Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Ed Sills, Communications Director for the state AFL-CIO sends a daily e-mail to labor activists that contains much of the news of interest to Texas unionists Ed has given me permission to use some of his material in my blog.

From Ed Sills' daily letter:

" News of the judicial filibuster deal in the U.S. Senate is mixed. Such isthe nature of compromise.On the positive side, the potential for a filibuster of future judicialnominees remains, though I'm not certain how valuable that is. Nothing inthis deal says the Senate can't have the same fight again. It is certainly possible that unwritten understandings among the negotiators will prevent a repeat of this battle in the near future. Business Week is already suggesting that the 14 senators might try to do a deal on Social Security that does not include privatized accounts. Senate Democrats do retain the ability to oppose an extreme nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court via filibuster.On the debit side, the definition of who is "extreme" is being stretchedbeyond recognition. The deal almost certainly means that Texas Supreme CourtJustice Priscilla Owen will be confirmed to the 5th Circuit. Indeed, cloturewas invoked on Owen's nomination today. Owen is a business shill who hastreated injury victims miserably in her jurisprudence. The Texas AFL-CIO waspart of a Texas coalition to oppose her nomination. We can take solace, Isuppose, in having helped delay her ascension to the federal bench for fouryears. Some have argued that the 5th Circuit is so right-wing that the addition of Owen will make little difference. That's a philosophical way of looking at a political sting. Still, the real fight for a balanced federal judiciary lies at the Supreme Court and in some of the other appellate circuits, this argument goes.As the filibuster war moves to cease-fire status, the Senate will continueto transact its business. Whether this is good or bad is in the eye of thebeholder. Both sides clearly paid a price. But despite the costs to our sideon this deal, this may be one of those moments in politics where it is wiseto declare victory and go home.The Daily Kos, a blog that has covered this issue closely, fell along these lines:"There are those who think any compromise is a sign of weakness, and there'slittle that can be said to change their mind.But here are the plain, unspun facts:Democrats hold 44 seats in the 100 seat Senate. One independent sides withthe Republicans, giving Dems a 10-seat deficit.Reid had 49 votes. He needed 51 to defeat Frist's nuclear option.Reid needed at least two of four undecided Republicans.Had Reid come up short, the filibuster would be dead in judicial matters.If the filibuster was dead, Bush would've been able to put anyone on theSupreme Court. Anyone.Radical Christian Rightist James Dobson is demanding the right to choose thenext Supreme Court nominee.Dobson's biggest enemy is the filibuster. Hence, he forced Frist to engagein the nuclear option.Because of the deal, Dobson can't choose the next Supreme Court justice.Bush's choice, if too extreme, faces the prospect of a filibuster.In order to save face, Republicans have gotten up or down votes on most ofthe handful of judges who are currently being filibustered. It's a price,but a relatively small one to pay to protect the filibuster during the nextSupreme Court battle.Given that we have a 10-seat deficit in the Senate, that's no small feat."Lest there be any doubt that the radical right is upset about the deal,here's the statement by James Dobson, the TV minister cited by kos. This is representative of the right-wing reaction:"This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabalof Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats. Only three ofPresident Bush's nominees will be given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote,and it's business as usual for all the rest. The rules that blockedconservative nominees remain in effect, and nothing of significance haschanged. Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief JusticeWilliam Rehnquist would never have served on the U. S. Supreme Court if thisagreement had been in place during their confirmations. The unconstitutionalfilibuster survives in the arsenal of Senate liberals."We are grateful to Majority Leader Frist for courageously fighting todefend the vital principle of basic fairness. That principle has now gonedown to defeat. We share the disappointment, outrage and sense ofabandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped putRepublicans in power last November. I am certain that these voters willremember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust."

4)" The San Antonio Express-News published this article on the CAFTA battle,incorporating last week's San Antonio rally against the proposed treaty:Central American Free Trade AgreementWeb Posted: 05/24/2005 12:00 AM CDTMeena ThiruvengadamExpress-News Business WriterDepending on the point of view, the Central American Free Trade Agreement iseither a tool for economic growth and global development, or a giveaway tomultinational corporations at the expense of American jobs, the environmentand exploited foreign workers.The agreement, designed to promote foreign investment and trade, wascompleted nearly a year ago. With a congressional vote expected this month,controversy surrounding it has picked up. President Bush's calendar hasincluded meetings with Central American leaders, and anti-CAFTA groups haveheld protests and rallies across the country.The deal among the U.S., Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala,Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic - essentially an extension of the NorthAmerican Free Trade Agreement - would gradually cut tariffs on Americanproducts entering the region. The U.S. has already cut tariffs on CentralAmerican goods.About 80 percent of items from those countries already enter the U.S.duty-free, but the average tariffs on American products entering theirmarkets range from a low of about 35 percent in Honduras to 60 percent inNicaragua.The countries attached to the agreement constitute Texas' 12th-largestexport market, with an estimated $1.8 billion in items such as fabrics,motor vehicle parts, petroleum products and chemicals exported there lastyear, according to the Commerce Department. Nationwide exports to the regionwere $15.7 billion last year."Generally speaking, free trade is a good thing," Federal Reserve Bank ofDallas economist William Gruben said. "It reduces prices for consumers, andit reduces prices for producers."But the benefits of free trade aren't very large on an individual basis, hesaid, and the disadvantages often hit a small group of people morenoticeably, pushing them to be very vocal about their free trade opposition.Proponents, including business groups and trade organizations, say CAFTAwould boost business for U.S. exporters and farmers."A big chunk of the Texas potential is surrounding the agriculturalindustry," said Blake Hastings, executive director of Free Trade AllianceSan Antonio. Texas ranchers, rice growers and poultry farmers are amongthose who could profit from the agreement, according to the U.S. Departmentof Agriculture.Supporters also say approving CAFTA would make North America a strongercompetitor in the global marketplace and keep apparel makers using U.S.fabrics from sending work to China, where lower labor costs are offset byhigher transportation and shipping fees.Under NAFTA, other countries moved operations to Mexico or increased theirproduction there to take advantage of the agreement's benefits."NAFTA gave so many advantages to Mexico that other countries did not havein the 1990s, there was a lot of trade diversion," Hastings said.But CAFTA's opponents, including labor unions and sugar producers facingincreased competition from the region, argue that the pact would lead toenvironmental damage, the worsening of already-poor working conditions anddomestic job losses.And America's agricultural benefits would come at the expense of CentralAmerican farmers, they say. About 1.5 million Mexican farmers lost theirlivelihoods because of NAFTA, according to the watchdog group PublicCitizen."We're not against trade," said Lesley Ramsey, director of the Texas FairTrade Coalition, a group campaigning against CAFTA. "We're looking for anagreement that takes into consideration the needs of human beings to thesame degree that it does the needs of corporations. This agreement isdesigned only with corporate interests in mind."Opposition groups fear the agreement would make it easier for corporationsto move operations to lower-wage countries.Electrician Jim Hester, a member of the International Brotherhood ofElectrical Workers, views the fight against CAFTA as one for his job. "Wewant to keep workers in the U.S. working," he said.NAFTA, according to a 2003 report by the Economic Policy Institute, led tothe loss of nearly 900,000 American jobs."All it did is open the door for big corporations to take our jobs somewhereelse," said Clemente Guzman, who, after 11 years, lost his job at SanBenito's Levi Strauss factory when the company moved jobs abroad.Hastings argues that NAFTA isn't to blame for many of the U.S. jobs thathave disappeared since the agreement went into effect 11 years ago."The world economy already moved many jobs to Mexico before NAFTA," he said."There are more jobs lost everyday to automation than there are to tradeagreements."Still, he acknowledges some Americans may be pushed out of their jobs ifCAFTA passes."I don't expect them to understand it," he said. "They have families tofeed. But there is assistance and job training for them."AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson maintains the group'sopposition to the agreement isn't just about protecting American jobs. Thebigger concern, she said, is switching out good American jobs fornot-so-good Central American ones such as what Marta Sonia Díaz Palaciosused to have in El Salvador.Now a textile union representative, Díaz Palacios spent a year sewing pantsand shorts for $5.30 a day. While traveling across the country as part ofthe AFL-CIO's "CAFTA We Don't Hafta" campaign, she described a workplacewhere employees are beaten, sexually assaulted and considered too old to beproductive by age 28."In our opinion, CAFTA will lead to more exploitation of workers and moreviolations of our rights," she said through a translator."

CAFTA would be a disaster for the United States, just the same as NAFTA was. And NAFTA was also a disaster for Mexico.

yeller dawg


At 4:52 PM, Blogger yeller dawg said...

Ed Sills sent me this correction on Paul Moreno:

7) Correction: Rep. Paul Moreno, D-El Paso, is indeed a decorated veteran of
the Korean War, but I am reminded that the injury that caused him to be in a
wheelchair was not related to the military. I apologize for my error on that

yeller dawg


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