Before they began their march down Market Street, organizers of yesterday’s Big Ass March to Save City Services and Jobs greeted everyone who approached them, from curious on-lookers to fellow SEIU union members, with the same welcoming phrase: “You’re in the right place, at the right time.”
Yet those who provide city-funded services to the homeless, elderly and disabled – as well as those who depend on these services – fear they are being told the exact opposite by city budget officials in the Newsom Administration: “wrong place, wrong time.”
San Francisco is facing a staggering budget deficit that is estimated to be $576 million. And despite financial help in the form of federal stimulus money earmarked for health and human services, about $35 million, further cuts and layoffs are still planned for these agencies.
That was the reason why the advocates of these agencies, led by the SEIU Local 1021, organized the Big Ass March to City Hall.
When I lived in Berkeley, the workers at my grocery store (Berkeley Bowl) tried to form a union. A majority had signed union cards expressing support – but the owner insisted on a formal election. After weeks of intimidation tactics and firing “problem” workers, the Bowl workers had a “secret ballot” – and the union drive failed. That’s one reason why we need the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), so workers can freely join a union and expand the middle class – free of employer harassment. As the U.S. Senate takes up EFCA, organized labor and allies are focusing on moderate Senators – whose votes will determine the outcome. A large boisterous crowd rallied yesterday in San Francisco – asking California’s Dianne Feinstein to co-sponsor the legislation. Real workers who tried organizing their co-workers told horror stories, while organizers gathered petition signatures – and SF Labor Council head Tim Paulson read out loud the phone number to call Senator Feinstein. Meanwhile, big business is spending millions of dollars to defeat EFCA – and are paying GOP operatives big bucks to make it happen.
According to reports, several anti-union Corporate Front Groups plan to collectively spend almost $100 million in the next year against the bill and those who support it.
The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) (H.R. 1409, S. 560) is pending legislation in the United States which aims to "amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish an easier system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes." The latest version was introduced into both chambers of the U.S. Congress on 10 March 2009.
I grew up in a working class enclave in San Leandro. My dad was a milkman. Our next door neighbor was an airplane navigator. In our neighborhood there was a plumber, a carpenter, a mailman, an Oakland fire department captain and two Berkeley Farms Creamery drivers who worked with my father.
Each job held a fascination for us kids, and our dads were very serious about their work. We watched the carpenter build custom furniture for his own home and were proud to be coached by a genuine fire captain in Little League baseball. Of course, we were on the edge of our seats listening to flight stories by the navigator who flew all over the world.
The body count is still rising. For months on end, marked by bankruptcies, foreclosures, evictions, and layoffs, the economic meltdown has taken a heavy toll on Americans. In response, a range of extreme acts including suicide, self-inflicted injury, murder, and arson have hit the local news. By October 2008, an analysis of press reports nationwide indicated that an epidemic of tragedies spurred by the financial crisis had already spread from Pasadena, California, to Taunton, Massachusetts, from Roseville, Minnesota, to Ocala, Florida.
In the three months since, the pain has been migrating upwards. A growing number of the world's rich have garnered headlines for high profile, financially-motivated suicides. Take the New Zealand-born "millionaire financier" who leapt in front of an express train in Great Britain or the "German tycoon" who did much the same in his homeland. These have, with increasing regularity, hit front pages around the world. An example would be New York-based money manager René-Thierry Magnon de la Villehuchet, who slashed his wrists after he "lost more than $1 billion of client money, including much, if not all, of his own family's fortune." In the end, he was yet another victim of financial swindler Bernard Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme.
On a day in which Congress prepared to vote on the Obama administration's proposed $800 billion economic stimulus package, the nation's largest organization of registered nurses said expanding Medicare to cover all Americans would be one of the most effective economic recovery programs -- and could virtually end the nation's healthcare crisis overnight.
Speaking last November about his plans to address the economic crisis, President Barack Obama called out subsidy payments to “millionaire farmers” as a waste the U.S. federal budget could do without. He was reacting, in part, to a new report from the Government Accountability Office documenting tens of millions of dollars of payments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to almost three thousand multimillionaires who derive most of their income from activities other than farming.