Let's take a look at unemployment in the US to remind ourselves----we must have citizens earning enough money to be able to consume to fuel the economy. We must have policy that has Federal, state, and local governments using public money to hire small and regional domestic businesses to do work to rebuild a domestic economy. Global corporations expanding overseas only hire overseas and make their profits overseas.
THIS IS THE PROBLEM WITH UNEMPLOYMENT.
REMEMBER, UNEMPLOYMENT IN THE US AND MARYLAND IS 36% BECAUSE GLOBAL CORPORATIONS CONTROL OUR ECONOMY AND USE HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT TO KEEP US WORKERS DESPERATE AND TO MAXIMIZE PROFITS.
Below you see the latest scheme by neo-liberal pols working for wealth and profit-----having the public become the Human Resources Department for corporations by having taxpayers fund all job training that should be done by corporations. THESE WORKERS MUST BE JOB-READY ON DAY ONE. All of the education funding that helped the working/middle class go to 4 year universities now go to subsidize corporate profit in job training programs. I listen to neo-liberals telling me the poor need computer skills to do a job as if poor children aren't the top users of computer gaming-----needing lots of computer knowledge. They simply need access to computers. There is no skills deficit-----we have US college grads with STEM degrees among the unemployed. Neo-liberals and neo-cons are simply using this as excuses to spend public money building structures that bring foreign students to the US to train to work overseas.
The problem today with the policy of a New Deal infrastructure funding bill is that neo-liberals are ready to send all that Federal funding to global construction corporations who will be allowed to bring labor from the nations these corporations are headquartered. There will be little US employment from a infrastructure bill created by neo-liberals. This is what Trans Pacific Trade Pact TPP is all about!
IF YOUR POL IS NOT SHOUTING THAT REBUILDING A DOMESTIC ECONOMY AND GETTING RID OF GLOBAL CORPORATIONS IN YOUR STATE-------THEY ARE NEO-LIBERALS AND NEO-CONS.
In Maryland that is why elections have been captured so as to silence an candidate with a platform to do that----
Wednesday, Feb 5, 2014, 11:33 am
Who’s Really To Blame for Unemployment?
BY Michelle Chen Working In These Times
Though some protesters at an 'Unemployment Olympics' event in Tompkins Square Park, N.Y. blamed joblessness on 'the boss,' a new report suggests that the economic climate is more at fault.
Guided by the mythology of the “American dream”—the idea that, given the opportunity, the deserving will excel and rise above their peers—politicians often attribute unemployment to a mystical “skills gap.” If people can’t find a job, the logic goes, they clearly weren’t fit to be hired. As a consequence, many legislators tout specialized training programs or education reforms as possible solutions to America’s seemingly intractable jobs crisis. But a new study shows that blaming the “skills gap” for unemployment makes about as much sense as blaming a mass famine on “excess hunger.”
A recent analysis by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute shows that elevated unemployment is due to a general lack of demand in the job market, fueled by overarching economic decline. In other words, this is not a problem that can merely be addressed by retraining workers or revamping the education system.
In the report, economist Heidi Shierholz outlines this economic imbalance by comparing unemployment at different levels of education. Her results reveal that workers are suffering across the board:
Workers with a college degree or more still have unemployment rates that are more than one-and-a-half times as high as they were before the recession began. In other words, demand for workers at all levels of education is significantly weaker now than it was before the recession started. There is no evidence of workers at any level of education facing tight labor markets relative to 2007.
Moreover, the report continues, there are no specific job sectors that appear to be especially “tight.” So it’s not that the economy especially favors, for example, radiologists or software engineers; bosses seem to be shutting the door on workers of all sorts:
T]he unemployment rate in 2012 in all occupations is higher than it was before the recession. In every occupational category demand for workers is lower than it was five years ago. The signature of a skills mismatch—workers in some occupations experiencing tight labor markets relative to 2007—is plainly missing.
Indeed, when comparing the job-opening-to-job-seeker ratio across different categories, EPI found that “unemployed workers dramatically outnumber job openings in all sectors. There are between 1.4 and 10.5 times as many unemployed workers as job openings in every industry. ... In no industry does the number of job openings even come close to the number of people looking for work.”
They found similar evidence of stagnation in the number of hours that people are working and in wage rates—both of which also suggest that there has been no significant jump in demand for more labor in specific job areas.
And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen research debunking the “skill gap” rhetoric. Last year, various analyses of the so-called STEM fields (high-paying professions geared toward science, technology, engineering and math) showed that these much-hyped occupations, which policymakers and the media have tended to revere as potential saviors for U.S. industry, are not exactly lacking qualified U.S. applicants. Rather than hire those skilled workers, however, many managers are opting to fill their openings with "guestworkers," who are essentially brought in on employment visas as a reliable supply of temporary labor linked to specific firms. According to EPI, these guestworkers are also generally paid less attractive wages than their peers in comparable positions.
In addition, a recent study focused on Wisconsin workers came to similar findings about supply and demand in the workforce. After crunching the 2012 numbers on jobs that require various levels of education, urbanologist Marc Levine concluded in that report, “Even if every unemployed person were perfectly matched to existing jobs, [more than] two-thirds of all jobless workers would still be out of work.” That’s a gap that no amount of extra training will fill.
Schierholz does note that in a dynamic, churning economy, there will always be some “mismatch” between job-seekers and job openings; individuals typically get turned down for positions for which they lack the right skills or experience. But these specific incompatibilities are not enough to explain the dramatic rise in unemployment in the past few years. And the issue before lawmakers now, she says, is how to curb those plummeting jobs numbers.
Rather than focus on grooming workers for specific sectors as a jobs program, EPI therefore recommends another $600 billion stimulus from Washington to help restore state budgets after the deep cuts that severely undermined opportunities and income among public servants during the recession. Another solution for workers would be a New Deal-style launch of infrastructural construction projects, which could immediately create job openings and pump aggregate economic activity. Extending unemployment benefits could also help re-energize the slumped economy, EPI says, by keeping those without a steady income from falling further into poverty.
However, thanks to the current legislature's general reluctance to take measures that smack of expanding welfare or enact proactive policy interventions to create government-supported jobs, Schierholz isn’t optimistic that Congress will actually put these stimulus reforms into action.
"We actually could do this. The economics is pretty straightforward,” she tells In These Times. Unfortunately, she adds, “Generally, a big fiscal expansion is just not in the cards. So we are instead going to be languishing in this sluggish recovery for a while. It's going to be four or five years before we get back to something that looks like health in the labor market."
So when viewed in historical context, what is commonly deemed the “skills gap” in Washington looks more like a gap in knowledge about how the economy actually works. If legislators' idea is to break out of America's downward spiral, they shouldn't blame workers for not having what it takes to "deserve" to be employed. Instead, policymakers ought to acknowledge the fundamentals of matching people with jobs: it's not just about their usefulness to the economy, but whether the economy is healthy enough to make use of them.
When labor is marginalized by global corporate power it compromises positions that will in the end kill the unions. The American people will not support unions if the leaders are pushing the policies of global corporations that take the US to the level of developing countries-----as Trans Pacific Trade Pact does. Each election I see the AFL-CIO and other major unions backing the very neo-liberal candidates breaking down the US Constitution and handing control of the economy to global corporations. They are backing the worst of economic and development projects all under the guise of 'creating jobs'. If I have to listen one more time to union leaders say-----'but they promised jobs'.
WE NEED LABOR UNIONS TO PROTECT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. STAND FIRM AGAINST BAD PUBLIC POLICY AND RUN REAL LABOR AND JUSTICE CANDIDATES FOR GOODNESS SAKE!
The threat of loss of union rights being made by neo-liberals will pale to the American people losing faith in union leadership. The Democratic Party is a tent of labor and justice. If labor turns on justice they will lose as well.
STOP ALLOWING GLOBAL CORPORATIONS AND THEIR POLS DIVIDE AND CONQUER. WE NEED JOBS BUT NOT ANY JOB. WE NEED TO BE BUILDING AN ECONOMY THAT WILL CREATE A HEALTHY FUTURE.
Gambling and fossil fuels----fracking and natural gas exporting all to create jobs?????? REALLY?
FRACKING AND NATURAL GAS IS NOT CLEAN FUEL------EXPORTING RAW ENERGY RAISES THE COSTS IN THE US AND DOES NOT SUPPORT BUILDING ENERGY INDEPENDENCE. IT IS BAD POLICY.
When labor union leaders become the mouthpiece for all neo-liberal and neo-con policy-----they are worthless to the American people and they will lose support. In Europe it is labor unions that are successfully protecting the citizens of Europe as best they can.
THE AMERICAN PEOPLE NEED STRONG UNIONS BUT WE NEED GOOD UNION LEADERSHIP!
Web Only / Features » February 4, 2014
Angering Environmentalists, AFL-CIO Pushes Fossil-Fuel Investment
Labor’s Richard Trumka has gone on record praising the Keystone pipeline and natural gas export terminals.
BY Cole Stangler Email Print Trumka's comments come at a sensitive time, as trade unions and leading environmental groups have sought to build political partnerships with each other in recent years.
The nation’s leading environmental groups are digging their heels in the sand by rejecting President Obama’s “all-of-the above” domestic energy strategy—which calls for pursuing renewable energy sources like wind and solar, but simultaneously expanding oil and gas production.
But it appears the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation, won’t be taking environmentalists’ side in this fight, despite moves toward labor-environmentalist cooperation in recent years. On a recent conference call with reporters, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka endorsed two initiatives reviled by green groups: the Keystone XL pipeline and new natural gas export terminals.
“There’s no environmental reason that [the pipeline] can’t be done safely while at the same time creating jobs,” said Trumka.
In response to a question from In These Times, Trumka also spoke in favor of boosting exports of natural gas.
“Increasing the energy supply in the country is an important thing for us to be looking at,” Trumka said. “All facets of it ought to be up on the table and ought to be talked about. If we have the ability to export natural gas without increasing the price or disadvantaging American industry in the process, then we should carefully consider that and adopt policies to allow it to happen and help, because God only knows we do need help with our trade balance.”
The call came amidst a series of three speeches by the AFL-CIO leader pushing for more investment in energy and transportation infrastructure. Trumka did not specifically praise Keystone and natural gas exports during the first speech, at the UN Investor Summit on Climate Risk on January 15, and it is unclear whether he will in the remaining two. But the labor leader’s comments on the conference call were enough to peeve environmentalists.
The anti-KXL camp has long argued that construction of the pipeline will facilitate the extraction of Alberta’s tar sands oil, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet. Many also oppose Keystone XL on the grounds that its route crosses the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground sources of fresh water. “We invite President Trumka to come to Nebraska and visit with farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods are directly put at risk with the Keystone XL pipeline,” says Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, which has organized local opposition against the pipeline. “To say the pipeline will not harm our water is ignoring real-life tragedies witnessed by all of us with the BP explosion, the Enbridge burst pipe into the Kalamazoo River and tar sands flowing down the street in Mayflower, Arkansas.”
Brendan Smith, co-founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability, a group that works with labor unions and environmental groups to fight climate change, took issue with Trumka’s argument that Keystone would create jobs. “There is plenty of work that needs to done in this country, and we can create far more jobs fixing infrastructure and transitioning to wind, solar and other renewable energy sources,” says Smith. “Why build a pipeline that will significantly increase carbon emissions and will hurt our economy when there is a more robust and sustainable jobs agenda on the table?”
Trumka’s measured support for the KXL and natural gas export terminals is likely a nod to the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD), whose relations with the parent labor federation have been, at times, fraught with tension. Many of the BCTD-affiliated unions enthusiastically support the pipeline: After the State Department released its final environmental analysis of the KXL, the head of the Laborers International Union of North America called for the president to approve the project while blasting “extremists in the environmental movement.”
Liquefied natural gas exports, meanwhile, are shaping up to be the next site of blue-green conflict. While environmentalists condemn plans to build export terminals nationwide, the BCTD and some of its affiliates have supported them. This appears to be the first time that Trumka has publicly sided with the BCTD on the issue.
Recently, the BCTD has gone head-to-head with environmentalists in Maryland over a controversial plan by energy giant Dominion Resources to convert a liquefied natural gas import terminal at Cove Point in Lusby, Md. into an export terminal. BCTD argues that the project supports thousands of well-paid jobs. Last November, BCTD head Sean McGarvey signed an “open letter” crafted by Dominion that appeared as a full-page ad in both The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post and attacked the “misinformation being thrown about by those who would undo the project.”
Opponents such as the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), an environmental group that works in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia, disagree. They say most of the jobs created by Cove Point and other proposed liquefied gas export terminals across the country will be temporary, limited to the construction process. And while the gas industry and the White House tout natural gas as a clean alternative to oil and coal, the environmental impacts are just as severe, argues CCAN Director Mike Tidwell. “When it comes to U.S. natural gas and climate change,” Tidwell says, “the worst possible thing you can do with that gas is frack it, pipe it, liquefy it and send it to Asia to light it on fire. The life cycle, the greenhouse gas emissions of that process makes that gas almost certainly as bad as coal, if not worse, in terms of the impact on the climate. We would be better off if India burned [its] own coal than [took] our gas from Appalachia.”
Like Smith, Tidwell believes that job creation and an environmentally friendly agenda are not mutually exclusive. “Nobody’s saying that there should be no jobs,” Tidwell says. “I think it’s the fossil fuel industry that convinces labor that either you have dirty, fossil fuel jobs or you have no jobs. They’re the ones that create that dichotomy, and I can understand why our friends in the labor movement feel like they gotta hang onto every last job they have because they’re under assault from the Republican Party, they’re under assault from the same corporations that are telling them fossil fuel jobs are good.”
Trumka’s comments come at a sensitive time, as trade unions and leading environmental groups have sought to build political partnerships with each other in recent years. After Obama’s November 2012 re-election, the Sierra Club and the CWA helped found the Democracy Initiative, which successfully pushed for a change in Senate’s filibuster rules. The move is designed to limit GOP obstructionism on modest liberal initiatives. In September 2013, at its most recent convention, the AFL-CIO passed a resolution to build “enduring labor-community partnerships,” which led to speculation that progressive groups like the Sierra Club could earn a spot on the federation’s executive council.
On February 10, Trumka will face a test of how his call for energy investment affects these ties. He is scheduled to deliver a pro-infrastructure investment pitch at the annual conference of the Blue-Green Alliance, a group composed of environmentally minded unions, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the AFL-CIO-affiliated Communications Workers of America (CWA) and United Steelworkers (USW), as well as environmental groups such as the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Sierra Club.
The Blue-Green Alliance did not respond to requests for comment.
After that, Trumka will peddle his message of labor-energy industry cooperation to the business community. The AFL-CIO president is scheduled to speak on February 27 at Harvard Business School as part of a two-day-long event called “America on the Move: Transportation and Infrastructure for the 21st Century.” Trumka will appear in the closing plenary, “Call to Action,” alongside Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the keynote speaker, and Tom Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
He may get a warmer reception there. America’s Natural Gas Alliance, an industry group that represents gas exploration and production companies, says it appreciates the labor leader’s call. “We share Mr. Trumka’s support for expanding infrastructure and exporting natural gas,” says Dan Whitten, a spokesperson for the organization. “We know that exporting natural gas can make a substantial difference in reducing our trade imbalance. And to the extent that it adds jobs, we like that too.”
Meanwhile, in an email to In These Times, Dean Hubbard, director of the Sierra Club Labor Program, was careful not to criticize Trumka’s recent remarks.
“We share much more in common with the labor movement than the few things that we disagree on,” Hubbard writes. “We are standing together to create millions of new clean energy jobs, protecting workers and communities affected by the transition from dirty fuels, jointly working toward fair trade, and—as allies in the Democracy Initiative—fighting back against the big corporations trying to sell out workers and the planet. There is no doubt about it: Friends do not always agree on everything. But we are partners in the progressive movement focused on building on our common ground to secure a safer planet, a stronger economy and a better future for all Americans.”
Maryland neo-liberals have as a central tenet the privatization of all that is public----the public private partnership. This is a direct attack on what is the strongest union left and it is deliberate. They are deliberately dismantling the public sector to hand control of public policy and oversight to the very global corporations killing democracy. It is why we have no voice in public policy or in our communities.
If labor unions and justice organizations are supporting neo-liberals as they do in Maryland----that is the problem. We cannot support the breakdown of our public sector and still say we are labor and justice. Stop allowing neo-liberals to corrupt institutions that should be working for the citizens of Maryland. This happens because too much power falls to the few -----it is up to ALL CITIZENS to come out to help labor and justice organizations so they can fulfill their missions. Do not allow them to be blackmailed by threat to their very existence as happens in Maryland.
IF YOU STAND SILENTLY AS ONE GROUP LOSES ITS RIGHTS AND JUSTICE-----EVERYONE WILL. AN INJUSTICE TO ONE WILL BECOME INJUSTICE FOR ALL. THAT IS WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW!
There is no public savings in these deals----it simply moves wealth to corporations and impoverishes the citizens. Add the dismantling of oversight and you have rampant private contractor fraud and government corruption.
THIS IS HOW THIRD WORLD SOCIETIES OPERATE!
Friday, Jun 6, 2014, 5:57 pm
Privatizing Government Services Doesn’t Only Hurt Public Workers
BY David Moberg Email Print
A coalition of workers rally against privatization in Washington, D.C.
If you want to understand how privatization of public services typically works, Grand Rapids, Michigan is as good a place as any to start.
The state operates a nursing home for veterans in the town. Until 2011, it directly employed 170 nursing assistants, but also relied on 100 assistants in the same facility provided by a private contractor. The state paid its direct employees $15 to $20 an hour and provided them with health insurance and pensions. Meanwhile, the contractor started pay for its nursing assistants at $8.50 an hour—still billing the state $14.99—and provided no benefits for employees. This led to high worker turnover, reduced quality of care, and heavy employee reliance on food stamps and other public aid.
Yet despite the evidence from this useful—albeit unplanned—experiment, which showed that any savings the state made through privatization came at the expense of workers and their clients, the new conservative Republican state government decided in 2011 to complete the privatization of the provision of nursing aides to the home.
The experience with privatization at the Grand Rapids nursing home is in many ways typical among the rapidly growing ranks of public agencies in which the staff of private contractors replace government employees. And according to a new report, “Race to the Bottom: How Outsourcing Public Services Rewards Corporations and Punishes the Middle Class,” privatization policies around the country have greatly contributed to the nation’s growing economic inequality and to a decline in the quality of public services.
The report, released on June 3 by In the Public Interest (ITPI), a resource center on privatization, concludes that in most cases, privatization policies lead directly to cutbacks in government investment in skill development and to reductions in workers’ pay and benefits. In turn, workers have less income to invest in their households, their children and their neighborhoods—leaving individuals and their communities poorly served in the present and ill prepared for the future.
Regardless of level of government, the story of privatization remains much the same. Elected leaders, often under legislative or political pressure from voters, try to reduce spending or taxes by relying on contractors for services instead. This way, politicians can attempt to avoid responsibility for the pay cuts and worker eliminations that almost inevitably result from privatization.
Government privatizers turn over huge swaths of public service work to private contractors—jobs such as corrections officers, nursing aides, teachers, school support personnel, clerks, waste haulers, food service workers and many others. Nobody knows precisely how much government work is now subcontracted, but New York University professor Paul Light estimates that there are about three times as many federal contract workers as civil service employees, with millions more at the state level.
Privatizers frequently claim that they charge governments low rates because they are especially efficient. In many cases, however, public employees are at least as efficient as private contract ones. Instead, if contractors’ operational cost is lower, the savings stem from the comparatively low salary their employees receive. For example, the median private corrections worker in the United States earns $29,000 a year compared with $38,000 to $39,000 for, respectively, the median state or local officer working in comparable positions. Furthermore, a a Demos study last year estimated that about two million federal contract or other publicly funded workers earned less than $12 an hour, more than the number of low-wage workers at Walmart and McDonald’s combined. Even if advocates of privatization admit that the savings through contracting result from lower pay, not greater efficiency, they typically argue that governments pay above-market wages. Contracting out saves money for taxpayers by eliminating that premium, they say.
But when governments properly account for all of their costs, sub-contractors are often more expensive than public employees. For example, the nonprofit watchdog Project on Government Oversight found that using contractors cost the federal government more than civil service employment in 33 of 35 occupations, resulting in billions of dollars total.
Those costs stem from a variety of sources. Governments must frequently hire an additional layer of supervisors to make sure contractors meet legal and other requirements. In addition, poorly paid contract employees often collect public assistance from supplemental nutrition programs, Medicaid and other aid for the needy, whose costs should be attributed to the contract.
Contracting out public work also rolls back critical progress toward equality on the basis of gender, race and income. Whatever their shortcomings, public employers in recent decades have opened up more opportunities and paid fairer wages to both African Americans and women than the private sector. For several decades, the ITPI report says, direct government employment of public service workers has provided a “ladder of opportunity” for many workers. Public jobs have opened up opportunity, especially where unions have bargained for contracts and influenced public policy. They have played an especially important role for women and African Americans, who still suffer disadvantages in the job market and are most hurt by cuts in public service pay and benefits.
For example, women comprise 57 percent of all government workers. And African Americans are 30 percent more likely than all other Americans to work in the public sector. Compared with black workers in the private sector, black public employees earn 25 percent more.
Cutting public service pay, therefore, compounds the inequities of income in America, replacing the ladder of opportunity upwards with a “downward spiral.” And though this downward shift may most negatively impact African Americans and women, “it hurts all workers,” says economics professor Daphne Greenwood of the Colorado Center for Policy Studies.
Economists argue over the degree to which broad forces such as technology development or globalization account for rising inequality in the United States, says Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. But privatization, he says, is one major cause of increased inequality that “smart policy” could easily reverse.
As some first steps toward that smart policy, In the Public Interest recommends that governments require contractors to show that their cost savings come from innovation and efficiency, not wage and benefit cuts. Contractors should be required to provide a living wage, health insurance and other benefits, ITPI also suggests. Though the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act is designed to guarantee that federal contract workers in service work earn close to the prevailing wage in comparable jobs, both its coverage and enforcement are inadequate. Governments should collect and share detailed information on private contractors and their performance, ITPI says, in addition to preparing social and economic impact analyses in advance of any contract.
Mary Sparrow, a former custodian at the Milwaukee County Courthouse in Wisconsin, might have benefitted from such revisions. She was laid off in 2009 in the depth of the Great Recession after a private contractor, MidAmerican Building Services, won a contract to clean the building. The company told her she could keep the job—but not the pay. They offered her $8 an hour, instead of the $14.29 she had been making, and none of her former benefits. She and her husband have scraped by since, she said at a press conference at the release of the ITPI report, her voice cracking with emotion—buying health insurance with unemployment insurance payments, exhausting life savings for their children’s college to cover myriad expenses, contending with health worsened by stress, and watching former co-workers relying on food banks.
“Only the contractors come out ahead, not the middle class, the front-line workers,” Sparrow told the assembled crowd. “Milwaukee County or any county that privatizes will not see the promised cost savings. Privatizing has a devastating effect on our communities, not only on what we earn but what we spend, even on basics like housing and medication. This has been awful for us, and I hope any city, any state, will think twice before privatizing.”
All across America immigrant groups were organized to come out for the Senate immigration bill not realizing it was a market-based bill with a goal of preparing for Trans Pacific Trade Pact and the flooding of US economy with global corporations and their nation's labor force. It has nothing to do with justice for Hispanics here in the US. In fact it will make conditions worse for immigrants already here in America. The Path to Citizenship leads nowhere for 90% of immigrants. It was all a ploy by neo-liberals to use Hispanics here in the US to push for the Trans Pacific Trade Pact policies. The national leaders pushing this immigration bill knew this but are tied to neo-liberals. Here in Maryland, O'Malley and the Maryland Assembly knew this as they brought bus-loaded of immigrants to Annapolis to shout for the Senate immigration bill.
Neo-liberals and neo-cons work for wealth and profit which includes exploiting workers---they will never produce policy that promotes labor rights. If they do it will not be enforced.
All Americans should be fighting this because they goal is to bring all US wages down to third world levels----no only working class----but middle-class. Remember, in third world countries even doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs are at poverty!
Features » April 1, 2014
The Immigration Movement’s Left Turn Advocates are moving away from the “pathway-to-citizenship” compromise—and are demanding a moratorium on deportations.
BY Michelle Chen Working In These Times
Deportations are expected to reach the 2 million mark in early April, and activists are campaigning fiercely at the gates of detention centers, border checkpoints and congressional offices to show the White House they will not let the Obama administration’s reach that milestone without a fight.
Who will be the Obama administration’s two-millionth deportee? The question haunts neighborhoods, schools and workplaces from Phoenix to Philadelphia.
And as the Obama administration continues its en masse removal of undocumented immigrants, that unlucky distinction could go to any of the roughly 11 million undocumented people who call the U.S. home—a carwash worker nabbed for a broken taillight; a field laborer who has overstayed her work visa; or a youth donning a cap and gown, deliberately crossing the path of the border patrol in a show of civil disobedience.
Deportations are expected to reach the 2 million mark in early April, and activists are campaigning fiercely at the gates of detention centers, border checkpoints and congressional offices to show the White House they will not let the Obama administration’s reach that milestone without a fight.
Last month in Alabama, immigrant rights advocates organized one such action by forming a human chain outside the Etowah County Detention Center, chanting “not one more”—the rallying cry of a wave of anti-deportation actions that have swept the nation over the past year, gaining political currency as a social media campaign, a slogan at street demonstrations, and more recently, a political salvo in Washington, where more conciliatory policy demands from inside the Beltway have sputtered.
One protester at the Etowah rally, Gwendolyn Ferreti Manjarrez, declared, “I am tired of living with the fear that my family or any family can be torn apart at the seams for living our everyday life.”
Such pleas reflect exhaustion and exasperation with Washington, which has maintained an immigration-reform gridlock since the Senate reform bill all but died in Congress last year.
Faced with deafening silence in Congress and constant waffling in the White House, a growing number of advocates have joined the chorus calling for a moratorium on deportations. Even prominent centrist Latino organizations like the National Council of La Raza—NCLR lobbied hard for “compromise” legislation last year—have condemned Obama as “deporter in chief.”
Demands for a moratorium on deportations are not unprecedented: Advocates are proposing an extension of the White House's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—a temporary executive reprieve for undocumented young people issued in 2012—to undocumented adults. Supports say their proposal would allow families to stay together in the run-up to future reform. The undocumented community and its allies argue that if Obama could exercise his discretion on enforcement for a sympathetic category of undocumented immigrants—primarily youth pursuing a college education—he could do the same for their undocumented parents and neighbors.
In January, the Arizona-based group Dream Action Coalition, an advocacy group for the Dream Act legislation on which DACA was modeled, blasted Obama for punishing families for Congress’ failure to pass reform. Presenting the reform movement as a multigenerational struggle, the group stated in an “Open Letter to the Immigrant Rights Movement”: “We can’t wait while we see our families being taken into detention centers for months and even years while our children are being traumatized. … Let’s together hold President Obama accountable for every deported parent.”
Obama has acknowledged the crisis and in recent weeks signaled he planned to ease deportations, but stopped short of fully halting detentions and removals. The president instead ordered the Department of Justice to review deportation policy “to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law.” Following a mid-March meeting with pro-immigrant advocates, he reportedly vowed to take executive action by summer if the Republican House members continued to stonewall on reform. Still, amid stiff Republican opposition, Obama promised to soften his approach without indicating whether he would order a full-on DACA-like deferral of deportations.
Even Senators Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, two leading Democrats who crafted the failed compromise bill, now endorse a deportation freeze as a stopgap measure. Schumer has also threatened to use a parliamentary maneuver known as a “discharge petition” to force a vote on a reform bill on the House floor, similar to the Senate proposal. But due to widespread House GOP opposition, this tactical measure would likely fail under Republican opposition.
But while Congress dithers, grassroots activists say the current enforcement regime doesn’t need to be made more “humane”—it needs to end, full stop.
“We need to make sure that there is affirmative action,” says Erika Andiola, an Arizona-based undocumented activist with the Not One More campaign. Andiola's advocacy is a matter of survival: She has campaigned publicly to defend her mother from deportation, and for the past few years, she has watched her state roll out some of the harshest anti-immigrant policies in the country. Indeed, the fight against deportations has foregrounded the struggles of besieged communities that have seen coworkers and family members swept up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the past six years.
Grassroots activists are staking out a place at the negotiating table by establishing their own “blue ribbon commission” to draft a progressive set of policy recommendations, informed by their legal experiences fighting congressional lethargy and the federal enforcement dragnet. Andiola notes that she and fellow activists began calling for a deportation freeze months ago, long before many mainstream groups. “We don't want people to negotiate for us,” she adds. “We want to be able to be the ones putting the cards on the table, since we're the ones that have our families in detention and many times our families have been in deportation proceedings.”
Far from Washington, direct actions are escalating. A wave of hunger strikes has begun to spread, both inside and outside of detention centers. In early March, hundreds of immigrants at a Tacoma, Washington detention center began refusing meals and menial jobs assigned to detainees.
Shortly afterward, detainees went on hunger strike at a Conroe, Texas facility, accusing the management company, GEO, of inhumane, overcrowded conditions. Exasperated by the ongoing legal limbo, they also demanded due process of law, including “true and transparent information” on how their cases were being reviewed and processed. (TruthOut later reported that some participants had allegedly been placed in isolation as punishment.) Grassroots pro-immigrant groups, including the National Day Labor Organizing Network and Puente Arizona, have joined faith, labor and community organizations in various cities to coordinate solidarity hunger strikes.
Some have escalated protests by confronting ICE directly at the border. Since last fall, dozens of undocumented activists with the Bring them Home campaign have staged several unauthorized border crossings, voluntarily entering federal custody to protest deportations and dramatize the often hidden violence of family separation.
Activists are also using the web to mobilize people: Not One More has led petitions for the release of individual detainees, while Presente.org's Obama Legacy Project catalogues the administration's record of mass incarcerations and enforcement crackdowns.
Beyond the harrowing deportation numbers, activists want to stop the enforcement programs that have enabled ICE to partner with local police to apprehend immigrants. Secure Communities or SCOMM, the flagship joint enforcement initiative, has been sharply criticized for giving police departments wide latitude to apprehend immigrants—often just for minor suspected infractions—fingerprint them, and share that information with Homeland Security, which then screens them through a central database to check their immigration status, and eventually funnel them into federal detention. In the impacted communities, ongoing federal crackdowns feed into an overarching climate of discrimination, fraught with racial profiling by police and xenophobic sentiment roiling in racially divided neighborhoods and workplaces.
Although ICE announced back in 2011 that the administration would prioritize the deportation of serious criminals, more than 30,000 immigrants still languish in detention on a given day (thanks in part to a “bed quota” that legally mandates that detention centers fill to a certain capacity).
According to national data, many detainees are being held for misdemeanors and other non-violent offenses, such as traffic violations or marijuana possession. An analysis of ICE data by Syracuse University researchers, shows that of the roughly 350,000 detention orders issued during fiscal year 2012 through early 2013, two-thirds involved no serious criminal convictions.
Reflecting growing frustration with draconian federal enforcement measures and the stagnation of federal reform efforts, some local lawmakers have acted affirmatively on their own to protect immigrants in the absence of legislative progress. In contrast to states that have ramped up their enforcement policies, San Francisco, California and Connecticut have passed legislation to block local police from cooperating with ICE enforcement, except in cases involving an immigrant with a serious prior conviction.
Growing resistance to the Obama administration’s deportation regime contrasts sharply with last year’s relatively cautious debate around “comprehensive immigration reform” legislation. The Democrats' agenda centered on incremental legalization, with an emphasis on “desirable” immigrants—high-demand workers in agriculture and STEM fields, as well as childhood arrivals—and harsher border security and enforcement measures. (There was little discussion of the social implications of harsher enforcement tactics.) Some activists rejected the Senate bill outright, opening a sharp rift within the immigrant rights movement between the Beltway organizations that supported a compromise in order to achieve a “pathway to citizenship,” and more radical groups such as Puente Arizona and Families for Freedom, which have centered their advocacy around resistance to the draconian immigration enforcement.
But now it seems that within the reform movement, the divergence on the importance of citizenship has been eclipsed by the convergence on calling for administrative action on deportation. Not One More is planning a nationwide day of action on April 5—roughly coinciding with the date when the two-millionth deportation is set to take place—with demonstrations planned in more than 40 cities
Migrant rights advocate Prerna Lal, who is formerly undocumented herself, says via email that she found the current political terrain for immigration reform “encouraging,” with the wave of direct actions opening space for “the disenfranchised and directly-impacted [to take] bold actions to declare themselves as ‘undocumented and unafraid’ leaders in their own communities.” In the broader push for congressional action, she added, “It is critical to remember that legislation such as Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation or the DREAM Act is often merely a response to placate these actions.”
Until lawmakers go back to the table to hammer out a reform bill, the best advocates can hope for is a temporary reprieve from the White House. Any kind of deferred action, for adults or youth, is just that—a deferral. But it buys time for undocumented individuals to keep working to shift the political climate, away from the obsession with border security and toward a reform approach that reflects a broader culture shift as immigrant communities become more deeply woven into a transborder, globalized social landscape.
Maybe no one understands this vision for an evolving nation better than the more than 30,000 people languishing in detention each day. Oscar Quintero, a detainee at Etowah who protested from inside the detention center in solidarity with the rally outside, recorded a brief statement that was later broadcast online by Detention Watch Network:
This is basically a concentration camp for immigrants. This is what it is, a human warehouse. They treat us like chickens. They are treating us like cattle. The reality is that as Latinos, if we do nothing, if we don’t unite, and we don’t make others listen to us, these abuses will continue, and families will continue to be separated.
For a man separated from his community by concrete walls and a labyrinth of legal barriers, Quintero’s voice managed to carry over the hurdles of politics and resonate with his supporters outside. On the eve of the two-millionth deportation, his words undertook the border crossing that countless others remain as determined as ever to make.
There is a tremendous silence in Maryland as regards TPP and Maryland is ground zero for implementing it. They are not waiting for Congress to pass it----the Maryland Assembly and Governor O'Malley and Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore are installing it.
Maryland is one state that has spent the last few decades building the very structures that mirror Trans Pacific Trade Pact and neo-liberals are handing all of our economy over to global corporations and policy that works for them. So, if Maryland pols signed the letter mentioned in this article-----
WHERE IS THEIR VOICE IN THIS STATE? DO YOU HEAR YOUR POLS EDUCATING THE CITIZENS OF MARYLAND AGAINST TPP? THERE IS SILENCE.
This is how you know who needs to be replaced in private non-profits----in labor unions------in justice organizations----and especially media. All leaders know what is being pushed in Maryland and we need to have people in labor and justice organizations and non-profits that educate the citizens.
TPP: A Thoroughly Predatory Pact
by Ron Forthofer / July 12th, 2014 Dissident Voice
U.S. transnational corporations are working behind the scenes to change the rules governing them. You may say ‘big deal, this doesn’t affect me’. However if you use the internet, view movies, take pharmaceuticals, want a clean and safe environment, believe in democracy, etc., you likely will be negatively impacted.
Media’s Failure to Inform
Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), based on the fatally flawed NAFTA model, currently involve twelve nations in the Pacific region and have been underway since 2010. Mainstream media’s coverage about these negotiations has been essentially nonexistent. When mentioned, the media reports that the negotiations are about trade instead of being about easing rules governing transnational corporations.
Why the Lack of Transparency?
This May, Senator Elizabeth Warren said: “From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters and outsourcers are all salivating at the chance to rig the deal in the upcoming trade talks. So the question is, Why are the trade talks secret? You’ll love this answer. Boy, the things you learn on Capitol Hill,” Warren said. “I actually have had supporters of the deal say to me ‘They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed.’”
Undue Corporate Influence on U.S. Negotiating Positions
In 2012 Senator Ron Wyden, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, whose office is responsible for conducting oversight over the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and trade negotiations, said: “Yet, the majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations—like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America—are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement.”
In a May 2012 letter, thirty law professors from multiple countries involved with the TPP negotiations made the same point about corporate representation. They said:
The only private individuals in the US who have ongoing access to the US proposals on intellectual property matters are on an Industry Trade Advisory Committee (ITAC) which is dominated by brand name pharmaceutical manufacturers and the Hollywood entertainment industry.
There is no representation on this committee for consumers, libraries, students, health advocacy or patient groups, or others users of intellectual property, and minimal representation of other affected businesses, such as generic drug manufacturers or internet service providers. We would never create US law or regulation through such a biased and closed process.
Investor-State Dispute Settlements Threaten Sovereignty
In June 2012 a draft of the TPP’s Investment Chapter was leaked. According to Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch: “Via closed-door negotiations, U.S. officials are rewriting swaths of U.S. law that have nothing to do with trade, and in a move that will infuriate left and right alike, have agreed to submit the U.S. government to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals that can order unlimited payments of our tax dollars to foreign corporations that don’t want to comply with the same laws our domestic firms do. U.S. trade officials are secretly limiting Internet freedoms, restricting financial regulation, extending medicine patents and giving corporations a whole host of other powers.”
State legislators are greatly concerned about the threat to states’ ability to maintain their sovereignty and to protect rules protecting their citizens. For example, Maine State Representative Sharon Treat, one of the drafters of a July 2012 letter from 130 members of state legislatures from all 50 states, said: “The U.S. government should not be negotiating trade deals that undercut responsible state and federal laws enacted to protect public health and the environment, preserve the stability of our financial system, or make sure working conditions are safe and healthy.”
In addition, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) strongly opposes this investor-state dispute resolution process. Its position is:
NCSL will not support Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) or Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with investment chapters that provide greater substantive or procedural rights to foreign companies than U.S. companies enjoy under the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, NCSL will not support any BIT or FTA that provides for investor/state dispute resolution. NCSL firmly believes that when a state adopts a non-discriminatory law or regulation intended to serve a public purpose, it shall not constitute a violation of an investment agreement or treaty, even if the change in the legal environment thwarts the foreign investors’ previous expectations.
NCSL believes that BIT and FTA implementing legislation must include provisions that deny any private action in U.S. courts or before international dispute resolution panels to enforce international trade or investment agreements. Implementing legislation must also include provisions stating that neither the decisions of international dispute resolution panels nor international trade and investment agreements themselves are binding on the states as a matter of U.S. law.
More Financial Deregulation
Given the recent financial crisis, it’s alarming that financial deregulation will likely be pushed in the TPP. A letter from 100 economists to the TPP negotiators expressed concern and stated:
We, the undersigned economists, write to you regarding the capital transfers provisions in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). We are concerned that if recent U.S. treaties are used as the model for the TPPA, the agreement will unduly limit the authority of participating parties to prevent and mitigate financial crises.
They went on to point out the importance of capital controls. “While capital controls and other capital management techniques are no panacea for financial instability, there is an emerging consensus that they are an important part of the macro-economic toolkit. Indeed, all G-20 leaders endorsed the following statement at the 2011 Cannes Summit:
Capital flow management measures may constitute part of a broader approach to protect economies from shocks. In circumstances of high and volatile capital flows, capital flow management measures can complement and be employed alongside, rather than substitute for, appropriate monetary, exchange rate, foreign reserve management and prudential policies.
Fast Tracking of the Agreement
President Obama has sought trade promotion authority (‘fast track’) to get TPP through Congress. Fast track usurps Congress’s constitutional authority over trade issues. Congress would have a very limited time to debate the deal and would not be allowed to make any changes. Fortunately, Congress has not yet abrogated its responsibility over trade issues. It is important to keep pressure on Congress to deny Obama this authority.
Represent Public Interest, not Transnational Corporations
Let your representative and senators know that you want them to oppose both fast track and the TPP. If they fail to do this, they are sending a clear message to voters.