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Protest Planned to Support Walmart Workers on "Black Friday"

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(NNPA) The day after Thanksgiving, so-called “Black Friday,” will be a moment for national protests over the conditions faced by thousands of Walmart workers. You may be one of many who go regularly or periodically to Walmart, looking for the good deals. Well, this November 29, things will be a bit exciting and informative outside of Walmart facilities.

If you have any questions regarding why these protests have been happening; why they will take place on November 29; and why they will continue to unfold, just consider the following: almost two-thirds of the Walmart’s workforce of approximately 825,000 earn poverty-level wages (less than $25,000/year). Now, contrast this fact with another fact: six of the Waltons, the major shareholders in the company, are collectively worth more than $144.7 billion, putting them ahead of the combined worth of 42 percent of the people of the United States.

In other words, for all of their platitudes we regularly hear on television and radio commercials, Walmart stands as a stark example of the wealth polarization that we have been witnessing in this country, a wealth polarization unlike anything that we have seen since 1929.

The conditions of Walmart workers are insulting, not only to the Walmart workers but to the rest of us. Workers find it difficult to obtain full-time schedules, thus making it impossible for them to earn the sort of wages needed to survive. Like many other retail workers, they are then forced to either try to assemble more than one part-time job and/or depend on governmental assistance.

The Walmart workers, joined together through an organization known as OUR Walmart (Organization United for Respect at Walmart), seek public support. They are seeking justice in their workplace and they know that the attitude of the Walmart customer is critical in that regard. The message that you, as a customer and consumer, convey to the Walmart management; your willingness to stand with the Walmart workers; and the attitude elected officials in our cities and towns take towards the expansion of and requests for assistance by the corporate owners of Walmart, will all make a world of a difference.

If you think of nothing else, just stop for a moment and remember that $25,000/year does not take anyone very far these days. How can a family worth more than $144.7 billion not believe that improving the wages, benefits and working conditions of those who make it possible for their family to be so wealthy is a burdensome request?

Just asking…

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the chairman of the Retail Justice Alliance which supports retail workers fighting for economic justice. He is also a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Chris Christie Provided Model for GOP Success

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By Raynard Jackson
NNPA Columnist

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been the talk of the political world for the past week. He won reelection with more than 60 percent of the vote. The coalition he put together is unheard of in today’s political climate where Republicans routinely right off significant parts of the electorate. This failed approach leaves little room for electoral error and is the biggest reason why Republicans have lost two successive presidential elections. Christie has shown the Republican Party a path towards electoral victory if they would adopt his approach.

Exit polls revealed that Christie:

Won among both men and women: 63 percent of men and 57 percent of women;
Won 21 percent of Black voters;
Won 51 percent of the Hispanic vote
Won nearly every education level and income group;
Won 32 percent of the Democratic vote;
Won 66 percent of independents and 61 percent of moderates.

Christie took his governing philosophy, his personality, and his blunt honesty to the market place of ideas and won convincingly.

Too many D.C. pundits are totally missing the point behind the Christie phenomenon. In a capitalist society, the market place responds to what is appealing or unappealing to it. Regardless of what you think about Christie on a philosophical scale, the marketplace of New Jersey responded to his message.

Many pundits attributed Christie’s remarkable success to voters in New Jersey being stupid. In other words, they didn’t know who or what they were voting for. If talking heads want to know who’s stupid, they need only to look in the mirror.

The truth is people in New Jersey voted for someone who diminished union influence in education, who is against homosexual marriage, pro-Second Amendment, pro-life, supports lower taxes, etc.

I am a native of St. Louis and no matter how great my analysis of the recently completed World Series, nothing can change the fact that Boston won. The same is true with Christie. Politics is all about winning, not making a statement.

In additional to his enormous political skills, Christie was aided by Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman, Reince Priebus, who engineered the Growth and Opportunity Project, a program with the goal of getting more Blacks and Latinos engaged with the Republican Party.

In applied research, you take the best of what was discovered in the laboratory during the basic research phase and apply that to real world situations (elections). This will lead to empirical data that will either support or reject your findings in the laboratory.

In this sense, Priebus and Christie are Siamese twins, tied at the hip. Priebus and the RNC provided Christie and his campaign with a lot of basic research. Christie was politically astute enough to take this information and incorporate it into his campaign strategy.

In addition, Priebus put 33 fulltime staffers on the ground in New Jersey earlier this year with instructions to engage with people of color. The GOP put about $ 2.5 million into this race.

I had a private conversation with Christie back in March about the Black vote. He said all the right things (as they always do when I discuss the Black community with them). He only received 9 percent of the Black vote in 2009 and he told me that he would build better relations with the Black community as governor. I will clean up my language considerably, but I looked him in the eye and asked him very bluntly if he was serious or just blowing smoke at me? He literally pulled me nose to nose with him and said, “Brother, I got you. I don’t BS. Now I want to introduce you to my campaign chairman, Bill Palatucci. The two of you should get together and discuss this.” Within 30 days, the meeting took place.

Priebus can provide all the basic research in the world, but it’s up to the candidate to take advantage of what the chairman is doing.

So, to all the pundits who are trying to discredit Priebus and Christie, stop. They devised and executed a winning strategy. If you have a better way of putting together the coalition that Priebus and Christie did, then I am all ears.

Blacks will vote for a Republican, but they want to be listened to and not talked to. They want to feel like their concerns are important to the Republican Party. The election in New Jersey sent a message to Republican candidates who want to broaden their voting base: Take Christie model, personalize and adapt it as needed. Those who copy the New Jersey model can be victorious. Those who insist on going the Tea Party route are likely to suffer the same fate as state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli , who lost his bid to become governor.

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.

Poor Whites are Blaming the Wrong People

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(NNPA) I read a very sad article in the Washington Post on October 29. It concerned the base of the Tea Party movement, and specifically focused on some economically distressed Whites living in Georgia. They, like many other residents of Tea Party-controlled Congressional districts, are suffering under the weight of an economy that will not get fully in gear. Who do they blame? Obama. Who do they support? Congressional representatives who wanted to close down government.

It was striking in reading this piece, and later reading something on the polarization of wealth on this planet, that these economically precarious Whites have concluded that Obama, particularly through the Affordable Healthcare Act, somehow is worsening the economy for them.

If the residents of these districts were angry about the polarization of wealth; if they were angry that Obama has not done enough; if they were angry that corporate America was using them as a doormat, I could understand that. But to jump from their economic problems to supporting the very same people who are destroying their lives can only be understood through the prism of race.

The one thing that you will not get out of me is a defense of President Obama on much of the economy or on foreign policy. But I believe in speaking the truth, and specifically being clear on the real source of our problems. Those White residents may not be aware that the living standard for the average working person has been declining since the mid1970s. They may not be aware that the Republican Party that calls upon them every election season has advanced economic policies that push them further into debt and poverty than ever before. They may not be aware that the global economy is shifting, and shifting against working people. They may also be only slightly aware that the financial powerhouses will do all that they can to sway Democratic and Republican politicians in order to protect their pots of gold.

Yet it is easier to see in the Black president the representative of all that they hate and fear. It is easier to see in the Black president the threat to their future since he represents the unknown. It is easier to see in the Black president the easiest target in order to explain why their lives are so miserable. And it is easier to target a Black president than to come to grips with a very simple fact: the rich White elite does not give a cuss about their sorry rear ends…just so long as they keep voting Republican every election season.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

State of Emergency for Black Colleges

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“HBCUs have always been in a situation where a lot of them have had to struggle. A lot of that has to do with inequitable funding.” - Marybeth Gasman, University of Pennsylvania

(NNPA) Current financial problems facing the storied Grambling State University football program are a sign of funding inequities that are shortchanging students and threatening the very existence of a growing number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). On October 19th, in protest of severe budget cuts that have decimated the football facilities and led to the firing of Coach Doug Williams, the Grambling State Tigers players refused to take the 160 mile trip to Jackson, Mississippi for their scheduled matchup with Jackson State. The Grambling players’ boycott of the Jackson State homecoming game sent shockwaves through the Southwestern Athletic Conference and highlighted the dire financial status of many of our nation’s 105 HBCUs.

Draconian higher education budget cuts in Louisiana being pushed by Governor Bobby Jindal are a big part of the Grambling problem. According to the New York Times, state funding for Grambling is “down 56 percent since 2008. In response, the university has laid off more than 120 staff members and reduced the number of degree programs to 47 from 67.”

This has left the football program in shambles, with players forced to practice and play in unsafe and unsanitary facilities while sometimes enduring thousand-mile bus trips for away games. The Grambling football experience is unique, but it is also symptomatic of a larger problem that extends beyond the football field to the financial offices and classrooms of the institutions that have traditionally produced the lion’s share of African American professionals.

With lower endowments, cut-rate tuition fees, fund raising challenge and a disproportionate number of first-generation, low-income students, HBCUs have been hit especially hard by the economic downturn. Recent cuts in government aid and other funding streams have been the last straw for several of them. St. Paul’s College in southern Virginia closed its doors in June. Atlanta’s Morris Brown College recently declared bankruptcy. And a board member at Howard University, considered by many to be the nation’s premier HBCU, recently wrote, “Howard will not be here in three years if we don’t make some crucial decisions now.”

In addition to the financial strains on HBCUs, prospective students are finding it harder to scrape up the money to enroll. A recent change in credit history criteria in the federal Parent PLUS Loan Program has resulted in the denial of loans to 28,000 HBCU students and a loss of $154 million in revenue to HBCUs. Congressional Black Caucus Chair, Marcia L. Fudge has responded to this crisis by demanding a return to the previous credit policy. She says, “The issue must be addressed and the policy must be fixed now.”

The contributions of HBCUs cannot be overstated. While the 105 HBCU institutions represent just 3 percent of the nation’s higher education establishment, they graduate nearly 20 percent of African Americans who earn undergraduate degrees. They also graduate more than 50 percent of African American professionals, half of Black public school teachers, and most of the African American students who earn bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields.

For decades HBCUs have been the backbone of a growing Black middle class and a stronger America. We must do everything we can to prevent their decline and keep them alive.

Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.

Still Reeling from the Tea Party's Party

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(NNPA) My barber shook his head as I sat down in his chair. He was deeply disturbed by the Tea Party shutdown of the government. Despite the fact that it was over, he was still unsettled. He told me about two tenants of a house that he owns who both work for the federal government. They could not pay their rent. He said to me: ”Mr. Fletcher, yes, they are now supposed to get the money that they lost…but what about the next time?”

What about the next time, indeed.

The Tea Party Republicans attempted to fly their planes into the ‘battleship’ of government, making the assumption that the ‘battleship’ would change course. That did not happen and the Tea Party Republicans lost badly. But their loss was political. For thousands of federal workers and contractors, the loss was very material.

Many more than you might think live paycheck to paycheck, and they were being squeezed more than they have in quite some time. Some of the local chapters of my own union – the American Federation of Government Employees – were providing food and gas-cards for workers so that they could simply report to work (if they had been declared “essential employees”) and survive. And during all of this, the Tea Party Republicans in Congress continued to collect their own paychecks.

The kamikaze run by the Tea Party Republicans seems to have backfired. People are furious with them. Whether that anger will last, and most importantly, whether it will last into the 2014 midterm elections, remains an open question. But for now many of them are serving as a doormat on which countless citizens are wiping their feet.

The Tea Party Republicans felt nothing about destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. They thought nothing of the ripple effect that a government shutdown would have, as in the case of my barber. Think about it. His tenants could not pay him. Well, if the shutdown had continued, he would not have been able to pay his mortgage and could have lost his house.

In the context of this travesty there will be many people who will throw their hands into the air in complete and total disgust. Such a response is quite understandable, but it is equally unacceptable. It is not enough to get disgusted. The brand of politics represented by the Tea Party crowd needs to be removed from the scene. This means that we cannot walk away from elections, but we need, instead, to walk to the polls and cast our votes thoughtfully and carefully. It is not a matter of ‘anyone but the Tea Party,’ as comforting as that may sound and feel. Rather, as we think about 2014 and beyond, we need to really develop candidates who speak on behalf of the common person. They not only must be dramatically different from the Tea Party, but such candidates must understand the plight of the bottom 90 percent of this country and the urgency to act in the interest of positive change.

If we have learned anything from the government shutdown it should be that governing is much too important to leave to the slicksters, demagogues, and those representing the rich and powerful.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. works for the American Federation of Government Employees, and is also a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

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