The God-forsaken Republican-run 112th Congress staggered home in late December for an almost month-long recess. After what it did and did not do, workers and their allies are using the break to give those lawmakers an earful.
Consider some of the high, or low, lights of the year:
The House GOP majority, piously proclaiming that it’s creating jobs by turning businesses loose to do so, insisted on: Extending tax cuts for the rich; trying to emasculate workers’ rights by stripping the National Labor Relations Board’s powers; bringing the country to the edge of a financial default; and cutting the very budget sums that kept Fire Fighters battling blazes, cops on the beat, and teachers in the schools.
As part of the compromise to avert that financial default catastrophe, lawmakers set up a 12-member “super-committee” to try to produce plans to cut the nation’s projected budget deficits over the next decade by $1.2 trillion. The panel failed, but not before it had to field harsh anti-worker ideas: Medicare cuts, raising the retirement age for Social Security, and slashes in domestic spending. And those were from congressional Democrats. The GOP? Permanent tax cuts for the rich.
The tea party Republicans forced their House colleagues into taking ever more extreme right-wing stands. The Democratic-run Senate killed most of their schemes. But ideas to help workers died there, too, thanks to constant Republican filibusters.
Not only that, but the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees labor-management relations in most workplaces nationwide, may well come to a halt – again – thanks to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
The five-member board needs three members to function. As of Dec. 31, it’ll have only two. President Obama has nominated two Democrats and a Republican to fill its vacancies. But Graham, not known as a GOP madman, put an indefinite hold on all board nominees because he’s angry that the agency enforced labor law against Boeing.
Boeing moved its 787 Dreamliner production to its plant in anti-union South Carolina, in retaliation – its executives said so openly – against the Machinists in the Pacific Northwest for exercising their rights. Especially their right to strike.
Never mind that the case is over now, that the Dreamliner will be built in North Charleston, S.C., that Boeing’s other passenger planes and Air Force tankers will be constructed in the Northwest, that no jobs are lost, and that the Machinists and Boeing set up a new structure to try to avoid future conflicts. That’s all in a new four-year contract. But it didn’t stop Graham from exercising his unalienable right to obstruction.
So what can workers do? Congress is back home until mid-January. That gives us time to ‘raise hell,’ by campaigning for real measures to create jobs.
That means advocating – among other things – aid to state and local governments, a big and fully funded highway-mass transit bill to create hundreds of thousands of construction jobs, enacting “green jobs” bills to encourage retrofitting schools and public buildings, and permanently extending longer jobless benefits while taxing the one percent to pay for them. Those one-percenters caused the Great Recession that threw so many of the 99 percent out of work. So it’s time to get out there and agitate for and with the 99 percent, with the promise that, unless lawmakers listen, we’ll remember in November.