Vice President Joe Biden promoted needed improvements at the Port of Charleston from its Columbus St. Terminal on the early afternoon of Monday, Sept. 16.
About 40 members of local labor unions, including the International Longshoremen’s Association that serves the port, attended the event by direct invitation from the White House, and made up the largest collective group amongst the 240 attendees.
The Port of Charleston and other U.S. ports need to accommodate newer freight vessels that can carry up to three times the cargo of ordinary freighters
, Biden said.
Being dredged to a depth of 50 feet will allow the Port of Charleston at all times to accommodate these high-cargo vessels, which are expected to increase in trade use following expansion of the Panama Canal
, scheduled for completion in 2014.
The port is currently of a 45-foot depth, and can only accommodate “post-Panamax” vessels at high tide.
The project is still a candidate for federal funding; if realized, the dredging could be completed by 2019.
Shipments to the Port of Charleston could double by 2025, Biden said, and double again in 2040, if the dredging is done.
“Continuing investment here in Charleston is a big win for everybody.”
The proposed project has bipartisan praise, too. Both the Democrat (Rep. Jim Clyburn) and Republican (Rep. Mark Sanford) representing the Charleston region in Congress attended to show support for dredging, as did Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and Charleston’s Democrat-supporting Mayor Joe Riley.
All spoke before the vice president arrived.
Deepening the port would have a $47 billion impact on South Carolina’s economy, Haley said. “We can’t let it fail.”
Despite this bipartisan support from local officials, political division in Washington, D.C. leaves funding at a standstill
“Failure to … dredge the Port of Charleston would be a failure of enterprise,” Clyburn said.
Last year the state legislature set aside $300 million
to cover most, if not all, of the dredging cost, should the federal government fail to provide funding.
The local port is ideal in merit for the dredging, Biden said, citing its nine-percent growth in trade in just the last year as example.
“The longshoremen deserve a lot of credit” for this success, he said, extending personal thanks to Ken Riley, a national vice president of ILA and president of its local 1422 that works at the Port of Charleston.
Improvements to Charleston’s and other ports would have impact on many industries, too, said Biden, and even aid trade balance.
“Manufacturing is coming back,” he said, crediting the growth to corporations’ recognition that “American workers are three times more productive than Chinese workers.”
That industry trend could be seen locally, as well, the vice president said. “South Carolina has the finest technical education system in the world,” Biden stated, implying that improvements to the Port of Charleston could attract more businesses to the area that require skilled labor. “It’s all about jobs.”
Labor unions present at the by-invite-only event included ILA, IBEW, Plumbers & Pipefitters, CWA and USW, and representatives of the state AFL-CIO also attended.
Others invited to the event included local and state officials and members of Charleston’s Chamber of Commerce.
A good economy requires good wages, Dr. Robert Reich told participants in a June 20 conference. And good labor organization is required to get those good wages, he said.
Public policy professor at UC-Berkeley and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Reich
answered questions from national AFL-CIO members in a one-hour session.
Median income in the U.S. has consistently declined
, shrinking the middle class to its lowest point in history, participants noted, and Reich agreed.
“The biggest factor, I think, is the declining power of ordinary workers to get better pay, coupled with high unemployment that further reduces their bargaining power. Corporate profits today are soaring largely because payroll costs are dropping. So we need a stronger union movement.”
The benefits would go both ways, too, Reich said.
“History does provide valuable lessons here. We know, for example, that the rich would do better with a smaller share of a rapidly-growing pie – growing rapidly because a prosperous and expanding middle class has the money to spend – than a large share of a pie that’s barely growing, as is the case today.
“We also know that when the vast majority becomes cynical and angry because they work hard and get nowhere, they’re more prone to listen to demagogues – on the extreme left as well as the extreme right – who endanger the economy and society. In other words, it’s in the long-term interest of the wealthiest people in America to reverse the trend toward widening inequality.”
The extreme right, though, has been more harmful to middle-class America, Reich insinuated, especially through its media avenues.
Specifying Fox News and radio-show host Rush Limbaugh, he said “these rightwing mouthpieces have done huge damage to America, causing many working-class people to believe the opposite of what’s true, and the opposite of what they need.”
Participants attributed some of American job insecurity to the change in national economy from an industrial base to one of service-industry focus, alluding to a trade of skilled jobs for lower income employment. Reich agreed, but doesn’t think the change in industry dominance requires acceptance of poor wages.
“We can’t bring back the old assembly line because technology is replacing with computerized machine tools and robotics, nor can we bring back the old industrial economy that generated millions of jobs. But we can bring back job security and good wages,” he offered, along with an example pertaining to global trade.
“America is still the largest market in the world. Every global company wants to come here to sell its goods and services. So suppose we conditioned market entry on a corporation agreeing that it would hire Americans in proportion to its sales in the U.S., and that the median pay of its U.S. employees would not be lower than 10 percent of the average pay of its top five executives?”
He acknowledged a gender inequality in income (females earn 19 percent less than males
in full-time, year-round earnings), but “the pay gap between men and women isn’t the largest inequality problem,” Reich said.
“The biggest widening gap is between the richest one percent of Americans and the bottom 99 percent – and even between the richest one-tenth of one percent and everyone else. The 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us, the bottom half of the American population, put together.
“This wild distortion is not only bad for the economy,” he said, “but it’s also terrible for our democracy, because it means that democracy can be bought.”
Recent questionable court rulings add to the dilemma of a government-for-sale, too, Reich offered. “The biggest source of corruption is unlimited campaign contributions. We need to reverse Citizens United [a U.S. Supreme Court decision
that provides corporations and organizations with an avenue of unlimited spending in political campaigns](.)”
Meanwhile, there are multiple routes organized labor can take simultaneously in its efforts to correct income disparity and protect U.S. jobs.
“I’d recommend three things,” he said. “A major educational outreach to the public about what the labor movement has accomplished and what it could accomplish for average working people in the future, (like) paid sick leave, for example; a major fight with Wal-Mart or any other huge and irresponsible employer that dramatizes the struggle – and a win; and a set of demands that any candidate for office must agree to if they are to receive union support, such as commitment to sponsor and vote for (the) Employee Free Choice Act
Reich also recommended worker co-ops and worker ownership as means to protect jobs from moving overseas, and agreed that a substantial increase to minimum wage is necessary for the economy. (See Reich's video on minimum wage below.)
Wal-mart, Wal-fare, or maybe Wel-mart.
But the name doesn't matter, as long you understand that the store you know as Wal-mart probably carries the most responsibility for welfare and poverty in the U.S.
Check the graphic below that offers more details on how Wal-mart (or Wal-fare
) is the biggest freeloader of all time. We're the ones paying for it, and in more ways than one.
Long lines at retail stores on the day after Thanksgiving Thursday are common, but this year’s “Black Friday” will have a new twist.
Many of the lines at Wal-Mart stores across the country won’t be customers, but protesters instead.
A demonstration against the company’s treatment of its workers and even its effect on the economy is scheduled for the big-box chain's North Charleston location on November 23, as well.
The two-hour protest starts at 10 a.m. this Friday at the corner of Centre Pointe Dr and Tanger Outlet Blvd
The Charleston Central Labor Council and SC AFL-CIO are promoting the local demonstration, but neither group can take credit for it, says Erin McKee, who’s an officer with both groups.
“Ours is a just a response to the national tide of strikes, sit-outs and demonstrations at Wal-Mart across the country,” McKee says. Over 1,000 Wal-Mart demonstrations
are occurring nationwide over a nine-day period.
Wal-Mart’s unfair labor practices are a primary basis for the local rally, McKee says, offering its payroll as evidence.
The company employs 1.4 million
Americans – more than any other company – but 80 percent of them are paid so little that they qualify for food stamps
, and even though Wal-Martclears over $15 billion
in net profit every year.
The four primary shareholders of the corporation – children of its founder Sam Walton – rank among the 10 wealthiest Americans
, however. Each one (Christy, Jim, Alice and S. Robson Walton) has over $26 billion in assets.
If the average wage of $8.81 an hour wasn’t bad enough, Wal-Mart is also credited with contributing to the high unemployment in the U.S.
Its import of products from China directly cost 196,000 American jobs
, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Wal-Mart is also responsible for 11 percent of the total trade deficit with China
The end result of these poor labor practices affects not just Wal-Mart employees, but practically every taxpayer, as well.
The annual costs of food stamps and Medicaid for Wal-Mart workers, as well as free and reduced-price lunches at school for their children, come to $2.66 billion, according to Good Jobs First
That’s another basis for Friday’s demonstration. McKee says she hopes the rally will “explain to the taxpayers that these cheap prices are not cheap.”
A group known as OUR (“Organization United for Respect at”) Wal-Mart
has caught flak from the corporation for promoting this Black Friday event, it says, and to the degree that OUR Wal-Mart has filed suit
to protect its right to demonstrate.
Filed yesterday with the National Labor Relations Council, the charges specify threats the company made to employees should they participate in any demonstrations or strikes.
The demonstration will end at noon. Early arrivers can join other participants at the nearby IHOP on Centre Pointe Dr
A little fun at the closing of a recent function created quite a stink in the state, and even circulated to national media that don’t seem to want to let this issue die down.
But what is this issue, exactly, and how on earth did it become such a mess?
At a picnic following the recent annual conference of the South Carolina Progressive Network, Donna Dewitt – the soon-too-retire president of the state’s AFL-CIO – struck a piñata that carried the name and image of Gov. Nikki Haley.
A video of that sarcastic gesture at the private event (see below) quickly went viral, and – for some reason – launched a tidal wave of angry responses from the governor, her supporters and even national networks.
Since then, Dewitt’s had to appear on national television
to answer questions about the event. Another AFL-CIO official in the state (Brett Bursey) got questioned by FOX
And somehow, for some reason, and which many nationwide now know, striking a piñata that carries the image of another person is a very, very bad thing to do. Forget the fact that those traditional party features are regularly made in the images of very popular personalities, and even in a bride-and-groom format
that gets knocked around at weddings – it’s wrong, dammit.
But if folks want to believe that hitting a Haley piñata is a terrible thing to do, and if we’re going to make Dewitt (a great person, by the way) go through grilling questions on nationwide television broadcasts, then why aren’t these same people and media asking Haley to own up for what she’s done to us so far in just this first year-and-a-half of her term?
Apparently, there’s a double-standard when it comes to issues involving elected officials and those involving everyday citizens. For example:
It’s okay for Haley to campaign on a platform of less spending, small government and an end to cronyism, only to then begin paying her staff almost a quarter-million more
than the last governor did.
Striking a piñata with her name and picture on it is very wrong, however.
It’s okay for Haley to ignore her job right after she took the governor’s office so she could begin writing her autobiography
, and then to ignore that job even more as she runs around attempting to promote
Taking a stick to a piñata that has her image on it, though, is somehow wrong.
It’s okay for Haley to promise to help senior citizens register to vote, only to break that promise
, leaving those seniors on the phone with Haley’s staff who didn’t know anything about that promise.
But hitting a Haley piñata is bad.
It’s okay for Haley to spend our money to build a wine cellar
in the governor’s mansion.
Hitting a piñata that carries her face is a no-no.
It’s okay for Haley to spend $127,000 of tax-payer dollars on a trip to Paris
, and it’s okay for her to spend additional money on having her staff meetings at exclusive vacation getaways
instead of her own office.
It’s wrong to smack a $19.99 piñata that bears her name, though.
It’s okay for Haley to call a reporter who asks her important questions about those tax-payer funded vacations “a little girl
Hitting a little piñata with Haley’s picture on it is somehow wrong.
It’s okay for Haley to sell her endorsement
to other politicians in exchange for $36,000.
However, it’s quite erroneous to hit a piñata with Haley’s picture on it.
It’s okay for Haley to say
on national television that “women don’t care about contraception.”
Women like Haley do care, though, when a piñata gets used like a piñata is supposed to be used, but which you can’t do if it has her name or photo on it.
It’s okay for Haley to remove a woman who gave over $70 million to the state university from its board of trustees in exchange for
a guy who have Haley’s campaign $4,500.
But, nope – hacking at the Haley piñata is bad.
It’s okay for Haley to sign an executive order
to block workers who are on strike from collecting unemployment, and apparently only as a publicity stunt since striking workers don’t get unemployment benefits anyway.
But hitting a piñata that has her picture on it is wrong.
It’s okay for Haley to declare
representation of workers is “not needed, not wanted, and not welcome” in South Carolina, seeking to knock our citizens further down the ladder into serfdom.
Using a piñata in the exact way a piñata is supposed to be used is gravely wrong, though, if it has Haley’s name and picture on it.
It’s okay for Haley to play around with a $1 million federal grant to such a degree that the federal government is calling for an investigation on misuse of funds
. It’s also okay for Haley to actively delete
all of her office’s email records pertaining to that misuse of the $1 million grant, not only breaking her own promise of transparent government, but also violating state law
against disposal of public records.
But whopping a piñata with her picture on it is wrong.
It’s okay for Haley to have 23 arrested
for exercising their right to assembly on public property, even though there’s been federal ruling on the books for over 50 years
protecting that right.
Don’t hit a piñata if it carries her picture, though.
It’s okay for Haley to block
the bipartisan and unanimously approved Stroke Prevention Act here in this state that ranks fifth highest in number of strokes, and to try to veto a total of four bills that pertain to improving healthcare in the state.
But smacking a piñata with Haley’s picture must be worse than a stroke or any of the other medical maladies she wants to ignore.
It’s okay for Haley to try to veto three bills that pertain to funding of the state’s Dept. of Health and Environmental Control, and only as vengeance
for the time when DHEC denied approval of a project attempted by Haley’s former employer.
But striking a piñata – which is exactly what you’re supposed to do with a piñata – is wrong, simply because it has Haley’s picture on it.
It’s okay for Haley to appoint a new board for DHEC
, which now votes exactly the way she tells it to.
It’s not okay to use a piñata in the way it’s supposed to be used, though, if that piñata is a Haley piñata.
It’s okay for Haley to sell out our state and harm the development of its major port by aiding the development of that port’s biggest competitor
in another state, which could cost South Carolina 280,000 jobs – and all in exchange for campaign donations she received from that other state.
But don’t even think about hitting a Haley piñata.
It’s okay for Haley to be implicated in an IRS investigation
of false reporting and sneaky financial tricks, including illegal contributions to a political candidate
, in her role as treasurer of her family’s (supposedly) non-profit organization.
But who the hell do you think you are to use a piñata as a piñata if it carries Haley’s picture?
It’s okay for Haley for interfere with the state legislature’s own investigation
of those charges, too.
But damn you and your name and your reputation if you have the audacity to smack a piñata, even though that’s what you’re supposed to do with a piñata, if that piñata has picture of Haley on it.
And now that the piñata bashing is all over and done with, it’s okay for Haley to use this incident as a fund-raising scheme
, asking for donations on her website
and twitter account
to help her “fight back now against the bullying of Liberal unions,” and by sending emails
saying she needs campaign money to “show big labor we will not stand for their bullying.”
See how different things are supposed to be if you’re a governor? And even for a quite unpopular governor, who’s never had an approval rating higher than 37.3 percent
since the day she took the office?
Don’t worry, Donna Dewitt. You’ve got plenty of back-up. And hopefully media will begin paying attention to issues that matter, like all of the trash going on in Haley’s less-than-half term so far as governor.
But if it doesn’t, and if they decide to only pay attention to stuff like this, I’ll be glad to be your designated hitter at the next piñata party.
Before the badly-informed public continues use of the “right to work” term in a positive light, they should take a look at the true impositions the far-right’s anti-labor sentiment imposes on them.
For example, check out this recent graph created by Think Progress
. The United States is the only country listed that does not offer a guaranteed right of paid maternity leave from the workplace.
And before anyone yells out “socialist!” take a good look at that list of countries featured on the graph – Germany, Italy, South Africa and almost all of the others are
republics with governments elected by the people (and that have solid capitalist economies with profitable companies and corporations).
Ones with paler economies (Mexico, Venezuela) have it, and even a country with a much stricter, male-dominated social structure (Pakistan) guarantees that right to its women workers, too.
And there are many, many more than just those 14 countries listed on the graph that offer this basic benefit. In fact, aside from the United States, only
Papua New Guinea (which has only five medical doctors
for every 100,000 citizens) and Swaziland (which has a life expectancy of only 32 years
) don’t guarantee this medical benefit.
That’s right – we’re one of only three countries on the planet that does not provide its citizens with a guaranteed right of paid maternity leave.
But it doesn’t stop there; 74 countries
offer paid paternity leave, too, with 31 of those nations guaranteeing 14 weeks to new fathers.
We’re also notably absent from the list of 48 countries
that guarantee paid time off to parents who need to care for sick children.
It gets a lot worse for U.S. workers, too; 163 countries have paid sick leave
, not limited to maternity, as a basic right – but not the United States. Even though 86 percent
of the population says it should be guaranteed – even 81 percent of those who self-identify as conservative – we’re still far behind the rest of the world.
Federal government employees have that right (and so does the state of Connecticut recently, due to campaigns by that state’s Working Families Party
), but everyone else in the private sector is left at the mercy of their employers.
That mercy ain’t much, either – 16 percent
of American workers say that they or at least one of their relatives has been punished by employers, reprimanded, or even fired because of missing work due to an illness.
In this election year, let’s keep basic labor rights included in the questions we ask candidates. Make sure they defend these rights and freedoms in the Land of the Free, and help the United States join the rest of the modern world.
And if the candidates you speak with disagree? Tell them there’s plenty of room for their kind over in Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.
Little did Donna Dewitt know of the wave of troubles and ill will her demeaning and insensitive actions last week would bring upon the nation.
Instead of the intended results of a shower of candy, smacking a piñata bearing the image of South Carolina governor Nikki Haley produced a spill of animosity instead.
But while outgoing state AFL-CIO president Dewitt has had to answer for her completely cruel behavior on national news, it appears that a completely new stick is wildly swinging across the country in hopes of gaining its own sweets and treats.
Today, country music legend Willie Nelson filed suit against a piñata manufacturer for producing stuffed dolls in his image. Joining Nelson are pop star Justin Bieber and Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, whose likenesses are also borne by best-selling piñatas.
DC Comics will be joining this trend, its attorneys announced this morning, and to protect the image of its Batman character. “He’s, like, undefeatable,” the company’s attorney said. “To have kids whack him with a stick is – you know, an insult to his character, no matter what goodies the piñata gives them in exchange.”
Further indicating the severity of the cruelness Dewitt instigated, hundreds of children across the country have filed class-action against a senseless company that produces a piñata in the image of their Sesame Street pal Elmo.
A couple who recently separated just hours after their wedding ceremony are planning to file complaint as well, blaming their irreparable differences on the bride and groom piñata featured at their wedding reception.
(from www.pinatacasa.com and www.worldofpinatas.com)
Joining this trend, the national Republican Party has filed suit against a company for producing piñatas in the image of its elephant logo. The consumers of that particular piñata have filed a counter-suit, however, complaining that the GOP piñata only produced IOUs and pink slips.
In what appears to be last-second stab at redemption by the person who started all this, Dewitt has also filed suit, and on behalf of all the workers – both employed and unemployed – in South Carolina.
In her complaint, Dewitt states that she injured her back while attempting to open the piñata that carried an image of the governor. “If Haley’s skull wasn’t that thick, all of us wouldn’t be in so much pain right now,” Dewitt said.
(if you can't recognize this to be satire - let me show you this stick I have)
NAFTA was supposed to be an agreement to benefit trade in the U.S. Instead, it's only taken away American employment.
Ever hear folks at political events hollering for "free trade?" Remind them of how much free trade just with two countries has cost us so far.
John Gage, International President of the American Federation of Government Workers, came to town today to take on the latest anti-labor tauntings of Tim Scott,
the freshman representative of South Carolina's 1st Congressional District. And joining Gage for demonstration outside of Scott's Charleston office were the local Longshoremen, Communication Workers, AFL-CIO, other labor unions, and even yours truly. Recently, Scott introduced a bill he calls the "Employee Empowerment Act." Despite that title, it doesn't exactly give any power or freedom; in fact, it does just the opposite. If passed, it would block federal employees from paying union dues directly from their paychecks. Thus, instead of providing any "empowerment," the act would only rest
rict the freedom of government employees to pay dues in a convenient format of their own choice. And taking away a freedom of choice ain't exactly empowering, now is it?And H.R. 2145 isn't Scott's first
anti-labor measure so far in the first months of his term. He submitted another that would prevent an entire household from food stamp eligibility should any member at the same address participate in a labor strike. So what else can the local labor force - about 35 in number at today's demonstration - do but protest? It wound up being a rather moving rally, too:
But these demonstrators weren't alone for long. Scott himself came out of the office. And he was joined by about 15 counter-protesters, some of whom were from the Summerville chapter of the 9-12 Project
(an organization created by Glenn Beck
, whose last show on FAUX News airs today, incidentally.)Now, let me be clear that these other folks who supported Scott were not a violent, angry mob. They were very peaceful, respectful, friendly folks, overall. They came to state their side, just like we were there to offer ours. And it was rather congenial. I shook many hands and even traded jokes with a few. I met members of this group before, after all.But there were a couple - and let me specify that I don't know if they were with 9-12, and I'm not insinuating that they automatically were - who were outright hostile. After answering a question about what union representation has done for her, a woman with ILA found herself being insulted and taunted in a format that reminded me of the locker room in middle school.
And she looked wounded by it, too. One guy wanted to know what I did for a living, then what education I'd achieved, then where I went to school. He was apparently trying to fish for grounds to issue his own insults, which he then did after I answered his last question. I was told my state university schooling was "union based" and deficient as a result, especially in comparison to his Harvard Univ. credentials. (I wanted to tell him I was absolutely certain that Harvard doesn't teach its students that Pres. Roosevelt - who died in 1945 - signed the bill enacting Medicare in 1965, which he'd just claimed.) After he capped off his juvenile tirades with that foolish statement, I walked away from him.I even spoke directly to Scott. That wasn't my intention, mind you, but after I wandered over to hear what he was telling folks, I wound up directly in front him. Having his attention, I took opportunity to state my case - removing a freedom does not constitute empowerment. In fact, it's only the opposite. His consistent promotion of the so-called "right to work" has apparent goals to squash union representation, too, I said
Scott swore that his bill was not meant to be an attack on unions. Another person in the crowd challenged him on that, though, pointing out that his bill did not address other formats of automatic paycheck deductions federal government employees can make, such as charitable contributions. As a result, his proposal could only be viewed to be anti-union, since it only addressed union dues deductions. I continued by reminding Scott and others nearby that, in today's complicated business world, representation is a vital need. The fields of labor and labor rights and labor laws are much more complicated today than when unions were first formed decades ago. If they weren't so complicated, then why is that a majority of the members of this particular union in question (AFGE) have post-secondary education, many with masters' and doctorate degrees, and still openly seek union representation to help them figure it all out? To block that representation, I offered, is like saying, "you have a right to a fair trial ... but not to an attorney."That's when Scott recognized me. "What's your name?" he asked with an inquisitive squint. "Oh, yeah, I remember you now," he said. "I guess this is an announcement of your next campaign."
(No, it isn't, Tim, you'll face much bigger weight than mine next year.) Following that misdirection, he
wanted to close the argument speaking on other irrelevant topics. I tried to bring it back, though. To deny union representation - and give favor exclusively to companies in the process only in hopes it will increase corporate interest - resembles the economic theory of Karl Marx, father of communism, I pointed out. Scott closed it after that. "We could discuss this forever," he said. He then wandered over to speak to Gage from the AFGE. Local media surrounded them, and I didn't want to interfere or appear camera-happy, so I stayed back. I didn't hear the conversation, but it appeared to hold a serious tone. I simply wandered over to join the union folks in their rally, which continued with the same spirit. I spoke with some counter-protesters, too, and am glad to have had the opportunity. Hell, it was fun. We shared stories of our mutual discontent with last week's congressional hearing
in North Charleston, for example. And that made me overlook and ignore the angry Harvard-wannabe, who was then pursuing another soundboard to rant against (and who also peacefully walked away from him). But it didn't help me feel any better about Scott's bill, though. This is a simple, basic right to representation that's under consistent attack. Not just in Wisconsin, but nationwide. And we can't allow this cheap, meaningless, pointless bill to go through as a result.