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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Government Shutdowns Get The 1% What They Want

A while back I was writing about the Republican threat of a government-wide shutdown, and the two-week Federal Aviation Administration shutdown (and Delta Airlines’ anti-union role in that). The shutdown threat was used to force the government to give even more favors and bucks to the 1% and even less to We, the People.
Guess what? The shutdown threats are back.
Last Time
Earlier this year, and then again in September, the Republicans threatened to block the budget from passing and to just let the government shut down. In exchange for allowing the government to continue to operate they wanted favors for the 1% and their corporations, including gutting environmental regulations, gutting healthcare (especially women’s healthcare), and generally gutting the things We, the People do for each other.
They largely got their way. They even shut down the FAA, stopping construction projects in an attempt to gut union organizing. Four thousand FAA workers and about 90,000 construction workers were laid off, and the shutdown cost the government about $30 million a day.
Which Was Which?
The Republican threat of shutting down the government is not to be confused with the debt-ceiling hostage-taking debacle that was engineered by Republicans.
The debt-ceiling hostage-taking involved Republicans threatening to let the government default on its obligations, sending the world’s economy into a tailspin, unless We, the People dramatically roll back the things we do for each other. They got their way, resulting in big cuts plus the “super committee” of the 1% that is currently working on cutting things for the 99%. (The secretive committee is actually talking about cutting Medicare and cutting top tax rates, and calling it “pro-growth.”)
FAA And Labor
In August Republicans shut down the FAA for two weeks, with Republicans trying to get in an anti-union rule. A temporary FAA reauthorization is currently funded only until the end of January. Last week Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, predicted that the FAA “reauthorization” bill would be done, passed and signed by Christmas.
But the anti-labor provision is still in the bill.
Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said the fights over funding bills like this could “make a grown man cry.” According to The Hill, “We’re working on the 20th-plus extension” of the FAA bill, Mineta said during an interview with The Hill. “That’s something we really have to get resolved, and [with] a long-term bill.”
The Game Is Squeeze-The-Rubes
Here is how the squeeze-the-rubes game is played.
First, cut taxes for the rich. To accomplish this, call it “pro-growth,” make the claim that these cuts will “boost the economy” for the rubes, “bring them jobs,” or basically whatever they need to hear that week to get them to go along. Then borrow a ton of money to make up for the lost revenue, because when the debt comes due you have serious leverage.
Meanwhile, cut government, cut back on education for the rubes, health care for the rubes — they don’t need it, what are they going to do with educations and health, anyway? Cut regulation. Cut enforcement. And, most of all, do what you can to hamstring labor because organized labor is the one remaining force in the country that has some power, and is working to maintain the middle class. because with a strong middle class, government is able to pay down the debt, so there is no cover for all the cuts.
Then, to speed things up, boost the government’s spending on the things that increase your wealth and power. The big one is military. Find something to scare the rubes, watch them run and hide and squeal and let you crank up the military budget, give yourselves no-bid contracts, lucrative consulting contracts, even send pallets of cash to be disbursed to you and your friends.
And, by the way, tax subsidies for your oil and finance companies will drain the treasury pretty fast, too.
Then, when the bill comes due, that’s when the hammer comes down. That’s when you spring the trap. That’s when you can have real fun. You’ve got them where you want them, and you can go to work. Scare the bejeezus out of them with stories of insolvency, poverty, whatever it takes to make them fear the debt. And then crank up the demands.
Congress Plays Along
Members of Congress see this game of squeeze-the-rubes for what it is, and get what they can for themselves, too. Rep. Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led the two-week FAA shutdown over that anti-union rule. (See The Hostage-Taking Just Keeps Coming – This Time The FAA Shuts Down, Think Default Threat Is A Yawn? The FAA Is Still Shut Down and Delta’s Greed Helps Shut Down The FAA)
Well, according to the Florida Independent, Mica, just months after being involved in the temporary shutdown over “spending” on the FAA was bragging about an FAA grant awarded to his district. Mica said he worked for a provision in that bill to keep unions from being able to organize “said he had used his vote as a ‘bargaining tool’ to gain the support of Senate Democrats” for the grant to his own district.
P.S. Take a look at where Rep. Mica gets the money to run his campaigns.
How The Game Is Played
Watch Jack Abramoff explain in a 60 Minutes segment how it works Once the member of Congress or staffer thinks they might get a lobbying job from you,

ABRAMOFF: When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, “You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.” Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ‘em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.

Perks, Too
Are airlines giving perks to members of Congress and staffers, as they prepare to vote on more favors for the 1%, possible shutdowns of government for the rest of us, even the FAA reauthorization? From Roll Call, Being in Congress Has Perks,

Most major airlines have phones lines dedicated to customers on Capitol Hill, aides and lobbyists told Roll Call. To accommodate their unpredictable travel schedules, Members are allowed to reserve seats on multiple flights but pay only for the one they board.
A spokesman for Delta confirmed the airline has a Congressional call desk and allows members to double-book flights. United Continental Holdings Inc., US Airways and American Airlines, all of which are rumored to have similar practices, did not return Roll Call’s request for comment.
“We get on every single flight,” said one Capitol Hill aide familiar with process. “Every offices uses it. … The scheduler uses it for Members and chiefs of staff who fly.”
The perks have long raised the ire of consumer advocates. “They are treated completely differently from the time they book their ticket until the time they land at the airport,” said Kate Hanni, director of Flyers Rights, an airline passenger advocacy organization.

Short Run Good For 1%, Long Run Bad For 99%
In the short run this game yields great riches to a few. In the long run, of course, getting rid of government defunds infrastructure and education so the economy eventually slows to a crawl. Pitting the parts of the citizenry against each other breeds social chaos, maybe even violence.
What do they care, when they can just hop in their own jots and fly to their own private islands?
Government is us: We, the People. Our government of the people, by the people and for the people exists to reign in the1% and act as a counterweight to the power of their wealth and their huge corporations. That is why We, the People formed our government, to counter the corrupt controlling power of the British King and his aristocracy. That is why we enabled organized labor. That is why we have regulations. That is why we have access to courts to sue giant corporations. It is about one-person-one-vote democracy, not one-dollar-one-vote plutocracy.
What You Can Do
Tell Delta: Stop The Union Busting,

Delta Air Lines is holding billions of dollars in funding for crucial FAA projects hostage by insisting that Congress pass new, undemocratic rules for airline workers trying to organize a union. Delta wants union elections to count workers who don’t take part as voting “No”–an absurd demand that would undermine the entire system of majority-rule voting.
The rules are under debate now, Delta’s powerful allies in Congress are holding up a long-term solution by continuing to insist on the new election rule.
Without a long-term reauthorization bill, job-creating airport infrastructure projects and critical security improvements are on hold. And we run the risk of another FAA shutdown at the end of the year.

Thursday National Day Of Action
Many organizations are calling for a national day of action Thursday Nov. 17, with various events around the country.
Follow the Twitter hashtag #N17 for info.
Occupy Wall Street, on Thursday’s Day Of Action
Interfaith Worker Justice: National Days of Action Against Wage Theft
Check out this We Are The 99% event Thursday,

We’re starting to get the 1% to pay attention. But this system’s still rigged against us: Wall Street is still making billions and taking our homes, and Congress can’t pass a jobs bill. To amplify the economic emergency, we’re making Thursday, November 17, a massive day of action to show “We Are The 99%.

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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