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Sam Pizzigati

The GM Strike: A Century of Context

Wars end with treaties. In the middle of the 20th century, the “class war” that finished off America’s original plutocracy ended with the “Treaty of Detroit.” In exchange for labor peace, GM guaranteed auto workers what amounted to “a 20 percent increase in their standard of living” over five years, along with a new health care benefit and a standard $125 monthly pension, the equivalent of about $16,000 annually in today’s dollars. This would help energize a huge postwar shift in the distribution of U.S. income and wealth. In the quarter-century after 1945, the real incomes of average Americans would double, in the process manufacturing the first mass middle class the world ever seen. Today, in a top-heavy America with a shrinking middle class, corporations like GM don’t need to sell lots of product to make big profits. They can get richer running companies that produce less. Last November, GM announced plans to shut down four U.S. plants that make product that’s not moving. This past February, GM announced the elimination of 8,000 additional white-collar jobs. The not-so-subtle message to GM workers from GM’s executive class: You may need your jobs. But we don’t need you. So swallow whatever we offer.

How GM Divides Workers To Pay Them Less

Ending GM’s two-tiered system is workers’ top demand. The Intercept: “Since last week nearly 50,000 GM workers have been on strike, in part against a two-tiered system enforced by the auto giant that leaves “temporary” workers doing the same jobs as permanent staff for substantially less pay and fewer benefits. The striking workers, represented by the United Automobile Workers union, or UAW, are demanding a defined path to “permanent seniority” for GM’s temporary workers — who make up about 7 percent of GM’s U.S. workforce. GM has also entrenched inequality in its ranks by contracting out some jobs, like custodial work, that were traditionally staff roles. The workers’ demands are part of a broader push against worker misclassification, a tactic used by employers to lessen their labor costs. The fight has been playing out most aggressively in California, where Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a sweeping bill last week to transform the lives of workers in his state. The law — known as AB5 — sets strict limits on who can be classified as an independent contractor, rather than an employee, and is the most serious legislative threat to the gig economy in years. The law also provides new momentum for advocates considering similar reforms in other states.”

Top Spy Faces Scrutiny On Whistleblower

U.S. intelligence boss Joseph Maguire to face Congress un Ukraine affair. NPR: “The nation’s top spy is facing Congress on Thursday as Washington hurtles toward another milestone in the fast-deepening Ukraine affair. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is testifying about the origins of the flap before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He then has a closed session in the afternoon before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The House hearing will be watched closely in a capital roiling after House Democrats reached a new consensus this week about moving ahead with an impeachment inquiry — although no one knows what that may mean in practical terms or whether it will bring real consequences for Trump. The saga began with a complaint to the intelligence community’s internal watchdog about allegedly improper commitments made by President Trump to a foreign leader.”

States Sue To Protect Endangered Species

17 states file suit to stop Trump administration’s crippling of Endangered Species Act. Common Dreams: “Seventeen states on Wednesday sued the President Donald Trump administration over its recent move “to eviscerate” the Endangered Species Act. ‘As we face the unprecedented threat of a climate emergency, now is the time to strengthen our planet’s biodiversity, not to destroy it,’ said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who’s leading the coalition. ‘The only thing we want to see extinct are the beastly policies of the Trump Administration putting our ecosystems in critical danger.’ The suit (pdf), brought by 17 states and the District of Columbia and the City of New York, was filed in the District Court for the Northern District of California. It comes a month after the administration finalized a series of rollbacks to the law—a move Mass Audubon president Gary Clayton called ‘another example of the Trump administration’s continuing war on the nature of America.'”

Migrant Families Sue Over Family Separations

Migrant families sue over extraordinary harms of family separation. Truthout: “Five asylum-seeking families have sued the government for the ‘substantial and ongoing trauma’ they say they suffered after being separated from one another when they crossed the border from Mexico into Arizona last year.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix on behalf of five mothers and their children, all from Guatemala, who were separated in May 2018 and kept apart for at least two months, during which the mothers had little to no communication with their children. Although all of the families have since been reunited and now reside in the U.S., they still grapple with lingering emotional damage their attorneys say “was no incidental byproduct of the policy” of the family separation enforced by the Trump administration last year.”

Cuomo Opposes Fracking Pipeline

NY Gov. Cuomo announces opposition to fracked gas pipeline. Common Dreams: “Environmental campaigners celebrated Wednesday what they framed as a victory for people power after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo publicly declared his opposition to a fracked gas pipeline project. ‘We have taken a position: We’re against the pipeline,’ Cuomo told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show. ‘That’s our position.’ At issue is the proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE), commonly referred to as the Williams Pipeline, which would add on to existing infrastructure to link the fossil fuel from Pennsylvania to New York, passing under New York Harbor. Gas distributor National Grid put a moratorium on new gas installations until the pipeline project is approved, citing supply deficiencies. The move prompted an inquiry by Attorney General Letitia James and drew the ire of activists as well as Cuomo. ‘If they’re extorting people, and wrongfully turning off gas service to homes to create political pressure, I’m not negotiating over that,’ said Cuomo in his remarks to WNYC. ‘That’s extortion. That’s a crime.'”

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