Thursday, February 18, 2010

Settlement Reached for Quad City Die Casting Workers

For Immediate Release

Contact: Leah Fried, UE Organizer 773-550-3022

A settlement has been reached between former workers of Quad City Die Casting and the Assignee in charge of the company’s assets that will ensure workers receive the pay and benefits they have earned. UE members will be paid for vacation that they were due in 2009 and enough funds to settle the outstanding medical bills employees incurred when the company retroactively cancelled their insurance.

“We're glad to get paid our vacation and medical bills. We stuck together and didn't give up and in the end we won! We would have been paid sooner if Wells Fargo had not been so greedy!” said Deb Johann, Secretary of UE Local 1174.

Quad City Die Casting announced they would be closing in May 2009 because Wells Fargo would not provide the credit necessary to keep the business open. Wells Fargo was the recipient of a $25 billion taxpayer bailout. After the federal government bailed the banks out, there was a 42% drop in loans to small businesses like Quad City Die Casting. Workers and their allies, including Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Members of Congress Phil Hare, Bill Braley and Jan Schakowsky, and Governor Pat Quinn, pressured the bank to save approximately 100 jobs and fought to make sure workers would be paid what they had earned.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who visited workers at the plant last summer and pledged to help a new buyer find financing, expressed his disappointment that the factory closed but added the back pay and benefit payments will serve as a lifeline for many families during these challenging times. "After a bank like Wells Fargo receives $25 billion in taxpayer bailout funds, it has a responsibility to act as a good corporate citizen, not stiff workers on pay and benefits they legally earned,” Giannoulias said. “Moving forward, we cannot continue to subsidize these big banks when credit markets remain frozen and executives get big bonuses while small businesses struggle and unemployment remains at record levels. They must invest in American jobs and American workers, not put our economy at further risk.”

High demand for the product and a dedicated, skilled workforce kept the plant open throughout the summer, earning Wells Fargo, the company’s primary creditor, an extra million dollars. Despite this unexpected windfall, Wells Fargo refused to pay workers their vacation pay and for health insurance bills. But workers and their union, UE, didn't give up, and instead picketed Wells Fargo and filed several legal charges to win what they were due. This settlement resolves the legal charges.

Workers will be present at Thursday’s press conference with the State Treasurer to present the terms of the settlement and how it will impact their families.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Progressive Tax Policy Needed

By Beatrice Lumpkin, Chicago

Under cover of the recession, companies laid off over 7 million workers, in 2009 alone. These savage layoffs led to record increases in workers’ productivity. The value that workers produce each hour has gone up. That means that the workers left on the job are forced to work harder and produce more. Yet workers’ pay has not gone up; if anything there have been some pay cuts. So the Recession has been used to increase the rate of exploitation. Who is getting this increased value the average workers have produced?

The Parasites Who Feed On Workers

Workers’ pay has not gone up. So we know it is not the workers getting the value created by their increased productivity. Are the companies who hire the workers getting it? True, they take the first bite out of the profits workers produce with their labor. But only the first bite, because the employer must pay off all of the parasites who feed on the workers. First the employer pays the banks that may well get the biggest part of the profits. Then the landlord must be paid. Landlords continue to raise rents, Recession or no Recession. The big oil and energy companies are also raising their prices. That way they take another part out of the profit. Last, come the taxes, even though many of the biggest companies get out of paying taxes.

So the profit is divided into many parts. There is fierce fighting as to who gets the biggest part of the profit the workers produce. The banks, insurance companies and Wall Street gambling companies are gaining control of the economy. They are grabbing the largest part of the profits, compared to the manufacturing and transportation companies. In other words, there are many parasites that are sucking blood from the workers. As if that was not enough, there are other ways in which workers are cheated out of the value they produce. One way is charging monopoly prices for the commodities working families need to survive. Examples are the high cost of health care and the steep price increases at the gas pump. Raising workers’ taxes is another way of cutting workers’ wages, or taking more of the value that workers produce.

Taxes are needed. Who should pay?

Taxes are needed to fund the government to provide the services we need. In fact, the government needs a lot more revenue to fight the Recession. We need more social services and bigger stimulus packages to save and create jobs. But the important question is, “Who should pay these taxes?”

The short answer is: those who can afford it should pay, or, “Tax the rich.” Another name for this fair principle of taxation is “progressive taxes.” Recessive taxes, on the other hand, put the main tax burden on working people. Sales taxes are a painful example of a recessive tax.

Fighting for progressive taxes is an important aspect of the class struggle. It is a fight that is now being waged in Congress. Some examples are the House bill for health care reform that includes a millionaire tax. In contrast, the Senate bill raises the billions needed by taxing workers’ health benefits. The coming fight to end the huge Bush tax cuts for the rich is another example. In fact, these tax cuts for the rich have robbed the national treasury and made the federal income tax less progressive.

At first, the federal income tax was a progressive tax. But failure to adjust for inflation reduced the value of the individual cash exemption. Only 4 million paid income tax in 1939. By 1945, 43 million had to pay. Taxable incomes of only $500 faced a bottom tax rate of 23%. However, the rate on millionaires was 94%! And that was a good thing even if they had accountants who got them off of paying what they should.

Reagan and Bush Tax Cuts for the Rich: Even in the official, Bush-era history of the federal income tax, they say the Reagan Tax cut of 1981 “represented a fundamental shift in the course of federal income tax policy. This brought the top tax bracket down to 50 percent.” “Over the 22 year period from 1964 to 1986 the top individual tax rate was reduced from 91 to 28 percent.” The Bush tax cut for the rich depressed that top rate even more. Tax cuts for the rich and the huge budget for Two Wars have doubled the federal debt. To get out of the Great Recession, our country needs change, change to a progressive tax policy.

State Budget Crises, like the $13 billion shortfall in Illinois, are also worsened by states’ letting the rich off and putting the main tax burden on working people. Illinois has a flat income tax. The current rate is 3% for individuals, the same rate if you make $20,000 a year or $20 million. The rate for corporations is 4.8% but they have many ways to get out of paying. Already, state employees are being laid off and vital services have been cut back.

Fortunately, a coalition of public workers unions, advocates for children, the disabled, consumer groups and others have formed a coalition to save public workers jobs and the important services they supply. They have united around a bill to raise another $5 billion by raising the individual tax rate from 3 to 5%. Unfortunately, that bill raises the corporation tax rate only a tiny amount, from 4.8% to 5%. The Communist Party of Illinois has issued a call for a progressive state tax that would spare working people. Communists have also joined the call for a second federal stimulus to help states balance their budgets, maintain services and prevent state layoffs.

Attached is a short history, excerpted from an official government web site. It details the huge shift of the tax burden from the corporations to working and lower middle class families.

History of the U.S. Tax System

Excerpted from

In 1913, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution passed. The new income tax law had rates beginning at 1 percent and rising to 7 percent for taxpayers with over $500,000 income. Less than 1 percent of the population paid income tax.

World War I, 1918, the bottom rate went up to 6 percent and the top rate to 77 percent. Even in 1918, however, only 5 percent of the population paid income taxes and yet the income tax funded one-third of the cost of the war.

By 1936 the lowest tax rate was 4 percent and the top rate was up to 79 percent. The combination of a shrunken economy and the repeated tax increases raised the Federal government's tax burden to 6.8 percent of GDP by 1940.

World War II. By the end of the war the nature of the income tax had been fundamentally altered. Reductions in exemption levels meant that taxpayers with taxable incomes of only $500 faced a bottom tax rate of 23 percent, while taxpayers with incomes over $1 million faced a top rate of 94 percent. Another aspect about the income tax that changed was the increase in the number of income taxpayers from 4 million in 1939 to 43 million in 1945.

The Tax Reform Act of 1969 reduced income tax rates for individuals and private foundations. The United States experienced persistent and rising inflation rates, ultimately reaching 13.3 percent in 1979. A rising price level will steadily shift taxpayers into ever higher tax brackets by reducing the value of those exemptions and deductions.

The Reagan Tax Cut

The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 represented a fundamental shift in the course of federal income tax policy. It featured a 25 percent reduction in individual tax brackets, phased in over 3 years, and indexed for inflation thereafter. This brought the top tax bracket down to 50 percent.

The 1981 Act also featured a dramatic departure in the treatment of business outlays for plant and equipment, i.e. capital cost recovery, or tax depreciation. In addition to accelerated cost recovery, the 1981 Act also instituted a 10 percent Investment Tax Credit. The 1981 tax cut was a de facto shift away from income taxation and toward taxing consumption.

The Evolution of Social Security and Medicare

The Social Security system remained essentially unchanged from its enactment until 1956. However, beginning in 1956, Social Security began an almost steady evolution as more and more benefits were added, beginning with the addition of Disability Insurance benefits. In 1958, benefits were extended to dependents of disabled workers. In 1967, disability benefits were extended to widows and widowers. The 1972 amendments provided for automatic cost-of-living benefits.

In 1965, Congress enacted the Medicare program, providing for the medical needs of persons aged 65 or older, regardless of income. The 1965 Social Security Amendments also created the Medicaid programs, which provide medical assistance for persons with low incomes and resources.

The basic payroll tax was repeatedly increased over the years. Between 1949 and 1962 the payroll tax rate climbed steadily from its initial rate of 2 percent to 6 percent. The expansions in 1965 led to further rate increases, with the combined payroll tax rate climbing to 12.3 percent in 1980. Thus, in 31 years the maximum Social Security tax burden rose from a mere $60 in 1949 to $3,175 in 1980. The payroll tax rate increased to 15.3 percent by 1990. Between 1980 and 1990, the maximum Social Security payroll tax burden more than doubled to $7,849.

Over the 22 year period from 1964 to 1986 the top individual tax rate was reduced from 91 to 28 percent.

Reference: Online, Research Recap by Oxford Analytica:

The US corporate sector has slashed costs over the past year, eliminating over 7 million jobs and trimming the workweek to a record low. However, the painful rise in unemployment (to an official rate of 10.2% in October) has been accompanied by a record surge in productivity and falling unit labour costs, bolstering equity values and padding corporate profits. The result of such savage workforce cuts was productivity growth of 4.3% during the past year, including a 9.5% annualised third quarter surge — the fastest quarterly rise since the data series began in 1948

For Lincoln quotations on labor source of all value

Merrill D. Peterson, Lincoln in American Memory. Oxford University Press, 1994

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chicago mayor calls for end to Afghanistan and Iraq wars

By John Bachtell
CHICAGO - With frustration mounting over the economic crisis and its devastating impact on city services, Mayor Richard M. Daley blasted US funding for military occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq. Speaking to the Feb. 9 Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards dinner, Daley pleaded for money being spent on war to be redirected to social needs.

The speech marks an about face for the mayor. The Daley administration has engaged in ugly confrontations with anti-war protesters since 2003 including the mass arrest of 800 marchers protesting the invasion of Iraq.

"Just think of all the money that we spend on wars to save the world. Today we can't save America. Why do we always have to go to war, continually, why can't we rebuild America? Why is it we have to take $300 or $400 billion dollars . . . and then tell people we're only going to be there for a year and we're coming home . . . and then we'll declare victory," said the mayor, whose son Patrick is facing overseas redeployment.

"What is it about America?" Daley asked. "How did we start this century with 10 years of war? Ten years of war! Where are the anti-war people? I look down at the Dirksen Center (site of many anti-war protests). Where are they? They've disappeared! What happened? I thought war was evil? Where are the people who believed in their heart against George Bush. What happened?

"But don't you know it's a political issue," said Daley. "We won the election. Now we go home."

The US government has now spent $961 billion on both the Iraq and Afghanistan military occupations, including $253 billion to Afghanistan.

Daley has become alarmed over the crisis state of city finances, despite efforts to plug the gaps including massive privatization of city assets. He spoke as the Chicago Transit Authority was slashing $100 million from its budget by laying off 1,100 transit workers, resulting in service cuts on 119 bus routes and 7 train lines. Daley had demanded transit workers make wage, health care and work rule concessions which were rejected by the Amalgamated Transit Union Locals 241 and 308 who represent bus and train workers. ATU Local 241 is threatening to engage in a work to rule protest against the layoffs.

Last summer Daley forced city worker unions to reopen contracts and make concessions. Nearly 500 other public workers were laid off when AFSCME and Teamsters refused concessions, resulting in curtailing of garbage pick up and shorter library hours among other service cuts.

Daley also imposed a 6% cut in all city departments on Feb. 6, except for public safety. This came after more cuts were made in the 2010 budget to close a $520 million deficit. To close the gap, the city exhausted funds from the recent privatization of parking meters that caused a public uproar.

"It's really a realignment of America," Daley told the awards dinner. "It's not just a recession where tomorrow everyone is going to go back to work. It's not going to be like that. It's much more a restructuring of America and it's changing rapidly."

Chicago can't appeal to the Illinois state government for help. The state has a $13 billion budget deficit and can't pay its bills. It faces a backlog of $3.7 billion in bills to school districts, local governments, social service agencies and others around Illinois. And an additional $2.3 billion in short-term loans comes due next month.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Leonard Peltier: An Unrepented Outrage

Reprinted from GRANMA:


In November 2000, just two months before the end of his mandate, U.S. President Bill Clinton said during a radio interview that he was going to very seriously consider the pardon petition presented by the defense attorneys of Leonard Peltier. The U.S. indigenous activist had been in prison for 23 years then, in spite of substantial accumulated evidence pointing to his innocence. When Clinton left the Oval Office in late January, Peltier was not on the list of presidential pardons.

The former president "it appeared" was afraid of getting entangled in a situation that could anger the FBI, the U.S. agency accusing Peltier and certainly not interested in the case receiving further scrutiny, as a new legal process could lead to an indictment of that very agency.

Now history may be repeating itself. A pardon petition has been brought before President Barak Obama and is already circulating around the world, not so much calling for an act of presidential generosity but demanding that the case be given the sole and fair outcome it should have had three decades ago when, following a rigged trial, Peltier was sent to prison. February 6 will be marking 34 years since the imprisonment of this activist, who is unjustly serving two life sentences.

Even the judge who once turned down a request for a case review has joined outstanding cultural and political personalities who are asking for reconsideration. Peltier suffers from various ailments resulting not only from age but also mistreatment and lack of adequate care. What was Leonard Peltier̢۪s "crime"? Well, obviously the number one reason why he went to jail was for opposing the acts of hostility against the native peoples of North America, to which he belongs.

Available statistics reveal why these peoples need to be defended. Infant mortality rate among them is, for instance, ten times higher than the national average, an unresolved and outrageous situation that affects mostly the poor sectors of society and which in the case of the native Indian population is a true tragedy.

But history is stubborn and old enough to record the existence of prominent members of the Sioux, Apache, Lakota and Nez Perce communities who struggled with courage and dignity so that the then nascent United States would comply with the covenants and promises made, which were routinely violated. Their names include Geronimo, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull.

The sadly unsuccessful struggle of those Native American heroes, who fought in disadvantage, lies at the foundations of the 1970 events at the Pine Ridge reservation, South Dakota, used to bring before justice several members of the American Indian Movement, including Peltier. Against Peltier the FBI would later focus its accusations, after seeing that the court had acquitted two of the activists, admitting they had fired in self-defense against agents who had broken into their farm, and that there was a high level of violence by authorities against the native communities in the area. An enraged FBI decided to turn all the blame on Peltier, who was the most prestigious and respected member of that group.

Evidence provided by experts proved that Peltier̢۪s weapon did not fire the shots that killed two police officers. So much so that the prosecutor was forced to admit that it was impossible to prove who shot the agents. But the test that led to such a determinant conclusion was kept in the dark.

The U.S. justice also overlooked the fact that one of the former defendants had admitted that he had been the gunman who killed the agents.

The prosecution presented statements by a woman, who did not know Peltier but claimed she was his girlfriend and had seen him shoot the agents. The woman was not even present at the scene of the shooting and retracted after a time, saying she had been threatened and pressured by the FBI into presenting a false testimony.

Thus, the idea of using and keeping visible a "this-ought-to-teach-you" prototype, so that others dare not challenge authority again, has prevailed over conclusive evidence such as this spontaneous self-confession.

Confidence that a president emerging from another group, victim of discrimination, could become sensitized and straighten up an old infamy is the hope of those who continue to seek justice for Leonard Peltier.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Against the odds, independent politics advance in Illinois election

By John Bachtell
CHICAGO -- Voters in the Feb. 2 Illinois primary election seemed to send a message to politicians: We're fed up with corruption; we want solutions.

Illinois has the earliest off-year primary in the country, a factor that depressed voter turnout to a mere 25-30%, according to analysts.

With a record state budget crisis, Main Street depression and an impeached former Democratic governor and Democrat-controlled legislature, Republicans anticipate a comeback this year. Especially, the Republican Party sees the state's U.S. Senate seat, once occupied by President Obama, as a key race nationally. Rep. Mark Kirk, who handily won the Republican Senate nomination, immediately tried to employ "Scott Brown" tactics calling for an end to "one party" rule in Illinois. Kirk's challenge will be to unite the extreme rightwing and more moderate sections of the state Republican Party which has been in shambles for several years.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, with significant labor backing, won the Democratic nomination for U.S. senate and will face Kirk this November. At his victory party, Giannoulias who was widely seen out of the three-way Democratic primary race as having the best chance to win in November, was surrounded by workers from HartMarx, a garment factory he fought to save. He hit hard on the need for jobs creation in his speech.

In close primaries for governor, current Governor Pat Quinn, a maverick on many issues, seemed to narrowly win against State Comptroller Dan Hynes, who comes from a Chicago political machine family. Quinn had the political misfortune of stepping into office in the wake of a scandal by his predecessor, Rod Blagojevich, and the biggest budget crisis in state history. The Republican race for governor is too close to call.

Hynes had enraged the progressive community and African Americans with an attack ad that repeatedly showed a speech by the late Mayor Harold Washington criticizing Quinn upon firing him from his administration. But the Hynes family, including the comptroller's father, had been one of the chief obstructionists to the Washington administration.

Cook County government has long been a bastion of political patronage and corruption. Now the economic recession has compounded the government's budget crises. The Cook County Board of Commissioners President race was a closely fought among Democrats vying for the nomination. Current Board President Todd Stroger, appointed by Democratic Party bosses after his father had a massive stroke, ran against three other candidates. He came in last. Many voters were reacting to a recent sales tax increase that he implemented. Plus budget cuts have heavily impacted health care and other vital services.

Alderman Toni Preckwinkle won the Democratic nomination for Cook County board president. Preckwinkle, an African American and seen as the most progressive of the candidates, could be the first woman elected to the post. She put together a coalition that reflected the racial diversity of the city.

Cook County Democratic primary winners in heavily Democrat Cook County are seen almost as shoe-ins for the general election. Although there will be Republican and Green Party candidates on November's ballot.

But perhaps the most important results for Chicago-area independent politics came from the city's southwest side in the form of two races.

The first race was the decisive victory of Jesus "Chuy" Garcia over Mario Moreno in the Democratic primary for Cook County Commissioner of the 7th District. Moreno, a Democratic Party machine incumbent, is widely seen as corrupt and a do-nothing. Organizers see the Garcia win as a victory for grassroots political empowerment in the Mexican American community, as well as, progressive coalition politics seeking to address the widespread economic troubles of voters.

"Tonight all of Chicagoland and suburbia is watching this new southwest side," declared Jesus "Chuy" Garcia triumphantly to a jubilant crowd at a packed victory party in the Little Village neighborhood here. "We demonstrated that progressive politics are possible anywhere in the Chicagoland metropolitan area."

Many see Garcia's win as putting back on track the movement Garcia helped to lead as state senator when Chicago's infamous Democratic Party machine ganged up to defeat him in 1998. The defeat chilled the city's progressive independent movement. The 22nd Ward Independent Political Organization, of which Garcia is a leader and founding member, was one of the main groups still trying to carry on an independent, progressive and pro-working families agenda. Garcia was an early supporter of the late Mayor Washington and the first Latino elected to the state senate.

Garcia called for other communities to come forward with an alternative vision and to build broad unity around a new agenda for the metropolitan area that could challenge the old machine politics, much like the coalition that carried Washington to victory in 1983 and 1987.

The second significant race on the southwest side, which profoundly shook up the political scene was for state legislature. In his first race for public office, Rudy Lozano, Jr. lost by just 434 votes to Rep. Dan Burke, from one of the most powerful and connected families in the state. Lozano's campaign in the 23rd legislative district won 46% of the vote, but had to contend with a record low voter turnout across the state.

Lozano, an educator and community organizer, inspired an army of young grassroots activists and leaders, who with their courage and audacity refused to be intimidated by the machine thuggishness, intimidation and efforts to isolate Lozano's campaign. They braved Chicago's hot summer and cold, snowy winter to canvass the neighborhoods daily.

Garcia jumped into the race for commissioner late, teaming up with Lozano and bringing many veterans of previous campaigns with him. It helped open up resources and gave both campaigns the feel of an intergenerational movement.

The threat of Lozano's campaign so worried the establishment that powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan became personally involved, first dispatching his attorney in an attempt to drive Lozano from the ballot, then marshalling the remnants of the old corrupt Hispanic Democratic Organization to back Burke with a public display of Latino support while intimidating Latino political support for Lozano.

Efforts were made by both Madigan and the Burke family to deny any support for Lozano in the labor movement. Lozano still garnered endorsements from United Electrical Workers (UE), Workers United and Citizen Action Illinois.

Lozano racked up surprising vote totals in stronghold precincts of the Burke and Madigan machines. This also reflected the large demographic change on the southwest side and the desire for elected officials who are honest and responsive to a district hard hit by joblessness, home foreclosures, school overcrowding and concerns with gang violence, as well as, Latino representation in the state house.

"This is just the beginning," Lozano told the crowd at Little Village's Mi Tierra Restaurant. "Regardless of the outcome we have already won a great victory. We have a movement on our hands not just on the southwest side, but across the city of Chicago. We have put progressive independent politics on the map and it's here to stay."

As part of the Garcia-Lozano alliance, progressive independent Alderman Ricardo Munoz was elected to the State Democratic Party Central Committee.

In other races closely watched by labor and progressives, Robyn Gable, director of the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Care Coalition won the Democratic nomination for the 18th Legislative district being vacated by Rep. Julie Hamos. Gable who is part of the progressive movement around Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), vowed to continue the fight for health care reform.

Hamos had given up her seat to run for U.S. Congress in the 10th Congressional District, the seat currently occupied by GOP Senate nominee Mark Kirk. Hamos ran against Dan Seals, an African American who had challenged Kirk twice. Seals defeated Hamos and his victory in November would flip the seat for Democrats.