Aren’t Dinosaurs Just Jesus Ponies?

21 Jul

logo smallThat was the question of the week on the Wrong About Everything podcast, asked by Denise Cardinal when talking about crazy Minnesota House candidate Bob Frey‘s even crazier theories about evolution and the coexistence of humans (to the present!). If you haven’t followed the story, get your patoot over to Bluestem Prairie.  The blogger who runs that site insists she’s a crabby old hag, but we think she should at least add “researcher extraordinaire” to that title somewhere. She has all kinds of good stuff up about not just Frey’s crazy theories about evolution and the origin of AIDS but also how he screwed over homeowners for a living. What a guy!

MNGOP House Candidate with his Jesus Pony femur

MNGOP House Candidate with his Jesus Pony femur

Also on the podcast, we talk about Hillary’s book tour, Elizabeth Warren at Netroots, the Republican boys blather on about coal (ie., they explain why they hate the Earth), and we do a Know Your Government segment that uncovers the deep dark secrets of the Met Council (GOP panelist Brian McDaniel is a former black-booted thug appointee to the unelected SuperGovernment Council under Governor Pawlenty).

Wrong About Everything, Episode 7

14 Jul

20140702-085531-32131345.jpgIn this week’s episode, we get serious about the border crisis and then very unserious about the Ghost of Sexting Presidents Past, Minnesota Republican Candidates Gone Wilde & much more.

Download the latest edition of Wrong About Everthing here.

Interview with Chipsterlife

13 Jul
Chipsterlife

Chipsterlife

Chipsterlife – which, by the way, is the best name for a Latino podcast, ever – interviewed me this week. Filiberto is another recovering academic doing social justice work, and his podcast is pretty cool. You can listen to the podcast here.  His synopsis:

Based in Minneapolis, SEIU Local 26 under the leadership of Javier Morillo-Alicea has been at the center of the fight to defend low wage workers against increasing wage disparities in our economy and society. Most recently Mr. Morillo-Alicea was arrested at the Minneapolis Airport,

“13 people, including leaders in the disability rights community, community activists, and SEIU Local 26 President Javier Morillo-Alicea were arrested today at the Minneapolis-St. Paul  (MSP) International Airport in an act of peaceful civil disobedience. The arrestees were highlighting the poor conditions facing passengers with disabilities and elderly travelers, a consequence of the poverty wages and lack of resources provided to the workers sub-contracted by Delta Airlines to provide wheelchair and electric cart service.”

http://seiumn.org/2014/06/16/disability-rights-advocates-among-13-arrested-in-civil-disobedience-at-msp-airport/

Our conversation was a wide ranging one discussing Mr. Morillo-Alicea’s vision for change and the relationship between SEIU and low wage worker center CTUL and the role in general of worker centers in the fight for a better economy. We also discuss his flooded office, as Mr Morillo Alicea describes in his own words, “The river has flooded into the basement at Local 26. Bring your bathing suits everyone!”


He also participates in a podcast, “Wrong About Everything is a fun, irreverent and bipartisan podcast focused on Minnesota politics. “

 

Wrong About Everything is now on iTunes

8 Jul

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We either made it, or their standards are really really low.  Who cares ?  We’re on iTunes!  You can download it there.

Talking is easier than writing… Or I have a podcast!

2 Jul 20140702-085531-32131345.jpg

20140702-084444-31484150.jpg“Wrong About Everything,” a fun, irreverent and bipartisan look at Minnesota politics, launched a few weeks ago. It features two progressives (me and Denise Cardinal, the founding Executive Director of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota. She crushes Republicans for a living. The two Republicans are Brian McDaniel , a bear Republican lobbyist with a potty mouth and Mike Franklin, a GOP political operative who we settled for when we couldn’t find a funny Republican woman.

In our most recent episode, we talk about President Obama’s visit to Minnesota, the Pew Institute’s poll on political polarization in the country, GOP candidates’ hair, and the group gangs up on me with hateful musical selections.

Comment there or on our Facebook page . Tell is what you think and what topics you’d like us to cover. We have some exciting announcements coming up about the podcast, so stay tuned!

Minimum Wage & Movement Politics: On the Fight For Indexing

22 Mar

This past Thursday the four locals of SEIU in Minnesota held our annual lobby day at the Capitol. The top lobbying priority for SEIU members talked to their elected representatives about is raising the state’s minimum wage and indexing that increase to inflation.  I emceed a rally that capped off our day in Saint Paul and quickly learned it is not easy to come up with a union chant that rhymes with “Index.”  I settled for probably the weirdest and wonkiest chant heard at the Capitol in a while: “What do we want? MINIMUM WAGE! How do we want it? INDEXED!”

On the surface, the fight for indexing the minimum wage –  ensuring that the increase that is passed becomes a base and that future increases match inflation–might seem a bit in the weeds. I have heard suggestions that “most people don’t understand it, so what’s the harm in just passing the $9.50 alone?”

After the rally, I was asked by someone pretty high up in state government if indexing was a line in the sand for the coalition. The person asked, “Can we take a victory and live to fight another day?”  This is actually a really good question.  I am one who often argues that, when it comes to politics, let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Raise the Wage - INDEXEDSo why is the fight for indexing so important that the Raise the Wage Coalition has kept the charge going?  To answer this, it would be helpful to remind ourselves what it is we talk about when we talk about the minimum wage.

No one can dispute that, even if we raise the wage to $9.50, that does not get a full-time worker supporting a family out of poverty according to the federal government’s own definition of poverty.   What we are arguing about, friends, is a floor.

Now think about the effort that has been put together to convince a DFL legislature to pass a bill.  Last year the Senate passed a bill for with a $7.75 an hour wage, which would have put us barely past conforming with the federal minimum wage (right now, Minnesota’s minimum wage is significantly lower than the federal minimum wage). To get them to move to $9.50 Minnesotans across the state mobilized to make their voices heard.  Oh, and the president and governor of the same party as the Senate’s majority set the bar even higher than $9.50.

Some of the best organizing and policy minds in the state are intensely focused right now on passing this minimum wage bill.  The Raise the Wage Coalition has been impressively co-chaired by Shar Knutson of the AFL-CIO, Peggy Flanagan of the Minnesota Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), and Brian Rusche of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC). The people moving phone banks, working at the Capitol and on weekends in districts, generating emails and calls to legislators — these are leaders of some of the most important social justice organizations in the state — non-profits like CDF, the Wilder Foundation, and many more; clergy and faith groups like the JRLC, which unites Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim entities, as well as ISAIAH’s coalition of over 100 churches; community organizations like Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Take Action Minnesta and many more; unions like Education Minnesota, AFSCME, SEIU, the AFL-CIO’S state and regional federations, and many more.

The best organizers of the social justice movement in Minnesota are working tirelessly for this minimum wage increase, as we must. It is an impressive operation, but we cannot forget what it is we talk about the minimum wage.  The best minds of the social justice movement in Minnesota are immersed in a debate about the floor. Our best organizers, leaders and policy thinkers are debating essentially how poor we as a society are willing to let workers live.

This is not the visionary work a movement for social justice.  Again, this work is essential and we should all be proud of the collective effort, but let’s not kid ourselves about what we are doing here.  The heavy lift everyone is undertaking is to debate a freaking floor.  A Minimum. Can you imagine if all of that effort were directed at rebuilding the wealth of communities that was extracted as a result of the financial crisis?  Can you imagine if we as a movement were focused not on debating minimum wages but instead asking what we are going to do as a society about those making maximum wages, the CEOs whose salaries are so out of whack in this country?  What if we were all focused on offense, on fights that take head-on the growing gap between the richest in the country and the rest of us?  What if we were debating how we bring more prosperity instead of how low we can go?

Now that would be a movement.

Dorkiest Chant Ever. "What do We Want? MINIMUM WAGE! How do we want it? INDEXED!"

Dorkiest Chant Ever. “What do We Want? MINIMUM WAGE! How do we want it? INDEXED!”

THIS IS WHY WE NEED INDEXING. 

So the working poor do not have to see the power of their dollar diminish year after year

So we do not have to keep fighting this battle every few years.

And, for God’s sakes, so our most talented organizers and thousands of grassroots activists don’t have to move heaven and earth to accomplish small vision wins and can instead focus on the transformational victories working people in this country long for and desperately need.

We Can Do This.  We Will Do This.

There are encouraging signs.  We know the grassroots mobilization has had an impact.  We hear it from legislative aides exhausted from taking calls and answering emails.  We hear it from legislators themselves, some of whom are thrilled and some of whom are annoyed and say things like “you’re only hurting yourselves” (pro tip: a sign you’re winning).

The legislature just passed and the governor signed a tax bill that, in addition to reducing taxes on many middle and working class folks, also happens to reduce the amount the very wealthy in our state pay in gift and estate taxes.  The tax bill passed with a lot of urgency and fanfare.

Let’s apply the same urgency to getting this done so we can focus on transformational work.

I know we’re going to win this.  The people who mobilized are going to win this.  Let’s get this done and then harness that energy and move on to truly transformational work.

Minimum Rage: Update & What You Can Do

10 Mar

The Minimum Wage Conference Committee will meet this evening.  Below there is a list of ways you can help keep up the pressure to pass a $9.50 minimum wage, INDEXED to inflation.  But first, a talking point update.

Did the Senate Move? Yes, It Did. But…

We’re hearing that Senators feel like they haven’t been given adequate credit for moving from their original position of $7.75 to the House’s offer of $9.50 an hour.

Here is what is not to say when you call your State Senator, true as it may be

Seriously? Let’s set aside for a second the fact that the bill the Senate passed last year was embarrassing even then.  The $7.75 was barely better than the some Republicans’ position of simply conforming to the federal minimum wage.  What has happened between then and now?

Governor Dayton: "I'll settle for $9.50"

Governor Dayton: “I’ll settle for $9.50″

For one, Governor Dayton has talked about the $9.50 as a floor. “I’d settle for $9.50,” he has said.  Oh, and nationally, the President of the United States made the minimum wage a centerpiece of his State of the Union address, praising Minnesota company Punch Pizza for raising its entry wage to $10 an hour.  And then he signed an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay a $10.10 hourly minimum wage, an idea put forward by Minnesota’s own progressive champion Congressman Keith Ellison.

Did the Senate move? Well, yes, if we define “move” as catching up to the rest of the nation and state.

Now that you’ve got that out of your system…

Here is what you should when calling your Senator:

“Thank you for moving to the house’s $9.50.  Now let’s find a compromise that includes indexing the minimum wage to inflation and get this done!”

STATE OF PLAY

The issue holding up a bargain remains the question of indexing the minimum wage to inflation so that (a) the working poor do not see the value of their dollar decrease year after year and (b) we do not have to keep revisiting this political battle.

There has been some movement over in the Senate, with one Senator previously thought to be a hard no on indexing, Melisa Franzen, stating in a public forum that she is open to the idea.  That is a far cry from the line in the sand leadership had drawn, and that is a good sign. We hear there are several other Senators who feel the same way — that indexing is but one part of the final package and they are open to it as part of the solution that gets a deal done.

Senator Chris Eaton (DFL-40) Senate Conference Committee Chair  (651) 296-8869

Senator Chris Eaton (DFL-40) Senate Conference Committee Chair (651) 296-8869

WHAT YOU CAN DO
From 1 to 5pm TODAY (Monday), in advance of this evening’s conference committee, SEIU, TakeAction, ISAIAH, NOC and others will be running a phonebank to reach voters and patch through their calls to Senators. If you can spare a couple hours this afternoon, email Kevin Hippert at khippert@seiumn.org for details about the phonebank.

But you don’t have to go there to call your Senator. It is especially important that conference committee members hear from their own constituents.  Call them and politely ask them to support you, their constituent, and not the official leadership position.  The conferees are important enough to getting this done that even if you do not live in those districts you can stand to give them a call.

Senator Hayden

Senator Jeff Hayden, Asst Majority Leader & Conference Committee Member; (651) 296-4261 sen.jeff.hayden@senate.mnm their constituents. If your State Senator is Chris Eaton (SD-40 Brooklyn Park & Center areas), Senator Jeff Hayden (SD 62 – south Minneapolis), or Senator David Tomassoni (SD-06 Itasica- St. Louis counties), PLEASE CALL THEM. Politely ask that they represent you, their constituent, and not the leadership position on a minimum wage indexed to inflation.

Others Senators should hear principally from their own constituents.  Go here to find your Senator, and then do not forget to update the people’s Whip Count at Bluestem Prairie.

MUCH MORE TO COME!

If the conference committee does not finish its work tonight, there is a lot more fun to come.  DFL Senate District

Senator David Tomassoni, Conference Committee Member,(651) 296-8017; sen.david.tomassoni@senate.mn

Senator David Tomassoni, Conference Committee Member,(651) 296-8017; sen.david.tomassoni@senate.mn

Conventions are coming up, and groups like TakeAction, the AFL-CIO & SEIU and other organizations that do political work are planning to be at those in full force.  Visit the Raise the Wage (the broad coalition of faith, labor, and community groups) page for information on upcoming phonebanks across the state, and if you are a member of an organization supporting the campaign, call them to volunteer.  I know ISAIAH, TakeAction, and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, SEIU and the state AFL-CIO have a lot of activity planned, but I know there are a lot more organizations kicking it up as well.

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