Column: Working people deserve more

Later this month, Gov. Rick Snyder will deliver his final State of the State speech at the Capitol. For every governor, this speech is a rare chance to speak directly to the people of Michigan about the challenges and opportunities facing our state in the year ahead – and, more importantly, it’s an opportunity to propose a bold agenda for building a better Michigan for everyone.Unfortunately, during his seven years in office, Snyder has turned each of his State of the State speeches into a long lecture filled with happy talk, where he cherry-picks a few rosy statistics from his trusty dashboards, while ignoring the real problems working people face in our state every day.Michigan deserves better.We deserve a governor who will be straight with us about the very real economic challenges our state is still facing, because the truth is, no matter how high the stock market climbs, there are still far too many children in Michigan growing up in poverty, and far too many people living paycheck to paycheck, working unreliable hours, with few or no benefits, and without a secure retirement.It’s easy to understand how we got here, because Rick Snyder, Bill Schuette and Brian Calley have spent the past seven years rigging the rules of our economy to favor their wealthy corporate donors at the expense of regular working families.But the real state of the state for working people under Snyder has been pretty lousy:■ Republicans in Lansing raised taxes on working families by eliminating the child tax credit and creating the Snyder Retirement Tax on seniors’ pensions, all so they could give a $2 billion tax break to wealthy corporations that send jobs overseas.■ Snyder signed countless laws like the Emergency Manager Act, which it could be argued caused the Flint Water Crisis as well as “right-to-work,” which takes away the freedom from working people to negotiate together for a fair return on our work.■ Lansing Republicans Continue Reading

Don’t Worry So Much. Robots Are Mostly Doing the Work People Hate Anyway.

Robots are perfect for the mundane, repetitive work that nobody wants to do but somebody has to do. Dennis Walsh Published 11:00 am, Tuesday, January 2, 2018 Photo: Xijian | Getty Images Image 1of/1 CaptionClose Image 1 of 1 Photo: Xijian | Getty Images Don't Worry So Much. Robots Are Mostly Doing the Work People Hate Anyway. 1 / 1 Back to Gallery When people think of robots, they often think of machines equipped with artificial intelligence capabilities that will, at some point, have the power to rise up and overtake humans as they learn and grow. Sci-fi narrative aside, what many people don’t realize is that robots have been around for a very long time, and often not in the way that they think. There are different types of robotics technologies, some of which are the moving robots that Amazon uses to staff their distribution centers or are the helpers currently roaming the aisles of some Target and Lowe’s stores. However, physical robots deployed in the blue collar workforce are not the only ones enabling businesses. There are other, much less conspicuous robots that many organizations are already using to exponentially increase staff productivity in white collar roles. Related: Here's How This Company Is Adding Robots But Also Keeping Its Workers Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is where software robots interact with existing business and web applications to automate processes within a company’s walls. With RPA, employees have much to gain, including the freedom to focus on productive, rather than repetitive, tasks. Now, as these robots get smarter and easier to deploy, mundane work like reconciling spreadsheets of financial data or filing HR paperwork, will be a thing of the past. This will help foster successful employee engagement strategies by Continue Reading

Tens of Thousands Cheer Michael Moore in Madison: ‘You Have Aroused a Sleeping Giant, Known as the Working People’

Filmmaker Michael Moore marched with members of Madison Firefighters Local 311 to the Wisconsin Capitol Saturday and delivered a old-school progressive populist address is which he told a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands that “Wisconsin is not broke. America is not broke.” “The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just not in your hands,” he told the Wisconsinites who rallied to challenge the claim that the state needs to strip public employees and their teachers of collective bargaining rights in order to balance budgets. Moore ripped apart Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s claim, made repeatedly in recent weeks, that the state is broke. “Never forget the three biggest lies of the past ten years,” Moore said. “Number one: America is broke. Number two: there are weapons of mass destruction. Number three: the Packers can’t win the Super Bowl Without Brett Farve.” The reference to the Super Bowl–winning Green Bay Packers and their former quarterback drew one of the loudest rounds of applause accorded Moore, who said he came to speak up for union rights and cheer on the mass protests that have filled the streets of Madison and other Wisconsin cities in recent weeks. He appeared at a rally organized by the Wisconsin Wave movement, which has been backed by labor, farm, community and grassroots groups. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, former Mayor Paul Soglin, State Representative Kelda Helen Roys, Liberty Tree Foundation director and Wisconsin Wave organizer Ben Manski and others will also speak, while singers Ryan Bingham, Jon Langford and Michelle Shocked will also join the rally. Moore, a long-time supporter of labor rights, is the director and producer of Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko and Capitalism: A Love Story, four of the top nine highest-grossing documentaries of all time. His breakthrough film, Roger & Me, chronicled the Continue Reading

A Q&A With Harry Kelber: ‘Working People Have to Be Involved in Their Own Fate’

Over eight decades in the labor movement, Harry Kelber has been a rank-and-file union leader, an author and an academic. At 25, he edited two weekly labor newspapers. At 57, he helped found a labor college at Empire State College. At 81, he ran for AFL-CIO vice president. Now 97, he writes three columns a week for his website, The Labor Educator. The Nation talked to Kelber about his experience of the labor movement’s past, his critique of its present and what he sees in its future. What follows is a condensed and edited transcript of our conversation. As a teenager during the Depression, you led a grocery workers’ strike. How did you do it? We were working seventy-eight hours a week at Weinstein’s. On Saturday nights, whoever had the lowest sales for the week was fired. I was a favorite of the owner, and he said, “I’ll make you an assistant manager.” When I said no, he fired me on the spot. So I called up a union. We went around talking to workers around the city, and we decided that the next morning that we would all assemble outside the store, and no one would go in. The manager and the assistant manager were the only ones who stepped into the store. That created quite a commotion. We kept up that strike for four months, until we were pretty desperate, and then just at the moment we were exhausted and said we can’t continue this, we reached an agreement. The strike was settled, and workers went back with a five dollar increase and an improvement in the workload—on the condition that I was never to return to the store. How did it shape your view of the labor movement? What I saw during the Depression convinced me that we needed a new society to allow people to earn a living. It was during the toughest time. But my co-workers had very good motivations: They felt that they were being abused, and that there was no future for them. And they wanted to have a little recognition and respect. And we won Social Continue Reading

Column: Congress, support working people

I’ve spent the last 17 years taking care of Michiganians in their most vulnerable moments, doing my best to make them and their families as comfortable as possible through difficult times. As a certified nursing assistant at Cambridge South Healthcare Center, I go above and beyond every day for my patients to keep them healthy and safe. I’m furious that congressional Republicans are threatening my patients’ health so they can give huge tax breaks to corporations and millionaire CEOs.The GOP “tax reform” bill that passed the House earlier this month is nothing more than a huge handout to wealthy donors at the expense of everyday folks like me and my co-workers, who just want to make an honest living to help provide for a better future for our families. The wealthiest in Michigan will get almost two-thirds of the tax breaks. These are folks with an income of at least a half million dollars a year, and this bill would give them an average tax cut of $76,560 in 2018. Meanwhile, they’re going to ask seniors to have their Medicare and Medicaid scaled back, make it harder for students to pay back their debt, and make it tougher for every day working people to get ahead. This is a tax plan designed to help wealthy CEOs and insurance executives, not folks like me caring for patients in hospitals and nursing homes across the state while trying to save money so our kids can go to college.Just a few months ago Republicans in Washington tried to take health care away from those who need it most, and now they want to take away essential programs from many of these same people in order to pay for huge tax breaks for the rich. Their plan increases the federal deficit by $2.4 trillion over 10 years. They won’t pay for this by closing tax loopholes for companies that send jobs overseas or hide profits offshore, but instead by crucial cuts to some of the most important programs that our families and our patients rely on like Social Security, Continue Reading

Elizabeth Warren slams ‘whining’ Ted Cruz on Twitter, highlights sacrifices made by working people

BOSTON — Ted Cruz’s sacrifices are insufferable to at least one colleague. Elizabeth Warren fired off a series of tweets Tuesday mocking her U.S. Senate colleague for an email listing sacrifices Cruz has made on the campaign trail — from time away from his family to sleep deprivation. "Are you kidding me," Warren said in one tweet, "We're supposed to pity you because trying to be the leader of the free world is hard?! 2 words: Boo hoo." TED CRUZ GAVE TERRIBLE NEW YORK CONCESSION SPEECH WITH INNUENDO In another Warren chided the Republican presidential hopeful from Texas saying that while he chose to make sacrifices, working people don't have a choice. Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, pointed to mothers who drop their kids off at daycare only to find their work hours canceled — a problem she said Republicans haven't helped to address. INTERACTIVE: NEW YORK PRIMARY RESULTS "Working people work more, get paid less, can't save, get mistreated, struggle with illness & family — but they don't whine," Warren tweeted. WARREN RIPS TRUMP AS 'LOSER' FULL OF 'INSECURITIES' Alice Stewart, a spokeswoman for the Cruz campaign, said the campaign had no comment. Warren posted an image of the fundraising email. In it, Cruz talks about constant attacks and says spending "almost every day on the campaign trail means precious little time spent with my wife, Heidi, and my daughters." He also said "fighting morning and night for the future of our country ensures long nights and early mornings resulting in little to no sleep." Warren responded, tweeting "Know who's facing ‘constant attacks,’ @TedCruz? Hardworking American immigrants, Muslims, LGBT folks, women. Your constant attacks." "Know whose sleep is limited?" Warren added. "Working parents who stay up worrying about getting kids thru college w/o big debt." The Continue Reading

San Franciso tech bro pens open letter saying homeless ‘riff raff’ are ruining the city for ‘wealthy working people’

A tone deaf Bay Area techie named Justin Keller penned an open letter to the San Francisco's mayor, Ed Lee, and police chief, Greg Suhr, about his discomfort with the “riff raff” living in the streets. Keller, who is an entrepreneur, developer and the founder of startup,has lived in the city for three years but voiced strong opinions about who is entitled to live in the rapidly gentrifying city, according to his Feb. 15blog post. “The wealthy working people have earned their right to live in the city. They went out, got an education, work hard, and earned it," he wrote. As for the homeless in San Francisco? They should disappear, as they did during a controversial sweep of street-dwellers ahead of this year’s Super Bowl, Keller says. And “there is going be a revolution,” he insists. “The city needs to tackle this problem head on, it can no longer ignore it and let people do whatever they want in the city. I don’t have a magic solution...It is a very difficult and complex situation, but somehow during Super Bowl, almost all of the homeless and riff raff seem to up and vanish.” Keller, who hails from Santa Barbara, became incensed with the city’s homeless problem when his parents and relatives came to visit him recently and they were, on three occassions, asked for money and harassed. The post hit a nerve in the Bay Area, as the Californian city is quickly gentrified by young tech entrepreneurs often at the expense of the city’s low-income population. The city’s homeless population has slowly grown to nearly 7,000 people, a 7% increase from 2005. Social media users had a field day on Keller’s Twitter feed. Keller responded to his social media haters by informing them that he is "not a rand rich dude. I ride the bus 2 work. I went to a Continue Reading

Supreme Court hammers working people … again

Working people lost in the U.S. Supreme Court.Again.Twice.They lost in the Hobby Lobby case involving contraception and they lost in the Illinois case that dealt with in-home care workers.In each instance, the court ruled 5-4.In each case, the stodgy old justices seem to have forgotten what it is like to be the little guy, or that their job is to be looking out for the little guy. To recognize that the last place where a average individual have a chance against the rich and powerful is supposed to be the courts.Or, not.In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby the court said that employers can opt out of providing contraception coverage under Obamacare if it goes against their religious convictions. The experts say that it could be the first time the court used the First Amendment's religious protections to cover a non-religious, for-profit corporation.Essentially, the justices are saying that a woman who objects to the ruling can go and work somewhere else. Look at it the other way around. They just as easily could have said that Hobby Lobby chooses to operate in an environment where equal protection applies to everyone and if you want to do business here, for profit, the everyone must play by the same rules.Now, there are exceptions. And who knows if there will be more.Likewise the court ruled against working people when it said that in-home care workers in Illinois who are paid by the state are not the same as full-time government employees and therefore can't be compelled to pay union dues. These individuals get all the benefits earned by way of union negotiation, but they don't have to contribute.It's a way of weakening unions. The fewer people who pay dues the less powerful the collective. The less powerful the union, the worse the negotiated benefits and salary.Who is hurt by that?Working people.Again. Continue Reading

The economic outrage of 2010: Cowardly leaders failed to help working people — and coddled the rich

As we look back on 2010, the most significant economic event of the year was what didn't happen: Unemployment failed to come down, stubbornly hovering around 9.5% almost four years after the bubble broke, three years after the beginning of the recession and more than two years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. And, above and beyond any other reason, this stagnation persisted because our political leaders failed to muster the requisite courage to tackle our problems at their source. With one of six Americans who would like a full-time job still not able to get one, with more than 40% of those unemployed being without a job for more than six months - a level not seen since such records were kept - but with the bankers who caused the whole mess receiving the same megabonuses as before the crisis as if nothing had happened, no wonder the anger within the country is palpable. The bankers had used their money and political influence first to buy deregulation, then to get a massive bailout and finally, this year, to prevent effective reregulation. Although the passage of the major Dodd-Frank financial sector regulation bill was a move in the right direction, it is riddled with exemptions and exceptions. It doesn't do what needs to be done with the too-big-to-fail banks - namely, break them up. It doesn't do what needed to be done about the risky credit default swaps and derivatives, which were responsible for the $180 billion bailout of AIG. While there may be debate over whether these are gambling instruments or insurance products, there should have been no debate that government-insured banks shouldn't be able to write these risky products. Yet they were allowed to continue to do so. Some of the pain felt by the middle class could have been averted if our politicians had gotten up the gumption to pass a second round of stimulus. Contrary to what you may have heard, the first round worked: But for the $800 billion stimulus passed in February 2009, Continue Reading

Give pols credit for some big wins: Things will get more fair for N.Y. working people

The rocky end to the fiscal year - in particular, the long-overdue, gimmick-filled state budget - has spurred yet another round of ritualistic condemnation of city and state lawmakers as shiftless, corrupt and captured by special interests. Take those slurs with a grain of salt. In reality, the legislature and City Council racked up a number of solid achievements that will increase opportunity and fairness for working people. That, to many of the better-off members of the chattering classes, counts as waste, or a giveaway to "special interests," although nothing could be further from the truth. The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, for instance, extends basic workplace protections to an estimated 200,000 nannies, housekeepers and companions for the elderly. They will, for the first time, be entitled to a 40-hour workweek (44 for live-in employees) with overtime beyond that. Domestics will also get three paid vacation days annually after a year of service. Such fundamental rights should have been recognized years ago, but domestics were specifically excluded from coverage in the 1930s. New York becomes the first state to begin curing that injustice. Another Albany bill, the Wage Theft Prevention Act, stiffens penalties against firms that violate wage and hour laws and mandates that companies that rip off employees pay the legal cost of collecting back pay. A conference committee with the Assembly should produce a bill that Gov. Paterson can sign into law. On the consumer front, a bill passed by both houses will require rent-to-own businesses to disclose the often onerous terms on which furniture and other goods are being leased. And the Assembly and Senate both agreed on a bill requiring debt collectors to register with the state - a needed step in the direction of reforms currently being considered by the Senate. In the city, Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council avoided some of the cruelest cuts. Millions were put back into daycare funding, enough Continue Reading