Labor Unions

Corporations Tailoring Product Lines To Reflect Growing Income Inequality

Source: Huffington Post     Posted by: Elizabeth Fiend

As the American economy struggles to shake off a torpor that threatens to drag the country back into recession, the gap continues to grow between the nation’s richest citizens and everybody else.

The economy is in evident peril, with unemployment high, wages falling, the housing market treading water and growth so slow as to be nearly imperceptible. Yet the rich are doing just fine. Some statistics make clear the size of America’s affluence disparity: As of 2010, the richest 20 percent of the U.S. population control 84 percent of the wealth. And the 400 richest Americans have a higher net worth than the full bottom 50 percent of households.

As the wealthy continue to accrue capital — helped by policies like a low tax on profits from stock and real estate sales — and the less well-off classes try to make do in a pitiless economic climate, corporations appear to be finally recognizing the reality of the prosperity gap, and tailoring their product lines accordingly. Manufacturers like Procter & Gamble, the household-goods giant responsible for everything from Charmin and Old Spice to Tide, are concentrating their efforts on luxury and bargain items, putting less emphasis on products aimed at the middle class, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The erosion of middle-market product lines reflects a trend where economic pressures are making it increasingly harder for Americans to maintain a traditional middle-class existence. Jobs are less secure, home ownership rates are falling and a college education is not the guarantee of financial stability that it once was. A recent study from the Pew Charitable Trusts found that more than a quarter of Americans who were raised in middle-class families in the late 1970s had fallen into the lower-earning classes by 2006.


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Sandy Pope For Teamster President — First Women to Run, Runs Against a Hoffa


Source: New York Magazine   Written by: By Jennifer Gonnerman   Posted by: Elizabeth Fiend

Sandy’s Web Page

Alexandra “Sandy” Pope steps out of her apartment in Astoria wearing a jacket with the Teamsters logo, hood pulled up against the rain, strands of blonde hair poking out the sides. She drops her luggage in the back of her Ford Focus and slides into the driver’s seat. The rain picks up as she heads west, pelting her car with such ferocity that it’s impossible to see more than a few feet ahead. But Pope isn’t fazed. What’s an afternoon storm when you’ve done overnight truck runs in blizzard conditions, hauling steel from Cleveland to Baltimore?

BiG TeA PaRtY host Elizabeth Fiend and Sandy Pope

Pope no longer drives a tractor-trailer, but she still spends much of her time on the road. Last fall, she announced her candidacy for president of the ­International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and on a Sunday afternoon in March, she’s headed to yet another campaign stop, this time in Allentown, Pennsylvania, at a hotel bar, on a street called Bulldog Drive. In this race, she’s got some obvious disadvantages: Winning will require dethroning the man with the most famous name in organized labor—James P. Hoffa, Jimmy Hoffa’s 69-year-old son.

The Teamsters will nominate presidential candidates this summer at the union’s convention in Las Vegas; the election will be this fall. But already the race is in full swing, with every week offering Pope yet another example of how tough it is to mount a national campaign when your opponent has way more money—and you have to drive yourself to every event. “It’s like running for City Council and going to coffee klatches,” Pope says, one hand on the stick shift. “But it’s across North America.”

This race is taking place amid one of the worst climates for labor in decades. Union membership is at its lowest point in 70 years, Republican leaders in states like Wisconsin and Ohio have launched a war on public employees’ right to collective bargaining, and everywhere public pensions are under attack. As Pope put it in a recent speech, “We’re getting the shit beaten out of us.”


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The Angry Rich

Sustainability Is of No Concern to These People

Anger is sweeping America. True, this white-hot rage is a minority phenomenon, not something that characterizes most of our fellow citizens. But the angry minority is angry indeed, consisting of people who feel that things to which they are entitled are being taken away. And they’re out for revenge. No, I’m not talking about the Tea Partiers. I’m talking about the rich.

Source: New York Times Written By PAUL KRUGMAN   Posted by: Elizabeth Fiend

These are terrible times for many people in this country. Poverty, especially acute poverty, has soared in the economic slump; millions of people have lost their homes. Young people can’t find jobs; laid-off 50-somethings fear that they’ll never work again.

Yet if you want to find real political rage — the kind of rage that makes people compare President Obama to Hitler, or accuse him of treason — you won’t find it among these suffering Americans. You’ll find it instead among the very privileged, people who don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, or their health insurance, but who are outraged, outraged, at the thought of paying modestly higher taxes.

The rage of the rich has been building ever since Mr. Obama took office. At first, however, it was largely confined to Wall Street. Thus when New York magazine published an article titled “The Wail Of the 1%,” it was talking about financial wheeler-dealers whose firms had been bailed out with taxpayer funds, but were furious at suggestions that the price of these bailouts should include temporary limits on bonuses. When the billionaire Stephen Schwarzman compared an Obama proposal to the Nazi invasion of Poland, the proposal in question would have closed a tax loophole that specifically benefits fund managers like him.

Now, however, as decision time looms for the fate of the Bush tax cuts — will top tax rates go back to Clinton-era levels? — the rage of the rich has broadened, and also in some ways changed its character.

For one thing, craziness has gone mainstream. It’s one thing when a billionaire rants at a dinner event. It’s another when Forbes magazine runs a cover story alleging that the president of the United States is deliberately trying to bring America down as part of his Kenyan, “anticolonialist” agenda, that “the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s.” When it comes to defending the interests of the rich, it seems, the normal rules of civilized (and rational) discourse no longer apply.

At the same time, self-pity among the privileged has become acceptable, even fashionable.


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R2K+10: 10th Anniversary of the Philly RNC Protests & Legal Resistance

Saturday night features: BiG TeA PaRtY Sustainable Living video
Unconventional Coverage: The Message and the Means.

This hour long video commentary filmed during the protests at the Republican National Convention was subpoenaed by the police and received the
Best Documentary Award at the Philadelphia Festival of Independents.



Friday July 30, 6pm at LAVA, 4134 Lancaster Ave. Free!

R2K Art Exhibit & Reception
Food/Drinks and Exhibit — Check out news clippings, photos, posters, flyers, artifacts, sound stations and video from the summer of 2000. R2K Legal will be on site with legal files for those arrested to reclaim.


Open Mic, Movie and Party
Saturday July 31, 6pm onward at the Puppet Warehouse, 4100 Haverford. Free!

6pm: Sharing stories from 2000 through an open mic hosted by Elizabeth Fiend // Screening of BiG TeA PaRtY’s documentary on R2K “Unconventional Coverage: The Message and the Means” // art and artifacts from the previous day’s exhibit // Food & Drinks //

9pm: Dance Party! Featuring R2K Legal veteran DJ Halfbreed.


This July 2010 marks 10 years since Philadelphia was the site of the 2000 Republican National Convention. The week of August 1, 2000, thousands of activists took to the streets of Center City Philadelphia for direct action against police brutality and the prison industrial complex. We were riding an exciting wave of mass direct actions against global capitalism following the previous November’s actions which shut down the meetings of the World Trade Organization in Seattle and large scale street actions against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in DC. This summer, let’s celebrate our fighting spirit 10 years ago, and let’s celebrate our resilience in surviving R2K!


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Largest Health Insurance Provider Raises Rates — a LOT


Editorial: The Lesson of Anthem Blue Cross

Source: The New York Times       Posted by: Elizabeth Fiend

Clients were understandably furious when Anthem Blue Cross, the largest for-profit health insurer in California, announced huge rate increases for people who buy their own insurance: an average increase of 25 percent, and a 35 percent to 39 percent rise for a quarter of the purchasers. The move also provided a textbook example of why the nation badly needs comprehensive health care reforms.

The reform bills stalled in Congress would put a brake on such out-of-scale premium increases by broadening the pools of insured people to keep average premiums low, by setting up competitive insurance exchanges and by starting to rein in the cost of medical care that is driving up premiums everywhere.

The salient point is that the reform bills pending in Congress could almost certainly prevent this problem from developing. The bills would require everyone to buy health insurance (many with government subsidies). That would create large pools to spread the risk over both healthy and sick enrollees and keep average premiums low. On new insurance exchanges, people who buy their own insurance could benefit from group purchasing power and could choose from an array of policies. Competition among insurers on the exchanges is expected to help keep premiums down.

How about the Republicans’ health care proposals?

They would only address a small part of the Anthem problem. The Republicans reject the idea of mandates to spread the cost of care and instead call for ways for people dissatisfied with their insurer to buy cheaper coverage elsewhere. That could help relatively healthy people but would do nothing for the chronically ill or anyone with pre-existing conditions. They would be stuck in their health plans. State high-risk pools for sick people, another Republican solution, almost always have high premiums and would not provide a safe haven from rate increases in private plans.


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Climate change causes 315,000 deaths a year

Unfortunately it doesn’t matter how thrifty WE are, how much we recycle, cut down on energy consumption, eat less meat – if industry doesn’t do the same we’re doomed. Climate change will not be fixed unless industry changes. Industry has failed at self regulation, government intervention is the only way. What can you do? People-power will be needed to force governments to enact the necessary regulations.

Posted by Elizabeth Fiend


Source:  Written By Megan Rowling 

Climate change kills about 315,000 people a year through hunger, sickness and weather disasters, and the annual death toll is expected to rise to half a million by 2030, a report said on Friday. The first hit and worst affected are the world’s poorest groups, and yet they have done least to cause the problem.

LONDON (Reuters) –The study, commissioned by the Geneva-based Global Humanitarian Forum (GHF), estimates that climate change seriously affects 325 million people every year, a number that will more than double in 20 years to 10 percent of the world’s population (now about 6.7 billion).

Economic losses due to global warming amount to over $125 billion annually — more than the flow of aid from rich to poor nations — and are expected to rise to $340 billion each year by 2030, according to the report.

“Climate change is the greatest emerging humanitarian challenge of our time, causing suffering to hundreds of millions of people worldwide,” Kofi Annan, former U.N. secretary-general and GHF president, said in a statement.

“The first hit and worst affected are the world’s poorest groups, and yet they have done least to cause the problem.”

The report says developing countries bear more than nine-tenths of the human and economic burden of climate change, while the 50 poorest countries contribute less than 1 percent of the carbon emissions that are heating up the planet.

Annan urged governments due to meet at U.N. talks in Copenhagen in December to agree on an effective, fair and binding global pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s main mechanism for tackling global warming.

“Copenhagen needs to be the most ambitious international agreement ever negotiated,” he wrote in an introduction to the report. “The alternative is mass starvation, mass migration and mass sickness.”

The study warns that the true human impact of global warming is likely to be far more severe than it predicts, because it uses conservative U.N. scenarios. New scientific evidence points to greater and more rapid climate change.


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Single-Payer National Health Insurance


The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, $7,129 per capita. Yet our system performs poorly in comparison and still leaves 47 million without health coverage and millions more inadequately covered.

This is because private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $350 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.

Posted by: Elizabeth Fiend       Source:  Physicians For a National Health Program

Single-payer national health insurance is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health financing, but delivery of care remains largely private.

Currently, the U.S. health care system is outrageously expensive, yet inadequate. Despite spending more than twice as much as the rest of the industrialized nations ($7,129 per capita), the United States performs poorly in comparison on major health indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality and immunization rates. Moreover, the other advanced nations provide comprehensive coverage to their entire populations, while the U.S. leaves 47 million completely uninsured and millions more inadequately covered.

The reason we spend more and get less than the rest of the world is because we have a patchwork system of for-profit payers. Private insurers necessarily waste health dollars on things that have nothing to do with care: overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay. Doctors and hospitals must maintain costly administrative staffs to deal with the bureaucracy. Combined, this needless administration consumes one-third (31 percent) of Americans’ health dollars.


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“Every time we sit at a table to enjoy the fruits and grain and vegetables from our good earth, remember that they come from the work of men and women and children who have been exploited for generations.”
César Chávez, Co-Founder, United Farm Workers


Article by VaLerie K

In a July 2nd interview of Dr. Robert A. Weinberg, Ph.D. about his research on the connection between lifestyle and cancer risk on Philly Public Radio’s “Radio Times”, when a caller asked about pesticides in food, host Tracy Matisak sat silent while her guest uttered a remarkably irresponsible and reprehensible statement:

As far as I know the only people in whom cancer has ever been induced by let’s say pesticides, are agricultural workers who are in contact with vast amounts of pesticides. The fact is that to my knowledge, not a single human being in this country has ever developed cancer because of a consequence of exposure to trace amounts of pesticides that are present in food.”

I couldn’t believe my ears when he dismissed the suffering of farm workers as a tangential bit of information, and essentially promoted the attitude that as long as it isn’t giving ME cancer, there’s nothing to worry about. Nice. Way to think globally, Doctor!

I realize that in the myopic mindset too often found in the research world, Dr. Weinberg was not so much advocating human suffering as he was focusing on his particular point: that the end consumer is not at risk of cancer by eating produce that was treated with pesticides (which in itself is debatable), but even if that were true, there are a host of reasons not to buy from farms that use pesticides [to see Elizabeth Fiend‘s article about pesticide-free farming – CLICK HERE], and not all of them are short-term and selfish, some reasons actually take the environmentand the lives of others into account.

Farm Workers in the U.S.

Beyond just pesticides, there are a host of other ills visited upon agricultural workers in the U.S. – child labor, low wages, lack of health insurance, pesticide-related illness & death, birth defects, inadequate access to health care and the dangers of the agricultural industry such as using dangerous machinery without adequate safety precautions, climbing rickety ladders to pick fruit from trees, and prolonged exposure to the sun.


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“American universities may be jeopardizing their academic integrity by giving oil, gas, and other polluting industries unprecedented influence over the research those companies fund on campus, according to a report released today by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Wow, this is some bad stuff and sets a terrible precedent. Love Elizabeth Fiend


Polluters Drilling for Respect on Campus, Says Report
CSPI Says Universities Endanger Academic Freedom

January 21, 2008

Source: Common Dreams

WASHINGTON – January 21 – American universities may be jeopardizing their academic integrity by giving oil, gas, and other polluting industries unprecedented influence over the research those companies fund on campus, according to a report released today by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.

CSPI surveyed nine major universities that recently inaugurated industry-funded research programs on biofuels or other aspects of global warming. In return for accepting grants from industry, the universities are variously letting corporate representatives sit on governing boards (six out of nine universities), giving companies first rights to intellectual property (five), or letting companies review and possibly delay publication of studies (five). In some cases, such as Georgia Tech and the University of California-Davis, the universities give corporations a direct role in deciding which specific research projects are funded. And while industry enjoys the green patina that sponsoring university research into global warming confers, companies actually spend very little on research and development, particularly that relate to clean alternative energy technologies.

“It’s a cheap subterfuge for carbon-emitting companies,” said Merrill Goozner, director of the CSPI’s Integrity in Science Project. “They get the prestige of associating themselves with major respected universities, yet can control the direction of research and get first rights to intellectual property while delaying any finding that doesn’t help the bottom line. Meanwhile, the p.r. blitz surrounding these programs masks the fact that the carbon-emitting industries actually are spending much less on research and development than they did 10 or 15 years ago.”


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