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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