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Hillary Clinton

Labor flexes muscle for Clinton, Democrats

Labor is organizing in a big way to rally voters behind Hillary Clinton and Democratic candidates up and down the general election ticket.

In mid-August, Clinton and GOP candidate Donald Trump detailed for Detroit audiences their plans and policy ideas on taxes, regulations, trade pacts and job growth. The candidates offered their economic visions as polls continue to put the economy at the top of voters’ concerns.

Labor leaders and labor-friendly politicians liked what they heard from Clinton and expressed distaste for the ideas and actions of the Trump campaign.

In Wisconsin, Trump recently appointed billionaire Diane Hendricks — notorious in the state for escaping income taxes — to his economic advisory board.

The Republican nominee’s proposals prioritize millionaires and corporations over children and families, said U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis.

State Rep. Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay, said the same Aug. 18, when he gathered at Green Bay Packaging with members of the United Steel Workers, the largest industrial union in North America.

Genrich said Trump’s misplaced economic priorities would benefit the wealthy while Clinton’s plans would build an economy for everyone.

Steven Childers, president of USW 1319, and Mark Cherney, president of USW 1319, also spoke, joining Genrich in calling on Trump to release his tax returns like every other major party presidential candidate has done for the last 40 years.

Holding Trump supporters accountable

Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO in Wisconsin was focusing on U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s ties to Trump. Johnson is running against Democrat Russ Feingold in the general election.

The union on Aug. 18 launched a round of petitions targeting senators and Senate candidates who have endorsed Trump or who have failed to denounce the Republican candidate’s incendiary remarks.

“These petitions are all about education and accountability,” AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said in a statement to the press. “It is important that our members know which senators have aligned themselves with Trump’s radical agenda and demand better.”

In addition to those in Wisconsin, petitions were circulating in Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The petitions note Trump’s encouragement of violence at his rallies, his proposed ban on Muslims coming to the United States and his disparaging remarks against Mexicans.

The petitions also say Trump has voiced support for so-called “right to work” laws intended to weaken or destroy unions, suggested women “should find another career if they’re sexually harassed” and said wages are “too high,” even though incomes have stagnated or decreased for many low-income or middle-income U.S. workers.

Raising the minimum wage

“This year, underpaid Americans will show elected leaders in every state in America that they are a voting bloc that cannot be ignored and will not be denied,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union.

Henry joined thousands of activists this summer at a national convention in Richmond, Virginia, to organize for Election Day and rally around the fight for a $15 minimum wage.

Organizers said they selected Richmond as the convention site because it was the capital of the old Confederacy.

labor solidarity

“We abolished slavery more than 150 years ago, but its legacy is still felt in economic policies and working conditions that hold back black and Latino working people across America,” said Sepia Coleman, a home care worker attending from Memphis, Tennessee. “When you add in decades of attacks on workers who organized unions, you get a devastating result that has left tens of millions of us unable to support our families.”

Convention-goers celebrated some victories, including the adoption of a Democratic Party platform that calls for a $15 federal minimum wage.

There also was a memorial and recognition that “Black Lives Matter” and a march through Richmond that ended at a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

At the statue, the Rev. William Barber II — a founder of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina and a speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia — addressed the marchers.

“Every step forward in our nation’s history — every stride toward a more perfect union — has been the result of people coming together, pushed by a moral movement toward higher ground,” he said. “It took us 400 years from slavery to the present to reach $7.25, but that was far too long and we can’t wait. We have to stand together and fight now for $15 and union rights.”

In the platform

The 2016 Democratic National Platform, adopted by delegates to the convention in July in Philadelphia, states, “Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage. No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty. We believe Americans should earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form a union and will work in every way we can … to reach this goal.”

The platform also states, “We also support creating one fair wage for all workers by ending the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers and people with disabilities.”

1 comment

  1. Steve Becht 26 August, 2016 at 09:19 Reply

    $15/hour minimum wage means robots making food at McDonald’s, tomatoes costing $5.00/lb, and higher unemployment. The only solution is a true free-market society, not socialism and fear-mongering rhetoric sourced from organized criminals posing as labor organizations.

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