December 19, 2012

Mayor Emanuel Races Chicago's Economy To Bottom

Does a city "save money" by outsourcing good-paying jobs to a company that pays crap wages? The people who had good-paying jobs are out of work, replaced by people in low-wage jobs, and the rest of us feel the downward pressure on our wages and benefits as the race to the bottom accelerates. The city tax base is reduced as wages drop and people can't shop at local businesses. And to make matters even worse the newly-hired crap-wage employees make so little they are likely on public assistance just to get by.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is giving city contracts to private companies that promise to "save money" by replacing hundreds of good-paying union jobs with low-paying non-union jobs. More than 300 janitors and window washers at O'Hare International Airport are at risk of losing their jobs just days before Christmas this year because Mayor Emanuel is replacing their employer with United Maintenance.

As Republicans across the country continue their all-out assault on public employees, labor unions and the middle class, why is Chicago's Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel -- President Obama's former White Hose Chief-of-Staff -- joining in by awarding contracts that eliminate good-paying union jobs for race-to-the bottom, low-paying, insider-connected, anti-middle-class non-union jobs?

To top it off, several news organizations are reporting that the companies involved may have "ties" to organized crime, including top employees convicted of racketeering in organized crime prosecutions, and partnerships with known organized crime figures.

Progress Illinois reports, O'Hare Janitors Set To Lose Jobs Before Holidays Hold Vigil At City Hall (VIDEO), (click through for the whole story)

Time is running out for more than 300 O’Hare janitors who stand to lose their jobs by the end of next week as a result of a new city contract.

Local clergy members and workers' rights advocates held a prayer vigil with airport workers at City Hall Tuesday afternoon in a last ditch effort to persuade city officials to reverse their decision to award a $99 million custodial contract to a company critics claim plans to replace union jobs with non-union, lower-paying positions.

More than 100 supporters filled the fifth floor hallway outside of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office in protest over the city’s five-year agreement with United Maintenance Company Inc. to provide janitorial services for the airport beginning December 15.

Last week, the last of 54 union custodial jobs at Chicago public libraries were cut and replaced with workers from private firms as part of the city's contracts with Triad Consulting Services and Dayspring Professional Services. This past summer, as many as 50 union janitors were laid-off when a new company contracted to clean police stations, city senior centers and health clinics replaced them with non-union workers.


Organized Crime Connections?
Several news organizations are reporting that these city contracts are going to insiders who are possibly conencted with organized crime figures.

NBC Chicago: Rahm Emanuel Mayor Skirts Questions About Mob Ties in O’Hare Contract,

The mob-related questions keep coming in connection with the company awarded a $99 million custodial contract at O'Hare International Airport, and for the second day the mayor dodged potential Rahmfather implications.

Reports surfaced Wednesday that Paul Fosco, a vice president of United Service Companies, served time in 1987 after he was charged in the same corruption case as late mobster Anthony “Big Tuna” Accardo, who was acquitted. A day earlier the Chicago Sun-Times reported the owner of United Service, Richard Simon, had partnered in the past with alleged mob figure William Daddano Jr.

Emanuel skirted questions about both connections, twice pointing to the city's "competitive process" that he said resulted in work for the Service Employees International Union and the hiring of about 100 former employees.


Chicago Sun-Times: More mob ties to contractor in O’Hare cleaning deal,
A high-ranking employee of the contractor who recently won a $99.4 million janitorial contract with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration once served a prison sentence after he was charged in the same corruption case as late Chicago mob boss Anthony “Big Tuna” Accardo.

Paul A. Fosco was convicted on racketeering charges in 1987, sentenced to a 10-year prison term and left federal prison in 1993, public records show. He now is an executive vice president of United Service Companies, according to his profile posted on the LinkedIn networking website.

United Service is owned by Richard Simon, a former Chicago Police officer who led the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau from 2002 to 2005. On Oct. 31, Emanuel’s administration chose one of United’s many companies, United Maintenance Co. Inc., to clean O’Hare International Airport for five years starting Dec. 15.

The Chicago Sun-Times first reported last week that Simon had partnered in yet another firm with William Daddano Jr., who was accused of organized-crime ties by Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Chicago Crime Commission.


Workers Take Action
CBS Chicago reports, in O’Hare Janitors Descend On Mayor’s House To Protest Looming Job Cuts,
Dozens of union airport workers were holding a prayer vigil outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house on Thursday, asking him to reconsider a decision to hand custodial work at O’Hare International Airport to a new company that doesn’t use union labor.

You Can Take Action
Click here to read about Good Jobs and Chicago Families at Risk: O’Hare Worker Stories.

Petition here: Mayor Rahm Emanuel: STOP CUTTING GOOD JOBS

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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December 11, 2012

Michigan Races To Bottom With Anti-Union Law

Pay attention to what is happening in Michigan, because it will add downward even more pressure to your wages and benefits, wherever you live and work. Republicans in the Michigan legislature have rammed through anti-union "right-to-work" laws making union dues voluntary even as unions a required by law to provide services to members and non-members. They say this will make Michigan more "business-friendly" by driving down wages and benefits, thereby stealing jobs from states where working people have rights. The actual intent is to get rid of the unions altogether, and their ability to fight for the 99% in the ongoing class war with the 1%.

What Are So-Called "Right-To-Work" Laws?

"Right-to-work" means the right to work in a unionized business thqt has a negotiated contract without paying dues to the union.

The 1947 Taft-Hartley Act allows states to prohibit unions from collecting fees from non-members or making union membership mandatory, and states that do this are called "right-to-work" states. So-called "right-to-work" laws prohibit labor contracts from requiring employees who are covered by the contract to pay dues to the union that won the contract. But the unions are still required to represent every worker who is covered by a contract -- even workers who are not members of the union and do not pay union dues. This costs money, so the union is drained of funds and power, thereby weakening their ability and incentive to fight for better wages and benefits.

Stealing From Other States, Lowering Wages And Tax Revenue

The appeal of these so-called "right-to-work" laws is that by weakening the ability of workers to band together and fight for better wages and conditions, they result in lower wages, benefits and safety standards. This is supposed to make these states more attractive to employers, which then brings jobs to the lower-wages states as employers leave states where worker have rights.

This affects wages across the larger economy. Any jobs that do move to these states come from other states. So in the larger economy of the country the effect of these laws is to shift wages, benefits and safety standards downward. This brings pressure that forces all wages for all employees down, which further lowers the country's tax base, reducing the entire country's ability to educate, maintain and modernize infrastructure, etc.

As jobs shift to lower-wage states, pressure to lower all wages increases, and the collection of income tax revenue decreases. The ability of consumers to make purchases decreases as well. Infrastructure investment declines. Education declines. Over time the country falls behind the rest of the world and it become more expensive and more difficult to catch up.

Or, in other words, exactly what we are seeing all around us now.

Studies Of The Effects

A May, 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that "right-to-work" states have lower wages (examples: 9.4% lower for all occupations, 11.4% lower for teachers) than states with union rights.

A January, 2012 study by American Rights at Work, New Research Counters Arguments for “Right-To-Work” Laws, examined a number of studies and found that "recent studies rebut claims of economic growth and instead find that laws suppress wages."

In Nonunion Wage Rates and the Threat of Unionization Henry Farber, Professor of Economics at Princeton University found that after Idaho passed a RTW law in 1985, there was a statistically-significant drop in nonunion wages relative to other states.

Feb, 2011, Economic Policy Institute (EPI), Does ‘right-to-work’ create jobs? Answers from Oklahoma,

Despite ambitious claims by proponents, the evidence is overwhelming that:
• Right-to-work laws have not succeeded in boosting employment growth in the states that have adopted them.
• The case of Oklahoma – closest in time to the conditions facing those states now considering such legislation – is particularly discouraging regarding the law’s ability to spur job growth. Since the law passed in 2001, manufacturing employment and relocations into the state reversed their climb and began to fall, precisely the opposite of what right-to-work advocates promised.
• For those states looking beyond traditional or low wage manufacturing jobs – whether to higher-tech manufacturing, to “knowledge” sector jobs, or to service industries dependent on consumer spending in the local economy – there is reason to believe that right-to-work laws may actually harm a state’s economic prospects.

Sept, 2011, EPI, ‘Right to work,’ The wrong answer for Michigan’s economy, findings included,

• Right-to-work laws lower wages—for both union and nonunion workers alike—by an average of $1,500 per year, after accounting for the cost of living in each state.
• Right-to-work laws also decrease the likelihood that employees get either health insurance or pensions through their jobs—again, for both union and nonunion workers.
• By cutting wages, right-to-work laws threaten to undermine job growth by reducing the discretionary income people have to spend in the local retail, real estate, construction, and service industries. Every $1 million in wage cuts translates into an additional six jobs lost in the economy. With 85 percent of Michigan’s economy concentrated in health care, retail, education, and other non-manufacturing industries, widespread wage and benefit cuts could translate into significant negative spillover effects for the state’s economy.

Labor's Reaction

On CNN this morning UAW President Bob King explained that this bill threatens worker rights. "It demonstrates to workers and really a broad spectrum of the populous that we have to work hard, we have to fight hard to protect our rights." Explaining that workers already have the choice to join a union, King said,

"You don't have to be a union member. But you have to pay your fair share. Just like if you live in a community, you pay for your fair share of the road cleaning, of the police, of the fire," King argued. People who benefit by [the union's] collective bargaining benefit by this procedure. They pay a fair share of the cost of representation."

Steelworkers leader Leo Gerard called on Michigan governor Snyder to veto the law, (click through for the entire statement)

“The USW active and retired members join other unions and allies in Michigan and across the nation to call on Gov. Snyder to support the proposal of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation. We ask the Governor to use his veto power to stop this unnecessary and divisive right-to-work bill.
“If the Governor feels this bill will move Michigan forward, he should delay the final legislative votes and allow an amendment that would put this issue before the public as a state ballot initiative. We urge Governor Snyder to delay his signing of the bill. Let the people of Michigan debate and vote on a consequential matter that will affect all working families.
“We know the newly-elected Michigan state legislature convening early next year has added Democrats that would reject a right-to-work-for-less bill. Right-to-work is only supported by millionaires and billionaires who profit by taking more money out of the workers’ pockets.

Demonstrations and Disruptions

In a sign of things to come, 12-15,000 people demonstrated today at Michigan's capitol building. There were confrontations, including mounted police charging into the crowd. Former Congressman Mark Schauer was pepper-sprayed.

Ned Resnikoff, writing in, Michigan passes ‘Right-to-Work’ but fight isn’t over at the Ed Schultz website,

Shortly after noon on Tuesday, Michigan’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives gave its final approval to the state’s hotly contested “right-to-work” legislation, as thousands of the bill’s opponents rallied outside. But labor activists and their allies say that the fight isn’t over yet, and they’re already plotting their strategy for keeping Michigan a union stronghold.
“This fight is not over by a long shot, regardless of what happens today,” said Zack Pohl, the executive director of Progress Michigan.

See Also

Mary Bottari at PRWat: Michigan Passes "Right to Work" Containing Verbatim Language from ALEC Model Bill

AFL-CIO 'Right to Work' for Less fact sheet.

Economic Policy Institute, Unions and Labor Standards, a collection of articles, posts and studies of the effects labor and anti-labor policies.

Nicole Pasulka at Mother Jones, Right-to-Work Laws, Explained

Josh Eidelson at Salon, Koch brothers, Tea Party cash drives Michigan right-to-work bill

Amanda Terkel at Huffington Post, Big 3 Automakers Reportedly Worried About Michigan Right To Work Legislation

Teamster Nation: RTW passes in #MI as thousands try to enter Capitol

OurFuture post on being "business-friendly, China Is Very “Business-Friendly”,

China is very, very “business-friendly.” Corporate conservatives lecture us that we should be more “business-friendly,” in order to “compete” with China. They say we need to cut wages and benefits, work longer hours, get rid of overtime and sick pay — even lunch breaks. They say we should shed unions, get rid of environmental and safety regulations, gut government services, and especially, especially, especially we should cut taxes. But America can never be “business-friendly” enough to compete with China, and here is why.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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December 5, 2012

How the Territorial Tax Cut Destroys Jobs

There is a little-discussed proposal that was introduced into the "fiscal cliff" discussions by the CEOs of the "Fix the Debt" campaign. This is for a “Territorial Tax System" idea that lets multinational companies off the hook for taxes on offshore profits. This plan is particularly dangerous to American wages and jobs -- YOUR wages and job -- as well as any American companies that don't export their profit centers. This threat is not limited to the blue-collar jobs that have been disappearing, it also threatens the professionals, "knowledge workers," designers, innovators and others who contribute to corporate profits here in the US.

The Territorial Tax proposal asks for no taxes on foreign profits of American corporations. This system would encourage and practically force companies to move profit generation (innovation, intellectual property, etc.) out of the US. This gives corporations an incentive to move everything that makes them money out of the country — every profit center, every job, every factory, every designer, inventor, etc.

This plan only benefits the giant multinational corporations — and helps them kill off even more American jobs and smaller businesses. And without those wages and taxes our infrastructure, schools, police and fire protections, and everything else here will decline even more.

If executives brought these American-company profits back to America now, disbursed it to shareholders or reinvested it in their companies -- and paid the taxes due -- this would be at least a $1.2 trillion boost to our economy. The taxes owed to We, the People wold help pay for our schools, etc., or help pay down our debt. But instead of just doing the right thing, this Territorial Tax Dodge System will add another layer of corporate game-playing, encouraging them to report even more of their profits as being made out of the US. It also lets the ones who have dodged taxes by holding cash offshore -- and away from their own shareholders -- get away with it. See this Citizens for Tax Justice report on companies that have been holding cash offshore -- away from our ability to tax them as well as from their own shareholders, Which Fortune 500 Companies Are Sheltering Income in Overseas Tax Havens?

A new CTJ analysis of the financial reports of the Fortune 500 companies shows that 285 of these corporations had accumulated more than $1.5 trillion in overseas profits by the end of 2011, and there is evidence that a significant portion of these profits are located in tax havens.
In particular, our analysis shows that ten corporations, representing over a sixth of the $1.5 trillion in unrepatriated profits, reveal sufficient information to show that they have paid little or no tax on their offshore profit hoards to any government. That implies that these profits have been artificially shifted out of the United States and other countries where the companies actually do business, and into foreign tax havens.

A March Bloomberg report, Cash Hoard Grows by $187 Billion in Untaxed Overseas Profits also looked into specific companies that hide profits offshore (and away from shareholders) to avoid their corporate taxes.

The Institute for Policy Studies warns about the Territorial Tax in a report, The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt, A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks,

The 63 Fix the Debt companies that are publicly held stand to gain as much as $134 billion in windfalls if Congress approves one of their main proposals — a “territorial tax system.” Under this system, companies would not have to pay U.S. federal income taxes on foreign earnings when they bring the profits back to the United States.

The full report continues,

A territorial system would give companies additional incentives to disguise U.S. profits as income earned in tax havens in order to avoid paying U.S. income taxes.
[. . .] S&P 500 companies as a whole have nearly $1.5 trillion parked offshore, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. While some of these profits are offshore because a U.S. multinational corporation produced a product offshore and sold it to a foreign consumer, a significant share is there for the purpose of avoiding taxes.
Here’s how it works. The U.S. corporate tax code requires U.S.-headquartered corporations to pay a tax rate of 35 percent on their profits regardless of where in the world those profits are earned. But there are two important exceptions. First, U.S. corporations are granted credits for any taxes paid to foreign governments. Second, any profits deemed permanently reinvested offshore are exempted from U.S. taxes until and unless they are returned to the United States.

The report details ways that corporations shift profits out of the country.

David Cay Johnston talked about this idea on the Ed Show in May,

Well, what it would encourage companies to do is to take all their intellectual property that they haven`t moved and anything else they can out of country, so that they earn a dollar here in the U.S. and they show it to their shareholders, and then they may magically send it to the Cayman Islands and it disappears to the IRS.
So even if they are making things here in the U.S., they`ll be able to move profits out of the country by having their intellectual property out of the country. Secondly, if they find a place that has similar rules, then you move the jobs offshore and you can still earn tax free profits.

2004 - Been There, Done That, CUT Jobs

In 2004 corporate lobbyists got the American Jobs Creation Act passed, letting multinationals bring their foreign cash back at a special low rate. We allowed corporations to bring profits back to the U.S. at a tax rate of 5.25 percent, instead of the top corporate rate of 35 percent.

After bringing the profits back from the tax havens where they had been parked, the companies involved actually cut jobs. Alain Sherter, in Sure, a “Tax Holiday” on Overseas Profits Is a Great Idea — If You Hate America, looked into what happened and wrote,

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that the companies that got the biggest tax breaks following the 2004 rate cut went on to eliminate jobs over the next two years. Instead of hiring, they mostly used the repatriated funds to repurchase stock or pay dividends — and to expand outside the U.S. But it did provide a huge incentive to do even more offshoring of profits and jobs, because this scheme worked and the money came back in a tax holiday. So of course they are proposing to do it all over again.

Sherter points out this really does benefit a very few at the expense of the rest of us, including other companies,

Repatriation holidays also favor a handful of huge corporations at the expense of other companies, especially businesses without operations around the globe. In 2004, a total of five companies reaped more than one-quarter of the benefits from the tax holiday, while 15 firms got more than 50 percent. To pay for such a cut without raising the deficit, meanwhile, the U.S. would have to increase taxes on other U.S. businesses or make even deeper cuts in already tight federal spending.

Be aware of this Territorial Tax proposal. It is offered by the Fix the Debt CEOs, and it is entirely about reaping even more billions for the billionaires, at the expense of all of the rest of us and the country.


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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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November 17, 2012

Help Change The Economy -- Join Walmart Workers Striking On Black Friday

You can help change the economy! Big companies use their size and the fear of losing our jobs to force us to accept no raises or even lower pay and benefits. They can use their size to force communities, states and even the federal government to lower their taxes. You can help change the economy by standing with Walmart workers next week. They have the money but we have the people.

A month ago there were strikes at 12 Walmart stores and protests at more than 200 stores. Walmart illegally tried to silence organizers. Now there are strikes planned for "Black Friday." But Walmart workers aren't waiting, there are actions going on between now and next Friday, and you can join in.

Walmart is BIG. They are so big they can dictate to their supply chain, the communities where they are located, state governments, and even the federal government. And, of course, their workers. And when Walmart's workers are paid less, that puts pressure on workers everywhere else.

This is like so many other companies right now, using their size and the fact that so many people are looking for work to force wages down. And this forces pay down for the rest of us. All of this while these companies are reaping record profits for themselves.

You can stand with Walmart's workers, and demand changes in the way our economy works.

Video from OURWalmart: "Why are we standing up to live better?"

Yesterday: The News Tribune (Tacoma), Hundreds gather in Federal Way to support striking Walmart workers,


Today: Josh Eidelson at The Nation, Walmart Strike Wave Rolls Back Through Texas as Organizers Promise a Thousand Points of Protest,

Protests by Walmart workers that are spreading across the country came to Federal Way on Thursday, with between 20 and 30 employees leading a rally demanding better working conditions and pay.

The employees, from six Western Washington Walmart stores, gathered outside the store on South 314th Street, cheered on by at least 200 supporters. Many were from other unions and organizations including SPEEA, the National Organization for Women and One America, an immigrants’ rights group. The large group marched between a staging area at the end of the parking lot and the front of the store, chanting and talking to customers.

This morning, at 10 AM local time, Dallas Walmart store workers are headed back to the picket line. Theirs is the latest in a string of strikes that hit a California warehouse Wednesday and Seattle stores on Thursday. There’s more where that came from: On a Thursday call with reporters, union-backed Walmart worker groups said to expect a thousand strikes or demonstrations spread over nine days, culminating in an unprecedented array of “Black Friday” disruptions. That news follows a major legal settlement by a Walmart contractor that organizers credited to a 2011 sit-in at Hershey’s Chocolate.

Dallas striker Colby Harris emphasized that despite issues with low pay and repeated retaliation, he’s committed to remaining a Walmart worker. “If you leave this job, you’re going to face retaliation in some form somewhere else…” he said last night. “If you change Walmart, and you change corporate America, it can really better a lot of people’s lives.”

Also from Josh, Walmart Ex-Employee Was Handcuffed in Front of Workers

A former Walmart employee was handcuffed Wednesday when he visited his old store to talk to workers about next week’s “Black Friday” strike. Alex Rivera, who was fired in September, told The Nation that Walmart management intentionally misled Orlando police, leading them to detain him for twenty minutes in the store. The incident was denounced by the union-backed workers’ group OUR Walmart, which alleges that Walmart has been breaking the law to keep its workers in line.

Resources:

ForRespect.org – OUR Walmart’s official page

Corporate Action Network - Black Friday campaign - A Comunity Call To Action
Go here to find local events
Go here for: Materials you can use
Go here to send a Letter to the Editor to your local newspaper.

ColorOfChange: Hold Walmart accountable to Black workers,

For the first time in the company's 50-year history, Walmart workers are striking to protest their notoriously exploitative working conditions — and management's retaliation against workers who have spoken out. Stand with workers at Walmart: tell the Walmart Board and Chair Rob Walton to meet with workers and take immediate steps to improve working conditions.

CREDO Action: Tell Walmart to stop exploiting workers,

Walmart Stores Inc. - notorious for years for trampling the basic rights of American workers1 - has become the focus of a historic strike by its store workers.

... Tell Walmart Chairman of the Board Rob Walton: Meet with Walmart workers about their demands for better pay and working conditions.

Corporate Action Network Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/CorporateActionNetwork

ChangeWalmart.org – Making Change at Walmart official page
Facebook.com/MakingChangeWMT
Facebook.com/OURWMT

Download the app (link http://www.shareforrespect.com) to send a message to Walmart Associates you know through Facebook.

Share the infographics on Walmart from the Corporate Action Network Facebook Page -- https://www.facebook.com/CorporateActionNetwork

Twitter: Follow @CorpAction and the #WalmartStrikers tag to get the latest on the lead up to Black Friday.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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October 8, 2012

Breaking -- Arrests At Sensata "Bainport" Camp

Sensata is a Bain-owned company that is closing a factory in in Freeport, Il to move the jobs to China. The workers have set up a camp they call "Bainport" and workers and supporters are trying to block the Bain trucks that are moving equipment out to ship to China right now. In breaking news there were arrests made today.

Last week in the post Blocking Bain Trucks To Save Jobs In Freeport -- This Is An IMPORTANT Story I wrote about the Sensata workers in Freeport who have set up a camp they call Bainport, and are asking Mitt Romney to show that he means what he is saying about cracking down on China by coming to Freeport and asking his former company not to send these jobs to China.

The Sensata workers camping at Bainport as asking Mitt Romney to come help them keep their jobs. Romney insists that he has nothing to do with Bain Capital anymore (his tax returns showed that he gets more than $400,000 a week from Bain investments).

Helping the Sensata workers would show that he means it when he says he has nothing to do with the things Bain does now, and that he will do something about the jobs being sent to China. What better opportunity to prove both than to show up and confront Bain for sending these jobs to China!

Romney, Bain And The Outsourcing Strategy

Mitt Romney and Bain "pioneered" outsourcing strategies. They invested in companies set up to help other companies send jobs to China, and they especially used offshoring in their strategies to avoid paying the taxes that enable We, the People to have good schools, roads, courts etc. The NY Times story, Offshore Tactics Helped Increase Romneys’ Wealth explained,

Some of the offshore entities enabled Bain-owned companies to sidestep certain taxes, increasing returns for Mr. Romney and other investors. Others helped Bain attract foreign investors and nonprofit institutions by insulating them from taxes, again augmenting Mr. Romney’s bottom line, since he shared in management fees based on the size of each Bain fund.

In Unraveling The Romney/Bain Tax Story I explained how it works,

The complicated story of how the 1%ers and their corporations evade democracy's taxes is the story of our crumbling schools and infrastructure and the flow of all the gains of our economy to a very few at the top. This tax evasion is also part of the story of our deficits and debt. The tax evasion is "legal" -- because the tax evaders pay the people who write the tax laws. And even as their tax evasion adds to our budget deficits and debt, the 1%ers are insisting we close the deficit by cutting Social Security, Medicare and "safety-net" programs!

[. . .] The American-based entities can buy American companies without incurring "foreign-based" obligations. Then the foreign-based entities can avoid the taxes that the American-based buyers of companies would have to pay. And the foreign-based investors can be in the foreign-based parts of the company, avoiding US tax obligations. Also American entities like pension funds can avoid US taxes they would otherwise have to pay.

To put it another way, the same company can pretend it is US-based when that is what it needs to be, and foreign-based when that is what it needs to be.

Mitt Romney is wealthy because he engaged in strategies to lay people off, sending their jobs to China and pocketing the wage differential for himself. Then his companies would force people to take wage cuts or risk losing their jobs, too, and pocking the wage difference for himself. The profits from these "enterprises" were manipulated in ways that enabled him to pay very little in taxes, so the rest of us end up not only with layoffs and lower wages, but bad schools, crumbling infrastructure and government debt.

Then later, Mitt Romney can claim that We the People are the cause of the resulting government debt and that we need "austerity" -- less for We, the People in order to keep taxes low.

Arrests

Today community members supporting the Sensata workers were arrested for trying to block Bain trucks from sending the factory's equipment to China.

Visit the Bainport blog for pictures and details.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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October 1, 2012

Warn People - "Won't Back Down" Is A Right Wing Corporate Propaganda Movie

Get the word out. The movie Won't Back Down is another propaganda product of the corporate/conservative machine, put in theaters to get you to support union busting and school privatization.

Over at the Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch, Mary Bottari writes in 'Won't Back Down' Film Pushes ALEC Parent Trigger Proposal, (please go read the whole thing),

Well-funded advocates of privatizing the nation's education system are employing a new strategy this fall to enlist support for the cause. The emotionally engaging Hollywood film "Won't Back Down" -- set for release September 28 -- portrays so-called "Parent Trigger" laws as an effective mechanism for transforming underperforming public schools. But the film's distortion of the facts prompts a closer examination of its funders and backers and a closer look at those promoting Parent Trigger as a cure for what ails the American education system.

While Parent Trigger was first promoted by a small charter school operator in California, it was taken up and launched into hyperdrive by two controversial right-wing organizations: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heartland Institute.

So why are we getting a major motion picture, widely distributed, that pushes a right-wing agenda? More on this from Mary, (again, there is much more at the link, including links embedded in what I have here) (emphasis added, for emphasis)

Philip Anschutz, Right-Wing Billionaire, Owns Production Company

"Won't Back Down," is a production of Walden Media, owned by billionaire investor and right-wing extremist Philip Anschutz. Anschutz participates in the Koch brothers' secretive political strategy summits and funds David Koch's Americans for Prosperity group, which backed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's union busting proposal and is working to defeat Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates across the country.

Anschutz bankrolls ALEC and ALEC member groups. In 2010, The Anschutz Foundation, gave ALEC $10,000 and his Union Pacific firm was an ALEC sponsor the following year. The Foundation funded three ALEC members who sat on the ALEC Education Task Force which approved the Parent Trigger Proposal: The Independence Institute, Center for Education Reform, and Pacific Research Institute.

Anschutz has also supported the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which backs legislation designed to cripple unions; the Discovery Institute, which seeks to get creation "science" accepted in public schools; and the Mission America Foundation, whose president considers homosexuality to be a "deviance." He also owns the conservative magazine, the Weekly Standard.

Walden Media was one of the producers of the pro-charter documentary film "Waiting for 'Superman'." This film was criticized by Diane Ravitch as propaganda and as "a powerful weapon on behalf of those championing the 'free market' and privatization."

Rupert Murdoch, Media Mogul and Owner of Education Testing Company, Distributes Film

The film is being distributed by 20th Century Fox, owned by News Corp. and media mogul Rupert Murdock. News Corp. owns Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. Murdoch formerly owned the British newspaper News of the World, which imploded once it was revealed that reporters hacked into the cell phones of the family of a murdered child, as well as the cell phones of the royal family, politicians and celebrities. The paper's top editors and reporters were arrested although Murdoch himself has not been charged.

As CMD previously reported, News Corp. has been a member of both ALEC's Education Task Force and Communications and Technology Task Force. Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore, is an ALEC "scholar" and both the Wall Street Journal and Fox News have gone to bat for ALEC as member corporations began to flee earlier this year. What is less well known is that News Corp. owns Wireless Generation, a for-profit online education, software, and testing corporation, acquiring it in 2010 for $360 million. Wireless Generation is also an ALEC member. Apparently, Murdoch was anxious to get a piece of the nation's education system, which he describes as a "500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed." News Corp's senior Vice President in charge of its education division is none other than former Chancellor of New York City Schools, Joel Klein, who promoted a corporatist model of education reform.

The conservative machine is on it. Today, the Heritage Foundation's "Morning Bell" is pushing the film, with Morning Bell: Hollywood Steps Up in “Won’t Back Down”,

A new movie opens in theaters today that couldn’t be more timely. The school year is hitting its stride, and the teachers union in Chicago just captured the national spotlight by strong-arming that city to meet its demands—at the expense of students and taxpayers.

... the message of Won’t Back Down is one of empowering parents. In the film, parents are attempting to “take over” the school, referring to a type of law called a parent trigger law. Seven states have a version of this law, which gives parents the power to intervene in failing schools. If a majority of parents in a school want to reform it, these laws give them options, often including converting the school into a charter school and replacing school staff.

Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers warns, (from Randi Weingarten: Right-wing agenda drives movie on education at The Cap Times),

The film features the union leader sharing a quote that anti-public education ideologues and right-wing politicians often attribute to former AFT president Albert Shanker: “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.” Despite the frequency with which corporate interests claim Shanker said this, a review of news reports, speeches, and interviews with Shanker’s aides and biographers, and even an analysis by the Washington Post, failed to find any person or report that could corroborate the statement.

This is not the only time the movie resorts to falsehoods and anti-union stereotypes. Viola Davis’ character tells other teachers that the new school they create cannot be unionized because the union would restrict their ability to implement reforms that help kids. This is false — unions are democratic organizations made up of individual educators, and collective bargaining is the process by which individuals come together to make things better. Many examples demonstrate that far from blocking reform efforts, unions fight for the things children need to thrive in school, like safe classrooms and smaller class sizes. And unions empower educators to win the tools and voice they need to help children.

Half of all teachers in the United States do not have collective bargaining contracts. The reality is that the states with the highest union density — states such as Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota — are the states that lead the nation in student achievement.

Sabrina Stevens, writing at AlterNet in Why 'Won't Back Down" doesn't stack up, explains, (the whole thing is an absolute must-read!)

As a former union teacher and present union staff member, what struck me most profoundly while watching Won’t Back Down was the stark disconnect between the way people and schools were characterized in the film and the way they are in the real world.

... In my work, I’ve spent time with hundreds of teachers, mostly in high-poverty schools that get low test scores. From teaching and preparing to teach for hours on end, to providing food, care and inspiration for hurting kids, these are dedicated, hard-working people who routinely go well above and beyond in their work. (A popular joke among teachers hinges on the notion that the hours in your contract aren’t the hours you’ll actually work, but the hours for which the district will begrudgingly pay you. It’s well understood by all that it is literally impossible to get everything done in that time period.)

I personally remember lots of overstuffed rolling tote bags (an especially popular option among teachers who needed to bring work home after school ended) and reusable coffee mugs (popular among us newbies who often worked such long hours we barely saw daylight during the fall and winter months) in the school I worked in. Likewise, the school day itself was often a whirr, with teachers bouncing around among 25, 30 or more students at a time during lessons; moving in and out of meetings, planning and professional development sessions; and making calls and handling other daily logistics during “free” periods.

Yet in the movie, it is repeatedly asserted that the union contract prevents exactly this kind of work from taking place...

Please be warned about this movie, and help to let others know what is going on here.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Warning - Deceptive Anti-Labor Ballot Initiative In California (Prop 32)

In California there is a dangerous, deceptive proposition on the ballot that promises to get "special interest" money out of our elections, and is being sold as a way to stop the flood of corporate money. But actually this proposition doesn't stop corporate money at all -- it only stops political activity by unions. If it passes this means that from now on only corporate money will fund California's elections.

Here is how Prop 32 is being sold to the public: "Politicians take millions in campaign contributions from corporations and government unions and then vote the way those special interests tell them."

Here is the trick: it bans use of money collected from the paychecks of union members. This pretty much means all union money is banned. But corporations do not use paycheck deductions to get the money they use! Only unions do! Then Prop 32 specifies that corporations can't put money into elections, so here are the types of businesses that are exempted:

  • Business Super PACs set up by corporations to put money into elections
  • Independent expenditure committees set up by corporations to put money into elections
  • Companies that are not "corporations" including Limited Liability companies
  • Partnerships
  • Real estate trusts
  • Other businesses not specifically designated as "corporations" under the law's definition.

And, to make matters even worse, Prop 32 prohibits "government contractors" from political activity. But it is worded to prohibit any government employee unions from political activity, because these unions have employment contracts with state or local governments.

While it very loosely defines corporations in a way that keeps business interests open to funding campaigns, here is how it defines unions:

"Labor union"” means any organization of any kind, or any agency or employee representation committee or plan, in which employees participate and which exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment, or conditions of work.

ANY organization that represents the interests of working people is banned from politics if this law passes. Think about that.

Guess Who Is Funding Prop 32

Guess who is funding this proposition? (Hint, as if you needed one: it's the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove's corporate front group, big corporations, and others.)

AFL-CIO: Kochs Send Millions to Silence California Workers with Prop. 32

Resources

AFL-CIO: California’s Prop. 32: How Does It Affect Union Members?

California Labor Federation page with information about Prop 32.

Stop the Special Exemptions Act

Rick Jacobs: Mitt + Koch = Prop 32 Ways to Buy CA,

The Kochs and Rove understand that if they can keep union money out of politics, they win hands down. If Prop32 passes in California, one-third of SEIUs political budget is gone, with sizeable chunks taken from the AFL-CIO and just about any other big national union you can think of.

Full text of Prop 32 here. Also at Ballotpedia.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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September 3, 2012

Unions Enforce Democracy

What is Labor Day? And why is it a national holiday?

Labor Day is our national holiday to celebrate the contribution that regular working people make to our country and our economy. It is also a holiday that celebrates the way We, the People democracy can deliver prosperity to many, instead of great wealth to just a few -- when it works. Strong unions help make it work.

Systems That Enforce "More Stuff For A Few"

History teaches of conflict between systems set up when a few people gain power and use that power to get more stuff for themselves at the expense of the rest, and the broad masses of regular people organizing themselves to overcome those power structures that get set up to enforce these "more stuff for a few" systems.

Power structures enforcing "more stuff for a few" often come with elaborate justifications to keep people from rising up and taking back power for the people. Royalty is a system where "God said my family should be in charge, so shut up and keep quiet." The Nazis said they should be in charge because they were the übermensch, so shut up and keep quiet. Russia had the nomenklatura, so shut up and keep quiet. Today we have "job creators," who get most of the stuff because they already have most of the stuff, so shut up and keep quiet.

"We, the People"

This country was formed when We, the People fought that battle and won. We overthrew a system that funneled the stuff to a few at the top, and enshrined in our Constitution a declaration we want this country to forever be run for the benefit of all of us, not just a few of us.

We fought to build and maintain this democratic society so that We, the People could share the benefits.

Prosperity Is The Fruit Of Democracy

Democracy offers protections. It lets us demand good wages and safety and environmental protections. We, the People got a good share of the economic pie because those are the things people say they want when they have a say. Because Americans had a say we built up a country with good schools, good infrastructure, good courts, and we made rules that said workers had to be safe, get a minimum wage, overtime, weekends... we protected the environment, we set up Social Security and Medicare and unemployment benefits to help us through hard times. We took care of each other. This made us prosperous. A share of the prosperity for the 99% was the fruit of democracy.

Unions Enforce Democracy

But it was unions that made this possible. People on their own just do not have the ability to stand up against concentrated wealth and power, no matter how right their cause. Even with our Constitution, a few were still able to use wealth and power to grab more for themselves, keeping regular people from obtaining a fair share of the pie. So people organized themselves into labor unions, and as a united group said you give us a fair share or we stop working. This was effective in industries that depended on the labor to keep production moving.

Before unions came along to enforce democracy we didn't get the share of the prosperity that democracy promised, after unions came along we did. Before unions we had 12 (or more)-hour workdays, seven days a week. Before unions we had low pay. Before unions we had no benefits. Before unions we certainly didn't get vacations. Before unions we could be fired for no reason. Before unions a wealthy few were able use their wealth to pay off influence legislators and keep the rules bent in their favor. Unions organized and forced changes that brought a larger share of the pie to We, the People.

Unions enforce the concept of democracy. Yes, We, the People were supposed to be in charge. Yes, the economy was supposed to be for our benefit. Why else would We, the People allow corporations to exist in the first place? But it was unions that gave people the power to enforce that idea. People organized together and demanded that We, the People get a share of the pie, and the results grew the pie. Unions are the reason we have had a middle class at all.

The Corporate/Conservative Attack On Labor

But we let the protections slip, and allowed money to have too much influence over our political system -- so of course those with money used that influence to bend the system their way. Then we allowed companies to cross borders to escape the protections democracy offers -- to non-democratic countries like China where workers have few rights, where pay is low, environmental protections practically non-existent. Companies locating manufacturing in places like have huge cost advantages over companies located in democracies that respect and protect the rights of citizens. This movement of manufacturing away from the borders of democracy weakened our unions, and shifted the balance of power away from We, the People.

There has been a massive corporate/conservative attack on labor and democracy over the last 3-4 decades. Billions of dollars have gone into a propaganda machine that tells us that labor unions are bad, that "labor bosses" just want things for themselves, that "union thugs" force businesses out of business, etc.

The successful attack on labor has contributed directly to this economy of massive inequality where workers don’t share in the product of the productivity they generate.

Lawrence Mishel, at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, writes in Unions, inequality, and faltering middle-class wages,

Between 1973 and 2011, the median worker’s real hourly compensation (which includes wages and benefits) rose just 10.7 percent. Most of this growth occurred in the late 1990s wage boom, and once the boom subsided by 2002 and 2003, real wages and compen­sation stagnated for most workers—college graduates and high school graduates alike. This has made the last decade a “lost decade” for wage growth.

... A major factor driving these trends has been the ongoing erosion of unionization and the declining bargaining power of unions, along with the weakened ability of unions to set norms or labor standards that raise the wages of comparable nonunion workers.

... the forthcoming The State of Working America, 12th Edition presents a detailed analysis of the impact of unionization on wages and benefits and on wage inequality. Key findings include:


  • The union wage premium—the percentage-higher wage earned by those covered by a collective bargain­ing contract—is 13.6 percent over­all (17.3 percent for men and 9.1 percent for women).
  • Unionized workers are 28.2 percent more likely to be covered by employer-provided health insurance and 53.9 percent more likely to have employer-provided pensions.
  • From 1973 to 2011, the share of the workforce represented by unions declined from 26.7 percent to 13.1 percent.
  • The decline of unions has affected middle-wage men more than any other group and explains about three-fourths of the expanded wage gap between white- and blue-collar men and over a fifth of the expanded wage gap between high school– and college-edu­cated men from 1978 to 2011.
  • An expanded analysis that includes the direct and norm-setting impact of unions shows that deunionization can explain about a third of the entire growth of wage inequality among men and around a fifth of the growth among women from 1973 to 2007.

The Social Contract

Labor Day is about honoring the social contract.

Hedrick Smith writes in, When Capitalists Cared in the NY Times,

From 1948 to 1973, the productivity of all nonfarm workers nearly doubled, as did average hourly compensation. But things changed dramatically starting in the late 1970s. Although productivity increased by 80.1 percent from 1973 to 2011, average wages rose only 4.2 percent and hourly compensation (wages plus benefits) rose only 10 percent over that time, according to government data analyzed by the Economic Policy Institute.

At the same time, corporate profits were booming. In 2006, the year before the Great Recession began, corporate profits garnered the largest share of national income since 1942, while the share going to wages and salaries sank to the lowest level since 1929. In the recession’s aftermath, corporate profits have bounced back while middle-class incomes have stagnated.

[. . .] In Germany, still a manufacturing and export powerhouse, average hourly pay has risen five times faster since 1985 than in the United States. The secret of Germany’s success, says Klaus Kleinfeld, who ran the German electrical giant Siemens before taking over the American aluminum company Alcoa in 2008, is “the social contract: the willingness of business, labor and political leaders to put aside some of their differences and make agreements in the national interests.”

Unions enforce democracy. Our system is not perfect, it does not by itself sufficiently protect our We, the People system from the constant efforts of some people to gain power - so they can get all the stuff for themselves at the expense of everyone else. It is a fact of human nature proven by history that this happens. Without unions as an added kicker to help us enforce the promise of our We, the People constitution, those who have wealth and power are able to use that wealth and power to take control and grab all the stuff for themselves. We are seeing this happen again, right before our eyes.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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August 18, 2012

Early Bain-Ization - How A Few Got Rich Illegally Suppressing Unions

A look at one of Bain Capital's first deals shows a get-rich-quick-at-everyone-else's-expense pattern forming: borrow heavily, gut assets, cut wages, cut safety, crush unions, restructure for tax avoidance and sell with a sweetheart, insider deal. That pattern foreshadowed what happened to our jobs, communities, industries, economy and country since the early 1980s. An already-wealthy few got fantastically rich(er) and the rest of us paid the price.

A Financial Times Investigation

In FT investigation: Romney’s take-off the Financial Times (FT) investigated the $5 million buyout of Key Airlines, a "formative" deal from Mitt Romney's company Bain Capital's early years.

At the time Mitt Romney was at the consultant firm Bain & Company, and heard that Key Airlines was looking to be bought. Key Airlines had a $10 million per year government contract to shuttle pilots and support workers between Las Vegas and "Area 52," where they were working on the then-secret F-117A stealth fighter. Romney formed Bain Capital in part to buy the airline. T. Coleman Andrews III, a former White House official recruited to Bain by Romney led the buyout for Bain and chaired its board of directors.

The Financial Times investigation showed how the purchase of Key Airlines helped establish the company's method of doing business. They bought the company by borrowing all the money needed, 100% debt-financed, meaning Romney and Bain put up no money -- and very little risk -- of their own. They "restructured" the company; according to FT, "Bain also reshaped Key Airlines, turning it from a profitable, taxpaying company with a $13m balance sheet and its own aircraft, into an operating company with a $2m balance sheet and a holding company from which it sold assets separately."

When the pilots tried to start a union, the company unlawfully suppressed the effort with what a federal judge called "blatant, grievous, wilful, deliberate and repeated violations."

No-Risk Leveraged Purchase

One of the ways private-equity companies make money is by borrowing using the purchased company's assets as collateral, and passing some or all of the borrowed money to themselves. Romney and Bain purchased Key Airlines by securing a $5 million loan with $2.5 million worth of aircraft owned by the company, and a $2 million guarantee of their own. In other words, they borrowed money to buy the company by promising the lender they would put up the company's assets as collateral. (The company had a $10 million per year government contract.)

The bank lent the money with part of it personally guaranteed after satisfying themselves that the investors were worth enough money. In other words, they could finance a debt-only deal because they were already rich.

Restructuring To Avoid Taxes

When purchased, Key Airlines was making money and paying taxes. By borrowing, the company incurred debt servicing costs, which are deductible against taxes. The company also restructured in ways that cut taxes. According to FT, "Bain also reshaped Key Airlines, turning it from a profitable, taxpaying company with a $13m balance sheet and its own aircraft, into an operating company with a $2m balance sheet and a holding company from which it sold assets separately."

Crushing The Union

Private equity companies cut costs. If you are not rich and have to work for a living, you are one of those "costs" that has to be cut. Your pay or your job are in the way of someone making a whole lot of money. Another "cost" to cut is the work environment. Worker safety can cost money, so it is one more thing that is in the way of someone making a whole lot of money. Providing a good, reliable product is another "cost" that is in the way of someone making a whole lot of money, and in an airline that "cost" is safe, well-maintained airplanes.

In 1985 a majority of Key's pilots tried to form a union. According to FT, "the pilots cited safety concerns; management said that the pilots were unhappy because of their low pay."

Bain was getting ready to sell the airline, and the worst thing that could happen to them would be a union, which could demand fair pay, worker safety and better maintenance and air safety procedures. Crushing the union -- keeping pay low, and being able to ignore pleas for safer conditions for workers and passengers -- would mean the Bain investors would make a lot of money. So they crushed the union.

According to FT,

There followed an unlawful attempt by Mr Andrews and Key management, in the words of District Court judge Roger Foley, “to stamp out any cockpit crew members’ union before it could come into being”.

In January 1986, Mr Andrews and Olen Rae Goodwin, interim president of the union, met in the Key Airlines trailer at Nellis. The court ruled that Mr Andrews had then “threatened [Mr] Goodwin’s job and he threatened to leave Key, and that the management team would also leave. He threatened to sell Key”.

A court later found that Key's management had illegally suppressed the union, and awarded $500,000 in punitive damages.

Labor bosses: When asked about this recently Romney had this to say,

“President Obama continues to put the interests of labour bosses ahead of the interests of Americans looking for work. By contrast, Governor Romney has grown companies and created jobs, in the private sector and as governor of Massachusetts, and will get America working again,” said Michele Davis, a spokeswoman.

Please click through to the original Financial Times story for more.

"Blatant, grievous, wilful, deliberate and repeated violations": Another FT story, Romney link to union suppression ruling explains further,

“The anti-union activities in this case are not merely unfair labour practices as Key argues, but blatant, grievous, wilful, deliberate and repeated violations of the Railway Labour Act,” Roger Foley, federal judge for the District of Nevada, wrote in 1992, in a case brought by two Key pilots.

That's how a federal judge worded it. (Note how a case that started in 85 takes till 92 to get a ruling.) This is what the airline had done:

According to the court ruling, Key held coercive meetings with pilots; said management would leave and the company lose contracts; and told pilots that salaries, bonuses and benefits could be frozen. Federal labour law forbids an airline “to interfere in any way with the organisation of its employees”.

Sold For A Lot

The once-profitable company was struggling, losing money, had only $2 million in assets -- down from $13 million when Bain bought it -- and had just avoided (illegally suppressed) unionization. But Bain was able to sell part of it to Presidential Airways-- a company in which Bain was also an investor, with Andrews on its Board -- for $18 million. They sold other parts of the company for further profit. The Bain partners got rich(er).

According to FT

In the final analysis, it is hard to say whether Bain Capital was good or bad for Key Airlines.

The operating company had higher sales, was more focused, more efficient and employed more people by the time that Bain sold out.

On the other hand, it was also more fragile, with only one line of business, net losses and a weak balance sheet.

So a look at Bain Capital's early, "formative" years tell us a lot about what has happened to our country, and our jobs, and our economy. This was the beginning of a pattern of Bain-ization that swept through the economy. Good jobs were replaced with low-wage, insecure jobs. They used various schemes to avoid taxes. They suppressed unions. They gutted the assets of good companies. They cut costs (us) and cut costs (safety) and cut costs (product quality) and cut costs (customer support) and cut corners and cut We, the People out of the equation.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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June 28, 2012

Pension Gimmicks Blamed On Workers

The student loan deal is badly needed. It should have just been extended - duh! But the 1 percenters took it hostage and demanded their pound of flesh before We, the People can preserve even this little bit of what we do for ourselves. So as part of the "sweetener" for those 1 percenters there is a corporate pension giveaway in the deal that has nothing to do with student loans. It appears they are going to let companies underfund pensions -- money that should be set aside for worker pensions tomorrow will instead go into 1 percenter pockets today -- and are setting up for a taxpayer bailout (or just stiffing retirees) later.

Pension Calculations Are Tricky But Regulated

This is kind of tricky, so bear with me. When companies (and governments) put money into pension funds they have to calculate how much will be needed to pay the promised pensions. This involves estimating things like how long (and how many) people will live, and how much "return" (interest, stock price increases,dividends...) to expect as the money is set aside. Key point: If you expect a too-high rate of return you can set less aside now (and put it in your pocket,) but when the time comes to pay the pensions you won't have enough.

This is supervised by government standards and regulations. They say how much of a rate of return is allowed to be used in these calculations. A higher expected-rate-of-return allowance means less has to be set aside, so more money can go into 1 percenter pockets. So there is a lot of pressure from corporations to let them get away with overestimating, and therefore putting more in their pockets today. Since this is complex, it is easier to get away with diverting promised-worker-retirement money into 1 percenter pockets.

This student loan deal apparently lets corporations claim a higher expected rate of return, thereby diverting more money today into 1 percenter pockets.

Money Into Worker Pensions Or 1 Percenter Pockets?

For a long time the government has been allowing pension funds to use a too-high estimated rate of return, with the result that many pensions are now underfunded. Money that should have gone into savings to pay worker pensions was diverted into 1 percenter pockets, either through improved corporate bottom lines in the case of companies, or through lower taxes in the case of state & local governments. (Of course, many companies shifted worker-pension promises into 1 percenter pockets using the 401K scam -- you fund your own retirement, on your own, with little help, and have to know how long you'll live, and it turns out badly every time -- but that's for another post.)

In fact, this worker-set-asides-for-later vs 1 percenter-pockets-today issue is similar to what happened with the Social Security Trust Fund. Money from workers was set aside into the fund but was used to pay for tax cuts (and massive military increases). Now 1 percenters are demanding austerity -- cutbacks in the things We, the People do for each other -- instead of workers getting the money back from where the money went, namely the 1 percenters.

And since this is about money for worker retirees, and retired workers don't have big, influential PR firms while 1 percenters do, it is convenient and easy to blame workers when the promised money isn't there for their retirement.

The Much-Hyped Public-Employee Pension Crisis

The supposed public-employee pensions crisis is partly the result of state and local governments not setting aside enough money to pay up on pension promises (because of tax cuts). It is also partly caused by Wall Street scamming on those same governments as they got into riskier investments trying to get a high enough rate of return to make good on their pension promises. But the blame is being placed on the workers themselves.

The post Discover The Network Out To Crush Our Public Workers traced just a few of the corporate-conservative think tanks (really just PR firms) promoting the idea that public-employee unions are responsible for pension shortfalls. Almost all of these organizations traced back to Wall Street firms and individuals for their governance or funding. They are engaged in a campaign to divert attention and blame the workers themselves for pension shortfalls,

These corporate/conservative organizations are very good at manipulating the media and public opinion -- it is their purpose. Their "experts" are well paid and always available to talk to reporters, appear on TV and radio shows and write articles and opinion pieces for newspapers, blogs and for their network of similar organizations. Their "reports' and "studies" reach the conclusions that fit the strategy, and are crafted to sound just right. And there are so many of them! The result is development of "conventional wisdom" about what is going on in our society. This is why that conventional wisdom more and more reflects the corporate/conservative line. And right now the corporate conservative line is that we should think that public employees and their unions are responsible for state and local budget shortfalls.

See also Understanding The Attacks On Public Employees, Ten Holiday Attacks On Public Employees and Are Public Employee Unions Strangling Us? Also, Rick Smith And Dave Johnson Counter The Attack On Public Employees.

Others See It, Too

NY Times Editorial, The Deal on Student Loans,

The pension provision is not ideal. It could mean that more companies will underfinance their pension liabilities, shortchanging employees down the road. Lawmakers have tried to address that potential shortfall by strengthening the agency that insures private pensions with more money from higher premiums.

Thus from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, usually a most unreliable source. (The check from the big corps who want to underfund pensions must have been late.) In this case it is the same gimmick but added the the highway bill...: Threat of Pension Fund Bailouts Lurks in Senate Highway Bill, "Pension Smoothing" a License to Make Up Numbers,

The bill ... would amend the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to allow for an accounting gimmick known as “pension smoothing,” whereby pension managers spread losses out over several years, while overestimating projected investment returns.

Specifically, this provision would expand the range of allowable projection figures, starting this year at a 20 percentage point range, to 60 percentage points after 2015. This is essentially a license to make up numbers for income projections four years out from now. ...

"This accounting trick will likely expose taxpayers to potential pension fund bailouts in the future. " ...

"It would further remove pension investment return projections even further from reality, by expanding the range of allowable projections so broadly as to render them meaningless."


Making Things Worse

To get a deal that keeps student-loan interest rates low enough for more people to afford to go to college, we had to pay off the 1 percenters with this "pension-smoothing" deal. Such is the way of Washington since we shifted from a democracy (rule by the people, for the people) to a plutocracy (rule by the rich, for the rich). Or, in this case a 1 percenter kleptocracy (rule by the rich, stealing from everyone).

But make no mistake, this deal makes the country's future pension problems even worse. It diverts even more money from promised pensions into 1 percenter pockets. The result will be clear in 10, 20 or 30 years when people are retiring and the money isn't there. Taxpayers will be asked for ever more "austerity" to cover money that was diverted to the 1%.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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June 27, 2012

Verizon Workers STILL Struggling, Turn To Board Members, Find More Greed

What a complex web we weave, when our lives are ruled by greed. Verizon is an example of what corporate greed (the 1%) is doing to our middle class and vulnerable (the 99%). It is a highly profitable company, just gave its CEO a huge raise, but dodges its taxes (schools, roads, police, firefighters for the 99%), and to top things off is asking its workers to take cutbacks. So its workers are going over the head of the CEO, and look what they find.

Background

Verizon is a highly-profitable company. Last August (yes this has been going on a long time) I wrote in, Verizon's Workers Strike Back At Corporate Greed -- You Can Join Them!

The giant telecom company Verizon, currently raking in the billions ($6 billion in profits and a $10 billion dividend on $108 billion in revenue last year), while paying no taxes, is putting the squeeze on its workers, and they are fighting back. With all those profits, the company has been consumed by greed: Now Verizon is asking for $1 billion in concessions from its workers.

Verizon's directors recently approved a 200% increase in compensation for the CEO, to $23.1 million. But Verizon continues to demand cuts in compensation from its workers of at least $10,000 a year.

Dodging Taxes

Taxes are how our government does what it does for We, the People and our small and medium businesses. Schools, teachers, police, firefighters, courts, ports, enforcing environmental regulations, enforcing worker safety regulations, enforcing consumer-protection regulations, etc. Verizon, with all of its profits, dodges taxes. In November's How Wealthy Companies Like Verizon Avoid Taxes,

Verizon needs to open a call center, which means a few new low-paying jobs. They get local governments bidding against each other, offering all kinds of tax breaks if only they'll bring those jobs there. Before the bidding war these jobs will be in the economy somewhere, but local schools, police, etc. will be funded. After the bidding war the same number of jobs open up but schools, police, etc. are not funded -- and the 1% are that much richer. Company after company does this. Community after community, desperate for jobs, loses. Schools, police, infrastructure go unfunded. Just who does this help? The 1%.

... [Verizon] aggressively manipulated state tax rules, demanded subsidies, and used other methods to end up with a negative federal income tax rate, and receiving state and local tax subsidies in at least 13 states. When setting up call centers, for example, they offer localities the prospect of jobs that that will be created somewhere in US, where the company would have paid taxes to fund schools and infrastructure, but get the localities bidding against each other until they end up making a profit instead of paying taxes.

Verizon's Directors

45,000 Verizon's workers are are still trying to get a fair contract and are now turning to Verizon's directors, asking them to get this company to act responsibly. But looking into Verizon's corporate governance seems to reveal the very kind of web of 1% greed that is destroying our country.

Friday Verizon's workers launched protests aimed at members of Verizon's Board of Directors, asking them to take responsibility and get the company to negotiate and give workers a fair deal. Joined by members of the IBEW, Jobs with Justice, Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), AFL-CIO and the Change to Win coalition, actions took place at nearly 300 locations across the country (300 protests, but not in the newspapers or TV news), including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Boston and Washington D.C., as well as in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Targeted in these protests are directors Richard Carrión, CEO of Peurto Rico's Banco Popular, and Clarence Otis, CEO of Darden Restaurants. Looking into Verizon's corporate governance you find that Carrión and Otis currently are being criticized for their own business practices at their companies Banco Popular and Darden Restaurants.

Richard Carrión has been a Verizon director ... not quite forever, just since 1997. He is a member of the Corporate Governance and Policy Committee and the Human Resources Committee. Carrión has also been a board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York since 2008. He serves on that board (sits in that web?) with Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, who is currently in the news. (Previous directors include Stephen Friedman who resigned but was not prosecuted - who is? - after it was disclosed he purchased millions of dollars of Goldman Sachs stock while serving both as a director of the bank and of the NY Fed while the Fed was bailing out AIG, which directly benefited Goldman Sachs and bolstered its stock.)

Carrión’s Banco Popular owes taxpayers more than $900 million in TARP bailout money – just one bank in the US owes more. Yet, Carrión’s own compensation has more than doubled since 2009. Meanwhile, under Carrión, the bank has controversially loaned millions of dollars to companies controlled by Carrión’s relatives – much of which has been written off as a loss to the bank.

Bloomberg, N.Y. Fed Director’s Puerto Rico Bank Loses On Nephew’s Loan,

Popular Inc. (BPOP), Puerto Rico’s largest lender, amassed record losses during the credit crisis and got a $935 million injection from U.S. taxpayers. Now a loan to a real estate venture overseen by the chief executive officer’s nephew is burning a hole in the bank’s books.

Popular loaned the money two years ago to a developer controlled by Jose Vizcarrondo, whose uncle, Richard Carrion, is the bank’s CEO ... Popular said it wrote off more than half the $15.7 million.

Add that Vizcarrondo, 49, is a Popular board member who until two months ago helped set Carrion’s pay, and the saga exposes conflicts of interest and potential weaknesses in the bank’s governance...

Meanwhile, Clarence Otis has been a Verizon director since 2006 and is a member of the Audit Committee and the Human Resources Committee. Otis has been Chairman of Darden Restaurants since 2005 and CEO since 2004. Darden Restaurants is the largest company-owned and operated full-service restaurant company in the world. The Darden brand includes: Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, and Eddie V’s. There are more than 1,900 Darden restaurants.

Otis is also on the Board (web?) of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

So, what about Darden? What happens if we pull on the web a bit further? The Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) is an organization working to better the conditions of people who work at outfits like Darden's. From their website,

The mission of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) is to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s low-wage restaurant workforce. ROC-United is the only national restaurant workers’ organization in the United States. ROC-United is the only national organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to the needs of restaurant workers.

The ROC has launched a Dignity At Darden campaign, asking the chain to stop practices of discrimination and wage theft,

In December 2011, workers from the Capital Grille Restaurant stood up for dignity in their restaurant company. On January 31st, Capital Grille workers in New York, Chicago, and in the Washington, DC area filed federal litigation against Capital Grille’s parent company Darden for discrimination and wage theft (Click here to find out more about the lawsuit). On February 15th, workers from Capital Grille in Los Angeles joined the struggle. On February 28th, Miami Capital Grille workers also launched their campaign and added their claims to the litigation.

Dardens was in the news recently, when the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA) released a report, The Hands That Feed Us, looking at wages and working conditions of workers across the entire food chain. A report on the FCWA report, Many Food Workers Keep Working While Sick, Survey Finds, looke at how lack of paid sick days can help spread disease,

Many well-known restaurant chains have been implicated in recent foodborne illness outbreaks. Just take a look at this list of recent Hepatitis A outbreaks tied to sick workers at restaurants like Olive Garden, Quiznos, and McDonald's. ... This spring, the New York City branch of ROC demanded that Darden, which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster, among other chains, provide paid sick days to protect the health of consumers and employees.

From FCWA, Tell Darden: Take the High Road,

Alliance member Restaurant Opportunities Centers United has launched an exciting new national campaign, Dignity at Darden. In December 2011, workers from the Capital Grille Restaurant stood up for dignity in their restaurant company. On January 31st, Capital Grille workers in New York, Chicago, and in the Washington, DC area filed federal litigation against Capital Grille’s parent company Darden for discrimination and wage theft. Employees at all of the 1,680 Darden Restaurants across America – such as Capital Grille, Red Lobster, and Olive Garden – deserve to be given equal opportunities, to be fully and fairly compensated for their efforts, and to enjoy a safe and healthy workplace. Listen to workers’ stories on the website.

Action

So Verizon's workers are bringing attention to the conditions at Darden restaurants. With reports that workers at some Darden restaurants are not fully compensated for their work and others have been subjected to racial discrimination, Verizon workers protested these problems at Darden locations across the country as part of last week's Day of Action.

“Mr. Otis and Mr. Carrión are each paid $230,000 per year to direct Verizon's business,” said CWA Communications Director Candice Johnson. “It’s time for them to step up and make Verizon management recognize the contributions of front line workers who have helped the company become so successful. Leaving the workers' contracts unresolved undermines the workforce, hurts employee morale and creates unnecessary uncertainty for the company.”

For more information, please visit www.verigreedy.com.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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June 11, 2012

Corporations Aren't The Problem

A pro-labor column in a major newspaper? I'd better look out my window and see if pigs are flying down the street. Nope, they're not! Hell hasn't frozen over. And hey, monkeys aren't even coming out of my butt!

In today's NY Times Joe Nocera writes, in Turning Our Backs on Unions,

In the early postwar years, even the Chamber of Commerce believed that “collective bargaining is a part of the democratic process,” as its then-president noted in a statement.

But, in the late-1970s, union membership began falling off a cliff, brought on by a variety of factors, including jobs moving offshore and big labor’s unsavory reputation. Government didn’t help either:Ronald Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers in 1981 sent an unmistakable signal that companies could run roughshod over federal laws intended to protect unions — which they’ve done ever since.

...“Draw one line on a graph charting the decline in union membership, then superimpose a second line charting the decline in middle-class income share,” writes Noah, “and you will find that the two lines are nearly identical.” Richard Freeman, a Harvard economist, has estimated that the decline of unions explains about 20 percent of the income gap.

Nocera concludes, "...if liberals really want to reverse income inequality, they should think seriously about rejoining labor’s side."

Ok, checking again, are monkeys really not flying out of my butt?

OK, this is for real, and people had best pay attention if we want our economy to recover. We have a consumer economy and when regular people have money in their pockets to spend on things, the economy does better. Why is this so hard to get? So why are all of the solutions to the economic downturn based on, as Atrios writes, "free money for banks" instead of helping regular people?

See Businesses do not create jobs, people do. Also, It's the lack of demand, stupid! and Businesses hire when customers are coming in the door and The rich don't create jobs, we do.

Again, the rich don't create jobs, we do. And companies want customers, not tax cuts. And this means that we need strong unions pushing to get raises and benefits so working people can start walking through the doors of the businesses again, which will make them hire again, to meet that demand.

Who's In Charge Here?

We, the People were supposed to be in charge here. The economy was supposed to be for our benefit and we were all supposed to get a slice of that pie we all baked together. But (as always throughout history) wealthy interest were able to dominate, "influence" the lawmakers and enforcers, and grab what they could get for themselves. Our system fell down because it didn't control the ability of a few wealthy people to gain power over the rest of us.

Unions gave regular working people the power to get the share of the pie that democracy promises. Before unions came along to enforce the promise of democracy working people didn't get their share of the prosperity that democracy promised. After unions working people did. Before unions we had 12 (or more)-hour workdays, seven days a week. Before unions we had low pay. Before unions we had no benefits. Before unions we certainly didn't get vacations. Before unions we could be fired for no reason. Before unions a wealthy few were able use their wealth to pay off influence legislators and keep the rules bent in their favor.

Unions organized people into power blocks that forced changes that brought a larger share of the pie to We, the People. Unions are a vital part of the system of democracy because they give regular people the power to confront the wealthy.

Corporations Aren't The problem -- The Rules Are The Problem

One thing Nocera wrote: "Company managements don’t pay workers any more than they have to" -- actually, I would change "don't" to "can't". Companies can't pay workers more than they have to. And they can't provide health insurance and benefits and good working conditions and all the other things we wish they would do.

Here is what a lot of us don't get about corporations: it isn't the corporations that are the problem, it's the playing field that is the problem. If one corporation can get away with paying its workers less, then they all have to. They don't have a choice. When one company finds a competitive advantage the rest of the companies have to respond or risk being driven out of business. They really do not have a choice. One company can't pay better than the others. We, the People have to make them all pay better. It's called making the rules. We are supposed to be making the rules, not them. And when we are not making the rules, the system stops working.

I think this is so important to understand. To change companies we have to change and enforce the rules that companies operate under. It is up to us to tell them what to do, to lay down the playing field, and then they will compete on that field as it is defined, up to the limits of how it is defined. They have to push to those limits, and they will, they all will, it is what they are wired to do. When we fall down on the job a few can game the system and break it and end up with everything for themselves, and this is what is happening.

It isn't just that We, the People come out better when we are the ones making the rules, it's that the system doesn't work at all unless we are the ones making the rules. When (the owners and managers of) companies are making the rules, the ones with the most money are able to make the rules to benefit them and only them Which is exactly what we are experiencing today.

The economy and the system just don't work without strong unions to balance the power of the billionaires and the big corporations they hide behind.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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June 1, 2012

Unions Fucking Us All Up By Requiring Actual Pay For Work

A letter in today's paper, about how unions are "handcuffing" us, because they won't let cities replace paid people with volunteers. This pretty much sums up the anti-union argument, doesn't it?

Letters to the Editor - San Jose Mercury News,

Union rules handcuff library volunteers

[A person's] attacking of volunteers ...(Letters, May 28) does not surprise me, but her lack of candor does. As business agent for San Jose's largest public service employee union, she had a vested interest in keeping librarians employed. She should have disclosed this. ... While libraries have "friends" groups, members are relegated to tasks not performed by union employees because of union rules. Take restrictions off library volunteers and they may flourish, ...

Oh, and they're also fucking us all up by getting pensions and health care. In a free market no one should get pay, pensions and health care! Then we can all prosper. Or something.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:59 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 10, 2012

Why Mitt Romney Hates Unions

Is this guy a Presidential candidate from a major party, or a fringe nut? He sounds like Rush Limbaugh. HuffPo: Mitt Romney: Obama 'Takes Marching Orders From Union Bosses',

Speaking to a crowd at a campaign stop in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney took a swipe at both President Barack Obama and organized labor, saying the president "takes his marching orders" from unions that cost American jobs.

"Liberalism once taught that unions would ensure lasting prosperity for workers," Romney said at Lansing Community College. "Instead, they too often contributed to disappearing companies, disappearing industries and disappearing jobs. But like many politicians of the past, President Obama takes his marching orders from union bosses, rails against right-to-work states, fights to win union elections by eliminating the vote by secret ballot, and even denies an American company the right to build a factory in the American state of its choice."


When People Have A Say

People who follow Romney's line of reasoning think that we need to be more "business friendly" with low wages, low benefits, low environmental protections and low taxes on the rich so we can compete with countries like China. Here's the thing, in countries like China the people don't have a say. When people have a say they say that they want higher wages, benefits, good schools, environmental protections and the rest of the prosperity that democracy brings to all the people, instead of huge amounts accumulating in the hands of just a few people.

Unions Drove Wages And Benefits Up

Romney's argument that unions "contributed to disappearing companies, disappearing industries and disappearing jobs" is based on the idea that unions drove wages and benefits up. He believes that good wages and benefits -- namely US -- are a "cost" instead of the reason that We, the People decided to develop the body of laws that allow corporations to exist, to use our infrastructure and educated people and laws and courts and police and all the other "public structures" as a foundation for doing business. We, the People did that so that we -- all of us -- could benefit. All of us, not just a few of us.

In that respect Romney is correct, unions and democracy brought us higher pay, benefits, "the weekend," vacations, 40-hour workweeks and things like that. Before unions came along to enforce the idea of democracy we didn't, after unions we did. Before unions we had 12-hours a day workdays, seven days a week. Before unions we had low pay. Before unions we had no benefits. Before unions we didn't get vacations. Before unions we could be fired for no reason. Unions are why we have had a middle class.

Unions enforce the concept of democracy. Yes, We, the People were supposed to be in charge. Yes, the economy was supposed to be for our benefit. Why else would We, the People allow corporations to exist in the first place? But it was unions that gave people the power to enforce that idea.

Laying People Off, Cutting Wages, Pocketing That Money For Himself

Romney made his fortune buying up companies (not, by the way, using his own money, but using the companies' own assets as collateral for the loans to buy them with). Then Romney fired many of the workers, making the rest do the extra work. He cut wages and benefits for the rest and then pocketed that money for himself. This is the guy who says that good wages and benefits is what puts companies out of business. In other words, Romney is saying that the problem with our economy is that we have a middle class. Romney wants America to be more "business-friendly."

Romney hates unions. They get in the way of doing business they way business was done "When Mitt Romney Came To Town:


According to the Christian Science Monitor, this is the story of what happened to the workers in one company when the Romney/Bain machine "came to town":

The new owner, American Pad & Paper, owned in turn by [Mitt Romney's] Bain Capital, told all 258 union workers they were fired, in a cost-cutting move. Security guards hustled them out of the building. They would be able to reapply for their jobs, at lesser wages and benefits, but not all would be rehired.

Outsourcing jobs to places where people don't have a say so they can't demand good wages, firing people and making them reapply for their jobs but at half the pay, gutting people's benefits, stripping companies, treating employees like throwaway Kleenex, closing factories, stealing pensions, borrowing and pocketing... Locust capitalism. Chop shops. That's Mitt Romney's view of how to make money. Unions are in the way.

What Is Business-Friendly?

Some quick thoughts about what "business-friendly" really means: (add your own thoughts in the comments)

Business-friendly =

Low wages
Longer hours
No health benefits
No pensions
No vacations
No sick pay
Low taxes on the wealthy and their corporations
"Smaller government," -- which means less "We, the People" in charge of things:


    No safety rules
    No privacy rules
    No food inspections
    No environmental protections
    No consumer protections
    No citizen access to courts
    Arbitration
    Tort "reform" which means restricted access to courts

So what are your thoughts on this argument that we need to be more "business-friendly?" What does the phrase even mean? And what happens to the idea that We, the People have an economy for our own benefit?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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May 3, 2012

99% Spring Disrupts Verizon Shareholder Meeting Six Times

You'd be hard-pressed to find a better example of corporate greed than Verizon, a company making billions and tripling its CEO's pay while demanding givebacks from its workers. Today the 99% Spring movement let Verizon know that 99% of us are trying to bring big corporations back under democracy's control. Today’s Verizon shareholder meeting in Huntsville, Alabama was disrupted six separate times by members of the 99% Power coalition, part of the 99% Spring movement.

The Verizon shareholder meeting comes as the company is in negotiations with the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). The highly-profitable company -- the 16th largest corporation in America -- is asking its workers for givebacks amounting to as much as $20,000 each, while tripling the compensation of CEO Lowell McAdam from $7.2 million to $23.1 million. The company made $22.5 billion in profits over the past four years while paying its top five executives $283 million over that period. Because of this the company has earned the nickname “Verigreedy."

After today's meeting was opened by McAdam, and as he was introducing Verizon's Board of Directors, a group of people stood up with one shouting "Mic Check" three times. Then the leader continued, with the rest of the group repeating, "Verizon wants to ... slash worker benefits ... 20,000 dollars ... per worker ... per year! ... We say ... SHAME on you! ... Meanwhile ... Verizon CEO ... Lowell McAdam ... got a ... 220% raise ... up to 23 million dollars ... Shame Shame Shame on you ..." The last line was repeated as the group was led out of the meeting by security, with many in the audience applauding them. There were no arrests.

After several minutes another group disrupted the meeting, and was led out by security as many in attendance applauded and chanted with them. Then the same sequence again, and again, for a total of 6 times.

The Rally

At a rain-soaked rally before the shareholder meeting Al Henley, President of the Alabama AFL-CIO demanded that Verizon be a better corporate citizen. “Verizon is on the run from their own workers, and thought that by taking the meeting to Alabama, a “right-to-work” state, but they misjudged our sense of solidarity here in the South.”

Here are some photos from the rally:


Also at the rally, Ron Collins, CWA Chief of Staff, said, “Enough of the attacks on idle-class jobs while paying executives obscene salaraies and dodging taxes.”

Scott Douglas, Executive Director of the Greater Birmingham Ministries, said, “We may be down South, but we are not offshore. Today we say with new meaning the Alabama state motto, we dare defend our rights. … Now more than ever, it is important for people of conscience to join together to recognize our common struggle against injustice and to fight back united.”

Sarita Gupta of Jobs with Justice said, “Verizon’s CEO makes $23 million per year. That’s over 600 times more than an average frontline worker makes. This is fundamentally an issue of fairness.”

Patrick Welsh, a Verizon retiree, talked about the promises made that if you work hard, follow the rules and pay your taxes then you’ll have a good retirement, and Verizon has broken that promise.

Also speaking were Jasmine Salas of the Student Labor Action Project and Jennifer Travis, a worker fired by Verizon.

People arrived at the rally in 12 buses and several vans from Florida, New Orleans, Mississippi, Birmingham, Knoxville, Atlanta, Nashville, Columbia, Chattanooga, and other cities throughout the region. They represented several groups, including CWA, Jobs with Justice, Occupy Huntsville, Occupy Birmingham and the Student Labor Action Project. Students from Orlando and Tallahassee took a 14 hour bus trip and slept in the local Plumbers Union hall.

There were also rallies supporting Verizon workers in 15 cities including Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Boston, Portland, Miami and Orlando.

Donation In Lieu Of Taxes?

In a PR move before the meeting Verizon yesterday donated $100K to the Alabama Governor's office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the United Way of Alabama, for disaster relief to help recovery from tornados that occurred just over a year ago. (This brings their total disaster-assistance giving to $400K) Gov. Robert Bentley said these funds are important because “government dollars aren't available.” The Governor could have added, "Because Verizon doesn’t pay taxes.”

Signs, Moving Billboard, Totally Unrelated Cow

Burma Shave-style signs with poems, all ending with, "Verizon is Verigreedy" appeared around town overnight on roadsides and elsewhere, placed by "a team of elves." Large signs condemning Verizon's greed were placed in strategic locations around the meeting site. Also, a large moving billboard vehicle, reading, "Verizon Is Verigreedy" was circling the location of the shareholder meeting.

In other, unrelated news, a cow got loose in the middle of the night, keeping police occupied, which had nothing to do with the rest of this. Meanwhile, Huntsville's fried catfish and hush puppies are worth the trip, even though you can't really tell the air from the rain because of the humidity, and it's only the beginning of May.


Pushback

Verizon is outsourcing U.S. jobs, cutting worker pensions and gutting them for new hires, charging current and retired employees thousands of dollars more for health benefits, and cutting disability coverage. This is how the middle class in the US is being hollowed out. Pushback began last year with Occupy, and has now been expanded by the 99% Spring movement. People are finally fighting back.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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May 2, 2012

99% Spring Movement To Protest Corporate Greed At Verizon Shareholder Meeting In Huntsville Thursday

The Take Back the American Dream conference -- the summit for the 99% -- is taking place June 18-20 in Washington, DC. Click here to register.

Big companies like Verizon use threats of layoffs to force their workers to take pay and benefit cuts, and use the money to pay huge amounts to their executives. This is why the middle class is being "hollowed out." So the 99% Spring movement will be protesting outside of Verizon's shareholder meeting in Huntsville, Alabama on Thursday. I'll be there, joining the Communications Workers of America, Jobs with Justice and other groups.

Verizon (member of ALEC) is a tremendously wealthy company. CEO Lowell McAdam's gets a $23.1 million compensation package - triple the $7.2 million he received the year before.

Verizon, between 2008-2010:


  • $21.5 billion in pre-tax U.S. profits.
  • Verizon’s taxes paid: $1 billion REFUND.
  • Verizon’s six top executives were paid $210 million.
  • Verizon productivity increase: $150,000 per worker.
  • Jobs eliminated in the same period: 40,000.

But the company is trying to take away pay and benefits from its workers -- demanding givebacks of $20,000 per worker per year in contract negotiations. In June, 2011 contract negotiations began for 45,000 workers represented by Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical
Workers (IBEW). According to CWA, Verizon made excessive, retrogressive demands that would cost each union represented employee $20,000 a year, slashing healthcare benefits; increasing the costs for active employees and retirees; eliminating pensions for new employees and freezing pensions for current employees.

So the workers are trying to fight back. This is why the 99% Spring movement is coming to Huntsville Thursday - like it came to the GE shareholder meeting last week.

Again and again companies are coming to their workers and saying they have to take pay cuts and benefit cuts or lose their jobs. These companies threaten to move jobs to other countries or just lay people off and make the remaining workers do their jobs, and then when they have forced the workers to give in the executives get huge raises. Note that Mitt Romney didn't patent this method. This was how he got rich, but he's not the only one who has been doing it.

Let's see if we can make our voices heard!

Click here to read the 99 Spring/Challenging Corporate Power action tool kit about VeriGreedy.

PHere are some of the posts I have written about Verizon and its workers:


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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April 24, 2012

1% Vs 99% Battle Comes To GE Detroit Shareholder Meeting Tomorrow

I'm in Michigan to cover the GE shareholder meeting tomorrow. I grew up in Michigan and have to say that Mitt Romney was exactly right that the trees here really are the right size. The look of the houses, the layout of the roads, the birds, everything feels right. Of course, my wife grew up in England, and she says that the trees in England are the right size. (She also says the beer there is better -- and she's right.)

I grew up in Michigan. My family was in Michigan because my grandfather worked in what is now called "Carriage Town" in Flint in the days of Dort and Durant and Nash and the rest of the early auto company industrialists. (No he didn't get stock.) He fought in the first world war, and considered himself an American. Later he was an executive at different companies, living outside of Detroit. In WWII he and a number of other auto company executives went to work in Washington for $1 a year, because they felt it was their patriotic duty. Later, when Eisenhower was President he went to work in the government, and considered it public service.

My grandfather was a proud Republican, and even spoke at Rotary Club events. He worked under and was a friend of Mitt's dad George, another auto executive. I found a speech online where he said he felt that big corporations should be taxed more to incentivize formation and competition of smaller, innovative companies and said they they create more jobs. I know he agreed that we need a high top tax rate (it was over 90% when he was in the Eisenhower administration), that the revenue should be used to invest in infrastructure because it is the soil in which businesses grow and prosper. He believed in his country and in investing in this country and in the importance of making things in America.

"Bean-Counters" Take Over, Sacrifice Long-Term

Later on the auto companies went in a different direction. Bob Lutz, former vice-Chair of GM is a "car guy" and a conservative. In his recent book Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business Lutz wrote about how the MBA and finance types took over management from the "gar guys" and didn't care about design, product quality, customer satisfaction -- only about money, and really only short-term money even if it meant sacrificing the company in the long term.

The "bean counters" took over more than just the car companies, they took over company after company, industry after industry. And they sacrificed more than just their companies to short-term profits. When they closed factories, as documented in Michael Moore's Roger & Me, the community of Flint, Michigan was devastated when GM closed car factories there. This was back 1989 and presaged the tsunami that was coming. As I wrote about in 2010, the movement of more and more manufacturing out of the country wiped out the midwest and other regions, and the resulting loss of jobs and wages combined with the huge trade deficit helped lead to the financial crisis and current "jobless recovery."

On My Way To Detroit

I stayed in Flint last night and am writing this from a coffee ship in downtown Pontiac on the way to Detroit. I mentioned "carriage town" in Flint - the little area which incubated much of our automotive industry and with it the Midwest's manufacturing prosperity. Today the area is neglected. The original buildings at least have historical markers, but the area is relatively deserted, several houses in the area are boarded up, with vacant lots where the city has cleared derelicts. The roads are not in good shape, there are many empty storefronts, roadside businesses, offices and manufacturing facilities. The city has lost and is losing population, and has been taken over by Michigan's anti-democracy "emergency manager" law. ("If you people won't sell off your assets to private interests, cut public employee pay and pensions, cut back on the things democracy does for citizens, etc., and other "reforms" that enrich the 1%, then we'll just take over and make it happen and you don't get a say.)

Downtown Pontiac is one more of so many examples of the devastation of our country's communities by the short-term-profit, long-term-collapse mentality of America's ruling elites. We drove by closed factories, boarded-up stores and houses, and sit in a little coffee shop - one of the few remaining businesses in the "downtown."

GE Shareholder Meeting Tomorrow -- 1% vs 99%

The 1% vs 99% clash comes to Detroit tomorrow. The GE shareholder meeting takes place in that city tomorrow, and while it is going on inside, outside people will be making their voices heard with nonviolent protests. GE brings to light the the battle between short-term-gain-for-a-few vs long-term health of the communities and economy of the rest of us.

GE has made billions in profits, but paid zero federal income taxes from 2008 to 2010. Over the last ten years, GE’s effective tax rate has been 2.3%. In 2010 alone, the top five GE executives received $75.9 million. Just five people. Over the last three years, GE's executives collected $234 million.

Since 2008, GE has spent more on DC lobbyists than it paid in taxes. GE spent $84.35 million on lobbyists from 2008-2010.

The cause of our terrible economic inequality is clear: the 1% have too much power, and use that power to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us -- the 99%. Since 2008, at least thirty big American corporations reported big profits and paid their CEOs excessively while laying off workers and spending more on Washington lobbyists than they paid in taxes. In fact, 100 of the Fortune 500’s most profitable companies received average tax refunds of 2%.

Tomorrow in Detroit, people are taking it straight to the top of GE.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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April 18, 2012

Will AT&T Do A Komen And Ruin Its Brand By Hurting Workers?

AT&T looks to be shooting for a double-bad award right now. They're backing the hyper-partisan ALEC, and they're trying to get their workers to take cuts while they shower cash on a few at the top. More and more, people are reacting to these kinds of attacks on We, the People -- look at what happened to the Komen Foundation! So will AT&T do the right thing or will they risk destroying their brand like the Komen Foundation did to theirs?

For decades big corporations have been getting away with all kinds of anti-public, anti-worker stuff -- blasting us with propaganda, pushing a right-wing agenda, paying little-or-no taxes, cutting regulations, and passing all the gains to a few at the top (the 1%). But people (the 99%) have been waking up to this stuff, and are fighting back against this alliance of big corporations and the right wingers. And when people react, it can work.

In Corporations Supporting ALEC Are Risking Damage To Their Brands I wrote about the "brand-equity" damage that companies are risking when they associate with hyper-partisan, right-wing outfits like ALEC. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation got in bed with right-wingers and completely ruined their brand:

A few months ago, in a move to please the conservative right, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® foundation pulled funding from Planned Parenthood. How'd that work out for them? Komen’s "brand equity" dropped 21 percent, one of the most dramatic plummets in brand-equity ever.

How far a drop was this? Komen was ranked among the top two. This year it ranked No. 56. That's a drop of 54 spots. The value of the Komen brand is ruined. The Komen executives behind the Planned Parenthood decision were forced out.

You don't want to hear the phrase "most dramatic plummets in brand-equity ever" when you're in charge of a brand with recognition like AT&T has. And if even that doesn't worry you the phrase "executives behind the ... decision were forced out" might.

The Link

Last year I wrote about workers at Verizon, the wealth of the company, the demands that workers give up more of a middle-class existence, and their strike:

Verizon, with $108 billion in revenue and huge profits, is not paying taxes. Citizens for Tax Justice, in Verizon Pushes for $1 Billion in Concessions from Workers, While Receiving Nearly $1 Billion in Subsidies from Uncle Sam, explains, (emphasis added below because I got mad when I read it.)

Despite earning over $32.5 billion over the last 3 years, Verizon not only paid nothing in corporate income taxes, it actually received nearly $1 billion (the same amount as the concessions they are seeking) in tax benefits from the federal government during that time.

... In fact, if Verizon paid its corporate income tax at the official rate of 35 percent, it would have owed more than $11 billion (rather than negative $1 billion). This alone is enough to avoid the recent cuts in the debt deal to student loan programs.

CTJ also points out that, "...the top 5 executives at Verizon received more than a quarter of a billion dollars in compensation over the last 4 years."

There is a link between what the workers at ATT and Verizon are fighting, the right-wing, anti-union agenda that the big corporations are pushing, and what is happening to your own pay and benefits, and the fight to keep from being laid off or getting a job if you have been or get laid off. There is also a link to the fight over minimum wage, Social Security and Medicare cuts and other things that are a "safety net" that keep you from being pitted against other desperate people, fighting for just a scrap of a life instead of a secure place in the middle class.

There is a link between these things and the anti-government, anti-tax agenda that weakens the ability of We, the People to regulate and tax the corporations, and to use taxes to fight the aggregation of wealth and power to a few who then use that wealth and power to erode our democracy. Democracy is We, the People watching out for and taking care of each other, and part of that is keeping the power to tax and regulate and set limits on what the biggest can do. Democracy is one-person-one-vote not one-dollar-one-vote!

Democracy Requires Effort

Democracy takes work, and organization, and awareness, and information, and requires people to be eternally vigilant. Sounds corny, but look what happens when the public gets apathetic or we let ourselves be persuaded that "job creators" deserve special favors, etc... Look what happened to our country and economy since the Bush v Gore Supreme Court ruling that gave us tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and war. Look what has happened since the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that lets big corporations and billionaires spend unlimited amounts to influence our elections.

AT&T Strike Coming?

Right now the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and AT&T (AT&T) are negotiating contracts affecting a total of 40,000 workers. On March 31, union members voted to authorize CWA to call strikes if agreements on new contracts weren’t be reached. CWA workers are engaged in a "mobilization" preparing for the possibility of a strike to support their negotiators in "the fight to hold on to the American Dream." A strike is a big deal and a major sacrifice by the workers involved.

AT&T had more than $31 billion in profits in the last 2 years! Now, in negotiations with their workers they are trying to squeeze even higher profits, asking for givebacks in health care and other areas. CWA is asking them to "take the high road" in negotiations, and not work to help kill off the middle class:

As we approach the end of several AT&T contracts, CWA members have a choice: help make sure AT&T stays on the high road, providing good, middle-class jobs -- the path to the American Dream -- or risk that they join competitors on the low road with layoffs, cost shifts and outsourcing.

AT&T thinks it can just hit the union, squeeze the workers, get some more bucks for those at the top. But we're in a different environment now, and plenty of people are coming to understand that things like this are not just between a company and its own workers - people are starting to see the connections between a company doing this to their workers and their own job situation! They are starting to understand the way things get harder and the pay and benefits get more scarce for others means the same will happen to them.

Mobilization

CWA's newsletter: Mobilization In High Gear At AT&T,

As AT&T contract negotiations go into overtime, so has mobilization by CWA members.

CWA members have a lot of creative mobilization actions underway to support their bargaining teams and to stand up for the American Dream of good jobs and good benefits.

More Than Just AT&T's Workers

Even if you do not work at AT&T this is about you, too. If AT&T can beat down their own workers, other companies will have it easier beating down their workers. If workers can be beaten down like this, then minimum wage cuts and cuts in Social Security and Medicare and the rest of what We, the People do for each other can't be far behind.

BUT we can fight back. What happened to the omen Foundation shows that we can have an effect. The companies leaving ALEC behind now show that we can have an effect. Support CWA's workers. Support the organizations fighting ALEC. Let companies like AT&T know that you are aware of their game now, you are ready to stand up for other people in this fight to keep the middle class, and the paths to the middle class for poor people, and the democracy that enabled that middle class.

Actions

ColorOfChange.org: ColorOfChange.org calls on AT&T to stop funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC),

ColorOfChange.org members began making phone calls to AT&T headquarters to demand that the company stop funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) because of the group's role in the spread of discriminatory voter ID laws, and "stand your ground" laws like the one that has prevented justice for Trayvon Martin in Florida. News broke last week that Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, and Intuit have ended their relationship with ALEC. Today ColorOfChange.org called on AT&T to follow suit.

"After hearing from us about ALEC's involvement in voter suppression, major corporations like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Kraft have done the right thing and decided to stop funding the group," said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange.org. "But despite numerous letters, emails and telephone calls from ColorOfChange, AT&T seems unconcerned their dollars are helping to suppress the black vote, support shoot first laws and undermine our democracy. It’s time that AT&T hears the voices of people all across the country who expect better."


Nation Action:Tell AT&T to Stop Funding ALEC

The Nation is asking readers to join the CMD's call and implore one of the ALEC corporations with which many Nation readers may do business, AT&T, to refrain from giving the organization any more money. Email senior executives in charge of "Corporate Citizenship" Channing Barringer (cbarringer@att.com) and Mark Siegel (mark.a.siegel@att.com) and call the executive charged with legislative and regulatory issues Walt Sharp (210-821-4105) and politely tell them that it's not helpful to their business to fund a group that has worked to suppress voter turnout, privatize public schools, Medicare and Social Security, hand out tax breaks for new tobacco products, promote concealed gun laws, harass immigrants and gut minimum wage laws. After making your voice heard, share this info with friends, family, Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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March 29, 2012

Open Letter From Europe Against American Labor Intimidation Practices

“EMPLOYEES OF U.S. SUBSIDIARIES OF GERMAN COMPANIES, ESPECIALLY T-MOBILE USA, SHOULD BE ABLE TO EXERCISE THEIR UNRESTRICTED RIGHT TO OPT FOR ORGANIZED REPRESENTATION IN THE COMPANY WITHOUT FEAR.”

In an ad in the NY Times yesterday, 11 leading German legal scholars and politicians called on Deutsche Telekom and other German companies to stop using American-style union-hating tactics at their American subsidiaries. In particular they asked these companies to “end all collaboration with U.S. consultants who advise employers how to fight employee representation.”

Remarkable

What is remarkable about this letter is the difference between European and American attitudes toward working people and labor rights. In Europe it's just a given that working people have dignity and respect. To Europeans it is shocking to see a company try to fight against its own workers! In the US working people face an atmosphere of constant intimidation, always pushing for lower wages, cuts in benefits, longer working hours, and subservience.

The letter speaks for itself, please read it: (click for original)

To T-MOBILE USA and Other U.S. Subsidiaries of German Companies

AN OPEN LETTER ON WORKERS’ RIGHTS

Globalization and the current crisis present particular challenges for the economy. Germany’s social market policy faces these challenges with its commitment to stakeholder values including employees and its responsibility towards the community. The respect for the interests of different players has already proven to be beneficial in previous periods of change. Essential elements of this approach are respectful cooperation and a balance of the differing interests of employees and employers. Since employees are in a structurally weaker position compared to employers, the freedom of association and freedom of opinion as human rights are especially vital.

The signatories urge that the employees of U.S. subsidiaries of German companies, especially T-Mobile USA, should be able to exercise their unrestricted right to opt for organized representation in the company without fear. They must not be influenced, pressured, or intimidated by employers if they exercise their basic right for freedom of association. The human right of freedom of speech notably entails this right as well.

Even in the Federal Republic of Germany there are shortsighted employers and lawyers who believe they can get away with a lack of integrity and respect toward unions and work councils and who think they can forgo cooperation. Practical experiences and scientific studies show, however, that employer conduct based on this model will ultimately be harmful to the company.

We encourage T-Mobile USA and the other U.S. subsidiaries of German companies to take these experiences to heart and to abandon all efforts at union avoidance. Likewise, we ask them to end all collaboration with U.S. consultants who advise employers how to fight employee representation.

Däubler-Gmelin, Prof. Dr. Herta, former Federal Minister of Justice, attorney, Berlin

Baum, Gerhart R., former Minister of the Interior, attorney, Düsseldorf

Müntefering, Franz, former Federal Minister for Labor and Social Affairs, German MP, Berlin

Schmoldt, Hubertus, former Chairman of the Labor Union IG Mining, Chemical and Energy

Hensche, Detlef, former Chairman of the Labor Union IG Media, attorney, Berlin

Merzhäuser, Michael, attorney, Berlin

Dieterich, Prof. Dr. Thomas, former President of the Federal Labor Court and former Judge of the Federal Constitutional Court, Kassel

Blüm, Dr. Norbert, former Federal Minister for Labor and Social Affairs, Bonn

Struck, Dr. Peter, former Federal Minister of Defense, President of Friedrich – Ebert – Foundation, Berlin

Däubler, Prof. Dr. jur. Wolfgang, university professor (labor law, business law, international law), Bremen

Schwegler, Dr. Lorenz, former Chairman of the Union for Trade, Banking and Insurance Carriers, attorney, Düsseldorf

Learn more at www.WeWorkBetterTogether.org

Did you see that last line? Learn more at www.WeWorkBetterTogether.org

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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March 19, 2012

There Is Consensus On How To Fix Economy

“There was clearly something wrong with the U.S. economy long before the crash.”

Consensus

Consensus. Again and again, people who examine what went wrong with our economy leading up to the great recession come to the same conclusions! Study after study, book after book, statement after statement, op-ed after op-ed, organization after organization, expert after expert, all weighing in, all coming to the same conclusions. One after another voices speak up (click through for just a sampling), voicing their understanding of what happened to the economy, what caused the crash and what we have to do to fix things. One after another they voice the same conclusions: our economy was damaged by,


  • tax cuts for the rich combined with huge military budget increases (and wars) that led to budget deficits and increased inequality;

  • trade deals that damaged vital industries and led to trade deficits, layoffs and wage cuts;

  • deregulation of rules that protected working people, unions, vital economic sectors and the commons of public wealth;

  • and cuts in crucial areas of investment in our people and our economic future, including education & job training, infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, transportation and R&D into new technologies.


All of these betrayals of the social contract were enabled by the influence of big money on our political system, including huge sums spent on an infrastructure of corporate/conservative organizations designed to propagandize the public into accepting these changes - or at least keeping the victims from rebelling.

This Time, The AFL-CIO

This time the AFL-CIO offers their analysis, Fixing What Is Wrong With Our Economy. Here are a few excerpts - but if you have been paying attention you have heard all of this again and again from all directions:

The crash was the end-result of policy changes brought in with the "Reagan Revolution:"

The crash of 2008 and the Great Recession were inevitable consequences of three decades of economic policies designed by and for Wall Street and the wealthiest Americans. At the heart of the problem was the hollowing out of American manufacturing, the growing dysfunction of our financial sector and a rapid increase in economic inequality, all of which crippled the growth engine of the U.S. economy.

Trade deals and policy choices that sent jobs, factories and industries out of the country:

[. . .] The deindustrialization of America and the substitution of speculation for productive investment were not accidents, they were not inevitable, and they were not the outcome of natural forces. They were the predictable results of mistaken policy choices made by politicians of both parties for more than a generation. These policy choices had victims with first and last names: millions of displaced workers, shuttered factories and hollowed-out communities across the country hobbled by shrinking tax bases that no longer could support vital public services.

In The Way

The corporate/conservative propaganda apparatus (and its candidates for office) continue to demand even more tax cuts for the wealthy and cuts in the things our government does for We, the People:

[. . .] The Republican candidates pretend that tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy are the answer to wage stagnation and the economic crisis, but the Bush years taught us that these obscenely wasteful tax cuts only make the problem worse. They are the equivalent of eating our seed corn, because they starve the kind of public investment in education, infrastructure and innovation that is indispensable for long-term economic growth.

The Fix

Again and again experts tell us how to fix the problems we face in our economy and society: restore democracy's (the 99%'s) controls over corporations (the 1%) and especially re-regulate the financial sector, reverse the taxation policies that led to budget deficits and extreme inequality, fix the trade deals and other policies that led to trade deficits and allow the wealthy to pit working people against each other, and invest heavily in our country and people again. That's a start, anyway -- get the influence of big money and big money's propaganda machine out of our politics and maybe after a while We, the People can start addressing the rest of our problems again.

The AFL-CIO's conclusions, from a summary of the analysis:

The statement outlines several significant steps that need to be taken to build an economy that can compete with world economic powers like Germany and China and that works for all, including:
  • Significant investment over the next decade in education and apprenticeship programs for young people, infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, transportation, skills training and new technologies;
  • A fair share from Wall Street and the wealthiest Americans, who have benefited most from the economic policies of the past 30 years—pass a financial speculation tax, let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire and tax capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income;
  • Tackling the problems of wage stagnation and economic inequality by reforming labor laws so that all workers who want to form a union and bargain collectively have a fair opportunity to do so, making full employment the highest priority of our economic policy, increasing and indexing the minimum wage, shrinking the trade deficit and eliminating incentives for offshoring;
  • Reviving U.S. manufacturing by bringing the trade deficit under control, enhancing Buy America safeguards, aggressively enforcing trade laws and ending incentives for offshoring;
  • Once again regulating Wall Street, eliminating tax advantages for leveraged buyouts and finding other ways to favor strategic investment over short-term speculation;
  • And working toward a global New Deal that establishes minimum standards for the global economy, prevents a race to the bottom, creates vibrant consumer markets in the global South and creates new markets for advanced U.S. manufacturing.

The American people aren’t stupid. Majorities are also coming to the same conclusions. The American Majority in poll after poll show agreement with these conclusions.

We have to reverse the corporate/conservative, anti-government, pro-1% policies that started about 35 years ago. All the charts show the changes, when the changes happened, and how those changes have worn away at our economy and our people -- click through and see for yourself the story that the numbers tell: tax cuts, deregulation and outsourcing our jobs, factories and industries has not helped our economy or our people. Since then all the gains from the efforts of all of us have gone to fewer and fewer of us. Since then our infrastructure has fallen into disrepair. Since then our trade deficit has gotten worse and worse. Since then regular people -- the 99% -- have been falling further and further behind, democracy has eroded to the breaking point, with plutocracy -- rule of, by and for the 1% -- taking its place.

Our wealth is being extracted for the benefit of a few. We, the People must reassert control, or face further decline.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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March 14, 2012

Workers Of The World – Pay Attention

There’s something happening here. What it is is becoming clear. There’s a company blocking a union over there, and that’s telling you you’ve got to beware.

Breaking unions strikes deep. Back to your country it will creep. It starts when they pay low wages and exploit workers here. Pretty soon you’re fighting them there.


Last month, in Will American Anti-Labor Policies Infect Europe?, I warned German workers to pay attention to the way their Deutsch Telkom is behaving toward workers at their subsidiary company T-Mobile here in the US.

We entered into "free trade" agreements that enabled our businesses to take advantage of exploited labor in countries like China, and the plutocrats used that as a wedge against us here to drive down our wages, get rid of our benefits and break our unions. Now your own business leaders are taking advantage of eroded labor rights here, and if you let them get away with this they will want to bring these working conditions back to you.

... In countries like Germany workers are still paid fairly well and have benefits and rights. Here our pay, benefits and labor rights have eroded terribly. This is the result of American companies using exploited labor in countries like China as a wedge to force concessions at home. Can the same chain of events attack wages, benefits and unions in Europe?

... Here is an example. Germany’s Deutsche Telkom is trying to turn their wholly-owned subsidiary US company T-Mobile into a low-wage, low-benefit, union-free dumping ground. Is this an effort to ultimately bring these tactics back home to break Germany’s unions?

... So here is the question for European working people to ask. Will Europe let the US be their China? American companies learned to use China as a weapon against workers here. Will European companies bring American anti-labor practices home as a weapon to break down European worker rights and living standards?

Will European companies learn to use American anti-labor practices against European workers? Or will European workers stop this in time?

Since then a delegation of German workers came to the US to see for themselves. The results were not encouraging. German Delegation Ends T-Mobile Tour Stunned by U.S. Anti-Unionism,

After the meeting, Conny, a Deutsche Telekom retail employee, reflected:
It makes me really angry that employees are intimidated and harassed when they want to join a union. Companies like T-Mobile seem to use every possible tactic to prevent unionization. I think our colleagues are quite brave and have a lot of courage as they fight for their rights despite their own personal risks. They are all employed on an at-will basis, which means that they can be fired from one day to another. So they really worry about their future.
... For the German workers who came on the trip, their experiences have helped personalize the struggles of T-Mobile workers who live and work an ocean away. Their conviction to stand together with T-Mobile workers in this country is stronger and more deeply felt.

Before they headed back to D.C., Werner Schönau, Dieter Badel and Helmut Angerer summed up the week they spent with various T-Mobile employees:

We want to say that we are deeply impressed by the stories people told us on our trip and by the concrete experience we had. In particular, the personal reports from employees of T-Mobile US about their working conditions and the avoidance tactics of the union had us moved deeply. We really hope that this delegation is at least a small contribution for improving the working conditions and workers rights [for T-Mobile workers] …We definitely won’t give up in the future. We will use every opportunity to talk with our German co-workers about the experience we had during this week. We will encourage them to ask questions, also tough questions, to our management about what’s going on at T-Mobile in the USA.

To get involved with the global campaign to form a union for T-Mobile USA workers, visit: http://www.weworkbettertogether.org/ and http://www.weexpectbetter.org/

Here We Go Again - This Time Australian Company

An Australian company operating in the US fired a truck driver for making an emergency stop to use a bathroom (pretty bad) but the real reason was she was supporting union organization (really bad.) This company has a union in Australia, but is doing things like this here. Australian Trucking Corporation Condemned After Firing a Female Driver for Making Emergency Pit Stop at a McDonald's,

An $8.8 billion Australian transportation corporation has escalated its attack on its Latino-American workers by firing a mother of three for stopping to use a McDonald's restroom during her delivery route. The cruel termination of Xiomara Perez, a 46-year-old port truck driver who has already been outspoken about the filthy, unsanitary outhouses that lack running water at her worksite, occurred amidst a rise of pro-union solidarity actions by Perez and her co-workers.

… "It's not safe to 'hold it' when you have to relieve yourself. Toll's management has been looking for any little excuse to fire those of us that speak out in support of us forming a union with the Teamsters. They have obviously been spying on us and the worst thing they could pin on me as retaliation is a quick stop to use the restroom at a McDonalds."

… Friday's discriminatory firing ironically occurred on International Women's Day -- and during the week its local U.S. executives received a visit from three Toll drivers from Sydney and a union official for the Transport Workers of Australia. The union's rank-and-file and leadership are outraged that the company treats their U.S. counterparts as second-class citizens when the company allows its 12,000 Down Under drivers to negotiate strong contracts with middle class pay, benefits, and safety improvements.

… The Los Angeles Toll drivers have sought representation by the Teamsters union. Toll has delayed their legal right to vote on a union by exploiting weak labor laws.

More information about the organizing effort at Toll Group is available here: http://grimtruthattollgroup.com/

So this is a warning to working people in countries that respect the rights of working people. Pay attention to what your companies are doing in the US. You really don’t want them learning to operate the way a lot of US companies operate -- or your own wages, benefits and even your jobs could be on the line – like ours are here.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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March 7, 2012

It's Time To Pass The Call-Center Bill

There is a bipartisan bill in the Congress that regulates call centers, names companies that move jobs out of the country, gives customers the right to talk to Americans if they are having trouble understanding the support representative, protects private information that you give to the representative and bans federal grants or guaranteed loans to American companies that move call center jobs out of the US. A group of big companies and their lobbying organizations has come out against the bill and the list shows you why you call your Representative and let them know you are for it, and for bills like it that protect consumers and jobs.

The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act

The bipartisan U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, H.R. 3596, has 75 sponsors in the House. It can pass, so help give it a push. It gives consumers the right to ask where the person they are speaking with is based, and ask for an American-based representative instead. Among the things this bill would accomplish:


  • Require the Department of Labor to publicly list firms that move call center jobs overseas.
  • Make these firms ineligible for any direct or indirect federal loans or loan guarantees for five years.
  • Require 120 day advance notification of a proposed move off-shore.
  • Require call center employees to tell U.S. consumers where they are located, if asked.
  • Require that call centers transfer calls to a U.S. call center if asked.

I've written about the bill:

December: Call-Center Bill Would Let Customers Ask To Talk To Americans and Who Protects Info You Give To Offshored Call Centers?

January: India And Philippines Declare War On Call Center Bill.

List Of Who's Against It Shows Why You Should Be For It

A number of companies and their lobbying organizations put out a letter opposing H.R. 3596, saying that giving the public info on companies that are outsourcing would create a "blacklist" and would "increase costs" (wages of the 99%). The list shows why you want to support the bill:


  • Cargill, Incorporated
  • The Coalition of Service Industries
  • Consumer Electronics Association
  • Covergys Corporation
  • HR Policy Association
  • Kiewit Corporation
  • LORD Corporation
  • National Association of Manufacturers
  • National Retail Federation
  • Retail Industry Leaders Association
  • Security Industry Association
  • TechAmerica
  • Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA)
  • Texas Association of Business
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Universal Weather and Aviation

Who is in charge here, big corporations and their lobbyists or We, the People? Call your Representative and ask them to co-sponsor and vote for this bill.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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February 29, 2012

Labor's Fight Is OUR Fight

Unions have been fighting the 1% vs 99% fight for more than 100 years. Now the rest of us are learning that this fight is also OUR fight.

The story of organized labor has been a story of working people banding together to confront concentrated wealth and power. Unions have been fighting to get decent wages, benefits, better working conditions, on-the-job safety and respect. Now, as the Reagan Revolution comes home to roost, taking apart the middle class, the rest of us are learning that this is our fight, too.

The story of America is a similar story to that of organized labor. The story of America is a story of We, the People banding together to fight the concentrated wealth and power of the British aristocracy. Our Declaration of Independence laid it out: we were fighting for a government that derives its powers from the consent of us, the people governed, not government by a wealthy aristocracy telling us what to do and making us work for their profit instead of for the betterment of all of us. It was the 99% vs the 1% then, and it is the 99% vs the 1% now.

We, the People

Democracy is when We, the People decide things together -- collectively -- for the common good of all of us. Our country originated from the idea of We, the People banding together to watch out for and protect each other, so we can all rise together for the common good, or "general welfare." Collectively we make decisions, and the result of this collective action is decisions that work for all of us instead of just a few of us. This is the founding idea of our country.

Unions Protect The Interests Of Working People

The same is true for unions. Unions work to bring We-the-People democracy to the workplace. Like the old story about how it is harder to break a bundle of sticks than the same sticks one stick at a time, unions are organizations of working people, banding together so their collective power can confront the power of concentrated wealth. By banding together in solidarity, working people are able to say, "No, you can't do that!," and bargain for a better life for all of us.

Organized Labor Sets The Standard

The benefits that unions win don't just go to the union members, they become the standard. When labor won the fight for an 8-hour day and 40-hour workweek with overtime pay, that became the standard. When labor fought for minimum wages, that became the standard, when labor fought for workplace safety, that became the standard. Labor's fight is a fight to set the standard for the rest of us.

Labor stands up to the 1%, and uses their organized power (bundle of sticks) to win better pay, benefits and working conditions for the 99%.

"Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts." -- Molly Ivins.

Eroded Rights

Working people banding together to bargain with management -- "collective" bargaining -- is a fundamental right in the United States, but this right has eroded along with the rest of our democracy. For many years, the mechanisms of government that were supposed to enforce these rights were "captured" and instead were working against the rights of working people. Bob Borosage explains, in, The Forgotten Leading Actor In The American Dream Story,

Globalization gave manufacturers a large club in negotiations—concessions or jobs get shipped abroad. And often the reality was concessions AND jobs got shipped abroad. Corporations perfected techniques, often against the law, to crush organizing drives, and stymie new contracts for the few that succeeded. The National Labor Relations Board, stacked with corporate lobbyists under Republican presidents, turned a blind eye to systematic violations of the law.

So now union workers are down to about 7 percent of the private workforce. Virtually the only growing unions are public employees— teachers, nurses, cops. Not surprisingly, conservative Republican governors, led by Wisconsin's Scott Walker and Ohio's John Kasich, used the budget squeeze caused by the Great Recession to go after these unions, combining layoffs with efforts to eviscerate the right of public employees to organize and negotiate.

The Fight Is On

"Only a fool would try to deprive working men and working women of their right to join the union of their choice." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Dorian Warren, at Salon in America’s last hope: A strong labor movement, writes,

The fate of the labor movement is the fate of American democracy. Without a strong countervailing force like organized labor, corporations and wealthy elites advancing their own interests are able to exert undue influence over the political system, as we’ve seen in every major policy debate of recent years.

Yet the American labor movement is in crisis and is the weakest it’s been in 100 years. That truism has been a progressive mantra since the Clinton administration. However, union density has continued to decline from roughly 16 percent in 1995 to 11.8 percent of all workers and just 6.9 percent of workers in the private sector. Unionized workers in the public sector now make up the majority of the labor movement for the first time in history, which is precisely why — a la Wisconsin and 14 other states — they have been targeted by the right for all out destruction.

... Contrary to the intent of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, which made it national policy to encourage and promote collective bargaining, the NLRA now provides incentives for employers to break the law routinely and ignore any compulsion to negotiate collective agreements. When there is little outrage for the daily violations of workers’ liberty (employers fire workers illegally in 1 in 3 union campaigns for attempting to exercise freedom of association), our democracy is in peril.

Restore The Middle Class

Unions brought us a middle class, and now that the power of organized labor has eroded we find ourselves in a fight to keep the middle class. Borosage again,

We emerged from World War II with unions headed towards representing about 30% of the workforce. Fierce struggles with companies were needed to ensure that workers got a fair share of the rewards of their work. Unions were strong enough that non-union employers had to compete for good workers by offering comparable wages. Unions enforced the 40-hour week, overtime pay, paid vacations, health care and pensions, and family wages. Strong unions limited excesses in corporate boardrooms, a countervailing power beyond the letter of the contract. As profits and productivity rose, wages rose as well.

When unions were weakened and reduced, all that changed. Productivity and profits continued to rise, but wages did not. The ratio of CEO pay to the average worker pay went from 40 to 1 to more than 350 to 1. CEOs were given multimillion-dollar pay incentives to cook their books and merge and purge their companies. Unions were not strong enough to police the excess. America let multinationals define its trade and manufacturing strategy, hemorrhaging good jobs to mercantilist nations like China.

The result was the wealthiest few captured literally all the rewards of growth. And 90% of America struggled to stay afloat with stagnant wages, rising prices and growing debt.

Support Bargaining Rights For Labor

We all need to understand that labor's fight is our fight. Now that labor is under attack across the country, we need to understand that we are also under attack. As labor loses rights and power, all of our pay and benefits fall back. We need to support the rights of working people to organize into unions and bargain collectively, to fight our fight, the 99% vs the 1%. This battle right now is the whole ball game.

"To a right-winger, unions are awful. Why do right-wingers hate unions? Because collective bargaining is the power that a worker has against the corporation. Right-wingers hate that." -- Janeane Garofalo

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:53 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 16, 2012

Will American Anti-Labor Policies Infect Europe?

I want to send a warning to working people in Europe: when you let your businesses save money by mistreating workers in other countries, it might teach them to think they can save money by mistreating you, too. Over here in the US we have learned this the hard way. We entered into "free trade" agreements that enabled our businesses to take advantage of exploited labor in countries like China, and the plutocrats used that as a wedge against us here to drive down our wages, get rid of our benefits and break our unions. Now your own business leaders are taking advantage of eroded labor rights here, and if you let them get away with this they will want to bring these working conditions back to you.

Recently in the post Democracy V. Plutocracy, Unions V. Servitude I described how American companies use China as a wedge to drive down wages and labor rights here,

The threat is in the air: "Shut up and take the wage cuts or we will move your job to China."

... Workers in countries like China where people have no say have low wages, terrible working conditions, long hours, and are told to shut up and take it or they won't have any job at all. They are given no choice.

Increasingly workers here have their wages, hours, benefits, dignity cut and are told to shut up and take it or their jobs will be moved to China. Because we are pitted against exploited workers in countries where people have no say, we have no choice.

The unions are weakened, the government doesn't enforce or weakly enforces labor laws and regulations, age, gender or race discrimination laws, worker safety laws, so workers are placed in a terrible squeeze. Workers who try to organize unions are isolated, moved, smeared, fired, humiliated, whatever it takes.

In countries like Germany workers are still paid fairly well and have benefits and rights. Here our pay, benefits and labor rights have eroded terribly. This is the result of American companies using exploited labor in countries like China as a wedge to force concessions at home. Can the same chain of events attack wages, benefits and unions in Europe? Last May, Harold Meyerson’s LA Times op-ed, The U.S.: Where Europe comes to slum, described how European companies come here and behave like American companies,

… slumming in America is fast becoming a business model for some of Europe's leading companies, and they often do things here they would never think of doing at home. These companies — not banks, primarily, but such gold-plated European manufacturers as BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Siemens, and retailers such as IKEA — increasingly come to America (the South particularly) because labor is cheap and workers have no rights. In their eyes, we're becoming the new China. Our labor costs may be a little higher, but we offer stronger intellectual property protections and far fewer strikes than our unruly Chinese comrades.

… The auto companies of Europe and Japan have opened factories in the nonunion South over the last couple of decades. Not one of them has agreed to refrain from waging a union-busting campaign should their workers wish to organize. Their stance could not be more different from their attitude toward workers and unions in their home countries.

Meyerson describes the kinds of anti-union, anti-worker things these companies are learning how to do,

As a report released by Human Rights Watch late last year documents, companies that routinely welcome unions, pay middle-class wages and have workers' representatives on their corporate boards in Germany and Scandinavia have threatened their U.S.-based employees with permanent replacement by other workers as the penalty for protesting wage cuts (that was the German manufacturer Robert Bosch), ordered workers to report on fellow workers' pro-union activities (that was T-Mobile, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom) and disciplined workers who couldn't show up for unscheduled weekend shifts announced on Friday night (that was IKEA, according to an L.A. Times story).

T-Mobile’s Anti-Union Efforts

Here is an example. Germany’s Deutsche Telkom is trying to turn their wholly-owned subsidiary US company T-Mobile into a low-wage, low-benefit, union-free dumping ground. Is this an effort to ultimately bring these tactics back home to break Germany’s unions?

This is how T-Mobile is operating now: In May T-Mobile workers in upstate New York filed a petition for a union election. Over the next three months management used anti-union “isolate and pressure” tactics to erode support. Instead of letting the workers decide for themselves if they wanted a union, they contested the effort and brought in a “union avoidance” specialist firm.

The company used excuses to delay the election, and launched a propaganda campaign, making the workers hear a constant barrage of reasons to suspect union motives, suspect the benefits the union promised, and other reasons not to vote for a union. They were repeatedly required to leave their job to attend meetings and conference calls, on company time, where they were lectured, given misinformation, told they would lose benefits they current had, that unions would make them pay $5,000 in dues every year, told again and again that the union was lying, that union organizers were only telling them things to get bonuses, told they must not ever talk to each other about the union on company time and that if they voted for a union the company would have to eliminate their jobs and contract out the work instead. After enough of this the workers withdrew the election petition.

The Sheer Weight Of This Wears You Down

When regular people who are just doing their jobs, who work hard and get up in the morning and go home tired and don’t make a lot have to face constant tactics of daily pressure by management, constantly being told that unions are evil and “unions bosses’ and “union thugs” are trying to trick them, and they are put under tactics that isolate them from being able to discuss what is true or not, finally the sheer weight of all of it together can be too much.

Again and again when workers try to form a union they are up against these tactics. Management repeatedly calls meetings where they give professionally-crafted propaganda speeches about all the terrible things that will happen if workers vote for a union. If a worker has the courage to stand up and talk about the good reasons for a union, they are excluded from future meetings and isolated from the other workers. (This is when a company stays legal and doesn’t just fire people who favor a union – not an uncommon tactic and it takes years for the company to be penalized for illegal firings, if it ever is.) In these situations management completely controls the message and keeps workers from hearing the other side.

Typical Here, Outrageous There

This all sounds normal to American workers, because this is what American companies do. This is what workers regularly face when they try to organize to make their workplace better and safer and get things like sick pay, decent wages and some benefits. We have sort of become used to this kind of treatment here. In America we have gone from 30% to 7% union membership because companies are allowed to fight unions, and routinely do things like this.

But T-Mobile is wholly owned by a German company. Germany respects workers rights and German workers would be absolutely shocked if they understood that a German company was doing this to workers. They would be shocked to even see a company try to stop a union – why would a good company want to?

Will American Anti-Labor Policies Infect Europe?

So here is the question for European working people to ask. Will Europe let the US be their China? American companies learned to use China as a weapon against workers here. Will European companies bring American anti-labor practices home as a weapon to break down European worker rights and living standards?

Will European companies learn to use American anti-labor practices against European workers? Or will European workers stop this in time? If you think this sort of thing can’t happen in Europe, just look at what is happening to Greek workers right now.

US workers are threatened with having to do things like China does them in order to compete. Will German workers be threatened and told things have to be like the US? Will they tell that German public that their policies need to be more “Business friendly?”

So this is a warning to European working people. Pay attention to what your companies are doing in the US. You really don’t want them learning to operate the way a lot of US companies operate, or your own wages, benefits and even your jobs could be on the line – like ours are here.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:43 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 15, 2012

China Is Very "Business-Friendly"

China is very, very "business-friendly." Corporate conservatives lecture us that we should be more "business-friendly," in order to "compete" with China. They say we need to cut wages and benefits, work longer hours, get rid of overtime and sick pay -- even lunch breaks. They say we should shed unions, get rid of environmental and safety regulations, gut government services, and especially, especially, especially we should cut taxes. But America can never be "business-friendly" enough to compete with China, and here is why.

Workers In Dormatories, 12 To A Room, Rousted At Midnight

China is very, very "business friendly." Recent stories about Apple's manufacturing contractors have started to reveal just how "business-friendly" China is. Recently the NY Times' Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher exposed the conditions of workers at Apple's Chinese suppliers, in How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work. They describe how China's massive government subsidies and exploitation of workers mean, as Steve Jobs told President Obama, “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”

One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. ... New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

Right. No American plant can roust workers out of nearby dorms at midnight to force them onto a 12-hour shift. And the corporate conservatives criticize America for this, not China, saying we are not "business-friendly" enough to compete. This is because we are a place where We, the People still have at least some say in how things are done. (Don't we?) Later in the story,

The first truckloads of cut glass arrived at Foxconn City in the dead of night, according to the former Apple executive. That’s when managers woke thousands of workers, who crawled into their uniforms — white and black shirts for men, red for women — and quickly lined up to assemble, by hand, the phones.

“Business-friendly” = living 12 to a room in dorms, rousted out of bed at midnight for 12-hour shifts, working in a plant paid for by the government, using a neurotoxin cleaner that harms people but enables more production for companies like Apple.

Forced Labor Is The Real "Business-Friendly"

Arun Gupta at AlterNet, in iEmpire: Apple's Sordid Business Practices Are Even Worse Than You Think, writes,

Researchers with the Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) say that legions of vocational and university students, some as young as 16, are forced to take months'-long “internships” in Foxconn’s mainland China factories assembling Apple products. The details of the internship program paint a far more disturbing picture than the Times does of how Foxconn, “the Chinese hell factory,” treats its workers, relying on public humiliation, military discipline, forced labor and physical abuse as management tools to hold down costs and extract maximum profits for Apple.

... Foxconn and Apple depend on tax breaks, repression of labor, subsidies and Chinese government aid, including housing, infrastructure, transportation and recruitment, to fatten their corporate treasuries. As the students function as seasonal employees to meet increased demand for new product rollouts, Apple is directly dependent on forced labor.

... The use of hundreds of thousands of students is one way in which China’s state regulates labor in the interests of Foxconn and Apple. Other measures include banning independent unions and enforcing a household registration system that denies migrants social services and many political rights once they leave their home region, ensuring they can be easily exploited. In Shenzhen about 85 percent of the 14 million residents are migrants. Migrants work on average 286 hours a month and earn less than 60 percent of what urban workers make. Half of migrants are owed back wages and only one in 10 has health insurance. They are socially marginalized, live in extremely crowded and unsanitary conditions, perform the most dangerous and deadly jobs, and are more vulnerable to crime.

Please read the entire AlterNet piece, iEmpire: Apple's Sordid Business Practices Are Even Worse Than You Think. These things are not “costs” that we can compete with by lowering our wages, these things are something else.

Not JUST Low Taxes -- Massive Government Subsidies

These stories also describe how the Chinese government massively subsidizes these operations, assists their low-wage labor-recruitment schemes, and looks the other way at violations of labor and trade policies. The Chinese government is very "business-friendly." They hand money to businesses so they are much more able to "compete." They are so friendly to business that they even own many businesses.

Trade Secret Theft

Another area where China has very "business-friendly" policies is when their own businesses steal from non-Chinese businesses. This NY Times story, U.S. to Share Cautionary Tale of Trade Secret Theft With Chinese Official details just one case of the "unbelievably endemic" problem of Chinese theft of "intellectual property" -- the trade secrets that keep businesses competitive. In this case China's Sinovel sole the software that ran an American company's products, and immediately cancelled their orders for those products because they could now make them in China:

Last March, China’s Sinovel, the world’s second largest wind turbine manufacturer, abruptly refused shipments of American Superconductor’s wind turbine electrical systems and control software. The blow was devastating; Sinovel provided more than 70 percent of the firm’s revenues.

... Last summer, evidence emerged that Sinovel had promised $1.5 million to Dejan Karabasevic, a Serbian employee of American Superconductor in Austria.

If you steal the ideas, processes, techniques, expertise, plans, designs, software and the other things that give companies a competitive edge, then you don't have to pay them and you can just make the things yourself. When you get in bed with a very "business-friendly" country, you might find that they are more friendly to their own businesses. Because they consider themselves to be a country with a national strategy, not a self-balancing, self-regulating "market."

Trade Deficit Drains Our Economy

As a result of our ideological blindness, refusing to understand China's game, we have a massive trade deficit with them. This means hundreds of billions of dollars are drained from our economy, year after year. And to make up for this we borrow from them in order to keep buying from them. But this does not cause their currency to strengthen in the "markets" because China loves this game the way it is going, and intervenes against the markets to keep their currency low. And so it continues, year after year. We believe in "markets" they believe in rigging markets so they come out ahead...

Markets Can't "Compete" With This

Corporate conservatives tell us we need to be more "business-friendly" to "compete" with China. But at the same time Steve Jobs was being a realist when he said "the jobs are never coming back" because he understood that the current political climate, controlled by a wealthy few who benefit from China's "business-friendly" policies will not let us fight this. Why should these companies bring jobs back here, when over there they can roust thousands from dorms at midnight and make them use toxic chemicals for 12 hours a day for very low pay to make iPhone screens that he can sell at fantastically high prices? Why should they, unless We, the People tell them they can't do that to people, and that we won't let them profit from it?

As long as we continue to think that this is about "markets" competing, we will lose. China sees itself as a nation, and they have a national strategy to continue to be so "business-friendly" that our businesses can't compete. Our leaders and corporations may have "moved on" past this quaint nation thing but China has not.

We, The People Need To Act To Fix This

As long as we continue to send our companies out there alone against national economic strategies that engage entire national systems utilizing the resources of nations, our companies will lose. But the executives at those companies are currently getting very rich now from these schemes, so what happens in the future is not their problem. Maybe the companies they manage won't be around later, but that is not their problem. Others are concerned, but are forced to play the game because no one can compete with national systems like China's.

When everyone is in a position where something isn't their problem, or where they can't do anything about it on their own, it means this is a larger problem, and this is where government -- We, the People -- needs to get involved. It is our problem but we have been convinced that we -- government -- shouldn't interfere, or "protect" our industries, because "the markets" don't like "government" -- We, the People -- butting in. This is a very convenient viewpoint for few who are geting very, very wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

We Need A Plan

In U.S. must end China's rulers' free pass at Politico, AAM's Scott Paul writes, Read it, read it, read it!)

We shouldn’t fear China’s citizens. But we should be worried about the actions of its authoritarian — and, yes, still communist — regime that tightly controls the People’s Republic. And we should be downright terrified by some of our own leaders’ attitudes toward China.

... China is not merely the key U.S. supplier of cheap toys, clothing and electronics: Its government is also one of our foreign financiers. China achieved this status by defying the free market and its international obligations toward more open trade and investment.

[. . .] History didn’t do in the Soviet Union. A sustained and aggressive strategy did. China engaged our business and political elites — and seduced them into believing these policies were no longer necessary.

... There has been no strategy, no effort to prevail economically.

... No one is suggesting that China is an enemy and we should just update our Cold War strategies. No one can accurately define what China’s intentions are in terms of foreign policy or defense. But on the economic front, the lessons of the past are instructive: We need a plan.

We need a plan. We need to understand that China is not competing with us in "markets' they are competing with us as a nation. We need a national economic/industrial strategy that understands the urgent need to fight as a country to win the industries of the future.

It’s not just price, it is things a democracy cannot allow. We can’t ever be “business-friendly” ENOUGH. We have to do something else. We have to understand that We, the People -- the 99% -- are in a real fight here to keep our democracy, or we will lose what is left of it.

Democracy Is The Best Economics

When people have a say they demand good wages, benefits, reasonable working conditions, a clean environment, workplace safety and dignity on the job. We need more of that, not less of that. We must demand that goods made in places where people who do not have a say do not have a competitive advantage over goods made in places where people do have a say. And we must demand that those places give their people a say.

As long as we let democracy be a competitive disadvantage, We, the People will lose.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 6, 2012

Crucial Senate Labor Vote Today - Actions You Can Take

The Senate votes today on restricting labor rights, in the FAA bill. Committee Dems caved and gave away union election rights. At least 18 unions including CWA,SEIU have voiced opposition. Here are some actions you can take right now.

Last week, in FAA Bill Still Anti-Labor! Call Your Senators!:

Why This Fight?

The reason there is a fight over labor rules in an FAA bill at all is that Delta Airlines is trying to keep unions out, so the 1% can keep from paying good wages and benefits to the 99%. And, as usually happens, they are offering the Republican Party a share of the take if they can just make it happen for them. Such is our present-day political system. It seems to come down to who is giving the most money to the Republican Party gets priority in legislation. ("Drill, baby, drill!")

Compromise?

If you start with a bill that says, "kill all the unions, kill all the unions, kill all the unions, kill all the unions" and take out one "kill all the unions" is that a compromise? The unions are still killed three times over.

The FAA bill contains a number of provisions that make it nearly impossible to establish a union, including but not limited to:


  • the percentage of workers that say they wan a vote on unionization increases from 35 to 50 percent
  • tricky election run-off rules open up elections to even more company interference
  • a procedure allowing for the wholesale decertification of a whole host of unions through mergers

CALL YOUR SENATORS NOW! Click here for help.

CWA's action: Will Senate Democrats Stand Up to the GOP?


CREDO has an action out, please click this.

Tell Senate Democrats: Stand with unions. Don't cave to Republicans.

For months, House Republicans have been trying to use the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a way to attack labor unions.

And until recently, Senate Democrats along with their colleagues from the House and the White House have been standing strong and fighting back.

But now, Senate Democratic leadership is poised to cave to the rightwing and anti-worker Republicans in the House, and allow what should be a bill about aviation safety and security to become one that unilaterally changes labor law to the detriment of working people.

Tell Senate Democrats: Stand with unions. Don't cave to Republicans.

Tweet This:
Call your Senators today and let them know that FAA Bill is a "No Compromise" http://bit.ly/yWAkMA @CWAUnion #1u #p2

End Secret Corporate Campaign Cash

While you are at it, join us going after the source of the problem. Click here to End Secret Campaign Cash:

End Secret Corporate Campaign Cash

It has been two years since the Supreme Court decided in the infamous Citizens United case that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns. Since then, our democracy has been drowning in a tsunami of corporate special interest money. Our government is under the thumb of the Koch brothers instead of the hands of the people.

We cannot ultimately right this wrong until we can organize the states to pass a constitutional amendment that declares what everyone except Mitt Romney seems to understand: corporations are not people and money is not speech.

But until then, we can take action right now to force corporations to make their campaign spending public. Sign the petition below and tell the SEC: No more secret political money. Make all publicly traded corporations disclose their campaign spending to the public.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 2, 2012

FAA Bill Still Anti-Labor! Call Your Senators!

Not long ago, in A Win For Labor - FAA Bill Drops Anti-Union Language, I wrote that, "negotiators have dropped the anti-union language for votes to start a union. Republicans were insisting that no-shows be counted as "No" votes. Delta's check must have been mailed late."

Well, not so fast. While dropping a blatant anti-labor requirement that any non-voters be counted as 'no' voters, it turns out that the bill remains solidly and sneakily anti-labor. This is supposed to be a bill about airline safety and security, but the fight is over anti-labor provisions... what's up with that? Laura Clawson at Daily Kos writes in, Unions call on Democrats to reject poison pills buried in Republican 'compromise' on FAA,

When Republicans suggested that they would agree to a compromise on Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, dropping their demand to count workers who did not vote in union representation elections as having voted against the union in exchange for raising the threshold of workers asking to get a union representation election from 35 percent to 50 percent, there were two possibilities: Either Republicans were dropping a huge demand in exchange for something relatively minor and it was a bit of a win, or there was something sneaky buried in what Republicans now wanted.

Why This Fight?

The reason there is a fight over labor rules in an FAA bill at all is that Delta Airlines is trying to keep unions out, so the 1% can keep from paying good wages and benefits to the 99%. And, as usually happens, they are offering the Republican Party a share of the take if they can just make it happen for them. Such is our present-day political system. It seems to come down to who is giving the most money to the Republican Party gets priority in legislation. ("Drill, baby, drill!")

Compromise?

If you start with a bill that says, "kill all the unions, kill all the unions, kill all the unions, kill all the unions" and take out one "kill all the unions" is that a compromise? The unions are still killed three times over.

The FAA bill contains a number of provisions that make it nearly impossible to establish a union, including but not limited to:


  • the percentage of workers that say they wan a vote on unionization increases from 35 to 50 percent
  • tricky election run-off rules open up elections to even more company interference
  • a procedure allowing for the wholesale decertification of a whole host of unions through mergers

So Will Dems Cave?

So the question is, will Democrats cave on this? Some are saying that they have "made compromises" but what has happened is they took out one part that makes it almost impossible to form a union while leaving in other parts that make it nearly impossible to form a union. The only "compromise" appears to be from almost impossible to nearly impossible and labor is screwed either way. Or, from above, the unions are killed three times over instead of four times over.

As David Dayen reports at Firedoglake, a number of labor organizations have signed a letter rejecting this "compromise." The unions signing the letter are the United Auto Workers union; Teamsters; Communications Workers of America; Association of Flight Attendants-CWA; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees-IBT; American Federation of Government Employees; International Association of Machinists; National Education Association; Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen-IBT; Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; Service Employees Local 32BJ-National Conference of Fireman and Oilers; Sheet Metal Workers; United Steelworkers; American Train Dispatchers Association; Transportation Communications Union-IAM; Amalgamated Transit Union; United Transportation Union; and UniteHere.

Fight Back Against Attacks By The 1%

Stand with these unions to help protect the middle class from attacks by the 1%. CALL YOUR SENATORS TODAY and tell them you want the FAA bill to be about airline safety and security, not busting unions.

Then, click here to sign a letter, Stop This Radical Threat to Workers' Rights:

Radical anti-union members of Congress are attempting to rewrite the Railway Labor Act and change the role of the National Mediation Board without debate or discussion. They have included drastic changes to the law in the FAA Reauthorization bill.

The changes these radicals are seeking would:

Make it much harder for airline and railroad workers to hold union representation elections.
Threaten airline and railroad workers’ right to a secret ballot during union representation campaigns, allowing for management intimidation and retaliation.
Allow airline and railroad management to decertify unions without an election in a merger.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:17 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 27, 2012

Democracy V. Plutocracy, Unions V. Servitude

Servitude: "a condition in which one lacks liberty especially to determine one's course of action or way of life"

Democracy: "a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections"

Plutocracy: government by the wealthy

Labor union: an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members' interests in respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions

You may have seen the recent flurry of stories about how hi-tech products are made in China. The stories focus on Apple, but it isn't just Apple. These stories of exploited Chinese workers are also the story of how and why we -- 99% of us, anyway -- are all feeling such a squeeze here, because we are suffering the disappearance of our middle class. Our choice is democracy or servitude.

Working In China

A collection of excerpts from the Charles Duhigg and David Barboza story, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad and the Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher story, How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work both from the NY Times:

Rousted from dorms at midnight, told to work:

Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”

Banners on the walls warned the 120,000 employees: “Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”

(How close is that to the very definition of servitude?)

Long shifts, legs swollen from standing:

Shifts ran 24 hours a day, and the factory was always bright. At any moment, there were thousands of workers standing on assembly lines or sitting in backless chairs, crouching next to large machinery, or jogging between loading bays. Some workers’ legs swelled so much they waddled. “It’s hard to stand all day,” said Zhao Sheng, a plant worker.

Write confessions if late:

Mr. Lai was soon spending 12 hours a day, six days a week inside the factory, according to his paychecks. Employees who arrived late were sometimes required to write confession letters and copy quotations. There were “continuous shifts,” when workers were told to work two stretches in a row, according to interviews.

Injuries from speed-up toxics:

Investigations by news organizations revealed that over a hundred employees had been injured by n-hexane, a toxic chemical that can cause nerve damage and paralysis.

Employees said they had been ordered to use n-hexane to clean iPhone screens because it evaporated almost three times as fast as rubbing alcohol. Faster evaporation meant workers could clean more screens each minute.

American companies forcing Asian suppliers to squeeze workers:

“You can set all the rules you want, but they’re meaningless if you don’t give suppliers enough profit to treat workers well,” said one former Apple executive with firsthand knowledge of the supplier responsibility group. “If you squeeze margins, you’re forcing them to cut safety.”

The Results For The 1%

A series of recent newspaper headlines tells the story of how China's working conditions benefit the 1% here.

NYT: Apple's Profit Soars‎

CBS Moneywatch: Apple shares close at record high

SF Chronicle: Apple CEO's Stock Awards Lift Compensation to $378 Million

ZDNet: Apple: made in China, untaxed profits kept offshore. We don't even get to tax the profits from moving our jobs to China, to use for schools, roads, police, etc.

The Results For The 99%

Headlines like these show how things are going better and better for the 1%. But what happened to our middle-class prosperity? We allowed companies to move jobs and factories across the borders of democracy to places where workers are exploited, calling that "trade." This enabled the breaking of unions and the weakening of our democracy.

The threat is in the air: "Shut up and take the wage cuts or we will move your job to China." How is that threat used on us? Here is an example: We have heard the stories of Mitt Romney's company Bain Capital, and how it "earned" its millions. According to the Christian Science Monitor, this is the story of what happened when a Bain-owned company "came to town":

The new owner, American Pad & Paper, owned in turn by Bain Capital, told all 258 union workers they were fired, in a cost-cutting move. Security guards hustled them out of the building. They would be able to reapply for their jobs, at lesser wages and benefits, but not all would be rehired.

Workers in countries like China where people have no say have low wages, terrible working conditions, long hours, and are told to shut up and take it or they won[t have any job at all. They are given no choice.

Increasingly workers here have their wages, hours, benefits, dignity cut and are told to shut up and take it or their jobs will be moved to China. Because we are pitted against exploited workers in countries where people have no say, we have no choice.

The unions are weakened, the government doesn't enforce or weakly enforces labor laws and regulations, age, gender or race discrimination laws, worker safety laws, so workers are placed in a terrible squeeze. Workers who try to organize unions are isolated, moved, smeared, fired, humiliated, whatever it takes.

This quote by Steve Jobs is from How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work,

Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.

Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.

Democracy Brought Us Prosperity

We used to be a democracy, where everyone used to have a say in things. Because we had a say we built up a country with good schools, good infrastructure, good courts, and we made rules that said workers had to be safe, get a minimum wage, overtime, weekends… we protected the environment, we set up Social Security. We took care of each other. This made us prosperous. A share of the prosperity for the 99% was the fruit of democracy.

China, on the other hand, is not a democracy, and workers in China don't really have a say. So they don't make much money, they don't have good working conditions, the environment isn't protected, etc.

We Used To Protect Democracy

We used to protect our democracy. We used to put a tariff on goods coming in if they were made by people who didn’t have the ability to speak up and better their condition. We’d let the goods in but we would use a tariff to strengthen our country, our infrastructure, our schools – our democracy. This brought us prosperity.

For some reason, we started letting our companies move our factories over there, forcing our workers to compete with workers who have no say. We got tricked, by people who call that "trade," and said it would be good for us. (Like cutting taxes for the wealthy "job creators" is good for us.)

We opened the borders and let the big companies move the jobs, factories and industries over the border of our democracy, to places where workers don't have a say, so they are exploited. And the result was the big corporations were able to come back and cut our pay, and get rid of our pensions, and tell us, "take it, shut up, or we will move your job, too." We made the wages and working and conditions and environmental protections prosperity that democracy brings into a cost. We turned ourselves into a cost. We made democracy a competitive disadvantage.

Plutocrats Say Shed Benefits Of Democracy

Plutocrats say we need to shed the benefits of democracy and become more like China if we want to compete. They say get rid of regulations, employee protections, environmental protections, good wages, benefits like pensions and time off, etc... They say that We, the People (government) "get in the way of doing business." They say the taxes that pay for good infrastructure and schools and police and courts and services like Social Security and care for the disabled and health care for children "take money out of the economy" but they mean these take some of the money that they have been taking from the economy.

Democracy Is The Best Economics

Look at the primary target of the corporate/conservatives: unions. That should tell you something. This is a power confrontation. This is the power of the 1% overcoming the power of the 99%.

Democracy is the power of the 99% to make the decisions, and to build structures that protect us from exploitation by the wealthy and powerful. This confrontation is the story of the origin of our country -- how We, the People confronted the power and corruption of the British aristocracy, overcame that power, and built a country of, by and for the people.

Democracy and the taxes it enabled us to ask from the wealthiest is what enabled us to build the infrastructure and schools and everything that enabled our prosperity. The regulations of democracy are what enable our smaller businesses to compete with the giants. The shared prosperity -- redistribution of wealth -- is what enabled the middle class to grow, and turned us into the most prosperous country and largest market in the world.

Unions

Unions are about building up the power of groups of people, to confront and overcome the advantages of wealth and the power wealth brings to a few. When a union is strong enough to be able to confront the power of big corporations the result is that the 99% get a share of the pie. When unions are strong we all get better wages and better working conditions and a say in how we are treated, whether we are in unions or not. The benefits flow to the rest of the economy.

It would be nice if our system worked well enough that we didn't need to organize unions on top of the structure of laws and regulations, but it is just the fact of life that the wealthy and powerful and their corporations have throughout our history been able to exert tremendous influence over legislative bodies, again and again. So to fight that working people organize and build these organized unions of people, and leverage that power of the group to demand wages and benefits and weekends and a share of the prosperity. The story of the power confrontation between unions of working people (99%) and the large corporations (1%) is the story of how we built a middle class that brought us the prosperity we enjoyed.

It is not just a coincidence that the weakening of the unions coincides with the decline of the middle class. It is not just a coincidence that the current rise of the plutocrats brings in a swarm of anti-union legislation. It is not just a coincidence that the times when our democracy is strongest we all do so much better. And now, when our demcoracy has been weakened by the money and power of the 1% and their corporations, the rest of us are so much worse off.

Not US v. China

This is not about US workers and markets vs China. Working people in all countries are at risk when their countries trade with countries where workers are exploited. China's huge trade imbalance is threatening the world's economy. The loss of manufacturing to countries that exploit workers is threatening workers in many countries.

The US market is still large, and the US can still demand that imported goods be made according to better standards for workers. The rest of the world can also demand that China's workers be brought up to international standards. And we can certainly hold companies like Apple accountable, and demand that they only buy from suppliers that treat and pay workers according to international standards, because allowing companies to cheat, exploit workers and commit fraud drives the good companies out of business.

This is not about taking jobs back from Chinese workers! This is about demanding they be paid fairly and given a say in their workplaces! This is about not exploiting people there or here!

Trade can be an upward spiral, rather than a lever for exploitation of the 99% by the 1%. If Chinese workers are given a say and paid fairly then they can buy things we make and we can keep buying things they make.

Unions = Democracy = Middle Class = Shared Prosperity

Jon Stewart explains:


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:42 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 26, 2012

Anti-Union "Right-To-Work" Laws Really A Tax On Unions

Indiana is about to pass what is called a "right-to-work" law. These laws prohibit union contracts from requiring workers to be in the union and paying dues to the union, while forcing the unions to provide full benefits to the non-unions members for free. The idea is to weaken and defund the union's (99%) ability to push back against the big corporations (1%).

CSM: With Indiana 'right to work' vote, a GOP thumb in the eye to unions,

Indiana is poised to become the first state in the upper Midwest to follow the lead of Southern "right to work" states, taking a big step Tuesday to bar unions from requiring nonunion workers to pay membership dues for representation in bargaining.

... Democrats framed the bill's passage as a political maneuver by Republicans to weaken union strength in the state.

“The only places where today’s events will be cheered is in the boardrooms of big businesses and corporations across this state," said the top House Democrat, Patrick Bauer, in a statement Tuesday. "The House Republicans just helped increase the profit margins for these companies at the expense of their workers.”

Union dues have long been a target of Republican lawmakers, who say those dues are often used to further a Democratic agenda and to elect Democrats to office. The right-to-work legislation hits unions right in their pocketbooks, reducing their ability to wield clout in elections and during negotiations over labor contracts.

Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research explains that this is really just a tax on union members, in Indiana Imposes Tax on Workers Who Support Unions,

The NYT reported that Indiana's legislature approved a measure that requires that the workers who support a union at the workplace pay for the representation of the workers who choose not to pay for the union's representation. It would have been helpful to remind readers that a union is legally obligated to represent all the workers in a bargaining unit, regardless of whether a worker has opted to join the union.

This means that non-members not only get the same wages and benefits that the union gets for its members, they also are entitled to the union's protection in the event of disputes with the employer. Most states allow workers to sign contracts that require non-union members to pay for the benefits they receive from the union.

The bill passed by Indiana's legislature prohibits unions and employers from signing this sort of contract. Instead, it requires unions to provide free representation to non-members.

So Indiana and other states say, by law, that unions have to pay for contract negotiations, have to pay for union reps to handle grievance cases, etc., and are not allowed to require those they represent and who benefit from labor contracts to join the union and pay dues.

This is just one more scam by the 1% to keep the 99% from being able to do anything about their condition.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:04 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Sound Familiar?

Apple’s iPad and the Human Costs for Workers in China - NYTimes.com

Banners on the walls warned the 120,000 employees: “Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”


Sound familiar? The is the wedge that is used to destroy the middle class here. Over there it makes them accept 12-14 hours, 6-7 days a week, sometimes standing the whole time.

The unions here were weakened... Over there they can't have unions.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:24 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 19, 2012

Did The President's Jobs Council Go All Corporate?

President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness ("Jobs Council") issued a report calling for fewer regulations and lower corporate tax rates. This doesn't have to be a bad idea.

The Report

The Jobs Council report, Road Map to Renewal makes a number of recommendations. Here are the main points - please click through for the details:


  • Prepare the American Workforce to Compete in the Global Economy

  • Foster a Climate that Lets Innovation Thrive

  • Adopt an “All-In” Strategy on Energy

  • Revitalize the American Manufacturing Sector

  • Enhance American Competitiveness through Smart Regulatory Reforms

  • Reform the Outdated Tax System to Enhance American Competitiveness

Council Heavily Weighted Toward 1%

The Jobs Council is heavily, heavily, heavily weighted to tilt toward the 1%. The list of members reads "Chair and CEO" with a smattering of ultra-wealthy finance types thrown in, and then a couple of token union leaders.

The Objections

United Food and Commercial Workers president Joseph Hansen abstained from voting. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released a 1635-word dissent. In the dissent Trumka writes, (emphasis added)

I agree with the overall spirit and a number of the specific recommendations in today’s report ... I absolutely agree ... that the United States is falling behind our international counterparts in investing in modern infrastructure, education, and skills; supporting a vibrant manufacturing sector; developing cost-effective and globally responsible energy practices; and supporting innovation. ...

Unfortunately, I believe the report downplays the need for a proactive role for the U.S. government in many of these areas; fails to address the significant additional revenues needed to address the challenges identified on an appropriate scale; and in many cases erroneously identifies the root causes of the underlying structural problems.

... the report addresses regulatory issues as if we were not in the midst of a prolonged economic crisis whose proximate causes clearly included inadequate regulation of business, and in particular financial markets and institutions.

With respect to corporate tax reform, I believe that corporations as a group pay too low a share of taxes to support the kind of infrastructure investment and education/skills upgrades that are so urgently needed at this time... The report places way too much emphasis on statutory tax rates, mentioning only as an aside that the effective rates paid by corporations are much lower, and that overall corporate tax revenues as a percent of GDP are the fourth lowest in the OECD.


Yes, We Can Cut Corporate Taxes ... If

Actually, we can cut corporate taxes, increasing our international competitiveness, while We, the People still fund our democracy and get paid back for our investment that enabled the prosperity of the corporations. Here's how: Cut corporate taxes, but raise taxes on the 1%er owners of the corporations. Stop the nonsense of lower capital gains tax rates, and restore pre-Reagan top tax rates. Also, require corporations to either use their cash or pay it out to shareholders instead of just sitting on it as many do now.

Capital gains are taxes at a lower rate because most of the income of the 1% is from capital gains, and most of the income of the 1% is from capital gains because the tax rate is lower. The "incentive to invest" should be a good investment, period.

What does cutting corporate tax rates accomplish? First, by cutting corporate tax rates the right ways our companies could become more competitive with companies in other countries. This can be an incentive to locate companies here. But we don't have to just sacrifice this revenue by any means. Instead we can tax it when it becomes personal income. But cutting corporate tax rates without increasing personal income tax rates to make up for it -- which happens to be the DC elite consensus as voiced by Simpson-Bowles -- is complete folly, nothing more than another scam by the 1% to rob We, the People. It is essential that a cut in corporate tax rates happen at the same time as taxes on the resulting personal income are increased, along with requirements that corporate money is either used inside the company or paid out to shareholders.

Look at this chart, which tells you everything you need to know about the who what when where and why of corporations. Corporate wealth is also personal wealth. When you hear about corporations doing well, think about this chart:

wealth2

Yes, the top 1% also own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The top 10% own 90.3%. And it's most likely only gotten worse since these figures were gathered.

Cut The Right Regulations

When the elite DC consensus calls for cutting regulations, they mean regulations that hamper the 1%'s ability to fleece us even more. But there are regulations that actually do impede competitiveness.

Here is what usually happens in DC. After Congress passes laws the regulatory bodies translate the laws into a regulatory framework. This is where the giant companies and their lobbyists get to work. The work they do is influencing these agencies to write regulations that help them, the 1%er corporations that can afford to swarm the agencies with lobbyists -- and that obstruct their competition. So we end up with a situation where small businesses and startups don't have a chance making it through the regulatory maze. They either have to hire specialized, $1000-an-hour DC law firms to help them out, or give up. This is by 1%er design, not because of "big government."

So yes, there are regulatory impediments to competition, but I don't think this form of "cutting regulations" means what the 1%ers on the Jobs Council and the big corporate-elites think it means.

Education

On education, the Jobs Council recommends,

In order to stay competitive in a global age, we must invest in our future by ensuring Americans have the right education and skills to realize their full potential and drive our nation’s economic success. ... These measures will create a purposeful educational system that produces work-ready graduates, satisfied employers with access to a talented labor pool, and a vibrant economy poised for growth and success.

Trumka writes,

With respect to the education section of the report, I believe that the Jobs Council’s education recommendations begin and end in the wrong place: focusing on providing businesses with an endless supply of workers -- as opposed to supporting, improving and sustaining a strong public education system.

So the report calls on government to reconfigure our education system to provide companies with trained worker-bees, which means companies don't have to cough up the dough themselves to train their own workers. The report actually goes even further, basically calling for government to replace think-for-yourself education with do-what-we-say job training. There's a difference. And they ask for this after already asking for tax cuts, too. Sheesh.

The Rest

On energy the 1%ers of course mean "drill, baby, drill." But the council is correct, we do need to go "all-in" on energy, with massive Green Energy investment, freeing us from the damage Big Oil and King Coal do to our environment, our economy, our politics and our democracy.

On manufacturing the council notes that since 1980 manufacturing has slipped from 20% to only 9% of total employment,. The report calls for adding "three to four percentage points of global value added market share—an ambitious but achievable goal." They say we should :take share from our global competitors." There are wonky but great suggestions like "cluster development" and important ideas like going after in promising new manufacturing sectors. The President has formed an Office of Manufacturing Policy that is taking up many of the kinds of recommendations in this report.

In fact, we also need to rewrite our trade agreements so they provide a win-win for the working people here and across our borders, and incentives to manufacture here rather than move jobs, factories, companies and industries out of the country.

And So In Conclusion

Trumka sums things up nicely at the end of his dissent:

Perhaps most profoundly, the report does not ask the critical question: why is our country suffering a manufacturing crisis, complete with massive job loss and a structural trade deficit, when countries with higher overall taxes, higher wages, and more robust health, safety and environmental regulations are enjoying trade surpluses?

The answer lies in the view that we share with so many of our fellow Americans: that our country has become dominated by the interests of the wealthiest 1% at the expense of the remaining 99%. It turns out that a country run in the interests of the wealthiest 1% systematically underinvests in public goods;systematically silences, disempowers, and underinvests in its workers; and in the end is less competitive and creates fewer jobs than a country that focuses on the interests of the 99%.

Echo and amplify what Trumka said: Perhaps most profoundly, the report does not ask the critical question: why is our country suffering a manufacturing crisis, complete with massive job loss and a structural trade deficit, when countries with higher overall taxes, higher wages, and more robust health, safety and environmental regulations are enjoying trade surpluses?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 11, 2012

India And Philippines Declare War On Call Center Bill

Last month I wrote about a bill before Congress that would both help fight the offshoring of call-center jobs and protect consumers. Now the countries where we have been sending those jobs are organizing a lobbying campaign to fight the bill.

The Bill

There is a bipartisan bill before Congress, The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, that would let the public know which companies are engaging in sending jobs out of the country, let customers ask to use an American call center instead, and ban federal grants or guaranteed loans to American companies that move call center jobs out of the US. In Call-Center Bill Would Let Customers Ask To Talk To Americans, I wrote about some of the specifics and the reason the bill is needed,

Today many call-center jobs are being moved out of the country to India and the Philippines. This costs American jobs, and can be very frustrating to consumers who have to speak to people who they cannot understand because of language problems or cultural differences. The The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act gives consumers the right to ask where the person they are speaking with is based, and ask for an American-based representative instead. Among the things this bill would accomplish:
  • Require the Department of Labor to publicly list firms that move call center jobs overseas.
  • Make these firms ineligible for any direct or indirect federal loans or loan guarantees for five years.
  • Require 120 day advance notification of a proposed move off-shore.
  • Require call center employees to tell U.S. consumers where they are located, if asked.
  • Require that call centers transfer calls to a U.S. call center if asked.

Lobbying Campaign

India and the Philippines are organizing a lobbying campaign here -- yes, foreign countries lobby Congress to take our jobs -- to keep this bill from even being considered. An article in The Hindu explains,

India's ambassador to the United States Nirupama Rao said that India would work to protect its business interests in the context of a proposed U.S. legislation against outsourcing call centre works to countries, including India.

The Manila Bulletin gets specific,

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was urged to create and send a strong contingent of Filipinos that would persuade lawmakers in the US Congress to stop the passage of a bill that could kill the US$9-billion business processing outsourcing (BPO) in the country.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chairman of the House Committee on Public Information, lamented that US House Bill No. 3596 or the Call Center and Consumers Protection Bill will discourage American companies from outsourcing services in other countries like the Philippines.

“We have to act immediately by sending a strong lobby team in the US. I believe this will kill the BPO industry in the country,” Evardone said.

In, Anti-Outsourcing Bill Stirs Fears In India, Philippines at the Huffington Post, Dave Jamieson quotes Rep. Tim Bishop's (D-N.Y.) reaction to this effort by India and the Philippines,

When asked about such reactions, Bishop said that the fears in India and the Philippines reinforce the argument for the legislation.

"Frankly, the fact that both the Indian government and the Filipino government are reacting like this says that our bill is very badly needed," he said. Most of the call center jobs lost in the U.S. are "sent primarily to India and the Philippines. So I hope [the bill] does have an impact."

... While discussing the call center legislation last month, Bishop said that "outsourcing is one of the scourges of our economy and one of the reasons we are struggling to knock down the unemployment rate and reduce the number of Americans who are out of work ... We can't prohibit it, but we can certainly discourage it."

Consumer Protection

This is not just an offshoring issue, it is also a consumer-protection issue. In Who Protects Info You Give To Offshored Call Centers?, I wrote about a study showing that offshoring of call centers causes us to lose protections on our privacy and financial information,

Not JUST Jobs Lost -- Data Privacy Is Lost, Too

A new study by the Communication Workers of America backs up the need for that bill. The report is called, Why Shipping Call Center Jobs Overseas Hurts Us Back Home. The study found that offshoring call-centers undoes protection of Americans’ private information. Personal data can be available to people who could use it for criminal purposes. Also, once information is sent across borders governments do not need warrants to collect this info.

The full text of the bill is available here:

H.R.3596 - To require a publicly available a list of all employers that relocate a call center overseas and to make such companies ineligible for Federal grants or guaranteed loans and to require disclosure of the physical location of business agents engaging in customer service communications.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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January 6, 2012

Questions For 2012

There are so many unanswered questions and contradictions all around us. But like the families of alcoholics in denial we stay quiet and try not to rock the boat. Here are some questions that need to be asked, and maybe 2012 can be the year we start demanding answers.

1) Who is our economy for, anyway?
2) Why did we invade Iraq?
3) Why haven’t we broken up those too-big banks yet? Instead they just get bigger and more powerful.
3a) How long will we continue to let the banks "extend and pretend?"
4) Why do we still let tobacco companies kill more than 400,000 Americans every year?
4a) Why don't we make tobacco companies pay to clean up all those cigarette butts everywhere?
5) Wouldn't lowering the Social Security age fix a lot of unemployment and help a lot of people?
6) Is moving a factory to a low-wage country really "trade?" Seriously?
7) If our government is supposed to be of, by and for "We, the People," what do conservatives mean by demanding "less government?"
8) How come we never, ever see someone from a union on the big TV networks talking about the benefits of being in a union or how and why to organize one?
9) Since we didn't have big deficits before the Reagan tax cuts, and since the Bush tax cuts didn't create any jobs ... ???
10) Why haven't there been any criminal prosecutions of Wall Street banksters? (OK, some people are starting to ask that one a lot.)

So Many More

There are so many more questions like those. I guess that's enough for now. We as a country have to start asking questions again and demanding answers. Hey, that reminds me:

11) When will our mainstream "journalists" start asking questions and demanding answers again, instead of just saying things like "both sides do it" and "if one side says the earth is flat and the other side says it is round, that means that the earth must be oval-shaped"?

Wall Street got bailouts, the rich got tax cuts, people got job loss and wage cuts and longer hours, protests got crackdowns and it's getting too obvious to ignore. It's time to stop ignoring things and do something about them.

Please, ask your questions in the comments, and then take them out in public and ask them and keep asking them until you get answers. It's your right to ask, and your right to demand answers.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:19 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 3, 2012

Republicans Have Shut Down The NLRB. The President Must Act!

As of now an agency of our government, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), is effectively shut down, unable to do its job. This is a "nullification" by Republicans, of laws that protect workers and companies, in exchange for campaign help from the 1%. They are simply obstructing, blocking appointments in order to keep the agency from functioning. The President has a responsibility to keep the government operating and must use his power to make recess appointments to get the NLRB up and running.

The NLRB

The mission of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), by law, is "to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy."

Once again, the reason we have the NLRB is:

"...to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy."

For readers who missed that, here it is in bold:

"to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy."

It's The Law

That's right, it is the policy of the U.S. government, and the law, to "encourage" unionization because higher wages and benefits helps Americans and our economy overall. By law.

It's the law.

Influence Of The 1%

Yes, it's the law. But so what? Paying good wages and providing benefits means that the 1% and their corporations might have to wait a bit longer to stash away a few billion more, so they are furious at such government "interference." Yes, it is better for everyone in the long run when working people do better, but it isn't better for the 1% right now, this quarter, so they fight every effort to help the middle class.

The 1% and their big corporations have a lot of influence. They dole out generous campaign contributions to those politicians who do their bidding. And they set up "outside groups" that are allowed to spend unlimited amounts to help those they favor and fight those they do not. And they hire lobbyists -- and let current members of Congress and their staff know they can hire them, too, later, for extremely generous salaries, if they just play ball now.

Agency Shut Down

In 2010 the Republican majority on the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the NLRB must have a quorum of board members or it cannot decide cases. Ongoing Republican efforts to keep the Board from operating succeeded. Over 600 decided cases were thrown out. Big companies could continue to get away with firing people for trying to exercise their legal rights to organize unions so they could get better pay and benefits, regardless of what the laws said.

So Republicans are doing the bidding of the 1%. Today the NLRB is effectively shut down because it does not have enough Board members to function. Republicans in the Senate have blocked appointments to the Board, to keep it from operating, to prevent it from deciding cases, so that big companies can operate with impunity and continue to shovel all the gains from our economy up to the top 1%.

Nullification

"Nullification" was the pre-Civil War "states rights" practice of Southern states simply ignoring federal laws. The Republicans are again engaging in nullification, on behalf of the 1%.

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, in Nullification Makes a Comeback, explains,

Republicans are refusing to allow votes on President Obama's nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and on his nominees to fill vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board. In both cases, the Republican refusal is explicity aimed at shutting down these agencies.

... Republicans make no bones about why they're doing this. They opposed the CFPB from the start, and they're now using the filibuster as a way of unilaterally preventing it from operating even though it was lawfully created by a vote of Congress and signed into law by the president. Likewise, they're afraid the NLRB is about to make some rulings they dislike, so they're using the filibuster as a way of shutting it down by denying it a quorum.

The 1% are only 1%, and we are technically still supposed to be operating as a country where the majority rules. So when they can't get their way the 1% engage in various schemes to get their way. We have seen an unprecedented use of filibusters to block the ability of the Congress to function. We have seen hostage-taking and shutdown attempts. In the case of the NLRB (and the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency) we are seeing another "nullification" effort -- preventing the agency from operating by preventing appointments.

This is not politics, this is not bipartisanship, this is intentional obstruction to keep the government from operating.

Where Is Our President?

The President of the United States has a lot of power -- if he chooses to exercise that power. One of his powers is to make appointments himself at times when the Senate is unable to make appointments. This is in the Constitution because the Founders understood how important it is to keep the government operating.

The Constitution is clear about the President's power, and his implied responsibility to use that power to keep the government operating:

Article II Section 2: The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Article II Section 3: ...he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper;

If the House and Senate disagree on adjournment, the President can adjourn them. And when they are adjourned he can make recess appointments. The Congress is engaging in a charade of "pro-forma" sessions to give the technical appearance of being in session when they are not in session as part of this obstruction/nullification strategy by the agents of the 1% to keep our government from functioning for the 99%.

The 15-Second Option

The President had the power to make recess appointments at noon today, when the Senate was officially in recess between the first and second sessions of the 58th Senate. This would have kept this important agency in operation, doing its legally mandated job of protecting workers and companies. The president didn't.

President Teddy Roosevelt used this power in 1903 to appoint 160 officials. The country survived.

Adjourn And Appoint

We can't wait. We have an extraordinary situation here, where one of the parties, as a political strategy, in exchange for campaign assistance from the 1%, is obstructing for the purpose of preventing the government from operating. It is the duty of the President to keep the government operating.

Mr. President, this is outrageous. Working people need you to use your power to get the NLRB up and functioning. Please, adjourn and appoint -- WE CAN'T WAIT!


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:35 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 30, 2011

Verizon's Fee And Attacks On Workers Are Cut From Same Cloth Of Corporate Greed

You may have heard that Verizon is going to charge customers a $2 "convenience fee" to pay their bills online. You may not have heard that Verizon is asking its workers to take cuts in their pensions, sick pay, health insurance, even disability for employees injured on the job. These examples of corporate greed are cut from the same cloth. This is about big corporations using their power to drain and ultimately destroy the middle class so the 1% can have even more.

NY Times, An Uproar on the Web Over $2 Fee by Verizon,

The $2 monthly fee, which takes effect Jan. 15, will apply to people who make one-time credit or debit card payments on the phone or online. ...

The outsize reaction in many ways reflects the year that is now concluding. The economy has not improved much, consumers are fresh off their victory in getting Bank of America to rescind its own move to levy a small new monthly fee and airlines and other companies continue to ask customers to pay à la carte for goods and services that were once part of the standard price.

Then there was Verizon, making the announcement in the dead week between Christmas and New Year’s and calling its new charge a “convenience” fee.

Not Just Squeezing Customers -- Squeezing Workers, Too!

In August I posted, Verizon's Workers Strike Back At Corporate Greed -- You Can Join Them!

The giant telecom company Verizon, currently raking in the billions ($6 billion in profits and a $10 billion dividend on $108 billion in revenue last year), while paying no taxes, is putting the squeeze on its workers, and they are fighting back. With all those profits, the company has been consumed by greed: Now Verizon is asking for $1 billion in concessions from its workers.

This giant company is extremely profitable, yet manages to pay not taxes: (click through for full story)

Paying No Taxes?

Verizon, with $108 billion in revenue and huge profits, is not paying taxes. Citizens for Tax Justice, in Verizon Pushes for $1 Billion in Concessions from Workers, While Receiving Nearly $1 Billion in Subsidies from Uncle Sam, explains, (emphasis added below because I got mad when I read it.)

When you hear about Verizon putting the squeeze on its customers, keep the company's workers in mind.

Click here to sign CWA's petition: Stop Verizon Greed

Click here to learn about leafleting at a Verizon Wireless store

Click here for the latest information on the Verizon workers' efforts.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 20, 2011

NLRB Fight Shows How Far We've Fallen

Here is how far we have fallen: Republicans and big corporations are going to extremes, even threatening to shut down entire agencies of the government, just to keep people from knowing what their rights are. They are "investigating" the NLRB for enforcing the laws that cover employees and employers. They are pledging to block any appointees in order to prevent the agency from operating.

How far have we fallen, if the fight is over just letting people know what their rights are? How much power do the big corporations have now, if these wealthy giants of the 1% feel they can even challenge our right to know what the rules are, and an entire political party exists to help them do this?

The Latest Fight

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is trying to require big corporations to put up a poster informing their employees of their rights under the law. The big corporate, anti-union organizations are fighting this as hard as they can. They are suing in court to block the rule, while Republicans in the House and Senate are using every trick in the book to stop the NLRB requirement, right down to holding Congressional investigations of the agency, and threatening to defund it, and to shut it down by crippling its Board.

What The Poster Says

Here are the things that the Republicans and the big corporations that fund them are fighting to keep working people from knowing:

Under the law you have the right to:


  • Organize a union to negotiate with your employer concerning your wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.
  • Form, join or assist a union.
  • Bargain collectively through representatives of employees’ own choosing for a contract with your employer setting your wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions.
  • Discuss your wages and benefits and other terms and conditions of employment or union organizing with your co-workers or a union.
  • Take action with one or more co-workers to improve your working conditions by, among other means, raising work-related complaints directly with your employer or with a government agency, and seeking help from a union.
  • Strike and picket, depending on the purpose or means of the strike or the picketing.
  • Choose not to do any of these activities, including joining or remaining a member of a union.

Under the law it is illegal for your employer to:


  • Prohibit you from talking about or soliciting for a union during non-work time, such as before or after work or during break times; or from distributing union literature during non-work time, in non-work areas, such as parking lots or break rooms.
  • Question you about your union support or activities in a manner that discourages you from engaging in that activity.
  • Fire, demote, or transfer you, or reduce your hours or change your shift, or otherwise take adverse action against you, or threaten to take any of these actions, because you join or support a union, or because you engage in concerted activity for mutual aid and protection, or because you choose not to engage in any such activity.
  • Threaten to close your workplace if workers choose a union to represent them.
  • Promise or grant promotions, pay raises, or other benefits to discourage or encourage union support.
  • Prohibit you from wearing union hats, buttons, t-shirts, and pins in the workplace except under special circumstances.
  • Spy on or videotape peaceful union activities and gatherings or pretend to do so.

Under the law, it is illegal for a union or for the union that represents you in bargaining with your employer to:


  • Threaten or coerce you in order to gain your support for the union.
  • Refuse to process a grievance because you have criticized union officials or because you are not a member of the union.
  • Use or maintain discriminatory standards or procedures in making job referrals from a hiring hall.
  • Cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against you because of your union-related activity.
  • Take adverse action against you because you have not joined or do not support the union.

Click here to see the poster.

This latest fight is because the NLRB is trying to require companies to put up posters that tell workers what their rights are. That's it. That's what the poster does. Companies are trying to block this and are fighting with everything they have.

The Lawsuit

Big corporate groups have sued to block the poster requirement, saying the NLRB doesn;'t have "the authority" to require them mto put up this poster, and claiming that it violates the "free speech rights" of big corporations if employees learn what their own rights are. Seriously, that's the claim.

How far have we fallen, when big corporations feel they can challenge government's right to even inform citizens of what the laws say? They have good reason to believe that conservative-dominated courts will rule that this violates the "free speech" of non-sentient entities called corporations, over the rights of citizens!

The Hill: Business group challenges NLRB over union poster rule,

Business groups continue to press the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over its proposed rule to have employers post notices informing workers of their organizing rights.

On Monday, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) will present oral arguments in federal court for their lawsuit against the proposed regulation.

[. . .] Trauger said NAM filed the lawsuit because it believes only Congress has the authority to authorize the notice rule. Further, they believe it impinges on employers’ free speech rights.

“We believe the NLRB does not have the authority to require all employers to post the notice in their workplace,” [NAM VP] Trauger said.

Other groups are suing the NLRB over the rule, including the National Federation of Independent Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Crippling The NLRB

At the end of this year the NLRB will not have enough board members to operate, effectively shutting down the agency. The Supreme Court, in another 5-4 decision (yes, the same 5 corporate-conservative-movement sponsored judges that always rule in favor of the big corporations), ruled in 2010 that the NLRB cannot operate without at least 3 members on the Board. This was part of an ongoing strategy to keep the Board from operating effectively, allowing illegal anti-union efforts to continue. Republicans in the Senate have since filibustered to block the Board from having enough members. Last year President Obama made two recess appointments to the Board to keep it operating, so Republicans have prevented the Senate from going into recess since then, vowing to to anything necessary to continue to block any new appointments that could keep the NLRB in operation and enforcing the law.

The Washington Post explains, in Obama nominates 2 for labor board, despite GOP threat to block any appointments to the agency,

President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced plans to nominate two Democrats to the National Labor Relations Board, despite a Republican threat to block any appointments to the agency.

Once again: "A Republican threat to block any appointments to the agency." The Republicans in the Senate are blocking any appointments, in order to force the agency that enforces the rules to stop doing its job.

Meanwhile, in the House, Republicans are engaged in a different tactic to fight the NLRB. The Center for American Progress Action Fund explains, in House Republican Attacks on the National Labor Relations Board Hurt All Workers,

House Republicans are using every tool available to them—including their budget, regulatory, and legislative-oversight powers—to wage a coordinated attack on workers’ rights by trying to eviscerate the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB.

... Over the past year, Republicans in Congress voted to slash funding for the NLRB, attempted to block enforcement of existing worker-protection laws, and even threatened to shut down parts of the federal government in order to advance their goals.

The the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is "investigating" the NLRB, to see if the Board is helping employees who are in unions, demanding the Board turn over documents to the committee by Jan. 3.

The Stakes

A New York Times op-ed, Crippling the Right to Organize, explains the stakes,

UNLESS something changes in Washington, American workers will, on New Year’s Day, effectively lose their right to be represented by a union.

... Workers illegally fired for union organizing won’t be reinstated with back pay. Employers will be able to get away with interfering with union elections. Perhaps most important, employers won’t have to recognize unions despite a majority vote by workers. Without the board to enforce labor law, most companies will not voluntarily deal with unions.

What You Can Do

Download and print the NLRB poster, and out it up at your workplace.

Download and print this "Unions 101" sheet, and leave copies at your workplace for people to find and read.

Send people to visit the AFL-CIO's A Quick Study of How Unions Help Workers Win a Voice on the Job online.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:22 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 16, 2011

Who Protects Info You Give To Offshored Call Centers?

Companies are always looking for ways to reduce the number of people they employ, and for ways to reduce the pay and benefits for the ones they keep. One way they have been doing this is to send jobs out of the country to places where the people don't have the protections of democracy. Then they come back here and threaten the rest of us with losing our jobs, too, if we don't give in. We have to find ways to restore the protections of democracy.

We are all familiar with "offshoring." This is the process of packing up a factory or office, and moving what it does outside of the US to places where people are paid less -- usually because they don't have any say in how their country is run (a.k.a. democracy). Then the company brings the same products or services back to the US and calls that "trade." Allowing this to happen makes democracy a competitive disadvantage.

One (more) job that has been offshored is call centers. We call to place an order or to get customer service, etc., and the person we talk to is in another country and we can't understand them. This is frustrating, but it is even more frustrating when you think that this is one more job that someone here used to do.

Earlier this week I wrote about a new bill called The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act that would help bring call-center jobs back to the US. In Call-Center Bill Would Let Customers Ask To Talk To Americans, I explained,

Today many call-center jobs are being moved out of the country to India and the Philippines. This costs American jobs, and can be very frustrating to consumers who have to speak to people who they cannot understand because of language problems or cultural differences. The The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act gives consumers the right to ask where the person they are speaking with is based, and ask for an American-based representative instead.

Not JUST Jobs Lost -- Data Privacy Is Lost, Too

A new study by the Communication Workers of America backs up the need for that bill. The report is called, Why Shipping Call Center Jobs Overseas Hurts Us Back Home. The study found that offshoring call-centers undoes protection of Americans’ private information. Personal data can be available to people who could use it for criminal purposes. Also, once information is sent across borders governments do not need warrants to collect this info.

From the press release, CWA Study Exposes Overseas Call Center Issues That Threaten American Consumers’ Personal Information,

The Communications Workers of America today released a sobering report detailing the linkage between the off-shoring of call center jobs and a range of serious negative effects on U.S. consumers and job seekers, including placing consumers’ personal information at risk.

… Key findings of the report include:

  • When a U.S. customer’s financial information is sent overseas, it loses the protections of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. As long as an individual’s data is not specifically “targeted,” the data can be collected and analyzed by U.S. federal agencies without a warrant.
  • The documented security hazards are in addition to the damage caused to individuals and communities in the United States by the movement of local call center jobs overseas, off-shoring that often comes after taxpayer-funded dollars and other incentives are heaped upon the corporation.
  • As of this year, the Philippines surpassed India as the top destination for U.S. companies off-shoring call center jobs. American companies also have opened call centers in countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China and Mexico.
  • Americans’ personal data also is at risk in foreign call centers in the relative difficulty in providing background checks on employees. Many foreign nations do not maintain central criminal databases and do not have standard identifiers such as the U.S. Social Security number. As a result, proper background checks are expensive, with one estimate putting the cost at up to $1,000 per employee.
  • This is one more way that offshoring is hurting us. By sending call-center jobs out of the country we are sending the data we give to those call centers out of the country and outside of the protection of our laws. So this call-center bill, named The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act (H.R.3596) is important to us. It is bipartisan, introduced by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) and Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.). Call your own member of Congress and let them know that you support this.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:41 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 8, 2011

    Verizon Fires 40 Workers From Strike

    Verizon has fired 40 workers who took part in the strike this summer, saying they engaged in misconduct. Union leaders say this is a "heavy-handed" negotiating tactic to push for concessions at the bargaining table.

    At the AFL-CIO Blog, Unions Fight Verizon’s Firings of Striking Workers,

    IBEW Local 2222 Legislative Director Paul Feeney told the Boston Globe:
    We think this is a heavy-handed technique that Verizon is using to pressure us at the negotiating table. The union is going to fight this through the court. The company couldn’t prove to us that they did anything wrong.

    Investment blog Seeking Alpha describes this as part of Verizon's revenue strategy, saying this is one example of phone companies that "act like monsters," and "Verizon is playing hardball with its workers, firing strike leaders in an attempt to weaken workers' positions in future negotiations" and "squeeze more from workers."

    Visit the CWA Stop Verizon Green page to learn how to help Verizon workers in their struggle to remain in the middle class.


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 29, 2011

    Will Republicans Shut Down The FAA Again To Help Delta's Union Busting?


    Once again Republicans are ready to shut down the FAA to help a union-busting effort by Delta Airlines. At issue is a provision added to the FAA funding reauthorization that changes the rules for union elections, saying that anyone not voting must be counted as a "no" vote. So if the company can just keep people from voting, the union loses even if everyone that shows up to vote says that they want a union.

    Delta Airlines, called "The Official Airline of the One Percent," is fighting to keep unions out, and Republicans -- in their usual pay-for-play fashion -- are assisting. The Washington Post, reporting recently in, Chances for long-term FAA funding bill seen as bleak, explained Delta's interest,

    It is a dispute over a labor ruling that would make it easier for employees of Delta Air Lines to unionize. House Republicans are dead set on undoing a ruling by the National Mediation Board, which said that airline unionization efforts should be decided by a majority of those who vote. The ruling negated a long-standing rule that said eligible voters who opted not to vote would be counted as voting against unionization.

    The NMB ruling is expected to have its most immediate impact on Delta, which has so far staved off union organizers.

    Last week, Talking Points Memo reported that, Just In Time For The Holidays: FAA Fight Heats Up ...,

    ... the House and Senate are ... supposed to pass long-term legislation to reauthorize FAA programs. But a dispute over worker rights has held up the bill for months and even led to a partial FAA shutdown earlier this year. Rinse, repeat.

    Republicans want to make it more difficult for transportation workers to unionize by requiring officials to count abstentions as votes against forming a union. This provision underlies the stalemate between the House and Senate on a so-called permanent reauthorization.

    TPM reports that the Communications Workers of America are asking people to contact specific members of Congress to ask them to set aside this union-busing effort and pass FAA funding.

    The Communications Workers of America will target vulnerable Republicans with 1,300,000 phone calls, mailers, and an online pressure campaign, according to a release sent my way.

    “It is beyond time to finalize a long-term FAA Reauthorization bill that improves our aviation infrastructure, grows our economy, creates hundreds of thousands of new jobs and keeps elections fair for air and rail employees,” the flyer reads. “Congress is very close to passing a long-term FAA Reauthorization bill - after 22 extensions! But Delta Air Lines continues to lobby Republican leadership to include an unrelated, controversial, union-busting provision in the legislation to benefit the company. Call your Member of Congress and House Leader Eric Cantor TODAY and tell them to stop playing political games and pass a clean, long-term FAA Reauthorization bill with no special interest provisions.”

    The targeted members are below.

    Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA); Rep John Mica (R-FL); Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA); Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA); Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL); Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI); Rep. Blake Farenhold (R-TX); Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA); Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY); Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD); Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY); Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ); Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA); Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA); Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV); Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI); Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY); Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI); Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ); Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH); Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN-08)

    According to and Aviation Week report, Angry Rockefeller Calls For Help In Passing FAA Reauthorization Bill, West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller talked about the FAA union-busting situation in a Nov 14 speech to the Aero Club in Washington, DC, [emphasis added]

    Without naming the issues specifically, Rockefeller alluded to problems with a provision repealing National Mediation Board rules that has been blamed by members of both parties for holding up a resolution on the bill. And though Rockefeller in the past has blamed Delta Air Lines and its CEO, Richard Anderson, for the impasse, he restricted his comments Monday to “one airline” without naming the carrier. Rockefeller suggested that fixing the wording in the House version of the FAA bill is not in his purview because the Senate Commerce Committee does not have control over it.

    The Communications Workers of America released this video:

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:24 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 26, 2011

    Adjourn And Appoint! We Can’t Wait – For Recess Appointments

    The Republicans are obstructing the government from operating. Judges, appointees, NLRB members, etc. are blocked with the purpose of keeping government from doing its job. This is taking a terrible toll on We, the People. The President has the power to do something about it, and it is time for him to use that power.

    The NLRB Example

    According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB),

    "Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy."

    The law: The NLRB exists to protect employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining and to certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.

    But at the end of December the NLRB will again not have enough members for a quorum, and will be unable to make decisions. This is on purpose. Republicans have been blocking any appointments to NLRB in order to make this happen and prevent the Board from functioning. This will cause harm to the general the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.

    A Look At One Case

    Here is the kind of thing that’s going on because of this obstruction that is keeping the government from functioning. An example of the problems with the NLRB is the large backlog of cases, such as this one case that started in 2003. See this 2008 Variety story on the 2003 labor violation, NLRB rules against CNN, for background,

    In a frequently scathing decision, a judge has ruled that CNN acted illegally and discriminatorily in terminating [in 2003] a subcontracting relationship with a firm that provided technical services in the cabler's New York and D.C. bureaus.

    Arthur J. Amchan, an administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board, ordered reinstatement with back pay for 110 dismissed workers. Amchan said the root of the trouble had been CNN's desire to avoid bargaining with a union.

    CNN denied the charges and said it will appeal the ruling to the full NLRB.

    How bad was CNN?

    In his ruling, Amchan found that unit to be "a sham" used to limit the hiring of any TVS workers in order to avoid having to negotiate with the NABET-CWA. The cabler's ultimate motive was "to achieve a nonunion technical work force in its Washington, D.C., and New York bureaus," said the judge, adding that CNN's "widespread and egregious" actions constituted a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

    From Broadcast Union News, NLRB vs CNN/Team Video Update,

    He [the judge] ordered the immediate reinstatement of the 110 workers who were not rehired through CNN's scam hiring system, called for the restoration of the economic losses of all 250 workers and ordered CNN to recognize and bargain with NABET-CWA.

    The judge declared that “CNN engaged in widespread and egregious misconduct, demonstrating a flagrant and general disregard” for workers' rights.

    So CNN appeals to the full NLRB, and Republicans make sure there isn’t a full NLRB. (The rules are if one party objects to the decision it is suspended until the full NLRB can hear it. The strategy is every employer objects, and the Republicans keep the NLRB from being able to hear cases and make rulings.)

    Now it is 2011, closing in on 2012. 110 workers terminated in 2003 to block a union, a judge ordered them back, Republicans block the NLRB from operating, and like hundreds of other cases, this case sits in purgatory...

    The Value Of Recess Appointments

    The NLRB is again about to be prevented by obstruction from doing its job, operating to protect America's employees and employers and to curtail certain private sector ... practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy. The President has the power to keep the NLRB and other agencies operating, by making recess appointments to fill positions when Republicans are obstructing.

    But President Obama has been reluctant to use his Presidential power to make recess appointments. In 2010, after waiting 14 months, President Obama finally, finally, finally, finally, finally made just a few recess appointements to get the government operating,

    Here is what is going on. President Obama is way behind in nominating people to vacant posts and judgeships. On top of this the Republicans have used the filibuster to block many of the candidates that Obama has nominated. In the case of the Labor Board there were only two people left serving on the 5-member Board when 3 are required to make rulings, and some 600 cases have backed up.

    ... Such use of legitimate power to make the government operate as it should is also known as "governing." Until today he has refused to use this power to get the government operating. Today he finally, finally, finally, finally put 15 people into positions where they can start getting their agencies operating.

    Even that small gesture made a big difference to working Americans, which I wrote about in NLRB Success Shows Value Of Recess Appointments,

    A government agency is blocked from functioning by obstructionist, party-over-country, Republican Senators. The President makes recess appointments to get government functioning again and the agency starts doing its job. The result: working people are protected. Today the NLRB issued modest new guidelines for union elections that will clear up many, many problems faced by employees.

    ... The Constitutional purpose of recess appointments is to keep government functioning. When vacancies are left unfilled it hurts all of us. But even though there are a large number of unfilled positions, many blocked by Senate Republicans, President Obama has made very few recess appointments. The result is a a public increasingly frustrated by the hobbled government.

    President Bush made 171 recess appointments, Clinton 139. Bush used this power to appoint extremist ideologues, Clinton to get around Republican obstruction.

    President Obama has been reluctant to govern make recess appointments because he does not want to upset the Republican opposition. He has made less than 40 such appointments so far.

    The Constitutional Solution: Adjourn And Appoint

    The NLRB, judges and other appointments are all being blocked by Republican filibusters. This is not politics, this is not bipartisanship, this is intentional obstruction to keep the government from operating. The Constitution foresaw this, and the President has a responsibility to apply the Constitution to do something about this. The Constitution gives the President the executive power. The President is supposed to do that job and use this power to get things done.

    The Constitution is clear:

    Article II Section 2: The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

    Article II Section 3: ...he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper;

    If the House and Senate disagree on adjournment, the President can adjourn them. And when they are adjourned he can make recess appointments.

    We can't wait. We have an extraordinary situation here, where one of the parties, as a political strategy, is obstructing for the purpose of preventing the government from operating. It is the duty of the President to keep the government operating.

    Mr. President, the next time the Congress recesses without recessing, adjourn them and appoint the necessary NLRB members, judges, etc to get this government back in operation for We, the People.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 23, 2011

    I'm Back Up At Huffington Post

    Hey people the labor thing with Huffington Post has ended and I am back at Huffington with a Post: Dave Johnson: Is A Flat Tax Fair?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 13, 2011

    Help Verizon's Workers Try To Save The Middle Class

    Here is a practical application of the ideas and energy of #Occupy Wall Street. Verizon's workers are in a struggle against a giant corporation. They need your help leafleting at Verizon stores, reaching people to explain what is going on.

    Verizon is a huge, very profitable company. But Verizon is trying to make its workers take pay and benefit cuts, so that a few at the top can make even more money. If this sounds familiar it is because this is what is happening to our economy across the board. Big companies are using the fear caused by the unemployment crisis to take away more and more benefits, cut back wages, make people work longer hours, and basically shred the middle class. 99% of us are finding it harder and harder to get by while a few at the top are getting more and more.

    Fighting Back

    Verizon's workers are fighting back. In August they went on strike, and with the help of volunteers joining the picket lines they were able to get the company to back off some of their outrageous demands, and back to the bargaining table. But they are still at that table and are asking for people to help out again. One thing they are doinbg is asking iPhone users not to upgrade to the new iPhone on Verizon until this is settled. They are calling this action the iWon't Campaign.

    Companies that take away middle-class jobs should not be rewarded. Verizon's workers are asking people to buy or upgrade Verizon iPhones only when Verizon gives workers a fair deal and stops downgrading the middle class.

    The iWon't Campaign:

    The Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, joined by allies including MoveOn.org, the AFL-CIO, US Action, Jobs with Justice, and the National People’s Alliance announced today the next stage in the fight for middle-class jobs at Verizon and Verizon Wireless.

    The groups are launching the nationwide iWon't Campaign, asking Americans to delay upgrading to the new iPhone on Verizon Wireless until the company agrees to a fair contract with its workers. The campaign, which includes online outreach by MoveOn.org and other groups, advertising, grassroots outreach and leafleting at hundreds of Verizon Wireless stores, is timed around the launch of Apple’s new iPhone expected on Tuesday, October 4th.

    Click here to find a local store where you can join Verizon's workers, and help fight to save the middle class.

    Leaflet at a Verizon Wireless store:

    45,000 Verizon workers are fighting for a fair contract and to preserve the middle class and the American Dream in the Northeast.

    If wealthy corporations like Verizon continue to outsource jobs and hold down worker wages, there is no hope for an economic recovery. This is why our fight is your fight and why your support is so important.

    Join us as we leaflet at Verizon Wireless stores to get our message out: Stand with Workers, Not Rich CEOs.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:53 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 3, 2011

    The iWont Campaign

    Companies that take away middle-class jobs should not be rewarded. Verizon's workers are asking people to buy or upgrade Verizon iPhones only when Verizon gives workers a fair deal and stops downgrading the middle class. On a call today Verizon's workers said that it was public pressure that brought the company back to the bargaining table, ending this summer's strike by 45,000 workers.

    This Is Your Fight, Too

    Big companies are using the fear caused by the unemployment crisis to take away more and more benefits, cut back wages, make people work longer hours, and basically shred the middle class. Since August Verizon workers have been fighting to protect their health care coverage and other standard employee benefits against Verizon’s demands for takebacks that threaten the living standard of tens of thousands of middle class families. The fight of Verizon’s workers is exactly the fight the rest of us are having to try to preserve America’s middle class.

    Now a number of national progressive-aligned organizations are joining in support of Verizon workers as they enter the next phase in the fight for middle-class jobs at Verizon and Verizon Wireless. These organizations recognize that this fight is our fight.

    iWont

    As Apple announces the new iPhone 5, the Communication Workers of America, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, MoveOn.Org, US Action, Jobs with Justice, and National People’s Action are launching the nationwide iWont Campaign, asking Americans to delay upgrading to the iPhone 5 on Verizon Wireless until the company agrees to a fair contract with its workers.

    In addition, as Congress considers ways to close the deficit, these organizations will expose the “Verizon Tax Loophole.” This is Verizon’s use of tricks and tax dodges to pay nothing at all in federal corporate income taxes. Verizon makes billions in profits and pays their top 5 executives hundreds of millions of dollars. Avoiding taxes while paying a few at the top millions and asking their workers to take lower pay and fewer benefits undermines the American Dream of good middle-class jobs.

    Support Verizon Workers

    Click here to Send a Message of Solidarity

    45,000 Verizon workers are back to work and unified as one with their brothers and sisters and community supporters. Our collective fight for the American Dream continues.

    Our work is far from complete. Our strike objective from the beginning was a real collective bargaining process. Your support was essential to creating that opportunity. Now begins the hard work of negotiating a fair contract.

    If wealthy corporations like Verizon continue to outsource jobs and hold down worker wages, there is no hope for an economic recovery. This is why our fight is your fight and why your support is so important.

    Sign our solidarity message to Verizon workers today, and we'll deliver your comments to them.

    In addition there will be information campaigns, leafleting at Verizon stores around the country. Information will be posted soon.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:58 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    September 27, 2011

    Republicans Cheer That Labor Leaders Murdered In Colombia

    Hundreds of executions in Texas -- Republican crowd cheers.

    An uninsured person in a coma -- Republican crowd shouts "Let him die!"

    And now, labor leaders murdered in Colombia -- Republicans say "A good start..."

    See the comments under an article at The Hill about how many labor leaders have been killed in Colombia -- 15 since the US signed on to a treaty: AFL-CIO President Trumka sends list of killed Colombian labor leaders to Obama - TheHill.com

    Republicans are swarming the comments. Example:

    What do you call a list of 22 dead labor leaders?

    A good start…
    BY TEA PARTY PATRIOT�on 09/26/2011 at 15:35

    And trust me, it isn't just this one comment over there... go see before they take it down. (Never mind you can see some of them preserved here: http://yfrog.com/nxx0rp and here http://yfrog.com/kgf13jp)

    so Columbia is doing a good job of getting rid of vermin why is this cause for concern? BY HOLYMAN on 09/26/2011 at 15:35

    Another:

    I wonder if those killing the labor slugs in Colombia can outsource that work here. BY CANUCK on 09/26/2011 at 19:00


    Another:

    Could we get them to do it here? There are more than enough union thug bosses already. BY DAVID on 09/27/2011 at 10:52


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:36 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 25, 2011

    Your Chance To Take A Stand Against Corporate Greed

    Do you think that corporate greed has gotten out of control? Here is your chance to take a stand against corporate greed in a way that can make a difference. There is a greedy corporation that right now is trying to take away its workers' benefits and job security. Let's all back up the workers and stop this, and show people how it's done.

    Verizon is a $100 billion-plus company, paying billions in dividends, paying some top executives as much as $50,000 a day, and now in the kind of corporate greed-grab we are so familiar with is asking its workers to take a big hit. Just because they can. Sound familiar? Want to do something about it?

    Last week Verizon's workers scored a big victory for the economy and the middle class. 45,000 Verizon workers went on strike against the company's corporate greed and forced the giant company to back off. Now they are at the bargaining table not just for themselves but to set an example for all of us, for our wages and benefits. We can help them by showing our support, and showing up to back them up. This is about us as much as it is about them and you can help support them.

    If this sounds familiar it is because this is what all of us are facing now. This is a chance for all of us to take a stand against this destructive and unsustainable corporate greed that Verizon and other giant corporations -- and corporate funded politicians like Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin -- think is the way of the future.

    How You Can Help

    Join with Verizon's workers and with Jobs With Justice to help fight back:

    Read this too: We Need To Get Active To Recover The Economy And Middle Class

    Tell them what democracy looks like:



    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:01 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 15, 2011

    Verizon Strike: Picketing Can Be Done By Anyone

    Do you want a path out of this recession? Then help the Verizon workers by joining a picket line at your local Verizon store. (Click to learn how.) Verizon has billions in profits. They pay their executives huge salaries. But they are asking their workers and even retirees to take cuts, so the workers are on strike. They just want what you want - a decent job with decent pay and maybe some benefits. So join them.


    Path Out Of Recession

    Larry Cohen, president of Communication Workers of America (CWA), said on a call today said, "If a company with profits like this, and paying their top executives more than $50,000 a day, can demand these kind of cuts from its workers, there literally will never be a path out of recession in this country."

    Cohen also said,

    "The collapse of the standard if living across the country, we need to convince people of the larger issues here. The economics lesson here ... the human rights issues here are enormous. We are attempting to picket every Verizon Wireless store in the country and this can be done by anyone carrying our sign. ...

    Are people like us going to have any rights in this country, do we have any rights in this country, do we have anything to look forward to?"

    Join Them

    Last week I wrote, in Verizon's Workers Strike Back At Corporate Greed -- You Can Join Them!:

    The reason you see so many cellphone stores and ads everywhere is because wireless is a very lucrative business. Wireless companies are pulling in billions and their executives are raking in the bucks. But they are also squeezing their workers, their customers and our government.

    Right now Verizon is greedily trying to put the squeeze on its workers, cutting pensions, sick pay, health insurance, even disability for employees injured on the job. If this story sounds all too familiar, this part won't: Their workers are fighting back with a strike! And you can join them!

    Verizon's demands include: • Continued contracting out of work to low-wage contractors, which means more outsourcing of good jobs overseas. • Eliminating disability benefits for workers injured while on the job. • Elimination of all job security provisions. • Eliminating paid sick days for new hires and limiting them to no more than five for any workers. • Freezing pensions for current workers and eliminating them for future employees. • Replacing the current high-quality health care plan with a high-deductible plan requiring up to $6,800 in additional costs.

    The Is About You

    This is about you because this is happening to everyone. These Verizon workers are putting everything on the line for you -- trying to do something about it. They going on strike to try to get your wages and pension and health care back, or keep those things from being taken away from you. Don't forget that when you hear the corporate propaganda from FOX News and the rest of the corporate media, telling you about "union thugs" and "union bosses." This is about you and if you are anywhere near a Verizon worker picket line you should go join them.

    What You Can Do

    Click here to learn ways that you can support the strike.

    Easy: Click to Tell Verizon: Stop Attacking the Middle Class. From the petition:

    Over the last four years, Verizon has made $19 billion in profits while paying its top five executives $250 million in compensation and bonuses .

    With middle-class families already struggling, it's time for Verizon to share its success with the hardworking Americans who made it possible. This is not a time for corporate greed. It is time to do the right thing.

    Verizon made dramatic concessionary demands to kick off bargaining and never moved. Now you are refusing to bargain with the CWA & the IBEW.

    Socially: “Like” them on Facebook.

    Techy: Download their iPhone app.

    Read strike coverage.

    Have Fun, Meet People, Join A Local Picket Line

    Much more fun: Join them! Click here for a map of local picket lines that you can join. I especially like this one: Adopt Verizon Wireless a store to picket and leaflet.

    You can find more info here including signing up to receive updates.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:49 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    August 10, 2011

    Verizon's Workers Strike Back At Corporate Greed -- You Can Join Them!

    The reason you see so many cell phone stores and ads everywhere is because this is a very lucrative businesses. They are pulling in billions and their executives are raking in the bucks. But they are also squeezing their workers, their customers, and our government. Right now Verizon is greedily trying to put the squeeze on its workers, cutting pensions, sick pay, health insurance, even disability for employees injured on the job. If this story sounds all too familiar, this part won't: Their workers are fighting back with a strike! And you can join them!


    Consumed By Greed

    The giant telecom company Verizon, currently raking in the billions ($6 billion in profits and a $10 billion dividend on $108 billion in revenue last year), while paying no taxes, is putting the squeeze on its workers, and they are fighting back. With all those profits the company has been consumed by greed: Now Verizon is asking for $1 billion in concessions from its workers.

    Kenneth Quinnell lays it out in Union Workers Stand Up to Extreme Demands from Verizon over at Crooks and Liars:

    More than 40,000 workers -- members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers -- went on strike this week after Verizon refused to even begin to bargain fairly with the workers. The workers on strike include "telephone field technicians, call center workers and cable installers from Massachusetts to Virginia."

    Verizon has canceled multiple bargaining sessions and refuses to back down from any of their original concession requests, something that flies in the face of the basic idea of negotiating. Workers say they are prepared to return to work as soon as management shows a willingness to sit down and work out a fair agreement.

    How MUCH Greed?

    Laura Clawson writes in, More than 45,000 Verizon workers strike, at Daily Kos Labor:

    Verizon's demands include:
    • Continued contracting out of work to low-wage contractors, which means more outsourcing of good jobs overseas.
    • Eliminating disability benefits for workers injured while on the job.
    • Elimination of all job security provisions.
    • Eliminating paid sick days for new hires and limiting them to no more than five for any workers.
    • Freezing pensions for current workers and eliminating them for future employees.
    • Replacing the current high-quality health care plan with a high-deductible plan requiring up to $6,800 in additional costs.

    Meanwhile, Verizon is doing just fine:
    • 2011 annualized revenues are $108 billion and annualized net profits are $6 billion.
    • Verizon Wireless just paid its parent company and Vodaphone a $10 billion dividend.
    • Verizon’s top five executives received compensation of $258 million over the past four years.

    Paying No Taxes?

    Verizon, with $108 billion in revenue and huge profits, is not paying taxes. Citizens for Tax Justice, in Verizon Pushes for $1 Billion in Concessions from Workers, While Receiving Nearly $1 Billion in Subsidies from Uncle Sam, explains, (emphasis added below because I got mad when I read it.)

    Despite earning over $32.5 billion over the last 3 years, Verizon not only paid nothing in corporate income taxes, it actually received nearly $1 billion (the same amount as the concessions they are seeking) in tax benefits from the federal government during that time.

    ... In fact, if Verizon paid its corporate income tax at the official rate of 35 percent, it would have owed more than $11 billion (rather than negative $1 billion). This alone is enough to avoid the recent cuts in the debt deal to student loan programs.

    CTJ also points out that, "...the top 5 executives at Verizon received more than a quarter of a billion dollars in compensation over the last 4 years."

    Just 5 people got more than a quarter billion,(CEO Lowell McAdam’s compensation works out to about $55,000 per day) the company pays no taxes which means the rest of us -- an entire country -- has to cut student loan programs, and on top of that they are trying to take disability pay away from workers who are injured while they work to make those executives even richer.

    The Is About You

    This is about you because this is happening to everyone. These Verizon workers are putting everything on the line for you -- trying to do something about it. They going on strike to try to get your wages and pension and health care back, or keep those things from being taken away from you. Don't forget that when you hear the corporate propaganda from FOX News and the rest of the corporate media, telling you about "union thugs" and "union bosses." This is about you and if you are anywhere near a Verizon worker picket line you should go join them.

    What You Can Do

    Easy: sign a petition.

    More fun: Click here to learn how you can support the strike. And you can join them! Click here for a map of local picket lines that you can join. I especially like this one: Adopt Verizon Wireless a store to picket and leaflet.

    You can find more info here including signing up to receive updates.


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:16 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    August 3, 2011

    Delta's Greed Helps Shut Down The FAA

    You probably don’t know that another act of hostage-taking by Republicans is underway. They have shut down the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to help Delta Airlines in its battle to keep its workers from voting in a union. This is costing the government $200 million a week, more than 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed, and as many as 87,000 construction workers and other contractors around the country are being laid off. The agency has been shut down for more than a week and so far the Republicans have refused to let it open before Congress leaves town for the summer. All this apparently so one company can keep employees who want a union from winning an election.

    The FAA is the agency that regulates and overseas civil aviation. That is airports, airlines, pilots, employees, air traffic control, and other components of our aviation system. But the agency has been shut down. FAA inspectors and others are working without pay and paying for their own job-related travel. The shutdown is keeping the FAA from collecting federal taxes on airline tickets at a cost of $200 million in revenues each week even as the country struggles with deficits. Republicans said they don’t like deficits, but they clearly hate working people more – this shutdown adds $30 million a day, over $200 million a week to deficits.

    A Shutdown Engineered For A Company

    This shutdown of the FAA has occurred because of a form of “government shutdown” by Republicans, at the behest of Delta Airlines, over rules about unionization elections. Delta is in the middle of a fight to keep workers from being able to form a union. Delta wants the rules changes so a nonvoting worker, including one who might be sick, on vacation or otherwise absent from the workplace on election day, is counted as a “no” vote for unionization. Republicans inserted this anti-union language into the FAA funding reauthorization and are refusing to fund the agency unless Democrats agree to change these union election rules to help Delta.

    Delta is apparently calling in favors to get this. According to Campaign Money Watch, in Is Delta Using Its Campaign Cash to Influence the FAA Debate?,

    Delta's been spending money wisely to try to overturn the decision to let workers organize more easily. They spent $1.6 million on lobbying during the first half of 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. (Over the past ten years they spent at least $32 million to influence Washington.) Their PAC has given $826,243 to members of Congress since 2000. Adding additional incentive for Republicans in Congress to stand with them, Richard Anderson, Delta's CEO, made a $5,000 contribution to the Senate Republican's campaign committee earlier this year — apparently his first one ever.

    Not Delta's First Anti-Labor Problems

    This is hardly the beginning of anti-labor activities by Delta’s management. There has been a string of actions against its workers to the point that the government has had to step in. WSJ: Delta Probed on Union Drive,

    The National Mediation Board said Wednesday it will conduct a full-blown investigation into allegations by a flight attendants union that Delta Air Lines Inc. interfered in last year's fractious organizing drive at the world's second-largest airline by traffic.

    Joan McCarter elaborates in Daily Kos in June, Delta Air's anti-union practices earns federal probe,

    Delta isn't just a crappy airline for passengers, it's a crappy employer, too. At least it is if you can judge by the lengths it has gone to to prevent fairness in the workplace. Around the World Blog has some of the gory details of Delta's extreme anti-union activities:
    • Open advocacy against fair American elections: Delta issued a press release commending the news that Darrell Issa's deranged Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will investigate the NMB’s 2010 decision to conduct union elections for air/rail workers the same as all other types of American elections. … Unfortunately for Delta, the facts aren’t on their side -- there’s no reason to conduct NMB elections differently from every other form of election, union or non-union, in the nation. ….
    • Bumping paying customers…so Delta employees can lobby: Delta is so committed to its anti-union ideology that it offered its employees the chance to travel to Washington to lobby against fair union elections under a provision that may bump paying customers. …

    It goes beyond, however, a general fight against the rights of airline and railroad employees to organize, to a very specific fiht among Delta employees to organize. The airline's fight against that union drive has made the airline a target for federal investigators.

    "Delta is like the Scott Walker of airlines." Joe Sudbay sums up Delta management's attitude at AmericaBlog:

    "Delta is like the Scott Walker of airlines. It wants to be known as anti-worker. And, of course, the GOPers in Congress are great allies in that quest. They'll join together to fight this investigation and undermine NMB."

    Two Senators Weigh In On Delta And FAA Shutdown

    In an NPR report, Reid Says FAA Shutdown Will Continue; Blames House, Delta Airlines, Senate Majority Leader Reid explains,

    "It's not a battle over essential air service. It's a battle over Delta Airlines, who refuses to allow votes under the new rules that have been passed by the NLRB [National Labor Relations Board]." The issue, Reid says, is Delta's "non-union" stance. The bill to fund the FAA, as crafted by House Republicans, includes language that sets new rules for aviation workers' votes on labor representation.

    Senator Rockeffeller, in a USA Today op-ed, Rural America needs Essential Air Service, talks about Delta's attack on workers rights,

    Unfortunately, the Republican House is holding the FAAhostage and using the EAS program to distract from its acknowledged goal: overturning a workers' rights rule that makes sense and has been upheld in court.

    This ugly backroom deal is the work of Delta Air Lines' anti-worker allies in the House. They want to overturn a decision of the National Mediation Board that allows airline and railroad workers to organize with their votes counted the regular way — yes and no — rather than by counting people who don't participate at all in the election.

    Delta lost in court, and so it lobbied the Republican House leadership for help. That now involves blocking critical FAA legislation and attacking the EAS program, which creates jobs and economic opportunity in small communities by giving business access to travel.

    Delta Greed Also Not Good For Customers

    Delta's management provides us an example of what happens to a company that prioritizes greed over all else. We see a company that is not just bad for its workers, it is also bad for its customers. Here are examples.

    Greed: When the FAA shutdown meant that taxes would not be collected some airlines let their customers keep the money. But not Delta's management -- they decided to keep that extra cash for themselves. Memphis Business Journal, Delta raises ticket prices amid FAA shutdown,

    Air travelers are getting a break from federal taxes as the Federal Aviation Administration has partially shut down, but some airlines, including Delta Air Lines Inc. , have raised fares and nullified the tax break. ... While some airlines will allow customers to take advantage of the tax break, others, like Delta, have increased fares following the shutdown...

    Greed: Amanda Terkel at Huffington Post: Delta Charges U.S. Troops Returning From Afghanistan $2,800 In Baggage Fees,

    Delta Air Lines is facing intense criticism after charging 34 U.S. soldiers returning from Afghanistan $2,800 in baggage fees.

    The incident came to light on Tuesday after a couple of the new-media savvy soldiers recorded a video about their ordeal and posted it on YouTube.

    Greed: According to Delta Nightmares, a website devoted to describing Delta's bad customer service,

    I’m apparently not the only one who thinks so. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, Delta is having serious issues…ranking LAST among major carriers in customer service last year.
    …among major airlines Delta finished with the highest rate of customer complaints filed with the Department of Transportation in the first nine months of last year, and was second-to-last in on-time arrivals and baggage handling through November. Delta also had the highest rate of canceled flights among major carriers in 2010, according to FlightStats.com.

    Greed: Delta has earned the #65 place in BNet's Business Blunders of the Year for offering a $200 flight credit after losing a customer's dog.

    "Delta told Josiah Paco had "escaped" and the best they could do is refund his $200.00 pet transportation fee, but only as a "credit" for future Delta travel. That doesn't do Josiah any good, as he's vowed to never fly Delta again"

    Greed: just Google Delta Airlines bad customer service and see the thousands and thousands of results that pop up...

    Part Of Larger Anti-Worker Campaign

    This effort by Republicans in Congress is really just a part of a larger fight against workers' rights. As we have seen in several states, most notably Wisconsin, this is a coordinate, all-out attack by the larger corporations and their allies in the Republican Party. New Jersey, as just one more example, just passed, and Governor Christie signed an anti-union bill. In Ohio there is a campaign to repeal a law restricting collective bargaining rights. In Florida it is revealed that ALEC was behind the state's anti-union legislation efforts. In Missouri large protest turnouts beat back anti-union legislation.

    FAA Still Shut Down

    So the FAA is still shut down, possibly until September when the Congress returns. This is the Tea Party dream, government destroyed, financed and pushed by private companies, this time Delta Airlines. Delta is showing itself as a model of bad corporate behavior. Delta couldn't keep their workers from joining a union, so they try to get the laws rigged. Meanwhile the Republicans are showing themselves willing to contract out their legislative power to the highest bidders.

    Delta Airlines is certainly not the only example of bad, greed-inspired behavior by corporate management these days -- far from it. But with the FAA shutdown over Delta's request for a rule to keep its workers from being able to unionize Delta is putting itself forward as a top example of bad corporate behavior.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:25 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 20, 2011

    Great Videos

    A show like Roseanne couldn't get on TV these days, could it?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:28 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 28, 2011

    The War Against Good Jobs

    5 Reasons Why I Don't Support Privatization of Government, by Cory McCray:

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:54 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 24, 2011

    NLRB V Boeing – Corporations Fear Law Itself

    The National Labor Relations Board is attempting to enforce our country's laws and the corporate conservatives are going nuts - literally. They are challenging the concept of law itself, while making wild claims of conspiracies by government against business itself. Yikes!

    The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint against Boeing for retaliating against employees for legitimate union activities. Boeing opened a 787 assembly line in "right-to-work" South Carolina that they had previously stated would go to Washington State, after repeatedly having to grant concessions to union workers in Washington State. Opening an assembly line is not illegal, of course, but doing so in retaliation for union activities or for the purpose of threatening a union is illegal.

    The key to the NLRB action is that Boeing executives said repeatedly they were opening the South Carolina plant because of union activities. They boasted they were breaking the law, and finally someone has dared to enforce the law.

    The International Associaltion of Machinists and Aerospace Workers complaint states that a Boeing executive stated Boeing was "diversifying Boeing's labor pool" to South Carolina due to "strikes happening every three to four years." The complaint cites several other instances of Boeing officials stating the reason for opening the South Carolina assembly line was because of union activities, as well as threatening the union with losing work in Washington state because of union activities.

    The idea of the NLRB enforcing the nation's laws again, after decades of Reagan/Bush/Bush non-enforcement, has caused corporate heads to explode. The corporate right says the NLRB complaint is an example of "the federal government dictating private business decisions."

    Yes, exactly. That is what law is: government dictating private business decisions.

    What Is Law?

    Law is "government dictating private business decisions." That's pretty much the definition of what law is. Telling a company they can't dump toxic waste into rivers, can't steal from customers, etc. are all examples of "government dictating private business decisions."

    Law is government -- We, the People -- telling people and companies what they can and cannot do. So by complaining about "government dictating private business decisions" it appears the Boeing and the corporate right have a problem with law and government itself. "Being told what they can and cannot do" is what government and law enforcement are for.

    The right to form a union and engage in legitimate union activities without fear of retaliation or intimidation is the law in the US, and in every state.

    This is now about integrity of the law enforcement process. Boeing and the corporate right are attacking law enforcement itself. And so we are treated with the spectacle of the lawbreakers getting headlines attacking the law-enforcement agency.

    This crowd has gotten used to telling government what to do, and now here comes government actually daring to try to enforce a law -- telling them what to do instead of the other way around -- and they just can't f&%king believe it! They clearly do not accept it.

    What The Law Is

    Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) in 1935. It’s the law.

    Take a look at Section 1 of the NLRA. In summary, it says that lack of bargaining power by workers against corporations leads to Depressions (we call them recessions now) because of depressed purchasing power. And it leads to strikes, which disrupt commerce. Therefore, it is the policy of the United States to encourage collective bargaining.

    According to NLRB :

    The NLRA protects the rights of employees to:
  • Form or join a union
  • Bargain collectively for a contract that sets wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions
  • Discuss wages, working conditions or union organizing with co-workers or a union
  • Act with co-workers to improve working conditions by raising complaints with an employer or a government agency
  • Strike and picket their employer, depending on the purpose or means of the action
  • Choose not to join a union or engage in union activities
  • Organize coworkers to decertify a union
    If employees choose a union as their bargaining representative, the union and employer must bargain in good faith in a genuine effort to reach a binding agreement setting out terms and conditions of employment. The union is required to fairly represent employees in bargaining and enforcing the agreement.
  • Employers may not:

  • Prohibit employees from discussing a union during non-work time, or from distributing union literature during non-work time in non-work areas, such as parking lots or break rooms
  • Question employees about their union support or activities in a manner that discourages them from engaging in that activity
  • Fire, demote, transfer, reduce hours or take other adverse action against employees who join or support a union or act with co-workers for mutual aid and protection, or who refuse to engage in such activity
  • Threaten to close their workplace if employees form or join a union
  • Promise or grant promotions, pay raises, or other benefits to discourage or encourage union support
  • Prohibit employees from wearing union hats, buttons, t-shirts, and pins in the workplace except under special circumstances
  • Spy on or videotape peaceful union activities and gatherings
  • Companies can not threated employees for trying to form a union, and companies cannot retaliate against employees for having a union. That. Is. The. Law.

    Corporate Right Going Nuts

    The big corporations have gotten used to having things their way. In response to having their unquestioned authority over government and law itself challenged by this NLRB action the corporate right is apoplectic.

    Not only is the corporate right challenging the very idea of law itself, complaining about "government dictating private business decisions," but they are doubling down on the nutty stuff. The Heritage Foundation, in NLRB Comes to Big Labor’s Defense, for example, goes off the deep end, into Glenn Beck territory, claiming that the NLRB is engaged in a conspiracy to make companies "even harder to manage."

    The Washington Examiner reports that a leaked NLRB memo “makes clear that President Obama and the radical labor advocates he put on it are embarked on a calculated campaign to make unionized firms even harder to manage.” The memo, which was obtained by the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky and James Sherk, “shows that the board seeks to elevate union officials to equal partners with executives in corporate boardrooms of all unionized firms.” The Examiner continues:
    The memo instructs NLRB regional operatives to flag all cases in which unionized firms made relocation decisions without submitting detailed economic justifications to their unions. The board plans “case-by-case” reviews, followed by prosecutions of selected cases. The intended consequence is that all major business decisions will become subject to approval by unions.

    Nutty, indeed, claiming that there is a conspiracy by government that has "embarked on a calculated campaign to make unionized firms even harder to manage.” That's Glenn Beck territory.

    Who Is In Charge?

    This comes down to a simple question: who is in charge here? Is it We, the People, or the giant corporations who consider themselves above the law, and in control of the government?

    See also:

    Palin and Boeing CEO Tell Government Who The Boss Is

    Actual Enforcement Of Actual Laws? Is It Possible?

    Corporate/Conservative Heads Explode As NLRB Actually Enforces Law

    Does Government Know Who The Boss Is?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:37 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    May 5, 2011

    Corporate/Conservative Heads Explode As NLRB Actually Enforces Law

    The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is engaging in legal action against Boeing and is threatening to sue Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah for anti-union activities. It has been so long since the NLRB was willing and able to engage on the side of working people and the law that corporate conservatives that we even have laws to protect workers from anti-union activities. In response corporate/conservative heads are exploding in shock.

    Boeing

    Boeing opened a 787 assembly line in "right-to-work" South Carolina, after repeatedly having to grant concessions to union workers in Washington State. Opening an assembly line is not illegal, of course, but doing so in retaliation for union activities or for the purpose of threatening a union is. The key to the NLRB action is that Boeing executives said they were opening the South Carolina plant because of union activities.

    The International Associaltion of Machinists and Aerospace Workers complaint states that a Boeing executive, on a quarterly earnings call with reporters and analysts stated Boeing was "diversifying Boeing's labor pool" to South Carolina due to "strikes happening every three to four years." The complaint cites several other instances of Boeing officials stating the reason for opening the South Carolina assembly line was because of union activities, as well as threatening the union with losing work in Washington state because of union activities.

    The actions by Boeing as stated in the complaint are illegal. You might not even believe they are illegal because it has been so long since these laws were enforced. But American law actually protects workers from coercion by big corporations.

    States

    Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah have enacted constitutional amendments prohibiting workers from forming unions using "card check." Card check is when a majority of workers sign a card stating that they want a union. The NLRB is threatening to sue these states because the state amendments are pre-empted by the supremacy clause of the US Constitution, so they can't prohibit workers from forming unions this way.

    Corporate-Conservative Reaction

    Corporate conservatives fear that their power is threatened if the country returns to actual enforcement of our laws. So they are coming up with ways to claim this is "big government" conducting a "job-killing" "war on job creators," working with "union bosses" to "dictate" to businesses what they can and cannot do to keep "union thugs" from "intimidating" workers who just want to be left along and don't want to ask for good wages, benefits, vacations, sick pay, safety protections and all the terrible things that union representation brings. In other words, the usual nonsense. Don't fall for it.

    The following is from last week's post on the NLRB actions, Does Government Know Who The Boss Is?

    Who Is Boss?

    Do We, the People have the ability to enforce our laws? Do we have the power to tax corporations and the wealthy?

    Do we have the power to protect the protections of democracy?

    Democracy provides workers with safety protections and fair wages. We fought so hard to build and maintain this democratic society so that We, the People could share the benefits. We passed laws allowing union organizing, as a balance to the immense power of corporations and wealth. We passed laws prohibiting companies from telling workers, "Work for what we give you or don't eat."

    And for a time this built our prosperity. But we let the protections slip, and allowed companies to cross borders to escape the protections democracy offers -- to non-democratic countries like China where workers have few rights, where pay is low, environmental protections practically non-existent. Companies locating manufacturing in places like have huge cost advantages over companies located in democracies that respect and protect the rights of citizens.

    The Threat Against Us

    Won't companies just move out of the state/country if we try to enforce labor laws or tax them? Won't China just stop selling to us if we apply a tariff to protect democracy, or try to enforce trade laws? Won't the rich just pack up and move or stop working if we don't just give them everything they want? Won't they move even more factories out of the city/state/country if We, the People try to demand our rights?

    We Still Have The Power

    Here's the thing. We, the People still have some power left in our hands. For one thing we still have a huge market. We still have the power to make demands on those who would like to sell into that market. And we can still choose to enforce tax laws, and wage laws, and tariffs, and labor laws, and trade laws to protect and strengthen what remains of our democracy.

    But we can only do this if we decide to stand up for ourselves and do something about what is happening. We have to put our foot down, and demand that our politicians listen to We, the People and do what we say. It is time to get organized, to talk to neighbors and relatives, to show up at town hall meetings and protests. We can demand that news media begin to cover more than just the corporate/conservative viewpoint. We can go out and register others to vote, and get them to the polls, and demand that votes be counted accurately. We can take back our democracy and put We, the People back in charge.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 5, 2011

    One 'We Are One' Event In Redwood City, CA

    I attended a We Are One event in Redwood City, California, at "Courthouse Square." The early-evening event was well-attended with maybe 250 people and a number of speakers.

    Most local media ignored the event. The San Francisco Chronicle had a story, We Are One rallies protest anti-labor moves, that mentioned Redwood City at the very end.

    While not covering this event, Redwood City's Patch.com did cover 5 anti-abortion protesters picketing a Planned Parenthood office, in Pacificans Picket Planned Parenthood in Redwood City.

    Here are some photos from the Redwood City event:

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:13 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    March 25, 2011

    Racing To The Bottom

    35 cents an hour, beaten if you protest. THAT is what Americans are competing with. Democracy allowed us to build protections against this. Our trade policies remove those protections and we see the result of that clearly now. We can use trade to lift others instead of to drag us down. We can say, "You are not going to bring that product into the United States unless the people who make them have rights."

    Watch this video:

    Workers are again trapped and burned to death behind locked exit gates...

    The tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire struck a nerve in the American people, who demanded reforms which remade our industrial landscape and guaranteed the rights of workers. Today these rights have been wiped out in the race to the bottom in the global sweatshop economy, where workers in the developing world toil 14 hours a day, seven days a week for wages just one tenth of what the Triangle workers earned. Workers are again trapped and burned to death behind locked exit gates. One hundred years ago, the outrage over the Triangle fire led to the rallying cry, "Who will protect the working girl?" Where is that cry today?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    March 14, 2011

    You've Got To See This Video From Wisconsin!

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    You just have to watch this video of a farmer named Tony Schultz in Wisconsin talking to the crowd about what is happening at his local schools and to his own community because of the governor's tax-cuts-for-corporations, budget-cuts-for-the-people budget:

    I found it at this Daily Kos diary, Wisconsin farmer on fire! Awesome video, by strobusguy, who writes,

    This video of farmer Tony Schultz speaking captures the feel of the rally today better than anything I've yet seen. (But be careful with your volume. The screams and cheers will bust your eardrums!) PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE watch this, and pass it on to everyone.

    After watching the video please, please read Richard Eskow's post, MadisonWorld: A Future Where Corporations Have Human Rights ... And Humans Don't. Excerpts:

    Right now Wisconsin is serving as the prototype for United States 2.0, a newly reconstituted nation where corporations have all rights of personhood without any of the responsibilities - and people have all the duties of personhood without any of the rights.

    Welcome to your future. They're preparing it for you right now in America's heartland.

    [. . .] Unions are one of the few bulwarks against corporate corruption in politics. They can sit at the table with politicians and use their leverage to counteract the corporations' influence, serving as a voice for that vast majority of Americans who are employees and not wealthy business owners. That's the real reason the corporate oligarchy is targeting the unions. They've been pretty blatant about their real goals in Wisconsin, with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald saying things like this:

    "(If) the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you're going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult, much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin."

    They want the money that drives political power to flow from one source, and one source only: America's corporations. And Madison is the proving ground for destroying any organized opposition to their corporatist agenda.

    More people marched just in Madison yesterday than have ever attended a Tea Party rally. And there were people marching in other states, as well.

    For two years, tea party activists and their allies in the GOP have claimed that the hard-right movement represents the true beliefs of the American people. But the crowd in Madison and numerous polls tell a different story.

    Tuesday please attend a rally to Defend the American Dream.

    Click through to get on the list and locate a rally near you. Many are taking place after working hours.

    From the website:

    Republicans in Congress are holding the middle class hostage—proposing a federal budget that would would cut 700,000 to 1 million jobs from our communities and slash funding to support preschool and college students, pregnant women, unemployed workers, and much more. This isn't a budget, it's a slap in the face to the public workers, services, and institutions making the American Dream possible. We have until the March 18 budget deadline to push Congress in another direction.

    So after work on Tuesday, March 15, we're mobilizing Defend the Dream events in all 50 states at our schools, libraries, fire stations, hospitals, and parks to stand up against Republican attacks. If we can mobilize thousands of people again for a national day of action before the March 18 deadline, we'll give progressive fighters in Congress a better chance to stave off cuts and pass a budget that invests in the Dream. We'll show our support for the public workers, services, and institutions making a difference in our lives—but we'll also make sure that Congress knows we'll hold them accountable for their vote.

    Host your own Defend the Dream Action or sign up for an event near you.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:19 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    March 9, 2011

    Karl Rove Group Runs Ads Explaining Benefits Of Unions

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Karl Rove's corporate front-group Crossroads GPS is spending $750,000 to run ads explaining that unionized workers make 42% more than non-union workers. From the Politico story about the ad buy,

    Crossroads GPS is airing the ad on national cable. The buy is $750,000 over one week, with spots running on CNN, CNBC and Fox News.

    While this sounds to most people like a pretty darn good reason to join a union, the Cato Institute says that the Rove group is overstating the case. In Right-leaning think tank says Rove group "misrepresented" its data in ad attacking public employee unions, at the Washington Post, Greg Sargent writes,

    The author of the Cato Institute study cited in the ad tells me the spot "misrepresents" his study's findings. ... The ad says that unionized government workers get paid 42 percent more than non-unionized workers in general, a charge that seems intended to turn non-unionized workers of all kinds against unionized public employees.

    I'm not sure why anyone thinks that telling people that unions help workers get paid more is supposed to turn workers against unions. It seems to me to be a pretty good argument for joining a union, actually.


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:51 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    March 3, 2011

    Don't Complain About "The" Democrats

    Because there are Democrats like this. Here is video of Rep. George Miller talking about workers and the right to organize.

    SOME Democrats are bad Democrats, others are GREAT!

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    March 1, 2011

    Did You Know

    that there were rallies all across the country Saturday? Here is a video: Democrats in Congress Speak Out at Rallies Across the Country

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:22 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    America Waking Up To Value Of Unions

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    As Abraham Lincoln famously said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time." When you put enough dots in front of people sooner or later they will connect the dots. And Americans are connecting the dots.

    Dots: Trade deals close factories, outsource jobs and pit workers against each other, then wages decline and unemployment is really high, while all the money goes to a few at the top. Then calls to cut the wages and benefits of the rest.

    Dots: Unions squashed, then pensions disappear, then calls to get rid of public-employee unions because they have pensions.

    Dots: Tax cuts for the rich, then panic over resulting deficits, then calls for cuts in the things government does for We, the People.

    People are connecting the dots: Unions mean better wages, benefits and working conditions.

    There is a joke circulating that goes like this:

    A unionized public employee, a member of the Tea Party and a Big Corp CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table there is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the tea partier and says, "Look out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie."

    Americans are waking up to the value of unions and government of, by and for We, the People.

    The situation in Wisconsin is waking America up to the value of unions. At a time when so many of us are hurting, seeing this naked attempt to strip from Wisconsin's public employees the ability to bargain for a better life is resonating. A CBS/NY Times poll finds that "a majority of Americans say they oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and are also against cutting the pay or benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits."

    Further down in the story, "Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent."

    On how to fix budget deficits, "those polled preferred tax increases over benefit cuts for state workers by nearly two to one."

    Union Information Blackout In Corporate Media

    Interestingly, though, from the polling story, "Labor unions are not exactly popular, though: A third of those surveyed viewed them favorably, a quarter viewed them unfavorably, and the rest said they were either undecided or had not heard enough about them."

    Wow! More than 1/3 of the public hasn't heard enough about unions to know if they like them or not! This is not surprising: When was the last time you read, saw or heard from a union in the major media, explaining the benefits of joining a union? There has been a virtual blackout of information about unions in the corporate media.

    So this Wisconsin story is bringing home to people that there is this thing called "collective bargaining" that can help them in their own jobs!

    Strategery FAIL

    The plan was to spend a year claiming that public employees and their pensions were responsible for state budget deficits, then go after the unions. The strategy also threw in a dose of resentment: People were reminded that their pensions were stolen in the 80's, but these uppity gubment workers still had pensions, so their pensions should be stolen too! But people are smarter then the plutocrats think, and they connected some more dots:

    Dot: People in unions have good wages and benefits including pensions.

    Well, that's only one dot, but it doesn't take a lot of neuron connections to realize this means that you should join a union, not be against unions! The resentment argument backfired, and people are waking up to the value of unions.

    Unions Vital To Economy

    Since the Reagan Revolution crushed unions wages for everyone except a few at the top have been flat. In the 'W' Bush decade even before the financial crash wages were declining and job growth was anemic. And wages have been stagnant since this "recovery" began. This wage stagnation is the result of of the loss of the bargaining power of working people.

    Working people's share of the benefits from increased productivity took a sudden turn down when the Reagan Revolution crushed unions:

    Wage stagnation resulted: (note boost in Clinton years, undoing some of the Reagan damage.)

    wages

    Unions are vital to a middle class society. Corporations and the wealthy behind the corporate mask have so much power. The only forces that can counter that power and fight for the rest of us are the unions and democratic government. The Reagan Revolution began the elimination of both, bringing instead plutocracy -- government of, by and for the wealthy. The resulting weakness in the power of working people to bargain for a fair share has left us with an economy that didn’t work when it was "recovering" under Bush, and now can’t get out of the recession. To lift the economy we have to lift wages.

    Families are not sharing in the rewards, but they are waking up and connecting the dots. America is waking up to the value of unions.

    March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

    On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

    Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    What Good Are Unions?

    If you want to know what unions have done for us, go see: What The Fuck Have Unions Done So Far

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:50 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 28, 2011

    A Joke To Send To Right-Wing Relatives

    A unionized public employee, a member of the Tea Party and a Big Corp CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table there is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the tea partier and says, "Look out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie."

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 23, 2011

    What Is The Real Agenda Of The Budget-Cutters?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    What is the real agenda of the budget-cutters? Are they really trying to bring the country back from the edge of financial ruin? Or did they bring about the appearance of a borrowing crisis to create a public panic that enables them to impose "solutions" that change the very nature of our country -- while doing little about the borrowing?

    In the news this week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker "ginned up" a budget crisis, then introduced legislation that removes collective bargaining rights from public employees, and over time effectively destroys their unions. Similar measures have been introduced by Republican governors or legislatures in several other states.

    This legislative attack on public employees follows more than a year of "preparing the ground" with a coordinated campaign from conservative organizations to convince the public that public employees are overpaid and that their pensions are "bankrupting" state governments -- not the effects of the recession.

    In the news soon, the coming strategic "shutdown" of the federal government by Republicans. After decades of forcing through tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, again and again -- most recently just a few weeks ago -- Republicans and corporate conservatives are engaged in a national campaign promoting the belief that there is a "deficit crisis." Their solutions involve gutting the things government does for We, the People like consumer, health, safety, labor and financial, retirement and income protections, while keeping things the government does for corporations and the wealthy "off the table."

    We see variations of the same formula over and over. Here is how it works:

    1) Cut taxes for the rich and corporations (corporate stock is mostly owned by the top 1%); big deficits result.
    2) Claim a deficit emergency and use their domination of corporate-owned media to whip the public into a panic, creating the appearance of demand for corporate-approved "solutions." Manipulate the appearance of consensus.
    3) With taxes and military “off the table” push through cuts in the things government does for We, the People.

    Repeat as often as needed to create a plutocracy.

    Today's "debt crisis" is the culmination of the long-term "starve the beast" strategy from an organized corporate-conservative movement. By cutting taxes for the wealthy they have starved the government, created massive debt (guess where the interest payments go) gutted the infrastructure, and put our country on the road to third-world status. This conservative movement has an agenda, and is not interested in working out "bipartisan" compromised.

    In an example in the news this week, a hoax call, purported to be from David Koch, one of the billionaire-industrialists helping fund the conservative movement and major funder of efforts to make it appear that Wisconsin is having a budget crisis. In the hoax call, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker clearly understands that he and Koch are in engaged a joint effort, describing a Democratic Senator who could work with him as "not one of us."

    Koch: Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?

    Walker: Ah, I—there’s one guy that’s actually voted with me on a bunch of things I called on Saturday for about 45 minutes, mainly to tell him that while I appreciate his friendship and he’s worked with us on other things, to tell him I wasn’t going to budge.

    Koch: Goddamn right!

    Walker: …his name is Tim Cullen—

    Koch: All right, I’ll have to give that man a call.

    Walker: Well, actually, in his case I wouldn’t call him and I’ll tell you why: he’s pretty reasonable but he’s not one of us…

    Elsewhere in the call Walker and faux-Koch talk about whether "planting troublemakers" would "work" or not.

    In another example of the self-awareness of this strategy: On public radio's Marketplace, February 22 Vincent Vernuccio of the Koch/conservative movement/corporate front-group Competitive Enterprise Institute discusses how the real agenda of the state actions is to destroy unions and their ability to fight corporate power politically, not to solve budget problems. (Note, he was not identified on the show as funded by conservative/corporate interests and Koch.)

    VINCENT VERNUCCIO: Union bosses want to inflate these budgets so they can get more members, so they can get more dues. And in turn, they take that dues money they have and give it to politicians who are going to give them more favors in the future.

    Several states are considering bills that would allow workers to opt-out of a union. Again, Vincent Vernuccio.

    VERNUCCIO: The main focus of this isn't just the budget cuts. It's actually giving workers the right to say no to the union if they so choose.

    Professor Bruno also sees broader implications for the debate. Since union money helps support the Democratic party, he argues changes in collective bargaining could shake up the political landscape far beyond the Midwest.

    These are just two small examples, in the news on the same day, showing the difference between the public pronouncements of concern for the country and a private agenda to fool the country. It is one thing when responsible leaders disagree on the best way to solve the country's real problems. It is quite another thing when organized wealth pursues a strategy to scare the country into handing over our remaining wealth and power.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:58 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 22, 2011

    State Labor Attacks -- Not Just Wisconsin

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    The attack on public-employee unions in Wisconsin is in the news because of the large Egypt-style turnout of supporters at the state capital (70,000 on Saturday!), and the dramatic theater effect of Democratic Senators leaving the state to delay a vote on the measure, and give the public time to rally.

    Today the rallies are spreading to other states where public employees are under attack.


    Wisconsin

    After "ginning up" a budget deficit with tax cuts and breaks for corporations, Governor Scott Walker introduced a "Budget Repair" bill that strips public employees of collective bargaining rights. The bill, however, exempts firefighters and police, whose unions supported Walker's candidacy.

    Over the weekend 70,000 people flooded the capital in Madison to protest the governor's plan to eliminate collective bargaining rights. The State's Democratic Senators remain out of the state, continuing to delay a vote on the bill.

    Power Plant No-Bid Sale: On another front it came to light that the "Budget Repair" bill also contains a provision allowing the sale of the state's power plants on a no-bid basis. The most likely beneficiary would be Koch Industries, which already has pipelines and coal operations in Wisconsin. Control of power plants gives them an in-state, top-to-bottom vertical chain. Koch was a major supporters of Governor Walker's candidacy as well as being the group that is promoting the budget hysteria, busing the Tea Party supprters to the state capital for counter protests. The Koch Brothers are also a primary funder of ALEC, the organization that wrote the budget bill the outlaws collective bargaining and enables the sale of the state power plants on a no-bid basis to ... Koch Industries.

    This appearance of a quid-pro-quo raises the question whether this is a deal to repay Repubican backers, quietly giving huge wealth public assets to the Koch Brothers.

    See also: Top 5: Why Wisconsin Matters To You

    Ohio

    In Ohio Gov. John Kasich introduced a bill to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights. Unlike Wisconsin this bill strips right from all public employees.

    NY Times: Thousands Gather to Protest Bill in Ohio

    Protestors packed into Ohio’s State Capitol building and several thousand more gathered outside on Tuesday, as its legislature planned new hearings on a bill that would effectively end collective bargaining for state workers and dramatically reduce its power for local workers, like police officers and firefighters.

    Indiana

    Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels introduced anti-union "Right To Work" legislation to strip public and private unions from being able to collect dues from members. Other bills remove collective bargaining rights from teachers, as well as implementing a voucher program in opposition to public schools.

    Indiana Democrats flee state to protest anti-union bill

    Indiana Democrats are reportedly joining their Wisconsin counterparts in staging an exodus from their state to protest a new union-busting Republican measure.

    Only two of Indiana's 40 House Democrats showed up for a session Tuesday morning, precluding Republicans from attaining the votes needed to proceed on motions. The rest are fleeing to Illinois to stage a walkout...

    Only 58 lawmakers were present, falling short of the 67 required for a quorum.

    Michigan

    In Michigan the Republican legislature introduced anti-union measures allowing cities and schools to terminate labor union contracts, eliminate required binding arbitration for police and fire departments and repealing "prevailing wage" laws.

    Tennessee

    In Tennessee Republicans in the legislature are finalizing a bill to remove collective bargaining rights from teachers. A march is planned for Saturday in the state capital.

    Iowa

    In Iowa Governor Terry Branstad says the state's labor laws are too friendly to unions and is asking for,

    “veto power” over state worker pay and benefit agreements, giving the governor and legislators authority to reject negotiated union contracts which legislators or the governor find unacceptable.

    Branstad also wants health care benefits for state workers to be set by the governor and legislators and no longer be part of contract negotiations.

    Florida

    In Florida the legislature is considering a bill, SB 830, that prevents union dues from being deducted from paychecks, and prohibiting dues from being used for political activity without written consent. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, however, sides with labor on this one,

    "My belief is as long as people know what they're doing, collective bargaining is fine," Scott said in an interview with Tallahassee's WFLA FM radio station.

    Join With Labor

    The AFL-CIO has an action page up:

    Stop Attacks on Working Families

    Corporate CEOs spent more than $1 billion to elect politicians and now they want pay back. Recently elected politicians in many states are already saying “thank you” by pushing dangerous legislation that attacks workers.

    Please add your name to our petition urging state legislators to stop attacks on workers—we’ll deliver your signature to your state legislators.

    March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

    On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

    Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 9, 2011

    Discover The Network Out To Crush Our Public Workers

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    It is difficult to read, watch or listen to the news without hearing that public employees are paid too much and get “lucrative” pensions and this is “bankrupting” your state, county or city. Public officials are "in bed" with "union bosses" and state and local government; taxpayer dollars are wasted to pay for people who don’t do much work but live the good life. "Reports" and "studies" confirm this.

    People hear the same story over and over and over and over, seemingly coming from everywhere: public employees have it good, with extravagant pay and "lavish" or "plush" pensions, while taxpayers are taking it in the shorts. Public-employee pensions are "bankrupting" the state/county/city. "Unfunded liabilities" are "out of control" and it is time to do something about it before it is too late.

    This is part of a broad, nationwide attack on public employees and their unions, and through them, on government and democracy itself.

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the nature of this constant attack in a post, Conservatives Claim Unions Caused NY Snow Jam.

    After the record-breaking snowstorm in New York in late-December, the media ran with a story claiming that the reason the snow was not cleared was because of a slowdown by unions. My post showed the progression of the story from one conservative outlet to another, until it reached the mass media. I wrote,

    The right's propaganda machine begins with a simple narrative, repeats it endlessly, and then ties current events to the narrative to drive the point home. The corporate/conservative right are currently working a narrative that public employees and their unions are the reason for state and local budget problems. This is repeated endlessly, and every current event that hits the news is then used to support the claim. This is how an untruth becomes "conventional wisdom."

    . . . The story claims the unions did this to protest budget cuts. Of course the obvious cause of the snow mess was that budget cuts caused the problem because there were not enough people employed to clear the snow.

    "Noise Machine"

    The way the right's "noise machine" works is that a story gets started somewhere and is amplified by the right-wing media machine that includes FOX, Limbaugh and scores more talk-radio hosts, blogs, newspapers and magazines. And in this case, of course the story is being spread by ... FOX, Limbaugh and scores more talk-radio hosts, blogs, newspapers and magazines. The idea is to create enough "noise" that the mainstream press picks up the story.

    It Was A Hoax

    In fact, the recent “union snow slowdown” turned out to be a hoax. But it fit an ongoing narrative, so it was used to help drive the anti-public-employee-union point. And it was repeated endlessly, everywhere. Laura Flanders, writing at The Nation, Setting the Story Straight on Snow 'Slowdown',

    The freshman councilman, who has Tea Party support, now says that workers “were subtly informed there was no need to rush” while clearing snow, rather than explicitly told to slow it down.

    A Distraction From The Real Problems

    These state pension reform campaigns across the country come at a time when so many states are in a terrible budget squeeze and are looking for solutions. This storyline diverts public attention from the real culprits. Of course, the obvious solution is to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share, and to cut back on tax breaks, subsidies and “incentive programs” for corporations. The campaign attempts to distract voters from the obvious and lead them to different conclusions, including:

    1) Don’t raise state taxes, cut public employee pensions instead.
    2) Public employee unions are strangling us and keeping the budget high.

    The story also diverts the public from asking where all that pension money went. Right when people should be blaming the financial industry and the financial crisis they caused for state pension shortfalls, up come these studies and PR tactics blaming public employee pensions and unions.

    The fact that this is happening in several states, from organizations linked in many ways, with similar language, similar tactics, quoting the same “studies”, from organizations with similar boards, etc. suggests this is a coordinated strategy, designed to have the appearance of popular uprising.

    In One State

    This is a brief look at one small part of a state "pension reform" campaign that is occurring in California.

    Here is the smallest of examples of the daily barrage of the anti-public-employee campaign: two letters to editor on one day in a recent San Jose Mercury News

    Pension overhaul must be part of any tax deal

    Labor groups such as Service Employees International Union and the California Labor Federation are threatening lawmakers who refuse to support a ballot initiative to raise or extend certain taxes with a negative ad campaign. They further warn that if new and higher taxes are not approved, K-12 education programs will face further cuts. I find it interesting how they move the focus of the debate from the real problem, public sector pension programs. These pension programs, not our present tax structure, are robbing our children of educational funds. All Californians, whether Democrat, Republican or independent, would be foolish to vote for any increase or new tax until public sector pensions are replaced with contributory 401(k) plans for new employees.

    Big pensions help California? Really?

    [A person's] claim that "California public retirees put back $2 into the economy for every $1 they receive in pensions" should come as welcome news to taxpayers fuming over the state's hundreds of billions of dollars of unfunded pension liabilities (Letters, Feb. 3). Beyond showing immense gratitude for this bountiful effect on our economy, taxpayers need to go further, and mandate that all public retirees be given a minimum pension of, say, $1 million annually. All this extra money sloshing around our economy will solve our woes in short order, and will have the added benefit of eliminating the need for public employees to "pension spike" their final year of employment.

    Most newspapers around the country likely have similar letters on almost any given day.

    A bigger example of the campaign, closer to its source, came in a January 18, 2011 LA times op-ed, Pension reform or else, that talks of “retirement scandals” in which a fire chief gets a $200,000 pension, and tuition increases that will go to cover “pension debt.” It also scares readers about huge pension obligations, attempting to make people think that public employees enjoy lucrative pensions while the rest of us receive very little.

    A tip-off that helps us understand the agenda underlying this op-ed comes when the author declares: “Although the public employee union bosses will fight to retain them, financially unsustainable pension benefits must end.” Whenever you hear someone refer to "union bosses" you know something is going on under the surface. From the op-ed,

    Taxpayers are often shocked to learn that they are paying 100% of the cost of pension and retiree healthcare benefits for many public employees. When employees must contribute their own money toward their retirement, they generally opt for benefits they can afford, and if workers are given the opportunity to opt out of retiree healthcare benefits, many will continue to work until they are covered by Medicare. Delaying retirement just five years would, on average, cut pension costs in half.
    The author is identified as “Marcia Fritz ... a certified public accountant and president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing pension reform in the state.” While Fritz’s organization is named “California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility” (CFFR) their website is actually named California Pension Reform.

    CFFR’s Board of Directors, includes Jack Dean, Vice President.

    Following Threads

    Jack Dean's name is on this page as a link. If you click the link it takes you to the website of an organization named Pension Tsunami, "a project of the California Public Policy Center." From the website,

    The oncoming wave of pension debt is even bigger than it seems. The purpose of this website is to provide an overview of the multiple pension crises that are about to drown America's taxpayers. Our primary focus is on California, but we also track other states, corporate pensions, social security and international trends. PensionTsunami.com is a project of the California Public Policy Center.

    Who Is CPPC?

    So just what is this California Public Policy Center? From their website:

    The mission of the California Public Policy Center is to promote the gathering of reliable and accurate information about the impact unions have on the local, state, and national level, to inform the public about such impact, and to carry on other charitable and educational activities associated with this goal, as allowed by law.

    Ah, it's about unions, not pensions. Aside from Pension Tsunami, CPPC also administers: UNIONWATCH

    UnionWatch was established in 2010 as a project of the California Public Policy Center to conduct research and provide information resources to voters, members of the press, educators and policymakers on the impact of unions on government budgets, government accountability, the economy and the democratic process. While UnionWatch endeavors to report and analyze national and international impacts of unions, the emphasis is on the impact of public sector unions, especially in California.

    Interestingly, the site declares that "UnionWatch is a Nonpartisan Effort." We'll see.

    The CPPC Board of Directors includes Mark W. Bucher, Esq., who also founded the Education Alliance,

    a group dedicated to assisting school board candidates who are independent of education unions, as well as authoring, qualifying, and chairing the 1998 Proposition 226, which would have required unions to receive permission to use their members’ dues for political purposes.

    Bucher also oversaw the qualification of the 2000 Proposition 38, a school choice initiative, and currently serves as the treasurer of the Orange County Republican Party and the Orange County Lincoln Club.

    A bit of time on The Google also finds that Bucher is on the Board of Family Action Pac which launched an anti-union ballot initiative: Here is the summary, which provides a pretty good description of what this initiative will accomplish, if passed:

    Makes Illegal the Use of Public Employee Wage Deductions for Political Activities.

    Amends the California Constitution to make it illegal to deduct from wages or earnings of a public employee any amount that will be used for political activities as defined. Prohibits any membership organization that receives public employee wage deductions from using those funds for any political activities ...

    Also on the Board is Robert W. Loewen, President of the Republican Lincoln Club of Orange County author/editor of "The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader".

    Anti-union, vouchers, Republican Party and neo-confederates. And just three guys. Where does pension reform fit in this mix? Pension Tsunami and UnionWatch -- according to the website this is all the California Public Policy Center does. Not a lot of "public policy" going on at this "public policy center." Interesting.

    Exploring further, one group of links at the Pension Tsunami website is a list of "think tanks" they want readers to visit:

    PensionTsumani: THINK TANKS

    Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions

    Calvert Institute

    Cato Institute

    Claremont Institute

    Commonwealth Foundation (PA)

    Empire Center for New York State Policy

    Heartland Institute

    Illinois Policy Institute

    Independent Institute

    Ludwig von Mises Institute

    Manhattan Institute

    National Center for Policy Analysis

    Pacific Research Institute

    Pensions Institute [UK]

    Pew Charitable Trusts

    Reason Foundation

    RetirementReform.org

    Rio Grande Foundation

    Rockefeller Fiscal Studies

    Sierra Environmental Studies Foundation

    The Free Enterprise Nation

    Yankee Institute

    Exploring The Links

    It is worth exploring some of these related “Public Policy Institutes.” Let's pull some threads and see what we find.

    The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, in Kentucky, describes itself as a “free-market think tank.”

    The Bluegrass Institute runs Freedom Kentucky which has a section on Public Pensions where you can find into "related to pension reform, Pension Reform Legislation, the teachers retirement system, and much more..."



    The Calvert Institute (for Public Policy) is in Maryland, describing itself as a, “public policy research institution committed to generating new ideas based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government and personal responsibility.”

    Just a few things from their website:


    • G. Liebmann, "Pensions Dig Us Deeper into Debt", Baltimore Examiner, 2008-09-28

    • Editorial, Pair of Think Tanks Issue Warning on Pensions, Baltimore Sun, 2008-10-30

    • J. Malarkey, Market Worsens Public Pension Crunch, Baltimore Examiner, 2008-10-31

    • Hit and Run Politics: Baltimore City and Maryland State Pensions: A Short History, George W. Liebmann 2010-09-30


    The Cato Institute, "dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace," warns regularly about The Increasing Burden of Government Employees on Taxpayers and Public Sector Unions and the Rising Costs of Employee Compensation.



    The Claremont Institute says public employees are Neither Civil Nor Servants,

    Will a deep recession, mounting fiscal crises, and new revelations of gross abuse finally lead citizens to say "Enough!" to unionized public employees who have amassed power and benefits at the expense of the common good?



    The Commonwealth Foundation, in Pennsylvania. Their website says they work to, "demonstrate the societal benefits of individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government so that key decision makers in Pennsylvania embrace them."

    The Commonwealth Foundation discusses Union Pension Bailout & Generational Theft and warns that "Pennsylvania's largest public pension plans ... are severely underfunded."

    Commonwealth Foundation Directors:

    Board Chair Michael W. Gleba.
    Treasurer of The Carthage Foundation (Scaife)
    Executive Vice President of The Sarah Scaife Foundation
    Board Member, Allegheny Institute for Public Policy

    Mr. Matthew J. Brouillette (President & CEO):
    On an advisory committee for the New York City-based Atlantic Legal Foundation.

    T. William Boxx is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Phillip M. McKenna Foundation.

    Frederick W. Anton III, Pma Capital Corp

    Glen Meakem | Conservative Talk Show Host

    Staff:
    Charles F. Mitchell is Vice President and COO of the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives. ... Previously, he was a program officer at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and an intern at the Heritage Foundation. Charles is a graduate of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation's Associate Program, the Mackinac Center's Leadership Conference, and the Claremont Institute's Publius Fellows Program.



    The Empire Center for New York State Policy is a project of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. The Empire Center warns that "New York’s Exploding Pension Costs" are "threatening to divert scarce resources from other essential public services in the midst of a fiscal crisis."

    Empire's parent, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research is “shaping American political culture and developing ideas that foster economic choice and individual responsibility.” If you visit Manhattan Institute you will learn How Public Unions Took Taxpayers Hostage, that Public Workers Feel No Pain In Recession, N.Y. Public Workers Thrived Amid Misery, Obama Puts Public Sector Employees Ahead of Private Sector, A Cautionary Tale About California's Budget-Busting Public-Sector Unions and much, much more!

    Chairman of the Board Paul E. Singer, founder and CEO of hedge fund Elliott Management Corporation.

    Vice Chairman Michael J. Fedak. On National Council of The American Enterprise Institute (which asks Public-Pension Deficits: How Big? Can They Ever Be Paid?)

    Roger Hertog, chairman of the board of Alliance Captial Management Corporation (valued at about $100 billion)

    Charles H. Brunie, also a Trustee of the Hudson Institute, an “organization dedicated to innovative research and analysis that promotes global security, prosperity, and freedom.” (Note: The Hudson Institute warns about Union Pensions at Risk as well as Decrying the Union Pension Bailout Bill.)

    Charles H. Brunie started Oppenheimer Capital in 1969

    The rest of the board is largely hedge fund, capital management, securities, etc...



    The Heartland Institute, "free-market solutions to social and economic problems," offers a handy guide to The State Public Pension Crisis: A 50-State Report Card.



    The Illinois Policy Institute is “dedicated to supporting free market principles and liberty-based public policy initiatives for a better Illinois.“ The IPI warns us that "Illinois faces a staggering $83 billion in unfunded public pension liabilities" and their blog wants to know "Will You Bail Out Pensions?"

    Board:

    Bill Becker co-founded The Maine Heritage Policy Center, an “organization whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise; limited, constitutional government; individual freedom; and traditional American values–all for the purpose of providing public policy solutions that benefit the people of Maine.” (Note: the Maine Heritage Policy Center warns us about "The Cost of Doing Nothing: Maine’s Pension Payments are Crowding Out Other Spending."

    Steve Brown of Code Hennessy & Simmons (“CHS”), a Chicago-based private equity firm.

    
Terry T. Campo served as National Chairman of the Young Republicans from 1989 to 1991.

    John Tillman, CEO serves on the boards of the Sam Adams Alliance and Sam Adams Foundation. Prior to his time with Sam Adams, he served as president and director of Americans for Limited Government. (ALG Urges Congress to Reject $100 Billion Handout to Public Employee Unions.)

    Dick Weiss is a Core Equity senior portfolio manager at Wells Capital Management.



    The Free Enterprise Nation too a Pension road trip: From Montana to Prichard, Alabama



    The Yankee Institute is a “free market think tank” in Connecticut with a financial-services-industry-heavy board that warns that the $100K Pensions Club Includes 299 State Retirees. (FYI it is largely university chancellors, deans, professors, med school instructors.)

    “Government workers receive compensation and benefit packages that are much more generous than those available to private sector workers,” said Fergus Cullen, Executive Director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy.



    The Pacific Research Institute has a mission to “champion freedom, opportunity, and personal responsibility for all individuals by advancing free-market policy solutions.”

    The Director of PRI's Journalism Center wrote a book called, "Plunder: How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation."



    The Reason Foundation writes about Public Employees vs. the Public Will and warns Public Employee Unions Are Sinking California.



    RetirementReform.org Clicks through to National Center for Pollicy Analysis page on Common Sense Retirement Policy which advocates "reform" for Social Security. But never fear, NCPA elsewhere warns about "Unfunded Liabilities of State and Local Government Employee Retirement Benefit Plans" and says PUBLIC EMPLOYEE PENSIONS ARE A TICKING TIME BOMB

    NCPA's Board includes a number of people from the financial industry, private equity, holding companies, etc.



    The Rio Grande Foundation "is a research institute dedicated to increasing liberty and prosperity for all of New Mexico's citizens. We do this by informing New Mexicans of the importance of individual freedom, limited government, and economic opportunity." They warn, New Mexico's Government Pension Problem: 3rd Worst in the Nation.

    Cookie-Cutter Think Tanks

    This is all from pulling the threads just a little bit that come from just one op-ed on pension reform. I didn’t go into the funding of these organizations or look at what else they are doing, other associations, etc. These are just a few of the network of conservative "institutes," etc. around the country. Just a very few. (Here is a list of 185 organizations purporting to be conservative state think tanks, a list of 40 conservative national organizations with state networks and a list of 306 organizations purporting to be conservative national think tanks and 65 conservative "family policy" organizations. There are other lists with other criteria.)

    As you follow these threads you discover layer upon layer of corporate/conservative front groups, masking their activities and funders with more layers of front groups. They all have similar mission statements, have similar people on their Boards with similar backgrounds, cover the same issues the same way, and even use remarkably similar language. They seem to be not just connected but interconnected. The sheer number of these similar "think tanks" make it appear that there must be a machine somewhere that stamps these things from a template. That machine is named “Scaife/Coors/Koch…” (Please read also and spend some time here.)

    These corporate/conservative organizations are very good at manipulating the media and public opinion -- it is their purpose. Their "experts" are well paid and always available to talk to reporters, appear on TV and radio shows and write articles and opinion pieces for newspapers, blogs and for their network of similar organizations. Their "reports' and "studies" reach the conclusions that fit the strategy, and are crafted to sound just right. And there are so many of them! The result is development of "conventional wisdom" about what is going on in our society. This is why that conventional wisdom more and more reflects the corporate/conservative line. And right now the corporate conservative line is that we should think that public employees and their unions are responsible for state and local budget shortfalls.

    Part II looks at some of the "studies" and "reports" and pulls more threads.


    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    January 11, 2011

    Pension Envy

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Since the 80s many employers have stopped offering health care, pensions and other benefits to their employees. Many are also cutting pay and hours, while increasing the workload. So more and more people are hurting. As more and more of us fall further and further behind, corporate/conservative propagandists use resentment to drive anti-union feelings. They tell people to oppose unions, saying, "Why should they have it so good?" The real question you should ask is, "Why should we have it so bad?"

    The New Yorker's James Surowiecki, in "State of the Unions," examines why "public support for labor has fallen to historic lows."

    More than seventy per cent of those surveyed in a 1937 Gallup poll said they favored unions.

    Seventy-five years later, in the wake of another economic crisis, things couldn’t be more different. ... In the recent midterm elections, voters in several states passed initiatives making it harder for unions to organize. Across the country, governors and mayors wrestling with budget shortfalls are blaming public-sector unions for the problems. And in polls public support for labor has fallen to historic lows.

    . . . In 2009, for the first time ever, support for unions in the Gallup poll dipped below fifty per cent. A 2010 Pew Research poll offered even worse numbers, with just forty-one per cent of respondents saying they had a favorable view of unions, the lowest level of support in the history of that poll.

    Surowiecki suspects that the gap between workers in and out of unions is the reason,

    Union workers, on average, get paid more than their non-unionized counterparts—most estimates put the difference at around fifteen per cent—and that wage premium widens during recessions. Similarly, union workers often still have defined-benefit pensions, which sets them apart from all those Americans who watched their retirement accounts get ravaged by the financial crisis. That’s given rise to what Olivia Mitchell, an economics professor at Wharton, calls “pension envy.”

    This resentment is most evident in the backlash against public-sector workers (who now make up a majority of union members).

    The problem is that working people feel increasingly powerless, and this weakens support for the very institutions that would, in better circumstances, come to their assistance: government and unions. Normally you would think that when people see that workers who are in unions have it better they would reach a simple and obvious conclusion: they should JOIN A UNION! DUH! But circumstances in our economy today lead people to the wrong conclusions.

    Today they see people who try to organize unions fired. They see whistleblowers persecuted. They see fellow employees lose their jobs for calling in sick or taking time off to care for a family member. They see people lose jobs for just reaching "a certain age." Many are even afraid to take vacations using time they have earned. And they don't see any way to do anything about it. Unions are unable to organize and workers are told facilities will close or their jobs will be moved overseas. Government inadequately enforces its own laws, or blatantly favors the wealthy and powerful. People don't feel that elections make any difference. So workers don't see any help on the horizon.

    Crabs In A Bucket

    Meanwhile many public employees still have unions, so as a result they in many cases have pensions, health care plans and dignity on the job. People look at that and the temptation toward "crab mentality" is strong. The corporate/conservative anti-union propagandists see an opportunity to set working people against each other and strike at support for unions:

    Crab mentality, sometimes referred to as crabs in the bucket, describes a way of thinking best described by the phrase "if I can't have it, neither should you." The metaphor refers to a pot of crabs. Individually, the crabs could easily escape from the pot, but instead, they grab at each other in a useless "king of the hill" competition (or sabotage) which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise. The analogy in human behavior is that of a group that will attempt to "pull down" (negate or diminish the importance of) any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of jealousy, conspiracy or competitive feelings.

    This term is broadly associated with short-sighted, non-constructive thinking rather than a unified, long-term, constructive mentality. It is also often used colloquially in reference to individuals or communities attempting to "escape" a so-called "underprivileged life", but kept from doing so by others attempting to ride upon their coat-tails or those who simply resent their success.

    The other day in Understanding The Attacks On Public Employees,

    What do we see if we look around at the state of the economy? Stocks are soaring, corporate profits are way up, Wall Street gets trillions in bailouts and pays millions upon millions in bonuses. But regular people are having a hard time making ends meet and unemployment is still through the roof. Instead of programs to create jobs, stop foreclosures and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure the government passes more tax cuts for the rich. A few Wall Street and big-corporate types are getting very rich (richer) at the expense of the rest of us. If you are sitting pretty on Wall Street, you probably don't want people thinking about these contrasts too much.

    “Look Over There!”

    How do you get regular people to “look over there” with all of that going on? Simple: launch a big campaign to blame the librarians, firefighters and other public sector workers for the hard times. “Don’t blame US,” Wall Street says, “Look over there!” Blame the economy's victims for economic crimes. And, do you know what? This is a strategy that is proven to work every time.

    So the corporate/conservatives pit people against each other, hoping to provoke the behavior of crabs in a bucket, instead of reaching the correct conclusion: stand together and join a union and fight for your rights and a share of the pie and you can have it better.

    STOP THE LIES!

    This video directs people to a STOP THE LIES website where you can sign up to add your voice, download a fact sheet and find other resources.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:02 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    January 7, 2011

    Understanding The Attacks On Public Employees

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    You can barely open a newspaper or turn on a radio without hearing about states and local governments bankrupted by high-paid public employees, their pensions and their unions. How much of what you are hearing is really true, and how much is just one more Wall Street-funded campaign to turn people against each other and our government?

    What do we see if we look around at the state of the economy? Stocks are soaring, corporate profits are way up, Wall Street gets trillions in bailouts and pays millions upon millions in bonuses. But regular people are having a hard time making ends meet and unemployment is still through the roof. Instead of programs to create jobs, stop foreclosures and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure the government passes more tax cuts for the rich. A few Wall Street and big-corporate types are getting very rich (richer) at the expense of the rest of us. If you are sitting pretty on Wall Street, you probably don't want people thinking about these contrasts too much.

    “Look Over There!”

    How do you get regular people to “look over there” with all of that going on? Simple: launch a big campaign to blame the librarians, firefighters and other public sector workers for the hard times. “Don’t blame US,” Wall Street says, “Look over there!” Blame the economy's victims for economic crimes. And, do you know what? This is a strategy that is proven to work every time.

    “Look over there!” Gawker says it pretty well in the title of their post, The Plan to Blame Unions For Everything,

    Why is our economy in the predicament that it's in today? High unemployment, sluggish growth...who's to blame? The unions, of course. The unions are the enemies of the working man. The working class must destroy unions for their own good.

    . . . Public employees have jobs like everyone else. The right of workers to unionize should be a fundamental one. No one is claiming that unions are perfect; but if we're going to start destroying imperfect things, the statehouse would be a more beneficial place to start than the union hall.

    Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, in, The Shameful Attack on Public Employees, writes,

    Public servants are convenient scapegoats. Republicans would rather deflect attention from corporate executive pay that continues to rise as corporate profits soar, even as corporations refuse to hire more workers. They don’t want stories about Wall Street bonuses, now higher than before taxpayers bailed out the Street. ...

    It’s far more convenient to go after people who are doing the public’s work - sanitation workers, police officers, fire fighters, teachers, social workers, federal employees – to call them “faceless bureaucrats” and portray them as hooligans who are making off with your money and crippling federal and state budgets. The story fits better with the Republican’s Big Lie that our problems are due to a government that’s too big.

    Above all, Republicans don’t want to have to justify continued tax cuts for the rich. As quietly as possible, they want to make them permanent.

    But the right’s argument is shot-through with bad data, twisted evidence, and unsupported assertions.

    "Look over there!"

    Robert Creamer, at Huffington Post, in Time to Stand Up for the Public Sector, says this is really about advancing anti-government ideology,

    For over forty years, the right wing has mounted an irrepressible campaign to discredit the very concept of government in the United States.

    … The wealthy elites that dominate the American Right have financed the campaign to demonize government because they want the opportunity to pursue a very different group of values that have nothing to do with America's founding principles. They want the right to concentrate more and more wealth and power into their own hands.

    David Dayen has been following this at Firedoglake, in The War on Public Employees,

    The reason state and local budgets are in trouble simply has nothing to do with their spending on public employees. It’s about the financial crisis which triggered the Great Recession. In 2009, the recession dipped state tax revenues by 1/3. There’s no way on earth to attribute that to public workers. The obliteration of state revenue is entirely to blame. And the folks who created and sold toxic mortgage instruments and sucked trillions in wealth into a high-risk vortex shoulder the burden.

    And yet they are not shouldering any of the responsibility; those danged public workers are.

    Other Voices

    At GRITtv, Laura Flanders talks about my post, Conservatives Claim Unions Caused NY Snow Jam in The F Word: Public Workers Getting Snowed, (hey Laura, I'm at Campaign for America's Future, not Center for American Progress.)

    Buckle your snowshoes for more of this in the coming year, a lot of attacks from newly elected representatives and state officials on public sector workers -- and their unions. New Republican Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is bragging that he's going to “force” state workers' benefits in line with everyone else, New York's new Democratic governor just announced a pay freeze, and John Boehner is calling for austerity. For the state and its workers, mind you, not the super-rich few. 

Let's make a New Year's resolution not to get snowed.

    Caitlin Vega of the California Labor Federation, in, Anti-Union Measures Harm ALL Workers,

    The idea that unions are somehow responsible for destroying our economy is absurd. The Labor Movement has been the most outspoken critic against all of the things that actually did cause this crisis: bad free trade agreements that harmed all workers, unfair lending practices that resulting in millions of families losing their homes, unrestrained corporate greed that rewarded CEOs for mass layoffs and the offshoring of jobs.

    Art Levine, at In These Times, asks, Will the New Assaults on Public Employee Unions Undermine All Workers?

    Years of demonizing public employee unions as part of a right-wing assault against the labor movement now seems about to pay off. ...

    To some observers, this attack against public employee unions—abetted by right-wing misinformation campaigns that unions and their allies are just starting to counter—so profoundly threatens the labor movement that it poses a broader danger to the economy while strengthening the "Winner-Takes-All" politics that has dominated public policy for decades.

    "Look over there!"

    Brave New Films has created a video, Wall Street Fat-Cats Flip Public Service Workers the Bird:



    STOP THE LIES Campaign

    Gerald McEntee, President of the AFSCME Union has a post at Huffinton Post, Stop the Lies,

    By blaming public service workers and working families, the right wing tries to divert attention from the simple fact that reckless, unregulated behavior of multi-millionaires on Wall Street caused unprecedented state budget shortfalls, the loss of 15 million American jobs and the collapse of our economy.

    We're not going to let them get away with it. At this pivotal moment in the economic history of our country -- indeed, the world -- we cannot stand by and let corporate CEOs and their flunkies define the debate and shape the future.

    … Now, after capping private sector workers and their unions in the knees, the rich and the right have set their sights on public services and the men and women who provide them.

    That's why AFSCME has created a campaign we're calling "Stop the Lies." You can join us bywatching our new video and adding your name to our Stop the Lies open letter.

    STOP THE LIES Video and Website

    Here is the STOP THE LIES video:

    This video directs people to a STOP THE LIES website where you can sign up to add your voice, download a fact sheet and find other resources.

    Here is Brave New Films' Robert Greenwald, on The Ed Show:



    Some Facts

    Tula Connel at the AFL-CIO Blog points out that, in fact, Public Employees Paid Less than Private-Sector Workers

    With the barrage of orchestrated extremist attacks on public employees, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reminds us today of a study it commissioned last year that disproves one of the biggest lies by anti-workers–that public employee make excessive pay. In short, public employees are paid less than private-sector workers, even when factoring in employer-provided benefits.

    ... Read the full report here.

    Meteor Blades makes the same point at Daily Kos, in Public employees work for less, not more,

    In the divide-and-conquer assault on public employees which the powers-that-be have unleashed in their latest round of class warfare, we've been told repeatedly that government-paid workers make more than private-sector workers. The typical approach is to point to a bus driver or a professor or a garbage collector who made some seemingly outrageous sum. As states struggle with revenue shortfalls and the unemployment situation remains grim, there is more and more talk about "fixing" this situation. Typically, that includes going after the unions. It is, after all, they who are at fault for the supposedly unfair windfall their government-paid members have gained while workers in the private sector have suffered from economic downturn.

    Just one problem with this theme. It's based on what Jeffrey H. Keefe at the Economic Policy Institute has labeled the myth of the overcompensated public employee.

    On average, state and local employees earn $6,061 per year less than their private-sector counterparts. Add in health and insurance benefits and the average public worker earns $2,001 less per year than her peer in the private sector.

    Special Report

    LABORnotes has a special report Public Sector, Public Good with several articles, including Public Employees: Myths and Realities,

    With all the venom directed at public employees these days, it’s hard to separate the facts from the attacks. Here’s a guide to common claims made about government spending, taxes, and public employees.

    The Claim: Government employees are overpaid.
    The Facts: The Economic Policy Institute measured state and local public workers against their private sector counterparts with the same age, experience, and education. They found that public workers earn about 11 percent less.

    CLICK THROUGH for more from LABORnotes.

    I hope this roundup helps people to understand that the attacks on public employees and their unions is just one more effort by Wall Street and the biggest corporations to distract us from seeing the bigger picture of what is happening to us and to our economy. A wealthy few are using their power and influence to take more and more for themselves at the expense of the rest of us. This time, don't "look over there." Instead look at what is really going on.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:25 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 30, 2010

    Conservatives Claim Unions Caused NY Snow Jam

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    The right's propaganda machine begins with a simple narrative, repeats it endlessly, and then ties current events to the narrative to drive the point home. The corporate/conservative right are currently working a narrative that public employees and their unions are the reason for state and local budget problems. This is repeated endlessly, and every current event that hits the news is then used to support the claim. This is how an untruth becomes "conventional wisdom."

    Source Of Story: Three "Unidentified" Workers

    Huge headline at the Drudge Report: NYC SNOW JOB: SLOW CLEAN-UP WAS UNION 'PROTEST' The headline links to a NY Post story, Sanitation Department's slow snow cleanup was a budget protest. The source of the claim? Three "unidentified" plow workers.

    Halloran said he met with three plow workers from the Sanitation Department -- and two Department of Transportation supervisors who were on loan -- at his office after he was flooded with irate calls from constituents.

    The story claims the unions did this to protest budget cuts. Of course the obvious cause of the snow mess was that budget cuts caused the problem because there were not enough people employed to clear the snow.

    "Noise Machine"

    The way the right's "noise machine" works is that a story gets started somewhere and is amplified by the right-wing media machine that includes FOX, Limbaugh and scores more talk-radio hosts, blogs, newspapers and magazines. And in this case, of course the story is being spread by ... FOX, Limbaugh and scores more talk-radio hosts, blogs, newspapers and magazines. The idea is to create enough "noise" that the mainstream press picks up the story.

    Yesterday at FOX, the "rumor" (that no one had heard) was a headline story,

    The chairman of the Municipal Labor Committee, Local 831, which represents men and women of the New York City Sanitation Department says there is no truth behind a rumor that his members worked slower during the blizzard of 2010.

    Today the NY Post piles on with three "unidentified" workers saying the unions did it. The right's blogs and magazines of course amplified.

    Strata-Sphere, Union Protest Killed New Born Child,

    That is called negligent homicide or manslaughter – and every union idiot who participated in that blizzard protest should be charged and locked away for as long as possible.

    Gateway Pundit: NY City Workers Planned Their Slow Response to Record Snowfall As a Protest to Budget Cuts

    National Review, How Will Bloomberg Deal With a Union Snowplow Slowdown?

    Examiner, New York sanitation workers union sabotaged snow cleanup

    The Noise Machine Drives It To The Mainstream

    The "noise machine" is having success. Even though the entire story is based on three "unidentified" snow plow drivers, the story has been driven into the mainstream corporate media.

    CBS News, Report: Disgruntled Workers Slowed NYC Cleanup. CBS News "reports" that there is a "report" that unions caused the problem. Does not work to verify the story, sends it out to the nation.

    Getting To The Point: Cut Pay And Pensions

    In Ten Holiday Attacks On Public Employees I warned,

    If you haven't already noticed, there is a corporate/conservative campaign underway to convince the public that public employees are living high on the taxpayer's dime and should have their pay and pensions cut back. Even during the holidays this attack does not let up.

    The blog Big Government takes the "unions caused the snow mess" story to the obvious point, that "lavish" public-employee pensions and benefits must be cut: Union Snow Job Just Glimpse of Coming Blizzard,

    With all the political payoffs, scandals, and bailouts, the issue seems as mundane as the figures are mind-boggling, but the bill for lavish public employee pay is coming due in the form of a pension tsunami — or, if you prefer, a blizzard that will have union bosses calling for a bailout.

    And, Business Insider, Meet The Hundreds Of NYC Sanitation Workers Who Earn Over $100000,

    There are also perks that come with the job. While delaying clean-up for the city, sanitation workers promptly plowed the street in front of Doherty's Staten Island home, according to the Daily News.

    And to make the point as clear as possible, the Examiner's Beltway Confidential, New York City streets unplowed, but at least sanitation workers retire well,

    According to the Manhattan Institute's "See Through New York" database of 2009 pensions, nearly 180 retired employees make over $66,000 year -- in other words, over and above the maximum salary of currently working employees. In fact, 20 retirees make upwards of $90,000 in retirement, up to $132,360.

    You will probably be hearing a lot more about this, maybe even Congressional hearings in January. All based on three "unidentified workers" who made the claim. This is how the right's "noise machine" diverts us from seeing and solving real problems and into voting against our interests.


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:35 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    December 22, 2010

    Blaming The Economy's Victims For Economic Crimes

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Blame the unions, blame the unemployed, blame loans to the poor, blame the government... As income and wealth increasingly go to a few at the top public anger is directed at the economy's victims.

    I am in a clinic all day participating in a medical study, so I was talking to one of the nurses. She brought up that California is in real trouble, is going broke, it’s a real mess. She says she doesn't know what we’re going to do. She has heard that, "lots of states are going bankrupt. There is no money anymore."

    So I asked her what we should do about it.

    She said it is because of the unions. “It’s just ridiculous. They want so much.”

    I asked if she follows the news closely, she said she does. “I watch the news a lot.”

    Some facts: California is famous for leading the country in a wave of anti-government tax-cutting and into Reaganism. We cut taxes an an anti-government ferver and increased prison spending in a law-and-order fever. Then the federal government cut taxes and increased military spending, leading to big deficits. Now we’re out of money to run the state government and the country is getting there, too. California’s problems have little or nothing to do with what state employees are paid, and a lot to do with tax cuts and people across the state not getting paid enough.

    Blaming The Unions

    This weekend CBS' 60 Minutes joined the anti-worker chorus, blaming public employee unions for the problems faced by the states. Media Matters, in 60 Minutes' one-sided, GOP-friendly report on state budgets describes the segment,

    In 2,600 words about state deficits, you won't find the phrase "tax cuts." Instead, CBS adopts the Republican framing that deficits are all about spending -- frequently with loaded phrasing like "gold-plated retirement and health care packages." And throughout the report, CBS allows Christie, New Jersey's Republican governor, to launch attacks on unions and make unsupported claims about budget problems, all without ever challenging his assertions and without including substantive disagreement from Christie critics.

    ... You'd never know from CBS' report that a big part of the reason that "Christie and his predecessors" failed to make required contributions to the pension fund is that they decided to use the money for tax cuts instead. [emphasis added]

    Mike Hall at the AFL-CIO blog explains that New Jersey's workers and pensions are not the problem,

    While politicians like Christie rail against the pensions public employees have secured through collective bargaining—painting them as overly generous golden parachutes, McEntee notes the average annual pension for an AFSCME member is $19,000, and the workers contribute 80 percent during their lifetime on the job.

    Tax cuts, income and wealth going to a few at the top, but the unions take the blame because they fight for a better life for working people.

    Blaming The Unemployed

    The unemployed and the checks they get are often blamed for their plight. They are called "lazy," and it is even suggested the be tested for drugs. CAF graduate David Sirota, in Why the ‘Lazy Jobless’ Myth Persists

    The thesis undergirding all the rhetoric was summed up by conservative commentator Ben Stein, who insisted that “the people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities.”

    [. . .] The trouble, though, is that the whole narrative averts our focus from the job-killing trade, tax-cut and budget policies that are really responsible for destroying the economy. And this narrative, mind you, is not some run-of-the-mill distraction. The myth of the lazy unemployed is what duck-and-cover exercises and backyard nuclear shelters were to a past era—an alluring palliative that manufactures false comfort in the face of unthinkable disaster.

    Blaming The Poor And Government

    Republicans on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission are sabotaging the commission's work, demanding that "Wall Street" and "deregulation" not appear anywhere in the report. They are refusing to participate, instead releasing a counter-report blaming the government, claiming We, the People forced the giant banks to give home loans to the poor, and blaming the poor for receiving those loans.

    What People Think

    People tend to think about what is put in front of them to think about. That's why everyone goes to see a new movie on the first weekend instead of waiting until they can get good seats with no lines. Wall Street and the likes of the Chamber of Commerce understand this so they put scapegoats in front of the public to mask what they are doing. Right now there is a corporate/right campaign to blame working people for the problems they caused.

    Like 60 Minutes this weekend, the news sources are run by big corporations, and they have been saying over and over (and over and over) that unions and the unemployed and the poor and the government are the cause of the problems. (When was the last time you saw a union representative on TV, explaining the benefits of joining a union?) And, naturally, after hearing these things over and over (and over and over), viewers like the nurse at the clinic I am in think they should blame the unions, the unemployed, the poor, the government, too.

    So much of the income and wealth are concentrating at the top. Taxes have been cut so far. The things our government does for us have been cut back so far. Working people's wages have been stagnant for so long.

    But the blame right now is directed at the unions, the poor, the unemployed and our government: We, the People.

    As the AFL-CIO blog concludes,

    The long term solution to state and local fiscal challenges ... is “a robust economy, one that is creating jobs and replenishing tax revenue.”

    To repeat: The long term solution to state and local fiscal challenges ... is “a robust economy, one that is creating jobs and replenishing tax revenue.”

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:58 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 14, 2010

    IBEW Photo Contest

    Take a look at the great photos in the IBEW 2010 Photo Contest

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:09 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 28, 2010

    I Remember Which Party...

    Powerful -- send this around!

    "On November 2 you should remember too."

    From the International Brotherhoood of Boilermakers Union

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 17, 2010

    Wheeling Town Hall -- BIG Turnout -- Focus: Tax Breaks For Offshoring

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Driving across Ohio toward Wheeling you pass one small manufacturing company after another - but not too many with lots of cars in the employee parking lot. I stopped in a coffee shop in a small township. They offered me a cookie, and when I declined, the owner said, “We’re giving them away, it’s our last day.” After 14 years the shop and the restaurant next door are closing because the landlord is giving up, auctioning off the building, and they don’t see how they can reopen somewhere else and make it. Too many manufacturers in the area have had to close.

    Every manufacturing job supports four or five other jobs in the economy. This is seven or eight more gone. The Cut Nail plant dominates a section of Wheeling. It closed last week, after 152 years in business. That's a lot more gone.

    The Town Hall

    Friday night I attended the Wheeling, WV "Keep It Made In America" Town Hall meeting. This was a BIG event – 600 attendees big . (Note - All pictures by Ike Gittlen, USW, click any pic for enlargement, see the entire collection here.

    aaDSC_8798

    Many elected officials, starting with Governor Joe Manchi (now running for Senate) attended and spoke. Quite a few candidates for Congress attended and spoke as well. And there was a panel. The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register has a great writeup of the event.

    The meeting began with a flag entrance presented by an honor guard of Young Marines:

    aaDSC_8742

    This was a big event with a lot of speakers, so I'll only put up snippets of what was said. But the entire town hall was webcast live: see the recording of it here.

    Alliance for American Manufacturing Executive Direct Scott Paul gave "manufacturing facts" between each speaker.

    "Why should people care about manufacturing if they don’t work in a factory?
    * Manufacturing provides 70 of all r&d, 90% of all patents, so if you care about innovation, next best thing…
    * Manufacturing largest purchasers of technology, so if you care about…
    * Manufacturing still employs 12 million, sizable portion.
    * Also manufacturing has a multiplier effect, each job supports 4 or 5 others in your community. More than any other.
    * Finally manufacturing jobs pay 22% better."

    Vice President of the United Steelworkers Tom Conway spoke first,

    aaDSC_8761

    "Thanks for coming, having a discussion, about what we think is a crucial issue, and one that America has been struggling with for a while. We’ve lost 50-60,000 factories over the last few years and millions of jobs. Labor and management do not have the luxury of not being together on this. We need to be together on this. Doing it jointly, telling a common story.

    Trade is good but trade needs to be balanced, but now for 30 years we have had an imbalance that has gone on and one, and you can’t do that and expect to have a thriving economy, and think the country is going to exist off the growth in the financial services sector. Now 40% of our GDP comes from the financial services sector and you've all seen what’s happened.

    You’ve got to have an economy that is based on something. You can’t keep having your best and brightest go to wall street.

    It used to be there were two tickets into the middle class, get a union card or get a college degree.

    Governor, Senate candidate Joe Mansion:

    aaDSC_8781

    First question is will you support buy America policies? Made in America, even better.

    There is not one thing in free trade that talks about fair trade. We can compete with any workforce in the world as long as it is on a level playing field.

    Currency manipulation 40%, no rules or regulations on environment, and then we give tat incentives to companies to move jobs offshore.

    Charlie Wilson OH-6, which borders on Wheeling:

    aaDSC_8792

    We all have common interest, returing to economic security, returning our neighbors back to work and returning our communities to prosperity is a priority for all of us.

    We shouldn’t be looking to advance new trade deals if the ones we have aren’t working. I’m proud to be a co-sponsor of Repeal NAFTA. Trade is important but it has to be fair trade and we have not had fair trade.
    We have been outsourcing jobs, crippling thing in our economy, voted 2 times in last few weeks to close tax loopholes that encourage companies to outsource. How can we possibly justify rewarding people with tax breaks who send our jobs to other countries. Come here I’ll show you what has happened to our economy from jobs lost to trade deals.

    The Conservative Tax Pledge

    One speaker said something I want to hilight: Mike Oliverio, Congressional Candidate, WV-1, said something about the "Norquist No New Taxes Pledge" that I think was significant. Oliverio called it a pledge to keep those tax incentives for closing factories and outsourcing jobs.

    aaDSC_8794

    I support legislation that prevent outsourcing of jobs, these tax giveaways have to stop, my opponent signed a tax pledge to continue these giveaways to corporations. I just can’t imagine how you can sign that kind of pledge in today’s world.

    His opponent David McKinley:

    aaDSC_8805

    The stimulus failed, only added debt to the government. We’re driving business away by overtaxing and overregulating. National Association of Manufacturers, Chamber of Congress, Tea Party backs me, Right to Life back me.

    I want to freeze tax rates where they are now to remove uncertainty. Create confidence what our tax structure is going to look like they will start hiring again. Eliminate overregulation of business.

    Nancy Pelosi is toxic to our political environment.

    About 3-400 other candidates spoke. The Libertarian Party, the Mountain Party, the Constitution Party, others.

    The Panel

    After approx 28,245 more candidates spoke there was an excellent panel discussion, moderated by Scott Paul, with
    * Tom Conway, VP USW
    * Kenny Perdue, AFL-CIO West VA
    * Beri Fox, CEO of the Marble King Company

    Note: About Marble King. Wheeling and WV have been hit hard by imported glass. Glass used to be a very big industry in West Virginia. There were 240 glass manufacturing companies in WV 30 years ago. Marble King is one of only 6 remaining companies.

    aaDSC_8825

    Berri – Marble King is a 75-year-old company. We want to help keep the American dream alive,. Glass business in WV second only to coal, 240 companies 30 years ago, today 6. The obstacles are substantial. Something has to be done.

    We did kids’ toys, supplied game companies. All moved to China, NONE manufactured in US now. This created huge stresses on what was our market share, so we bagan to diversify our product into other areas, creative innovative. Now, you buy spray paint, aerosol, shake it, that sound is our marbles.

    Question from audience: Tax Breaks for offshoring?

    Conway - companies getting tax breaks are also the companies that have taken control of our government, big multinational companies, they leave American workers and communities behind and we can’t tolerate it any longer.

    I think that is the best line to close with. If you need a reason to vote, there it is.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:15 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    September 3, 2010

    Labor Day: Labor Got It Right -- Who Could Have Known?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    "Who could have known?" That's the cry from the big-corporate and DC elite as the economy and the environment and so many imporant things crash around us. (Around us, not them, they're doing just fine and taking good care of each other.)

    Who could have known that 25%-per-year house price increases was a bubble?
    Who could have known that a housing bubble could burst?
    Who could have known that deregulating the financial industry could lead to a financial meltdown?
    Who could have known that concentration of wealth could cause consumer demand to dry up?
    Who could have known that huge tax cuts for the rich combined with huge military spending increases could cause massive budget deficits?
    Who could have known that the Social Security trust fund needed a "lockbox" so it wouldn't be given away as tax cuts?
    Who could have known a deregulated deep-water well could cause a massive, destructive, uncontrolled underwater gusher?
    Who could have known that continuing to put carbon into the air would cause problems for the climate?
    Who could have known that moving our factories out of the country would lead to high unemployment and structural trade deficits?
    Who could have known that invading Iraq was wrong and a deadly, disastrous, costly, long-term mistake?
    Who could have known that a too-small stimulus that focused on tax cuts wouldn't turn the economy completely around and then conservatives would claim that the stimulus "killed the recovery?"

    (List continues into infinity...)

    Add organized labor to the list of those who got it right, time after time.

    Organized labor was right about the 40-hour workweek.
    They were right about the middle class.
    They were right about the weekend.
    They were right about paid vacations.
    They were right about paid holidays.
    They were right about paid sick leave.
    They were right about providing good, secure retirement plans for everyone.
    They were right about providing unemployment benefits to tide people over.
    They were right about providing maternity leave, child care and family leave for families.
    They were right that trade agreements like NAFTA and letting China into the WTO would lead to massive trade deficits and job losses.
    They were right about workplace and consumer safety.
    They were right about keeping manufacturing in America.
    They were right about fighting discrimination in the workplace.
    They were right about raising the minimum wage and the effect that low-wage policies would have on the economy.
    They were right about the effect of excessive CEO pay on the economy.
    They were right about the devastating effect of the Bush tax cuts.
    They were right about the need to maintain and modernize our country's infrastructure.
    They were right about going green.
    They were right ab out the dangers of Wall Street's financialization of the economy.
    They were right about providing good health care to everyone.
    They were right about strengthening, not cutting Social Security.
    They were right about democratizing corporate governance.
    They were right about fighting privatization.
    They were right about fighting deregulation.
    They were right about providing good education opportunities to everyone.
    They were and are right that we need a national jobs agenda
    Labor was right about people joining together instead of being on our own.

    (List continues into infinity...) They were right and they continue to be right.

    And unions have been fighting for these things for all of us, not just for their members.

    Please add to these lists in the comments! What other things could nobody have known, and what other things did labor get right?

    Enjoy Labor Day. In fact, for those of you that still have jobs after the decades of conservative policies, enjoy having weekends off, the 40-hour week, paid vacations, sick pay, health care, etc. And if you have a job but don't have those things ... JOIN A UNION!

    P.S. Here's an example of being right:


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    September 1, 2010

    How Companies Turn People Against Unions

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    If you had a company and could make people work for free, keeping all the proceeds just for yourself, you might do that. If you could. What’s stopping you? There are plenty of unemployed people in the country and in the world – more every day thanks to population growth, and computers and machines doing more of the work that needs to be done. So if someone complains, you can just replace them with someone who doesn’t complain. You have the power. So what’s stopping you?

    As a working person, how do you negotiate for fair pay, benefits and rights where you work? People in a job can be on their own against a lot of power, taking whatever the employer is willing to trade for their work. Or they can join with the rest of the employees at the workplace and negotiate as a group. Banding together to fight for a fair share is called organizing into a union.

    People who own companies think that the company is their “private property” and they can do what they want with it, regardless of the effect on the people who work there or the surrouding community. Their goal is to make as much money as possible and to do that you lower costs as much as possible. Those costs include the cost of disposing of harmful waste products, the quality and safety of the products produced, and the pay and benefits you provide workers. In this equation unions are a problem. They have the power to make you pay more and provide safety and benefits, so they are in the way of keeping as much as you can just for yourself.

    Obviously the greater society -- the people who make the rules that companies are supposed to follow -- has very different interests from the people who own companies. Society wants to avoid being exposed to harmful waste products, and wants the people in the society to be paid well and have good benefits. Society wants healthy communities. Society wants good and safe products that don't use up our resources. The people in the society are generally going to want rules that lead to better results for the greater number of people. Unless they can be convinced otherwise.

    So the owners of companies try to convince us that unions are bad. They form and fund "business groups" like the Chamber of Commerce, to fight to keep unions from having the right and power to organize their workers. We hear it repeated over and over in our corporate-dominated society, a drumbeat that labor unions are sinister, shady, harmful, corrupt, violent, “raise prices,” ”cost jobs,” and generally hurt the economy and country. We hear they force workers to pay dues (never mind that unionized workers pay the dues from higher pay and benefits.) We hear that "union bosses" tell workers what to do and "union thugs"make them do it. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. The owners of companies have a lot of money to spend on convincing the public to let them have free reign, and they know from selling products how to sell things to the public. Repetition, repetition and repetition. Marketing works.

    This Labor Day weekend we can expect to hear even more of this. Business groups plan Labor Day blitz against Senate Dems, candidates,

    Local chapters of groups like the National Federation of Independent Business, state Associated Builders and Contractors and other commerce and retail groups will hold events on Monday targeting the incumbents and candidates, particularly on their stance on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA, or "card-check").

    But you shouldn't expect to see, hear or read on any corporate-owned TV station, radio station or newspaper about the benefits to people from joining a union. Think back and see if you can remember the last time you heard it explained to the public in one of these outlets how members of unions are better off?

    How widespread is the anti-labor effort? Here’s a quick, admittedly unscientific check. On Google today there are 54,800 websites that refer to “union thugs,” 154,000 websites that refer to “union bosses” and 200,000 that refer to “big labor.” Please click through and look not only at the ridiculous things being written, but also at who is writing them.

    The first page of Google “results for “union bosses” lists anti-union pages from Big Government, The Center for Union Facts , The Washington Times, Human Events, Redstate, Townhall, The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the book “Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics” by Fox News analyst Linda Chavez and Danial Gray of the National Right to Work Committee.

    The Center for Union Facts, The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee are anti-union sites funded by corporations and right-wing foundations. According to a report in SourceWatch, The National Right to Work Committee and National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation even share facilities and employees. Big Government, Human Events, Townhall, Redstate, Fox News and the Washington Times are conservative movement outlets that are part of the coordinated Right Wing Noise Machine, or echo chamber, in which a number of outlets appear to be different entities but work as part of a single movement with a shared goal. (P.S. Big Government is the site where the doctored ACORN videos and doctored video of Shirley Sherrod were promoted.)

    Admittedly unscientific, but interesting nonetheless. There's a lot of anti-union money floating around out there.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:09 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    August 30, 2010

    America Is Strong When Our Unions Are Strong

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    America was formed as a government of, by and for We, the People. It says so right in the first words of our Constitution. To get that Constitution we rebelled against the King and England's aristocracy and their corporations, with their concentrated wealth and power. And we continued that fight and over time we extended our system of one-person-one-vote, adding women and minorities to that equation.

    The fight has gone back and forth. When our democratic government works, it pushes for increasing the protections and benefits of a strong economy for We, the People. This has included, for example, the mandated 40-hour workweek and minimum wages to fight exploitation, both pushed by labor. But at other times our government was "captured" by the power of concentrated wealth and working people are not well-represented. Even then we're still not necessarily each on our own. During those times we have depended on labor unions to push back against that power of concentrated wealth. Working people can organize into labor unions to bargain for higher wages and better treatment than workers could obtain individually.

    What difference can unions make? In 1945 labor unions represented about 1/3 of all workers. When American unions were strong working people got the minimum wage, the 40-hour week, weekends off, paid vacations, health insurance, pensions, dignity and respect. This was when America built the middle class that everyone has been taking for granted since. Even the wealthy benefited greatly over the long run as more consumers with more money to spend lifted the whole economy.

    But what has happened to us since the Reagan Revolution, when concentrated power of the big corporations weakened America's unions? Since the days of FDR membership in unions has fallen, but in 1980 unions still represented 24% of American workers. The Reagan administration famously launched an all-out assault on organized labor, resulting in membership falling to 16.4% by 1989. And the trend continued: by 1998 union membership fell to 13.9 percent. By 2009 that had decreased to 12.3%, but only 7.6% in the private sector. And here are the results:

    This is a chart of working people's share of the benefits from our economy. Note the brief return to normal under Clinton, erased by Bush II. But the assault on working people has recently been bipartisan. Clinton pushed to pass the Bush I-negotiated NAFTA treaty which hammered the bargaining position of workers, while Bush II consolidated the practice of "outsourcing" labor competition from non-democratic countries where workers didn't have rights or protections.

    As we all know, since the Reagan Revolution weakened the negotiating power of working people, wealth and income have concentrated at the top, our country's debt has massively increased, household debt as well, the country is crumbling and everyone except the wealthy few and big corporations is generally worse off.

    Unions still make a difference. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "In 2009, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $908, while those who were not represented by unions had median weekly earnings of $710." Union members also often have paid vacation, paid sick leave, health insurance and other benefits that non-union workers do not. The difference is dramatic. In March 2009, 78 percent of union workers were covered by health insurance through their jobs, compared with only 51 percent of nonunion workers. Seventy-seven percent of union workers participate in defined-benefit pension plans, compared with 20 percent of nonunion workers.

    When you hear someone complain about unions and complain that people in unions are paid better than the rest of us, let them know that they are reaching the wrongest conclusion. They shouldn't resent union members and complain about their pay, they should join a union and support unions, so they they and everyone else can come out ahead.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:40 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 4, 2010

    President Obama Says ‘Made In America’ At Heart Of US Recovery

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Addressing the AFL-CIO Executive Council today, President Obama signaled support for the new Congressional "Make It In America" initiative, saying, (full transcript here)

    "As long as I'm president, I'm going to keep fighting night and day to make sure that we win those jobs, that those are jobs that are created right here in the United States of America -- (applause) -- and that your members are put to work.

    So the message I want to deliver to our competitors and to those in Washington who've tried to block our progress at every step of the way is that we are going to rebuild this economy stronger than before. And at the heart of it are going to be three powerful words: Made in America. (Applause.) Made in America."

    A Washington Post story today, New Democratic strategy for creating jobs focuses on a boost in manufacturing, explains,

    President Obama and congressional Democrats -- out of options for another quick shot of stimulus spending to revive the sluggish economy -- are shifting toward a longer-term strategy that promises to tackle persistently high unemployment by engineering a renaissance in American manufacturing.

    That approach, heralded by Obama last week in Detroit and sketched out in a memo to House Democrats as they headed home for the August break, is still evolving and so far focuses primarily on raising taxes on multinational corporations that Democrats accuse of shipping jobs overseas.

    The strategy also repackages policies long pursued by the White House -- such as investing in clean energy, roads, bridges and broadband service -- with more than two dozen legislative proposals aimed at developing a plan for promoting domestic manufacturing.

    CAF's Eric Lotke has further details of the Congressional initiative in his post today, Made In America: The Good And Bad News For A Jobs Recovery.

    This new initiative was triggered in part by the results of a poll conducted by Mark Mellman and Whit Ayres for the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM). According to AAM,

    When asked about prospective economic solutions, pro-manufacturing policies won overwhelming support across demographics including non-union households, independents, union households and Tea Party supporters. ...

    Other highlights from the poll include:

    • A majority believe the U.S. no longer has the world’s strongest economy—a title they want to regain
    • Voters are anxious about the economy—specifically China debt, spending and loss of manufacturing
    • 86% of voters want Washington to focus on manufacturing, and 63% feel working people who make things are being forgotten while Wall Street and banks get bailouts
    • Two-thirds of voters believe manufacturing is central to our economic strength, and 57% believe manufacturing is more central to our economic strength than high-tech, knowledge or financial service sectors

    The AFL-CIO blog has more on the President's address in the post, Obama Says ‘Made in America’ at Heart of US Recovery, (yes, I flat-out stole the title of this post from them)

    Speaking on his 49th birthday at the Washington (D.C) Convention Center, the president told the council that this fall’s election is a choice between
    polices that encourage job creation here in America or encourage jobs to go elsewhere…The choice is whether we want to go forward or we want to go backwards to the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place.

    He spoke about the need to invest in clean technology, like solar panels, wind turbines, nuclear plants, clean coal and new car batteries.

    Instead of giving tax breaks to corporations that want to ship jobs overseas, we want to give tax breaks to companies that are investing right here in the United States of America.


    Note - the President also said, "And we are going to keep on fighting to pass the Employee Free Choice Act."

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 4, 2010

    Union Values

    This is the hat:

    AFLCIO_Hat

    And this is the story: AFL-CIO, Union Values: Made In America,

    Our country was born out of a fight to cast off colonial rule by a wealthy elite and govern ourselves as We, the People. This fight continues, and nothing more clearly represents this American effort to lift each other up than organized labor. On July 4, as we celebrate our independence I encourage people to recognize our ongoing battle by buying Made in USA goods, and by working for democracy and the rights of workers everywhere.

    I recently bought a hat with “AFL-CIO” written on it. Inside the hat there is a label that reads, “Union Made in the USA.” I was thinking about how unions wouldn’t buy cheap hats made in China or by some nonunion sweatshop, even if it was in the United States. They stick with their values.

    Go read the AFL-CIO's 4th of July message.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:27 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    June 26, 2010

    Reaching The Wrongest Conclusion About Unions!

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    A letter-writer in my local paper today reaches the wrongest possible conclusion:

    Public, private workers live in different worlds

    The current issue of Time magazine includes a cover story on the increasing numbers of nearly bankrupt states and municipalities across the country. An important point made in the story is that public and private workers increasingly live in separate economies. Private-sector employees face frequent job change, relentless layoffs, flat wages and rising health care premiums, and they fund their retirement with 401(k) contributions. If they're lucky, their employers will match a portion. Many do not. Contrast that reality to public-sector employees, who enjoy relative job security, defined benefit pensions with guaranteed cost-of-living increases, and competitive wages that rise every year. Public employee unions have had a stranglehold on state and local elected officials for decades. This has to end, as the taxpayers are fed up and tapped out. Nancy Pyle needs to get a clue, as do others on the San Jose City Council.
    A.S.
    San Jose

    Summary: Workers in the private sector have it harder and harder. They are increasingly losing benefits, pensions and jobs. Forced to work ever-harder in increasingly degrading work environments their wages stay flat and are starting to fall.

    Meanwhile public sector workers have stong unions so they have good jobs with good working conditions, job security, pensions and raises.

    Therefore ... we should get rid of public-employee unions? Wow! Talk about coming to a grossly wrong conclusion, and working against your own interests! Just wow!

    It is a psychological truth that people would rather see others brought down than see themselves brought up, but come on! How hard is it to see that this person should be for strong private-sector unions instead of against public-sector unions.

    And the letter-writer demonstrates the core of the conservative ideological argument: All the benefits of our economy to the top few at the expense of the rest of us.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:45 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    May 17, 2010

    Are Public Employee Unions Strangling Us?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    For Billionaire Mort Zuckerman it’s those damn unions that are the problem. For so many of the rest of us the problem is that we don't have a union.

    Zuckerman has been with us on lots of things, like what he wrote about the stimulus,

    “The fiscal program was a disaster. You have to get the money as quickly as possible into the economy. They didn’t do that. By end of the first year, only one-third of the money was spent. Why is that?
    He should have jammed a stimulus plan into Congress and said, “This is it. No changes. Don’t give me that bullshit. We have a national emergency.”
    I could have written that. (Except it would probably have bad grammar, occasional CAPITALIZED words and a line in bold here and there.)

    But he's not with us not when it comes to labor. Last week Zuckerman wrote an op-ed, titled The Crippling Price of Public Employee Unions at US News, and Breaking the Public Sector Unions' Stranglehold on State and Local Governments at Huffington Post, telling us how public employee unions are harming the country. (The Huffington version has about 2000 comments so far - mostly pro-labor. The US News version has about 70 comments, like "Outlaw Unions of any kind.")

    I’m wondering where Mort Zuckerman wrote this piece. Was he at one of his homes in New York, New York, East Hampton, New York and Aspen, Colorado? Or maybe he was writing from his 166 foot Oceanco Yacht, the Lazy Z? We know he wasn’t writing from his Falcon 900 corporate jet, because he recently purchased a Gulfstream G550.

    From this high vantage point he seems to have a view that says working people should be paid less, and shouldn’t get good pensions or benefits. He writes, "It is galling for private sector workers to see so many public sector workers thriving because of the power their unions exercise." He says public employees have "gold-plated perks" and enter into corrupt deals with politicians, a trade-off of supplying votes in exchange for good pay and benefits. He says that since private-sector pay and benefits are dropping, public-employee pay and benefits should, too.

    But it's the other way around. We, the People should set the example for private companies to follow. Good pay and benefits are good for people. It should be public policy to promote this and encourage companies to treat employees better. That way we all benefit, not just a few.

    Private sector pay and benefits have been dropping because people have been forced out of unions, so they have no way to fight the power of the billionaires. Because billionaires have been able to play impoverished workers elsewhere against workers here who have fought hard to get what they have. The obvious answer is for more private-sector workers around the world to join unions so they can be lifted up, not to complete the death spiral by forcing down the pay of the rest of us.


    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 11, 2010

    Bad Hotel

    More like this, please:

    May 10, 2010 — A flashmob infiltrates the Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco and performs an adaptation of Lady Gaga's song "Bad Romance." The event was organized to draw attention to a boycott called by the workers of the hotel who are fighting to win a fair contract and affordable healthcare. Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer activists put the song and dance together as a creative way to tell the hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people from all over the country coming to San Francsico in June for Pride to stay out of the boycotted hotels.

    To learn more about how to honor the boycott and support the workers visit:
    http://www.sleepwiththerightpeople.org
    http://www.hotelworkersrising.org/HotelGuide/boycott_list.php

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 22, 2010

    Workplace Democracy: Corporate Style

    From IBEW:

    New video produced by the IBEW reveals the truth about what really happens when workers try to exercise their rights in the workplace: 78 percent forced to attend closed door meetings with management , 75 percent of employers bring in professional union-busters.

    Its to time to fix our broken labor laws so all workers have the right to choose their future without fear of retribution or intimidation.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    March 10, 2010

    It Is Time To Put Our Foot Down: Ten Steps We Can Take To Stop Closing Factories And Eliminating Jobs

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    The economy is still getting worse more slowly. We lost "only" 36,000 jobs last month. We need to create 11 million new jobs just to get back to where we were before "free-market" conservatives took over our government and dismanted the protections and regulations that had protected us from this.

    Jobs lost, communities devastated, lives destroyed. Over and over again. Yet with all of this going on companies like Whirlpool and Toyota are still closing factories, laying of American workers, and moving manufacturing out of the country! Toyota is closing the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California, which could lose up to 50,000 jobs across California. Whirlpool -- recipient of stimulus dollars from the government -- is closing a factory in Evansville, Indiana and moving the jobs to Mexico where people will be paid $70 a week and certainly won't be buying anything made in America.

    It's the system. While the executives collect bonuses and tax breaks for their destructive actions We, the People have to pick up the tab. We pay the unemployment, the stimulus, etc. Our communities pay the cost of losing the jobs and the tax base, our economy pays the cost of losing the manufacturing capability. And the executives and private equity firms and Wall Street get rich. So of course they do more of it.

    How crazy is this? In the middle of this terrible jobs crisis companies are still closing factories here and shipping the jobs out of the country. Why do we allow this?

    Whirlpool and Toyota (and Wall Street's $140 billion bonus pool this year) ought to be the last straw. It is time for We, the People to put our foot down and say not one more factory closed, not one more job sent out of the country! In fact, it is time to start bringing jobs BACK.

    It is time to stop letting goods into the country that are made by exploited workers in areas with no environmental protections without a tariff to take away the price advantage gained from going around the protections that We, the People have fought so hard for.

    There is only one way the country can earn the money to pay back what we borrowed from China, Japan and others. That is to make and sell things to others!!! THAT is what "trade" means. "Trade" does not mean allowing greedy executives to sidestep the laws and regulations and protections that We, the People fought so hard to get.

    Look around us. Jobs lost, communities devastated, homes foreclosed, lives destroyed, governments going broke. All because of a runaway system that encourages the destruction of our economy. Our system actually encourages executives to close factories and lay people off! Executives make profits and get bonuses (that benefit from tax cuts) if they can figure out how to eliminate YOUR job or close a factory or cheapen a product or keep you from talking to customer support or make you pay an extra fee, etc.

    Wall Street and executives benefit from this -- and get tax cuts, tax breaks and subsidies for doing it. But the economy-at-large is destroyed by these same actions when they are widespread. On top of that, we know that when we lose the factories we have to borrow money to buy the things we used to make. But we give tax breaks instead of penalties to companies that do this.

    Here are just some steps that We, the People can take to start turning this around:

    - A border tariff on imports to remove the price advantage of goods produced by exploited, underpaid workers.

    - A border tariff to remove the price advantage of goods produced in ways that harm the environment.

    - A border tariff on goods from countries that are not democracies, to remove any pricing advantage gained from not allowing people to vote and set rules that benefit themselves.

    - A border tariff on goods from countries that restrict workers from organizing to improve their wages and working conditions, to remove any pricing advantage gained from not allowing workers to bargain. (America currently doesn't meet this standard.)

    - Remove tax benefits and instead impose tax penalties and fines on companies that close factories here. Don't let it be profitable to do this!

    - Increase taxes on the big monopolistic companies to remove the advantages that help them destroy America's smaller, regional and local businesses -- the very job creators we need.

    - Increase income taxes on high incomes to reduce the incentive to pursue short-term windfalls instead of long-term interests. Make it take a long time to accumulate a fortune. Making a fortune is great but it should be a reward for helping our economy and society, not destroying them.

    - Break up the "too big to fail" Wall Street firms that wrecked the economy. And get the money back -- all of it.

    - Explore the use of Eminent Domain to keep factories in communities and workers in the factories.

    - Formulate and follow a national economic/industrial strategy to build a new green manufacturing economy

    Please add some ideas in the comments. I will have more to say on all of this.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:20 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    February 25, 2010

    Now Whirlpool Threatens Workers Who Protest Plant Closing

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    The other day I posted Whirlpool Bites Hands Of American Taxpayers That Feed It saying, in summary,


      • Whirlpool closes a plant in Evansville
      • Taxpayers will shoulder the unemployment and other costs.
      • All the local supplier, transportation and other third-party jobs are destroyed.
      • Even more home foreclosures in the area as a result.
      • Local businesses are stressed or have to go out of business.
      • They are playing nearby Iowa against Indiana for tax breaks and subsidies to keep just a few of the jobs.
      • Whirlpool is profiting from making all this someone else's problem.
      • And, of course, Wall Street celebrates the move.

    A Whirlpool spokesperson responded, leading to the post, Whirlpool Exec Responds: The System Made Us Do It, taking a look at the bigger picture that forces our companies like Whirlpool to do these things that destroy people, communities and our economy,
    "The spokesperson for Whirlpool is exactly right. It is the system that makes them do this. They are only following the market’s orders."

    I thought that was the end of it, but whoa, what's this? Whirlpool Threatens Workers: Protesting Plant Closure Risks 'Future Jobs'

    A major corporation planning to shut down a factory in Indiana has warned its union workers that they'll endanger their future job prospects if they protest the plant's closing.

    . . . Activists planned a high-profile protest for this Friday, with AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka visiting the plant for the first time. But Whirlpool says the effort is futile -- they are fully committed to shutting the plant down. The company, however, still seems quite wary of the potential for bad publicity. In a memo sent to its employees and passed along to the Huffington Post, Paul Coburn, division vice president for Whirlpool's Evansville Division, offers a fairly explicit warning to his workers: If they join Trumka's protest they would seriously risk future employment opportunity.


    Threatening workers who show up at the protest that they risk future employment? Click through to read the entire report and to see Whirlpool's letter.

    And take action: Tell Whirlpool: Keep It Made in America and Save Our Jobs.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:12 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 15, 2010

    Here Is When Obama Could Have Passed Health Care

    Yes I'm writing about this again,

    Way back in July President Obama had the option of keeping the Congress in session until they passed health care.

    White House officials negotiated furiously on Thursday to keep major health care legislation on track after the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said his chamber would not vote on a health measure until after Congress returned from its summer recess.
    The summer recess was when the corporate-and-Wall-Street-funded astroturf groups put so much effort into building up the tea party movement and reviving the Republican Party.

    Just sayin'... He had the option to be tough and insist. So why didn't he? From the news story:

    As Mr. Obama took questions from his audience in Shaker Heights, he was asked whether he intended to call on Democratic leaders in Congress to cancel their August recess to try to reach a compromise on health care. For now, he said, he had no plans to do so.
    Here is the thing: THIS weekend President Obama had the chance to exercise his legitimate, Constitutional power to get things done for the public, and fill several vacancies in his administration. He could have made recess appointments of nominees that Republicans are blocking. Previous Presidents have done this. Bush did it more than 100 times! But he didn't.

    I just don't understand this President's unwillingness to work for the People of the United states.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:10 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    February 13, 2010

    Will He Govern?

    President Obama has the power to do a recess appointment and get the NLRB functioning again. One of his nominees was approved by a majority of the Senate, with confirmation blocked by filibuster.

    This weekend is the test of whether the President wants to get things done for Americans or not. He could appoint the nominee to the NLRB and get it functioning again. Will he or won't he? Will he choose to govern or will he let the government continue to stagnate?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:40 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 12, 2010

    Obama Blocking Labor Board From Functioning

    President Obama is refusing to do "recess appointments" to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), even after a majority of the Senate voted to confirm one of his nominees.

    Some background: The NLRB is supposed to have 5 members of its Board. It currently only has 2 and requires 3 to do anything, so it is unable to function. Republicans have filibustered the two candidates that President Obama nominated 7 months ago. The President has the power to make recess appointments when the senate is not in session. President Bush's anti-labor nominees were confirmed unanimously, and Bush made a total of 171 recess appointments.

    President Obama has said he will not do recess appointments. He feels being "bipartisan" is more important than getting things done. This at a time when the Repubicans have said in the open that their strategy tis to keep the President from getting anything done.

    If you want to call with your opinion of this, the White House Switchboard is: 202-456-1111 OR 202-456-1414

    Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, writes, No Deal,

    Senate Republican obstructionists are working overtime to block the interests of working people. Today we hear the White House and Senate have cut a deal with Republicans that will keep President Obama's nominees off the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for even longer.

    The NLRB's job is to protect workers' rights--but for more than two years it has been functioning with only two members instead of the five it should have. Working people need an NLRB that can enforce the National Labor Relations Act--not one hobbled by vacancies.

    President Obama's nominees--Craig Becker and Mark Pearce--are highly qualified, well-respected labor lawyers who were nominated seven months ago, in July.

    But Senate Republicans have ignored the working people they represent and blocked the appointments.

    Yesterday, in a deal with the Republican minority, the Senate confirmed 27 non-controversial Obama appointees. The White House apparently has agreed not to make Presidents Day recess appointments--a process that allows the president to temporarily appoint his own nominee while Congress is out of session. That means NLRB nominees--and working people--are out in the cold.

    A big win for the Republicans. A big win for corporations that want to file down the teeth of the NLRB. A big loss for working people.

    We're used to the Republicans playing the role of Lucy and yanking the football away each time Charlie Brown tries to kick it. We've seen it on health care, jobs legislation, you name it.

    President Obama has to end this farce.

    Becker already received majority approval from the Senate, but apparently majority rule isn't good enough any more. A Republican filibuster--joined by Democrats Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Blanche Lincoln (Ark.)--blocked his nomination from going forward. By contrast, when President Bush made his initial appointments to the NLRB, a package of nominees including three management lawyers was approved unanimously.

    So today and every day through the congressional recess, union members and other activists from working America will be calling the White House and demanding a recess appointment now for Craig Becker and Mark Pearce.

    These next few weeks will be crucial in building support for a fully functional NLRB. Progressives should take every opportunity to let their congressional representatives and the White House know that protection of workers' rights is one of the first and most important changes working people expected to see when they voted in 2008. It's been 13 months since the inauguration--it's time.

    Give recess appointments to Craig Becker and Mark Pearce during the Presidents Day recess so the NLRB can do its job.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:35 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Union Values and the Test of Time

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF). I am a Fellow with CAF.

    A couple of weeks ago I bought a hat with "AFL-CIO" written on it. Inside the hat there is a label that reads, "Union Made in the USA." I was thinking about how unions wouldn't buy cheap hats made in China or by some non-union sweatshop even if it was in the US. They stick with their values.

    There are many examples of unions sticking with their values. Union locals don't use non-union print shops - and you might notice that many candidates for office recognize this and use union printers to print their own campaign materials, because they know that union members look for this. Union members stick together when other workers are trying to bargain for wages, benefits, rights and respect. People who work directly for unions get good wages and benefits. And union members generally show up and vote for candidates who support broad American values that say "we're in this together" rather than the conservative "you're on your own" philosophy.

    This got me thinking about where we are with the economy, following the decrease of union membership and how-many-years of corporate/conservative domination of the "marketplace of ideas." Decades of this "market" stuff has been driven into our heads, the media is entirely corporate and you just will not see or hear or read someone from labor talking about how joining a union benefits workers or how labor values are good for us. Everything we hear is entirely the conservative/corporate/Wall Street perspective now that we are protected from having to hear other opinions. How has that worked out for all of us?

    Let's look at some of the core values of America's labor movement, and see how these are standing up to the "stress test" our economy is undergoing.

    First, the law. According to the National Labor Relations Board,

    "Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy."

    This statement reflects American values: Employees and employers, together. Protecting rights. Encouraging collective action: demcoracy. Promoting the general welfare of workers, businesses and the economy. This is a statement that says promoting democracy, justice and equality boosts all of us, helping us to prosper together.

    Please take a moment to read Section 1 of The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). In summary it says that lack of bargaining power by workers against corporations leads to depressions (we call them recessions now) because of depressed purchasing power. And it leads to strikes which disrupt commerce. Therefore it is the policy of the United States to encourage collective bargaining. If you have more time, read through some of the things this law says because you will be shocked at the extent to which our government now ignores its own laws, acting in a one-sided way allowing businesses to fire organizers and intimidate workers but doing so little for working people. How has that worked out for us?

    Take a look at the AFL-CIO mission statement:

    The mission of the AFL-CIO is to improve the lives of working families—to bring economic justice to the workplace and social justice to our nation.

    This doesn't say they do this for AFL-CIO members only, it says they do this for all of us. How would sticking with values like these be working out for us?

    Change To Win says they are,

    ... a new movement of working people equipped to meet the challenges of the global economy and restore the American Dream in the 21st century: a paycheck that can support a family, affordable health care, a secure retirement and dignity on the job.

    If only values like these were dominant in our economy today.

    The SEIU says they are.

    ... an organization of 2.2 million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide and dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society.

    Wouldn't it be great if these were the dominant values that our economy operated under today?

    Union values: To improve lives. Social justice. Dignity. Just and humane. Security. People in unions believe things like: Solidarity: Stick together. Protect jobs. We're in this together. Good wages and good benefits for any of us help all of us. And this means workers and businesses together. Seriously, working people take pride in what they do, and like every else they want the organizations they are part of to succeed. In the case of businesses of course the interests of working people are that their companies do well because then they do well. Everyone is happiest when there is harmony and good times are shared.

    These are values that so many of us agree with. When these values were more widespread our economy was functions in a better way. The middle class was strong, and gains year after year. But in recent decades we have seen a Wall Street/big-corporate/conservative campaign of propaganda against these values. We hear praise for the wealthy CEO cult and the largest monopolistic corporations, and are confronted by an attitude that all of us should serve the interests of the entitled wealthiest, as if we exist at their behest. For them it is about getting as much money and power as they can, for themselves and only for themselves. We hear about how a few "top performers" deserve vast fortunes. We hear, "Greed is good," "The market should decide." We hear divisive class-warfare, like, "Rich people create jobs" and, "Did you ever get a job from a poor person?" We hear that if we dare tax them to pay for the infrastructure that enables their prosperity they will pack up their companies and take their jobs with them. These slogans come from a different kind of business interest -- the Wall Streeters and monopolistic giant corporations who want everything for themselves and to leave the mess behind for the rest of us.

    The result of the conservative-values approach is that a very few at the top do better and better while the rest of us -- including most of the businesses in the country -- find it harder and harder to just get by. Jobs and factories are shifted out of the country - beyond the protections of our business, labor and environmental laws and regulatory protections. Local and regional businesses are knocked out or swallowed up. As a result of this shift toward Wall Street values today's workplace is characterized by increasing working hours or just workload, high stress, fear of layoffs, low or reduced wages, jobs sent overseas, loss of health care, loss of pensions and a general loss of dignity and security.

    So again, how is this shift away from labor's values -- working America and small/medium business' values -- to Wall Street/ Wal-Mart values working out for all of us?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 10, 2010

    Who Is Really "Anti-Business"?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    In the Bloomberg story today, Obama Doesn’t ‘Begrudge’ Bonuses for Blankfein, Dimon, President Obama, spoke up about the huge Wall Street bonuses handed out this year,

    “I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen,” Obama said in the interview yesterday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free- market system.”

    Free-market system? These huge bonuses are for the Wall Street robber-barons that caused the financial collapse, took taxpayer dollars to prop up their fortunes, and get free money from the Federal Reserve with which to "trade" -- speculate, gamble, call it what you want. Meanwhile they spend hundreds of millions of dollars "lobbying" (bribery) to fight any kind of financial reforms or consumer protections from enactment, and to make sure that no such think as a "free market" with honest competition never threatens their dominance of business and government.

    So why is the President talking like this [note: see update below], at a time when so many Americans are out of work, losing their homes, and falling into poverty? Because he doesn't want to be perceived as "anti-business." From the story,

    Obama sought to combat perceptions that his administration is anti-business and trumpeted the influence corporate leaders have had on his economic policies. He plans to reiterate that message when he speaks to the Business Roundtable, which represents the heads of many of the biggest U.S. companies, on Feb. 24 in Washington.

    Meanwhile a Senate filibuster blocked the President's great nominee, Craig Becker, from serving on the National Labor Relations Board. So the Labor Board remains non-functional. The filibuster kept workers from being fairly represented, and the Board itself from having a tie-breaking vote so they can resolve labor disputes so the "free market" can function as it should, with workers able to bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

    These two stories this week present quite a contrast, and send mixed and demoralizing signals to the country. President Obama doesn't want to "appear" to be "anti-business." Meanwhile giant, monopolistic corporations and Wall Street are chewing up Main Street and keeping smaller businesses from competing, while their lobbyists keep the legislature from getting anything done at all.

    Let's talk about this "anti-business" label and how it is used.

    I wrote a post the other day titled, Tax Cuts HURT Small And Medium Businesses, championing small and medium businesses in their struggle to survive against the giant monopolistic corporations that are crushing them. Summary: struggling businesses don't pay taxes, so tax cuts only give more ammunition to the giants that are crushing them. In the comments at one of the places it was posted I was accused to being “anti-business.”

    Apparently championing small and medium businesses - America's job-creating, innovative engine - is "anti-business." If you look around, being anything but a servant to Wall Street and the giant monopolistic corporations earns you the label, "anti-business."

    The Power Of Words

    This got me thinking about the ways this label, "anti-business," gets used. It is always used by corporate/conservative types, against anyone who questions the power of Wall Street and the giant monopolistic corporations that are strangling smaller businesses, workers and democracy.

    The President nominates a great candidate for the Labor Board, then worries that he is perceived as "anti-business." Labels like "anti-business" are powerful accusations and come from very, very powerful people. (Like this or this.)

    Last year, in the post Misuse Of The Words Protectionism And Trade Is Making Us Poorer I wrote,

    Language has tremendous power. People like George Lakoff and Drew Westin, who study the use of language in political discussion, say that our choice of words has the power to actually affect the “wiring” or neuron circuits that our brains use to think.

    The corporate marketers and political persuaders have certainly learned the power of language to influence us. It has even gotten to the point where “neuromarketing” uses MRI and EEG to study how our brains react to certain stimuli so they can be used to market and persuade.

    In politics I think that we have even reached a point where we give words more power and importance even than the ideas the words represent. In the Bush years we learned that the persuaders believed they could “create their own reality.”

    [. . .] words are used as weapons by professionals who wish to distract us from things that are in front of our own faces.

    So how do we fight this? One way is to recognize our own power as citizens in a democracy. In America the people – Main Street – are supposed to be in charge of things, and the purpose of business and finance is supposed to be to serve our interests and needs, not the other way around. Why else would We, the People have set this system up, anyway? So we need to internalize this understanding, and believe in it. We are supposed to be in charge. We, the People are supposed to be telling businesses how they are supposed to operate, setting the rules and regulations, defining the playing field on which they operate. We need to have a sense that it is improper for businesses to be involved at all in the decision-making about the rules under which businesses operate. It must be this way because business interests will always, always try to tilt the rules against the free market and in their own favor, giving them advantages over other businesses.

    This isn't about being "anti-business" at all, it is about being in favor of a level playing field, where the innovative small and medium companies have a fair chance to compete. It is the giant monopolistic corporations that are "anti-business."

    Believe it.

    Update - Greg Sargent looked at the transcript and has a more nuanced interpretation.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:09 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    October 29, 2009

    Building The New Economy

    I am in DC at the Building The New Economy conference. There is a Listen Live button at that site, so you can attend as well. My computer clock says 5:40am as I type this so California readers are discovering this half way through the conference. :-0

    Yesterday I attended a blogger roundtable with Rich Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. I'll write about this later.

    Speakers:

    Gov. Ed Rendell, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
    Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio
    Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.
    Rich Trumka, President, AFL-CIO
    Leo Gerard, President, United Steelworkers
    Prof. Suzanne Berger, director of the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives
    Jeff Madrick, author, "The Case For Big Government"
    Robert Kuttner, author, "The Squandering Of America"
    Kate Gordon, Apollo Alliance

    Conference agenda (times are EST):
    LESSONS OF THE FALL

    9:30 a.m. There Is No Way Back: A New Strategy is Essential

    BUILDING THE NEW ECONOMY

    10:10 a.m. A New Foundation: Strategic Public Investment
    11 a.m. Making It In America: Manufacturing in a Global Economy
    12:05 p.m. Luncheon Keynote: Towards a New Economic Strategy
    1:30 p.m. Global Challenge: A Sustainable Balance for Growth
    2:30 p.m. Getting There: The Next Steps

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 7, 2009

    Economy Getting Worse More Slowly

    Behind the "good" news:

    Employment Situation Summary:

    * Nonfarm payroll employment continued to decline in July (-247,000)

    * The unemployment rate was little changed at 9.4 percent (because 400,000 more people gave up looking for work)

    * In July, the number of unemployed persons was 14.5 million.

    * The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) rose by 584,000 over the month to 5.0 million.

    * The civilian labor force participation rate declined by 0.2 percentage point in July to 65.5 percent. The employment-population ratio, at 59.4 percent, was little changed over the month but has declined by 3.3 percentage points since the recession began in December 2007.

    * The number of persons working part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed in July at 8.8 million.

    * About 2.3 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force in July, 709,000 more than a year earlier. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

    * U-6 Total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.. 16.3%

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:25 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 6, 2009

    New Jobs With Justice Blog

    Go read: Jobs with Justice Blog

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:43 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    When Is A 550K New Jobless Report Good News?

    A 550K New Jobless weekly report is good news when it is lower than it has been. In normal times, though, a 550K report would be described as falling over a cliff.

    The 2001 recession PEAKED at under 500K new unemployed a week.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:36 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 16, 2009

    Who Is At The Table?

    This article was produced as part of Commonweal Institute's Progressive Op-Ed Program

    Progressives believe in a “we’re all in this together” philosophy while conservatives follow a “you are on your own” philosophy. The differences between these approaches can be clearly seen in the battle over how we share the benefits of our economy.

    Conservatives encourage people to take “personal responsibility” rather than to rely on each other for support and guidance. When it comes to things like negotiating for pay and benefits this approach limits each of us to the power and resources that we have alone as individuals.

    But big companies are not “on their own.” They are legally allowed to concentrate resources and power that dwarf anything an individual could muster. Companies might have thousands, even tens of thousands of employees who have to do what they are told. They have top legal teams at the table across from you. They can place advertisements and hire PR firms to spin false stories that turn the public against you.

    A “you are on your own” approach puts each of us alone at the table with powerful the big companies. When we ask for higher pay, time off, benefits or better working conditions they can set us against each other by saying, “we’ll just find someone else to do your job.” Big companies seeking to lower or eliminate worker costs (you) and pocket the savings on one side of the table with regular individuals on the other side of the table is a one-sided negotiation. The result is an increasingly one-sided economy, with the benefits of the economy going overwhelmingly to those who control these powerful companies.

    The negotiating table is out of balance and the result is this terrible economic downturn.
    There is another approach. We can create win-win solutions that work for companies and for each of us as individuals. This will happen when there is balance between those at the table negotiating shares in the benefits of our economy. To achieve this we need to strengthen the unions. We know this because there was a period in our history when we had a few strong unions which brought a better balance of power at the negotiating table. This balance didn’t just help union members, it created the middle class.

    Unions are the very essence of “we’re all in this together”. People banded together and refused to work unless conditions improved. This unity gave them the power to ask for better wages, benefits, time off, sick pay, health care, pensions and other benefits that we all came to expect and enjoy. The resulting balance of power forced both sides to look for balanced, win-win approaches. It created an economy with a stable workforce that could afford to purchase consumer goods, so companies prospered as well.

    But in recent decades the unions have been weakened. The companies have created a stacked deck, forcing unions away from the bargaining table. With only the big companies at the table, of course the outcome reflects their short-term interests. Job security is non-existent. Raises are rare. Benefits are cut. Pensions and health insurance are ever harder to find.

    The fact is, when unions are weakened the interests of all workers, unionized or not, are not represented.

    The current state of the economy demonstrates how the conservative “you’re on your own” approach has failed us. Our economy is terribly out of balance because the negotiating table has been out of balance for so long.

    So it is time to restore balance. A progressive “we are in this together” approach can restore our economy. The Employee Free Choice Act, now before the Congress, is an example of the kind of progressive policy that would let workers join unions and again sit at the table without fear of being fired by their employers.

    When working people are once again represented at the bargaining table, the big companies will be forced to accept win-win solutions. The economy will be restored and can once again benefit all of us.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:19 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    June 11, 2009

    Holocaust Museum Shooting Demostrates Need for Employee Free Choice

    Security guards at the Holocaust Museum, members of the Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America, had tried to get protective vests from the company that employs them. The company didn't want to bother with this "cost" and wouldn't provide vests. Now one guard is dead.

    Employees need to be able to have a say in their workplace. The "security" company was concerned with profits. The employees were the ones concerned with security. The company won out.

    This is one more reason why we need the Employee Free Choice Act.

    From page 2 of Grief, Shock After 'Outstanding' Guard Loses His Life in the Line of Duty - washingtonpost.com,

    Faye said that during contract negotiations with Wackenhut two years ago, the union pressed for company-issued protective vests. Although Wackenhut seemed open to the idea, vests have not been issued, Faye said.

    "I hammered this in our negotiations two years ago because of how sensitive that museum is," he said. "Our guards needed more protection." He said that one of the guards at the museum was "verbally assaulted by one guy walking by, saying anti-Semitic remarks. For that reason, I made that the center of the negotiation."

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:41 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    April 16, 2009

    And That's How We Did It - Updated

    From the crew of the ship that fought off the pitates:

    "We’re American seamen. We’re union members. We stuck together and we did our jobs. And that’s how we did it."

    This is a better clip than was originally posted:

    AND the SEIU has set up a page about this. Go visit.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:28 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 9, 2009

    The Wall Street Way Of Doing Business


    Take Action: Don't let them get away with it

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    March 22, 2009

    Corporate Media -- NO Representatives Of Labor Allowed

    Media Matters - AP quotes "labor lawyer" who is really an anti-labor lawyer,

    Earlier, I noted that the Washington Post failed to quote a single labor representative in its Employee Free Choice article today, though it quoted three CEOs. Turns out the AP is even worse. This article doesn't quote any labor sources, though it does quote a Starbucks spokesperson, the vice president of the anti-labor National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a Whole Foods spokesperson, a Chamber of Commerce official, a representative of the anti-labor Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, and "Washington labor lawyer Jay Krupin."

    . . . Here's a 2000 restaurant industry newsletter that says Krupin "represents a range of restaurant and other foodservice companies dealing with unions" and quotes him calling unions a "cancer":

    Click through to follow links and read the rest...

    When was the last time you saw or heard someone in the corporate media talking about teh benefits of joining a union?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:08 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    March 19, 2009

    Stop Corporate Lobbying With Taxpayer Money

    This post originally appeared at the Commonweal Institute's Uncommon Denominator blog

    Why are recipients of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) – better known as the Banking Bailout – allowed to continue to lobby? Taxpayer dollars should not be used to influence our government. We, the People should be telling them what to do, not the other way around.

    TARP recipients spent $114 million on lobbying last year as the financial crisis emerged. In just the last quarter of the year eighteen bailout recipients spent $14.8 million to influence the government, as the TARP funds were distributed.

    The lobbying has paid off. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, “The companies' political activities have, in part, yielded them $295.2 billion from TARP, an extraordinary return of 258,449 percent.”

    TARP recipients are currently lobbying against compensation caps at companies receiving TARP, against increasing bank regulation – and even against increased oversight of the use of TARP funds in the TARP Reform and Accountability Act! They are also lobbying against the Arbitration Fairness Act, the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act, the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act and the Helping Families Save Their Homes in Bankruptcy Act, Credit Card Holders Bill of Rights and the Stop Unfair Practices in Credit Cards Act!

    But these companies are not just lobbying in favor of their own(ers) interests; they are lobbying against those of the rest of us. Recently it has come to light that Bank of America, Citigroup and other TARP recipients are organizing efforts to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act – federal legislation that would enable workers to organize unions, which results in increased income and benefits for working people, thereby enabling them to make their credit card and mortgage payments.

    Use of corporate funds to influence our government is a larger problem than just this current misuse of TARP. In fact, this BofA and other companies’ use of TARP funds to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act supports an argument that the current economic crisis is a result of corporate lobbying. A corporate-funded assault on government has resulted in de-legislation and deregulation, enriching a few at the expense of the rest of us, while eroding the foundations of our economy and our democracy. Now the public has been harvested in one scheme after another, plundered for every dollar as incomes stagnated, debt skyrocketed and savings fell. Consumption fell off the cliff as the work- and debt-load tapped out people’s ability to participate in the economy. The resulting crisis has led to taxpayer dollars propping them all up.

    And now millions of those taxpayer dollars are being used for … even more lobbying.

    Whether or not this collapse occurred as a direct result of lobbying and other influence buying, it was not a grassroots movement that led to repealing the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, allowing financial giants to trade mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations. It was not citizens holding politicians’ feet to the fire that killed the Financial Services Antifraud Network Act. At the same time the lobbying-bought deregulation and suspension of oversight allowed these companies to sell trillions in credit default swaps without the necessary reserves to cover the potential downside. And here we are.

    Companies understand lobbying as a way to profit, not to advance policies that serve all of us. A 2006 New York Times article discusses how Google felt it had “no choice but to get into the arena” to start “spreading its lobbying dollars” around to politicians and quotes a Google lobbyist saying the “policy process is an extension of the market battlefield.” According to the Washington Post, a lobbyist explosion occurred in the last decade, doubling to 34,750 between 2000 and 2005, the result of “wide acceptance among corporations that they need to hire professional lobbyists to secure their share of federal benefits.”

    This lobbying does not bring We, the People any benefit, it only boosts the financial interests of certain individuals. This is not competition to improve a product or service or the efficiency of the company. It is paying off politicians to gain unfair competitive advantage or to receive subsidies or tax breaks.

    Clearly it is time to demand that TARP recipients stop using corporate funds for anything other than operating their companies, and get their noses out of our business.

    Lobbyists say they serve a necessary function, providing information to legislators. But corporations can’t have it both ways. If lobbying is purely informational and not intended to sway favor for particular corporations, then the funds are not being used to generate profit for the shareholders and the use of funds and resources is theft from the company. But if the lobbying is intended to tilt the playing field and gain benefits for a company over others it is really just bribery, an affront to our democracy and laws, corrupting our system. If the use of corporate funds to lobby is for the financial gain of a few executives, this is also theft from the company by those few for their personal gain.

    We should immediately prohibit companies from engaging in lobbying while accepting taxpayer dollars. Restricting lobbying by TARP recipients would be a bipartisan solution, as Republican lawmakers have called for exactly this approach in the past. The 1981 Heritage Foundation Mandate for Leadership called for a ban on lobbying by recipients of federal funds, as did the 1995 Republican “Istook Amendment.”

    And it is time to open a discussion about whether any corporate funds – whether the company is a recipient of TARP funding or not – should be used to influence our government. We should be telling them what to do, not the other way around.

    Click through to the Commonweal Institute's Uncommon Denominator blog

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:29 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    March 15, 2009

    SEIU Workers On Why They Want A Union

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:39 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    March 3, 2009

    Workers Getting Raises and Benefits - The Horror, The HORROR!

    Oh please watch this:

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:12 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    February 26, 2009

    Unions

    I asked a friend if she thought people would join a union where she works. She said "I think everyone would be too scared." But a recent survey found that 60% of all workers would choose to join a union if they could.

    The Employee Free Choice Act is coming to the Congress one of these days. Keep that name in mind for when it comes up. This law would protect workers from being fired for talking about unions, and would allow workers to organize without the boss finding out using a method called "card check." Once a majority of workers in a company or at a location sign up for a union, the union is recognized as the bargaining agent and laws protecting organized workers take effect.

    The current methods of organizing a union, where the workers have a day when they all vote in a secret ballot,will also still be available. The Employee Free Choice Act, though, lets them choose to have card check instead. The problem with the current method is that it happens entirely on management's terms, often delayed and delayed, and with the manager calling workers into the office one at a time to "explain" what will happen to the worker if a union comes in.

    It would be nice if our economic system didn't have the kind of outcomes that make unions so necessary. But they are.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    January 21, 2009

    A Sneak Attack On Unions

    I received a press release today. It has a secret attack on the freedom of people to join unions in it. There is really big money behind the attack on unions, and they are using trickery and deception. The press release I received is part of that effort. This press release appears to be from an organization concerned about democracy, but it is really from a lobbying organization funded by big business.

    The trickery is in a few words of the last paragraph of the ballot initiative below, where they say "or authorizations of employee representation." Read it carefully, and then you will see that this is what it is really all about. It is all about efforts to turn people against the Employee Free Choice Act by claiming it "eliminates the secret ballot." It doesn't do that, but this is a step in the battle.

    So these lobbyists are going to launch well-funded drives to amend the constitutions of several states to require secret ballots in "or authorizations of employee representation." Of course, the upcoming Employee Free Choice Act allows workers to decide whether to form unions using secret ballots or just by having more then 50% of the workers join a union. The fight over these initiatives will stir up the pot, and make it appear that there is something sinister about this effort to let people join unions.

    Here is the press release, see for yourself:

    National Movement to Protect Secret Ballots in State Constitutions: Save Our Secret Ballot Launches in GA, OK, SC, SD and ND

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With Congress poised to act to end the secret ballot rights of employees choosing representation, a national movement to protect the secret ballot in state constitutions launched today in Washington DC and in five states. Entitled SOS Ballot - Save Our Secret Ballot - the new group announced its efforts to place before voters a secret ballot constitutional amendment in Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and North Dakota, with the expectation that additional states will be announced in the coming weeks.

    SOS Ballot National Advisory Board Chairman and former Congressman Ernest Istook said, "Most of us assume voting by secret ballot in America is a constitutional right that has always existed and always will. But neither is the case. With America's right to a secret ballot under serious threat, I'm proud to be part of a citizens' movement to give voters the opportunity to vote by secret ballot, to amend state constitutions to guarantee the right of a secret ballot. We know some in Congress and some from big labor will fight this effort or even arrogantly say the people do not have a right to vote to protect their secret ballot. But rather than deter us, we take this as the proof that we must work diligently in every state to protect and re-affirm our secret ballot rights. The more vocal the opposition, the more every voter will see why we must act immediately, lest we lose the secret ballot and return to the time when voter intimidation and even physical harm were common place."

    The initiative language was written by noted attorney and constitutional scholar Clint Bolick, director of the Goldwater Institute's Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation. The Goldwater Institute has pledged its efforts for legal defense of the language if challenged. The 47-word amendment says:

    "The right of individuals to vote by secret ballot is fundamental. Where state or federal law requires elections for public office or public votes on initiatives or referenda, or designations or authorizations of employee representation, the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot shall be guaranteed."

    [...]

    Secret Ballot History

    The secret ballot was used locally as an act of post-Civil war southern reconstruction, first as a way to impose a literacy requirement on newly freed slaves. But the secret ballot also protected mostly black voters who faced physical intimidation, even lynching depending on how their vote was cast. Secret ballots were first used statewide in the Massachusetts governor's race 1888 and nationally in 1892 to elect President Grover Cleveland.

    Source: SOS Ballot

    Web Site: http://www.sosballot.org/

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:08 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    January 9, 2009

    Real Unemployment

    Today the official unemployment rate jumped to 7.2%. But the real story is likely worse than this number. There are other ways to measure unemployment, including looking at the number of people who are working part-time but want to be working full-time. There are 8 million of these. The official number is about people who are "looking" for work but there are also the "discouraged" workers, people who have largely given up looking. they are not included. And to top it off the official unemployment rate has been changed over the years, always in ways that make this 7.2% number lower than the official number would be if measured in ways it was measured decades ago.

    Another number that can be used is "U-6" which measures total unemployed. The official description is:

    Total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.
    U-6 is currently 13.5%

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:23 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    Jobs Lost

    Jobless rate at 16-year high as payrolls plunge

    In December, U.S. employers cut payrolls by 524,000, somewhat less than analysts' prediction for a 550,000 reduction in jobs. Total job losses for 2008 were 2.6 million, the largest decline since a 2.75 million drop in 1945.

    But it's even worse that what you thought, because,
    November's job losses were revised to show a cut of 584,000, previously reported as a 533,000 loss, while October's losses were revised to 423,000 from a decline of 320,000.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:58 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

    January 8, 2009

    Public Supports Issues In Employee Free Choice

    A new poll released today shows that the public strongly supports the Employee Free Choice Act if it is explained honestly. This is the reason that corporate groups are spreading disinformation about the act.

    As I wrote the other day, the Employee Free Choice Act does not "eliminate the secret ballot." That is a lie that is used to trick people about this bill.

    AFL-CIO NOW BLOG | Survey: Public Strongly Supports Employee Free Choice,

    A new survey released today shows 78 percent of those polled want to see legislation that protects workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life—great news and a strong signal to Congress and President-elect Barack Obama that we need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

    The survey of 1,007 adults across the country, conducted Dec. 4-10 for the AFL-CIO by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, shows a striking level of support for the provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act and the freedom to form unions. This support crosses party and state lines, with 74 percent of those who identify as moderate or liberal Republicans in favor; conservative Republicans were the only group not expressing majority support. Support remains steady, even when those surveyed heard messages from both supporters and opponents of the bill.

    Here are some key findings:

    * 75 percent of those surveyed support recognizing a union when a majority of workers have signed up in support.
    * 64 percent support strengthening penalties against companies who illegally intimidate or fire workers who are trying to form a union.
    * 61 percent favor binding arbitration if a company will not agree to a first contract. (This provision had the highest number of respondents who weren’t sure how they felt about it.)

    There is more at the link.


    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:25 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    January 5, 2009

    Employee Free Choice Act

    The Employee Free Choice Act revises labor law to make it easier for working people to organize unions. Currently it is extremely difficult to start a union. Organizers are fired and workers are threatened and intimidated. The Employee Free choice Act changes some rules, so that workers themselves can make decisions about unionizing.

    Something you should know about the Employee Free Choice Act: The main talking point from the corporations is that it "eliminates the secret ballot." This is a flat-out lie and people need to know the facts. The Employee Free Choice Act allows workers to choose whether to a have secret-ballot vote or a "card check." A card check is when a majority of the workers have signed cards saying that they want a union.

    The Employee Free choice Act adds the ability to start a union using "card check." It does not "eliminate the secret ballot." Period.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:29 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 16, 2008

    Pat Buchanan On Auto Company Loan

    I'm going to give credit where credit is due. Pat Buchanan has written a column on the auto industry and American manufacturing and jobs that everyone should read. So I am linking to it, and even linking to the repugnant Human Events site where it appears.

    Please read The Toyota Republicans. Excerpt:

    What are Republicans thinking of, pulling the plug, at Christmas, on GM, risking swift death for the greatest manufacturing company in American history, a strategic asset and pillar of the U.S. economy.

    The $14 billion loan to the Big Three that Republican senators filibustered to death is just 2 percent of the $700 billion the Senate voted to bail out Wall Street. Having gone along with bailouts of Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie, Freddie and CitiGroup, why refuse a reprieve to an industry upon which millions of the best blue-collar jobs in America depend?

    . . . Is the Republican Party so fanatic in its ideology that, rather than sin against a commandment of Milton Friedman, it is willing to see America written forever out of this fantastic market, let millions of jobs vanish and write off the industrial Midwest?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:35 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 14, 2008

    Republican Opposition To Unions

    A quick thought about Republican opposition to unions. I keep reading that Republicans are "ideologically" opposed to unions.

    Republicans are opposed to unions because they are paid to oppose unions. Is this really "ideology?"

    If they oppose unions because they believe America should be ruled by a few wealthy people, and that democracy is a bad thing, that is an ideology. In my opinion, if they oppose unions because those wealthy people pay them to work to destroy people's ability to fight corporate power, that isn't ideology, that's opportunism.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:42 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    December 9, 2008

    Auto Company Competitiveness Problem

    The big cost problem with the American car companies is that Japan, Germany and other countries provide health insurance and good pensions, while the United States does not. This means that the American auto companies have to try to compete while providing these benefits to their workers against companies that do not provide those benefits.

    Republicans say that the cure is for companies to stop providing these benefits. And the way to get that is to break the unions. That is their beef with the auto loan discussion. They want to break unions across the board, and stop companies from providing any benefits. (Remember that McCain's health care plan was to stop companies from providing health care benefits.)

    So, who is our economy for? And are we going to continue to make things in this country?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:06 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    December 5, 2008

    Deep Thought

    Contractors don't get unemployment pay. A significant portion of the workforce has been called contractors instead of employees in the last several years, allowing the corps to get out of responsibilities they would have if the same people were called employees.

    This is going to have an effect on efforts to revitalize the economy. For example, extending unemployment benefits won't help them.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:27 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 4, 2008

    Auto Company Collapse

    I realized today that a collapse of any American auto companies also means a loss of tens of thousands of jobs in Mexico, further increasing migration pressures.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:01 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Laid Off Contractors Don't Get Unemployment

    Before reading this, realize that people who are called contractors instead of employees -- the first to get laid off as things get worse -- do not get unemployment benefits so they don't file claims for unemployment benefits. Jobless rolls at 26-year peak, factory orders drop

    While first-time claims for benefits unexpectedly fell last week to 509,000 from 530,000, a four-week moving average of new claims, a better gauge of underlying labor trends, rose to 524,500, also a 26-year high.
    The economy has shifted much more towards contractors, who do not get unemployment benefits. So this number of new claims understates the problem and does so much more than in previous recessions.

    Also, the lack of benefits for contractors, including unemployment, means this recession will hit much harder on those unemployed than on previous unemployed. Extending unemployment benefits for 13 or 26 weeks will make no difference. What we need to do is ban this contracting scam and call an employee an employee.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:09 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 25, 2008

    How Much Do Auto Workers Make?

    Go read The media myth: Detroit's $70-an-hour autoworker.

    Auto workers make $28 an hour on average. No auto assembly-line worker makes $70 an hour, even if the media repeats that figure over and over. The $70 figure includes the "labor costs" of health care and pensions for retired and injured workers and the cost of management for that worker/hour, as if it was added to the number of labor hours that goes into a car today.

    Yes, GM and the others have a high cost to cover the benefits to their workers. That was the point of our laws that set up corporations -- to benefit US. Japanese and German and other car companies have many of these costs paid by the government. They did it with taxes and had the government provide the benefits, we tried to do it throught the corporations themselves, and our model hasn't worked.

    The point is that we need health care reform and decent pensions for all Americans, through We, the People -- the government. It certainly doesn't mean that we should just get rid of the last major manufacturers we have. Sheesh.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:40 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 12, 2008

    Republican Opposition To Auto Bailout

    I've been wondering why the Republicans are opposing any bailout of auto companies even as they add American Express to the list of companies getting taxpayer bailouts.

    I think they are planning on using the financial crisis as an opportunity to get rid of unions. They are saying that the auto companies will have to get rid of "excessive labor costs" and "legacy costs" before they "deserve" a bailout. "Excessive labor costs" in this use means paying union members a decent wage, and legacy costs means paying the promised health care and pensions of retired auto workers.

    P.S. This is why they are insisting the auto companies go into bankruptcy, when they didn't insist on this of financial firms that they bailed out.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 27, 2008

    Two New Employee Free Choice Act Videos

    Here are two new videos about the Employee Free Choice Act. I'm helping SEIU get these videos about they're doing at the convention out on the blogs. They just did these two on EFCA, have a look

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:00 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    August 4, 2008

    Labor in California

    Here is a video from the California Labor Federation: California Labor- We Did, We Can and We WILL:

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    July 29, 2008

    Sisters of St. Joseph and Hospital Workers

    This post oroginally appeared at Speak Out California.

    So many of us have a hard time living up to our own values. Here is a story of one example.

    The Sisters of St. Joseph have a proud history of fighting for human rights and human dignity and improvement of conditions for working people. But like so many progressives -- and people in general -- the Sisters of St. Joseph appear to be having trouble living up to these values when they apply to themselves.

    A few days ago Julia Rosen wrote a Calitics post titled, Sisters of St. Josephs it's time to make peace with your workers. I urge readers here to go read that post. Julia writes,

    It is a dirty little secret, but often times the more virulently anti-union employers are religious orders that run health systems. Such is the situation with the Sisters of St. Joseph who run the St. Joseph Health System. They have been resisting the efforts of their service employees to join SEIU-UHW for the past three years.
    And at Huffington Post Delores Huertes has a post titled, Together We Marched in Solidarity. I also urge readers to click through and read it. She begins,

    This week I'm joining St. Joseph Health System workers, Attorney General Jerry Brown, Father Eugene Boyle, actor Ed Begley Jr, and community and religious leaders to call upon the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange to make peace with their workers.
    next she makes the important point,
    For decades, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange have fought for justice for California's workers. In the summer of 1973, they marched in solidarity with Cesar Chavez and farm workers during the brutal Grape Strike. I witnessed the Sisters putting their personal safety at risk. They walked picket lines and even went to jail with more than 3500 striking farm workers. I was inspired by the Sisters' commitment to stand with the farm workers, even in the face of violent provocation.
    Yes, it appears that the Sisters of St. Joseph are ready to stand by workers, walk pickets lines, and fight for the rights of workers. But this time they are holding back when it involves their own workers. Huertes continues,
    Over the last three years, workers in the St. Joseph Health System (SJHS) who care for the sick and vulnerable in our community, have been working to form a union with S.E.I.U. -- United Healthcare Workers West (UHW) so they can have a real say in the decisions that affect their patients, their families and themselves.

    But the Sisters, who founded and hold majority control of the Board of SJHS, a $3.5 billion system of hospitals and clinics, sadly are using heavy-handed tactics similar to those used by other major corporations to deny workers a free choice about whether to form a union. SJHS workers have told me directly, that the SJHS management is fighting their efforts and violating federal labor law by threatening union supporters with arrest and job loss - and denying them free speech. Public records show that SJHS has hired some of the most notorious union-busting firms to fight their employees. Meanwhile, government officials have cited SJHS for violating its employees' basic labor rights, including illegally firing, spying on, and intimidating workers who want to form a union. These heavy-handed tactics leave workers feeling threatened, intimidated and disregarded.

    While looking into this I came across a December, 2007 article at the Catholic News Agency, Catholic health workers’ effort to unionize could crowd out Catholics. Please read to article to learn about the subtexts of this unionization battle. From the story,

    A political activist in Sacramento [. . .] said the UHW takeover would be a “done deal” if the employees’ demand for a fair election agreement were met.
    If you read the story it is clear that the activist mentioned is very much against unionization and supports the Sisters' efforts to keep the workers from having a unionization vote. But if allowing a vote for a union means that a union is "a done deal" then it means the workers want a union.

    Any way you look at it, it is a shame that the Sisters are trying to keep their workers from voting on whether to have a union. The Sisters need to understand that they are role models for their community. They were positive role models standing up for their values when they supported the farmworkers. They can again be positive role models by showing that even when it affects their own interests they are willing to stand by their values and support worker rights and human rights.

    It is time that the Sisters of Saint Joseph allow their workers to vote on whether they want a union.

    Click through to Speak Out California.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    July 18, 2008

    Atria, Lazard, I'm On Randi Rhodes Today at 2pm Pacific

    I think I will be on the Randi Rhodes show today to talk about senior care. If I am on here is what I am going to say.

    I have been working with The Campaign to Improve Assisted Living which is a project of SEIU Healthcare, the nation's largest union of healthcare workers.

    Atria Senior Living is a chain put together by the "Bermuda-based" (HA!) Wall Street "buyout firm" Lazard. Atria is owned by a "Lazard-affiliate" which means they have set up a number of companies that are supposedly separate but really are part of Lazard, but it is difficult to learn who owns what. Atria is controlled by Lazard Real Estate Partners and their parent company, Lazard Alternative Investments.

    At the top of the Lazard food chain is Bruce Wasserstein, chairman and chief executive officer of Lazard, Ltd. and Lazard Group. Wasserstein and his family own a significant share of LAI and Wasserstein has veto power over many of LAI’s major corporate decisions. He received $41 million just last year, and has signed a 5-year pay package worth another $100 million. This even as Lazard's stock drops.

    The reason Lazard put together Atria was that the Boomers are aging, so care for the elderly was seen as a "next big thing" type of investment to get into. Over time more and more retirement and care facilities will be needed. Lazard gathered a number of large investors, and promises a revenue stream. So the investors are the customer -- the seniors and their remaining savings and incomes are the PRODUCT.

    To make money a firm like Lazard cuts costs. That is called "efficiency." But what it means is that the services for the elderly are reduced. And it means that the employees are squeezed. They are paid $8-10 an hour. They can't afford health insurance. And they cut back the staff, which means the employees are stretched and the seniors are receiving less in the way of care and services. As a result Atria has been cited thousands of times across the country for care problems (the resident gets someone else's medicine, etc.). Partly this is because it's the wild west out there for assisted living. Everything is different state by state, there's very little regulation, etc. but the main problem is this unaccountable ownership structure -- which results in enabling Lazard and Wasserstein to see the seniors in Atria as nothing more than economic units -- a product they serve up to the investors.

    If Atria stops fighting unionization then the staff will be increased and the workers can make improvements for themselves and for the residents. Unions can really help improve care. Hospital and nursing home workers have negotiated improvements to staffing levels, training programs so they can give the best care, and of course raising pay and benefits helps a lot with reducing turnover among the lowest paid caregivers--lower turnover means better care, more qualified and experienced staff, etc.

    Please go visit The Campaign to Improve Assisted Living!

    This post was sponsored in part by The Campaign To Improve Assisted Living.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    July 17, 2008

    Back To The Vulnerable Elderly

    Atria Senior Living and Lazard -- I've been writing about bigger-picture issues but today I'd like to go back where this started, to the most vulnerable people - the elderly. The residents at the Atria Senior Living facilities are the direct victims of a big company buying up a number of senior living chains, combining them into one big chain and then financializing this as an investment, because everyone knows that the Boomers are getting old so this is a great way to get in on the ground floor of a growing business.

    But viewing elderly people as a business and good investment is the wrong way to approach this. It's backwards. It should be, let's take care of elderly people, and do a good job, and provide a good service, and be fairly compensated for our efforts. That is how a business should be run. The goal is doing a great job with the product or service provided, not makingthe quick buck by cutting back services and squeezing employees. This si the new American way of looking at business, but it is just wrong.

    Starting this series, I wrote,

    To set the stage, think about yourself getting old, or about your parents or grandparents. Think about reaching a point where you just can't quite get by living on your own at home anymore. So at some point you decide you have to move into a senior facility. What about if you need assisted-living facilities -- a place with people to help you take a shower and things like that. And finally, think about when you might need "memory care." (This is a the name for a special facility for people with Alzheimer's disease.)

    These are people who are in no condition to fight battles. Vulnerable is the word here. Extremely vulnerable. You would think people in this phase of their live are people who our society would give special care, special attention, special protections. You would think that our society would join together to take care of them, protect them, shelter them, fight for them.

    But not in today's America. You see, there is one more fact about these people: the people who move into a senior facility do so because they can afford to. These places are not cheap. In today's America the people without money are on their own without care, but if you have some money you have at least some value -- to a certain kind of company.

    OK, we have the perfect combination here. We have elderly, frail, sick, vulnerable, and they have some money. They are a captive audience, too, because people in this situation are not people who can pack up and move somewhere else. Senior care is a big business. You're talking about chains with hundreds of facilities each with dozens or even hundreds of living units you're talking REAL money. So in today's economy you're talking about a perfect target for exploitation. This week I am going to explore what it means to be vulnerable. But I think you can already guess where this is going.

    In Reverse Robin Hood: Stealing From The Poor To Give To The Rich : Boztopia.com, Martin notes,

    What’s happening at Atria–the gouging of seniors’ meager disposable income to ensure profit margins are met, even while services and benefits are cut and rents are increased dramatically–is an extreme, but all-too-real example of what’s happening all over the globe…the systematic transfer of wealth and the power to create wealth from the larger mass of the human community to a select class of uber-wealthy players at the top of the social scale. It’s worth looking at the issue in a larger context, if only to reiterate what I think most of us already know…that we’re being robbed, cheated, gouged, and nickel-and-dimed to death to make others rich.
    To change this, to bring America back to sound business practices, where you provide a good product or service, and then you are fairly compensated, will be a long effort. We have to get peoplo eback out of the quick buck mentality. We have to find ways to prevent the Bruce Wassersteins and the Lazards and the Atrias from gaming the system to their own advantage. (Like how Lazard claims to be a "Bermuda-based" company when they are not.)

    Atria could increase its services to the residents, and pay fair wages and benefits to their workers instead of making the seniors into a product they package up for their investors. Lazard could ask its investors to expect a fair return on their investment instead of hoping to cash in big on the next big trend. But then, this would be a very different country for that to happen.

    This post was sponsored in part by The Campaign To Improve Assisted Living.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    July 16, 2008

    Why Do We Allow This System?

    I have been writing about the Campaign to Improve Assisted Living -- please visit their website.

    I'd like to talk about the larger picture. The other day I asked Who Is the Corporation

    So here is the thing. When you talk about a corporation doing something, who are you talking about? In reality you are talking about a few PEOPLE, not some anonymous corporation, PEOPLE. And when you talk about the people of a corporation you are not talking about Bob in Sales or Mary in Accounts Receivable. They are not the people who make decisions -- they aren't even asked. They are told from the top how it is going to be. When you talj about a corporation doing or saying something you are really talking about A FEW PEOPLE and the things these people do and say are not for "the company" they are necessarily for THEMSELVES. Corporations do not have voices or thoughts or ideas, a few people who have control of the resources of the corporation do, and always, always act for their OWN gain.
    Today let's take a look at Why?

    Here we have a country that allows vulnerable elderly people to be treated as a product to be harvested and workers to be treated as economic units or annoying costs to be replaced if they are not efficient enough. The average worker faces longer working hours for less pay and fewer benefits each year.

    How did we get here? When did we decide to have a system like this? Did we ever decide?

    Who benefits from this system? In the case of Atria Senior Living Bruce Wasserstein benefits. Other executives at Atria and Lazard benefit. Does anyone else? Why do we allow it?

    We used to have kings and feudal lords who "owned" almost everything and told everyone else what to do. People rose up, battles were fought and eventually a compromise was reached. England still has a Queen!

    In America workers faced brutal conditions because a few powerful wealthy people controlled the economy and the mines and the mills and the factories. Over time unions formed and fought this and a compromise of sorts was eventually reached. And over time those unions have been eroded and things have been slipping backwards. That is a gross simplification, but here we are.

    When do We, the People start to decide what kind of economy we want? In Europe and much of the rest of the world people get five weeks vacation, health care, child care, and rights. That is because the people there understand that they are in an ongoing fight between the people and the powerful, and they still have strong unions. In America a very few get fabulously wealthy, supported by the work the rest of us -- here and in the outsourcing countries -- do.

    When will We, the People decide that WE want a better system for US? I suggest taking a look at the SEUI's Accountability Project. This campaign is intended to help all of us, not just their own membership. It's a start. But in your own actions and thoughts, start demanding more. Start demanding that the few ultra-wealthy and the corporations butt out of our system. We are We, the People and We are supposed to be in charge here.

    This post was sponsored in part by The Campaign To Improve Assisted Living.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    July 15, 2008

    How You Can Help Atria Residents and Workers

    Last week in Gouging Vulnerable Seniors -- What Can Be Done? I wrote about two big pension funds that have invested in the "Lazard affiliate" that owns Atria Senior Living, and suggested they ask Lazard to clear up their act. (If you are not familiar with what is happening with Atria, please click this.) One of these funds is in Quebec, the other in the Netherlands. These funds have signed on to the United Nation's Principles for Responsible Investment (UN-PRI) and these principles call for investors to take action when their investments are causing harm.

    PGGM is a large pension fund in the Netherlands that serves that country's public social workers and health care workers.

    La Caisse de Depot et Placements du Quebec ("CDP") -- a large public pension fund in Quebec.

    These are prominent, large funds with good reputations on a global stage. They are responsible investors and take it seriously enough to be signatories to the UN-PRI. The Principles' FAQs say "The Principles suggest a policy of engagement with companies rather than screening or avoiding stocks based on ESG criteria (although this may be an appropriate approach for some investors)." I am writing here to encourage PGGM and CDP to ask Lazard to clean up their act, and have Atria treat their elderly residents and their workers better. Ask them to support the International Labor Organization's core conventions, especially Freedom of Association: "The right of workers and employers to form and join organizations of their choice is an integral part of a free and open society. It is a basic civil liberty that serves as a building block for social and economic progress. Linked to this is the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining. Voice and representation are an important part of decent work."

    So OK, that's what THEY can do. What about you?

    Do you have a pension fund? Maybe you have friends or relatives with pension funds? There are steps you can take.

    YOU will retire some day. You will get old. So you should take this personally. Do you want to have a national corporate environment that means you will retire into a place like this? Or do you want to fight the system that accepts this kind of thing? Because it can happen to YOU.

    Here is a partial list of the investors in the Lazard-Atria fund:

    Public employee pension funds in the U.S.:
    Virginia state pension fund
    Wisconsin state pension fund
    Colorado state pension fund
    Utah state pension fund
    New York state pension fund
    IIlinois state pension fund
    Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund

    European / Canadian public funds:
    La Caisse de Depot (Quebec fund)
    PGGM (Netherlands public / healthcare workers fund)

    Corporate funds:
    General Motors Asset Management
    Lucent Asset Management
    AT&T Investment Management
    IBM

    Other investors:
    Lazard Group
    Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC)
    Institutional Property Consultants
    Southern Company

    If you have money in one of these, this is not just some union dispute -- it is your money.

    Are these funds doing their job on holding Lazard responsible? Are they responsible with their other investments? What about other places where you have money?

    There is a way for them to start being responsible, and that is to join the UN-PRI commitment to responsible investing, and start fighting to create an economy that cares about people.

    This isn't just about Atria and Lazard. This is about a national climate where people are human beings who are respected, not just economic units to be squeezed. You have the power to make noise and demand that people be treated with respect.


    This post was sponsored in part by The Campaign To Improve Assisted Living.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    July 14, 2008

    Who Is the Corporation?

    I have been writing about Atria Senior Living, owned by a "Lazard-affiliate." Atria is big a chain of facilities where elderly people live. It offers assisted living care and "memory care"(which means Alzheimer's care facilities). Lazard is a big "Bermuda-based" (HA!) Wall Street "buyout firm."

    Here's the deal. Big Wall Street firm Lazard buys a few senior-care facility chains and combines them into Atria. The "boomers" are aging and will need care so this is the Next Big Thing investment. Pension funds and others hand over to Lazard millions for this "investment," expecting Lazard to provide a rich return. This means the seniors (well, their incomes, actually) are the PRODUCT, not the customer here. The seniors are an annoyance, inefficient, demanding, in the way of maximizing revenue. Employees are even worse, of course, because they expect to get paid, and want to go home sometimes, and are generally in the way of the supreme goal of maximizing revenue.

    And to complicate things Lazard has set up an extremely convoluted system of corporations "affiliated with" other corporations, some based in Bermuda (HA!) and none particularly traceable to being the actual owners of Atria. No one can really find who ultimately can be held accountable for the hundreds of violations of regulations that Atria commits.

    So here is the thing. When you talk about a corporation doing something, who are you talking about? In reality you are talking about a few PEOPLE, not some anonymous corporation, PEOPLE. And when you talk about the people of a corporation you are not talking about Bob in Sales or Mary in Accounts Receivable. They are not the people who make decisions -- they aren't even asked. They are told from the top how it is going to be. When you talj about a corporation doing or saying something you are really talking about A FEW PEOPLE and the things these people do and say are not for "the company" they are necessarily for THEMSELVES. Corporations do not have voices or thoughts or ideas, a few people who have control of the resources of the corporation do, and always, always act for their OWN gain.

    So who are we talking about today? Bruce Wasserstein is the guy at the top of this particular corporate food chain, reeling in the BIG bucks, and the residents of Atria are working to hold him accountable.

    Saturday's New York Daily News had a story about this: Care-home grannies blast billionaire whose firm put their rents through roof

    . . . a sneaker-clad foursome of seniors - representing numerous residents they say are too scared to come forward - recently tried to confront the ultrawealthy investment banker at his Rockefeller Center office.

    . . . In a letter from the residents' board they tried to hand-deliver to Wasserstein, the women noted the stark disparity between his wealth and their fixed incomes.

    "While residents at Atria struggle to manage rate increases ... the compensation packages for those at Lazard are in the millions."

    Wasserstein lives in a duplex that combines the 10th and 11th stories of a posh Fifth Ave. building on the upper East Side. He also owns a Paris pied-à-terre, a sprawling East Hampton estate next door to Jerry Seinfeld and a Santa Barbara, Calif., spread worth $8.3million.

    Lazard's board paid Wasserstein, who is worth at least $2 billion, more than $41million in salary and bonuses last year.

    Atria is owned by a fund controlled by Lazard, although Lazard claims Wasserstein has no control over Atria's operations.

    "Lazard" claims that Lazard has no control over Atria, which is owned and operated by Lazard. Meanwhile those elderly people are squeezed by writing ever-greater checks, and the employees have to get squeezed and squeezed. Everyone is squeezed, Wasserstein gets ever-richer, and NO ONE can be held accountable.

    Nice system we got going here, huh? Works for Wasserstein. But not for the rest of us.

    This post was sponsored in part by The Campaign To Improve Assisted Living.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    July 11, 2008

    Atria Lazard Wasserstein Friday Recap

    So far this week, in the unfolding story of Atria Senior Living, Bermuda-based (HA!) buyout firm Lazard and the really, really rich guy at the top of the food chain Bruce Wasserstein:

    Part four: Gouging Vulnerable Seniors -- What Can Be Done?:

    The world recognizes that there is a problem with this kind of uninhibited greed. Many people and organizations recognize that such a system is not sustainable, harms the people who work for the companies, the communities around them, the customers and the economies in which they operate. Sure, a few executives make out like bandits for a while, but over time it doesn't do the rest of us any good, not even their companies.

    [. . .] I am writing here to encourage PGGM and CDP (La Caisse de Depot et Placements du Quebec) to ask Lazard to clean up their act, and have Atria treat their elderly residents and their workers better. Ask them to support the International Labor Organization's core conventions, especially Freedom of Association: "The right of workers and employers to form and join organizations of their choice is an integral part of a free and open society. It is a basic civil liberty that serves as a building block for social and economic progress. Linked to this is the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining. Voice and representation are an important part of decent work." They work for YOU, you have responsible investment policies, and what Lazard is doing goes against these policies.


    Part three: Living and Working at Atria:
    We are people, not economic units, and there is a difference. This may be a difficult concept to grasp after three or four decades of constant corporate-funded "free market" propaganda. But people make decisions for higher reasons than just making or saving a buck or two. Most people, anyway.

    [. . .] But even though there are people who don't measure the value of their existence according to how well they feed the economic machine -- and their efficiency at generating profits for the wealthy -- this does not mean they do not deserve respect and fair compensation for their work. The caregivers at Atria, at every level, deserve to be treated with respect and compensated fairly for their work.

    But they're not. Of course.


    Part two: Extreme Wealth Just Isn't Enough:
    Wasserstein and Lazard just have to have more and more. Elderly people who can't take care of themselves and low-wage workers are weak and vulnerable. Does this mean that we as a community of people join together and protect them? No, this makes them an easy target in today's America, so Wasserstein and Lazard have stepped in to harvest this vulnerability. They just have to have more. Already extremely wealthy, they just have to have more.


    Part one: When Seniors Are the Product:
    Here is what is going on: Atria has been reducing services, raising rates, cutting wages, and generally treating the residents and employees like money trees that exist to be squeezed...

    [. . .] Who is Lazard’s customer, in this situation? According to the front page of Lazard's website Lazard "provides advice on mergers and acquisitions, restructuring and capital raising, as well as asset management services, to corporations, partnerships, institutions, governments and individuals." Lazard's customer is people and companies with a ton of money. They hand the money to Lazard and expect a good return.

    The seniors under Atria's care are Lazard's product, not their customer! In today's America the vulnerable, elderly, sick and captive are a product to be exploited.


    Yesterday there was an action at Lazard's headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York. (No that is not New York, Bermuda, even though Lazard is somehow allowed to call itself a "bermuda" company (HA!)) Martin at Boztopia writes about it and has pictures:
    Yesterday members of SEIU’s Campaign To Improve Assisted Living teamed up with Atria workers and residents for a “rolling premiere” of Brave New Films’ video, “Gouging Grandma: Billionaire Bruce Wasserstein,” which documents how the CEO of investment house Lazard used an affiliated real-estate fund with Atria as its primary asset to walk away with billions in salary and bonuses, even as the workers toil away for $8-10 an hour, the residents endure increasing neglect, and the shareholders of the fund watch their investment reenact the Titanic’s maiden voyage.

    The activist group stood outside Lazard’s headquarters at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, handing out free candy while wearing miniature flat-screen televisions displaying the “Gouging Grandma” video. (It’s more eye-catching than your typical sidewalk solicitation, that’s for certain.) From there the group went on to Lazard’s swanky residence at 927 Fifth Avenue, one of the most upscale apartment buildings in the city, to show passersby how Wasserstein makes money.

    This has been an interesting week. I have learned a lot. I hope that you have as well. This series continues next week.

    This post was sponsored in part by The Campaign To Improve Assisted Living.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    July 9, 2008

    Gouging Vulnerable Seniors -- What Can Be Done?

    This is part four of an unfolding series on the Atria Senior Living chain of senior living facilities, and how they treat their residents and workers. So far:
    Part three: Living and Working at Atria
    Part two: Extreme Wealth Just Isn't Enough
    Part one: When Seniors Are the Product

    I have been writing this week about the Atria Senior Living facilities, which are owned by a Lazard-"affiliated" fund. The elderly people who live in these corporate-owned and managed facilities are treated as a product, neatly packaged up and flowing to the investors. Services for them are costs that must be reduced and reduced, while the rates increase and increase. Employees are an irritating necessity, not human beings to be fairly compensated and treated with respect.

    And, of course, at the top of the Lazard-corporate food chain are executives like Bruce Wasserstein, living large. Really large.

    What can be done about this?

    The world recognizes that there is a problem with this kind of uninhibited greed. Many people and organizations recognize that such a system is not sustainable, harms the people who work for the companies, the communities around them, the customers and the economies in which they operate. Sure, a few executives make out like bandits for a while, but over time it doesn't do the rest of us any good, not even their companies. (Lazard and the Lazard fund that owns Atria, for example, have not been performing all that well. Meanwhile Wasserstein personally took home $42 million last year - even as Lazard stock lost 14%.)

    Many recognize the problem, but how do you do something about problems like this?

    In response to the problem the United Nations invited a group of institutional investors to develop a set of "Principles for Responsible Investment." This led to the UN's Principles for Responsible Investment investor initiative which publishes these Principles and asks responsible institutional investors to sign a commitment to follow them. From the UN-PRI About page:

    There is a growing view among investment professionals that environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues can affect the performance of investment portfolios. Investors fulfilling their fiduciary (or equivalent) duty therefore need to give appropriate consideration to these issues, but to date have lacked a framework for doing so. The Principles for Responsible Investment provide this framework.

    The Principles are voluntary and aspirational. They are not prescriptive, but instead provide a menu of possible actions for incorporating ESG issues into mainstream investment decision-making and ownership practices.

    Well, at least two of the institutional investment groups that have signed these Principles are investors in the Lazard fund controlling Atria. They are responsible investors who have signed these commitments, and they are in a position to act on that commitment now.

    PGGM is a large pension fund in the Netherlands that serves that country's public social workers and health care workers.

    La Caisse de Depot et Placements du Quebec ("CDP") -- a large public pension fund in Quebec.

    These are prominent, large funds with good reputations on a global stage. They are responsible investors and take it seriously enough to be signatories to the UN-PRI. The Principles' FAQs say "The Principles suggest a policy of engagement with companies rather than screening or avoiding stocks based on ESG criteria (although this may be an appropriate approach for some investors)." I am writing here to encourage PGGM and CDP to ask Lazard to clean up their act, and have Atria treat their elderly residents and their workers better. Ask them to support the International Labor Organization's core conventions, especially Freedom of Association: "The right of workers and employers to form and join organizations of their choice is an integral part of a free and open society. It is a basic civil liberty that serves as a building block for social and economic progress. Linked to this is the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining. Voice and representation are an important part of decent work." They work for YOU, you have responsible investment policies, and what Lazard is doing goes against these policies.

    Now, how do we take on the larger problem of companies like Lazard and Atria? How do we take on the problem of companies squeezing and mistreating customers, exploiting and underpaying workers, and generally harming the communities around them? One way is to find out where you own money is -- your pensions funds if you are so lucky, and mutual funds you have if you are so lucky -- and encourage them to become signatories to the UN's Principles for Responsible Investment investor initiative. Another way is to support organized labor -- the only real voice and counterbalance we all have to fight against corporate power. Finally, just stay on top of this issue and be involved, because solutions are going to be proposed and discussed after the election.

    I'll be writing more tomorrow, and maybe about some other investors involved with Atria and Lazard.

    This post was sponsored in part by The Campaign To Improve Assisted Living.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    Living and Working at Atria

    Part three of our unfolding story is about living and working at Atria Senior Living.

    Go read Unassisted Living: Atria Residents, Families, and Workers Tell Their Stories -- Boztopia.com,

    “Not long after she became a resident, mom and I began to notice many problems with her level of care. They didn’t have enough staff to do even the one check that was part of her care plan. The short staffing was apparent in other areas. Crucial doctor’s appointments were cancelled without notice because there wasn’t a driver. Showers were not routine. Even after constant requests, too few staff were available to keep up with the requests.”
    We are people, not economic units, and there is a difference. This may be a difficult concept to grasp after three or four decades of constant corporate-funded "free market" propaganda. But people make decisions for higher reasons than just making or saving a buck or two. Most people, anyway.
    “My mother has been a resident at Atria Marina Place for almost two years. She pays $4,825 for a one bedroom apartment. Our contract with Atria is supposed to include assistance with daily care and monitoring of medications, but my mother is still paying an additional $400 for care and medication administration. In the two years my mother has been at Atria, there’s been a huge turnover in staff. I think only about five of the original aides are sill there from when mom moved in. It also seems like there is never enough staff to watch out for the residents—at night there are two aides in the entire building.”
    "Let the buyer beware" means that it is up to the purchaser of goods or services to take all precautions before handing over the money. But what happens when you are up against a giant company that utilizes the best marketing and sales that money can buy? If you are looking for a home for your elderly parents, and the comforting ads backed by the reputation of a national chain work to reassure you that everything is safe and your parents will be well cared for, how can you go wrong?

    But then you sign the lease, and GOTCHA! The level of service is not what was promised. The rates start increasing and increasing. The care is substandard, the management is distant -- you can't even find out who actually owns the place. But one thing is for sure, they want that check every month. And your parent or parents are elderly -- another move would be just devastating, and now you are afraid.

    “It’s time the state holds these facilities accountable. Before my mother moved in, Atria promised the best food and plenty of caregiving staff. We had high expectations, but I feel like we’ve been deceived every step of the way.”

    What about the employees?

    People who don't see themselves primarily as economic units can make decisions about jobs based on non-economic factors. Some people choose to be teachers, for example, because they want to help children learn and become better human beings. Others go into caring professions. Believe it or not, there are people who go into caring professions because they care about people.

    “I was told that I would have to start supervising the night nursing staff. I do not have any clinical background experience, I did not hire the staff that I was supposed to supervise, this would take my focus away from the successful program I’d developed to take care of the residents. In addition, I was working full time nine to five. But I was told that I should stop by unannounced at any hour during the overnight shift to see how the night nursing staff was doing. I feel this was the result of Atria’s corporate mentality. From my perspective as an employee, it always seemed like Atria put profits before people.”

    But even though there are people who don't measure the value of their existence according to how well they feed the economic machine -- and their efficiency at generating profits for the wealthy -- this does not mean they do not deserve respect and fair compensation for their work. The caregivers at Atria, at every level, deserve to be treated with respect and compensated fairly for their work.

    But they're not. Of course.

    Of course, this is all exactly what Atria and Lazard and Bruce Wasserstein are counting on. This is what the people and pension funds and others who park their money at Lazard are counting on. To them the seniors and the workers are just economic units, revenue streams and costs to cut, to be replaced if they don't perform efficiently.

    What can we do about this? I'll start writing about this tomorrow.

    This post was sponsored in part by The Campaign To Improve Assisted Living.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    July 8, 2008

    Extreme Wealth Just Isn't Enough

    Part One of the unfolding story was about the vulnerability of the elderly -- perfect targets for exploitation.

    In Part One the Bermuda-based (HA!) "buyout" firm Lazard, LLC. set up Atria Senior Living which an "affiliated entity" owns.

    Atria houses seniors, and collects a monthly fee, which ends up in Lazard's (affiliated) bottom line. ... Atria has been reducing services, raising rates, cutting wages, and generally treating the residents and employees like money trees that exist to be squeezed.
    Part Two is about extreme wealth.

    At Atria the seniors are captive, the services are cut, the rates are increased and the employees paid as low as possible. You see, there's always a waiting list of elderly people who need "memory care"' or assistance taking showers. These are the lucky duckies who have some money to pay to live at a place like Atria; there are few choices and if you don't have the money in America you are on your own. (Imagine being too old to even be able to shower by yourself but not have enough money to even pay an Atria. Welcome to today's "free market" America.)

    The money is squeezed in ever greater amounts. And at the top of this food chain is a guy: Bruce Wasserstein. It seems he just has to have more and more and more. Already extremely wealthy, it just isn't enough. It's never enough and it seems the more you get the more you need. You need it bad enough to squeeze more and more money out of old people too frail to even shower without help. You need to so bad that you keep the wages of people as low as you can and you do everything in your power to keep them from forming a union. You need that money. You need that money. You need that money. And you do what you have to do to get even more.

    Bruce Wasserstein, is Chairman and CEO of Lazard. Wasserstein was paid more than $42 million for the year 2007, a year when Lazard’s stock lost more than 14% of its value. He then signed a new five-year contract with Lazard worth more than $100 (not counting bonuses). So far this year their stock has dropped almost 10%.

    Wasserstein and Lazard just have to have more and more. Elderly people who can't take care of themselves and low-wage workers are weak and vulnerable. Does this mean that we as a community of people join together and protect them? No, this makes them an easy target in today's America, so Wasserstein and Lazard have stepped in to harvest this vulnerability. They just have to have more. Already extremely wealthy, they just have to have more.

    See the Brave New Films video, Gouging Grandma: Billionaire Bruce Wasserstein:

    Bruce Wasserstein is the chairman and chief executive officer of Lazard, Ltd. and Lazard Group. He buys companies, cuts costs, and drives up their value—often for a quick profit at the expense of customers, consumers and workers. He is worth more than $2 billion.

    Wasserstein and Lazard need to get their greed under control, take responsibility for their own actions and their own greed, stop cutting services and raising rates at Atria, and allow the employees to unionize.

    This post was sponsored in part by The Campaign To Improve Assisted Living.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    July 3, 2008

    The Campaign To Improve Assisted Living

    Next week I'll be writing about The Campaign To Improve Assisted Living.

    To get you ready, here's your homework assignment.

    First, read this: Open Left:: Socially Irresponsible Investing

    Then go to The Campaign To Improve Assisted Living and study up.

    OK, go and get ready for this one. You can have tomorrow off but you are expected to work over the weekend.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    June 4, 2008

    Obama To Speak To SEIU Today (via Video)

    Barack Obama will be speaking via video to the SEIU convention today at 10:50am Eastern -- 7:50am Pacific. You can watch it by clicking here.

    Webcast powered by Ustream.TV

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    June 3, 2008

    You Git What You Git

    They're having an "open mike" session at the SEIU convention in favor and against a motion, and a woman from one of the locals just said something great about joining a union and fighting for your rights:

    If you don’t step up you git what you git and you can’t throw a fit.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    June 2, 2008

    SEIU's Accountability Project - Making Politicians Do The Right Thing

    I am at the SEIU 2008 convention in Puerto Rico. Todd Beeton posted earlier today over at MyDD about the SEIU’s Accountability Project and I’d like to add to this discussion. This is a big, big deal for progressives! As Andy Stern said in his address to the convention today we are tired of, "Politicians who want your vote but after the election are at your throat."

    In his post Todd explained,

    . . . In a nutshell, after November, the SEIU intends to hold our Democratic representatives to their promises and let them know that there is the money, the organization and the will not only to fund primary challenges but to recruit and even train qualified candidates around the country if they don't do what they said they'd do.

    What makes this threat real, of course, is that SEIU was instrumental in the defeat of Al Wynn by Donna Edwards in Maryland's February 12th primary. The SEIU spent $1 million on that race alone. Next year and all during the ensuing cycle, they're prepared to spend $10 million to target Democrats who don't follow through on their promises. Think about what the SEIU got for their money in MD-04: Congresswoman Donna Edwards who will champion progressive legislation on issue after issue affecting not only those in her district but impacting people's lives for the better all over the country, as every new and better Democrat added to congress by definition does.

    The primary race between Al Wynn and Donna Edwards was a very big victory for progressives. Prior to this race Democrats in Congress only saw one effective power bloc on the playing field which meant going against those big corporate interests could cost them their jobs. Whatever they might want to do, politics is about what you make them do. Wherever their hearts might have been, elected Democrats could see that only one side was able to rally the only real support or punishment that counted: enough votes. Yes, Ned Lamont caused some problems for Joe Lieberman but it's still Senator Lieberman.

    So I don't actually blame Democratic elected officials for the "spineless" way they have been acting. I blame all the rest of us for not getting the public behind our ideas. Politicians are not leaders -- that is not their job in a representative democracy. Their job is to be followers and do what the people want them to do. I think it was LBJ who said about civil rights, "I'm completely with you on this, now go out and make me do it." That's how it has to work -- you have to make them do it or else why should they? Votes is how you measure that. If you like what they're doing you keep them in office and if you don't you boot them.

    In my view it takes long-term movements to change the public's thinking and create the demand that politicians respond to. Movements persuade and educate the people and then they look for politicians who say they will do what the people want. The conservative movement has been engaged in traditional marketing demand creation activities for 30 years and our side has not. And so it got to the point where all a conservative politician had to do was point and shout "liberal!" to win an election.

    As I see it American history is a series of movements working to persuade people that they have the best plan for the future. Over time, after the public absorbs and comes to agree with ideas, then they elect candidates who promise to follow through on those ideas. Lincoln came out of a long period of public wrangling over ideas, including slavery. FDR didn't just show up and tell people how it was going to be, his New Deal was the result of the earlier progressive movement that followed the Guilded Age.

    My view here of movements creating demand says that a lot of the work of getting things done has to be outside of the election cycle and long-term year-round, because it is about building broad, popular support for ideas, not just for candidates. But here we are with the very progressive organizations needed to accomplish that dying on the vine for lack of funding. George Lakoff's Rockridge Institute just closed. The Center for Policy Alternatives just closed. These were two movement-building organizations. I know that many others are desperately struggling to keep their doors open, at a time when Obama and Clinton are raising hundreds of millions of dollars for short-term election activity. And, of course, progressive bloggers remain largely unfunded even though they are the primary channel for spreading progressive ideas and information.

    So to sum that up, it takes a movement to change minds and create demand and make politicians do the right thing. SEIU is in a position to help all progressives make this happen. They are in a position to get some real things done here. They have people, funding and commitment. And they are working very hard to make this a bottom-up, diverse grassroots effort. As Todd wrote about the Accountability project,

    The details of the program include:
    • $10 million fund to take on elected officials who fail to live up to their promises.
    • Calls for SEIU members to make at least 10 million phone calls to members of Congress after the election to hold them accountable.
    • At least 50 percent of the union's organizing budget and 50 percent of its non-organizing staff at the national and local levels will be devoted to the effort
    • A commitment to jump start a much broader, permanent grassroots movement of working people by actively involving at least one million SEIU members in the "justice for all" effort by 2012, and creating leadership roles for at least 200,000 (or about 10 percent of the union's membership).
    So SEIU will step up to the plate with serious resources that does two things. First, it finally gives politicians whose hearts are with us a reason to vote with us. Second, it tells politicians who don't agree with a progressive agenda (of reducing corporate power over our lives and restoring democracy to the people) that their time is past, that we will run candidates against them in the primaries and these candidates will have strong support.

    While this is election activity, it begins to put an enforcement component onto our progressive movement's policy agenda. But SEIU is also beginning to engage in broader movement-building activite with the upcoming Justice For All campaign, Tim Tagaris writes about at Open Left, and which I will expand on in another post. As Todd writes, SEIU will focus on an agenda broader than the direct needs of only SEIU members:

    The issues the SEIU is particularly interested in pursuing accountability on are
    • Affordable, quality health care for all.
    • The freedom for all workers to form a union without employer interference.
    • Quality services in our communities with fair, reliable funding.
    • An economy that rewards all workers, not just a few at the top.
    • Citizenship for hard-working, taxpaying immigrants.
    I will write about the Justice For All campaign in a later post.

    Disclaimer: Blogger hotel and airfare paid for by the SEIU

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    SEIU Convention -- These Are PROGRESSIVE People

    I am at the SEIU convention in Puerto Rico. There are 3500 representatives here, each representing a number of workers. SEIU now has 2 million members and growth is accelerating.

    I'm in a darkened convention hall, listening and absorbing, with things coming at me from all directions. I'm talking to members and leaders. So I am not yet writing a lot. I'm just posting short posts until the larger stories appear and then I'll be writing a lot about this event and ongoing.

    This is a great thing happening here. THESE people are going to really make changes happen -- with health care the first priority. This is janitors, health care workers, and others, a real bottom-up movement of people who work hard. This is one of the most diverse crowds I have been in and these are dedicated people. And these are PROGRESSIVE people!

    The focus here is beyond the SEIU in particular and labor movement in general. The focus here is on the inequities in our current imbalanced economic system. We all know that it is working for a very few people at the top and not for the rest of us. And SEIU recognizes that they can't make the lives of just their workers better -- even if they could it wouldn't stick if other workers are still at starving wages with no benefits because employers can just use them as a wedge to pressure SEIU workers away from asking for a fair share. So they recognize that they have to work to make the economy start working for everyone.

    More to come.

    [Disclaimer: Blogger hotel and airfare paid for by the SEIU]

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    SEIU Convention / Andy Stern Speech Live Webcast

    You can see the SEIU convention proceedings and President Andy Stern addressing the 2008 SEIU convention by going to this website: SEIU 2008 Convention, Ustream.TV: Streaming live from SEIU's 2008 Convention in Puerto Rico.


    Here is an embed:
    Online Video provided by Ustream

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    May 30, 2008

    SEIU Convention Next Week

    I'm flying out really, really early tomorrow to cover the 2008 SEIU Convention. I'll be posting here and elsewhere. So I'll likely be "off the air" all day tomorrow. I fly back Thursday.

    If you're at the convention, look me up. I'll be the tired, jet-lagged one with a computer.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    May 24, 2008

    Blogs Brought Attention To The Security Guard Strike

    Over the last few weeks I have been writing about the plight of security guards working for a company called Inter-Con, a contractor at Kaiser Permanente Hospitals in California. One post I wrote on this was titled, Why Don't We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore? and I want to get to that subject some more here. But first, I want to go over what was covered.

    The security guards went on strike because their employer was interfering with their right to form a union. The first post, Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced

    This strike is not against Kaiser and is not to ask for money or benefits; it is not even to form a union in the first place. This strike is just to ask that our laws please be enforced. This may be a lot to ask for in today's corporate-dominated system, but they’re asking for it anyway.
    The second post, Why They (And You) Need A Union, asked,
    How else are workers going to get back their rights, get health care, get pensions, and get paid? If you see a better idea out there, please let us all know because this strike and the things happening to these security guards shows that it is very very difficult to form a union. In today's environment where workers are afraid of employers moving their jobs overseas - or even just laying them off and telling everyone else to work harder - and then giving their pay out as raises to the executives and multi-million-dollar bonuses to the CEO, this is a very brave action to take.
    Then, in Unions: Sticking Together to Fight Corporate Power,
    You and I are individuals, alone. But corporations have the ability to amass immense power and wealth and influence. You and I as individuals must stand alone against this power and wealth. What can you or I or anyone else do on our own? The average person in our society has very little ability to stand up against this kind of power and wealth.

    Over time people discovered that there are some things they can do that will work. One of these has been to form unions. By joining together the workers in a company can amass some power of their own. The company needs the workers in order to function so the workers -- if they stick together -- have the ability to make the corporation obey employee/employer laws, provide decent pay, and all the other benefits that the unions have brought us. This is why they are also call "organized labor." By organizing into a union and sticking together people have the ability to demand respect and compensation for their work.

    There were also some other posts with news about the strike itself.

    In the post Why Don't We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore? I wrote,

    A few local TV news broadcasts covered the story, and there were a few newspaper articles announcing that there was going to be a strike. But there was almost no actual coverage of the strike except on progressive sites and labor outlets. What's up with that?
    This is a significant problem with today's corporate media. There is overwhelming coverage of business issues like the stock market, investment, mergers and CEO personality profiles. There is story after story pushing new products, cars, bigger houses, consumption, even listings of which movies are making more money than other movies - as if that was a concern to ordinary people.

    But there is very little coverage of issues that might help regular people live their daily lives. And in particular there is no, none, nada, negatory, zero coverage of ordinary working people fighting back against the corporate domination of our democracy and other decision-making, including the commercialization of everything.

    Labor issues are a big part of that equation. Organized labor is the vehicle that enables regular people to fight back against domination by the big corporations. Big corporations are able to aggregate immense wealth and power. Individuals have no change standing against such wealth and power on their own. But banding together they do. And the more that band together, the better the chance to stand up to the wealth and power of the corporations.

    But not if people don't find out that they can't do this. And that is where the blogs come in. I was able to post the stories about the security guards' strike at Huffington Post, MyDD, Seeing the Forest, and in DailyKos and Calitics diaries. Other sites like AlterNet picked up these stories and passed them along to their readers. In this way literally millions of people were able to learn about this strike, which helped raise awareness of the situation as well as apply more pressure to Inter-Con, the employer as well as to government agencies responsible for enforcing the labor laws. If stories like this can be kept entirely quiet strikes like this would be completely ineffective. But if the blog-readers and other progressives start demanding that laws be enforced and workers be allowed to organize, we can start to make a difference.

    Please visit StandForSecurity.org.

    I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    May 20, 2008

    Security Guard Strike Interview - Learning To Be Proud

    I had the honor of interviewing one of the Inter-Con/Kaiser security guards who went on strike to demand their right to form a union. I will identify him as E so there is no opportunity for Inter-Con to retaliate.

    I asked what was it like to decide to join a strike?

    E: It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. I got to know my coworkers more than I already did. Knowing that more than one location was going through this, that Inter-Con wasn’t screwing over one location only, but was a statewide thing, helped me. It was good to meet other officers from other locations and know that we are in this together.
    I asked if E feels like the strike accomplished anything.

    E: After the first strike, that was the new experience. After this second strike it felt like what do we do now, nothing is happening, but after going to the last meeting and seeing the third wave of tactics I feel like we will have a union. After the last strike it felt like, how long are we going to fight, until Kaiser and Inter-Con acknowledges our union? Now that is my feeling that we are going to win.

    I asked why are you doing this? Why do you want a union?

    E: We want better wages, sick pay, paid vacations. A lot of our officers have to have two jobs. There is no longevity. Any company wants employees to stay for a long time but when you get paid $10 you are in and out pretty fast. We want a union. Having a union is unifying all of us so we have that one voice, we are not standing alone.

    We are striking because the company is not letting us have a union and we have a right to have a union. They are spying on us, things like that.

    After the first strike I was afraid to go back to work, afraid I wouldn’t have a job. But after the second strike I walked in with my chest out.

    I asked what is it like for people making $10 an hour.

    E: I make more than that but a lot of them are on call, no fixed schedule. They walk parking lots. There are rovers who walk around. They get calls from the hospital site - code grey, that’s a security incident, a patient or an employee. Or code blue is someone going cardiac arrest, they call out to one of the rovers. Some codes all of the security guards have to go to that location. They’re there to do crowd control. You have some emotional patient families. Then after that whole ordeal we write reports…

    There are people who do injury to themselves or others, a lot of them are alcoholics, brought in by the cops. We stand by them, hopefully they won’t lash out at us. We also do standbys at the morgue.

    Me: You don’t get sick pay.

    E: We call off, we lose money.

    Me: So do people go to work sick?

    E: I don’t. I’ve heard people go in sick.

    Me: What about other people getting sick? You work in a hospital, doesn’t making people work sick endanger the patients?

    E: I wouldn’t go in if I was sick. I just lose the money.

    I encourage you to visit StandForSecurity.org.

    I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    May 16, 2008

    Why Don't We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore?

    Last week security guards working at Kaiser Permanente facilities in California went on strike to protest illegal anti-union activities on the part of their employer, Inter-Con Security. Instead of hiring security guards directly in California, or using a union-friendly security contractor, Kaiser contracts with Inter-Con. The strike lasted three days.

    A few local TV news broadcasts covered the story, and there were a few newspaper articles announcing that there was going to be a strike. But there was almost no actual coverage of the strike except on progressive sites and labor outlets. What's up with that?

    Why does the media barely cover labor issues?

    Of course, when I write "the media" here I mean the newspapers, TV and radio that we usually call the "mainstream" media and lots of us call the "corporate" media. This is where most people get the news and information that forms the basis of their opinions and understanding about what is happening - and why it is happening. And therefore for most people the information presented by this mainstream or corporate media necessarily forms the basis of their voting decisions, their opinion poll survey answers, and their overall acceptance of and consent for actions conducted in their name by government and other institutions of society.

    When things are repeatedly reported in "the media" as problems, most people begin to become concerned and perceive that these "problems" need to be somehow "solved." We see cycles of this development of public concern. In recent years, for example, the media has done a great deal of reporting on the problem if children being kidnapped. And there is a great deal of concern about this among parents -- to the point that societal patterns are changing and children rarely are allowed out of the house unaccompanied. Fewer and fewer children walk to school, go to parks alone, etc.

    In reality child kidnappings are extremely rare, which makes this a case study of the power of the major media to sway the behavior of the entire country. Over the years similar media-driven concerns about drugs, shark attacks and satanic cults have created waves of national hysteria.

    If actual threats held sway, car accidents, guns, and other real threats would receive much, much more public attention and concern.

    The other side of this ability to drive public attention is the power to hide real problems. The national debt is approaching ten trillion dollars, and interest on that debt is approaching half a trillion dollars per year, but is rarely mentioned as a concern. The military budget is greater than the military spending of all other countries in the world combined, much, much higher than when we faced down the Soviet Union, while a lot of people are making a whole lot of money from it with little public scrutiny. (This is not even counting Iraq/Afghanistan spending.) But this is never brought up.

    And then there is the problem that labor unions are trying to address. This is the domination of our government by big-business interests and the accompanying concentration of wealth into the hands of a very few people at the expense of the rest of us. Workers like the Inter-Con security guards who are trying to organize to demand even minimal pay and benefits are absolutely invisible in today's mainstream/corporate media. The illegal tactics being used - with the assistance of the Bush administration - are not covered by today's mainstream/corporate media. But what else would you expect, as the media becomes further and further concentrated into the hands of a few very, very large corporations? Do you think for a minute that a large corporation would allow any kind of pro-labor stories to be carried on news media that it owns?

    You hear that the reason for this is that "labor is declining." Well there are a lot more members of unions in this country than there are Fellows at neo-con think tanks, but you sure do hear from them a lot in the mainstream/corporate media. There are a lot more members of labor unions than there are members of the far-right Christian Coalition, but you sure hear a lot about their concerns the corporate media. And there are a lot more people who work for a living in jobs that pay too little, don't provide adequate health care or sick leave or other benefits and need to hear about the benefits of joining unions. That's for damn sure.

    In fact any coverage of the plight of these security guards is necessarily pro-labor. When you hear about their living and working conditions you will understand what I mean. My next post will be about that, so stay tuned.

    I encourage you to visit StandForSecurity.org.

    I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    May 10, 2008

    Kaiser Security Guard Strike

    This week I wrote about the Kaiser Permanente / Inter-Con Security Security Guard strike.

    The post Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced discussed why the guards are striking. They are employees of Inter-Con Security, Inc., which contracts services to Kaiser Permanente facilities in California. This company (not Kaiser) is trying to stop the guards from forming a union and the guards are striking to ask that laws allowing union organizing be enforced.

    In Why They (And You) Need A Union a comparison with unionized security guards at Kaiser facilities in other states demonstrated the difference that forming a union can make to workers everywhere.

    The post Unions: Sticking Together to Fight Corporate Power discussed how individuals are unable to stand up against the immense power and wealth that corporations are able to accumulate. Over time workers learned that by organizing into unions they were able to also build enough power to fight back and demand fair compensation and benefits for their work.

    Outside of the blogs there was remarkably little coverage of this strike. Here is a roundup of some of the other coverage:

    This is a good story online at Urban Mecca, Three-Day Strike by Hundreds of Security Officers at Kaiser Hospitals,

    "The public needs to know that the security officers responsible for making Kaiser hospitals safe and protecting vulnerable patients are being denied our fundamental civil rights. Inter-Con freely uses intimidation, spying and retaliation to harass its workers," said Shauna Carnero, a security officer in Hayward.

    The strike, which began May 6 and included major rallies outside Kaiser medical centers in Oakland, Sacramento and Los Angeles, followed numerous federal complaints that workers have filed with the National Labor Relations Board in recent weeks charging Inter-Con with unfair labor practices over the past two years.

    The Pasadena Star-News had Kaiser guards strike,
    Hospital security guards went on strike statewide Thursday, citing poor working conditions and lack of health coverage.

    About 200 Southern California employees of Inter-Con Security, which is contracted by Kaiser Permanente to provide security guards, joined their Northern California counterparts who have been on strike since Tuesday, Service Employees International Union officials said.

    [. . .] Security guards have little legal recourse when they are denied the right to organize, an SEIU attorney said. A loophole in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 gives security guards only one method of forming a union.

    While most employees have the option of holding an election to bring in a union, security guards can only organize if their employers agree to recognize the union, said attorney Orrin Baird.

    "It's sort of out-dated," Baird said. "If they were not guards they could file a petition with the (National Labor Relations Board) and then they would have to have an election."

    While a few local TV stations carried news about the strike, there was a near-blackout of coverage in the corporate media. WHy do you think that is?


    Please visit StandForSecurity.org.

    I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    May 9, 2008

    Unions: Sticking Together to Fight Corporate Power

    I have been writing about the strike by California Kaiser Permanente security guards working for contractor Inter-Con Security, who are demanding that laws be enforced and their rights be honored.

    SEIU sent out a press release on the situation, titled, Workers With No Healthcare Protecting Kaiser Facilities, Security Contractor May Be Misleading California's Largest Healthcare Provider. In summary, the security guards at Kaiser are supposed to be provided with individual healthcare after working for 90 days, but it turns out that many are not. The security contractor Inter-Con Security has found a way around the promise: they classify workers as "on-call" instead of permanent.

    As more and more workers report that Inter-Con is keeping workers on temporary or "on-call" status for months or years, it's still unclear whether Inter-Con is misleading Kaiser or if Kaiser is simply turning a blind eye to these tactics which short-change workers.

    And their families are not provided with health insurance at all. The security guards -- paid as little as $10.40 an hour -- are supposed to buy it. The result is that 41% of the officers who responded to a survey cannot. And without paid sick days they cannot afford to take the time off to see a doctor anyway.

    So here we are with a company finding ways around a promise by changing the classification of the workers to "on-call." This points out yet one more problem of workplaces that do not have unions. How many people are classified as "temporary" or "contractors"? This is one of the bigger scams that is going on these days. One reason companies do this is because if someone is not an employee the employer doesn't have to pay their share of the Social Security payroll tax. (There are other reasons as well, including avoiding paying promised benefits.)

    How do you know if you should be called an employee or an independent contractor? For a quick guideline, let's go to the IRS. They say that by-and-large you are an employee,

    if the organization can control what will be done and how it will be done. This is so even if the organization gives the employee freedom of action. What matters is that the organization has the right to control the details of how the services are performed.

    Yet most of us see examples of people in this situation who are called "temporary workers" or "contractors" all the time.

    Companies are not supposed to do this to us, but here's the thing: What can you do about it? You and I are individuals, alone. But corporations have the ability to amass immense power and wealth and influence. You and I as individuals must stand alone against this power and wealth. What can you or I or anyone else do on our own? The average person in our society has very little ability to stand up against this kind of power and wealth.

    Over time people discovered that there are some things they can do that will work. One of these has been to form unions. By joining together the workers in a company can amass some power of their own. The company needs the workers in order to function so the workers -- if they stick together -- have the ability to make the corporation obey employee/employer laws, provide decent pay, and all the other benefits that the unions have brought us. This is why they are also call "organized labor." By organizing into a union and sticking together people have the ability to demand respect and compensation for their work.

    This is what the security guards at Kaiser are trying to do. This is what you should do.

    I encourage you to visit StandForSecurity.org.

    I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    May 7, 2008

    Why They (And You) Need A Union

    Yesterday I wrote about the security guards who are striking at Kaiser Permanente because their contractor-employer is engaging in illegal tactics while trying to block them from forming a union. The guards work for Inter-Con Security Inc., which is contracted by Kaiser to provide security services.

    You can read articles with details about what happened with the strike yesterday here and here. (There is close to zero coverage of this strike in newspapers. But you wouldn't expect a corporate-owned media to provide information about labor, now would you?)

    Please visit the site Stand for Security for background and details about the security guards' fight to form a union.

    While this strike is about violations of workers' rights, there are very good reasons for their three-year effort to form a union.

    In Oregon, the state just north of California, Kaiser Permanente security guards are employed by Kaiser, not by a contractor. They are unionized and here is a short chart of just some of the difference this makes.










    In-House Union (ILWU)
    Kaiser Security Officers
    Inter-Con Officers at Kaiser
    Wages$15 - $18 per hour
    (Oregon has a much lower
    cost of living)
    As little as $10.40 per hour
    Raises$.70 - $1.45/hour annually,

    depending on seniority

    (Guaranteed in writing!)
    No schedule, no guarantee
    Free Family Health CareYESNO
    Health Insurance Elegibility20 hours worked“Full-time”, which for many

    officers means 1-2 years of

    working 40 hours a week before

    qualifying for health insurance.
    Bereavement Pay3 days paid time offnone
    Sick Leave1.6 hours per pay period

    (Time accrues)
    none
    Jury DutyPaid off as needednone
    PensionYESnone
    Grievance ProcedureYESnone
    Shift Differential$.90/hour evenings
    $1.25/hour nights
    none

    This chart is an example of the difference that a union makes. The column on the left -- the one with better pay, health care, sick days, pension and other benefits -- is the workers who are in a union. The column on the right is these security guards. So this is why these security guards have been fighting for three years to join a union. The employer, Inter-Con Security won't even give sick days! For people working in hospitals! What are these workers supposed to do? And they won't even pay when the workers have jury duty! (Shouldn't a company be concerned about the greater public good, like a court system that works?)

    But this chart is also representative of other workplaces, showing the difference that forming a union can make for other workers. How else are workers going to get back their rights, get health care, get pensions, and get paid? If you see a better idea out there, please let us all know because this strike and the things happening to these security guards shows that it is very very difficult to form a union. In today's environment where workers are afraid of employers moving their jobs overseas - or even just laying them off and telling everyone else to work harder - and then giving their pay out as raises to the executives and multi-million-dollar bonuses to the CEO, this is a very brave action to take.

    On top of that, the Republican government has stacked the labor Department and the National Labor Relations Board to side with the big corporations. So it is even harder to form a union than ever. Which is, of course, why wages are stagnating and CEO pay is off the charts.

    This is why these workers are striking -- to demand that their civil rights be honored and to demand that their right to form a union be honored. These security guards are placing everything on the line -- and doing this for all of us. If they win this fight, all of us are a step further toward our rights being honored, and toward our own jobs paying more and giving benefits.


    I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2.gif

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    May 6, 2008

    Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced (updated)

    There is a three-day strike starting today at Kaiser Permanente hospitals in California. 1800 security guards are striking for three days in an "unfair labor practice" action. This strike is not against Kaiser and is not to ask for money or benefits; it is not even to form a union in the first place. This strike is just to ask that our laws please be enforced. This may be a lot to ask for in today's corporate-dominated system, but they’re asking for it anyway.

    Here is some background:

    Rather than directly employ security guards Kaiser contracts with a company called Inter-Con Security Systems, Inc. Inter-Con hires and manages the security guards for Kaiser, paying them very little and giving them few benefits - not even sick leave. So these security guards, even though they work at Kaiser, (some for many years), are paid far less than other security guards at Kaiser facilities in other states, and receive few benefits. Kaiser is one of the more responsible, unionized companies for its workers, which makes this situation even worse for these workers.

    These security guards have been trying to form a union for three years and Inter-Con is trying to stop them. It is legal to form a union but Inter-Con has violated civil rights by "threatening, intimidating, and spying on workers who were trying to form a union for better conditions" and that is illegal.

    "…They’re pulling us aside to ask us who is going to picket or strike, who’s a union supporter,” said Angelito Morales, an Inter-Con officer at Kaiser Union City Medical Center, near the Hayward facility.
    That's illegal. Many other occurrences of i9llegal anti-union practices led the security guards to file a complaint with the (Bush) National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that Inter-Con managers have:
    * Ordered employees to inform management when individuals at the job site were engaging in union activities.

    * Interrogated employees, asking them to disclose the names of individuals who intend to engage in union activities.

    * Spied on employees, photographing and/or otherwise recording employees as they participated in union activities such as picketing.

    * Interrogated at least one worker about planned strike activities, asking whether or not the worker was planning on participating in the strike.

    * Promised workers improved benefits (healthcare), to deter them from engaging in further union activities.

    All of these are against the rules, but the NLRB has not acted.

    Please visit Stand For Security, SEIU's website covering this strike and the security guards' fight to form a union.

    Don’t get caught up in arguments about whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for employees to go on strike for money or benefits. That is not what this strike is about. This strike is about asking that laws be enforced, so the security guards can go about the legal business of forming a union to represent their interests.

    These are the only workers at Kaiser -- subcontracted or not -- who do not have a union. Janitors and others are subcontracted but have unions. And being in a union makes a huge difference. For example, these are the only Kaiser workers without paid family health care. Inter-Con employees must be full time to get any health coverage, while other Kaiser workers get it for working part time. (And of course Inter-Con has lots of ways to make sure employees don't get classified as full-time, like having an "on-call" status that doesn't count.)

    They don't even have paid sick leave. These security guards have to restrain patients, work in the psychiatric ward, etc., and some have been attacked, but they do not even get sick pay! And, of course, there is a dramatic pay difference between these Inter-Con contractors and the other Kaiser employees and contractors.

    Rather than turn this into a comprehensive, 12-page essay I'm goign to write more over the next several days, as this strike unfolds. For now, please visit Stand For Security, SEIU's website about this situation.

    I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2.gif


    Update - Construction workers building a wing at the strike3.jpg


    strike.jpg strike1.jpg strike2.jpg

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    March 28, 2008

    Why Have A Union?

    Why should you join a union? I've been looking around online for info and arguments to help make the case, and here is a compilation of some of them. (Each link means the following info is from a different website.)

    Cause trouble where you work - print this out and stick it on bulletin boards around the workplace when no one is looking.


    Union Workers Have Better Health Care and Pensions

    Union workers are more likely than their nonunion counterparts to covered by health care and receive pension benefits, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. In March 2007, 78 percent of union workers in the private sector had jobs with employer-provided health insurance, compared with only 49 percent of nonunion workers. Union workers also are more likely to have retirement and short-term disability benefits.

    Dignity: The presence of a union means employees must be treated fairly by their employer, and that you have a voice and vote in important decisions that effect you.

    Power: An employee has little power and almost no way to improve wages, benefits, or working conditions. Collective Bargaining balances the power that an employer has over its employees even in a "Team" or high performance work environment.

    Protection: Without a union there is no due process at work. Unions provide a grievance & arbitration procedure which ensures fairness for all employees.

    Here are five good reasons to join your co-workers in uniting to form a union:

    # 1 - Working together, union members have the strength to win better wages, affordable health care, a secure retirement, and safer workplaces.

    # 2 - The "union advantage" is substantial. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, union members are much more likely to have health benefits and pensions.

    # 3 - For people of color and women workers, the union impact is even greater. Women workers who are union members earn nearly $9,000 a year more than their non-union counterparts. For African-American workers, the union differential is also about $9,000, and for Latino workers the yearly advantage is more than $11,000.

    # 4 - In addition to helping workers win better wages and benefits, unions help all workers by giving working families a stronger voice in our communities, in the political arena, and in the global economy.

    # 5 - By joining together, we can build the strength to hold elected officials accountable, stop the "race to the bottom" by employers who cut wages and benefits in favor of bigger profits, and win improvements such as affordable, quality health care for all.

    Union members earn better wages and benefits than workers who aren't union members. On average, union workers' wages are 30 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts. While only 14 percent of nonunion workers have guaranteed pensions, fully 68 percent of union workers do. More than 97 percent of union workers have jobs that provide health insurance benefits, but only 85 percent of nonunion workers do. Unions help employers create a more stable, productive workforce--where workers have a say in improving their jobs.


    Unions are making a difference. With most of the economic benefits of our economy going to corporate America, working people are using the power of collective action to get their fair share.

    Workers never got anything without uniting for it.

    * The 40-hour workweek
    * The 8-hour workday
    * Overtime
    * Sick Leave
    * Paid Vacation
    * Employer-paid health insurance
    * Pensions
    * Safety and health protections
    * Grievance procedure for wrongful discharge and discipline
    * Fairness in promotions
    * Higher wages

    Just think of what you and your coworkers may be able to win if you had a union contract.

    And, finally,
    Income for the Wealthiest Is off the Charts.


    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    February 17, 2008

    Bring Back Protectionism

    America used to have a policy of protecting our wages against unfair competition from low-wage countries. We placed a tariff on imported goods made by workers who were paid substandard wages. We protected our national interest.

    The idea was to encourage the companies that made those goods to pay better wages. This way their countries' economies would improve and their workers would be able to buy the things that we make. Thus, the policy of protectionism was a way to improve living standards for workers everywhere, growing our own economy and improving our standard of living in the process.

    The money collected from the tariffs was used for our common good: for example, it was spent on improving our country's infrastructure and education system (including science, research and development) so we could retain and improve our competitive position, as well as retraining workers whose industries were affected by changes in trade patterns.

    Protectionism was generally our country's policy until a few decades ago. That was back when our country was OUR country -- for We, the People -- and our economy was OUR economy. And it worked. Our living standard continually improved. Then we changed to a "free trade" policy, meaning our workers work pretty much for "free" and big corporations are "free" to do anything they want. Additionally, without the revenue from tariffs, we have to tax our manufacturers more heavily, which makes them even less competitive internationally.

    Since then average wages have stagnated and our pensions and health insurance have been disappearing, as have our savings. The country's trade debt has been increasing alarmingly. And corporate control over all of us has become near-total. Corporations are able to get their way by intimidating employees with the fear of losing our jobs to outsourcing, and intimidate governments by threatening to move to lower wage countries.

    So it is time to bring back protectionism. It worked.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    January 21, 2008

    Want A Raise?

    Do you want a raise? Better working conditions and job security? Better benefits?

    Try leaving a few union organizing flyers around where you work. It's the worker's counterpart to management hinting that they could outsource all the jobs to other countries.

    Unfortunately it is very difficult to locate downloadable flyers that explain the benefits of joining a union. I have been searching around and have located only two. Download and print these and leave them around your workplace for others to find:

    The Union Advantage By The Numbers.

    Unions 101 - A quick study of how unions help workers win a voice@work

    Please let me know of others, and I'll post them here. UNIONS - please make downloadable flyers available explaining the benefits of joining a union, how to organize a union, etc., for people do print and distribute. You don't have to have local info on these flyers, they are ust informational and get people thinking.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    January 16, 2008

    Bush Says Will Veto Mine Safety

    Lest anyone ever forget just who Republicans represent: Bush threatens to veto House mine-safety bill.

    The House just passed a bill to strengthen mine safety. Mine owners complained to Bush this will cost them some money.

    Among other things, the new legislation would grant stronger enforcement powers to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, require closer monitoring of a dangerous practice called retreat mining and provide for independent investigations when more than one miner is killed in an accident.

    Mine operators also would be required to use new coal-dust monitors, worn by miners, to reduce exposure to coal dust, which causes black-lung disease.

    So Bush will go with the mine OWNERS (rich people) instead of the WORKERS (the rest of us).

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    December 7, 2007

    One Big Union

    Go see the Pays Less In Taxes Than His Maid post and the video there. There is one PROVEN way to fight back and get something for working people and that is to join up with the people who brought you the weekend: a union.

    Don't complain about how good union people have it: vacations, health care, overtime, etc... JOIN A UNION! Duh!

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    December 5, 2007

    Cute Animals Support Writers Strike

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    September 3, 2007

    Labor Day

    It's labor day. Bonus points for anyone who can find a single article in a corporate-owned paper or story on a corporate-owned TV or radio station about the benefits of belonging to a union.

    AlterNet: Blogs: PEEK: What Happened to Labor Day?

    A young person asked me not long ago -- only half in jest -- whether Labor Day was named in honor of natural childbirth.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    June 29, 2007

    Working America's Ask-A-Lawyer

    Cliff Schecter writea about Working America's Ask-A-Lawyer program:

    Can my boss really do that? How many of us find ourselves asking that very question on a weekly, if not daily basis? Well now we just may get the answers we seek. Because Working America, the 1.6 million-member community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, who provides a voice for those of us denied the right to union membership on the job, has started their "Ask-A-Lawyer" program.
    Go read the whole thing.

    By the way, I am a member of Working America. Are you? If you are not otherwise in a union, you should be.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    June 26, 2007

    Republicans Filibuster Against Right To Unionize

    Just so there is no mistaking who is for and who is against the right to have a union. Not one Republican voted for this. There are no "moderate Republicans" - not when it counts.
    Senate Republicans block union bill,

    Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked a bill that would allow labor unions to organize workplaces without a secret ballot election.

    ... The outcome was not a surprise, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., saying for months that he would stop the legislation in the Senate. The White House also made clear that if the bill passed Congress it would be vetoed.

    ...The GOP also plans to use the vote for election-year campaigning, with corporations and businesses being the top opponents to the legislation. The National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out a fundraising video last week asking people to contribute in order to help stop the Employee Free Choice Act.

    ... The bill would require employers to recognize unions after being presented union cards signed by a majority of eligible workers on their payrolls.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    Employee Free Choice Fear and Smear

    Bob Geiger has a post up: BobGeiger.com: GOP Gives Employee Free Choice Act Fear-And-Smear Treatment.

    The Employee Free Choice Act helps restore some ability for employees to unionize. Under Reagan and then under Bush it has become nearly impossiblefor employees to form a union, and those trying to do so get fired. This is against the law, of course, but who enforces the law when it brushes up against what the big corporations want? And the big corporations do NOT want unions.

    So the Republicans are out there with the fear and smear tactics. Read Bob's post for examples.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    April 6, 2007

    White-Collar Jobs, Too

    "Fast-tracking" your job out the door. When is the last time you saw something "Made in the USA"?

    When was the last time you saw someone on TV or read in your local newspaper about the benefits of joining a union?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    December 17, 2006

    Vacation Days Off - Who Is Our Economy FOR, Anyway?

    In the United States there is no legal minimum number of vacation days for workers. I guess we're all supposed to be thankful to the rich for "giving us jobs."

    The rest of the world? Different. (As you read this, remember that 20 days means minimum four weeks vacation by law, not three.)

    Here are a few examples:
    Austria: 5 weeks, for elderly employees 6 weeks
    Belgium: 20 days, premium pay
    Brazil: 30 consecutive days, of which 10 can be sold back to the employer
    Bulgaria: 20 business days
    Croatia: 18 working days
    European Union: 4 weeks, more in some countries
    France: 7 weeks
    Tunisia: 30 work days
    Saudi Arabia: 15 days

    Who else gets none? China...

    So a question: Who is our economy FOR?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:43 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    October 20, 2006

    SEIU In California

    If you're in California, SEIU just launched a new website: TRUST ARNOLD? NEVER AGAIN!

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    October 3, 2006

    Destroying Workers' Right To Organize Unions

    The Bush government just took one more step toward outlawing unions. Today Bush's National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) "Kentucky River Decision" decision removed union organizing rights for millions more workers - this time for nurses by declaring them to be "supervisors" - management. And the ruling might also cover many newspaper and TV employees and trade workers.

    AFL-CIO Weblog | Labor Board Ruling May Bar Millions of Workers from Forming Unions,

    The Republican-dominated National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) voted along party lines to slash long-time federal labor laws protecting workers’ freedom to form unions and opened the door for employers to classify millions of workers as supervisors. Under federal labor law, supervisors are prohibited from forming unions.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    August 12, 2006

    Musical Saw Festival

    One of my favorite things about Santa Cruz is the music. The radio, the clubs and just on the street...

    So today I'm in Santa Cruz for a bit, and walking down the street I come across this: (sorry, cell-phone pic)

    SawLg.jpg

    It's a musical saw gathering in front of the statue of saw-player(and labor organizer) Tom Scribner. They're in town for a festival.

    Researching this post I learned that,

    Tom had been a logger, and a labor organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (aka the Wobblies). The Wobblies were active from 1905 to WWI, and their aim was to organize unskilled workers all over the world into "One Big Union". "Solidarity Forever" was their slogan. He also editied a local newspaper called "The Redwood Ripsaw" during the 60's.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    June 29, 2006

    Charter School Teacher Fired For Talking Union

    At the Edwize blog: Do charter schools need unions? about charter school teachers in New York being fired for mentioning the 'U' word.

    Fortunately things turned out all right for one teacher, because she was so highly regarded:

    Nichole applied for a position teaching English at one of New York City’s very best public high schools, Brooklyn Tech, which hired her last week. Having quickly landed on her feet, Nichole now says “I will never again work in a school where I don’t belong to a union.” Her dismissed colleague was hired at a top private New York City school.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:32 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    New Bush Rule Coming Prohibiting Many Workers From Forming Unions

    Please read this Kos diary American Workers' Freedom to Form Unions Threatened Under Bush NLRB. "Supervisors" are prohibited by law from forming unions. Bush's Labor Board is about to issue a rule saying that nurses, along with "building trades workers, newspaper and television employees, port workers and many others" are supervisors, and therefore prohibited from being in unions.

    Go read the whole thing.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    June 13, 2006

    Benefits Of Unions

    Nathan Newman writes Daily Kos: Why Unions? Labor 101. It gets into subjects like

    • How Unions Increase Pay
    • Unions increase wages for non-union workers
    • Who is in Unions
    • Unions Strengthen the Economy
    • Labor's Support for Civil Rights
    • Why Unions Have Trouble Organizing Workers

    This is not just a "must-read" it is a MUST-FORWARD. Go get this post, send it to everyone you know and ask them to forward it. Print it out and leave copies in coffee shops, etc. Let's start getting this information out to people.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    May 25, 2006

    They're Going To Ban BuzzFlash

    Update -- WE WON! Go read.


    The Republicans are trying to "deregulate" the Internet. They're about to allow the big telecommunications companies to decide which websites their customers (YOU) can and can't see. This is what "Net Neutrality" is about. If you are against letting big companies decide what websites you can see, that means you are in favor of Net Neutrality.

    MAKE NO MISTAKE about what this will mean. In the 1980s the Republicans "deregulated" radio and television by getting rid of the Fairness Doctrine and allowing a few big companies to buy up all the stations, and now you can't turn on the radio without hearing that conservatives are good and liberals are bad. And you will not ever see a representative of organized labor on your television telling you about the benefits of joining a union. In the South the ONLY viewpoint you ever hear is the Republican Party viewpoint. MAKE NO MISTAKE about what "deregulating" the Internet will mean. It means they will ban BuzzFlash, and DailyKos, and Digby and any other voice that speaks out against the corporate takeover of your country.

    Here is what you can do today. Matt Stoller has a post up at MyDD with a list of members of Congress to call TODAY. Matt says

    Urge them to support the bipartisan Sensenbrenner-Conyers Net Neutrality bill (HR 5417) in the Judiciary Committee on Thursday -- and to support it without amendment. Saying without amendment is key.
    Here is the list:

    Howard Berman (D-Calif. 28th)
    Phone: 202-225-4695
    Fax: 202-225-3196

    William Delahunt (D-Mass. 10th)
    Phone: (202) 225-3111
    Fax: (202) 225-5658

    Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas 18th)
    (202) 225-3816 phone
    (202) 225-3317 Fax

    Marty Meehan (D-Mass. 5th)
    Phone: (202) 225-3411
    Fax: (202) 226-0771

    Bobby Scott (D-Va. 3rd)
    Phone: (202) 225-8351
    Fax: (202) 225-8354

    Chris Van Hollen (D-Md. 8th)
    Phone: (202) 225-5341
    Fax: (202) 225-0375

    Maxine Waters (D-Calif. 35th)
    Phone: (202) 225-2201
    Fax: (202) 225-7854

    Mel Watt (D-N.C. 12th)
    Tel. (202) 225-1510
    Fax (202) 225-1512

    Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y. 9th)
    Phone: (202) 225-6616
    Fax: (202) 226-7253

    Robert Wexler (D-Fla. 19th)
    phone: (202) 225-3001
    fax: (202) 225-5974

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    December 22, 2005

    The New York Transit Strike

    Atrios writes about those who complain that the strikers already make "too much."

    Since a lot of white collar workers actually don't get paid very well, they resent the hell out of the fact that some uneducated lout gets to buy a nicer house than they do. And, thus, we get the out of touch media coverage of the NYC transit strike.
    I have a shorter answer for people who resent that people in unions are better paid and get benefits. JOIN A UNION! DUH! Don't complain that they make good money, DO WHAT THEY DID!

    If that hasn't dawned on you yet then maybe you aren't smart enough to make a better living.

    Meanwhile David Sirota looks at the strike through the eyes of right-wing economic theory and notices the theories don't seem to apply to working people: Sirotablog: New Yorkers learn a lesson about supply & demand,

    You can't simultaneously argue that the workers are absolutely essential to the city's way of life, while also arguing that they should accept pension/benefit cuts. Because if something is that "essential" and valuable to you, then you should expect to pay a premium for it.

    Let's put it all in basic supply and demand economics - because that's what it really is. When a commodity is at a premium or "essential" to the market, the market pays a premium for it. That's the ethos almost universally venerated by every pundit and mainstream media operation in America - it's called free market fundamentalism. It's why oil companies make record profits when oil supplies dwindle, or Apple can charge more for Ipods when there is huge demand for them. When that happens, everyone says hey, that's just the "invisible hand" of the market. That's good old American capitalism at work!

    But when that "invisible hand" suddenly applies to workers, well, that's portrayed as treasonous.


    JOIN A UNION AND DEMAND BETTER WAGES AND BENEFITS! DUH!

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    December 7, 2005

    Another Corporate Crime - Little Discussed

    This is about crime.

    Labor Blog: Anti-Unionism is the Date Rape of Corporate Crime,

    Even most liberals deny anti-union crime is widespread or deny that it's even a serious crime at all and anyways the folks doing it are such swell people, we can't expect us to like treat them like criminals, do you? If unions have been decimated in American workplaces, it's must really be their fault-- they must have been asking for it.

    [. . .] As this study highlights, a typical union organizing drive starts with a majority of workers signing cards in support of having a union. Yet in the course of the elections, corporations embark on full-scale illegal assault on their workforce: # 30% of employers fire pro-union workers. # 49% of employers threaten to close a worksite when workers try to form a union. # 51% of employers coerce workers into opposing unions with selective bribery or favoritism.
    All of these are illegal. They are crimes. And they have costs - loss of health care, pensions, lower pay, less vacation time, longer hours...

    Go read the rest.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos