Thursday, January 22, 2015

Oppose Fast Track!

Call Congress Now at (855)712-8441
to Oppose Fast Track

Did you watch President Obama’s State of the Union address? There was a lot to like, including initiatives for paid sick leave and free community college. But there’s one big thing we need to push back on right now: the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Last week, we told you about a petition asking Congress to block Fast Track, which allows massive trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership to be negotiated behind closed doors and tips the balance toward a deal that sells out U.S. workers in order to pad the wallets of corporate CEOs.

If we’re going to prevent another trade deal that empowers foreign corporations and skews benefits to the 1%, we need to ramp up the pressure. Today, we’re joining with allies across the movement for a national call-in day to stop Fast Track.

Click here to tell your member of the House of Representatives you oppose Fast Track, or dial 855-712-8441 and we’ll connect you.

Calling your member of Congress is one of the easiest and most effective ways to make your voice heard. With your help, our goal is to make thousands of calls to legislators across the country and let them know that the American people are watching.

We will not let them rubber stamp another secret, corporate-backed trade deal that sacrifices our jobs and wages for Wall Street profits.

Join the national day of action: Add your voice to the thousands calling Congress to say no to Fast Track and trade deals secretly written by and for the 1%.

This is not the end of the fight, but it is a major moment, and we need your help. Please call now and make sure your voice is heard.

In solidarity,

Becky Moeller and John Patrick, Texas AFL-CIO
Michael Cunningham, Texas Building Trades Council

Bob Cash, Texas Fair Trade Coalition

Monday, January 19, 2015

Texas Republican Political Worms Talking Out of Both Sides of Their Mouth

“There are two things a person should never be forced to see—how the sausage makers make sausage and how Texas politicians make their daily bread”

With the opening of the Texas Legislative session earlier this week, this age-old Texas proverb above has never been truer.  Already the influence of Big Money has made its mark on the new legislature.  Lieutenant Governor and Tea-Party darling Dan Patrick has already named “citizen” advisory commissions composed predominantly of big business interests and his political campaign donors.

All of us who have observed night crawlers in their native habit and who have had to wonder which end of that noble earthworm was the mouth and which end was not, will  certainly understand that this allegory most definitely extends to the newly elected Republican leadership of the state of Texas—one really wonders from which end of the Republican Party apparatus the words are coming from.

For instance, even while some local Republican officials were bemoaning the lack of local control in their school districts,  new governor Greg Abbott was loudly proclaiming how municipalities had too much local control, which enabled them to do nasty California-like things like banning fracking in their communities or banning plastic shopping bags.

These things, proclaimed Abbott, are a form of collectivism, and were an infringement on private property rights.

But, mind you, private property rights and local control do not seem to be a part of the larger Republican equation when it comes to the Keystone Pipeline, which plans to wind its path through East Texas. Former Agriculture Commissioner Jerry Patterson has no problems touting the glories of the pipeline even if it means arresting property-owners for trespassing---on their own land—for protesting the pipeline.

Public integrity?  Not a problem with Dan Patrick, who says that government funding to the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office will not be restored, adding yeast to the further baking of the Texas politician’s daily bread. Our readers will recall that former Governor Rick Perry cut off funding to the Public Integrity Unity when Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg did not resign after a DWI arrest.  (Perry  has been subsequently indicted for this abuse of power). Already the lack of funding has delayed an investigation into the growing no-bid contractor scandal into Medicare fraud at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which is now being investigated by the FBI, and, oh yes, by freshly inspired Governor Greg Abbott.

And state officials are complaining about the costs of over-weight trucks on the state’s highway infrastructure, even while the Department of Transportation has relaxed restrictions on NAFTA-esque Mexican trucking.  And even while large oil field trucks are destroying hundreds of miles of county roads as a result of the fracking boom, state officials do not seem to be in any sort of hurry to help repair those roads.  It’s a local control thing, you understand.

The Republican coup which has captured most of the country will most certainly lead to some amusing political bird watching here in Texas, and if indeed that proverbial bird will catch that proverbial worm.  For many of us political observers, we will simply be trying hard to analyze that worm to see which is The Mouth and which is The Asshole.

---Steve Rossignol  1-18-2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Roe v Wade Anniversary Celebration & Texas Reproductive Rights Rally! #roeVwadeTX

at 1:30pm - 3:30pm
Next Week

North Steps of the Texas State Capitol


After a dreadful 2013 legislative session, tearful Supreme Court cases deciding the fate of our women's health clinics, and a statewide election that will only ensure further restrictions on women's choice, we are coming together for our 2nd annual Roe v. Wade celebration and its effects on liberating women to not only plan their families, but maintain full agency over their own bodies. 

At last year's event, we held a counter protest against the "Pro-Life' march to demonstrate our outrage around restrictive policies that put women as second class citizens. This year, we're proactively taking our power back as Texans with legal rights to health services, preventive care, and... reproductive choice.

PLEASE SHARE THIS EVENT with all your like-minded friends, family, co-workers, and social media outlets!!! We'll need a MASSIVE turnout to show conservatives that we're not going anywhere and any legislation brought up in the 2015 session that hinders women's health decisions will be fought tooth and nail. This celebration will highlight the struggles of women and call for full equality for ALL.

Some attractions:
~~Inspirational speakers
~~Supportive artists (musicians, slam poets, etc.)
~~Resource Fair (local & state nonprofit tabling)
~~Open mic to tell your personal story

***Eventbrite invitation:

***Voter Deputy Registrar Training (all VDR privileges in TX expired on 12/31/14):

***Volunteer page:

***Ride Share and Accommodations Group:

***Sign-making party (Friday, Jan. 23rd):

***Email contact:

***Twitter handle: @TxProjCounter

***Twitter hashtag: #roeVwadeTX

The Minimum Wage and the Big Picture

Jonathan Chenjeri has developed a well-studied picture of the minimum wage as it could conceivably be applied to small employers. He has put a lot of thought into the economics involved in studying the market conditions that affect the small mom-and-pop proprietor, which are quite different from those of MegaCorp, Inc.

Indeed, we have to understand and recognize that these “market conditions”  allegedly affecting the minimum wage are based not only with the size of the enterprise, but also within the regional locale and local costs of living.   Hence, while we recognize that the Fight For $15 Campaign now being fought by low wage earners everywhere is a necessary first step towards increasing the lot of the lowest strata of the American working class, it most certainly is inadequate in some of the more expensive labor markets of the nation.

Simple mathematics will illustrate this: . The 2014 poverty level established by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services for a family of four is $23,850 a year.  A worker making the current Federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for 40 hours a week and 50 weeks a year will gross $14,500—shamefully inadequate by any definition.  Even an employee earning $15 an hour for 40 hours a week and 50 weeks a year will only gross $30,000. A net paycheck allowing for income tax, social security, and Medicare deductions on the average will allow a rough take-home amount of $25,550—barely above the poverty line.

Effective January 1 of this years, twenty states raised their minimum wage . In liberal states like Washington State where the minimum wage was raised to $9.47 an hour, we still have a resultant yearly income of less than the poverty level.

It becomes fairly obvious that a pure and simple “minimum” wage just won’t cut the proverbial mustard.  What is required by the working poor is a living wage, which is a standard more clearly delineated according to local market conditions.

In considering a local market condition, and using the Universal Living wage Formula as developed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which basically means not encompassing more than 30% of one’s income for housing, one will see that even the $15 an hour scale would result in economic drowning in Manhattan where the monthly median price of a two-bedroom rental apartment is $4042; or in Los Angeles at $2377,  or in Chicago at $2153.  One might be able to tread water in Austin at $1375 .  In Birmingham, Alabama, the median rent of  $761 would be an example of a market which could best accommodate a living wage of $15 an hour. 

One of the cardinal sins of the American economic system is that working people are defined by how much money they make. Corporate greed has reduced the humanity and lives of working people to a simple line item in the corporate ledger books.  By supporting wage campaigns we should not fall into the crevice of accepting a sub-standard wage as any sort of cure-all.

As socialists we ultimately believe in the abolition of the wage system, but we also realistically recognize that we will have to gain and win those “transitional demands” which lead to the re-distribution of wealth towards the needs of the people who produce that wealth.  An easy first step for wealth re-distribution is higher wages.  Higher wages can be achieved by a step up to guaranteed minimum living wage based on local market conditions. The Fight for $15 campaign is a step towards the guaranteed minimum living wage.

Let’s take one more easy step:  The government’s own criteria used in determining poverty and in determining a universal living wage should be developed to determine a real federal minimum wage scale.  Additionally, these standards developed by the Feds should be given the force of law and enforceable as such.

We can expect to see increasing hostility in this regard on the part of corporate America and their Republican lackeys. Already there is talk, specifically from newly elected governor of Texas Greg Abbot, of restricting the power of local communities to regulate in areas where state and federal controls have stalled.  While Abbott’s  reference was specifically directed towards fracking and plastic bag bans, the logical extension of this argument will be towards the abolition of minimum wage rates within local jurisdictions. Expect to see legislation in this direction in Texas in the months ahead, and we can also expect to see it within the entire spectrum of the Koch Brothers/ALEC/Republican Party monolith.

But perhaps most importantly of all, we should not depend on the government to enact the living wage for us. There is always strength in numbers and the more organized and united people are the better prepared they will be gaining that higher wage. Unions have understood this for decades. It must be us to tell the government what our living needs must be. Even while the law will protect labor organizing and organizers, it will be a rough uphill battle as it always has been. While Jonathan Chenjeri offers the notion of individual bargaining with a small employer to determine wages, we must recognize that only through organization will we have the strength to increase our wages, not only for ourselves, but for all of the rest of us.

Steve Rossignol  1-10-2015