Saturday, February 28, 2009

Health care workers battle in Effingham for democracy

by JohnWojcik
People's Weekly World

EFFINGHAM, Ill. — Gail Warner, 39, lives in her southern Illinois “dream house,” a few miles from here. Her husband is a loan officer at a local bank. Her son, who will turn 15 in June, is a high school freshman and her daughter, 3, has been through nine surgeries to correct a birth defect.

“Up until 2005 we both voted Republican, I voted for Bush twice,” Warner told the World in an interview Feb. 23. “We always believed that we little people wouldn’t have jobs unless it was for big business and the rich providing those jobs. Everyone seemed to believe that in Effingham, a very Catholic and very Christian town. Many people, even when I was in my 20s, didn’t use credit cards. My parents never used one. It was just something you never did.”

Warner said her grandfather was a major mover in her “conservative” upbringing. She admired his “wisdom,” she said, and, as a youngster, listened to stories of how he, as a returning World War II vet, had only 25 cents in his pocket. She was proud of “grandpa’s” success as a small farmer in the region.

Warner said she always had a “gift for the gab” and was able to put her talent to use on local radio talk shows, where she was “the Republican on there supporting Dr. Laura, Rush Limbaugh, and all the rest.”

All that was prior to 2005.

Today, Warner is a union organizer for AFSCME who has spent more than three years on a picket line. She voted Nov. 4 for Barack Obama and she travelled to Chicago this month to speak to 3,000 workers who packed the Plumbers’ Hall to demonstrate support for the Employee Free Choice Act. Why the big change?

“It was a lot of things that did it,” Warner said.

“The medical bills for my daughter’s surgery, the cost of caring for her as she suffered from the immune system deficiencies that resulted from the surgeries, and having to fight health insurance companies that reject ‘pre-existing’ conditions made my blood boil. I realized how ridiculous the claims were that our private insurance system was the best in the world. If it were not for public assistance programs available, we couldn’t have taken care of my daughter.”

Warner said her job as an outpatient secretary at Heartland Human Services in Effingham was another major contributor to the shift in her thinking. “This is an agency that is supposed to be doing good works. Yet in October of 2005 they removed our benefits and made us work more hours with no extra pay. I realized that only with a union could we fight back and we won an election for representation by AFSCME in 2006. Since then, the company has refused to negotiate. After a year we went on strike and a year later we were locked out. We’ve been on the picket line ever since.”

Then she had trouble finding work. She was qualified for five positions that opened up at a new theater. The pastor of the church that funded the theater, however, was on the board of Heartland Human Services. Secretarial positions with local doctors were out of the question because of their connections to the human services agency she was trying to organize.

Another factor in her political shift was watching the effect all of this had on her husband. “He gets up at 3 a.m. and works more than a 12-hour day, enabling us to pay our mortgage. Even though he loves his job, he has to work hard to pull us through. He lies awake at night, worrying – how do we pay for the braces or for this or for that?

“I began to realize that the whole ‘trickle down’ thing was a lot of nonsense. The rich are not going to let go of anything unless there’s a fight. I understand now how Ronald Reagan’s move to bust the air controllers was the start of a whole downward spiral for workers. And I started to think about my own father in a new light.”

Warner explained that her father was a union bricklayer. “I realize now that it was his union job that made it so good for us in our childhood. He could work six months, be out the other six, and there was still enough money to give us the good living and education we got. He used to tell me that, but I wasn’t as receptive as I should have been. Now, there’s no union jobs left around here, so we have to fight.” (It was typical for bricklayers and other construction trades to be out of work during the cold winter months.)

“What about all those things grandpa taught you?” Warner was asked. “First, he got out of farming just in time – before he would have lost everything. He’s 87 now and I talked to him just before the election. He said the economy was going down the toilet and that a vote for McCain would do nothing for me. He said I should go out and vote for what’s good for me and do what’s good for me.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Chicago City Council Supports Employee Free Choice

The following resolution supporting the Employee Free Choice was passed by the Chicago City Council on February 11, 2009.

WHEREAS, in 1935, the United States Congress approved the National Labor Relations Act thereby declaring the United States’ policy to encourage the practice of collective bargaining by protecting the exercise by workers of their freedom of self-organization, association and choice of representation for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment; and

WHEREAS, the freedom to form or join a union has been internationally recognized by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a fundamental human right; and

WHEREAS, since their inception, unions have provided a better standard of living, health and pension benefits, and equal and fair treatment for all of its members; and

WHEREAS, unions also provide benefits to the communities where their members reside by strengthening the living standards, stabilizing the tax basis, and encouraging civic participation of its members in these towns and cities; and

WHEREAS, unionized employees earn on average thirty percent (30%) more than non-union employees and are sixty-three percent (63%) more likely to have employer-provided healthcare benefits; and

WHEREAS, over half of all workers in the United States, approximately sixty million (60,000,000) people, have said that they would join a union if they could; and

WHEREAS, despite laws providing for the right to choose whether to organize, employers routinely use a combination of tactics (both legal and some illegal) in order to silence employees who attempt to form unions and bargain for better wages and working conditions; and

WHEREAS, when faced with organizing drives, one quarter of employers fire at least one (1) pro-union worker; over half of all employers threaten to close a worksite if the union prevails; and approximately ninety-one percent (91%) of employers force their employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with their supervisors; and
WHEREAS, when the rights of workers to form a union are violated, wages decline, race and gender pay gaps widen, workplace discrimination increases, and job safety standards lapse; and

WHEREAS, as a result of these behaviors by employers throughout the country, lawmakers and policymakers have introduced the Employee Free Choice Act into the United States Congress in order to restore workers’ freedom to join unions; and

WHEREAS, the City of Chicago has a long history in supporting the efforts of the common working man and woman and is well known as a Pro-Union Town; and

WHEREAS, the Chicago City Council has determined that, in order to protect the residents of Chicago and to ensure the economic well-being of the City, it must ensure that all employers in the City of Chicago permit and allow for its employees to freely form, join or assist labor organizations; now therefore

BE IT RESOLVED, That we, the Mayor and Members of the City Council of the City of Chicago, do hereby memorialize the Congress of the United States to enact the Employee Free Choice Act that would protect and preserve the freedom of America’s workers to organize and join unions by authorizing the National Labor Relations Board to certify a union as the bargaining representative when a majority of employees voluntarily sign authorization cards (commonly known as “card check” recognition), providing for first contract mediation and arbitration, and establishing meaningful penalties for violations of a worker’s right to join a union; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a suitable copy of this resolution be delivered to each member of the Illinois Delegation to the United States Congress, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate, and the President of the United States, Barack H. Obama.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Iraq vet faces new battle – worker rights at home

By John Wojcik
People's Weekly World

CHICAGO — “The irony of it all – Bush got on TV and said we were in Iraq because we had to get rid of weapons of mass destruction, stop terrorism and spread democracy over there. I served my country honorably over there only to come back home to a place where, as a worker, I don’t even have the right to union representation .The companies hold all the cards. They do us serious hurt if we try to exercise our rights.”

The words were those of former U.S. Army Sgt. Jose Hill, 30, a resident of this city’s South Side and a Comcast technician who belongs to Local 21 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Hill, interviewed by the World, was among thousands of workers who rallied here Feb. 17 for a stronger labor law that would give workers a chance to exercise their rights to bargain collectively for better pay, health care benefits and retirement plans.

3000 people pack Chicago's Plumbers Hall in support of the Employee Free Choice Act. PWW photo by Pepe Lozano.
They packed the Plumbers Hall, Feb. 17, at a town hall style rally where they were joined by national labor leaders, elected officials, grassroots community and religious groups to support the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would simplify matters for workers who want to join unions.

Speakers told the cheering, chanting and foot-stomping crowd of 3,000, representing almost every union in Chicagoland, that the bill would also stimulate economic recovery by pumping more money into the economy. Union members earn, on average, 30 percent more than their non-union counterparts, are 59 percent more likely to have employer-provided health care coverage and four times more likely to have pensions.

Gail Warner, a speaker at the rally who is fighting for a union at Heartland Human Services in Effingham, Ill., told the World her story in an interview.

Gail Warner, photo courtesy of Linc Cohen AFSCME Council 31
Warner, 39, is married and has a 14-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter. She worked as a secretary at her company’s outpatient center when the workers there, in a 49-5 vote, won an election for representation by AFSCME.

“We decided to go union,” she said, “because they would always get rid of long-term workers in favor of newer people for less pay. In October of 2005 they took away benefits, made us work more hours and said ‘If you don’t like it, there’s the door.’ So we went union in January of 2006.”

Warner described how the workers spent the next 15 months trying to negotiate a contract and how the company refused to budge. “After all those months, in June, 2007, 36 of us walked out onto the picket line. They hired less qualified scabs to fill our jobs and they paid the scabs more than they paid us. That went on for a year.”

Warner described how, during that year, even some of the scabs started to suffer the same mistreatment that had been doled out to the original workers – rollbacks in pay, increases in hours and other abuses.

A year later, in June 2008, the striking workers decided to go back, hoping to continue negotiations from the inside. The company locked them out, however, and they remain on the picket line. “Heartless Human Services is what we call them,” Warner said.

“I think our case is one of the most compelling to be made for the Employee Free Choice Act,” she said. “If it were to become the law, when workers form a union, both sides would have 120 days to come to an agreement. If they couldn’t, we would go to binding arbitration. The hardships we face in Effingham would never have happened.”

At the rally and at a press conference earlier in the day, union leaders warned that business interests are spending, and will spend “many millions of dollars” to thwart passage of the Employee Free Choice Act and that they will portray union support for it as an attempt to take away the right of workers to cast a secret ballot.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” declared Roberta Lynch, a member of AFSCME, District Council 31, at the press conference. “Right now unions can be formed by card check or by secret elections but the company makes that choice. With the EFCA it will be the same but it will be the workers who make the choice.”

She heaped scorn on what she called “company concern for democracy. Do they consult workers on investment policy or on planned layoffs? Do they consult workers on even where the water cooler should be placed? Why do they have any business, whatsoever, telling workers whether they want a union.”


Monday, February 9, 2009

What's it going to take to end corruption in Illinois?

By Pepe Lozano
People's Weekly World

CHICAGO – Tainted by the dark cloud hovering over lawmakers here after the recent impeachment of former Governor Rod Blagojevich who allegedly tried to sell President Obama's former U.S. Senate seat, many wonder if Illinois is the most corrupt state in the country.

On the other hand others view the current situation as a short window of opportunity to not only examine the "culture of corruption" in city, county and state government but also as the moment to build a broad coalition of support for reform.

At a recent panel, "20 ways to stop corruption in Illinois," speakers addressed the systemic problem of scandals that have been part of the state's politics for a century and a half.

Carlos Hernandez Gomez, Chicagoland's Television political reporter, moderated the event and said that although Illinois is modeled as the land of President Abraham Lincoln whose 200th birthday will be celebrated this month, the reality is that it has become the "land of the deal."

'"It's just politics,' is the saying," said Gomez. Because of the impeachment of Balgojevich a new level of corruption and a culture of "pay-to-play" politics has risen to new heights, he added. Gomez recalled that five of the last eight Illinois governors have faced federal charges.

Dick Simpson, professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago and former 44th Ward alderman, said 30 aldermen have gone to jail since 1970.

According to a report released by Simpson, "Curing Corruption in Illinois," there have been three governors before Blagojevich, state legislators, two congressmen, 19 Cook County judges, and other statewide officials convicted of corruption since 1972. Altogether there have been 1,000 public officials and businessmen convicted since 1970.

In Simpson's report machine politics and corruption have been directly linked ever since the late 1860s, following the civil war and the Great Chicago Fire. Corruption schemes began when Chicago's large immigrant population settled in Chicago and had difficulties getting jobs. Millions of Irish, German, Jewish, and Slavic immigrants would visit local elected officials for housing and work, making public offices into the market for jobs, contracts, and a place to reward "friends."

Such offers and transactions made it easy for the political machine to grow in power by responding to citizen demands and requesting political support in return. In many cases the machine continued to expand a system based on the politics of personal obligation. Businessmen also thrived on the system, paying bribes in order to get lucrative contracts from the city and avoid city inspectors. Eventually politics in the state followed Chicago's pattern.

There are many different forms of fraud but they all come from the school of corruption, namely the history of machine politics survived and modernized by Mayor Richard J. Daley and now spearheaded, many feel, by his son Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Chicago's current political machine, led by Democrats, has simply adjusted to draw much of its power from interest groups, corporations, unions, and the global economy, says Simpson's report. At the heart of most convictions of aldermen in City Hall is a pattern of payoffs for a zoning change, a building permit, or some other license necessary to do business.

Although many aides of the present Mayor Daley have been convicted of corruption, neither father nor son has ever been indicted. Yet corruption continues unabated in city, county, suburban and state politics today.

The underlying problem is machine politics in both the city and state, said Simpson

"There is no silver bullet to end political corruption, but a comprehensive program needs to be passed," noted Simpson. He added that a recent Joyce Foundation public opinion poll shows more than 60 percent of Illinois residents say corruption is one of their top concerns, even more than the economy or jobs. The poll indicates that more than 70 percent favor a number of specific reforms, including limits on campaign money lawmakers contribute to other legislative candidates.

"Its more than passing another law or getting another leader elected," said Simpson. The problem is cultural, he said. Civics education should be taught in high school that instills there is a proper way to govern at the expense of corruption, he added.

Chicago City Clerk Miguel Del Valle and former state senator was the product of an independent political movement for progressive change during the early 1980s under Mayor Harold Washington's historic administration. Del Valle was one of the speakers.

"These days you either have to be rich or mingle with the rich or come from a political family to run for office," said Del Valle. What it comes down to is that you need a lot of money to run for office, he pointed out. So the question arises how do you raise that money and where does most of it come from, he asked.

Del Valle alluded to the fact that in politics there is a structure of power and money and in many cases money will influence the candidates voting record. "And there are always certain expectations," he said.

One after another the panelists agreed that there is an opportunity right now to clean up politics as usual, including setting limits on campaign financing. Internal enforcement that is led by a comprehensive program to weed out the likelihood of improper deal making or the politics of "personal favors" is also required, said the panelists.

Overall limits and restrictions on the system of campaign fundraising including personal contributions to political entities should be enforced so that bribery-extortion schemes are eradicated. Imposing higher standards, proper ethics, transparency and good, clean, honest messages when running for public office should be imposed or encouraged, they said.

For Cindi Canary with the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the main issue in ending corruption lies at the heart of fighting for social justice.

"Because in reality those who can't afford the least get hurt the most," said Canary.

"We need to make meaningful information readily available to millions of voters across the state," noted Canary. "We need the pieces to be put together that will help us decide who really serves the best interests of the public."

Canary said that voters and the public need to stay up to date on what's happening in their communities and play a more active role in what decisions are being made on their behalf.

"We need to make some noise – some outrage and people need to speak out, share our ideas to make them hear us and demand that we want change to come," said Canary.

Canary said everyday people should keep our eyes on the prize and the bigger vision for change. "In politics you're never really done with democracy. It's a full time job," she said.

Recently Illinois Governor Pat Quinn appointed attorney Patrick Collins as chair of an ethics commission that will work to set concrete proposals in order to reform state politics.

Collins, a member of the panel, said a dialogue needs to occur that questions the attitude of those in public office, setting the tone for who should serve.

"Folks who do not want true reform will not change the debate, so we need people who will propose bold decisions that incorporates people from all parts of life," said Collins.

"The time is now," said Collins. "We need smart meaningful reform."

For more detailed information about recent reports or proposals made by the panelists go to; Curing Corruption in Illinois: Anti-Corruption Report Number 1 –, The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform – and

Friday, February 6, 2009

Race to fill congressional seat draws wide attention

By John Bachtell
People's Weekly World

CHICAGO — The special election to fill the congressional seat vacated by new White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has generated widespread interest here. Nowhere was that more evident when over 550 people jammed into a Super Bowl Sunday candidate forum at DePaul University, Feb. 1. Another 100 people, prevented from entering by fire marshals, listened to a live broadcast by the local Air America affiliate.

The primary election for the 5th Congressional District on Chicago’s North Side will be March 3. A special general election is slated for April 7.

Intense grassroots interest could negate the effect of a still powerful Chicago “machine” in the district.

There are 24 candidates out of three parties running in the primary. A voter will have the choice of asking for a Democratic, Green or Republican ballot. There are 13 Democrats, five Greens and six Republicans running in the primary. It is widely expected that whoever wins the Democratic primary will win the April 7 general election. Many commentators have said that regardless of which of the leading Democrats wins the primary, the district will have a progressive voice in Congress.

The DePaul University forum featured 11 of the 13 Democratic candidates and focused on solutions to the economic crisis, single-payer health care, support for gay rights and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. All the candidates expressed strong support for the Obama stimulus plan, although some felt it didn’t go far enough; all support the Employee Free Choice Act; all support some form of universal health care, although not all support a single-payer model; and most support legalizing same-sex marriage and equal rights for the GLBT community. Their approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis differ somewhat.

All the candidates expressed their opposition to the privatization of Midway Airport being carried out by the administration of Mayor Richard Daley, and vowed to block it if they were elected.

Many here say the most progressive Democratic candidate is Tom Geoghegan, an author and labor lawyer who recently won a class action suit against Advocate Hospitals and who has defended, among others, the Wisconsin Steel workers in their victorious battle to win stolen pay and benefits in the 1980s. Geoghegan told the forum he is running as an independent Democrat to advance a progressive agenda, including increasing Social Security payments to make the program a real pension. He expressed strong support for single-payer health care and for federal takeover of insolvent Wall Street banks.

Geoghegan, a founding member of Chicagoans Against War and Injustice, has been endorsed by The Nation magazine, which called him the “next Paul Wellstone.”

Also running is State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, who has a big advantage in fundraising and sports a well-organized field operation. Feigenholtz has the backing of Feminist Majority, National Organization for Women and Emily’s List. She’s expected to gain the support of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Illinois Council, which would be a huge boost as SEIU has many members in the district.

Feigenholtz has gained a reputation as a champion of health care reform particularly for women and children, sponsoring the Family Health Care Bill with then-State Sen. Barack Obama, which extended health care coverage to 200,000 working people.

The Illinois Environmental Council and Sierra Club both awarded Feigenholtz a 100 percent rating.

Another candidate is State Rep. John Fritchey, whom some consider to be the candidate favored by “machine” elements. Fritchey is the son of a Moroccan immigrant mother who married his father at a Louisiana Air Force base.

At the forum, Fritchey hailed the $500 million that is expected for the Chicago Public Schools from the Obama stimulus. Fritchey has the support of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, AFSCME, Operating Engineers Local 150 and Teamsters Joint Council 25.

Fritchey “has been a good supporter for us," remarked AFSCME Council 31 President Henry Bayer recently.

Based on name recognition, some consider Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley to be the leading candidate. Quigley earned a reputation as a reformer in his battles against corruption in Cook County government. He told the forum the Obama stimulus plan would particularly help the perpetually cash-strapped Chicago Transit Authority with some of its infrastructure projects.

Quigley initiated a move to suspend county business with Bank of America during the recent Republic worker sit-in unless the bank agreed to a settlement. He has been called the “greenest” elected official in Chicago for his strong environmental stands.

Perhaps the most intriguing Democratic candidate is Jan Donatelli, a Navy veteran, Delta Airline pilot, union activist and mother of six. Donatelli describes herself as an “activist at heart.” She became interested in running for public office while volunteering in the Obama campaign. She enjoys the support of Veterans and Military Families for Progress, Delta Master Exec Council, the Airline Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants.

“I think the electorate is progressive and politicians need to catch up to the people,” Donatelli told the forum. She denounced the Midway Airport privatization, saying people’s safety should come first over profits. She called for more funding for border security, but also for a path to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented workers in the U.S.

While all the candidates acknowledged Israel’s security needs and right to exist, and supported a two-state solution for the crisis, Donatelli was the only candidate to forthrightly express a desire for a “comprehensive peace” in the Middle East and a “free and independent Palestine” alongside Israel.

Many more public forums will be held across the district in the coming weeks. The race is being conducted in an extremely compacted time frame. It appears the candidate with the strongest ground operation will have the advantage.

jbachtell @

Monday, February 2, 2009

Veterans, Families and Unionists Testify to Iraq War's True Cost

by Jonathan Allen

Chicago- Unionists, elected officials and several hundred assorted spectators gathered downtown at the Teamster City Auditorium, Saturday, January 31st, to hear testimony from Iraqi war veterans and others directly affected by the war. The hearing, entitled “War's Real Impact: Our Voices”, sought to bring attention to the hardship and suffering the war has incurred on veterans, workers, military families and students.

Testimony was heard from numerous people affected including veterans, military family members, student activists and an Iraqi trade unionist. The program was put on by the Workers Rights Board in association with Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, Chicago Jobs With Justice, US Labor Against the War, Chicago Labor for Peace, Prosperity and Justice, Committee for New Priorities, and the American Friends Service Committee. Several union locals also provided support, including the Teamsters who provided the facility.

Much of the testimony was quite heart wrenching.

Eugene Cherry joined the army at the age of nineteen in the hopes of getting money for college. Despite being a good student, he found his options in his impoverished south side neighborhood limited. “I thought the military would be my ticket out, but I found an organization based on racism, sexism and misogyny” he testified before the assembled audience. Later he spoke of “[a] culture of violence and racism” that the military promotes within its ranks. These pressures proved to be too much for Sherry. He deserted for 16 months after being refused mental health support by the army. “I found myself fighting and oppressing a group of people in the name of the war on terror” concluded his remarks to the gathering.

The plight of women in the armed forces proved to be a recurring theme. Patricia McCann, a National Guardsman deployed in 2003, noted during her testimony that instances of sexual assault and sexual harassment within the armed forces have risen but court martials for these crimes have declined. Another veteran (and current Chicago Police Officer), Lisa Zepeda, added that victims of assault have no outside authority they can report assaults to; a victim must go through her immediate superior within her unit.

Equally disturbing was testimony presented by three mothers of Iraqi War veterans and the wars' effect on their families. After being wounded in Iraq, Katy Zatsick's son, Jason, spent a year at Walter Reed Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital recovering with his mother at his side. Unfortunately, the war not only took her son's arm and eye; the stress cost his parents their marriage. While tending to her son at Walter Reed Hospital her and her husband divorced.

Randi Scheurer had two children in the military. Soon after her son was deployed, he called imploring her to purchase a new flack jacket for him. The army had issued him a Vietnam-era jacket that was woefully inadequate for the threats he faced in Iraq. During his second deployment, he again implored his mother to privately purchase equipment that had been stolen from him and that the Army refused to replace. She finally purchased the needed equipment because the Army would not.

Concluding testimony was heard from Samir Adil, a union activist, Baghdad resident and president of the Iraqi Freedom Congress. Recently injured in a bombing and unable to attend in person, his remarks were read aloud. Adil began his statement with a simple but powerful declaration; “The occupation has ruined Iraqi society”. He went on to cite numerous examples including the continued repression of unions and crippling neo-liberal economic policies that have decimated domestic industry. Since 2003, Iraq's unemployment rate has skyrocketed. It is currently at 65% despite having the 4th biggest oil reserves in the world.

A laid off Chicago city worker talked about the budget shortfalls the city is facing. Joe Moore, alderman of Chicago's 49th ward, further elaborated on this relationship noting that the war costs Chicago residents 6.9 billion dollars a year, one billion dollars more than the cities budget of 5.9 billion dollars. The city of Chicago has laid off workers and instituted a hiring freeze in response to budget shortfalls.

Others testified about the militarization of schools, the neglect of the VA hospital system, dismal conditions inside Abu Ghraib prison and union busting activities in the United States.

U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky and several Chicago aldermen also took the floor and addressed the audience. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. and Illinois Senator Roland Burris also sent staff members to reaffirm there support of bringing the troops home.

After listening to testimony, the Workers Rights Board circulated a list of demands being sent to Congressional members. Demands included the establishment of universal health care, guarantee of veteran rights/spending, stipulations in the stimulus package affirming union rights, charging members of the Bush administration with war crimes, passing the Employee Free Choice Act and numerous other demands.