• August 23, 2011
    Guest Post

    This post is part of an ACSblog symposium in honor of the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. National MemorialThe author, Angelia Wade, is Associate General Counsel for the AFL-CIO. 

    The unveiling of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial this weekend provides a clear opportunity to reflect on the work of this icon. When he was assassinated in April 1968, Dr. King was in Memphis lending his support to striking garbage sanitation workers who were seeking to have their union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, (AFSCME) recognized so they could negotiate a contract that raised their standard of living.

    Dr. King’s support of the labor movement as a pathway to better jobs and justice did not just begin in 1968. Throughout much of his life, he advocated as much for economic equality as he did for racial equality. He once stated that it did no good for a man to eat at an integrated lunch counter if that same man could not afford to buy a hamburger at the establishment.

  • March 15, 2011
    The Wisconsin governor is not the only governor taking protest-provoking actions to slash the pay and working rights of public employees. In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder is pushing a measure that critics say will allow him to dissolve unions and local governments.

    MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," as noted in this Daily Kos blog post by Joan McCarter, recently reported that Gov. Snyder (pictured) is pushing a law that "gives the state government the power not only to break up unions, but to dissolve entire local governments and place appointed ‘Emergency Managers' in their stead. But that's not all - whole cities could be eliminated if Emergency Managers and the governor choose to do so. And Snyder can fire elected officials unilaterally, without any input from voters. It doesn't get much more anti-Democratic than that."

    The Detroit Free Press reports that additional rallies are planned at the capitol to "protest Gov. Rick Snyder's budget and tax plans."

    Steve Reck, a Service Employees International Union political director in Lansing, said state lawmakers were "exploiting the budget crisis to attack seniors, workers rights and ordinary families across the state."

    ACS Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson in a statement to ACSblog said Michigan, like Wisconsin, was being led by lawmakers seemingly bent on using any means possible to undermine democracy in their states.

    "Gov. Snyder's radical proposal would greatly hobble local governments, and undercut workers' rights," Fredrickson said. "What's going on in Wisconsin is disconcerting, but we cannot afford to overlook the outrageous steps the Michigan governor is attempting to take to undermine democracy, and the state's economy."

    Snyder continues to defend his plan, the Free Press notes, saying he was open to "tweaks and tuning" of it.

    McCarter, the Daily Kos blogger, writes that "Snyder's own budget will so starve cities that he can create the fiscal emergency in them that will allow him to declare the emergency and seize control. But that's just the beginning. His budget's tax plan slashes corporate taxes by 81 percent, and hikes taxes on the working poor."

    The AFL-CIO has weighed in on the matter saying in a March 15 statement that "corporate-backed politicians are clearly gunning for working people in every state across the country."

    The statement continued, "In a brazen new low, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is on track to sign a new law under the guise of fiscal responsibility that will allow him to appoint emergency fiscal managers with powers so expansive they could ‘fire local officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services - and even eliminate whole cities or school districts without any public input,' according to CBS."

    The AFL-CIO also highlights actions by governors and lawmakers in other states aimed at slashing pay and rights of workers.

  • July 22, 2010
    The immigration system is broken and the situation urgently calls out for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to come together and find a way to fix the system, said Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis in a recent discussion with Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO. The discussion, led by Jaime Zapata, senior managing director of the Labor Department's Office of Public Affairs (OPA), touched upon why the immigration system currently undercuts the nation's economy and ways to reach reform.

    Secretary Solis said the immigration system "isn't helping those legitimate businesses and those employees right now that are getting shortchanged because there's an employer who doesn't want to play by the rules, is not paying back taxes or is not paying into the system," which ultimately "robs our economy of those revenues." Solis added, "Yes, we have to crack down on the border and make sure the criminals are taken out of this country, but at the same time we have to protect all workers." The Secretary said a pathway must be created for those immigrants willing to follow the rules to become documented. She said that it is simply impossible to deport 11 million people, destroying families and depriving the economy of many people who provide it great innovations.

    Trumka urged immigration reform, maintaining that the current system negatively affects all workers. "If we're going to create an economy that really does work for all workers, immigration has to be fixed because it is a terribly broken system that is being exploited and creating a permanent underclass of citizens that is being used to drive down wages, so we have to eliminate that," he said.

    Trumka added, "This nation was built on the notion that we embrace immigration."

    Watch video of the entire discussion here or by clicking on the picture. For additional discussion of immigration reform, watch video of a plenary panel from the 2010 ACS National Convention called "Immigration Reform: Congress and the States." In addition, following that panel discussion, Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF, talked with ACSblog about the need for greater public education surrounding immigration reform. Video of the interview, which can be downloaded as a podcast, is available here.