Yesterday someone asked me if Blue America is cracking the whip on the candidates we raised money for during the election cycle to make them oppose cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Cracking the whip? On who? Bernie Sanders? Tammy Baldwin? Elizabeth Warren? Alan Grayson? We didn't back candidates who need whips cracked to get them to fight to protect working families. We backed candidates who were running so they could protect working families. Let me start with our old friend, Matt Cartwright, who ran against corrupt corporate shill and Blue Dog Tim Holden and whipped his ass in the primary. Matt is now the Congressman-elect from PA-17. Matt is the quintessential example of why Blue America doesn't have to remind any of the candidates we backed to stand up for working families. This is why we backed him when others hung back and when Steny Hoyer was hysterical about "party loyalty." Please read what he told me this morning very carefully:
I live in a part of the world where we have a culture of standing up to the powerful forces that would make serfs of working men and women if they could. Permit me to quote one of my heroes, a trial lawyer named Clarence Darrow, who spoke these words almost 110 years ago, in February, 1903, to begin his closing argument on behalf of the miners in the Pennsylvania Anthracite Coal Mine Strike case of 1902-3:
I know that it is not true. I have too much respect for the State of Pennsylvania, I have too much respect for any body of my fellow men wherever they live, to believe that any great mass of them have turned into criminals and cut-throats, excepting for some cause that drives them to it. These are men, men like any others, men who, in the midst of sorrow, travail, and a severe and cruel crisis, demeaned themselves as nobly, as bravely, as loyally as any body of men who ever lived and suffered and died for the benefit of the generations that are yet to come.
We have had a six months strike. We have had a three months arbitration. We have had a condition in Pennsylvania where man was set against man, family against family, class against class. We have had a body of wealthy and respected gentlemen… who stood against the tide of progress and who boldly said to those in their employ, we will do nothing, we will pay you no higher wages, we will not submit your disputes to any body of men either secular or clerical, we will post our notices upon our doors and that shall be your contract. We give you notice that for one year your wages are so and so and that is all. We have seen, as a consequence of this act, one hundred and forty-seven thousand men lay down their tools of trade and we have seen seven hundred and fifty thousand men, women and children reduced to want and starvation for six long months.
This is the place I’ve worked my whole adult life. Reminding me to stand up for working families is like reminding me to breathe.
GRAYSON: Well, we went to Walmart to hand out Thanksgiving dinners to them because they had to work on their Thanksgiving. They couldn’t be with their families. So we brought a bag; the bag had three things in it. A turkey sandwich, because it was Thanksgiving. A bag of chips. And a letter explaining to them their rights to organize.
COSTELLO: So the cops were called? What did the cops do when they arrived? Tell us about that.
GRAYSON: Well, it was the security staff. Walmart always has security staff around. Once they saw that we were handing out the bags, they objected to that, asked us to leave, and we left. The security staff simply escorted us, as they often do. But the important thing is we showed the workers, first of all, what their rights are, because Walmart tries to keep them in the dark. And we showed them that they’re not alone, that people actually care. That we want the working poor to have a better life in America.
COSTELLO: You posted a letter on your Facebook page and you wrote this: “Walmart accounts for more than 10% of all the retail sales in the United States. It is the largest private employer in the world, with more than two million employees. And even though those employees comprise barely ten percent of its cost of doing business, Walmart exploits them mercilessly. Now Walmart employees are starting to organize, starting to fight back.” I had a conversation at dinner last night with someone who says, “Hey if you don’t like working at Walmart, get another job.”
And the fact is that they don’t [live solely on that], because the taxpayers end up subsidizing them. Because Walmart underpays them, the taxpayers end up paying for their Medicaid. Because Walmart underpays them, the taxpayers end up paying for their food stamps. In fact, each Walmart associate costs the taxpayers over $1,000, and it is time to end that. Walmart needs to pay for its own employees, and give them a living wage.
The minimum wage needs to be higher. Walmart and other employers need to pick up the tab on health insurance and health coverage for their own employees, and stop handing that tab off to the taxpayers.
COSTELLO: When many of those protests happened on Black Friday, we noticed that not a lot of workers comprised the big crowds. It was mostly union people, community leaders, and a few Walmart workers. Some might say that really the unions are behind this, the employees aren’t behind this so much.
GRAYSON: Well, in fact, at one Walmart not too long ago, 200 Walmart employees walked out, and shut down the store. But the Walmart employees in general are afraid. They’re being intimidated. They’re being told in many cases, “If you even talk about a union, you’ll be fired.” Here in Orlando, one of the employees who talked about a union was fired. He came back a few days later just to talk to his former employees, his former staff, his former colleagues, and they led him off the premises in handcuffs, in a way that everyone else could see. So these employees are being intimidated. They want to help. They want to join. They want to make their lives better, but Walmart is doing everything it can to prevent that.
COSTELLO: Well, frankly it seems like Walmart is winning. It had one of its biggest Black Fridays ever. It didn’t stop people from shopping, these protests.
GRAYSON: The protests are not meant to stop people from shopping. The protests are meant to inform workers of their rights to organize under the law and under the Constitution. And to make sure that they understand that they’re not alone, and they will be protected if they exercise their rights. It’s not meant to raise prices. It’s not meant to interfere with shopping. It’s meant to organize people who desperately need to be organized, to make a better life for themselves.
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