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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

AFL-CIO president: GOP ‘started the war on working Americans’

The Raw Story AFL-CIO president: GOP ‘started the war on working Americans’

By Megan Carpentier
Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Rallying attendees on the second afternoon of the Take Back The American Dream summit, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said of Republicans, “If they want to have a debate on class warfare, we’ll have that debate,” because “It wasn’t our class that started the war on working Americans.”

Trumka used his time to illustrate many of the examples of what he termed the “strange morality” of the modern economy, from mass layoffs at Bank of America despite record profits to narratives in which “the jobless are blamed for the unemployment crisis.” He also noted that, “The years from 1997-2010 represented the first protracted decline in family income since the Great Depression.”

Yet, referring to the many debates in Washington this year, he asked “When are we going to recognize that this crisis is a jobs crisis, not a debt crisis?”

When it comes to the supercommitee charged with resolving said debt crisis, Trumka offered his take to great effect: “We’ll fight anyone from any party that tries to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits.”

But it wasn’t on behalf of benefits that Trumka called upon the audience to call their Congress members. Instead, he rattled off a toll-free number for listeners to use to express their opposition to the still-pending Korean, Colombian and Panamanian free trade agreements and then encouraged them to call House Speaker John Boehner’s office and demand that he bring up for a vote the recently-passed Senate bill denouncing China’s currency manipulation.

Obligatory trade policy shout-outs out of the way, Trumka returned to the meat of his speech and his obvious rhetorical preferences: the economic crisis. “Americans want to work,” he intoned, “and we won’t stop fighting, shoving, pushing and kicking until every single one is back to work.”

And lest his opponents try to argue that “‘Government can’t create jobs,’” he promised his response would be, “‘Just you watch, we’ll make government create jobs.’”

Photo: Flickr user transportworkers.

Megan Carpentier
Megan Carpentier is the executive editor of Raw Story. She previously served as an associate editor at Talking Points Memo; the editor of news and politics at Air America; an editor at Jezebel.com; and an associate editor at Wonkette. Her published works include pieces for the Washington Post, the Washington Independent, Ms Magazine, RH Reality Check, the Women's Media Center, On the Issues, the New York Press, Bitch and Women's eNews

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Unions Head to Wall Street

Citing common cause, the Transport Workers Union - one of the country's largest unions with over 200,000 members - has announced its support for the Occupy Wall Street protests. They plan to join a Friday rally; other unions are following suit.

The Village Voice interviewed Transport Workers Union Local 100's spokesman Jim Gannon:

Why did they join? "Well, actually, the protesters, it's pretty courageous what they're doing," he said, "and it's brought a new public focus in a different way to what we've been saying along. While Wall Street and the banks and the corporations are the ones that caused the mess that's flowed down into the states and cities, it seems there's no shared sacrifice. It's the workers having to sacrifice while the wealthy get away scot-free. It's kind of a natural alliance with the young people and the students -- they're voicing our message, why not join them? On many levels, our workers feel an affinity with the kids. They just seem to be hanging out there getting the crap beaten out of them, and maybe union support will help them out a little bit."

Could Unions Help Rebrand Occupy Wall St from a Dirty Hippie Protest to a Populist One? from ANIMALnewyork.com on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

We May Be Numb, But We Ain’t Dead

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

We May Be Numb, But We Ain’t Dead

Even though union membership hovers at about a 12-percent (down from a high of 35-percent in the 1940s and 1950s), there’s a way of looking at these figures that gives us cheer. With the U.S. population at more than 300 million, that 12-percent figure converts to about 14.7 million members—which is pretty close to the total number of union workers you had back in the 1950s.

And because, undeniably, there is strength in numbers, let’s consider a tantalizing hypothetical. What if America’s 14 million union members went on a spontaneous one-day strike to remind the country of just how important working people are, and how skewed and weird and mind-numbing our priorities have become? Let’s take a moment to consider that.

Admittedly, right out of the chute there will be skeptics and naysayers who will argue that such a thing couldn’t happen—that it’s illegal, that it’s too ambitious, that it would be a logistical nightmare, that it could only end badly, etc. But instead of jumping to conclusions, let’s examine these objections.

First, yes, it is illegal—particularly when you begin including people like police, firemen, nurses, postal workers, etc. So maybe we’d have to consider making some exceptions. Yes, federal workers could be fired for going on a wildcat strike. Everyone still remembers 1981, when Reagan fired the Air Traffic Controllers for going out on what was technically an illegal strike.

But let’s look at it carefully. First, we have Obama in office, not Reagan. Second, unlike actual strikes, which can last for weeks or months, this is one-day strike. And the fact that it’s a one-day deal will be made known in advance, which means employers won’t hire replacement workers and, very likely, won’t fire anyone.

Of course, America’s bosses will raise bloody hell and threaten to fire everybody—that’s what bosses do when they’re cornered—but because such a move would be utterly self-destructive (the costs associated with recruiting and retraining an entire workforce would be staggering), they won’t do anything….except simmer.

Let’s also remember that these aren’t lone wolves who can be picked off one by one. These strikers will have a union to represent them. Consider what happened in China and India a couple years ago when workers went out on spontaneous wildcat strikes. When management fired the ringleaders, the workers threatened to call another wildcat unless they were hired back—which they were. The same would happen here. The message: If you fire anyone, we’ll turn around and shut you down again.

In the worst case scenario, if there turned out to be some fines that had to be paid, let the union pay them. After all, if there’s one thing organized labor has plenty of, it’s money. Labor spent an estimated $400 million dollars on Democratic campaigns during the 2008 elections.

There’s another advantage to a one-day strike. While it’s difficult getting people to engage in explicitly political or time-consuming stuff—marching in parades, attending rallies, carrying placards, making phone calls or writing chain letters—all they have to do to pull off this protest is stay home. Their very absence assures its success.

As for being a logistical nightmare, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, given that we live in the Internet Age, and given that this would be a union-organized, union-administered event (i.e., working off up-to-date membership rosters), it would be a logistical piece of cake.

But what would a one-day strike achieve? What good would it do? At the very least it would get the nation’s attention and demonstrate the heretofore unrecognized and unappreciated fact that working people (the country’s largest voting bloc) possess a tremendous amount of leverage.

As a society, we’re more or less numbed out. There’s a huge disconnect between what’s going on around us and what’s being done in response. Even though we’re involved in three wars, still recovering from the second-greatest financial crash in our history, and are watching the middle-class being systematically dismantled—you wouldn’t know it from the public’s response. Nothing (or very little) is happening in the streets.

We need to react. The public needs to be reminded that Wall Street ain’t the only entity with muscle. History has shown that social movements have muscle. And because the only bona fide social movement in place is the labor movement, it’s time for organized labor to lead the charge.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author (It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor), was a former union rep. He can be reached at: dmacaray@earthlink.net. Read other articles by David.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Workers Rights?

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice


Jonik is a long-time contributor of cartoons to National Lampoon, New Yorker, NY Times, Gourmet, Playboy, Cosmopolitan, Audubon, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Wall St. Journal, Mad, and other national publications. He began also doing editorial cartoons the day after Papa Bush started bombing Baghdad. His editorial work has been published in many alternative publications and is not copyrighted so that activists without budgets can "steal this cartoon." Those with budgets, however, are nice about sharing that. Read other articles by Jonik, or visit Jonik's website.

This article was posted on Wednesday, June 29th, 2011 at 8:01am and is filed under Cartoon, Human Rights, Labor.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

NLRB Issues Rule to Prevent Union Busting and Speed Up Elections

In These Times

NLRB Issues Rule to Prevent Union Busting and Speed Up Elections

By Mike Elk

Jun 21, 2011
11:25 am

Today, the National Labor Relations Board proposed a rule that would dramatically speed up and reduce frivolous challenges to union elections. Companies seeking to stop union drives often delay union elections by months in order to allow more time for extended anti-union intimidation sessions and campaigns, which often times involve firing. By speeding up the timeframe in which elections occur, the NLRB is giving more protections to union workers seeking to join a union.

“Over the decades, the Board has revised its rules periodically, looking for ways to achieve a broadly-shared goal: making the representation process work as well as possible” said NLRB Chairwoman Wilma B. Liebman. “One important result has been to reduce the typical time between the filing of an election petition (which triggers the Board’s procedures) and the actual election. But the current rules still seem to build in unnecessary delays, to encourage wasteful litigation, to reflect old-fashioned communication technologies, and to allow haphazard case-processing, by not adopting best practices.”

The NLRB rule would streamline union elections by allowing for electronic filling of election petitions. The Board is also proposing to require companies to give unions a full list of potential voters’ telephone numbers and email addresses when available—a move that would help unions campaign among workers.

The rule would also crack down on frivolous lawsuits companies often file to delay union elections. Instead of allowing companies to challenge who is eligible to vote in a union representation election before it occurs, the rule would delay most voter eligibility appeals until after the election.

The proposed rules shifting appeals until after the elections are expected to greatly speed up the cycle which can sometimes be delayed for months until all the appeals are heard. Companies often use these delays to bring in union busters and run expensive anti-union intimidation campaigns against workers.

The rule change won quick approval from organized labor. “With the proposal of these new standards, the Board is taking a modest step to remove roadblocks and reduce unnecessary and costly litigation—and that’s good news for employers as well as employees” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a statement. “The proposed rule does not address many of the fundamental problems with our labor laws, but it will help bring critically needed fairness and balance to this part of the process.”

The proposed rule also received quick criticism from the Republican member of the NLRB, Brian Hayes. “Without any attempt to identify particular problems in cases where the process has failed, the majority has announced its intent to provide a more expeditious preelection process and a more limited postelection process that tilts heavily against employers’ rights to engage in legitimate free speech and to petition the government for redress” said Hayes. “The majority acts in apparent furtherance of the interests of a narrow constituency, and at the great expense of undermining public trust in the fairness of Board elections.”

The rule is sure to quickly be attacked in the press by Republicans. Republicans have launched an unprecedented campaign against the NLRB in the wake of the Boeing case—threatening to defund the agency. The International Association of Machinists (IAM) filed ethics charges with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics calling for an investigation into South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham for his role in trying to stop NLRB in the Boeing Case. IAM charged Sen. Graham with violating Senate Rule 43 by trying to stop a law enforcement trial.

Speaking over the weekend at Netroots Nation, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said that the attacks on the NLRB “strike me as un-American”. Despite wide condemnation of Republicans' interference with the independent authority of the NLRB, more attacks on the NLRB are likely to come as the rulemaking process gets underway. The public will have 75 days to comment on the rule before it becomes established law. Over the next 75 days, we can expect to see a full throttled attack on the NLRB from Republicans, corporations, and their allies in the media.

Putting Labor’s Money to Good Use

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

Putting Labor’s Money to Good Use

The practice known as “union-busting” isn’t limited to goon squads cracking heads, or companies hiring public relations firms that specialize in scare tactics and intimidation. In its broadest sense, union-busting describes what congressional Democrats have been doing since the 1980s—taking labor’s money while voting against workers’ rights, giving tough speeches at union halls, then using weasel words when addressing business groups, and refusing to go on the record as unabashedly “pro-union.”

No matter how much campaign money they’ve received from organized labor, you won’t hear Democrats say publicly what Franklin Roosevelt said publicly in 1935: “If I worked in a factory, the first thing I would do is join a union.” Whatever their reason—whether they simply don’t believe in the labor movement, or they’re too scared to admit they do—very few Democrats are willing to stand on their hind legs and repeat what FDR said.

Which brings us to Grover Norquist, the notorious anti-tax, anti-government zealot. Norquist’s rhetoric has inspired supporters to compare him to Thomas Paine and Samuel Adams, and, conversely, has led detractors to suggest that he’s ever so slightly brain-damaged. But whether he’s a crusading patriot or eccentric crackpot, there’s no denying that Norquist terrifies Democrats and Republicans alike.

He terrifies Republicans because he wields enormous leverage within the conservative-libertarian wing of the Party. He wields it for two reasons: (1) by being able to raise obscene amounts of money for political campaigns, and (2) by requiring candidates to sign an oath promising never, ever to raise taxes… or risk having Norquist and his minions throw their support (money) to another candidate.

In short, you either place your signature on his “no tax increase under any circumstances” document or you get steamrolled by the well-financed, anti-tax juggernaut. While some folks might refer to such strong-arm tactics as “extortion,” Norquist and his crowd regard it as a critical test of ideological purity.

As clumsy and peremptory as Norquist’s approach is, it’s also brilliant — so brilliant that organized labor should immediately adopt it. If labor is serious about building an army of progressive Democratic foot soldiers — Democrats who not only believe that the survival of the American middle-class will be led by the labor movement but are willing to stake their careers on it — it needs to adopt a tactic as equally brutal and uncompromising as Norquist’s.

Instead of trying to convince itself that it can reap a bountiful harvest from the current crop of House and Senate Democrats, organized labor needs to sow the seeds of an entirely new strain of representative by announcing that it will no longer support any candidate unless he or she is willing to sign a Norquist-like oath — a written pledge to make unions a top domestic priority and to work diligently on a pro-labor agenda.

What would that agenda look like? Enacting stronger labor laws, strictly enforcing statutes already on the books, passing the EFCA (card check), raising the minimum wage, leveling the “free trade” playing field, and resuscitating labor’s image by flooding the media with the message that it was organized labor who invented the middle-class, and that the reason we’re in the economic mess we’re in is because the voice of the American worker has been drowned out by corporate interests.

And when Democrats smugly pose their “gotcha” question — Who would you rather have in office, an ineffective, pro-labor Democrat or an openly hostile Republican? — labor’s answer should be, “We don’t spend another dime until we have a candidate worthy of us.” To use a baseball analogy, it makes no difference whether you pop up or hit a line-drive to the centerfielder. Both result in outs.

While Grover Norquist has shown he can raise a ton of cash, the AFL-CIO and CTW (Change to Win) can raise more. Organized labor may be struggling, but one thing it’s not short of is money. And money — tactically spent — is what it will take to whip the Democrats into shape. The message: Support union labor or look for a new career.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author (It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor), was a former union rep. He can be reached at: dmacaray@earthlink.net. Read other articles by David.

This article was posted on Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 at 8:01am and is filed under Democrats, Labor, Unions.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Memorial Day Massacre of 1937

The Economic Populist

Speak Your Mind 2 Cents at a Time

The Memorial Day Massacre

Memorial Day in Chicago in 1937 was hot and sunny. On the prairie outside the Republic Steel's Chicago plant the strikers and their families began to gather for picnics. Women were dressed in their holiday best. Children could be seen riding on their father's shoulders.
Sam's Place was nearby. Once a dance-hall, Sam's was now the strike headquarters. Gradually the families drifted over to where a soup kitchen had been set up and where strike leaders gave speeches from a platform. A group of girls began singing IWW union songs, and the men joined in. Plans were being made for a mass demonstration, despite the rumors that the police had something big planned themselves.
The day seemed just too nice for anything bad to happen.

Ten years have passed since that blood-stained date, May 30, 1937. Many have forgotten; millions more have joined the labor and progressive movement since that time and do not know this story. But it is well that all of us remember--and in remembering, act.
- Howard Fast

After decades of bloody labor strikes, U.S. Steel finally caved in and agreed to recognize the Steel Workers Organizing Committee on March 1, 1937. Everyone expected "Little Steel" to follow the example, and in fact they did quickly agree to the same wage and hour provisions of U.S. Steel.
However, "Little Steel" absolutely refused to recognize the union and refused to sign a contract. This is despite record profits in 1936 by Republic Steel.

The "Little Steel" coalition included Bethlehem Steel Corp., Republic Steel Corp., Youngstown Sheet and Tube, National Steel Corp., Inland Steel Co., and American Rolling Mill Co. The most anti-union leader of this groups was Tom M. Girdler, the Chairman of Republic Steel.

Republic had built up a huge stockpile of guns, tear gas, and clubs in anticipation of the strike to come.

The SWOC decided to strike against Republic, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, and Inland all at the same time. On May 26, 1937, 25,000 workers went out on strike.
Both Inland Steel and Youngstown Sheet and Tube shut down their plants and prepared to wait out the strike. Some of the Republic mills were closed, but several remained opened. One of those was the plant in south Chicago.
At this plant about half of the 2,200 workers went out on strike. Republic brought in food supplies and cots so the strikebreakers wouldn't have to brave the picket lines.

Unlike most other cities, the Chicago police took an active roll in the strike. On the day it started, the Chicago police entered the plant to clear out the union men. When a picket line formed the police broke it up and physically forced it two blocks away, arresting 23 strikers in the process.
The following day the police, who were now also eating and sleeping at the plant, began clubbing picketers and even discharging their revolvers in the air. On other occasions a sound truck had been destroyed, and women had been beaten and taken to jail. The police violence prompted calls for a mass meeting on Memorial Day to decide the next course of action.

Memorial Day

When the meeting was over, the men, women and children formed lines to march towards the Republic Steel plant. Two men at the front carried large American flags. The whole event resembled a Memorial Day parade more than a strike.
As they marched across the field, several news photographers showed up and began snapping pictures. This was to be more important than anyone imagined.

Part way across the field the strikers and their families were met by 200 blue-coated policemen about 250 yards outside the plant. Their clubs were already out. Some carried non-regulation billy-clubs that Republic Steel provided and were equipped with tear gas from Republic stockpiles as well. A police captain yelled, "You dirty sons of bitches, this is as far as you go!"

"Stand fast! Stand fast!" the line leaders cried. "We got our right! We got our legal rights to picket!"
The cops said, "You got no rights. You Red bastards, you got no rights."

After a few heated words, a stick was thrown at the police from somewhere in the crowd. Almost immediately tear gas bombs were tossed from the police, and the strikers began moving away. A couple more things were thrown by both sides when an officer in the rear drew his gun and fired into the air.

Without a command or warning police on the front line drew their revolvers and fired point blank into the huge crowd of men, women, and children.

Approximately 200 shots rang out. Within 15 seconds the shooting had ended, but the violence was not over.

"Get off the field, or I'll put a bullet in your back."
- yelled by a policeman at Mollie West

They began to shoot in volleys. It was wonderful sport, because these pickets were unarmed men and women and children; they could not strike back or fight back. The cops squealed with excitement. They ran after fleeing men and women, pressed revolvers to their backs, shot them down and then continued to shoot as the victims lay on their faces, retching blood. When a woman tripped and fell, four cops gathered above her, smashing in her flesh and bones and face. Oh, it was great sport, wonderful sport for gentle, pot-bellied police, who mostly had to confine their pleasures to beating up prostitutes and street peddlers--at a time when Chicago was world-infamous as a center of gangsterism, assorted crime and murder.
And so it went, on and on, until ten were dead or dying and over a hundred wounded.

The entire police line moved forward swinging billy clubs. Marchers who had dropped to the ground to avoid the bullets were beaten where they lay. It didn't matter if they were grown men, women, or even children. The beatings went on until the marchers had either ran out of reach of the police, or they had been beaten into submission.

As one newspaper reviewer noted, "In several instances from two to four policemen are seen beating one man. One strikes him horizontally across the face, using his club as he would a baseball bat. Another crashes it down on top of his head and still another is whipping him across the back."
The film ends with a sweaty, fatigued policeman looking into the camera, grinning, and motioning as if dusting off his hands.

Once the beatings were over the mass arrests started. Police wagons designed for eight had sixteen put in them. The seriously wounded were thrown into the wagons without any effort to treat their injuries, and were not taken to a hospital until the wagons were full.

Four marchers had been fatally shot, while six were mortally wounded. 30 others suffered gunshot wounds, including three children. 28 required hospitalization from their beatings, while another 30 required medical treatment. The gunshot wounds for those that died were all from being shot in the back or sides. Only four gunshot wounds total could be counted as frontal.
35 police received some sort of injuries, but only three required some sort of hospitalization.


The Chicago Tribune knew exactly who was to blame for this tragedy - Communists. The headline was "Reds Riot At Steel Mill".
It seems the picketers and their families were all troublemakers out to destroy the mill. One Tribune editorial called them a "murderous mob," and congratulated the police, who were able to "control the situation with relatively little loss of life."
That was the story from the police department as well.

"Maybe they were out to catch butterflies."
- Tom Girdler, responding to a journalists question concerning the marcher's intentions

There was only one problem - all those darn photographers. But the authorities had an answer for that too.
Paramount cameraman Orlando Lippert actually had a motion picture shot of almost the whole event. You can watch it all, uncut, here (it starts about 4 minutes in). It was indisputable proof. So what did Paramount do? They suppressed the film.

The reason given by Paramount News for suppressing its newsreel of the Chicago Memorial Day steel-strike massacre is an obvious sham. Audiences trained on the Hollywood school of gangster films are not likely to stage a "riotous demonstration" in the theater upon seeing cops beating people into insensibility, and worse. Against whom would the riot be directed anyway? The Board of Directors or Republic Steel and the Chicago municipal authorities are hardly likely to be found in the immediate vicinity.
The real reason behind the film suppression is its decisive evidence that virtually every newspaper in the country lied, and continues to lie, about the responsibility for violence in the strike areas. The myth that the steel strikers have resorted to violence to gain their just ends is now the basis for the whole campaign of slander and misrepresentation against them. That is why Tom Girdler of Republic Steel refuses to confer with the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, and that is why 95 per cent of the press carries on a publicity pogrom against the strikers.
Even after the St. Louis Post Dispatch performed a genuine service to the American people in breaking the story of the film (for which, though it is Pulitzer owned, it is very unlikely to get the Pulitzer award), the venal press still continued to blast away at the strikers with the same old legend. Not a comma has been changed in the editorials which, day after day, have defended the steel tycoons on the ground that there can be no compromise with labor violence.
And all this time, the film record exists--and has been described--which would enable the public to make up its own mind on this very crucial point!
- New Masses, June 29, 1937

To give you an idea how the major news media reported the event, here's the New York Times headline of the following day:


Other cities took the hint from Chicago. In Monroe, Michigan, ten days after Memorial Day, a negro C.I.O. organizer was beaten half to death near a Republic mill. When strikers got angry the police descended on the picketers and suddenly the local hospitals and jails were full of wounded strikers.
In Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, George Mike was not a picketer or a striker, but was a wounded war veteran who was selling tickets to a C.I.O. dance. That didn't stop a deputy sheriff from firing his gas gun into Mike's skull from close range and killing him.
In Youngstown it wasn't the strikers who "rioted", but the strikers wives. It seems these women, many of them walking with their children from a meeting of the Ladies' Auxiliary, had stopped near an embankment near Republic's property. The police ordered them to move. When they didn't move fast enough the police opened up with tear gas grenades. The screams of the women and children brought the men running. That's when the police brought out their guns. The results: two dead, thirty injured.

Massillon, July 11, and strikers holding a meeting outside C.I.O. headquarters. Again, the firing starts, and in a little while there are three dead strikers and five more on their way to the hospital. Then C.I.O. headquarters is surrounded, and for an hour lead is poured into the building. And in the building, there is not one firearm.
But the newspapers said, the next day: "STRIKING MOB ATTACKS MASSILLON POLICE."

By this time the number of strikers killed had reached 18, and the SWOC decided to call off the strike in order to save the lives of its members.
"Little Steel" had won.

Eventually the La Follette Civil Liberties Committee looked into the strike and discovered Orlando Lippert's film. The finding of the commission was clear enough:

First: the police had no right to limit the number of pickets in front of the gate as long as they were peaceful; and that the march would have resulted in peaceful picketing in front of the gate, not in a plant invasion.

Second: assuming that the police were justified in halting the march, it should have been done with a minimum of violence and not in the haphazard manner with which the confrontation was handled.

Third: the marchers’ provocation of the police did not be beyond the use of abusive language and the throwing of isolated missiles; and that the force used by the police to disperse the crowd was far in excess of that required.

Fourth: the bloody consequences were avoidable on the part of the police.

The Chicago city government actually outlawed Lippert's film from being shown because they were afraid that it would cause riots. The New York City police borrowed the film and used it as instruction for cadets of how not to behave when confronted with a protest.

As the truth began to seep out to the public, the government pressure on Little Steel increased. In 1938, because of arm-twisting from the FDR Administration, Little Steel caved in and signed a union contract with the new United Steelworkers union.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Revitalizing the AFL-CIO

When Harry Kelber, the 96 year old relentless labor advocate and editor of The Labor Educator speaks, the leadership of the AFL-CIO should listen. A vigorous champion for the rights of rank-and-file workers vis-à-vis their corporate employers and their labor union leaders, Kelber has recently completed a series of five articles titled “Reasons Why the AFL-CIO Is Broken; Let Us Start a Debate on How to Fix It.”

The reaction: Silence from union leaders, their union publications and at union gatherings.

Kelber, operating out of a tiny New York City office, knows more firsthand about unions, their historical triumphs, their contemporary deficiencies and their potential for tens of millions of working families than almost anyone in the country. Over the decades, no one has written more widely distributed pamphlets that cogently and concisely explain unions, the labor movement and anti-worker restrictive laws like the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, than this honest, sensitive worker campaigner.

At a perilous period for both working and unemployed Americans, facing deep recession, corporate abandonment to China and other repressive regimes, and the Republicans’ virulent assault on livelihoods and labor rights, Kelber believes that AFL-CIO should be on the ramparts. Instead, he sees it as moribund, hunkering down, with control of the power and purse concentrated in the hands of the silent and Sphinx-like Federation officers and the tiny clique of bureaucrats who run the show.

“In the AFL-CIO, the rank-and-file have no voice in electing their officials, because only the candidates of the Old Guard can be on the ballot,” he writes.

Certainly, the AFL-CIO is not reflecting the old adage that when “the going gets tough, the tough get going.” They recoil from any public criticism of Barack Obama, who disregards or/and humiliates them by his actions.

Mr. Obama promised labor in 2008 to press for a $9.50 federal minimum wage by 2011, and the Employee Free Choice Act, especially “card check,” and then forgot about both commitments. He has not spoken out and vigorously fought for an adequate OSHA inspection and enforcement budget to diminish the tens of thousands of workplace related fatalities every year. He’s been too busy managing drones, Kandahar and outlying regions of the quagmire of our undeclared wars.

Nothing Obama does seems to publically rile the AFL-CIO. In February, he crossed Lafayette Square from the White House with great fanfare to visit his pro-Republican opponents at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce yet declined to go around the corner and visit the AFL-CIO headquarters. Where was the public objection from the House of Labor?

He prevents his vice-president from responding to the Wisconsin state federation of Labor’s invitation to address the biggest rally in Madison, Wisconsin protesting labor’s arch enemy, Republican Governor Scott Walker. Biden, a self-styled “union guy”, wanted to go but the political operatives in the White House said NO. Still no public objection from Labor’s leaders.

Kelber describes the lack of a strong, funded national and international strategy to deal with the growing gap between rich and poor and the expanding shipment of both blue and white collar jobs abroad. He laments AFL-CIO’s failure to develop a “working relation with the new global unions that are challenging transnational corporations and winning some agreements.” He also notes that the AFL’s top leaders “have minimal influence at world labor conferences. They rarely attend them, even when they are invited.”

Pushing for higher wages and worker rights in the poorer developing countries, including the adoption of International Labor Organization (ILO) standards has great merit and is also a constructive way to also protect American workers.

Kelber believes it is obvious “that U.S. cooperation with labor unions from other countries with the same employer is the best way to organize giant multinationals, but the AFL-CIO has spent little time, money and resources in building close working relations with unions from abroad.”

What is restraining AFL-CIO’s President Richard Trumka? A former coal miner, then a coal miners’ lawyer, and president of the United Mine Workers, Mr. Trumka has been at the Federation for over a decade. He knows the politics of the AFL-CIO, makes great speeches about callous corporatism around the country, and has a useful website detailing corporate greed.

Unfortunately, words aside, he is not putting real, bold muscle behind the needs of America’s desperate workers.

He can start by shaking up his bureaucracy and put forth an emancipation manifesto of democratic reforms internal to the unions themselves and external to the government and the corporate giants. They all go together.

When I asked Harry Kelber whether there were any unions he admires, he named the fast-growing California Nurses Association (CNA) and the United Electrical Workers.

CNA’s executive director Rose Ann DeMoro is on the AFL-CIO Board and has urged Mr. Trumka to be more aggressive. She has secured his stepped-up support for a Wall Street financial speculation tax that could bring in over $300 billion a year. He may even join her and the nurses in a symbolic picketing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters next month.

The ever fundamental Kelber, however, sees a plan B if the AFL-CIO does not change. “Union members should be thinking about creating a new bottoms-up labor federation,” he urges, reminding them that in the nineteen thirties, the Committee of Industrial Organizations (CIO) seceded from the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and went on “to organize millions of workers in such major corporations as General Motors, General Electric, U.S. Steel, Westinghouse, Hormel and others.”

The new labor federation, he envisions, for today’s times would be controlled by the membership and led by local unions and central labor councils that are impatient with the sluggish leadership of their international union presidents.

Harry Kelber, you epitomize the saying that “the only true aging is the erosion of one’s ideals.”

(Visit Harry’s Kelber’s website www.laboreducator.org for more of his insights.)

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Primer for Rank-and-File Union Members

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

A Primer for Rank-and-File Union Members

Being a union member [in the United States] these days ain’t easy. In fact, with organized labor under assault from both sides—by Republican toadies and spineless Democrats—to be a union member is to be engaged in a form of combat. It’s a battleground out there, and union members are fighting for their economic lives. Presented in no particular order, is a list of things that might help rank-and-file members take care of business.

1. No matter what union you belong to—whether you’re a school teacher, machinist, airline pilot, cop or autoworker—management will eventually try to use flattery or charm to get you to ridicule certain union officers or union policies. Be aware that you’re being played for a chump. All they’re looking to do is weaken the union by breeding dissension among the membership. Don’t fall for it.

2. Don’t file a grievance unless you’re prepared to help. Shop stewards aren’t professional sleuths. For a grievance to have a reasonable chance of winning, the union needs all the background material you can provide. While some stewards are willing to take on “blind” grievances (because it’s politically risky to refuse), don’t expect them to do much legwork. They have neither the time nor the inclination. And don’t expect a happy ending, because without the necessary research your grievance is effectively “lost” before it’s even been processed.

3. Dumb as this sounds, being popular—both with the company and with the union—is going to help you. The more likeable you are, the better chance you have of winning. The better worker you are, the better chance you have. The more courteous you are, the better chance you have. It shouldn’t be this way—clearly, the facts and only the facts should dictate the outcome—but that’s not the way it works.

4. If you’re looking for an immediate up or down ruling on something that’s neither precedent-setting nor overly complicated, Fridays are the best days to ask for it, and Mondays are the worst.

5. Like Don Corrleone in The Godfather, union reps insist on hearing bad news immediately. When lodging a formal complaint, share with the rep everything that weakens your argument—all the inconvenient details that work against you—and don’t exaggerate the good stuff. When the union learns that the actual facts don’t come close to matching your account of them, it not only makes everyone look bad, the rep will never trust you again. And don’t think he’ll eventually forget. He won’t.

6. Always remember that, no matter how often or how earnestly union officials praise “democracy,” they are more or less afraid of it. In the union’s view, an unexpectedly large crowd at a regular membership meeting is analogous to giving a child a loaded gun. Either nothing at all happens, which is lucky, or something very bad happens, which is tragic; but giving a child a loaded gun never results in something good happening. Union leadership regards a packed house the same way.

7. There are times when management is right and the union member is wrong. This is true even when it involves demotions, suspensions and terminations. But because union reps—like politicians—are uncomfortable delivering bad news, they often postpone it, sugar-coat it, or string you along by suggesting you still have hope. Help out your reps by showing them you’re a grown-up who can handle the truth.

8. People who say, “Show me in the contract where it says they [management] can do that,” have it wrong; in fact, they have it exactly backward. Labor contracts don’t list things that management can do. Rather, there’s a clause stating that the company has all rights and privileges not specifically denied them either by the text or by state or federal law. Labor agreements are “one-way” documents, heavily weighted in management’s favor.

9. Meetings are often frivolous. Union reps who happen to be regular hourly workers (shop stewards, safety coordinators, standing committee members, etc.) love taking meetings, even those that are more or less useless, because meetings get them off the floor and away from their mundane jobs. They’ll agree to any meeting, anytime, anywhere, on any topic, with any participants, and then do everything in their power to drag it out.

10. Worthy as your grievance may be, don’t get your hopes up. In labor relations there’s no such thing as a “sure thing.” Even if the steward assures you that you have one hell of a case, don’t get too optimistic. Statistics show that the majority of grievances are, in fact, lost (denied outright by the company, subsequently withdrawn by the union, or lost in arbitration). Best to go in assuming you’ll lose, and be pleasantly surprised if you win.

11. Going from one union rep to another will earn you the reputation as a “shopper,” someone who continues to troll until they get the answer they want. This is not to say you shouldn’t seek a second opinion, but if word gets out that you’ve already seen three shop stewards, all of whom told you the same thing—but you’re still sniffing around for an answer you like—you’ll be regarded as a monumental pain in the ass.

12. Keep pestering your rep. Don’t let him deflect you with some vague, “I’ll look into it” response, and then never get back to you. If a steward tells you he’ll get back to you with an answer, it’s his responsibility to do that, even if he’s swamped with work. Give him a realistic amount of time to follow up, but definitely hound him. A labor union is a service organization. The reps are there to serve.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author (It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor), was a former union rep. He can be reached at: dmacaray@earthlink.net. Read other articles by David.

This article was posted on Thursday, May 19th, 2011 at 7:59am and is filed under Labor, Unions.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Truth and lies about unions

The Somerville News

Truth and lies about unions

On March 18, 2011, in Latest News, by The News Staff

By William C. Shelton

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)

“An investment banker, a tea partier, and a unionized public employee are sitting around a plate of 12 cookies. The banker takes 11 cookies, turns to the tea partier, and says, ‘Watch out for that union guy. He’s trying to take part of your cookie.’”

This little parable is circulating on email networks. It aptly summarizes what we are seeing in Wisconsin and the 15 other states where public employee unions are under assault.

Billionaire bankers’ reckless greed plunged the global economy into dire fiscal crisis. A Republican President and Congress chose to bail out the banks instead of workers and homeowners.

The cumulative effect was plummeting tax revenues and gaping state and federal deficits. On the federal level, this expanded a national debt already swollen by three Republican administrations’ overspending and under taxing.

Now the right uses these deficits as a pretext for making war on working people instead of taxing those who created the crisis. Its propaganda machine and politicians shamelessly chant falsehoods about unions and deficits.

Here are some truths about unions. Without the union struggles of the 20th Century, you would have no 40-hour workweek and no weekends off. You would have no minimum wage or workers’ compensation. You would have few paid benefits and fewer enforceable safety standards.

It is not an exaggeration to say that union militancy was a factor critical to the creation of social security. Nor that unions were essential to the emergence of a post-World-War II middle class.

Research by the Economic Policy Institute tells us that unions raise unionized workers’ wages and salaries by 20 percent, and their total compensation by 28 percent. Unionized workers receive 26 percent more vacation time and 14 percent more paid leave than nonunionized workers. They are 18 to 28 percent more likely to have employer-provided health insurance. They are 23 percent-to-54 percent more likely to be in employer-provided pension plans.

Workers in so-called “right-to-work” states earn on average $5,538 less per year than in states where workers can collectively bargain. And right-to-work states have workplace death rates 52.4 percent higher, along with higher poverty and infant mortality rates.

As stark as differences between unionized and nonunionized workers are, unions elevate nonunionized workers’ lot as well. Labor market economics dictate that union wage levels move wage levels for the entire labor market in their direction. It’s not merely coincidence that as the proportion of workers who are unionized dropped from 27.4 percent in 1970 to 11.9 percent last year, average wages and salaries have stagnated or declined.

The trend is similar with benefits. Employers once made contributions equivalent to 10 percent of an employee’s pay to “defined-benefit pensions.” These plans paid a retired employee a pre-agreed fixed rate over their remaining lives.

As union membership has declined, employers have replaced defined-benefit plans with 401K plans and reduced their contributions to four percent of an employee’s pay. With 401Ks, the employee bears the market risk as well.

I am not blind to unions’ flaws. Some rigidly enforce work rules that are irrational, inefficient, and create unnecessary costs. Some union policies protect workers who are lazy, incompetent, or hurtful to their coworkers. Some union operatives obstruct management’s efforts for no reason other than habitual malice.

But these legitimate criticisms are very different from the lies that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his ideological companions use to rationalize their war on unions. Intending to isolate and promote resentment toward public-employee unions, they charge that public-sector workers are overpaid.

Another Economic Policy Institute study concluded that, “On an annual basis, full-time state and local government employees in Wisconsin are undercompensated by 8.2 percent compared with otherwise similar private sector workers.” Estimates by other analysts place this disparity as high as 14 percent for public-sector workers nationwide.

When confronted with these facts, anti-unionists counter that public workers’ wages may be lower, but their pensions are at ruinous levels. Living in the Boston area, we are aware of some specific cases where this is glaringly true. But in a national context they are exceptions.

The average public-sector pension in Wisconsin is $23,000 per year. And the Wisconsin pension plan is close to fully funded.

Pension plans in other states are often far from fully funded. In past collective bargaining agreements, public officials insisted that, in return for accepting lower compensation, public employees would receive higher pensions. Politicians who negotiated these deals did not have the courage to raise taxes. Now that the bill is coming due, they are reneging on solemn promises and attacking their employees.

Most insidious is the lie supporting claims that public employees shouldn’t be allowed to unionize at all. The argument is that union dues go to support campaign contributions and union organizing that benefit union members; and that taxpayers are unfairly obligated to fund these exorbitant benefits.

During the 2010 federal election cycle, public-sector unions gave $34 million to political campaigns. The finance, insurance and real estate folks who brought you the financial meltdown made campaign contributions of $289 million.

In 2010, public-sector unions spent $14 million on lobbying. The finance, insurance and real estate industry spent $471 million on lobbying. And they represent only one industry, while all labor unions combined contributed only $92 million to political campaigns and spent $47 million on lobbying.

Which do you think costs taxpayers more, public-sector wages and benefits that are not significantly greater than those in the private sector, or public policies that support usurious interest rates, fraudulent financial agreements, a crashed economy, and a $700 billion TARP bailout? Which creates larger deficits? Which will Scott Walker and his allies work to change?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What Union Does Jesus Represent?


True Christianity is Union with Jesus!


Economy, Labor, Religion
| Mon Apr. 4, 2011 3:17 AM PDT

Wisconsin's ongoing labor battle has officially become a holy war. The Family Research Council, the evangelical advocacy organization founded by James Dobson, has been dipping into its war chest to defend Republican Governor Scott Walker's efforts to curtail collective bargaining for public-sector unions. FRC president Tony Perkins interviewed backers of Walker's anti-union bill on his weekly radio program and has tweeted his support for the bill, directly linking social conservatism with an anti-union, pro-business agenda: "Pro-family voters should celebrate WI victory b/c public & private sector union bosses have marched lock-step w/liberal social agenda."

The FRC's new political action committee, the Faith, Family, Freedom Fund, is airing ads on 34 Wisconsin radio stations in an effort to influence the April 5 judicial election that could ultimately decide the fate of the law. The ads target Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, who's running against a conservative incumbent, David Prosser, for a seat on the state Supreme Court. If elected, Kloppenburg would alter the balance on the court in favor of Democrats, giving them the ability to invalidate the recently enacted ban on public-employee collective bargaining. "Liberals see her as their best hope to advance their political agenda and strike down laws passed by a legislature and governor elected by the people," say the ads. "A vote for Prosser is a vote to keep politics out of the Supreme Court."

The FRC's anti-labor campaign in Wisconsin is part of its larger agenda to meld fiscal conservatism with its family-values message. Its recent priorities have included fighting health care reform, new taxes on the wealthy, and President Obama's budget proposals. In recent weeks, Perkins has used his radio show to hash through small-government talking points with House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Tea Party caucus head Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who told him, "The bigger government gets, the smaller God gets." After exploring the value of union busting with Republican state Representative Robin Vos of Wisconsin last month, Perkins expressed "our thanks to you, as conservatives across the country."

Perkins typically doesn't discuss the Biblical justifications for his ideas. (FRC did not return calls from Mother Jones.) However, some of the speakers at the "FRC University" online lecture series provide a clearer idea of the Biblical justifications for opposing limits on corporations and the wealthy. One recent speaker was Jay Richards, who edits a magazine published by the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank that the FRC describes as its "sister organization." His book, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem, is a free-market treatise aimed at the faithful. In his talk he maintains that the sanctity of private property is the preeminent Christian value: "You might call it an idea being made in the image of God."

"You get these funny quotes about people saying, well, 'Jesus was the first socialist,'" Richards explained. "If you read the Bible, this idea of private property is everywhere presupposed. There is not a 'Thou shalt believe in private property' sort of verse anywhere, but it's so fundamental that it's presupposed in two of the Ten Commandments. 'Thou shalt not steal' assumes that people have property that is legitimate and that should not be taken."

Another recent FRC lecturer offered a related interpretation of the Bible's calls for social justice. "Christ does not necessarily condemn the rich per se," said Mark Caleb Smith, the director of the Center for Political Studies at Cedarville University. But, he added, the good book does at times condemn the poor: "The Old Testament, especially in the Book of Proverbs, ascribes poverty to oppression, but also to other things like laziness, the love of sleep, the love of pleasure, the love of food, the love of wine. And so even Proverbs says, you know, sometimes you may be poor because of your behavior."

"Government-imposed social justice is unjust," Smith concluded, adding that Christians who support that notion are heretical and un-American. "For the Christian left, America is part of the problem. The American system of capitalism is part of the problem. They seek a fundamental reconstruction."

This strain of private-property-centric Christianity has deep roots within America's fundamentalist movement. For an excellent rundown of that history, check out Peter Montgomery's recent article in Religion Dispatches, "Jesus Hates Taxes." Among other things, Montgomery highlights an early Christian Coalition manual that interprets a New Testament passage in support of slavery to conclude that "Christians have a responsibility to submit to the authority of their employers, since they are designated as part of God's plan for the exercise of authority on the earth by man."

Of course, exegetical disputes with liberal Christians aren't the only reasons why FRC opposes labor unions. Not only do unions' economic principles put them at odds with evangelicals, so do their social values. A recent press release from Dobson's Focus On The Family, which was once conjoined with the FRC, complains that most political donations from labor unions go to Democrats and liberal social causes. "Over the past several election cycles, unions and their members contributed millions to fight against core American values—especially on issues of life, religious freedom and marriage." Still, explains a spokeswoman, "There are many good, hard-working Americans who are union members, but they would do well to consider whether union support of same-sex marriage and the taxpayer funding of abortion in government health care represents their interests."

Josh Harkinson is a staff reporter at Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here. Email him with tips at jharkinson (at) motherjones (dot) com. To follow him on Twitter, click here. Get Josh Harkinson's RSS feed.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Massive: More than 1,000 solidarity events! How big can this grow?



Over 1,000 events have been scheduled!

More than 1,000 solidarity events in all 50 states and several foreign countries have been scheduled on and around April 4.

The energy, and the number of solidarity actions, keeps growing.

Sign up for an action near you—and bring your friends and family.

This is just incredible. More than 1,000 solidarity events in all 50 states and several foreign countries have been scheduled on and around April 4. Rallies, teach-ins, worksite discussions, vigils, faith events and more are planned for the next few days.

That’s just what we know of—so far.

Every time I look, the number of events—and the number of RSVPs—has grown. An unprecedented coalition of labor unions, progressive allies and individual working people has joined in.

This is going to be massive. And Ernest, you can be a part of it. Won’t you join us?

Sign up for an action near you during the days surrounding April 4—and bring your friends and family.

April 4 is the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968. He had gone to Memphis to support city sanitation workers demanding their dream: The right to bargain collectively for a voice at work and a better life. They went on to become members of AFSCME.

Right now, we’re building a movement to advance Dr. King’s dream—a dream many of us share: economic justice for all.

Be a part of our movement. Sign up for an event near you—and bring your friends and family.

As our movement grows stronger, corporate-bought politicians are pushing back hard. But they’re losing public support, fast.

Just this week, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) signed into law a bill to severely limit collective bargaining rights for more than 350,000 firefighters, nurses, teachers and other public workers. And bare-knuckled assaults on workers and their rights in other states continue full force.

But we’re fighting back: Democrats in Wisconsin have enough signatures to recall the first of eight Republican state senators.

Meanwhile, we’re seeing assaults on collective bargaining at the federal level, too: Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) recently tried to rig the voting system for some union elections so even if there are more “yes” votes than “no” votes, workers still could be denied their union. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has even introduced a national "right to work" for less bill.

But we’re fighting back: President Obama has threatened to veto Rep. Mica’s anti-worker proposal, should it ever reach his desk. And Sen. DeMint’s bill is dead in the water.

On the federal budget, House Republicans are playing a game of chicken with people’s lives and livelihoods—pushing fundamentally immoral, scorched-earth cuts to critical government services working families rely on every day. These cuts would destroy middle-class jobs and hurt the most vulnerable people in our country.

When the budget showdown happens, we’ll be ready to fight back.

When corporate-supported politicians try to balance budgets on the backs of working families, and attack our rights, we’ll stand up for justice.

Stand strong for justice. Show our strength. Sign up for a solidarity action near you.

Together, we’re strong enough to change the course of history if we keep this incredible momentum going.

Thanks for all you’ve done and continue to do.

In solidarity,

Manny Herrmann
Online Mobilization Coordinator, AFL-CIO

P.S. We’re winning the hearts and minds of America. But we need your help to get more people involved.

A Gallup poll released Friday found that more Americans side with public employee unions in budget fights than with governors attacking collective bargaining and balancing budgets on the backs of working families. Young people especially now reject attacks on working people by HUGE margins.

According to the poll, only 27 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds side with governors trying to take away collective bargaining rights—while a whopping 61 percent agree more with public employee unions.

So when you join us, consider bringing people with you—especially young people—to keep public support for our movement growing.

Join us, and bring as many people as you can. Find an event here and RSVP now.

To find out more about the AFL-CIO, please visit our website at www.aflcio.org.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Why We Still Need Collective Bargaining Today

March 24, 2011 at 18:47:24

Why We Still Need Collective Bargaining Today

By debbie hines (about the author)

There's a misguided move to end collective bargaining rights for unions for all the wrong reasons. Those supporters who want to end collective bargaining see it as a cost saving measure. Those clamoring to end collective bargaining rights are looking to return to the past glory days without collective bargaining. Well, the past was not so glorified for many workers in the US.

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the New York City Triangle Fire where on March 25, 1911, 146 garment workers died after a fire broke out at the Triangle Waist Company. The mostly girls and young women, who were killed, were locked in the factory to prevent them from taking breaks. Many perished through the fire or jumped to their deaths from the 8th and 9th floors. At that time, there was no union or collective bargaining to protect their rights or require basic work place safety for the workers.

After the fire, the New York legislature passed laws requiring automatic sprinklers, unlocked doors during working hours, doors that swing outward, to name a few . Just like today's dissenters of collective bargaining, the same rhetoric was heard 100 years ago. Sprinklers were called "cumbersome and costly". Others warned the new laws would drive business out of the city and state of New York. Does this sound familiar?

Everything always boils down to cost cutting over safety and saving lives. If today's House Republicans and Wisconsin Republicans were alive in 1911, they would call these basic fire safety measures "job killers". Big business and special interest groups have always fought against rights for the working people, as too costly. Corporate interests argued against basic minimum wages, child labor laws, minimum work day hours and overtime pay, all at the cost to working people. Over the years, unions through collective bargaining have fought for the rights and safety for working Americans.

If we allow collective bargaining rights to be stripped, we will return to the days of yester year when workers were not safe. By way of recent example today, the National Traffic Air Traffic Controllers Association has long requested that air traffic controllers not work alone on night shifts. Ever since 2006, the union has argued for 2 person late night shifts. And just this week, one lone air traffic controller at Regan National Airport in Washington, DC admits falling asleep, resulting in 2 planes attempting to land without his assistance. Paul Rinaldi, the head of the union representing air traffic controllers, has long argued against single person late night shifts. The cost to hire 2 air traffic controllers to work on night shifts far outweighs the costs to lives perished in an airplane crash, as the one occurred in 2006 in Kentucky due to a lone traffic controller, at the helm.

There's an old saying that says sometimes you need to learn the hard way. When it comes to lives and basic safety, I'd rather not learn the hard way. I'd rather continue with unions and their collective bargaining efforts fighting for safety. Unions are not perfect. But, the risk of loss of lives without them is too much to bear. Safety has a price. But, lives are priceless.


Washington DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, former prosecutor and Assistant Attorney General of MD. She frequently appears on television commenting on law, race and social justice issues. As an ivy league educated woman of color, she speaks (more...)

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author
and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

This is What Plutocracy Looks Like

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Wisconsin State AFL-CIO

Wisconsin AFL-CIO Union Links


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Workday Minnesota



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Labor News Union Resources

America@Work - AFL-CIO magazine

Democracy Now! - Amy Goodman's news site.

LaborNet - The best labor news site in the U.S.

Labor Notes - Monthly labor magazine still putting the movement back in the labor movement.

LabourStart - A great international labor news site, updated daily.

LA Labor News - Los Angeles labor news edited by Jim Smith

Unionist.com - News and graphics for union editors plus books and newsletters for union stewards.

Workers Independent News Service - WINS is a project of the UW School for Workers.

Union Organizing - Good site filled with alot of information..

Bulbul - California feminist/labor cartoonist.

Carol*Simpson - They fire off cartoons aimed at America's corporate establishment and its wholly owned subsidiary the U.S. Government.

ILCA - International Labor Communications Association, the AFL-CIO editors group.

Laborart.com - Rick Flores, labor cartoonist and UAW member.

Northland Poster Collective - Great labor t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc...

Wisconsin Laborers District Council - An affiliation of thirteen Laborer Local Unions, representing nearly 9,000 construction craft laborers across the state of Wisconsin.

WI LECET - Laborers'-Employers' Cooperation & Education Trust

Campus Green Party News - Democracy always works better when there is more than one viewpoint.

Vote Smart - A website trying to give you as much information as possible so you can cast an educated vote.

"In Germany they came first for the Communists and I didn't speak up
because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up
because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up
because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up
because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me -- and by that time, no was left to speak up."

-Pastor Martin Niemoller

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