Friday, December 29, 2006

Goodyear Strike Settled

Good news: The Steelworkers union voted to approve a new contract at Goodyear. Goodyear workers will be back at work on January 2nd. More than 10,000 members voted and the contract was approved by more than two-to-one. Both a majority of the locals and a majority of the overall membership voted to approve the new contract.


Solidarity at Goodyear has more. Here's the USW press release:
USW Members at Goodyear Ratify New Three-Year Contract as 86-day Strike Ends

All striking Steelworker to return beginning on January 2

(Pittsburgh, PA) -- The United Steelworkers (USW) announced today that a new contract at Goodyear Tire and Rubber was approved at all Locals and overall by membership by more than a two-to-one margin. More than 10,000 USW-represented members voted at the 12 locations where 14,000 Steelworkers struck on October 5. A majority of the majority principle applied meaning that a majority of the locals as well as a majority of the overall membership voted to accept the Tentative Agreement as the new contract.

"The credit really belongs to our members and their families, whose solidarity prevented the company from short-changing them, despite all of its attempts," said USW International president Leo W. Gerard. "Special thanks go out again to all of our AFL-CIO union affiliates, activist groups, community organizations, businesses and public officials who not only understood our struggle, but stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us."

"It took a strike, but we achieved a fair and equitable contract that protects quality health care for active and retired members," said USWA executive vice president Ron Hoover. "And by winning major capital investment expenditures, it secures our jobs for the future."

The new contract establishes a company-financed trust of more than $1 billion that will secure medical and prescription drug benefits for current and future retirees. Future contributions will include diverted COLA (cost of living allowances) payments and profit-sharing funds. Affordable, high quality medical and prescription drug coverage for its active and retired membership was also maintained.

"To secure jobs, we had to obtain enough money to keep our plants globally competitive," said USW International vice president Tom Conway. "The $550 million in new capital expenditure commitments is the result of our objective of enhancing the ability of USW-represented plants to meet the challenges of the international marketplace."

The new contract that requires Goodyear to rescind its demand for immediate closure of its Tyler, Texas plant, and provides for a one-year period of transition during which workers will have the opportunity to take advantage of sizeable retirement buyouts.

"It's a bittersweet outcome," said Kevin Johnsen, USW-Goodyear Contract Coordinator. "We wanted to win Tyler protected status like the other plants, but we only got it for 2007. Still the company has committed to building the Tyler ticket in USW-plants as long as the company stays in those markets." That commitment will prevent the company from outsourcing that work or servicing this market segment with imports.

The Tentative Agreement was endorsed by the USW's Goodyear Policy Committee, composed of local union leaders from the 12 facilities involved in the contract talks on December 22. Members were presented with a Summary of the Tentative Agreement at informational meetings held on December 27 and 28. The ratification votes also took place on Wednesday and Thursday.

The new contract covers tire and engineered product plants in: Akron, St. Marys and Marysville, Ohio; Gadsden, Ala.; Buffalo, New York; Lincoln, Nebraska; Topeka, Kansas; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Danville, Virginia; Tyler, Texas; Sun Prairie, Wisconsin; and, Union City, Tennessee.

Negotiations between the USW and Goodyear began in June of this year. With a contract expiration date of July 22, 2006 approaching, a day-to-day extension agreement was reached that gave both parties the option of terminating the agreement upon delivering 72-hour notice. Lack of progress in bargaining talks forced the USW to delivered notice on October 2 and 15,000 USW members in 16 plants throughout North America struck on October 5.

The USW represents more than 850,000 members in the U.S. and Canada. Some 70,000 are employed in the tire, rubber and plastics industry.
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Friday, December 22, 2006

155,184 Votes for Working Families in 2006

We're ending the year on a high note. The official numbers are in, and Working Families got 155,184 votes in this year's gubernatorial election. That means we're growing: we recieved 90,533 votes in the last gubernatorial election in 2002.

What's more, Working Families is the only minor party in New York that's growing - the other minor parties saw their vote totals decrease:
Independence Party: 190,661 (down from 654,016)
Conservative Party: 168,654 (down from 176,848)
Working Families: 155,184 (UP from 90,533)
But into each life a little rain must fall. We needed 13,471 more votes to move up to Row D. It's only a matter of time before we get there, and until then the good news is those Row E signs and shirts will work in the next election.

I'll post a detailed breakdown of where WFP votes came from as soon as I get it; until then here's a county-by-county breakdown of the gubernatorial vote (pdf).

That's it for the year, see you in 2007!

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Ending the Year on the Goodyear Picket Line

The year's coming to a close, but before heading home I want to remind everyone about the Goodyear strike.

UPDATE: Good news: the Steelworkers have reached a tentative deal with Goodyear. If members approve the deal, they'll be returning to work around the first of the year.

Workers at Goodyear agreed to concessions in 2003 that led to a billion dollar turnaround at Goodyear. In return, Goodyear's management forced 15,000 skilled workers on strike and replaced them with scabs, even though experts found that tires built by scabs contributed to the 271 deaths associated with rollovers of Ford Explorers.

What's Goodyear after? They want to cut health care coverage, close plants, and outsource more American jobs to China.

Here's video from early December's New York City protest:

Find out more here and here.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Minimum Truth from President Bush

Remember just after election day when President Bush sent signals that he would be willing to sign legislation increasing the minimum wage? Turns out he was keeping his fingers crossed. At his press conference today, Reuters reports:

President George W. Bush said on Wednesday that he supports a Democratic proposal to increase the U.S. minimum wage but said it should be coupled with tax and regulatory relief for small businesses.

"I believe we should do it in a way that does not punish the millions of small businesses that are creating most of the new jobs in our country," Bush told a news conference. "So, I support pairing it with targeted tax and regulatory relief to help these small businesses stay competitive and to help keep our economy growing."

Some recent research from the Fiscal Policy Institute makes it pretty clear that raising the minimum wage doesn't punish anyone.

23 more months of this guy is going to be hard to take.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ari Fleischer for Congress? Christmas Comes Early to NY-19

WFP members share the enthusiasm of The Albany Project about the news that former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer is considering running for Congress in the 19th district against John Hall in 2008.

Another chance to run against the catastrophic Bush record? Jingle all the way!

TWU Contract Settled

The Transit Workers Union has a newfamiliar contract (hat tip to Gothamist). You can't really call it new, because it's basically the same contract from the MTA that the TWU voted to accept - only to have the MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow turn around and waste millions of dollars on legal fees to try and get out of the deal. TWU President Roger Toussaint gets it right:

"Every New Yorker should be furious at Peter Kalikow today . . . Instead of voting on a contract that he signed off on even before the strike was over, Kalikow paid a white shoe law firm nearly $2 million in a pigheaded attempt to embarrass transit workers in arbitration. At the same time he threatens fare hikes and service cuts, Kalikow has no problem wasting your money on nothing."

So now the transit workers have a contract, and Eliot Spitzer is replacing Kalikow with Elliot Sander, one of Spitzer's transportation advisers.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

WFP 2007 Priorities Survey Day 5 results

It's Day 5 of the Working Families Party 2007 Priorities Survey and here are the newest results. The percentages don't add up to 100% because only votes for specific issues are listed.

Question 1: Here are six issues where we could win real victories for working families in 2007. Which of these issues do you think the WFP should work on in 2007?

Fair Funding for Education11.24%
Protecting Health Care in New York17.60%
Paid Sick Leave2.06%
Reforming Corporate Subsidies9.18%
Affordable Housing12.36%
Environmentally-Smart Building Codes2.06%

Question 2: Here are five important long-term issues that may not be finished in 2007. Which of these issues do you think the WFP should work on in 2007?

Universal Health Care37.08%
Progressive Taxation8.24%
Strengthening Unions6.18%
Family Friendly Workplaces2.81%
Energy Independence8.80%

Question 3: The WFP was formed both to deliver real victories for working families and to change the terms of the public debate over the long term. In 2007, do you think it's more important for the WFP to focus on the fights we can win this year (the first set of issues) or the long term fights (the second set of issues)?

Win real victories in 200752.43%
Push long-term issues36.89%

Question 4: The WFP helped Democrats win key elections in New York, but in the year to come we may have disagreements on specific issues. When there's disagreement on specific issues, do you think the WFP should push the progressive position or support Democratic politicians?

Push the progressive position78.84%
Support Democratic politicians9.93%

For more details on the issues in the WFP 2007 Priorities Survey, read WFP Policy Director Josh Mason's blog post on possible WFP issues in 2007.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

WFP 2007 Priorities Survey Day 1 results

Here are the Day 1 results of the Working Families Party 2007 Priorities Survey. The percentages don't add up to 100% because votes for "All of the Above" aren't listed.

Question 1: Here are six issues where we could win real victories for working families in 2007. Which of these issues do you think the WFP should work on in 2007?

Fair Funding for Education11.61%
Protecting Health Care in New York17.60%
Paid Sick Leave3.00%
Reforming Corporate Subsidies10.11%
Affordable Housing13.11%
Environmentally-Smart Building Codes1.50%

Question 2: Here are five important long-term issues that may not be finished in 2007. Which of these issues do you think the WFP should work on in 2007?

Universal Health Care37.83%
Progressive Taxation7.12%
Strengthening Unions4.49%
Family Friendly Workplaces3.00%
Energy Independence8.99%

Question 3: The WFP was formed both to deliver real victories for working families and to change the terms of the public debate over the long term. In 2007, do you think it's more important for the WFP to focus on the fights we can win this year (the first set of issues) or the long term fights (the second set of issues)?

Win real victories in 200754.31%
Push long-term issues34.46%

Question 4: The WFP helped Democrats win key elections in New York, but in the year to come we may have disagreements on specific issues. When there's disagreement on specific issues, do you think the WFP should push the progressive position or support Democratic politicians?

Push the progressive position84.27%
Support Democratic politicians7.12%

For more details, read WFP Policy Director Josh Mason's blog post on possible WFP issues in 2007.

If you haven't taken the Working Families Party 2007 Priorities Survey yet then do it now at

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WFP 2007 Priorities Survey

The Working Families Party doesn't win elections only to elect candidates. We build electoral power to make a difference in the lives of poor, working and middle-class New Yorkers.

Now, the WFP wants to make sure you are involved in deciding what comes next in 2007.

That's why we've launched the WFP 2007 Priorities Survey. Vote now on what issues you think the Working Families Party should work on in 2007 at

Yesterday, WFP Policy Director Josh Mason blogged in detail about the issues under consideration for 2007.

Now is your turn to weigh in - the Working Families Party 2007 Priorities Survey lets you vote for the issues you support or write in your own. Vote now!

And look for an update on the voting later today.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Yellow Rat Bastard Is Living Up To Its Name

Yellow Rat Bastard and its affiliated stores (Antique Orange, Boys and Chicks, FAT Jeans, Rubber Sole, Sloppy Joe Dirty Jane, Tempo, Yellow Rat Bastard Queens, and Yellow Rat Bastard Cedarhurst) are under investigation by the New York State Attorney General's office for serious wage and hour violations. This comes after Yellow Rat Bastard owner Henry Ishay's arrest for failure to maintain the minimum payroll records required by New York State Labor Law.

For those not familiar, Yellow Rat Bastard sells expensive hipster t-shirts (it calls them "teez").

The Retail Action Project estimates that Yellow Rat Bastard and owner Henry Ishay could owe workers as much as $2 million in back wages.

So this Sunday, December 17, retail workers will hold a march and rally demanding a living wage and improved working conditions in Lower Broadway shops throughout SoHo and NoHo.

WHO: Retail workers, primarily young Latino, Asian and African New Yorkers and African and West Indian immigrants; community, religious and political leaders; the Retail Action Project, Good Old Lower East Side and RWDSU/UFCW; and you

WHAT: Speakers will include both current and former employees of a number of shops, including Yellow Rat Bastard, OMG, David Z and Portobello, and will highlight poverty wages, unsanitary conditions and abusive managers.

WHERE: The rally is at 478 Broadway (between Broome and Grand). The march will start at the rally and head to Broadway and 7th Street.

WHEN: Sunday, December 17, starting at 1:30 pm

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Where Do We Go From Here?

With elections behind us, it's time to think about next year's issue campaigns. We're considering a whole range of campaigns -- some where we think we can score real victories in the coming year, and some that are long-term efforts to move the debate. Below are some of the issues we're considering. A poll is up will be going up soon; in the meantime feel free to comment on these (or suggest more!) here.

Winnable Issues for 2007

Fair Funding for Schools. New York's courts have repeatedly ruled that the state needs to increase funding for New York City schools to fulfill its Constitutional duty to provide a decent education for every New York child, but the Pataki administration has refused to comply. Governor Spitzer has pledged to give New York and other struggling school districts the fair funding they need. The role of the WFP is to make sure he holds out for the full amount and help him get the funding increase through the legislature.

Protecting Health Care. State government is proposing to close dozens of hospitals, working families continue to lose employer-sponsored insurance, and there is talk of deep cuts in Medicaid benefits. The WFP's role is to preserve health insurance for working New Yorkers, and to increase the number of eligible workers and children enrolled in public programs.<>Paid Sick Days. Hundreds of thousands of New York workers do not have a single paid day off for illness a year, and millions more cannot use them to care for a sick child or parent. New York should require employers to provide paid sick days.

Reforming Corporate Subsidies. New York's system of "economic development" tax breaks are wasteful, poorly targeted, lack a track record of creating jobs, and do not impose any meaningful standards on businesses that receive them. The WFP supports creating clear, binding job-creation and wage standards for IDA subsidies.

Affordable Housing. The WFP supports strengthening rent regulations in New York City to preserve the existing stock of affordable housing and in other areas – especially the suburbs – the WFP supports "inclusionary zoning" laws that will encourage developers to include a percentage of affordable units in any new development.

Environmentally-Smart Building Codes. An easy way to clean up our environment, create jobs and reduce reliance on imported oil is to bring buildings in line with the latest environmental standards. As a first step, government should require high levels of energy efficiency in its own buildings.

Long-term campaigns

Universal Health Care. Our health care system leaves millions of New Yorkers uninsured and millions more with insecure coverage, while driving up costs for everyone. The only long-term solution is to move to a single, universal health insurance program covering everyone.

Progressive Taxation. New York State has the greatest gap between rich and poor of any state in the nation. One reason is that we have drastically cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy, while raising the taxes paid by working families, like property and sales taxes. A comprehensive tax reform program would provide tax relief for working New Yorkers by reversing some of the recent cuts for the best-off.

Strengthening Unions. Unions are necessary to counterbalance the power of employers and defend the interests of workers. The right to join a union is fundamental to a free society, but federal labor law fails to protect that right. Federal reform is need, and in the meantime New York state can to more to make sure workers who want to join a union are able to do so.

Family Friendly Workplaces. It's too hard for working families to balance the demands of work and caring for their loved ones. In addition to paid sick days, the state should establish a system of Paid Family Leave like California's and do more to support affordable childcare.

Energy Independence. We need a new "Apollo Program" to develop sustainable energy sources, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, increase energy efficiency and create 21st-century jobs in New York.

Now it's your turn to weigh in - take the WFP 2007 Priorities Survey.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bill Thompson's Badge of Honor

New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson should be proud of the badge of honor awarded by the Post's editorial page today.

The right-wing loonies accused Thompson of playing politics with his office ("It's never too early to pander to organized labor when you're considering a run for the mayor's office") because he has had the audacity to express concern about Wal-Mart's anti-worker practices:
He wrote that he was "extremely troubled by all of the negative reports and allegations that have surfaced in recent years and concerned they will have a long-term negative impact on the reputation of the company."

Kudos to Thompson for understanding the potential risks to the city's pension funds from investing in a company under siege for its business practices. In fact, Wal-Mart has not been a big winner in recent years. The adjacent graph charts its share price over the last five years.

The Post's got a problem with Thompson's vigilance? Wear it proudly, Mr. Comptroller.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Father Guido Sarducci and Antonia Novello


I did not know that. Wikipedia notes that Pataki's health commissioner and former U.S. Surgeon General Antonia Novello is the sister-in-law of Don Novello, the comic actor who played Father Guido Sarducci on Saturday Night Live.

Maybe Novello's new $13,000 taxpayer-funded portrait will highlight the resemblance.

Santorum Supports Labor Movement?

Quite surprising to read that outgoing U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa) came out strongly in favor of a bus drivers' strike, even calling for strike funding. Yup, here's what he said on Imus this morning:

For example, there was a bus driver strike a few weeks ago in.... We did nothing to support it; we should have. We should of quietly gone in there and given them a whole boatload of money so they could sustain the strike and continue to cause unrest....
What's the catch? The words excerpted out by the first ellipses above were: "IN IRAN."

Card Check: Will Congress Do It?

Should deciding whether to form a union be dragged out for years? Congress will have the chance to answer that question when it takes up the issue of card check union campaigns.

Allowing workers to form a union through a card check process basically means when a majority of employees sign a union card they form a union. The current process now can get so bogged down in litigation that it can drag out for years and be settled in the courts or by public opinion instead of being decided by workers. Card check puts the choice to join a union back in the hands of workers where it belongs, and eases the path to the middle class for those who have the opportunity to unionize.

A story in today's Wall Street Journal is pessimistic that the Employee Free Choice Act can pass the Senate, and forecasts a certain veto by President Bush.

What do you think? Will Congress simplify the process and pass card check?

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Where WFP Votes Came From

We're up to 151,953 votes on the Working Families Party line with about a week and a half to go before the vote count is completed and certified. That's up from 90,533 votes in the last gubernatorial election in 2002.

I want to share information on where in the state those votes are coming from (all based on unofficial returns). These charts and maps are pretty detailed so you might need to click on the chart or map you're reading to see a bigger version.

First overall turnout:
  • 2002 : 5 million voters overall
  • 2004 : 7.5 million voters overall
  • 2006 : 4 million voters overall
Here is the broad breakdown of where the WFP's 2006 votes came from:
New York City (in red) 74,221 votes, 49%
Upstate (in yellow) 55,437 votes, 36%
Metro Suburbs (in blue) 22,295, 15%
For comparison here's that same breakdown of the WFP's 2002 votes:
New York City (in red) 53,557 votes, 59%
Upstate (in yellow) 24,901 votes, 28%
Metro Suburbs (in blue) 12,075, 13%
And the WFP's 2004 votes:
New York City (in red) 67,593 votes, 40%
Upstate (in yellow) 69,141 votes, 41%
Metro Suburbs (in blue) 31,985, 19%
Our gubernatorial vote in New York City continues to go up, while the proportion of our vote from Upstate and in the Metro Suburbs is growing (comparing 2006 to 2002) .

Here's a county-by-county breakdown of where the WFP's 2006 vote came from. You'll probably need to click on this chart to be able to read it.

This map shows a county-by-county breakdown of the WFP's percentage of the vote total (so if 100 people voted and 5 voted on the WFP line that's 5%). The redder a county the higher the WFP percentage of the vote in that county.
This map goes county-by-county and shows the change of the WFP's percentage of the vote total from 2002 to 2006. The darker the county, the more the WFP percentage of the vote increased in that county.

Now it's your turn: what do you make of this information?

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Vietnam Trade Redux

Republicans in Congress are scrambling to extend unfair trade arrangements before ceding power to Democrats at the end of the year.

Congress rejected the Bush administration deal to "normalize" trade with Vietnam one week after election day. But that isn't stopping Ways and Means Chair Bill Thomas from trying to get a second bite at the apple.

The Vietnam deal would not help working families in the United States or Vietnam. As AFL-CIO Legislation Director William Samuel said in a letter to House members:

[O]ur trade relations with Vietnam should remain governed by existing agreements until such time that Vietnam takes meaningful steps to bring practice and law regarding workers' rights into compliance with international standards.

The Bush administration and their congressional cronies also have eyes on winning passage of a new bilateral deal with Peru that is notable for what the Sierra Club calls "token, unenforceable provisions on labor and the environment."

The 2006 elections sent a signal that voters in key states like Ohio and Pennsylvania (as well as New York) will no longer tolerate a trade policy that favors profits for multinationals over jobs for Americans. The Miami Herald's headline ("Democrats won big by opposing free-trade agreements") only slightly overstates the case.

Democrats and Republicans who have voted for one-sided free trade deals in the past should read the tea leaves and resist Rep. Thomas and the lobbying of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The voters have spoken.

20 years and All I Got Was This Lousy Shirt: The Annals of Wal-Mart

The New York Times ran an article on Wal-Mart with what one can only imagine is the sarcastic headline, "Wal-Mart Says Thank You to Workers." So just how does the management team at Wal-Mart say thank you to their workers? From the article:
The program includes several new perks "as a way of saying thank you" to workers, like a special polo shirt after 20 years of service and a "premium holiday," when Wal-Mart pays a portion of health insurance premiums for covered employees.
Any ideas on what makes a polo shirt special?

The article goes on to talk about new policies at Wal-Mart:
Wal-Mart has sought to create a cheaper, more flexible labor force by capping wages, using more part-time employees, scheduling more workers at nights and weekends, and cracking down on unexcused days off.
. . .
the new attendance policy, which originally called for disciplinary action after three unauthorized absences (although it was later revised to four unexcused absences).

Asked if absence for a family emergency, like a sick child, would be authorized, Mr. Uselton recounted, the manager said, "No, it’s not."
So if your kid gets sick and you miss work to take care of them you can get fired, but in exchange if you make it 20 years you get a polo shirt? Now I really want to know what makes that shirt so special! Back to the article to find out:
Other perks, like a shirt that states length of employment in five-year increments starting with 20 years of service, appear designed to build morale, but might do the opposite.
I think low pay and lack of health insurance have more to do with low morale at Wal-Mart than those "special" shirts. But with sales at Wal-Mart falling, the chickens are coming home to roost. An article in Business Week talks about how Wal-Mart management's poor treatment of their workers is hurting the company's bottom line:
One question on the minds of some retail experts: Is Wal-Mart's reputation hurting sales? After all, last year consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found that 2% to 8% of the company's customers have stopped shopping there "because of negative press they have heard." And that was before the negative publicity campaigns by two of its most vociferous opponents - union-funded groups Wal-Mart Watch and This year both groups have ramped up their attacks on Wal-Mart, calling on the company to provide a "living wage and affordable health care" for employees
Read more on what WakeUpWalMart has in store this holiday season.

And check out what Wal-Mart workers have to say.

I'll give the final word to Saturday Night Live.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Will Global Warming Turn New York Into Georgia?

Upstate New York could be in for Georgia-style summers if we don't do something about global warming. That's the conclusion from scientists speaking at a regional conference on global warming.
"Global warming is having a significant impact on the Hudson Valley and could prompt even more dramatic changes if greenhouse gas emissions go unchecked, a broad-ranging group of environmentalists and scientists warned yesterday.

In fact, summers in upstate New York could resemble those in present-day Georgia or South Carolina by the end of the century, and the frequency of 100-degree days in a chilly city like Buffalo could increase from once every two years to 14 days a year."
And Buffalo would get off light with 14 100 degree days a year - New York City is in line to see 25 days where the temperature tops 100 degrees.

But that's only if we don't take action. If we're smart about it and push solutions like clean energy then we can create jobs while we fight global warming.

What do you think we should do?

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Goodyear Protest Pictures

Last Friday, New Yorkers gathered outside the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan to show support for striking steelworkers protesting Goodyear's shoddy treatment of America's workers, retirees and communities. Here are the pictures.

Costumed protesters hand out flyers to passerby on the street.

Here's the flyer they were passing out.

Other protestors got support from passing drivers.

Here are pictures of the stage from as close up as I could get.

Saba, Rasheedah and Theo put their whistles to good use.

Tell Goodyear to do the right thing. Show your support online at

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Reminder: Protest Goodyear Today

If you're going to be near the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan after work or passing by on your commute then stop and show your support for striking steelworkers protesting Goodyear's shoddy treatment of America's workers, retirees and communities.
WHAT: Show your support for striking Goodyear workers
WHEN: Friday, December 1st, from 5pm to 7pm
WHERE: outside the Waldorf Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue in Manhattan, between 49th and 50th Streets
If you can't be there in person then be there in spirit: take a moment to show your support online at

I'll have an update (with pictures) after the protest.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Spitzer & Paterson "Putting Their Money Where Their Mouths Are"

Statement by Dan Cantor
Executive Director, Working Families

"Today's announcement by Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson gives new momentum to the movement to enact meaningful camoaign finance reform in New York State. Embracing self-imposed campaign finance restrictions marks an extraordinary opportunity to change the path of campaign finance reform in New York state from a road to nowhere to an expressway to action. Governor-Elect Spitzer made meaningful campaign finance reform a cornerstone of his campaign platform of reform initiatives. With today's pledge to voluntarily limit contributions to $10,000, he and David Paterson are putting their money where their mouths are. This is an extraordinary and courageous step with which Working Families is duly impressed."

"We urge all of our state leaders to follow through on enacting comprehensive campaign finance reform with public financing to reduce the influence of special interests -- based either on the 'Clean Money/Clean Elections' system adopted by several other states or New York City's matching funds system."

Iraq: The Wheels Are Coming Off?!?

The irony (unintentional, I assume) in this quote in today's Daily News story on the deteriorating situation in Iraq nearly knocked me over.
"Depending on what happens next," said a gloomy Republican political operative, "this could be viewed as the week the wheels came off."
Well, yea, sometimes the wheels are the last to go.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

WFP Margin of Victory in Two Assembly Races

We're getting more election returns as the county Boards of Election count paper ballots and firm up election totals, though we're still two weeks away from having the official vote count.

I'm happy to be able to say that the Working Families Party was the margin of victory for Janele Hyer-Spencer in AD60 on Staten Island and for Albert A Stirpe Jr. in AD121 in Onondaga.

Here are the unofficial returns from AD60:
for Hyer-Spencer
9,534 votes on the Democratic line
745 votes on the Working Families Party line
473 votes on the Independence line

for Xanthakis
8,754 votes on the Republican line
1,342 votes on the Conservative line
Xanthakis gets 10,096 votes and Hyer-Spencer gets 10,752 votes with the WFP, 10,007 votes without us, and 10,279 with the WFP and without the Independence line.

And from AD121:
for Stirpe
21,294 votes on the Democratic line
1,385 votes on the Working Families Party line

for Meyer
17,613 votes on the Republican line
1,580 votes on the Independence line
2,455 votes on the Conservative line
Meyer gets 21,648 votes and Stirpe gets 22,679 votes with the WFP and 21,294 votes without us.

Congratulations to Janele Hyer-Spencer and Albert A Stirpe Jr. on their election to the State Assembly!

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Global Warming and Babylon, Long Island

It's almost December and 60 degrees outside. Pretty hard to believe, and it's pretty obvious that something's not right.

With the global temperature rising, a growing number of cities are taking action to fight global warming. One idea in the news are Green Buildings. The basic idea is to make buildings use less energy by insulating them in the same basic ways you would insulate your house and in new and creative ways like green roofs (here's more on the science behind green roofs).

The town of Babylon on Long Island is a real leader when it comes to Green Buildings. Earlier this month they adopted a first-in-the-Northeast Green Building code that applies to commercial and industrial buildings.

What do you think? Should more of New York's cities and towns be following Babylon's lead?

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Monday, November 27, 2006

More on Striking Steelworkers

Goodyear is abandoning America's workers, retirees and communities. Striking Goodyear workers will be protesting at the NASCAR Awards dinner this Friday, December 1st, outside the Waldorf Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue in New York City from 5 to 7pm. (Goodyear is the sole supplier of tires for NASCAR.)

Back in October, Goodyear forced 15,000 trained and unionized workers on strike so it could replace them with lower-paid scabs. Since 2002, Goodyear has seen a billion dollar turnaround in their bottom line because of concessions union members and retirees made in their 2003 contract. But a billion dollars wasn't enough for Goodyear, where management wants to drive salaries lower and close more plants. Find out more at

If you work or live in Manhattan, please stop by this Friday after work and show your support for striking Goodyear workers. And everyone can help by spreading the word about how untrained workers lead to unsafe Goodyear tires.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Striking YouTube Steelworker-Style

An AP story this weekend called our attention to how the Steelworkers have been using YouTube to spread the word about Goodyear's use of scab labor to produce unsafe tires.

Do you know of other creative uses of internet video to build support for workers?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

New York Should Use Optical Scan Voting Machines

Voting machines are in the news again, as New York City (and the rest of the state) decide on new voting machines. The options being looked at include optical-scan machines and less reliable touch-screen machines.

We've researched this question and it's a clear choice: we should use optical-scan voting machines. Optical-scan voting machines are more reliable, more accessible and cost less.

Here's the WFP's official statement:
Working Families Party Statement in Support of Optical Scan Voting Machines

As New York counties and the City of New York move closer to making decisions about voting systems to replace our current mechanical lever machines, the Working Families Party of New York State urges adoption of precinct-based optical scan systems. We believe that these systems best meet the requirements of our state law and the federal Help America to Vote Act (HAVA).

Optical scan machines use paper ballots that can be counted by hand or by using scanners. They have a number of advantages over touch-screen machines. First, they are cheaper - statewide, the cost difference would run into tens of millions of dollars, and the initial and continuing costs may be half or less than the cost of electronic voting touch screen or pushbutton machines. Besides wasting money, the high cost of electronic voting machines would likely lead to too few being purchased, resulting in long lines at the polling place. Second, optical scan systems are more accessible to voters with disabilities and minority languages. Third, and most important, the paper ballots used with precinct-based optical scan machines provide an easily guarded, easily recounted paper audit trail.

As we are all aware, in a number of jurisdictions using electronic voting machines, questions have been raised about the validity and accuracy of the vote count due to high percentages of lost votes and extra "phantom" votes. With the flimsy, heat-sensitive, difficult-to-handle-and-count paper trail with tiny print size offered by electronic voting systems, such irregularities would be costly and time-consuming to resolve.

Our own experience in New York tells us that the ability to re-count and audit a disputed vote is vital to the legitimacy of our own government. Even if electronic voting machines were entirely reliable, widespread doubts, combined with the difficulty of recounting votes when there are disputed outcomes, would undermine confidence in our elections.

Optical scan paper ballots offer a reliable, auditable, cost-effective alternative to computerized voting machines. Our Boards of Election know how to safeguard and handle paper ballots. An optical scan system, along with provisions for meaningful audits and basic security safeguards, would temper public skepticism about the integrity and security of elections.

The advantages of optical scan voting are widely recognized. A New York Times editorial says, "The best voting technology now available uses optical scanning."

When New York replaces its mechanical lever voting machines, New Yorkers deserve the most reliable, trustworthy election equipment available. In our opinion, the precinct-based optical scan system is the best choice. We urge all members of all parties to work for its adoption.
More news coverage here and here.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Look Who's Boycotting Wal-Mart Now

Just dunno what to say about about this (other than that it's wrong). From the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog:

First, Wal-Mart Stores got heat from the labor left. Now it’s feeling pressure from the religious right.

Two religious groups are urging boycotts of the retail this holiday weekend in response to its recent ties with homosexual groups. The American Family Association reports on its Web site that “nearly 400,000 families” have agreed not to shop at Wal-Mart on the Friday and Saturday following Thanksgiving. Also, Operation Save America intends to “proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ at more than 300 Wal-Mart stores” on Friday.

The groups are up in arms over Wal-Mart’s decision earlier this year to join a national chamber of commerce for gay and lesbian businesses, as well as for its donations to other gay and lesbian groups.

Senator-Elect Webb's Complaint (via the Wall Street Journal)

An essay by James Webb, Senator-elect from Virginia, first published in the Wall Street Journal on November 15, has been circulating by email among progressives with unusual velocity.

Entitled "Class Struggle-- American workers have a chance to be heard," the essay argues that the new Congress has a duty to confront the growing class divide in America. Webb writes: "If it remains unchecked, this bifurcation of opportunities and advantages along class lines has the potential to bring a period of political unrest." Some say Webb is an unlikely source for this brand of economic populism; he was Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Navy. So surprising to read this from him:

In the age of globalization and outsourcing, and with a vast underground labor pool from illegal immigration, the average American worker is seeing a different life and a troubling future. Trickle-down economics didn't happen. Despite the vaunted all-time highs of the stock market, wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth. At the same time, medical costs have risen 73% in the last six years alone. Half of that increase comes from wage-earners' pockets rather than from insurance, and 47 million Americans have no medical insurance at all.

Manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Many earned pension programs have collapsed in the wake of corporate "reorganization." And workers' ability to negotiate their futures has been eviscerated by the twin threats of modern corporate America: If they complain too loudly, their jobs might either be outsourced overseas or given to illegal immigrants.

Webb's essay is long on rhetoric and short on solutions, but the implications of his indictment are substantial for trade, tax, labor, immigration, health care and even bankruptcy policy.

It's worth a read.

One New York: An Agenda for Shared Prosperity

That's the title of a new report from Frank Mauro, James Parrott, Trudi Renwick, David Kallick and Jo Brill at the Fiscal Policy Institute on reviving New York's economy. It's dense, but worth reading. Check it out and let us know what you agree with and what you would prioritize.

From the Executive Summary:
One New York presents a package of interrelated economic and fiscal policy recommendations aimed at addressing the major economic challenges and opportunities facing New York State, which it groups into the following two categories:
  • Helping New York's regions grow together. The state economy as a whole is expanding, but growth has been highly uneven.
  • Strengthening and expanding the middle class. New York's economy is increasingly polarized between rich and poor with a shrinking middle class.
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Monday, November 20, 2006

Court shorts schools

The Court of Appeals decision on the state's contribution to school funding is a step back for kids and parents who want to see their kids go to college, and a step back for New York's ability to compete in the 21st Century economy.

Now it's up to Eliot Spitzer to do the right thing. As a candidate, Spitzer campaigned on ensuring that no child walks out of high school without a diploma. That's a step forward, and an early opportunity for Governor Spitzer to step up big.

Here's the Alliance for Quality Education's response to the CFE decision:
Bargain Basement Price of $1.93 Billion Is Not Enough to Prepare Our Children for College or Today's Job Market

(Albany, NY) - In a statement released today, the Alliance for Quality Education responded to the decision of the New York State Court of Appeals in the historic CFE school funding lawsuit.

The Court of Appeals has today ordered that our state government must provide the funding it has so far failed to provide to meet the minimum floor level funding for the education of New York City's school children. But let us not fool ourselves; we cannot prepare our children for college or today's job market for the bargain-basement price of $1.93 billion.

Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer has committed to invest $4 to $6 billion in New York City's school children and up to $8.5 billion in schools statewide. He has done this because this is the dollar figure that is necessary to fulfill his vision of ensuring that all students have the skills they need to succeed in college and the 21st Century economy.

He has called for smaller classes, expanding the pool of qualified teachers, universal pre-kindergarten, an end to crumbling buildings and more help for children who are falling through the cracks. Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer has made it very clear that he believes in ensuring that no child walks out of high school without a diploma. You cannot do all of this for less than the $8.5 billion that Governor-elect Spitzer has identified as the necessary statewide funding and the $4 to $6 billion for New York City.

Even Governor Pataki, who argued for the $1.93 as the constitutional minimum, advocated for an additional $4.7 billion to fully fund New York City's schools as part of his 2004 education reform plan. The CFE lawsuit was necessary because our elected officials have for too long been willing to accept one in three children across the state leaving high school without a diploma and one in two not graduating in New York City. $1.93 billion will raise student achievement, but it will not solve our graduation crisis. And no one, the court included, is saying it is designed to solve the graduation crisis.

If Governor Spitzer were to redefine his vision from high school graduation, college and success in the job market to the court defined minimum floor-level of education, too many of New York's children will fall further behind. But today he already has rejected that idea and asserted that our school children should expect more than the court ordered minimum. He immediately announced that through his very first budget he will provide more funding than the court ordered minimum.

Despite today's decision, we remain positive in our belief that as Governor, Eliot Spitzer will lead the way in fully funding our schools and providing the education our children need to excel.
Empire Zone has the text of the Court of Appeals CFE decision and Capitol Confidential has reaction from Eliot Spizer and others.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

StuyTown Deal No Go?

There may still be a way for tenants to keep Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village affordable, with MetLife's $5.4 billion deal to sell to Tishman Speyer being called into question over a provision limiting MetLife to no more than a 6% annual profit on the apartment complex.

New York City Comptroller William Thompson has been asked to look into the sale. A spokesman for the Comptroller says, "[we] are taking a hard look at it . . . As you know, in recent months the comptroller has expressed serious concerns about the future of Stuyvesant Town."

The Working Families Party supports the tenants' effort to keep StuyTown affordable. Over the past months, StuyTown tenants had put together a competing offer to buy the building in an effort to maintain the affordability of their community. Here's hoping this news gives an added push to their work.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Recanvassing the election vote

WFP members and staff have been spending time at polling machine warehouses for the election recanvass. The day's activity brought the WFP up to 146,000 votes for Eliot Spitzer on Row E.

At the end of election day, poll workers count the number of votes in each ED for each candidate on each ballot line. An election district, or ED, is the smallest voting district in the state, and each voting machine covers only one ED. The voting machines are then sealed and those poll worker vote counts become the unofficial returns that are reported on election night.

The voting machines then go back to the warehouse, where the Board of Elections has 15 days to verify the vote counts by recanvassing the machines. The recanvass works like this: each machine gets opened and a Board of Elections worker writes down how many votes each candidate got on each party's ballot line for that ED. If the recanvass counts a different number of votes than the poll workers counted on election night then the number from the recanvass is the official number that gets used.

Basically, you walk down row after row of voting machines and stop at each one to count the number of votes recorded for the election. Here's what you're looking at on each machine:

There's 15 days from election day to finish the recanvass. How long the recanvass takes depends on where you are. The Staten Island recanvass was finished by lunchtime. But in Manhattan, the recanvass started at 10am on Tuesday and at 6pm it was about halfway done. A contested election with representatives from multiple campaigns verifying the recanvass can take even longer.

What comes next? The paper ballots are counted, and after that the election is certified. That's when we'll know our official vote totals.

Check back in the coming days for another update on the vote count.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bacon & Eggs is back

Bacon & Eggs is recommended breakfast reading from the Working Families Party -- interesting articles on subjects that our members, affiliates, friends and supporters care about. We email it out every morning or you can read it online at
The Village Voice called Bacon & Eggs the "Best daily news progressive digest in New York." Sign up today!

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

144,000 votes and counting

The counting continues, and while the vote won't be certified for weeks, we're up to 144,000 votes on Row E (and rising!) for Eliot Spitzer for Governor.

One WFP supporter working the election day polls in Brooklyn reports -
"WFP got a whopping 41% of Spitzer's vote in the 8 EDs of the 44th AD at my poll site (Camp Friendship). In 2 of those EDs, WFP got more votes for Spitzer than the Dems got."

(An Election District is the smallest voting district in New York.)

Thanks go out to everyone who got out the vote and who voted Row E! We'll have more updates on the vote count in the coming days.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

"Less Polish and More Zing"

Another nice surprise: Prog-blogger about town Daniel Millstone reports at Daily Gotham on his experience with Team WFP in the 19th district getting out the vote for John Hall last Tuesday. His conclusion: "a spirited, volunteer effort with less polish and more zing than I expected."

The image to the right is part of the first-of-its-kind "Row B/Row E" WFP palmcard that Millstone and WFP Westchester-Putnam chapter members used on election day.

Westchester's Low Road

In the frenzy of GOTV, we missed the report released by Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano that found (surprise, surprise):
companies beyond Wal-Mart are either not providing their workers with health insurance at all, or are providing insurance that is inadequate or that the employees cannot afford. Therefore, these employees turn to Medicaid to pay for their health care.
Based on the total survey results, the following companies were the ten largest employers of individuals receiving Medicaid benefits (and the number of employees involved):
  • A&P Supermarket (55)
  • Stop & Shop Supermarket (55)
  • McDonald's (48)
  • Mile Square Transportation Inc. (37)
  • Best Care Inc. (36)
  • Shop Rite Supermarket (33)
  • Pathmark (31)
  • Royal Coach Bus Lines Inc. (31)
  • Dunkin' Donuts (29)
  • Personalized Home Care Service (27)
Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, chairman of the Board of Legislators' Budget & Appropriations Committee, said, "The state has got to take a proactive role in identifying those employers who are benefiting at the expense of the taxpayer by not offering health coverage to their employees."

Kaplowitz noted that earlier this year, he authored and passed a resolution urging the state to get involved with requiring companies to pay their fair share, as opposed to having taxpayers foot the bill via Medicaid.

Don't Let the Turnstile Hit You on the Way Out

Good news for New York City subway riders from Eliot Spitzer: he doesn't want to see fare hikes anytime soon -
"Fares and toll hikes are a last resort," Spitzer told the Daily News, as he answered a wide-ranging set of mass transit-related questions.
. . .
[Spitzer] also expressed a desire to improve relations with the more than 33,000 bus and subway workers
. . .
Gov. Pataki earlier this year granted MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow a new six-year term, but Spitzer has said he wants to pick his own leader.
Bringing in a competent team to run the MTA and replace MTA Chairman Kalikow would be a big step forward. Kalikow has been pushing for higher fares and cuts in service, and jerking transit workers around by refusing to honor the labor agreement that the MTA's top negotiator agreed to. Gov. Spitzer can restore integrity and competence by shaking up the MTA's management, starting with Kalikow.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Row E voters speak

Here's what New Yorkers had to say about voting on Row E:
"If you're in New York, I hope you'll vote on the Working Families Party line - they support the most progressive candidates, and are certainly more in line with my values than the Democratic party is."
"Do vote along the Working Families Party line - it's like making your vote count an extra little bit."
"we can vote for Democrats here, but remind them that our vote is for a more progressive agenda by pulling the levers under the heading for the Working Families Party."
"If you're in New York, where the major races are all a given, consider voting for the Democratic candidate on the Working Families Party line. It still counts for the Democrat, but sends the message that your support for them is based on their support for the WFP platform: funding public education, universal health care, affordable housing and ending the war"
"may we suggest you vote for your candidates on the Working Families Party line, Row E, rather than the usual major party line. The WFP vets all candidates, and endorses those that are most likely to fight for fair housing, employment, healthcare, and schools for everyone"
"Vote on the Working Families Party's Line E to show we want Progressive Change"
"for each Democrat candidate I voted for, my ballot was cast for the Working Families party"
"The WFP endorses candidates who support their platform . . . I for one will continue to vote WFP."
"It was the simplest election ever. I just ran right down the Working Families Party slate, and everyone whom I wanted to vote for was there. What's more, these were all people whom I've supported in the past and have actually thought about."
"Voted straight Working Families Party, pretty much. The WFP is a New York-only third party that wants to swing the Democratic party toward the left on bread-and-butter issues by cross-endorsing candidates."
"New Yorkers: I'm voting for the Democratic ticket on the Working Families line . . . By endorsing the Working Families party I am saying I support a more progressive, antiwar faction of the Democratic side. I am sending a message to Democrats that it's time to stop trying to be like Republicans."
"I did so by voting for candidates nominated by the Working Families Party."
"In New York, we have the luxury of voting for Democrats under the more progressive Working Families Party line."
"If you are in NY the cool thing to do is vote on Row E today! Yes, that is the line of the Working Families Party. You can still vote for good Democrats like Eliot Spitzer and et cetera on Row E as they are the endorsed candidates of the Working Families Party as well. That's the beauty of fusion voting folks."
Got a story to share? Post it in the comments and we'll add it to the list.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thank you. Now get ready for Day One

Thank you for all of your support this election. Working men and women took a giant step towards taking back America on Tuesday. And the members, affiliates and staff of the Working Families Party were proud to help.

You've seen the headlines. Electing Mike Arcuri to Congress was our top priority, and now he's headed there to be part of a new majority. He'll be joined by Kirsten Gillibrand and John Hall, two more candidates for whom we campaigned.

Elections matter. Sometimes they matter a lot.

The gangsters no longer control the House and Senate. Rumsfeld's history. And Bush is talking about raising the minimum wage (we'll believe it when we see it).

But that doesn't mean our work is over. As one of our flyers said, "The Republicans are awful, and our job is to make the Democrats better." To paraphrase New York's new Governor, our job starts on Day One.

Working families need stronger unions, better pay and secure pensions; our children need smaller classes; and everyone needs health care. We need to end the catastrophe that America's involvement in Iraq has become. And, yes, we need a real plan to end global warming and stop devastating our planet. Those are our values, and thank you for voting for them.

Counting third party votes is a slow process in New York. It'll take about 3 weeks to know exactly how many votes we got on Row E, but we do know that we're close to moving up to Row D.

Sometimes, individual stories paint a richer pictures of our work than the reams of data produced by 4 million pulls of a lever. Here are just a couple:
  • This is a November 4 update from our Western New York operation to elect Jack Davis:

    "Steelworkers came out tonight and went to a lot of steelworker houses. Best story of the night came from a steelworker, who said the contact wouldn't be voting. The steelworker told the contact at the door that he was on strike and out there working on this race because he knows it's important to the survival of the workers. The contact flipped to say I will vote for Jack Davis on the Working Families line."

    We didn't take out Davis's opponent, Tom Reynolds, but we helped remove enough of his Republican cronies that there is new hope for steelworkers and teachers and autoworkers and nurses and early childhood educators all across New York.

  • Not every voter contact was so favorable. On the first night of our door-to-door operation in the 24th district, where our independent expenditure for Mike Arcuri helped elect him, one of our crew knocked, unknowingly, on the door of the candidate's girlfriend. She was so startled that she called the cops on the young man at the door (because our effort was an independent expenditure, the Arcuri folks were unaware our canvass was starting).

    But quite a change six weeks later: another WFP canvasser in the same district knocked (again, unknowingly) on the door of Arcuri's aunt and uncle. Like 30,000 other independents in the district, they had received six pieces of WFP direct mail for Arcuri. And they happily said they would vote for Mike Arcuri on the Working Families line.

  • The WFP also mounted a successful effort for Kirsten Gillibrand in the 20th district that began with radio ads criticizing her opponent, incumbent Republican John Sweeney, for refusing to support an increase in the minimum wage unless it was accompanied by a tax cut for the super-wealthy. When we sent out an email about the radio ad, imagine our surprise when Kirsten Gillibrand herself responded with a $100 online contribution.

  • On Election Day, the Times Union posted a report on its web site that, "The Rensselaer County Board of Elections is expecting a more than 60 percent turnout in the county and the only problem so far has been activists with the Working Families Party urging people to vote for their candidates." In Manhattan, a New York magazine blog entry noted that the only volunteer posted outside a usually quite busy West Village poll site was "a lone working Families Party regular."

  • Working Families members are typically gung ho (some would use a stronger phrase) about voting the party line, but they never let politics get in the way of principle. And the number one principle this year was taking back Congress. Because of a quirk in election law, the candidate challenging Republican incumbent Sue Kelly in the 19th district, John Hall, did not appear on the WFP ballot line. That produced a first-of-its-kind palmcard in the 19th District urging a vote first "for John Hall on Row B," and then for everyone else on "Row E." We're proud to note that John Hall won.

  • And last, our policy director Josh Mason reports:

    "I was standing outside a poll site distributing palm cards when a man passes by and says, 'Working Families? My mom always says, when you don't know who to vote for, vote Working Families.'"
Now we're going to take a deep breath. Maybe get a little a rest this weekend. And get ready to fight tomorrow. For our values. Because it's Day One.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"We're Doing Our Job"

WFP Capital District Co-Chair Karen Scharff sends in this link to a "field report" posted by the Albany Times Union. Apparently "over-eager" WFP volunteers are actually trying to persuade voters at Rensselaer County poll sites to vote on Row E. Scharff says, "We're doing our job!"
Election Day voting steady
Few polling place miscues, overeager campaigning in spots
The escalating tension and drama of this election season seemed to drift away with this morning's cool winds, replaced by anticipation for the results.

Election officials across the Capital Region reported few, if any, voting problems. And the candidates themselves were squeezing in last-minute campaigning - leaving little time for new accusations.

Confusion over polling places, somewhat fueled by the national political parties' automated calls on Monday, drove busy days at the various county Boards of Election. And in Rensselaer County, election officials fielded complaints of over-eager campaigning by the Working Families Party.

Otherwise, most polling places reported steady turnout.


In Rensselaer County:

The Rensselaer County Board of Elections is expecting a more than 60 percent turnout in the county and the only problem so far has been activists with the Working Families Party urging people to vote for their candidates.

"We have been flooded with complaints that their people are bothering people going to the polls, talking to them even as they are getting out of their cars,'' said Democratic Election Commissioner Ed McDonough.

Officials have gone to the polls to check out the activity and found that the party workers are not violating any election laws and are staying the required distance from the polling place. "They are just more aggressive than usual,'' McDonough said.

The reason could be the party needs at least 50,000 votes on their lines statewide to retain their ballot status for another four years.

Election Day Photos (via Flickr)

The Poll That Guided the WFP's "Take Back Congress" Strategy

Six weeks ago, the New York and Connecticut Working Families Party conducted a surveye400 independent voters, half in NY-24 and half in CT-5. The survey results guided the two parties' strategies in their independent expenditure efforts in those two districts, as well as the NY WFP programs in NY-20 and NY-29. The strategy is reflected in the direct mail posted on the NY WFP web site here.

Here, for the first time, is the internal summary of the poll results:






RE: NY24/CT5 Message Development Poll

DATE: October 2, 2006

This memo summarizes the results of the poll we conducted among independent voters in NY-24 and CT-5, focusing on the implications for direct mail messaging. (Independent voters here means registered voters not enrolled in any political party or, in New York, enrolled in the Independence Party).


I believe the following are the most important bits of learning for our messaging to independent voters in NY24 and CT5:

1. A significant chunk of independent voters embrace a very progressive set of issue positions (sixty to eighty percent of our target “agree 100%” with universal health care, more progressive taxation, jobs for Americans and raising the minimum wage).

2. A substantial portion of the target group has chosen their unaffiliated status because they are “independent,” or care about “candidates, not political parties.” Our messaging must grapple with the conundrum of persuading voters who vote for candidates, not parties, to vote on a particular party line.

3. At the same time, the best reason to vote WFP is to express your personal values (“vote your values”).

4. Majorities of voters willing to consider voting WFP believe that the major parties only pay lip service to issues like jobs for working people, but the hostility is significantly more pronounced to the Republican Party than the Democratic Party.


Four hundred voters were interviewed, half from each of the two congressional districts. The following screens were applied:

· Only voters who said there were “definitely” or “probably” going to vote in the November general election were included.

o Among NY-24 voters only, the sample was limited to voters with a voter-file history of voting in at least of one of the last two general elections. (Insufficient voting history was available to use this limitation for the CT-5 segment of the sample).

· Voters who said they were “definitely” going to vote for the Republican candidate were excluded.

The telephone interviews were conducted over four days, from September 28-October 1, 2006.

The final data was weighted to reflect the gender and age mix of the projected electorate for each congressional district, and, for New York, was weighted to reflect the mix of “blank” and Independence Party registrants.


Respondents were asked if how much they agreed with seven issue propositions (using a scale of 100%, 75%, 50%, 25% or 0% agreement). The following four issues outperformed the bottom three among voters who said they would definitely or probably consider voting for a candidate o the WFP line:

· Fairer taxes

· Universal health care

· Raising the minimum wage

· Trade


100% Agree

All Respondents

NY-24 – Open to Voting WFP

CT-5 – Open to Voting WFP

Working people are paying more than their fair share of taxes. Congress should make taxes fairer, so that working families get tax relief first, instead of big corporations and millionaires




Americans have a right to health care they can afford. Congress should make sure every American has guaranteed health care.




An honest day’s work should be rewarded with an honest day’s pay. Congress should raise the minimum wage.




We should keep good jobs in America, not send them overseas to China. Congress should stop passing unfair trade agreements that cost Americans jobs.




Every American has the right to a secure retirement. Congress should not privatize Social Security.




America should go to war as a last resort, not as a first choice. It’s time for Congress to start bringing the troops back home from Iraq.




Everyone should be able to go to college. Congress should make college tuition affordable for every high school graduate.




How to Talk About Democrats and Republicans

Respondents were asked how much they agreed with about a dozen different descriptions of the Democratic and Republican parties (using a scale of 100%, 75%, 50%, 25% or 0% agreement). The top-scoring descriptions among voters who said they definitely or probably consider voting for a cross-endorsed candidate on the WFP line were:

· I think the Republicans care a lot more about big business interests than the problems of working people.”

· Both Democrats and Republicans say that they are for jobs. But both parties have stood by as hundreds of thousands of good jobs have left the country because of foreign outsourcing.”

· Most politicians say they care about working families, but they really only care about getting re-elected.


100% Agree

All Respondents

NY-24 – Open to Voting WFP

CT-5 – Open to Voting WFP

21. I think the Republicans care a lot more about big business interests than the problems of working people.




29. Both Democrats and Republicans say that they are for jobs. But both parties have stood by as hundreds of thousands of good jobs have left the country because of foreign outsourcing.




18. Most politicians say they care about working families, but they really only care about getting re-elected.




23. The Republicans have been in power too long. They’ve gotten too close to the lobbyists.




20. I don’t feel like I can trust the Republicans anymore




27. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are tackling the problems that matter to me.




22. I don’t think Republicans in Congress share my values.




25. The Democrats have their own special interests




26. I’m not 100% sure what the Democrats in Washington stand for.




17. The Republican Party has become too conservative.




19. The Republicans were always the ones that valued work, but I don’t think they do anymore.




24. The Democrats are good on pocketbook issues that affect people like me. I just wish they wouldn’t get distracted with some of the other issues.




28. The Democrats have lost touch with the values of ordinary working families.




Disparaging statements that singled out the Democratic Party scored less well. Only the following statements obtained 75% or 100% agreement from more than half of voters who said they were at least probably willing to consider voting on the WFP line:

· I'm not 100% sure what the Democrats in Washington stand for.” (33% agree one hundred percent, 24% agree seventy-five percent)

· The Democrats have their own special interests.” (36% agree one hundred percent, 21% agree seventy-five percent)

The distinction that independent voters make between the Democratic and Republican Parties is foreshadowed by two early questions in the survey that ask respondents whether they hold a favorable or unfavorable (very/somewhat) view of each majority party. The Democrats do substantially better. Roughly two-thirds of our target holds a favorable view of the Democrats. Almost the same proportion holds an unfavorable view of the Republicans.

(Recall again that our survey sample excludes hard-yeses for the Republican candidates.)

Democratic Party

Republican Party

Strongly Favorable

Favorable / Unfavorable

Strongly Favorable

Favorable / Unfavorable






NY24 – open to WFP





CT5 – open to WFP





WFP Rationale

In order to ascertain why voters might be inclined (or how voters might be persuaded) to vote on the WFP line, survey respondents were asked:

The Working Families Party emphasizes issues like jobs, health care and education. Which of the following reasons is the best reason to vote for a candidate running on the Working Families Party line?

To send a message to the major party candidates on a specific issue

To vote your values by supporting a candidate or party that truly reflects your values

To make sure you’re not taken for granted, and your issues are not ignored.”

“Vote your values” performed best.

WFP Rationale

All Respondents

NY-24 – Open to Voting WFP

CT-5 – Open to Voting WFP

“… send a message…”




“… vote your values …”




“…make sure you’re not taken for granted…”




As we have seen in focus group research, voters have a harder time grasping the notion that the act of voting on the WFP line “sends a message,” or are not persuaded that their message will be heard.


On preliminary analysis, the survey yields very little data that would be useful for targeting. No subgroup was statistically significantly more likely to be willing to consider voting on the WFP line, other than:

· Lower-income Connecticut voters (<$30k and $30-50k)

· In New York, blanks compared to Independence party registrants.

The results have not yet been analyzed by geographic segments within the districts.


A few additional findings are noteworthy:

Why are Independents independent? We asked respondents to say in their own words the most important reason they did not enroll as a member of a political party. Responses were then fit into one of 11 codes.


Among All Respondents



Open to Voting WFP

Don’t like either major party (the Democrats and the Republicans)





Privacy/Don’t want anyone to know





More conservative than either major political party





More liberal than either major political party





I am Independent





Lazy/Don’t want to bother

Less than 1%




My family (parents or spouse)



Less than 1%


I vote for/care about candidates, not political parties





I don’t care about/not interested in political parties





I don’t like to belong to anything.





Not interested in politics