Progressives Just Won a High-Stakes Game of Chicken in Congress

House progressives stared down their own leaders and proved they have the votes to block a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

By Cameron Joseph

REPS. ILHAN OMAR (D-MI) AND PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA) LISTEN AS SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE NANCY PELOSI (D-CA) SPEAKS ON JUNE 17, 2021 ON CAPITOL HILL IN WASHINGTON, DC. (PHOTO BY JOSHUA ROBERTS/GETTY IMAGES)

Call it a conscious recoupling.

House progressives called moderate Democrats’ bluff on Thursday night, blocking a major bipartisan infrastructure bill as they insisted they won’t pass it without an accompanying reconciliation package.

That means that after weeks of wrangling, House progressives stood firm and made clear they won’t give moderates a win on infrastructure unless they get some major concessions in return—like a child tax credit, allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription-drug prices, and universal free community college that are key portions of President Biden’s policy agenda. That maintains their leverage in ongoing negotiations and increases the pressure on moderates to land on an agreement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said she’d put the bill on the floor on Thursday, after she promised moderates she would. But after a drama-filled day, House Democratic leadership announced Thursday night that the bill would be delayed because they didn’t have enough votes to pass it.

The result proved that moderate House Democrats had badly misplayed their hand—and misjudged their own power. Moderate Democratic New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who led the fight to decouple the two bills and pass infrastructure immediately, said as late as midday Thursday that he was “1,000 percent” sure that the House would vote that day and pass the bill.

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Is “Tax the rich” the solution?

By Arjae Red 

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was the center of a large social media debate when she appeared at this year’s Met Gala event wearing a dress with “Tax the Rich” boldly embroidered on the back. The fundraising event is attended by many wealthy individuals and celebrities. 

Much of the debate placed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez herself under the microscope, dissecting her personal motives and scrutinizing her background. Largely missing from the debate — the most important aspect — was the slogan itself: “Tax the Rich.” To examine this slogan, we need a systemic understanding of the exploitation working-class people face under capitalism.

Class nature of the problem

Wealth inequality is one of the most obvious contradictions of the capitalist system. Beyond the amount of wealth people have, there is the even deeper contradiction that allows the huge income gap between the rich and the poor to exist in the first place. 

Out of all the contradictions within capitalism, the primary contradiction shaping our experience is that contradiction of property ownership — between those who own and those who do not. The capitalist class owns the means of production — the property central to wealth creation. They therefore claim the “right” to all the products the workers they employ produce. The rest of us, the working class, own nothing that we can use to produce but our own labor power. 

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Ilhan Omar: Progressives Are ‘Being Held Hostage by Conservative Democrats’

By Leia Idliby

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) accused “conservative Democrats” of holding both the progressive and Biden agenda “hostage” while on The Dean Obeidallah Show.

“What’s gonna happen if you can’t have a vote on Monday, on the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, or some version of that? Is there going to be a vote on this bipartisan loan, is that actually gonna happen?” Dean Obeidallah asked Omar on Thursday.

The bill has not only gotten pushback from GOP lawmakers, who have taken issue with both the size of the budget blueprint as well as certain provisions the Democrats are considering, but it has also been opposed by centrists in the Democratic Party.

While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that he intended to move “full speed ahead” with President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending package, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) stressed that the bill would not have his vote.

Omar, who serves as Congressional Progressive Caucus whip, said that on Thursday, “Senate progressive leaders put out a statement today reminding conservative Democrats that there was a deal made” regarding the infrastructure bill.

“The deal was that we will support the infrastructure bill if they supported the reconciliation budget resolution and if they go back on their deal we’re going back on our deal — and I don’t think anybody wants that to happen because it doesn’t benefit any one of us,” she continued.

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‘We Are Trying to Save It,’ Progressives Say as Right-Wing Dems Sabotage Biden’s Agenda

“The Biden agenda—our Democratic agenda—is at stake. It’s progressives who are fighting to pass it in its entirety.”

By JAKE JOHNSON

The Democratic Party’s sweeping domestic policy agenda—from sizable climate investments to drug-pricing reforms to Medicare expansion—is under growing threat from the inside as right-wing members backed by corporate cash aim to tank or pare back central components of a multitrillion-dollar reconciliation plan.

Conservative Democrats’ increasingly coordinated effort to gut their own party’s legislation—and a top priority of President Joe Biden—has led to an increasingly tense confrontation with progressive lawmakers, one that has major implications for the United States’ tattered social safety net and the nation’s response to the existential climate emergency.

Increasingly concerned that the reconciliation package is on the verge of collapse, progressives are working to salvage the legislation by promising to vote down a priority of conservative Democrats: a $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill that Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W-Va.) helped negotiate with their Republican counterparts in the Senate.

In an interview on Tuesday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said that “more than half” of the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ 96 members are committed to voting against the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure package unless the not-yet-complete reconciliation bill moves simultaneously. Whether 48 progressive “no” votes are enough to tank the legislation will depend on how many House Republicans are willing to support it.

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The Capitol Riot Committee Now Has a Clear Roadmap for Subpoenas

The Capitol riot committee now has a clear roadmap for subpoenas: reporter

US Capitol Grounds East Plaza off First Street and East Capitol Street, Washington DC on Wednesday afternoon, 6 January 2021 by Elvert Barnes Photography 

Bob Brigham and Raw Story September 21, 2021

There’s a clear roadmap for the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter explained on MSNBC on Tuesday.

MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace interviewed Carol Leonnig as Politico is reporting the select committee is poised to begin issuing subpoenas.

The process was explained by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, was the lead impeachment manager during Donald Trump’s first trial, and is a member of the select committee.

“In some cases, we’re making requests we think will be complied with,” Schiff said. “In other cases, we’re going straight to subpoenas where we think we’re dealing with recalcitrant witnesses.”

Wallace asked Leonnig about a tweet by Miles Taylor, a former Trump administration official who served as chief of staff of the Department of Homeland Security.

“I firmly believe Trump provoked the attack on the Capitol so he could declare martial law. For years he talked in private about the Insurrection Act & his ‘magical powers’ to deploy the military on to the streets. The January 6th select committee needs to investigate this,” Taylor tweeted.

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Hot Weather Now a Major Cause of Illness and Death for U.S. Workers

BY MARK GRUENBERG

Hot weather becomes major cause of illness, death for U.S. workers“2015 Lineman’s Rodeo 05012015 017” by City of Marietta, GA is licensed under CC BY 2.0 Hot weather now a major cause of illness and death for U.S. workers.

TUCSON, Ariz. (PAI)—Four years ago, on a 95-degree afternoon in Tucson, Ariz., a worker was building a platform for an outdoor concert. He hasn’t worked since.

The worker, whose name advocates are withholding because he both fears retribution and being barred from future jobs was putting heavy 4’x 8’ decks up after lunch, says Shannon Foley, a safety and health activist in the southern Arizona city. Then he collapsed.

The extreme heat felled him. Paramedics attended to him, and later sent him home, she reported. But he had suffered kidney damage, “and has not recovered and returned fully to work. He’s had serious financial issues ever since,” said Foley, a member of Theatrical and Stage Employees Local 415. Her local includes stage builders.

The Arizonan is just one victim of a largely ignored workplace danger, heat, say Tucson workers and activists, convened August 19 by the labor-backed National Council on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH).

It’s particularly acute in Arizona, the 10th hottest state, studies show. “In Phoenix, in summer, it’s 95 degrees at 6 am,” says Foley. Daytime temperatures in Phoenix and Tucson regularly top 100 degrees in the summer, records add. That heat takes a big toll on workers.

“Injuries and illnesses due to heat are not properly reported,” says Jessica Martinez, NACOSH’s co-executive director. Often, they’re put down to other causes, she adds. “People are dying every day, and they’re not attributing it to heat,” says Foley.

The problem particularly hits workers of color, Martinez noted. She cited a National Public Radio investigation, released August 17, showing Hispanic-named workers account for 17% of all U.S. workers, and one-third of those felled by excessive heat.

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In the Coal Mines, Workers Are Dying to Make a Living

Mining companies increasingly rely on cheaper contractors who face longer hours and higher risk of accidents.

By KARI LYDERSEN 

Trebr Lenich’s friends pay tribute at his grave. Exhausted after weeklong overnight shifts, Lenich died in a car accident in 2017. PHOTO COURTESY OF TERESA LENICH

Trebr Lenich always called his mother before his drive home from overnight shifts at Mine No. 1, operated by Hamilton County Coal in Hamilton County, Ill. The call she answered the morning of Aug. 14, 2017, worried her. 

“He said, ​‘Mom, I am just so exhausted, so wore out,’ ” Teresa Lenich says. 

Her son routinely worked long hours on consecutive days. That day, he never made it home.

Coworkers following Trebr said his driving was erratic and suspected he was falling asleep, Teresa says. Heading back to the West Frankfort home he shared with his parents, girlfriend and baby daughter, Trebr drove into a ditch and hit an embankment. According to the sheriff’s report, his engine then caught fire. 

Like many young miners, Trebr was employed through a contracting company that provides temporary workers for mines with no promise that they’ll be hired on permanently.

This staffing structure — and the disappearance of labor unions from Illinois mines — has made work less safe and more grueling for miners, according to advocates and multiple studies. Without job security, temporary workers are reluctant to complain about potentially unsafe conditions (including long work hours) and to report accidents. And because temporary workers may have inadequate experience in a particular mine, they might not understand that mine’s specific risks.

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Capitol Hill Bomb Threat Suggests Jan. 6 Siege Was a Beta Test

By Adele M. Stan

Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger addresses reporters after the capture of a North Carolina man who threatened to blow up the U.S. Capitol complex. (Screen shot from C-SPAN)

Commentary

Although it didn’t succeed in shutting down the certification of the Electoral College votes in the free and fair 2020 presidential election, the Jan. 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol was, in its own way, a success nonetheless in its likely inspiration for events such as today’s threatened bombing of the Capitol complex.

The sort of incitement conducted by the planners of numerous so-called Stop the Steal rallies conducted in Washington, D.C., and state capitals across the country in the lead-up to the insurrection amount to what scholars call “stochastic terrorism.” It’s the kind that takes place when a person of influence in a particular community either calls for violence or suggests that a grievance worthy of a violent response has taken place—like, say, the false claim that a presidential election was stolen from the rightful winner—in the hope that the more unhinged or gullible of their followers may read such rhetoric as a prompt to conduct violence.

So it is hardly surprising that the North Carolina man brought into custody today for threatening to blow up the Capitol complex with a bomb he claimed to have in the truck he parked in front of the Library of Congress, appears to have taken part in several so-called Stop the Steal rallies, according to Jared Holt of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. Those were the rallies of Trump supporters who were convinced by the former president’s lie that the result of the 2020 election was somehow illegitimate.

“The revolution is on, it’s here, it’s today,” the suspect said in a Facebook livestream this morning, demanding that Joe Biden resign the presidency.

After the would-be bomber began livestreaming his threat-making as he ranted from his truck, Facebook shut down his account, but not before Holt had a look at his social media, where the suspect posted about his participation in the rallies organized by far-right operative Ali Alexander and promoted by former White House aide Steve Bannon on the latter’s “War Room” podcast.

As we’ve been saying for a while at Right Wing Watch, Jan. 6 looked like a beta test for future violence to be directed at institutions of the U.S. government. Since then, we learned from the House select committee studying the insurrection, the insurrectionists of Jan. 6 came quite close to bagging their desired quarry, namely then-Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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A New App Is Taking Labor Unions Out of Union Organizing

Unit is among several new digital platforms that aim to ease the unionization process and empower workers to stand up to their bosses, but some union organizers have their doubts.

By Lauren Kaori Gurley

Union members
https://video-images.vice.com/articles/61142b446e90e6009b027e0a/lede/1628711751901-gettyimages-1232479226.jpeg

PHOTO BY LOIC VENANCE/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

In July, a group of cell tower technicians who work for an AT&T contractor in the Philadelphia area approached the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) for help unionizing. The technicians’ wages were stagnant, they didn’t receive sick days, and had been urinating and defecating in trash bags and water bottles because their contractor wouldn’t provide port-a-potties. 

The IBEW never responded to the technicians—so they took a chance on a new startup for union organizing called Unit, which launched in December 2020 with $1.4 million in funding from various venture capital firms. Unit is “a platform that helps you and your coworkers form a labor union” by offering a set of tools, including a web app and a team of advisors that help clients facilitate and expedite the unionization process. It is designed to help with everything from inviting coworkers to join and sign union authorization cards, certifying the union, and negotiating a union contract with the aid of lawyers, accountants, and union organizers. Notably, it allows workers to do this as an independent union, without the aid of an established or nationally recognized union. 

The AT&T technicians aren’t far along in the unionization process, but one of the lead worker organizers says Unit has been a big help so far. “It’s been great,” the technician told Motherboard. “They helped me set up meetings with workers to explain the unionization process, provided legal advice, and gave us access to digital union authorization cards. You can send a text and the person follows the link, and they sign the digital card. It’s so easy.”

The technician told Motherboard that the main benefit of joining Unit is that the dues are less than many national unions charge. “Unit only takes 0.8 percent of your income. Most unions take a lot more,” he said. 

Workers begin paying fees to Unit after they ratify their first contract, which often includes pay increases that are larger than union dues. 

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The Nabisco Workers Who Make Your Oreos And Ritz Crackers Are On Strike

Nabisco parent company Mondelez wants to do away with workers’ premium pay rates for weekends and long shifts.

No justice, no sweets.
No justice, no sweets.

Hundreds of workers who make and deliver Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers have gone on strike in a massive showdown with Nabisco parent company Mondelez.

The work stoppage and 24-hour picket lines began at a production facility in Portland, Oregon, last week and have now spread to a distribution hub in Aurora, Colorado, and another production facility in Richmond, Virginia. The workers are members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), which hasn’t been able to reach an agreement with Mondelez on new contracts.

Workers and union representatives say the strike follows years of frustration with Mondelez, which was created in 2012 when Nabisco products were spun off from Kraft Foods. Mondelez is demanding changes to pay and health care coverage that would undermine what have long been solid, middle-class production and trucking jobs, they say.

“We’re not on strike to secure huge gains. We’re on strike to keep what we’ve already got,” said Cameron Taylor, the business agent at BCTGM Local 364, which represents workers at the Portland plant. “The job they want to give us wouldn’t even be worth fighting for.”

Taylor said Mondelez wants to ditch the premium pay system that’s long been in place and that guarantees time-and-a-half pay for working more than eight hours a day, time-and-a-half pay on Saturdays, and double time for working on Sundays. Instead, workers would be paid “straight time” until they hit a full 40-hours, regardless of what days they work or how long those days last.

Mondelez spokesperson Laurie Guzzinati said the company has proposed an “alternative work schedule” for some employees, who would work 12-hour shifts three or four days a week. The schedule would offer a three-day weekend every other week, Guzzinati said, while helping the company meet production on its most high-demand products.

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