Sunday Labor Column: The Call For a Nationwide Workers’ Strike Is Growing On The Internet & On Social Media, CSEA Local 815 Helps The Food Bank With A Theme Basket Auction & News From The Cattaraugus-Allegany, Jamestown & Niagara-Orleans CLCs
News, Notes & A Bunch Of Observations Made While Covering The Western New York Labor Community Over The Past Several Days:
I’m starting to see and read more and more on the Internet and the Social Networks on the Call for a Nationwide Strike to counteract the attack on Unions and Workers’ Rights by the Republican and the wealthy in this country. And, as time goes by and you are made even more aware of the continuing and individual and vicious State-by-State attacks - as well as stepped-up efforts and possible cheating and voter fraud that’s occurring in Wisconsin - this National Strike Movement just might grow to become reality in the coming months. Those who demonize Public Employees, Teachers and yes - Police and Firefighters - for “making too much money” should try stepping into their shoes for a day’s work and do the jobs that these Public Servants do. I don’t know about you, but they couldn’t pay me enough to risk my life on a daily basis for running into a burning building or driving a one-man police car in some of Buffalo’s toughest and dangerous neighborhoods. And I don’t know if I would want a job where I would not only have to teach, but in some cases become a surrogate parent, to children who unfortunately either come from a one-parent home or are left to deal with all that comes from being raised in a broken home or whose guardians are dealing with daily life decisions of how to pay their bills and/or put food on the table. And if you think it’s easy driving a snowplow during an extended shift or picking up garbage in all kinds of weather or being a toll collector with the window open in all kinds of inclement weather that leaves you constantly battling colds and the flu – then you do the job! Just today, I tripped over a Facebook Page titled: Call for General Strike - A People's March on Washington D.C. - July 4th, 2011/National Strike - A People's March on Washington D.C. Described as a “A Critical Mass-Style Event,” information posted on the page read: No leaders. No organization. Time and Place set, just show up. Take the last week off in June and come to the Capitol for a General Strike and March. It's us. It's We the People. We already have an organization and it's called the United States of America and its not working. So time to make it work for us rather than the other way around. Time for a Declaration of Independence from Corporations’ Day. Time to declare freedom from the tyranny of the uber-rich and the corporate who have stolen our government. Time to peacefully and joyfully come together as a common people, meet in front of our Capitol Building and demand a redress of grievances as described in the First Amendment. No permits needed. They know who we are. And they know we are coming because we are telling them so. So what are these “people” ticked off about? According to a list posted on the page, how about: A $14 Trillion Bailout; Citizens Pushed to Bankruptcy; Wall Street Casinos for the Rich; Public Service Cuts; Corporate Welfare; Privatized Parks, Schools, Utilities, Water and Public Services; Dirty Coal; Expensive and Polluting Nuclear Power; Corporate Health Care; Corporate & Government Criminals Go Free; Broadcast Media Monopoly; Newspaper Monopolies; and Corporate Off-Shoring Profits from IRS Taxation, to name just a few. Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker lit the fire under the pot on the stove and it’s boiling. We all need to take some time out of our lives to surf the ‘Net and find out what’s going on our there. Workers whose jobs have been sent overseas in exchange for cheap wages and whose rights are now being systematically taken away by those in political power who have been bankrolled by the wealthy have had enough. Rallies attracting more than 100,000 are just the beginning. Should the anti-Worker forces not stop their efforts, as well as say “no” to paying their fair share of taxes, the pot will indeed boil over. The have-not freight train is coming down the tracks, but to those haves whose aim is to eradicate the Middle Class – you still do have time to stop it. If not, a National Strike could be very likely. Only time will tell. But for the Republicans and the wealthy – your time is running out.
Speaking of the rich, did you see the news brief WNYLaborToday.com published that was part of the Communication Workers of America’s weekly National News Round-Up? If you didn’t, here it is - under the headline: America's Richest Companies: Only The “Little People” Pay Taxes. Have you paid your 2010 taxes yet? On a percentage basis, you're certainly paying more than the most profitable U.S. companies and in some cases you're literally paying more. Consider, for instance, that General Electric made $26 billion in profits over the last five years and not only paid no Federal Income Tax, it got a $4.1 billion refund! Here are the Top 10 Corporate Freeloaders, as compiled by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont): Carnival Cruise Lines over the past five years made more than $11 billion in profits, but its Federal Income Tax Rate during those years was just 1.1%; ConocoPhillips, the Fifth-Largest Oil Company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks; Citigroup, last year, made more than $4 billion in profits, but paid no Federal Income Taxes; Goldman Sachs in 2008 only paid 1.1% of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion; Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year, received a $157 million Tax Refund Check from the IRS; Boeing got a $124 million refund from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) last year; Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after it made $10 billion in profits in 2009; GE, we already talked about them; Bank of America got a $1.9 billion Tax Refund from the IRS last year, even though it made $4.4 billion in profits; and Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009 and paid no Federal Income Taxes. However, Exxon Mobil did receive a $156 million rebate from the IRS. For more information and graphics about Corporate Tax Evaders, visit www.usuncut.org. When you are made aware of information such as this by Senator Sanders, it’s no wonder Working Americans are talking about a National Strike.
And speaking of the wealthy and all those blowhards who point a finger at the White House and the Federal Government in Washington as the cause for all their problems, was it a surprise that The Buffalo News reported Sunday that two area Tea Party figures – James Ostrowski and Leonard Roberto – have failed to pay their Federal Taxes? These two guys can’t wait to sound off anytime there’s a news camera or news reporter around about everything that wrong. Well, not paying your taxes is one of them. According to the News, both Ostrowski and Roberto, who are described as central figures in competing factions of “Buffalo's Low-Tax Tea Party Movement,” both have a history of failing to pay Federal Income Taxes, according to Erie County records. Both should have had enough common sense to take a long, hard look at their own backgrounds, track record and decisions before taking the time to publicly pontificate every time they got the chance. How can these two have any credibility anymore? Last time it was brought up that Ostrowski – who, again, hasn’t missed a chance to be interviewed on WBEN-AM on the state of local politics - was offering up tears when a TV reporter asked him about this. He claimed it was his enemies who were attacking him because he was doing such a bang-up job. Well, what do you say now Jim? And for that matter, Len?
Congratulations to CWA Local 1168 for their work on the highly-successful rally that was held last week outside the Judge Joseph S. Mattina Community Health Care Center on Buffalo’s lower West Side. Despite the fact the Mattina Health Care Center had 44,000 patient visits in 2010, it’s slated for closure by Kaleida Health, which was charged by an array of area residents, patients and activists - as well as Unionized Health Care Workers, Civil Rights, Religious and Elected Representatives - with turning its back on one of Buffalo’s lowest-income neighborhoods. I’d also like to thank CWA’s Bob Chadwick for sending some photos of the Mattina Rally to WNYLaborToday.com, one of which is pictured above. The Mattina Rally was one of several that have been held in recent weeks in and around Buffalo, as well as down in the Southern Tier by the Jamestown and Dunkirk AFL-CIO Central Labor Councils in Mayville. What’s extremely encouraging with these rallies is the fact that it’s just not Unions and their members who are involved. They’re also drawing young people and community residents. As I’ve already said, as well as written, people are pissed off and they’re starting to wake up and get involved. That pot is boiling - and remember, those that believe the Working Class is nothing more than a bunch of mindless lemmings that will be led to their demise are sadly mistaken. These public actions that we are witnessing, and many who are participating, is just the tip of the push-back iceberg. On that note, make sure you, your family, your neighbors and your co-workers are not only registered to vote, but are informed when it comes to the issues that are extremely important to Working People, both Union and non. For example, if you’re not informed, you too could be sucked in by the Republican message mill, including those coming from Congressional Candidate Jane Corwin – who’s now telling you that she’s standing up for Working People, and that Working People need good-paying jobs. This from a Republican who’s paying for her million-dollar-plus campaign from her own pocket. And I really wonder what Corwin thinks is a “good-paying wage?” Is it $7 or $8 bucks an hour? She doesn’t mention Health Care Benefits or a Pension, but maybe that’s not part of what she describes in her version of a “good-paying job.” I for one would like to know whether Corwin’s employees at the Talking Phone Book were paid a good-paying wage, along with benefits and a pension. So, take a moment and get the facts for yourself before you head into the voting booth in the coming weeks and months. Don’t buy their B.S. And by the way, I find it extremely hard to believe Corwin really cares about good-paying jobs. I also believe that Corwin more than likely walks in lockstep with not only Republican Governor Scott Walker, but her mentor - Erie County Executive Chris Collins, who couldn’t be more anti-Union/anti-Worker if he tried.
And speaking of rallies – a reminder: The Cattaraugus-Allegany AFL-CIO Central Labor Council will hold a “We Are One!” Rally in support of job creation and against the current attack on Workers’ Rights that is taking place across the United States in Olean’s Lincoln Park on Tuesday, April 19th, which is located across from City Hall on the corner of East State and South Union streets. Cattaraugus-Allegany Council President Karen Fenner tells WNYLaborToday.com: “We’re already getting a lot of support from our affiliated Unions.” Among those area Unions that have already committed to taking part in the Olean rally are the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), the New York State Teachers (NYSUT) and the United Steelworkers (USW). Buffalo-headquartered CSEA Western Region 6 President Flo Tripi is scheduled to be one of the main speakers at the rally, Fenner said. The Cattaraugus-Allegany Labor Council counts 10 affiliated member Unions that combine to represent 10,000 Union Members across Cattaraugus and Allegany counties in the Southern Tier. Fenner, a member of Olean’s United Steelworkers (USW) Local 5429 for the past 13 years, became the first woman elected president of the Council earlier this year. “We want to let our elected representatives in the City of Olean, as well as in the Cattaraugus County Legislature, know that Labor is standing up for and will fight for the need to create good-paying jobs and to stop the attack on Workers’ Rights that started in Wisconsin and is spreading to other States across the country,” Fenner said.
Labor Leaders with the Jamestown AFL-CIO Central Labor Council, meanwhile, are still walking on clouds after their successful “We Are One!” Rally in Mayville in late March. WNYLaborToday.com attended the Council’s monthly meeting in Jamestown last week, where President Jack Rudy and the Executive Council not only reviewed what went right in attracting more than 300 individuals who took part in the rally, including a great number of young people, but what the Council’s next step will be, including targeting the Democratic Mayor of Jamestown, Sam Teresi, who heads the New York Conference of Mayors - a heavily-weighted Republican group whose recent report pinpointed several ways to improve New York State Government. Their recommendations include a number of Wisconsin-style anti-Union/Worker recommendations, including attacking Collective Bargaining for Workers and removal of such Worker Protections as the Triborough Agreement. Both the Jamestown and Dunkirk Councils, which joined together to organize the rally, are to be commended for pulling off such a large one in such a rural community as Chautauqua County – whose geographical layout is far different that Buffalo/Erie County. It will be extremely interesting to see where their effort takes those Labor Councils and Southern Tier Union Members in the coming months, especially when it comes to the Mayor’s Race in Jamestown, where incumbent Teresi will seek re-election. Sending a message to those who look to eradicate laws and measures protecting Working People by endorsing a candidate in opposition to Teresi and removing him from office altogether would send quite the message to all elected officials across New York State who look to do the same.
Kudos to the Niagara-Orleans AFL-CIO Central Labor Council, which was recognized by the United Way of Greater Niagara for the Labor Organization’s involvement in the many Niagara County communities where its Union Members live, work and raise their families. The Council, along with the United Steelworkers (USW) and United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 686 Union Member Jessie Jesson, were among those from Organized Labor who were honored for their community involvement by the United Way of Greater Niagara at its Annual Awards Event. Special notice should also be given to Niagara-Orleans Labor Council/United Way of Niagara Labor Liaison Bill Jakobi, a behind-the-scenes guy who’s a tireless workhorse on the behalf of Organized Labor across Niagara County. Jakobi’s hard work and dedication is part of the reason why Labor was so highly recognized by the United Way for the good work it has done and continues to do across Niagara County.
And speaking of the Niagara-Orleans AFL-CIO Central Labor Council, under the leadership of new President Jim Briggs, the Council will be hold its first-ever Monthly Delegates Meeting in Orleans County on Wednesday, April 20th, beginning at 7p.m. at Junior Wilson’s Sportsman Club on North Bates Road in Medina. For further information, contact Bill Jakobi at 716-285-8461 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. On another front, the Niagara-Orleans Council has announced that applications are now available for its annual Harry S. Jordan Scholarships. The Council will be awarding three $500 scholarships this year, with two of the scholarships going to eligible High School Seniors. The other will be presented to an individual who is continuing his or her education. To be eligible, applicants must be a child, grandchild or a legal dependent of a Union Member’s immediate family. Applications can be obtained by directly contacting AFL/CIO Community Services Liaison Jakobi at 716-285-8461 or via e-mail email@example.com.
And finally, CSEA (Civil Service Employees Association) Local 815 Women’s Committee will be holding its 12th Annual Theme Basket Auction – which will benefit the Food Bank of Western New York – on Saturday, April 16th, beginning at 1 p.m. at the East Seneca Volunteer Fire Company, which is located at 100 Lein Road in West Seneca. For more information, call CSEA Local 815 directly at 716-896-1640. CSEA Local 815’s Denise Szymura, who’s getting ready to celebrate her 30th year as a Union Member, is chair of the Women’s Committee, which has around 20 members. Szymura tells WNYLaborToday.com that as many as 80-themed baskets will be raffled off. They include a baby basket, a coffee basket, one filled with gardening tools and another with automotive cleaners. In addition, a “Lottery Tree” will also be raffled. This yearly fundraiser for the Food Bank helps raise up to $4,000, which will assist a great number of individuals and families in need, Szymura said. The CSEA Local 815 Women’s Committee will also raffle off a number of big-ticket items, including a flat-screen TV and an overnight stay at a five-star hotel. It’s a great event for a great cause and WNYLaborToday.com hopes many of our viewers/readers will take part and support this worthwhile effort.