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Using Ballot Initiatives to Build Power: Two Different Approaches

Mark Vorpahl

In numerous states, counties and cities, union and community organizers are considering ballot initiatives for November. Whether they are facing a fight against corporate-backed initiatives that will bleed workers while gorging big business, or considering their own initiatives that will benefit the 99%, activists and labor leaders are weighing how to use the election season […]

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For Our Votes to Make a Difference, It’s Time to Try New Tactics

Mark Vorpahl

This article is co-published with Occupy.com. In the 2012 national elections, despite an increase of over 8 million eligible voters from 2008, voter turnout declined from 131 million to 126 million, with 93 million not voting. These figures alone demonstrate a growing disbelief that people have any voice in the two-party political game. In addition, […]

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The Time Has Come For $15 Minimum Wage

Mark Vorpahl

A version of this article also appeared on Occupy.com. In one of comedian Chris Rock’s routines, he observes: “You know what that means when someone pays you a minimum wage? You know what your boss is trying to say? ‘Hey, if I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.’” The humor […]

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At the AFL-CIO Convention, Leaders Ask: What Direction for Labor?

Mark Vorpahl

A version of this article also appeared on Occupy.com. The acknowledgment of Labor’s existential crisis and the recognition that something must be done to resolve it is the key issue at the AFL-CIO’s four-day quadrennial convention in Los Angeles. The urgency of the situation has compelled Labor’s top officials to experiment in a search for […]

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What Can We Learn from 25 Years of Jobs with Justice?

Mark Vorpahl

This article was originally published in Labor Notes. It’s no secret that the last 30 years have seen a brutal corporate assault on U.S. workers. Incomes and union membership rates have plummeted, unemployment is soaring, and the two corporate parties have joined forces to go after our previously untouchable historic gains. This class war has […]

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Why Mass Marches Still Matter: 2013’s March on Washington

Why Mass Marches Still Matter
Mark Vorpahl

Co-published with Occupy.com. In terms of the numbers it attracted, the August 24, 2013 March on Washington was an inspiring success. The question remains, however, how politically effective was it?  In the March 20th edition of USA Today, during the build-up to the 50th Anniversary of 2013’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Rick Hampson’s article […]

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The August 24 March on Washington: Why We Need a New Civil Rights and Labor Movement

Mark Vorpahl

This article is co-published with Occupy.com It could have been left as a relatively small event that would make little impact, but plans for the 50th anniversary of 1963′s March on Washington appear to have taken another course. The Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act and the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the […]

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Zimmerman’s Acquittal and the Call for a New Civil Rights Movement

Mark Vorpahl

This article is co-published with Occupy.com. George Zimmerman has been found innocent of both second-degree murder and manslaughter for the killing of Trayvon Martin. In spite of Zimmerman’s history as a neighborhood watchman employing racial profiling; in spite of the fact that he was armed with a gun and Trayvon was not; in spite of the […]

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Quantitative Crisis: Bernanke’s “Stimulus” For The 1%

Mark Vorpahl

This article is co-published with Occupy.com.  When I heard that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress last week that it was too soon for the Fed to end its extraordinary stimulus programs, I did a double take. “What stimulus programs?” I thought. Where are the jobs programs? Where are the “extraordinary” social services that […]

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Local Fights Against Austerity Are Growing Across the U.S.

Mark Vorpahl

This article is co-published with Occupy.com Between sequestration, with its damaging impact on workers and the entire economy, and the billions of dollars in cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other necessary social programs that President Obama is pushing, it is evident that the economic policies of both major parties are not intended to promote […]

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Opposition Grows Fierce to Austerity Cuts in Portland

Mark Vorpahl

This article is co-published with Occupy.com. On April 11 over 400 people packed the third public Portland Budget Hearing, which was organized by the City of Portland and which left many spilling out beyond the room where the hearing took place. More importantly, for the City Council there was an unexpected critical outpouring from the vast […]

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Detroit Citizen’s Prepare to Fight Their Corporate Master

Detroit Citizens Prepare To Fight Their Corporate Master
Mark Vorpahl

This article is co-published with Occupy.com. Fresh from shoving his “Right to Work for Less” legislation down the throats of Michigan’s workers, Governor Rick Snyder has grown bolder in pursuing a corporate agenda. He has now appointed Kevyn Orr of Jones Day law firm to act as an Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) of Detroit. As […]

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The Choice In Portland: Austerity Versus a People’s Budget

Mark Vorpahl

This article is co-published with Occupy.com. It’s no secret that most cities, counties, states and school districts in the U.S. are facing big deficits. What is less understood is the extent to which austerity cuts have become politicians’ bi-partisan response to the situation. The dramatic measures being implemented in Portland, Oregon are no exception. By “austerity” […]

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Why Organized Labor Must Stand Against the Keystone XL Pipeline

Mark Vorpahl

This article is co-published with Occupy.com. Spurred by real urgency over the corporate driven ruin of the environment, a growing social movement is taking shape that will be on display this Sunday, February 17, when tens of thousands descend on the streets of Washington, D.C. in a show of power titled “Forward On Climate.” What is […]

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The Argument for Amnesty: An Immigration Policy That Works for All

Mark Vorpahl

This article is co-published with Occupy.com. Millions experience the repressive nature of the U.S. immigration system on a daily basis, lifting its need for reform to a level of urgency. And fixing this broken program is integral to building the unity among U.S. workers that is required to challenge corporate America’s attacks on our wages, rights, […]

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Is The “Democracy Initiative” What We Need?

Mark Vorpahl

This article is co-published with Occupy.com. Last December, at the National Education Association headquarters in Washington, D.C., leaders from a variety of progressive organizations such as Greenpeace, the NAACP and the Communication Workers of America met with the intention of beginning a national campaign to, in the words of Mother Jones reporter Andy Kroll, “remake American […]

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Longshore Struggle Brews on Both Coasts, Part 2

Mark Vorpahl

This is Part 2 of a two-part series co-published with Occupy.com.  Click here, for Part 1 of the series.  In the Northwest, at the terminals on the Columbia River, Puget Sound, and Portland, Oregon, the membership of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) are on the defensive against the Northwest Grain Handlers Association (NWGHA). The conflict involves […]

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Longshore Struggle Brews on Both Coasts, Part 1

Mark Vorpahl

This is Part 1 of a two-part series co-published with Occupy.com. Click here, for Part 2 of the series.  It’s a familiar pattern: those on top of the economic ladder enjoy massive profits, while expecting workers to sacrifice even more for the “greater good.” This storyline weaves itself into every justification for anti-worker policies. From Washington’s potential Grand Bargain […]

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Egypt’s Revolution Stumbles

Mark Vorpahl

The call for a new constitution was a key political demand of the Egyptian people when they overthrew the thirty-year dictatorship of Mubarak. Motivating this was the desire to begin dismantling the repressive bureaucratic state machinery they had suffered under and replace it with a democratic government that would be guided by their needs and […]

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Defeating “Right to Work”

Mark Vorpahl

The passage in Michigan of the anti-worker legislation grotesquely misnamed “Right to Work” (RTW) should be putting the entire nation on red alert. The downward pressure on the standard of living such bills unleash on the vast majority extend well beyond the union ranks. The bill’s success in Michigan, a pivotal state for organized Labor, […]

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Austerity — the 1%’s Global Battle Cry

Mark Vorpahl

Whether we are left with the Fiscal Cliff or a Grand Bargain, workers in the U.S. face massive cuts to programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment insurance, Food Stamp assistance and other needed social safety nets. This is an example of “austerity” which has largely been pursued in the U.S. until now, on […]

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Union Loss in Bend, Oregon

Mark Vorpahl

The game is rigged, but not the fight. In 2010 and 2011, workers at St. Charles Hospital in Bend, Oregon came together to join Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 49 to improve their conditions and strengthen their voice. It was the largest union organizing victory in Oregon for 30 years. This victory held great […]

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Michigan’s Proposal 2: Labor’s Big Test

Mark Vorpahl

For some time now, Labor has been punched into a corner when it comes to state legislation. Over the last two years legislation has been passed in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan that has attempted to gut largely public workers of their union rights.

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Workers Stand Up to Walmart

Mark Vorpahl

When a torrent hits an obstacle that refuses to give, it either flows around or over the obstruction. When workers’ needs for a living wage, fair treatment, and a voice are damned up by an oppressive employer, it is only a matter of time before they find a way of asserting their strength. Testament to […]

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Why Chavez Won BIG! A Comparison Between the Presidential Elections in the U.S. and Venezuela

Mark Vorpahl

U.S. workers and those who are unemployed are frequently told that the current presidential elections are among the most important in this country’s history. With continuing high unemployment and underemployment, declining wages, and looming massive cuts to social programs that help workers, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, we are at a grave point […]

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Quantitative Easing — A Toxic Stimulant

Mark Vorpahl

If foxes are put in charge of rebuilding a chicken coop, it is a given that the chicken’s new quarters will be less than secure. In terms of rebuilding the economy, with the predatory interests of Wall Street dictating the “solutions” proposed by both the Republicans and Democrats, it is a given that their plans […]

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Job Creation and the Private Sector

Mark Vorpahl

The issue of unemployment and underemployment loomed above the hype of both the Republican and Democratic Party conventions with the cold stare of a harsh judge. Many promises and dubious claims were made from the respective party podiums, but no real solutions were put forward.

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What Does “Independence” Mean for Labor?

Mark Vorpahl

The unions remain the only organizations in this country built by and for workers to be a collective fighting force to defend and improve the members’ standard of living. While only a minority belongs to unions, all workers’ fate depends on their strength. Unfortunately they have been taking a serious beating. How has the leadership […]

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Workers Must Take Control

Mark Vorpahl

Many of today’s social expectations and political outlooks of the Labor Movement, and workers in general, were formed in the post World War II economic expansion. While the economy was expanding and there were steady jobs to be had, it appeared to be enough for many people to focus on improving their immediate community or […]

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The Dark Heart of the Libor Scandal

Mark Vorpahl

Mark Vorpahl                                Though, for most, the London Inter-Bank Offer Rate (Libor) interest rate fixing scandal appears to be distant and far too complex to understand, its potential consequences may be as economically devastating as a world war.

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Houston Janitors Strike for Economic Justice

Mark Vorpahl

Mark Vorpahl Echoing the story of David vs. Goliath, janitors in Houston are on strike and taking on such corporate giants as JPMorganChase and Exxon Mobile in an effort to pressure the janitorial companies they employ to agree to the workers’ modest demands. It is these big business behemoths that are the real powers behind […]

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Los Conserjes de Houston en Huelga por Justicia Económica

Mark Vorpahl

Mark Vorpahl  Haciendo eco de la historia de David vs. Goliat, los conserjes en Houston están en huelga y enfrentándose a corporativos gigantes como JPMorgan, Chase y Exxon Mobile en un esfuerzo para presionar a las compañías de conserjes que los emplean a acceder a las modestas demandas de los trabajadores. Son estas colosales compañías […]

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Pensions Under Attack

Mark Vorpahl

On Friday, July 6, President Obama signed into law a bill that would renew transportation programs and extend low interest rates on student loans for one year.

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership: An Extremist 1% Global Attack

Mark Vorpahl

Mark Vorpahl During the week of July 1st to 7th an international cabal of corporate lobbyists will be meeting behind closed doors in San Diego. Their aim is moving the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) towards completion.

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The Affordable Care Act, Supreme Court, and Health Care as a Human Right

Mark Vorpahl

Mark Vorpahl Any day the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA). Most at risk is this act’s “individual mandate” which requires everyone to buy health insurance from a private insurer or face a steep fine.

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