal-Mart workforce has some form of health insurance, but just 47.4 percent have it through Wal-Mart. Of the remaining workers with insurance, 22.2 percent receive it through a spouse’s policy.

Nearly 10 percent of Wal-Mart workers have no coverage at all, and some 15 percent of those uncovered workers say they can’t afford the premiums.

Beth Works casino being built by area union workers


January 2008 edition of the Union News

Beth Works casino being built by area union workers


REGION, December 13th- Union members not only will build the Sands Corporation Beth Works casino project but they will be hired for any future construction because of a labor agreement between the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley and the developer.

According to William Newhard, President of the twenty local union member building tradesmen labor federation, the $800 million casino project in Bethlehem will be constructed with unionized labor, hired through local union halls in the Lehigh Valley.

He told the newspaper on December 17th the labor federation signed a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with Sands during the week of December 10th that will assure unionized workers will be hired for the project. The labor agreement does not have a expiration date.

The Sands Corporation is the project manager for the construction but Alvin Butz Inc. of Allentown was hired to assist.

The Sands Beth Works project calls for a casino with 3,000 slot machines to open in December 2008.

The project will include a twelve-story 300 room hotel, a concert and events center and a 200,000 square-foot shopping mall. That part of the project is scheduled to open in the summer of 2009.

Mr. Newhard told the newspaper, members of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Union Local 542, have been preparing the job site for construction. IUOE members operate heavy construction equipment.

The Sands Beth Works is being constructed in South Bethlehem at the former site of the Bethlehem Steel Company steel mills.

The project includes saving around 20 buildings of the steel mill, the 1,500 foot long machine shop and the 20 story high blast furnaces.

Sands will incorporate the saved buildings into their resort and make them suitable for public display.
On December 20th, 2006, the seven member Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board voted to give a casino license to the Sands Beth Works project.

Two developers submitted proposals to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to obtain a license to build a casino in the Lehigh Valley. The other project was proposed for Allentown by the Aztar Corporation which operates casinos in Las Vegas and New Jersey.

Mr. Newhard said the labor federation supported the casino project from the beginning because it would create plenty of work for their members, and it has.

NLRB ordered to cease and desist from refusing to bargain


January 2008 edition of the Union News

NLRB ordered to cease and desist from refusing to bargain


REGION, November 28th- The Federal Labor Relations Authority in Washington DC ruled on November 5th in favor of the union that represents employees of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) about a dispute that began in 2005.

The dispute between the NLRB and the National Labor Relations Board Union (NLRBU) dates back to 2005 when the NLRB changed its policy and refused to permit its professional employees to represent support staff employees in union matters on work time. The NLRB began denying officials time for all cross-unit representation. The Union responded by petitioning the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to consolidate the unit. The FLRA protects the right of federal employees to form unions. The National Labor Relations Board and their employees oversee union representation elections and inforcing the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The agency opposed the NLRBU’s petition, but the FLRA agreed with the Union and ordered the units consolidated. After employees voted overwhelmingly in favor of consolidation, the FLRA certified the Union in the newly consolidated unit on June 8th, 2007.

NLRB General Counsel Ronald Meisburg, a President George W. Bush appointee, then stated that the NLRB would not bargain with the Union and would force the FLRA to take the dispute to federal court, a process he estimated might delay bargaining until after his term of office expires in 2010.

The NLRBU filed a unfair labor practice charge alleging that the agency has fragrantly violated the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute in refusing to bargain in a newly certified consolidated unit.

The National Labor Relations Board Union represents approximately 1,000 employees of the agency including: field attorneys, field examiners and support staff in the nationwide field and the Washington, DC headquarters offices of the NLRB.

Northeastern, Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania is under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board, Region Four office in Philadelphia. The NLRB employees in Region Four are represented by NLRBU Local 4. Local 4 represents 39 workers in the NLRB Philadelphia office.

According to Administrative Law Judge Paul Lang decision, obtained by the newspaper, the NLRB is ordered to cease and desist from: Refusing to bargain with the National Labor Relations Board Union as the exclusive representative of the consolidated bargaining unit certified on June 8th, 2007.

The NLRB is ordered to stop interfering with, restraining or coercing its employees in the exercise of their rights assured by the Statute.

The agency must negotiate in good faith with the NLRBU over the conditions of employment of its employees in the consolidated unit certified on June 8th, 2007.

The NLRB must post the decision at all facilities across the nation where employees in the consolidated bargaining unit certified on June 8th, 2007, are located for 60 consecutive days thereafter, in conspicuous places, including all bulletin boards and other places where notices to employees are customarily posted. Reasonable steps shall be taken to ensure that such notices are not altered, defaced, or covered by any other material.

The union expects Mr. Meisburg to appeal the award.

Construction Unions protest Promenade Shops


January 2008 edition of the Union News

Construction Unions protest Promenade Shops


REGION, December 11th- On November 23rd, “Black Friday,” union members of the building and construction trades conducted informational picketing at the Promenade Shops of Saucon Valley retail center in Upper Saucon Township to inform customers the developer of the site did not employ union tradesmen, or even hire workers from the Lehigh Valley.

According to William Newhard, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley labor federation, the builders of the Promenade Shops, Poag & McEwen, hired contractors that routinely destroy area wages and standards of local workers. There are twenty local unions affiliated with the construction trades council.

Mr. Newhard told the newspaper some the contractors hired by Poag & McEwen for the shopping center building construction hired not only nonunion workers from outside the Lehigh Valley, but were found to be illegal aliens by the federal government.

The trade unions held informational picketing on the site of the retail center, near Interstate 78 meets with US Route 309 in Upper Saucon Township, while the site was under construction. The unions protest included four large inflatable rats.

Mr. Newhard stated after the construction is done, the developers expect area residents to shop at the stores, constructed by workers from outside the area.

The retail center is not built around traditional mall anchors like large department stores. Instead, the properties specialize in housing a collection of high-end speciality retailers. Poag & McEwen Lifestyle Centers, Tennessee not only is the developer but also manages the center.

Mr. Newhard said not all of the workers hired during the retail centers construction were nonunion. He is also the Business Manager and Principal Officer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 375 in Allentown, and stated his members were hired to install much of the electrical work of the stores.

During construction some of the workers hired were found to be illegal aliens, and Mr. Newhard said the unions were bothered by the attitude of the contractors involved for showing so little concern for the residents of the communities where they build.

Robert Kilpatrick, Business Manager if the Iron Workers Union Local 36 in Whitehall Township, said the area construction trade unions have been effected by contractors that hire illegal immigrants and workers not being paid properly.

According to Mike Galio, Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners Union Local 600 in Bethlehem, the unions want the public to know most of the contractors hired for the project pay their workers below area standards and benefits and want the owners of the shopping center to hire union members for any future renovations. Mr. Galio told the newspaper he would like for Poag & McEwen to agree to hire union tradesmen for any expansion or renovations like the owners of the Lehigh Valley Mall in Whitehall Township did.

Mr. Newhard said the developers of the Lehigh Valley Mall hire union workers when renovations are being done at the shopping center. The mall owners signed with the unions a “Labor Harmony Agreement” that almost assures union tradesmen are employed for any additional mall construction.

IBEW Union Local 1600 files charge against PPL Electric


January 2008 edition of the Union News

IBEW Union Local 1600 files charge against PPL Electric


REGION, November 20th- The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 1600, Trexlertown, filed a Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Region Four in Philadelphia, against PPL Electric Utility Company, 9th and Hamilton Streets in Allentown.

The union alleges PPL Manager of Logistic Service Utility, has refused to bargain collectively with IBEW Local 1600 in violation of Section 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct) by changing the reporting working stations of the employees.

Manager “Elias Cekovic dealth directly with the employees involved and did not meet or confer with the bargaining representative,” states the charge obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act.

According to the National Labor Relations Board the charge has been “deferred” by the agency, meaning the NLRB wants the issue resolved through the parties collective bargaining agreement grievance procedure.

The union represents around 4,000 PPL employees and are currently working under the terms and conditions of a four-year contract that will expire in May 2010. The Allentown based company has around 1.3 million customers in Pennsylvania.

The charge states within the last six months, PPL through Mr. Cekovic, has made a unilateral change in the working conditions of the bargaining unit members without negotiating with the union.

Local 1600 members voted to ratify the current contract with PPL in August, 2006. The previous pact expired on May 7th, 2006. On May 9th, 2006, the membership rejected a company contract offer and negotiations continued between the parties.

IBEW Local 1600 President Andrew Wolfe told the newspaper after the ratification, health insurance cost was a problem in negotiations, and prohibited the two sides from reaching a agreement sooner.

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Pennsylvania Legislators pushing for union in casino


Legislators pushing for union in casino

Thursday, December 13, 2007
By Bill Toland, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In the same week that contractors broke ground on Don Barden’s North Shore casino site, Democratic state representatives from southwestern Pennsylvania’s delegation are reiterating pleas for the Detroit businessman to sign a “neutrality” agreement with a labor group that represents thousands of American casino workers.

The agreement would mean that Mr. Barden would remain agnostic on the issue of whether hospitality workers employed at his Majestic Star Casino should organize.

But Mr. Barden, who deals with unionized employees at a casino in Gary, Ind., isn’t interested in signing such an agreement in the immediate future.

“We’re so squarely focused on building this thing in 16 months, it’s quite premature to be talking about hiring and operations,” said Bob Oltmanns, a spokesman for Mr. Barden and the Majestic Star project. “When the time comes, Mr. Barden will probably have something more to say on it.”

The lawmakers ## Reps. Don Walko, Frank Dermody, Nick Kotik, Tom Petrone, Sean Ramaley and Vince Biancucci ## sent a letter to Mr. Barden in the summer, seeking the neutrality agreement.

They used this week’s ground-breaking ceremony to remind Mr. Barden of their request, and ask him to negotiate an agreement with Unite Here, which represents casino workers at Caesars Entertainment, Harrah’s and MGM-Mirage.

“A lot of attention has been paid to the appearance of the casino and its parking garage,” Mr. Petrone said in a statement. “We think it’s even more important to make sure the people who will work there have their organizing and collective bargaining rights protected.”

The casino industry is lucrative, volatile and, thanks in part to the new markets in Pennsylvania, rapidly expanding, all of which make it an attractive industry for organized labor.

This year, the United Auto Workers set its sights on Atlantic City, persuading dealers at Caesars, Bally’s and Trump Plaza casinos to unionize.

Labor’s biggest win came just a few weeks ago ## on Nov. 24, dealers at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut voted in favor of joining the UAW. Of the resort’s 10,000 employees, a third are dealers.

But the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which owns Foxwoods, said it would appeal the vote to the National Labor Relations Board.

Earlier, the tribe had claimed federal labor laws shouldn’t apply on sovereign American Indian reservations.

First published on December 13, 2007 at 12:00 am
Bill Toland can be reached at or 412-263-2625.
Read the PG’s Casino Journal by Bill Toland