written by bendygirl at Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The Nation posted their "Most Valuable" for 2008 and in it were a couple that we all should know and love:
MOST VALUABLE UNION: The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America
The big players in the labor movement were trying to figure out what to ask of the first genuinely labor-friendly president since Harry Truman, and they weren't doing a very good job of it in the weeks after the election. Then the Bank of America (having supped prodigiously at Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's bailout banquet) made the mistake of pulling the operating credit for an Illinois-based window manufacturing firm and a small independent union showed the rest of the movement what was possible. When Republic Windows and Doors announced it was shuttering its factory in Chicago, members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America union who worked at the plant borrowed a page from the radical labor activists of the 1930s and refused to leave. Their sit-down strike earned headlines, solidarity support from bigger unions, an endorsement from President-elect Barack Obama and, finally, commitments by the bank and the company to pay the displaced workers what they were owed. The Rev. Jesse Jackson compared the UE members to Rosa Parks and described their bold response to the shutdown as "the beginning of a larger movement for mass action to resist economic violence." Let's hope he is right.
I couldn't agree more! And don't miss the Thank you from the UE as well:
We are glad that the actions of the UE members at Republic motivated so many people to donate time and resources to their struggle. Your response strengthened the workers' resolve and made this victory possible.
First and foremost we acknowledge the hard work of U.S. Representative Luis V. Guitierrez and his dedicated staff, without whom this victory would not be possible.
We also thank the following elected officials and the many staff assigned to work on this struggle:
President-Elect Barack Obama
U.S. Senator Richard Durbin
U.S. Representative Danny Davis
U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky
Governor Rod Blagojevich
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan
Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley
Alderman Manny Flores
Alderman Joe Moore
Alderman Ricardo Munoz
Alderman Billy Ocasio
Alderman Scott Waguespack
Cook County Board President Todd Stroger
Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley
We thank the following organizations for donating resources to our struggle:
AFSCME DC 31
Burgess Labor Law
Canadian Auto Workers
Chicago Federation of Labor
Chicago Workers' Collaborative
Centro de Trabajadores Unidos
Communications Workers of America
Graduate Employees Organization - UIC
International Association of Machinists
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Illinois Education Association
Interfaith Worker Justice/Chicago Interfaith Committee on Worker Issues
IUOE Local 150
Jenner & Block
Jobs With Justice
Laborers' Local 2
March 10 Movement
Restaurant Opportunities Center
San Lucas Workers' Center
SEIU Illinois State Council
SEIU Heathcare Illinois & Indiana
SEIU Local 1
SEIU Local 73
Teamsters Local 705
Teamsters Local 743
The Peoples' Thanksgiving
UAW Region 4
United Taxi Community Council
US Labor Against The War
UNITE HERE Local 1
UNITE HERE Chicago & Midwest regional Joint Board
And the many other local unions, organizations and individuals who supported UE members at Republic during their successful plant occupation.
I especially love the Thank Yous that went out to all the locals. Way to show what SOLIDARITY REALLY MEANS!!
The Nation goes on to note a few other Most Valuables that I found interesting, starting with someone who's actually walked a picket line, Linda Solis:
MOST VALUABLE CABINET PICK: Hilda Solis
It has been a long time since the United States had a Secretary of Labor who had a record of walking picket lines. That's what makes California Congresswoman Hilda Solis, Obama's pick to fill this Cabinet post, so remarkable. She was raised in a union household, cut her political teeth as an advocate for the United Farm Workers union and won her House seat by mounting a primary challenge to a Clintonite Democratic incumbent who had voted wrong on trade and economic issues. In the House, Solis has been a stalwart proponent of economic and social justice – she's a longtime member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus – and an unapologetic defender of the rights of immigrant workers. She is the right person for this job, and her selection serves as the single best signal from Obama that he intends to serve as a pro-worker president. Let's hope that Solis is allowed to renew a Labor Department that has been neglected – and disempowered -- by Democratic and Republican presidents.
And my favorite Ohio Congresscritter (2nd Favorite Ohioan, I'm still totally in love with Senator Sherrod Brown's wife, Connie Schultz, mostly because we graduated from the same high school and because she clearly has great taste in men) Marcy Kaptur who is an inspiration to Ohio women every day she advocatesfor unions, women and Ohio:
MOST VALUABLE HOUSE MEMBER: Marcy Kaptur
When Democratic leaders in the House buckled in the face of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's call for a no-strings-attached bailout for big banks, it was Kaptur who rallied the opposition – successfully blocking Paulson's first proposal in the House and forcing minor improvements in the plan. Ultimately, Paulson got most of what he asked for – and the banks pocketed hundreds of billions without aiding beleaguered homeowners or stalling the downward spiral of the economy. Kaptur warned that this would happen, as part of an ongoing critique of the bailout scheme. Throughout the fight, the Toledo Democrat's speeches on the House floor were as visionary as they were populist – making the longest-serving woman in the House something of a YouTube phenomenon. For this, she will get no credit from Democratic party leaders. That's too bad, as her record on economic issues – especially trade and agricultural policy – is one of consistently being right when just about everyone else was wrong. To a greater extent than anyone else in the House, she has defined the distinction between Main Street and Wall Street as something more than a slogan; and she is one of the few Democrats who actually understands that the only economic "fix" for America will be the one that begins on Main Street.
And to round out this list, it's Bernie Sanders:
MOST VALUABLE SENATOR: Bernie Sanders
When just about everyone else in the Capitol was absorbed with the presidential race last fall, the independent senator from Vermont recognized that the biggest story of 2008 was not the election – it was the collapse of the economic house of cards that successive Republican and Democratic administrations had built. Like Marcy Kaptur in the House, Sanders refused to panic in the face of demands for a massive bailout of big banks and bad investors. Instead, he argued, "Don't make working people bail out Wall Street!" The Vermonter framed his challenge to the economic orthodoxy of Washington insiders who still do not "get it" in the right way: as part of a broader battle to defend the middle class. And Sanders never forgets the human side of the equation: "It is one thing to read dry economic statistics which describe the collapse of the American middle class," he argues. "It is another thing to understand, in flesh and blood terms, what that means in the lives of ordinary Americans. Yes, since George W. Bush has been in office 5 million Americans have slipped into poverty, 8 million have lost their health insurance and 3 million have lost their pensions. Yes, in the last seven years median household income for working-age Americans has declined by $2,500. Yes, our country, for the first time since the Great Depression, now has a zero personal savings rate and, all across the nation, emergency food shelves are being flooded with working families whose inadequate wages prevent them from feeding their families. Statistics are one thing, however, and real life is another." Sanders highlights the real-life struggles of working Americans on the best website maintained by any member of Congress.
Seriously, you have to vist Bernie's page, uh, I mean Senator Sanders. He's such a real guy, it's hard to think of him as anything but Bernie.
So, there you have it, a list of the best this year from the Nation and out of it, there are several advocates of working women and men as well as pro-union fighters from an actual union to our new Labor Secretary. Honestly, this seemed like a pretty damn good list.