This week, as teachers in Chicago Public Schools go on strike, I look at how our nation went from honoring teachers to vilifying them. Here’s an excerpt from my latest Salon column:
When I was a kid, having a good teacher was the key ingredient to getting a good education, just as it is now. And when I was a kid my teachers were unionized, just as they are now. But now the same teachers who want the same decent wages and working conditions and the same promise of a reasonably secure retirement are accused of being the problem in our schools today. Special interests who want to push standardized testing and privatize our nation’s public schools are demonizing the teachers who oppose these measures.
Please read the rest here. And go thank a teacher!
In my latest Salon column, I look at whether the DNC is intentionally or accidentally marginalizing organized labor:
Though there have been labor leaders at the convention podium, their roles haven’t been incredibly prominent. The UAW’s Bob King got a primetime role last night, but the campaign of course wants to highlight the story of saving autoworker jobs in Detroit. Meanwhile SEIU head Mary Kay Henry and AFL president Richard Trumka spoke as well, but their slots were relegated to the early hours of Tuesday and Wednesday’s programs. And perhaps more tellingly, while Bob King gave made a very strong and clear case for collective bargaining, he only mentioned the word “union” three times. Neither Trumka nor Henry used the word “union” at all in their remarks. Contrast this to four years ago when SEIU’s Anna Burger used the word union at least seven times in her 2008 DNC remarks and it seems at the very least curious. What’s more noticeable is that other speakers seem to be avoiding the topic of unions altogether.
Hope you’ll read the full article here.
My intent on writing the piece in the Daily Beast was to focus on why, especially nationally, the massive groundswell that captivated and consumed progressive attention isn’t quite comparable to energy on the recall today.
Of course, I know the significant ground campaign activists are pouring their hearts and souls into across Wisconsin today, but editing is a beast and the volumes I wished to write about the great mobilization that is happening on the ground ended up nixed.
That said, even the most involved activists I spoke were fairly critical of flagging national attention — especially with respect to the Democratic Party, which virtually had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the fight. My goal in writing was not to handicap or hinder the Wisconsin fight but rather look at the long-term implications. While Republicans fundamentally grasp both the power of grassroots insurgencies and the importance of fighting at the state level to influence the national discourse, Democrats seem still sadly enamored with the top-down, centrist-driven strategy that has repeatedly failed.
Though it’s funny that, just as I was writing my piece, apparently Ann Coulter was writing a piece complaining that Republicans aren’t paying enough attention to the recall. But anyway…
I believe the people of Wisconsin will prevail on Tuesday and Scott Walker will be ousted from office, left to be nothing but a relic of the failed economic policies and Tea Party “divide and conquer” destruction he wrought on Wisconsin and came to represent for America. My heart is with every Barrett canvasser in every crevice of the state. And my hope is that justice will prevail not only Tuesday but beyond with the help, not the hindrance of the Democratic Party.
Apparently, under an old provision in the Buffalo school teachers’ union contract, elective plastic surgery benefits are included in their health care plan. Yes, that is absurd. But the real problem here is the district’s unwillingness to sit down with the union and negotiate a new contract.
Great thing about the Internets… You get a chance to say more than a few sentences on a fast TV block.
Today, on Eric Bolling’s Follow They Money — which airs at 10pm EST — on the Fox Business Channel, we discussed accusations by the conservative Daily Caller that protesters outside the conservative CPAC gathering this weekend were all nothing but paid, union reps with no idea what they were protesting. Here’s the Daily Caller’s “evidence”:
I responded with some obvious questions about the video. They only interviewed one person, which, in journalism terms, means the claim is uncorroborated. And it’s noteworthy that the person interviewed isn’t wearing the same hat and t-shirt union attire that all the other protesters seem to be wearing. Given the deep history of misleading video footage on both sides of political debates being used to lob baseless accusations, I think it’s reasonable to scrutinize this tape.
But…. What I also should have said is that if the footage accurately represents the situation and, indeed, even one person was paid to attend the anti-CPAC protest, that is shameful and stupid. It’s a tactic that puts petty political posing ahead of the real people putting their bodies on the line to protest, and it distracts from the very authentic and legitimate frustrations of the many, many more who are there out of their own volition and deeply held beliefs.
On some level, it’s understandable that unions with out of work members would take the opportunity to throw a little money their way to bolster a cause the union has decided to endorse. But let me go on record as saying while I completely support unions and other organizations facilitating the ability of their members to protest (by paying for buses and materials and such) or even allowing them to attend protests during work hours, I do not support any superficial protesters-for-hire astroturf efforts. If proven true, I would be as critical of these actions on the left as I would be on the right (and yes, they’ve happened on the right — see, e.g., Sarah Palin, at least one Tea Party activist who was paid $100,000 to show her support for the cause, not to mention the black Tea Party “star” who was paid for his attendances).
But the frustration I have with these accusations is that, even if true, paid Occupy protesters are merely one ore two examples amidst an ocean of authentic, ordinary American voices standing up for the middle class and against runaway corporate greed and inequality. Moreover, promoting such exceptions (whether true or false) is merely a pathetic attempt to discredit a movement that is not only now larger than the Tea Party but more popular in terms of public support and more impactful, not only electing a few legislators who have stalled their agenda in Congress, but actually changing the political discourse of our nation to finally talk about economic inequality and a path to prosperity for all.
The haters can rail all they want against a few low-hanging, (alleged) bad apples. The much, much larger tree of social change is once again taking root in America.
In my latest $0.02 for Politico’s Arena, I write:
Scott Walker used the economic suffering of Wisconsin’s working families as a fig leaf excuse to ram through a Wall Street-driven, anti-worker agenda. History will look back on Scott Walker with astonishment that, at the moment Wisconsin’s workers needed help most, Walker simply delivered more pain and hardship. In the meantime, working people who are fed up with being attacked by their own government are going to turn the tables on Walker and show him what it’s like to get fired.
If only we could get Donald Trump out to Wisconsin to hand Walker his pink slip.
Read the post at Politico here — and please share it via the buttons on their page.
My latest column for Fox News’ opinion page explores why the NFL players association has taken a wise and bold stand against a proposed anti-worker, anti-union law pushed by Republicans in Indiana just weeks before the Super Bowl is to be held in the state:
On the eve of the Super Bowl, to be held in a few weeks in Indianapolis, state Republicans backed by big business interests are trying to make Indiana a “Right to Work” state, undermining the ability of Hoosiers to choose to form a union.
The plain fact is that such laws should be called “Right to Work… For Less!” Workers in states with these anti-union laws take home $1,500 less per year than workers in pro-union states, whether those workers are in a union or not.
The NFL players association has spoken out against the anti-worker measure:
At a time when corporate profits and CEO bonuses continue to reach record highs and yet wages remain stagnant, football players understand the value of workers teaming together to win their rights. “We know our success on the field comes from working together as a team, the players association said in their statement opposing the Indiana anti-union measure.
Read the full piece here. And take a minute to share it via Facebook, Twitter, etc., via the links at the TOP of the article on Fox’s page.
For a small but merry band of conspiracy theorists, Stephen Lerner is the lynchpin of the rising “red army” of anti-capitalist radicals in America. For everyone else — those struggling to make ends meet in an economic system that we know is rigged against ordinary Americans – Stephen Lerner is a hero.”
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