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

As of now an agency of our government, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), is effectively shut down, unable to do its job. This is a “nullification” by Republicans, of laws that protect workers and companies, in exchange for campaign help from the 1%. They are simply obstructing, blocking appointments in order to keep the agency from functioning. The President has a responsibility to keep the government operating and must use his power to make recess appointments to get the NLRB up and running.
The NLRB
The mission of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), by law, is “to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.”
Once again, the reason we have the NLRB is:

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

For readers who missed that, here it is in bold:
“to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.”
It’s The Law
That’s right, it is the policy of the U.S. government, and the law, to “encourage” unionization because higher wages and benefits helps Americans and our economy overall. By law.
It’s the law.
Influence Of The 1%
Yes, it’s the law. But so what? Paying good wages and providing benefits means that the 1% and their corporations might have to wait a bit longer to stash away a few billion more, so they are furious at such government “interference.” Yes, it is better for everyone in the long run when working people do better, but it isn’t better for the 1% right now, this quarter, so they fight every effort to help the middle class.
The 1% and their big corporations have a lot of influence. They dole out generous campaign contributions to those politicians who do their bidding. And they set up “outside groups” that are allowed to spend unlimited amounts to help those they favor and fight those they do not. And they hire lobbyists — and let current members of Congress and their staff know they can hire them, too, later, for extremely generous salaries, if they just play ball now.
Agency Shut Down
In 2010 the Republican majority on the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the NLRB must have a quorum of board members or it cannot decide cases. Ongoing Republican efforts to keep the Board from operating succeeded. Over 600 decided cases were thrown out. Big companies could continue to get away with firing people for trying to exercise their legal rights to organize unions so they could get better pay and benefits, regardless of what the laws said.
So Republicans are doing the bidding of the 1%. Today the NLRB is effectively shut down because it does not have enough Board members to function. Republicans in the Senate have blocked appointments to the Board, to keep it from operating, to prevent it from deciding cases, so that big companies can operate with impunity and continue to shovel all the gains from our economy up to the top 1%.
Nullification
“Nullification” was the pre-Civil War “states rights” practice of Southern states simply ignoring federal laws. The Republicans are again engaging in nullification, on behalf of the 1%.
Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, in Nullification Makes a Comeback, explains,

Republicans are refusing to allow votes on President Obama’s nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and on his nominees to fill vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board. In both cases, the Republican refusal is explicity aimed at shutting down these agencies.
… Republicans make no bones about why they’re doing this. They opposed the CFPB from the start, and they’re now using the filibuster as a way of unilaterally preventing it from operating even though it was lawfully created by a vote of Congress and signed into law by the president. Likewise, they’re afraid the NLRB is about to make some rulings they dislike, so they’re using the filibuster as a way of shutting it down by denying it a quorum.

The 1% are only 1%, and we are technically still supposed to be operating as a country where the majority rules. So when they can’t get their way the 1% engage in various schemes to get their way. We have seen an unprecedented use of filibusters to block the ability of the Congress to function. We have seen hostage-taking and shutdown attempts. In the case of the NLRB (and the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency) we are seeing another “nullification” effort — preventing the agency from operating by preventing appointments.
This is not politics, this is not bipartisanship, this is intentional obstruction to keep the government from operating.
Where Is Our President?
The President of the United States has a lot of power — if he chooses to exercise that power. One of his powers is to make appointments himself at times when the Senate is unable to make appointments. This is in the Constitution because the Founders understood how important it is to keep the government operating.
The Constitution is clear about the President’s power, and his implied responsibility to use that power to keep the government operating:
Article II Section 2: The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
Article II Section 3: …he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper;
If the House and Senate disagree on adjournment, the President can adjourn them. And when they are adjourned he can make recess appointments. The Congress is engaging in a charade of “pro-forma” sessions to give the technical appearance of being in session when they are not in session as part of this obstruction/nullification strategy by the agents of the 1% to keep our government from functioning for the 99%.
The 15-Second Option
The President had the power to make recess appointments at noon today, when the Senate was officially in recess between the first and second sessions of the 58th Senate. This would have kept this important agency in operation, doing its legally mandated job of protecting workers and companies. The president didn’t.
President Teddy Roosevelt used this power in 1903 to appoint 160 officials. The country survived.
Adjourn And Appoint
We can’t wait. We have an extraordinary situation here, where one of the parties, as a political strategy, in exchange for campaign assistance from the 1%, is obstructing for the purpose of preventing the government from operating. It is the duty of the President to keep the government operating.
Mr. President, this is outrageous. Working people need you to use your power to get the NLRB up and functioning. Please, adjourn and appoint — WE CAN’T WAIT!
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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NLRB Fight Shows How Far We’ve Fallen

Here is how far we have fallen: Republicans and big corporations are going to extremes, even threatening to shut down entire agencies of the government, just to keep people from knowing what their rights are. They are “investigating” the NLRB for enforcing the laws that cover employees and employers. They are pledging to block any appointees in order to prevent the agency from operating.
How far have we fallen, if the fight is over just letting people know what their rights are? How much power do the big corporations have now, if these wealthy giants of the 1% feel they can even challenge our right to know what the rules are, and an entire political party exists to help them do this?
The Latest Fight
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is trying to require big corporations to put up a poster informing their employees of their rights under the law. The big corporate, anti-union organizations are fighting this as hard as they can. They are suing in court to block the rule, while Republicans in the House and Senate are using every trick in the book to stop the NLRB requirement, right down to holding Congressional investigations of the agency, and threatening to defund it, and to shut it down by crippling its Board.
What The Poster Says
Here are the things that the Republicans and the big corporations that fund them are fighting to keep working people from knowing:
Under the law you have the right to:

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

Under the law it is illegal for your employer to:

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

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

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

Click here to see the poster.
This latest fight is because the NLRB is trying to require companies to put up posters that tell workers what their rights are. That’s it. That’s what the poster does. Companies are trying to block this and are fighting with everything they have.
The Lawsuit
Big corporate groups have sued to block the poster requirement, saying the NLRB doesn;’t have “the authority” to require them mto put up this poster, and claiming that it violates the “free speech rights” of big corporations if employees learn what their own rights are. Seriously, that’s the claim.
How far have we fallen, when big corporations feel they can challenge government’s right to even inform citizens of what the laws say? They have good reason to believe that conservative-dominated courts will rule that this violates the “free speech” of non-sentient entities called corporations, over the rights of citizens!
The Hill: Business group challenges NLRB over union poster rule,

Business groups continue to press the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over its proposed rule to have employers post notices informing workers of their organizing rights.
On Monday, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) will present oral arguments in federal court for their lawsuit against the proposed regulation.
[. . .] Trauger said NAM filed the lawsuit because it believes only Congress has the authority to authorize the notice rule. Further, they believe it impinges on employers’ free speech rights.
“We believe the NLRB does not have the authority to require all employers to post the notice in their workplace,” [NAM VP] Trauger said.
Other groups are suing the NLRB over the rule, including the National Federation of Independent Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Crippling The NLRB
At the end of this year the NLRB will not have enough board members to operate, effectively shutting down the agency. The Supreme Court, in another 5-4 decision (yes, the same 5 corporate-conservative-movement sponsored judges that always rule in favor of the big corporations), ruled in 2010 that the NLRB cannot operate without at least 3 members on the Board. This was part of an ongoing strategy to keep the Board from operating effectively, allowing illegal anti-union efforts to continue. Republicans in the Senate have since filibustered to block the Board from having enough members. Last year President Obama made two recess appointments to the Board to keep it operating, so Republicans have prevented the Senate from going into recess since then, vowing to to anything necessary to continue to block any new appointments that could keep the NLRB in operation and enforcing the law.
The Washington Post explains, in Obama nominates 2 for labor board, despite GOP threat to block any appointments to the agency,

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

Once again: “A Republican threat to block any appointments to the agency.” The Republicans in the Senate are blocking any appointments, in order to force the agency that enforces the rules to stop doing its job.
Meanwhile, in the House, Republicans are engaged in a different tactic to fight the NLRB. The Center for American Progress Action Fund explains, in House Republican Attacks on the National Labor Relations Board Hurt All Workers,

House Republicans are using every tool available to them—including their budget, regulatory, and legislative-oversight powers—to wage a coordinated attack on workers’ rights by trying to eviscerate the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB.
… Over the past year, Republicans in Congress voted to slash funding for the NLRB, attempted to block enforcement of existing worker-protection laws, and even threatened to shut down parts of the federal government in order to advance their goals.

The the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is “investigating” the NLRB, to see if the Board is helping employees who are in unions, demanding the Board turn over documents to the committee by Jan. 3.
The Stakes
A New York Times op-ed, Crippling the Right to Organize, explains the stakes,

UNLESS something changes in Washington, American workers will, on New Year’s Day, effectively lose their right to be represented by a union.
… Workers illegally fired for union organizing won’t be reinstated with back pay. Employers will be able to get away with interfering with union elections. Perhaps most important, employers won’t have to recognize unions despite a majority vote by workers. Without the board to enforce labor law, most companies will not voluntarily deal with unions.

What You Can Do
Download and print the NLRB poster, and out it up at your workplace.
Download and print this “Unions 101″ sheet, and leave copies at your workplace for people to find and read.
Send people to visit the AFL-CIO’s A Quick Study of How Unions Help Workers Win a Voice on the Job online.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Adjourn And Appoint! We Can’t Wait – For Recess Appointments

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

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

The law: The NLRB exists to protect employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining and to certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.
But at the end of December the NLRB will again not have enough members for a quorum, and will be unable to make decisions. This is on purpose. Republicans have been blocking any appointments to NLRB in order to make this happen and prevent the Board from functioning. This will cause harm to the general the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.
A Look At One Case
Here is the kind of thing that’s going on because of this obstruction that is keeping the government from functioning. An example of the problems with the NLRB is the large backlog of cases, such as this one case that started in 2003. See this 2008 Variety story on the 2003 labor violation, NLRB rules against CNN, for background,

In a frequently scathing decision, a judge has ruled that CNN acted illegally and discriminatorily in terminating [in 2003] a subcontracting relationship with a firm that provided technical services in the cabler’s New York and D.C. bureaus.
Arthur J. Amchan, an administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board, ordered reinstatement with back pay for 110 dismissed workers. Amchan said the root of the trouble had been CNN’s desire to avoid bargaining with a union.
CNN denied the charges and said it will appeal the ruling to the full NLRB.

How bad was CNN?

In his ruling, Amchan found that unit to be “a sham” used to limit the hiring of any TVS workers in order to avoid having to negotiate with the NABET-CWA. The cabler’s ultimate motive was “to achieve a nonunion technical work force in its Washington, D.C., and New York bureaus,” said the judge, adding that CNN’s “widespread and egregious” actions constituted a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

From Broadcast Union News, NLRB vs CNN/Team Video Update,

He [the judge] ordered the immediate reinstatement of the 110 workers who were not rehired through CNN’s scam hiring system, called for the restoration of the economic losses of all 250 workers and ordered CNN to recognize and bargain with NABET-CWA.

The judge declared that “CNN engaged in widespread and egregious misconduct, demonstrating a flagrant and general disregard” for workers’ rights.
So CNN appeals to the full NLRB, and Republicans make sure there isn’t a full NLRB. (The rules are if one party objects to the decision it is suspended until the full NLRB can hear it. The strategy is every employer objects, and the Republicans keep the NLRB from being able to hear cases and make rulings.)
Now it is 2011, closing in on 2012. 110 workers terminated in 2003 to block a union, a judge ordered them back, Republicans block the NLRB from operating, and like hundreds of other cases, this case sits in purgatory…
The Value Of Recess Appointments
The NLRB is again about to be prevented by obstruction from doing its job, operating to protect America’s employees and employers and to curtail certain private sector … practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy. The President has the power to keep the NLRB and other agencies operating, by making recess appointments to fill positions when Republicans are obstructing.
But President Obama has been reluctant to use his Presidential power to make recess appointments. In 2010, after waiting 14 months, President Obama finally, finally, finally, finally, finally made just a few recess appointements to get the government operating,

Here is what is going on. President Obama is way behind in nominating people to vacant posts and judgeships. On top of this the Republicans have used the filibuster to block many of the candidates that Obama has nominated. In the case of the Labor Board there were only two people left serving on the 5-member Board when 3 are required to make rulings, and some 600 cases have backed up.
… Such use of legitimate power to make the government operate as it should is also known as “governing.” Until today he has refused to use this power to get the government operating. Today he finally, finally, finally, finally put 15 people into positions where they can start getting their agencies operating.

Even that small gesture made a big difference to working Americans, which I wrote about in NLRB Success Shows Value Of Recess Appointments,

A government agency is blocked from functioning by obstructionist, party-over-country, Republican Senators. The President makes recess appointments to get government functioning again and the agency starts doing its job. The result: working people are protected. Today the NLRB issued modest new guidelines for union elections that will clear up many, many problems faced by employees.
… The Constitutional purpose of recess appointments is to keep government functioning. When vacancies are left unfilled it hurts all of us. But even though there are a large number of unfilled positions, many blocked by Senate Republicans, President Obama has made very few recess appointments. The result is a a public increasingly frustrated by the hobbled government.
President Bush made 171 recess appointments, Clinton 139. Bush used this power to appoint extremist ideologues, Clinton to get around Republican obstruction.
President Obama has been reluctant to govern make recess appointments because he does not want to upset the Republican opposition. He has made less than 40 such appointments so far.

The Constitutional Solution: Adjourn And Appoint
The NLRB, judges and other appointments are all being blocked by Republican filibusters. This is not politics, this is not bipartisanship, this is intentional obstruction to keep the government from operating. The Constitution foresaw this, and the President has a responsibility to apply the Constitution to do something about this. The Constitution gives the President the executive power. The President is supposed to do that job and use this power to get things done.
The Constitution is clear:
Article II Section 2: The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
Article II Section 3: …he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper;
If the House and Senate disagree on adjournment, the President can adjourn them. And when they are adjourned he can make recess appointments.
We can’t wait. We have an extraordinary situation here, where one of the parties, as a political strategy, is obstructing for the purpose of preventing the government from operating. It is the duty of the President to keep the government operating.
Mr. President, the next time the Congress recesses without recessing, adjourn them and appoint the necessary NLRB members, judges, etc to get this government back in operation for We, the People.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Palin And Boeing CEO Tell Government Who The Boss Is

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What can a democracy like ours do when giant companies say, “Rules? We don’t need no stinkin’ rules! We don’t got to pay you no taxes!” and “We will just move out of your puny country if you try to tell us what to do.”
Government is beginning to enforce labor laws again, with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filing a complaint against Boeing for retaliating against employees for legitimate union activities. In response Boeing’s CEO questions government’s “authority” to tell big businesses like Boeing what to do, saying companies like his can just move “overseas.” Sarah Palin echoes the complaint, saying businesses can just move to “more business-friendly countries.” These are direct challenges to the democracy we fought to build.
Boeing Threatens “Overseas Flight”
Boeing chairman, president and CEO Jim McNerney has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he challenges the “authority” of our democracy to regulate giant multinational corporations.

“The NLRB is wrong and has far overreached its authority. Its action is a fundamental assault on the capitalist principles that have sustained America’s competitiveness since it became the world’s largest economy nearly 140 years ago. We’ve made a rational, legal business decision about the allocation of our capital and the placement of new work within the U.S.”

McNerney essentialy confirms that it was union activity that led Boeing to decide to open a plant in anti-union South Carolina,

“Among the considerations we sought were a long-term “no-strike clause” that would ensure production stability for our customers, and a wage and benefit growth trajectory that would help in our cost battle against Airbus and other state-sponsored competitors. … Union leaders couldn’t meet expectations on our key issues, and we couldn’t accept their demands that we remain neutral in all union-organizing campaigns…”

Like the movie stereotype, poking his finger in your chest, “You got a problem with that?”
McNerney goes on to call the NLRB enforcement “brazen regulatory activism” that “could accelerate the overseas flight of good, middle-class American jobs.”
There it is, the threat, basically, “We will just move out of your puny country if you try to tell us what to do, and we will take your jobs with us.”
Boots On Necks
Sarah Palin, in her Facebook post, Removing the Boot from the Throat of American Businesses, blasts President Obama’s “appointees at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) who have their boots on The Boeing Company’s neck.”
Palin explains that business is the boss now, not We-the-People democracy, writing,

Does the President realize the real concern here is not that businesses will choose to locate in one state over another? It’s that businesses will choose to locate in other countries because thanks to the Obama administration’s job killing policies and over-reaching regulatory boards the business climate in the United States is growing toxic.

Basically, she says government ought to just get out of the way of the plutocrats, because big, multinational businesses have so much power over democracy that,

… eventually every state will suffer when businesses declare “enough is enough” with these tactics and decide to relocate in more business-friendly countries.

Once again, the threat: Mess with us and we will leave and take your jobs with us.
Whose Boot Is On Whose Neck?
To be clear, Palin does not mean this as a call to strengthen democracy and get these companies and their threats under control. She is not complaining that these companies do not want to follow our rules and pay decent wages, offer benefits, protect worker safety and protect the environment. She is saying the United States should change and become more “business-friendly” — like the non-democracies that suppress labor rights, pay low wages, and lock you up if you complain.
“Free Trade” has allowed businesses to cross borders to “business friendly” non-democracies to escape the protections democracy offers us. It pits exploited workers in these “business-friendly” countries against our own democracy-protected workers, forcing a race to the bottom in wages, working standards and living standards. And it lets them avoid taxation, defunding our democracy’s ability to enforce regulations and laws
If we don’t do what these giant, powerful companies tell us to do, and abandon the protections of democracy that we fought so hard to achieve, they will just pack up and leave and take our jobs with them. Just whose boot is on whose neck?
The question is why do we let them do this, and what can we do about it?
The following is adapted from April’s post on the NLRB actions, Does Government Know Who The Boss Is?
Who Is Boss?
Do We, the People have the ability to enforce our laws? Do we have the power to tax corporations and the wealthy?
Do we have the power to keep the protections and opportunities our democracy had provided?
Democracy provides us with safety protections and fair wages. We fought so hard to build and maintain this democratic society so that We, the People could share the benefits. We passed laws allowing union organizing, as a balance to the immense power of corporations and wealth. We passed laws prohibiting companies from telling workers, “Work for what we give you or don’t eat.”
And for a time this built our prosperity. But we let the protections slip, and allowed companies to cross borders to escape the protections democracy offers — to non-democratic countries like China where workers have few rights, where pay is low, environmental protections practically non-existent. Companies locating manufacturing in places like have huge cost advantages over companies located in democracies that respect and protect the rights of citizens.
The Threat Against Us
Won’t companies just move out of the state/country if we try to enforce labor laws or tax them? Won’t China just stop selling to us or dump our bonds if we apply a tariff to protect democracy, or try to enforce trade laws? Won’t the rich just pack up and move or stop working if we don’t just give them everything they want? Won’t they move even more factories out of the city/state/country if We, the People try to demand our rights?
We Still Have The Power
Here’s the thing. We, the People still have some power left in our hands. For one thing we still offer a huge, prosperous market to sell into. We still have the power to make demands on those who would like to sell things to us. We can apply a “democracy tariff” to goods made by exploited workers so these goods do not have a price advantage over goods made here. And we can choose to enforce tax laws, and wage laws, and tariffs, and labor laws, and trade laws to protect and strengthen what remains of our democracy.
But we can only do this if we decide to stand up for ourselves and do something about what is happening. We have to put our foot down, and demand that our politicians listen to We, the People and do what we say. It is time to get organized, to talk to neighbors and relatives, to show up at town hall meetings and protests. We can demand that news media begin to cover more than just the corporate/conservative viewpoint. We can go out and register others to vote, and get them to the polls, and demand that votes be counted accurately. We can take back our democracy and put We, the People back in charge.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Does Government Know Who The Boss Is?

In Washington state workers are allowed to organize and form unions so they can win good wages and benefits. In “right-to-work” states like South Carolina, though, the government sides with big companies against their workers. (They used to have even harsher anti-worker laws there but the North stopped rounding up the escapees…)
Boeing workers in Washington go on strike, so Boeing sets up an assembly line in anti-union South Carolina and tells the Washington workers to take what they offer and like it. This is a standard move from companies these days, telling workers, “Take the cuts or we’ll close the plant and move your jobs somewhere where workers can’t do anything about it.”
Illegal, But So What?
You probably didn’t know this but retaliating against workers like that is against the law. It is even illegal to threaten workers in order to avoid a strike. It is illegal to fire or intimidate employees for organizing.
But companies go ahead and do these things anyway, and other illegal things, because no one does anything about it. And it has been so long since anyone did anything about it – just like with banking fraud or age discrimination – that it is now standard operating procedure. No one even remembers that it is illegal. No one cares.
Like age discrimination. Look at the faces of the employees behind President Obama when he visited Facebook and tell me if Facebook is the least bit worried about age discrimination enforcement.

Or this picture of the President visiting Google:
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Workers’ Rights A Thing Of The Past
With labor-law enforcement — or even a sense that workers should have rights — seemingly a thing of the past, these anti-worker sentiments are spreading. Recently, for example Arizona and South Dakota passed anti-worker laws, forbidding the formation of a union after a majority workers sign cards asking for one. Wisconsin and other states have passed laws restricting the labor rights of public-employees and restricting the ability to collect union-membership dues.
But THIS Time!
But THIS time something unusual happened. The government has actually threatened to enforce the law! The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Boeing and is suing Arizona and South Dakota for violating labor laws!
Boardrooms across the land are rising up in indignation. How dare the government threaten giant corporations that they might enforce the law? Don’t they know who’s the boss? The Wall Street Journal explains, “Boeing management did what it judged to be best for its shareholders and customers and looked elsewhere. … As Boeing chief Jim McNerney noted on a conference call at the time, the company couldn’t have “strikes happening every three to four years.” and calls Boeing’s threats against unions a “reasonable business decision.”
Conservative columnists and bloggers are earning their pay, writing indignant column after column about “union bosses,” some even praising Ayn Rand. Conservative astroturfers (also) and politicians are not far behind them.



How dare We, the People (government) tell a business that it has to respect its workers and our laws!!!
Who Is Boss?
Do We, the People have the ability to enforce our laws? Do we have the power to tax corporations and the wealthy?
Do we have the power to protect the protections of democracy?
Democracy provides workers with safety protections and fair wages. We fought so hard to build and maintain this democratic society so that We, the People could share the benefits. We passed laws allowing union organizing, as a balance to the immense power of corporations and wealth. We passed laws prohibiting companies from telling workers, “Work for what we give you or don’t eat.”
And for a time this built our prosperity. But we let the protections slip, and allowed companies to cross borders to escape the protections democracy offers — to non-democratic countries like China where workers have few rights, where pay is low, environmental protections practically non-existent. Companies locating manufacturing in places like have huge cost advantages over companies located in democracies that respect and protect the rights of citizens.
The Threat Against Us
Won’t companies just move out of the state/country if we try to enforce labor laws or tax them? Won’t China just stop selling to us if we apply a tariff to protect democracy, or try to enforce trade laws? Won’t the rich just pack up and move or stop working if we don’t just give them everything they want? Won’t they move even more factories out of the city/state/country if We, the People try to demand our rights?
We Still Have The Power
Here’s the thing. We, the People still have some power left in our hands. For one thing we still have a huge market. We still have the power to make demands on those who would like to sell into that market. And we can still choose to enforce tax laws, and wage laws, and tariffs, and labor laws, and trade laws to protect and strengthen what remains of our democracy.
But we can only do this if we decide to stand up for ourselves and do something about what is happening. We have to put our foot down, and demand that our politicians listen to We, the People and do what we say. It is time to get organized, to talk to neighbors and relatives, to show up at town hall meetings and protests. We can demand that news media begin to cover more than just the corporate/conservative viewpoint. We can go out and register others to vote, and get them to the polls, and demand that votes be counted accurately. We can take back our democracy and put We, the People back in charge.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Who Is Really “Anti-Business”?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
In the Bloomberg story today, Obama Doesn’t ‘Begrudge’ Bonuses for Blankfein, Dimon, President Obama, spoke up about the huge Wall Street bonuses handed out this year,

“I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen,” Obama said in the interview yesterday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free- market system.”

Free-market system? These huge bonuses are for the Wall Street robber-barons that caused the financial collapse, took taxpayer dollars to prop up their fortunes, and get free money from the Federal Reserve with which to “trade” — speculate, gamble, call it what you want. Meanwhile they spend hundreds of millions of dollars “lobbying” (bribery) to fight any kind of financial reforms or consumer protections from enactment, and to make sure that no such think as a “free market” with honest competition never threatens their dominance of business and government.
So why is the President talking like this [note: see update below], at a time when so many Americans are out of work, losing their homes, and falling into poverty? Because he doesn’t want to be perceived as “anti-business.” From the story,

Obama sought to combat perceptions that his administration is anti-business and trumpeted the influence corporate leaders have had on his economic policies. He plans to reiterate that message when he speaks to the Business Roundtable, which represents the heads of many of the biggest U.S. companies, on Feb. 24 in Washington.

Meanwhile a Senate filibuster blocked the President’s great nominee, Craig Becker, from serving on the National Labor Relations Board. So the Labor Board remains non-functional. The filibuster kept workers from being fairly represented, and the Board itself from having a tie-breaking vote so they can resolve labor disputes so the “free market” can function as it should, with workers able to bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.
These two stories this week present quite a contrast, and send mixed and demoralizing signals to the country. President Obama doesn’t want to “appear” to be “anti-business.” Meanwhile giant, monopolistic corporations and Wall Street are chewing up Main Street and keeping smaller businesses from competing, while their lobbyists keep the legislature from getting anything done at all.
Let’s talk about this “anti-business” label and how it is used.
I wrote a post the other day titled, Tax Cuts HURT Small And Medium Businesses, championing small and medium businesses in their struggle to survive against the giant monopolistic corporations that are crushing them. Summary: struggling businesses don’t pay taxes, so tax cuts only give more ammunition to the giants that are crushing them. In the comments at one of the places it was posted I was accused to being “anti-business.”
Apparently championing small and medium businesses – America’s job-creating, innovative engine – is “anti-business.” If you look around, being anything but a servant to Wall Street and the giant monopolistic corporations earns you the label, “anti-business.”
The Power Of Words
This got me thinking about the ways this label, “anti-business,” gets used. It is always used by corporate/conservative types, against anyone who questions the power of Wall Street and the giant monopolistic corporations that are strangling smaller businesses, workers and democracy.
The President nominates a great candidate for the Labor Board, then worries that he is perceived as “anti-business.” Labels like “anti-business” are powerful accusations and come from very, very powerful people. (Like this or this.)
Last year, in the post Misuse Of The Words Protectionism And Trade Is Making Us Poorer I wrote,

Language has tremendous power. People like George Lakoff and Drew Westin, who study the use of language in political discussion, say that our choice of words has the power to actually affect the “wiring” or neuron circuits that our brains use to think.
The corporate marketers and political persuaders have certainly learned the power of language to influence us. It has even gotten to the point where “neuromarketing” uses MRI and EEG to study how our brains react to certain stimuli so they can be used to market and persuade.
In politics I think that we have even reached a point where we give words more power and importance even than the ideas the words represent. In the Bush years we learned that the persuaders believed they could “create their own reality.”
[. . .] words are used as weapons by professionals who wish to distract us from things that are in front of our own faces.

So how do we fight this? One way is to recognize our own power as citizens in a democracy. In America the people – Main Street – are supposed to be in charge of things, and the purpose of business and finance is supposed to be to serve our interests and needs, not the other way around. Why else would We, the People have set this system up, anyway? So we need to internalize this understanding, and believe in it. We are supposed to be in charge. We, the People are supposed to be telling businesses how they are supposed to operate, setting the rules and regulations, defining the playing field on which they operate. We need to have a sense that it is improper for businesses to be involved at all in the decision-making about the rules under which businesses operate. It must be this way because business interests will always, always try to tilt the rules against the free market and in their own favor, giving them advantages over other businesses.
This isn’t about being “anti-business” at all, it is about being in favor of a level playing field, where the innovative small and medium companies have a fair chance to compete. It is the giant monopolistic corporations that are “anti-business.”
Believe it.
Update – Greg Sargent looked at the transcript and has a more nuanced interpretation.

Why They (And You) Need A Union

Yesterday I wrote about the security guards who are striking at Kaiser Permanente because their contractor-employer is engaging in illegal tactics while trying to block them from forming a union. The guards work for Inter-Con Security Inc., which is contracted by Kaiser to provide security services.
You can read articles with details about what happened with the strike yesterday here and here. (There is close to zero coverage of this strike in newspapers. But you wouldn’t expect a corporate-owned media to provide information about labor, now would you?)
Please visit the site Stand for Security for background and details about the security guards’ fight to form a union.
While this strike is about violations of workers’ rights, there are very good reasons for their three-year effort to form a union.
In Oregon, the state just north of California, Kaiser Permanente security guards are employed by Kaiser, not by a contractor. They are unionized and here is a short chart of just some of the difference this makes.

In-House Union (ILWU)
Kaiser Security Officers
Inter-Con Officers at Kaiser
Wages $15 – $18 per hour
(Oregon has a much lower
cost of living)
As little as $10.40 per hour
Raises $.70 – $1.45/hour annually,
depending on seniority
(Guaranteed in writing!)
No schedule, no guarantee
Free Family Health Care YES NO
Health Insurance Elegibility 20 hours worked “Full-time”, which for many
officers means 1-2 years of
working 40 hours a week before
qualifying for health insurance.
Bereavement Pay 3 days paid time off none
Sick Leave 1.6 hours per pay period
(Time accrues)
none
Jury Duty Paid off as needed none
Pension YES none
Grievance Procedure YES none
Shift Differential $.90/hour evenings
$1.25/hour nights
none

This chart is an example of the difference that a union makes. The column on the left — the one with better pay, health care, sick days, pension and other benefits — is the workers who are in a union. The column on the right is these security guards. So this is why these security guards have been fighting for three years to join a union. The employer, Inter-Con Security won’t even give sick days! For people working in hospitals! What are these workers supposed to do? And they won’t even pay when the workers have jury duty! (Shouldn’t a company be concerned about the greater public good, like a court system that works?)
But this chart is also representative of other workplaces, showing the difference that forming a union can make for other workers. How else are workers going to get back their rights, get health care, get pensions, and get paid? If you see a better idea out there, please let us all know because this strike and the things happening to these security guards shows that it is very very difficult to form a union. In today’s environment where workers are afraid of employers moving their jobs overseas – or even just laying them off and telling everyone else to work harder – and then giving their pay out as raises to the executives and multi-million-dollar bonuses to the CEO, this is a very brave action to take.
On top of that, the Republican government has stacked the labor Department and the National Labor Relations Board to side with the big corporations. So it is even harder to form a union than ever. Which is, of course, why wages are stagnating and CEO pay is off the charts.
This is why these workers are striking — to demand that their civil rights be honored and to demand that their right to form a union be honored. These security guards are placing everything on the line — and doing this for all of us. If they win this fight, all of us are a step further toward our rights being honored, and toward our own jobs paying more and giving benefits.
I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2.gif

Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced (updated)

There is a three-day strike starting today at Kaiser Permanente hospitals in California. 1800 security guards are striking for three days in an “unfair labor practice” action. This strike is not against Kaiser and is not to ask for money or benefits; it is not even to form a union in the first place. This strike is just to ask that our laws please be enforced. This may be a lot to ask for in today’s corporate-dominated system, but they’re asking for it anyway.
Here is some background:
Rather than directly employ security guards Kaiser contracts with a company called Inter-Con Security Systems, Inc. Inter-Con hires and manages the security guards for Kaiser, paying them very little and giving them few benefits – not even sick leave. So these security guards, even though they work at Kaiser, (some for many years), are paid far less than other security guards at Kaiser facilities in other states, and receive few benefits. Kaiser is one of the more responsible, unionized companies for its workers, which makes this situation even worse for these workers.

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Destroying Workers’ Right To Organize Unions

The Bush government just took one more step toward outlawing unions. Today Bush’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) “Kentucky River Decision” decision removed union organizing rights for millions more workers – this time for nurses by declaring them to be “supervisors” – management. And the ruling might also cover many newspaper and TV employees and trade workers.
AFL-CIO Weblog | Labor Board Ruling May Bar Millions of Workers from Forming Unions,

The Republican-dominated National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) voted along party lines to slash long-time federal labor laws protecting workers’ freedom to form unions and opened the door for employers to classify millions of workers as supervisors. Under federal labor law, supervisors are prohibited from forming unions.