December 03, 2020

By Ray Curry

Secretary-Treasurer, UAW

 

These days, like the old Ray Charles song says, I’ve got Georgia on My Mind. We should all be thinking of Georgia because come January 5, the state is positioned to make a tremendous change for the better — a change that will give President-Elect Joe Biden the opportunity for real legislation and real reform; for lasting and potent legislative buy-in to make laws once again (and it has been a while now!) in service to the people.

Laws that address issues important to the working men and women of this nation: healthcare, the economy, health and safety, equal justice for all, the environment, and the right to organize.

And a real plan to take COVID-19 head on with a coordinated nationwide policy to address the ill effects, including relief for both businesses and the millions of sidelined workers who are just trying to hang on.

 

Come January 20, 2021, we will have a new President of the United States in Joseph Biden and the first female African American Vice President Kamala Harris. This election was a hard-fought, intense race full of division and emotion. But in the end, as a record number of voters turned out (in person and via mail), it was a fair and legal vote that now gives us a leader who has been a long-time friend of labor, and an individual who represents much needed progress for this country. I want to thank all my brothers and sisters from coast to coast for making sure our voices were heard in this election.

Now however, we must collectively stand and fight with him. Simply put, there is still much to do to ensure that the President-Elect has the ability to accomplish his restorative plan. Biden’s plan includes working together during this pandemic to find solutions, battling the current devastating economic and health care challenges, and continuing our fight for workplace rights and safety.

Accomplishing this critical work must include control of the Senate — which has been held by Republicans since 2015, and has in that time, often served as a barrier to progress rather than a forward-thinking channel for progress. And it is down in Blue Georgia (never thought I would be saying that, but Sister Stacey Abrams knew) that we have the opportunity to remove that roadblock.

What’s a runoff?

On election day, neither of Georgia’s Republican senators drew a majority vote. This moves both of their races to special rematches taking place in January. The outcome will determine control of the Senate and if we have a legislature that works together for working people — and with our President. Or it will determine that the political stalemate we have now continues; that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will keep things in the same go nowhere circle we have had for years.

A runoff election is required, under Georgia law, if candidates do not receive a majority (50% or more) of the vote. The Georgia runoff will occur on January 5, 2021. The results — depending on who wins — will swing the Senate majority to Democrats or leave McConnell and the Republicans in charge.

It’s the difference between do something or do nothing.

What’s at stake?

Georgia Senate Democratic candidates, Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, will go head-to-head with Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in two separate runoffs. Warnock and Ossoff have been endorsed by the UAW because they are the best choice for UAW members, retirees, and their families. They are the best choice for America, and the best choice for labor.

Both candidates understand that two essential things that must happen, and must happen quickly to address the economic and health care crisis in this country:

• From the very beginning, Ossoff and Warnock have taken the pandemic very seriously. Together — working with the new president and fellow Congressional members — they will work to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control to save lives and get people fully back to work.

• Warnock and Ossoff also understand that the economy isn’t working for working people. They will work to repeal tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. They will encourage bringing back our jobs from overseas. Additionally, they will protect the Social Security and Medicare benefits we earned, defend our pensions and 401(k)s, and make it easier for workers to organize and form a union.

On the flipside, their opponents — Loeffler and Perdue — both support more than $24 billion cuts to Social Security and $500 billion cuts to Medicare. More importantly, they have both used the dire circumstances of a global pandemic to their benefit as both were caught red-handed making insider stock deals based on information about the severity of the pandemic that they kept from the public. Not exactly a move that gives you faith in their ability to serve on the behalf of the citizens they represent.

So, the good trouble that we must make this time around is going back home to the place where good fighting got it its name. This is a historic moment in our history and Georgia holds the key. If Democrats gain both Georgia seats, the 50-50 tie in the Senate will mean that Vice President-Elect Harris will cast tie-breaking votes, carrying out a pro-labor agenda.

Given the rise in COVID-19 cases, President-Elect Biden must be able to make immediate decisions and pass legislation that address the challenges we all face and make tough decisions to protect all working Americans.

Georgians, please vote!

So please, if you live in Georgia, participate in this election. If you do not live in Georgia, consider finding a way to make your own good trouble: assist through phone banking or offer assistance to organizations supporting the Warnock and Ossoff campaigns.

On January 5, the entire country is looking to Georgia to make an essential difference in the future of our nation. We are looking to voters to elect candidates that will protect retirement security, rebuild our economy and implement a national plan to respond to the pandemic. The outcome of this election will affect every single person in this nation for decades to come.

Let us send our hearts and minds south this January. Let us get back to work for working men and women. Let us take an old sweet song and make it America’s, “Georgia On My Mind.”

 

Category: Opinion

October 29, 2020

By Ray Curry

International Secretary-Treasurer, UAW

 

Vote! I cannot say it any simpler or say it enough.

Vote to restore government for the people, by the people; vote to preserve our threatened middle class; vote for America’s workers by voting for an America that works; vote up and down the ballot and vote union blue.

Sisters and brothers, I have to say that never before has there been so much at stake for the American people than in this election. From constitutional court decisions affecting human, civil and worker rights, to the ability to safely exercise our right to vote ... all are on the line. Our current way of life, fought for and worked for over so many decades, is being threatened. Ruled by the rich for the rich sure is not looking out for those of us who work for a living.

Together we can readjust America’s light to again shine on a united future — the way it was intended to be.

Here is what makes your vote so critical. Consider the issues that your ballot will impact by helping to elect representatives who support labor and the American worker —

Who represents us in the courts?

Our courts are deteriorating quickly to an anti-worker mindset. Over the past four years, two very conservative Supreme Court justices have been appointed, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, moving the Court further to the right and further away from protecting our rights. And a third anti-labor judge will likely be railroaded through in advance of the election. In addition, more than 50 judges for the United States Courts of Appeals, more than 135 judges for the United States District Courts, and two judges for the United States Court of International Trade have been appointed during the current term.

In consequence of these numerous court appointments, our courts are turning in a detrimental way against fair labor practices and human rights. Through your vote in November, you can help fend off further anti-labor control of decisions and policy.

Who is watching out for us?

Since the 2016 election, there have been several disturbing anti-labor appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the government agency that enforces labor law as it relates to collective bargaining and unfair labor practice charges. This includes officials like William Emanuel, a labor lawyer at the notorious anti-worker law firm Littler Mendelson. He is, most certainly, no friend to labor and his voting record shows it. And we must not forget the appointment of Eugene Scalia last fall to Secretary of Labor. The New Yorker magazine has called him “a wrecking ball for labor.”

And consider that on February 6, 2020, the House of Representatives passed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would significantly restore workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively. However, the Senate has failed to even allow a vote, let alone, pass the PRO Act. The UAW has endorsed the PRO Act and we must work to see that it is passed.

Protect our right to vote

Your very right to vote in this, and every election is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. It is a fundamental aspect of living in this democracy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, making our way to the polls has been a concern for many. Mail-in and absentee ballots are a viable option for a safe, secure election. However, we have seen:

• Challenges to states’ rights and roles in overseeing the presidential election.

• Opposed election aid for states to run safe elections with

COVID-19 restrictions in place.

• Opposition to funding to make elections safe and secure, including a $25 billion emergency funding bill for the U.S. Postal Service and a Democratic proposal to provide $3.6 billion in additional election funding to the states.

Keep us safe

That the current management of the pandemic favors the Chamber of Commerce interests over that of the labor force is clearly illustrated in the response to the COVID-19 crisis. Among the anti-worker, anti-safety steps taken:

• The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) refused to issue any required measures — via an emergency temporary infectious disease

• standard — to protect workers from the virus.

• OSHA is also failing to enforce the Occupational Safety and Health Act during the pandemic. Despite over 9,000 complaints from workers about unsafe working conditions from COVID-19, the agency issued only four citations for failure to protect workers as of August.

• Petitions by unions representing affected workers and by the AFL-CIO for mandatory rules to protect workers from exposure to the coronavirus on the job were rejected.

Guide us out of this crisis

This terrible pandemic has been devastating on so many levels and recovery from the economic, public health and employment impact of the virus will take years. We need strong leadership to guide our country out of this crisis. Now, more than ever, it is time to use our right to vote to let our voices be heard. When UAW members vote, when labor votes, we win. If we stay home, we are silent and powerless and we enable those who would work against us.

Brothers and Sisters there are no excuses. Voting by mail is easy and safe. Dropping your ballot at the city clerk’s office or at a voting ballot drop box is easy and safe. You can vote early. Or you can do it at the polls on November 3rd. But however you choose to vote, please vote. Don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way.

Our way of life is at stake.

 

Category: Opinion

October 29, 2020

By Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL)

 

In 2016, then-candidate Donald J. Trump asked African Americans, “what the hell do you have to lose,” by supporting his campaign. Nearly four years later, the answer is painfully clear: a hell of a lot.

In the past eight months alone, a majority of Black businesses have closed, Black families are experiencing high unemployment and facing economic insecurity. Most tragic of all, Black people have died from the novel coronavirus at double the rate of whites.

It didn’t have to be that way, but thanks to President Trump’s desire to not cause Americans to panic, he and his administration withheld information about the damage that the COVID-19 pandemic would ultimately have on our nation’s physical and economic health. To this day, rather than taking this public health crisis seriously, Trump has chosen to not only spread lies about the virus, but also actually spread it at White House events and campaign rallies across the nation.

Black Americans, millions of whom were already struggling before the pandemic struck, cannot afford to lose anything else and we absolutely cannot afford another four years of President Donald J. Trump. That is why it is more imperative than perhaps at any other period in many of our lifetimes that we vote at record numbers this year.

It is an unfortunate truth that Black voters have long felt undervalued by both the Republican and the Democratic party, and as a result, it’s hard for them to believe that their vote matters. But believe me, it does. We will never know what kind of leader former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would have been, but if more Black voters had turned out in 2016, we might never have experienced the kind of president that Trump has been.

In addition to his egregious mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, he has demonstrated an unwillingness to condemn white nationalists and a propensity to encourage them. Rather than uplift low income and minority communities, he has sought to dismantle health, education and other programs that they depend on. He called people who’ve served in the military losers and suckers. For the past few months, he has worked overtime to stoke fears about us among white Americans in a callous, self-serving attempt to secure their votes.

As someone who has for decades fiercely fought for and advocated on behalf of Black men and boys, I am appalled by his refusal to acknowledge and address the police violence and racist attacks that have prematurely shortened the lives of too many. Black males in our nation have always been an endangered species, but the Trumps of this world threaten to make them nearly extinct, yet I am afraid that they will either not vote this year or may perhaps vote for Trump, who has never addressed the nation or expressed remorse for the killings of George Floyd, Ahmed Aubrey, and so many others. He not only doesn’t care, but frequently blows dog whistles to the kind of people who see no value in Black men.

More than 11.4 percent of African Americans under the age of 65 are uninsured. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s plan to create a public option for the Affordable Care Act will ensure that millions of African American men who have been left out will now be able to seek care for themselves and their families. Biden is keenly aware of the how costly college has become, making it almost unattainable for all but the wealthiest families. His plan would make HBCUs and public colleges and universities tuition free for families making less than $125,000 a year. That policy alone could help send millions of Black men and their children to college who previously thought it was beyond their reach.

Biden also is committed to reducing student loan debt for millions of Americans. His plan would cancel your student debt if you attended a public college or university or an HBCU and met other criteria. That would free millions of Black men who currently are saddled with student loans to make choices about starting a business or changing careers without the financial pressures of debt repayment. Finally, Biden understands that Black-owned small businesses need capital and access to markets on an equal basis to be competitive and grow. That’s why he plans to increase funding for lending and investing in Black-owned small businesses and increase access to federal contracts for Black-owned businesses.

In a recent interview, presidential advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner suggested that Blacks are only as successful as we want to be and dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement as “virtue signaling.” This is the kind of person Trump surrounds himself with. An attorney general who thinks he’s the president’s personal attorney and has failed to protect the voting rights of minority groups and abdicated its oversight of police misconduct. An education secretary who consistently undermines or rolls back key civil rights protections and Obama-era guidance that promoted racial equity in the classroom. A postmaster general who actively sought to suppress mail-in voting.

Joe Biden is an imperfect man and has in the past made his own missteps on race, but he is a caring man who has personally experienced first-hand what it’s like when a family faces illness, loss and financial insecurity. He will serve as president to everyone in America, including those of us who are not wealthy or white. And if his historic choice of Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate tells us anything, it’s that Black lives do indeed matter to him.

Every Black voter in America who has not yet cast their ballot needs to head to the polls or ballot drop-off sites and make sure their voices are heard. We cannot afford another four years of Trump.

Category: Opinion

October 22, 2020

By Joe Biden

 

There is injustice in America. There is discrimination. There is a legacy of racism and inequality that lives still in our institutions, our laws, and in too many people’s hearts that makes it harder for Black people to succeed. These are facts in the United States of America in 2020, and we must all do more to move our nation closer to the ideals inlaid at our founding—that all women and men are created equal.

This year has also brought us too many examples of the dangers Black people can face in the course of going about their lives. With grieving hearts, we learned to say the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and many more. I’ve spent time with the families of George Floyd and Jacob Blake, sharing their grief and anger and seeing the incredible resilience of communities that for too long have had a knee on their neck. And I was inspired by their commitment to turn their pain into purpose. 

Today, there are Americans all across this country, especially Black Americans, who are exhausted and hurting. Who are disappointed by a system that never seems to deliver for your communities. Who are sick and tired of a cycle where, in good times, Black communities lag behind, in bad times they get hit first and hardest, and in recovery, they take the longest to bounce back.

We’re in the midst of four simultaneous crises—a pandemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, a disproportionate number of whom were Black; an economic crash that has hit Black workers and Black business owners especially hard; a long overdue reckoning on racial justice; and a climate crisis that is already hurting Black and Brown communities the most.

It is our job to do everything in our power to rip out systemic racism across our society, root and branch. It will be hard work in any case. But we will not succeed without a leader who understands our history and is ready to grapple with our challenges.

President Trump wants to paper over the living wound of racism. He’s issued Executive Orders and established a new national commission designed to whitewash our ­history—and deny the daily reality of being Black in America. He actively appeals to white supremacists and fans the flames of hatred and division in our country, because he thinks it benefits him politically. He ignores the most basic job of every president: the duty to care for all of us, not just those who voted for him.

It’s the polar opposite of what I will do as president. I was proud to serve for eight years alongside President Obama. I watched up close how he filled the Oval Office with dignity and compassion for others. And, together with Senator Kamala Harris as my vice president, we will restore honor, integrity, and competence to the White House.

We will build an administration that looks like America, including nominating the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

We will work to unite the country around solutions that will push our country forward, and most importantly, I will listen to those impacted by the long-standing inequities in our system—especially Black Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans.

That’s how we will work together to deliver real, lasting change. Criminal justice and policing reforms, but also economic opportunity and financial stability. Building wealth for families of color and passing it down.

Closing the racial wealth gap is one of the most powerful ways we can build real equity in our society, and it’s going to require a full-court press. That’s what my Lift Every Voice plan is—a comprehensive agenda to take on the range of issues that drive inequality in Black America.

We’ll tackle student debt and invest more in our HBCUs, so higher education is a pathway to wealth and opportunity instead of to debt that prevents you from owning a home or starting a small business. 

My plan will empower Black-owned small businesses, with short-term relief to get you through this tough time and long-term investments to help you build back better — with access to new capital and financing and government contracts.

Critically, we’re going to tackle the racial homeownership gap head on. There is no greater vehicle for wealth creation than homeownership. That’s why my plan will restore the steps President Obama and I took toward eradicating housing discrimination, including redlining; end racial bias in how we judge which families are credit-worthy; and provide a $15,000 down payment tax credit to help millions of young Black families buy their first home.

We’ll fix our upside-down tax system to finally reward work, not wealth. Trump thinks billionaires deserve more tax cuts. But under my plan, I’ll make sure the super wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share, while ensuring that no one making less than $400,000 a year sees their taxes go up. 

And I’m going to fight like hell to defend your family’s health care, just like I would my own. Right now, in the midst of a pandemic, Donald Trump is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Obamacare—all of it. He wants to overturn the very law that expanded coverage to an additional 3 million Black Americans. If he succeeds, more than 20 million Americans will lose their coverage, and more than 100 million people with preexisting conditions will no longer be protected against their insurance companies charging them more, or denying them coverage all together.

I’ll defend Obamacare and build on it—adding a public option that will automatically enroll 4 million more people that Republicans shut out by refusing to expand Medicaid in their states. We’re going to get to universal coverage and lower health care costs. We’re going to give working families a bigger subsidy to lower their premiums. And we’re going to take on pharmaceutical companies, bringing down the cost of your prescription drugs by 60 percent.

As my friend John Lewis used his final words to remind us: “Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America.” We cannot be tired. We cannot be hopeless. The choice in this election couldn’t be more stark, and we must vote for the future we want for every single one of our children. I’m ready to fight for you and your families, and I hope to earn your vote.

Category: Opinion

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