US unions campaign for jobs

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‘ACROSS the US, at town halls, fundraisers, and forums in over 150 congressional districts, jobless Americans are uniting with workers, students, and other citizens over the August recess to demand politicians create the good jobs we need to put America back to work’, says the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

These actions are part of the American Dream movement, which is supported by national and local organisations including Moveon.org, Rebuild the Dream, SEIU and the Centre for Community Change, the SEIU added on Friday.

Over the previous week, more than 50 members of Congress in 27 states faced protests by voters in their districts demanding action on jobs.

MINNESOTA: Protest outside GOP (Republican party) Golf Outing and Fundraiser hosted by Boehner

It’s been reported that one of the best (er, only?) ways to get face time with the US Speaker of the House John Boehner is to show up when he’s playing a round at any number of exclusive country clubs he frequents.

Knowing this, more than a hundred activists and Minnesotans who are unemployed showed up outside an exclusive country club in Minneapolis to call for job creation, not budget cuts.

Boehner was said to be hosting a $10,000 a ticket golf game and country club luncheon for wealthy donors and politicians like Erik Paulsen and Chip Cravaack ($10,000 was supposed to buy a round of golf with the Speaker).

Boehner has said in the past that ‘if someone (he’s) gotten to know on the golf course comes into (his) office with a good argument, (he) tends to want to listen.’

Unfortunately, activists protesting outside the Wayzata Golf country club didn’t experience any of that ‘listening’.

OHIO: Constituents ask Congressman Stivers, ‘Are You Working for Us?’

With folks holding up signs that said, ‘Stivers, Stop Voting for Job Loss,’ ‘Budget Cuts in Washington Speak for Killing Jobs,’ and ‘Grow Jobs not Rhetoric,’ ordinary Ohioans are demanding more from Representative Stivers.

Ohioans gathered outside of the OSU/Nationwide Ohio Farm Bureau 4H Centre on August 15th to show support for all unemployed workers looking to fill one of the 4,400 jobs Rep. Stivers claimed to be adding to Ohio’s economy after voting against job creation in Washington, DC.

CALIFORNIA: Demanding Jobs in Fresno

August recess kicked off with over 300 people welcoming Representative Jeff Denham (CA-19) back to his district in Fresno.

Waving signs with messages such as ‘Invest in our communities, not CEOs,’ and ‘Jeff, put Fresno to work,’ jobless citizens, workers, and other community members converged on Denham’s Fresno office to demand a meeting with Denham and demand that he get back to Washington, D.C. to focus on job creation, not cuts and giveaways to CEOs and millionaires.

WASHINGTON: ‘Hey Rep. Dave Reichert, where are the jobs?’

Workers from several SEIU Locals including 1199NW, 775NW and 925 joined more than 200 community members to send a message to US Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.)

Our community needs jobs, not tax breaks for the wealthy. Chanters led various rally cries, such as ‘No Jobs, No Peace’ and ‘Hey Dave, can’t you see, jobs help our economy!’

Dressed as Depression-era newsies, two participants handed out fliers that detailed Reichert’s poor performance creating jobs.

‘Extra, extra, read all about it! Reichert gives millions in tax breaks but creates zero jobs,’ they said.

Reichert, who supported the Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) budget that would have killed 2.5 million jobs, was unfortunately nowhere to be seen.

FLORIDA: Residents Call For Change Outside Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s Office

On August 11th, a group of jobless South Florida residents and concerned citizens, gathered outside Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s office to call for more and better jobs.

‘If we don’t have jobs, we can’t play the stock market, and we can’t do any investing. We can’t put money into our economy: We can’t buy clothing, we can’t buy food, we can’t buy the things that we need in order to survive, so without a job there is no economy,’ said activist Anna Kleinholz.

PENNSYLVANIA: Making Rep. Barletta Hear Our Voices

After Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) refused to meet with constituents about jobs and the economy, a group of constituents decided to converge outside a Chamber of Commerce breakfast Barletta was speaking at to demand he get to work on creating jobs.

Constituents even tried to pay the $30 required to register for the Chamber of Commerce breakfast forum but say the Chamber denied their registration because they are not CEOs.

MINNESOTA: Demand Wells Fargo Stop Funding Job-Killing Politicians

More than 100 protesters gathered outside Wells Fargo offices this week in Minnesota demanding a ‘piece of the pie’ for job seekers and hardworking Minnesotans.

Their demands were heard, and ignored, by actors wearing puppet masks of job-killing US Representatives Erik Paulsen, John Kline, and Michele Bachmann and one of their corporate sponsors, Wells Fargo MN CEO and Minnesota Chamber of Commerce chair, Jon Campbell.

TEXAS: Turning Up the August Heat on Sen. John Cornyn for Putting the Middle Class on ‘Life Support’

Around 200 unemployed and underemployed Texans took part in what a local blogger called a ‘strong protest’ last Thursday outside the Houston office of Senator John Cornyn.

The group accused Cornyn of putting the middle class on life support, and asked him to sign a ‘Prescription to Revive the Middle Class.’

• UAW members say they are disappointed and surprised that American Axle CEO Dick Dauch has announced that the company intends to close its Cheektowaga, N.Y., gear-making plant in February.

‘This latest plant closing announcement from American Axle is deeply disappointing’ said UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, who directs the union’s American Axle Department.

‘Our members who have worked proudly for American Axle made great sacrifices and helped the company avoid bankruptcy. Even after the company returned to profitability workers in Cheektowaga offered to give back more in concessions to maintain this as a viable operation in Buffalo-area community.’

The closing will eliminate jobs for the 66 workers at the plant now and erase opportunities for any work in the future. In the past, the plant has been a place where workers from one generation to the next have found jobs.

‘The members of UAW Local 846 are disappointed and frustrated, said Estrada. ‘The company relayed to us that its goal was to achieve a market competitive labour cost structure.

‘We have continued to negotiate in that manner and American Axle has relayed to Wall Street that our contracts have helped keep the company viable.’

In late July American Axle even released figures showing that its profits soared to $47.9 million from $25.3 million a year ago.

Prior to 2008, the average American Axle worker’s total wage and benefit package was about $73.48.

In 2008, following an 87-day labour dispute, employees at three American Axle facilities ratified a new agreement that included frozen pensions, numerous work rule changes and wage and benefit packages that were cut down to $43.21 an hour.

That July, Dauch told Wall Street, ‘AAM’s new labour agreement will help AAM achieve a market competitive labour cost structure which is what we needed. This will help us with our US locations.’

‘When the company asked for cuts in 2008, our members were reluctant but agreed,’ said Scott Adams, director of UAW Region 9, which includes western New York.

‘Again in 2009 and 2010, our members sacrificed wages and benefits; they did what it took to keep those jobs in this community. Between 2009 and 2010, workers sacrificed again and saw their hourly wage and benefit packages cut to $36.48.

‘In the recent round of bargaining, total wages and benefits combined were to drop again, this time below $30 an hour.

‘On July 31, Cheektowaga workers said enough was enough and voted 98 per cent in favour of rejecting cuts that left them with less than a livable wage.’

‘This is heartbreaking for the community,’ said Greg Birkemeier, Local 846 shop chairperson and a third-generation UAW member and American Axle worker. ‘Our members have worked hard to produce quality products, meet shipping deadlines and do everything we could to make this company successful.’

American Axle already has closed other US plants, including another facility in Buffalo and a forge plant in Tonawanda.

It has announced plans to close its Detroit plant in February as well. As plants in US communities have been closed, the company has shifted those jobs to other countries.

‘Perhaps this is a pattern of corporate greed and anti-union tactics shopped from one neighbourhood to the next,’ Adams said. ‘We are left wondering if the company intended to close the plant all along.

Certainly we would hope that would not be the case, but there does seem to be a pattern that in the end devastates communities.’

‘Our members came to the table in good faith, but in the end, maybe this company had already set its agenda: Close the plant and blame the union,’ Adams said.