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.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Caught In A Machine That Grinds Us Up

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.
This is Part II of Companies As Buy-And-Sell Commodities. See Part I, Companies As Buy-And-Sell Commodities – Workers, Customers and Country As Costs.
In Part I I wrote about a pattern we see over and over again: buying up good companies, shedding and outsourcing the workers, cutting their pay and benefits, outsourcing and cheapening the product or service, fleecing and mistreating the customers, closing the offices and factories and running up debt. If you want to make a few hundred million, here is the game:

  1. Find a good company that still respects its workers, paying decent wages and benefits, still respects its customers and produces a quality product or service, still respects and has ties to its community and keeps a plant open, maybe sponsors a little league team, etc. These are all “costs” to cut.
  2. Use other people’s money: Work with an investment bank to finance the buyout, with the company itself as collateral, and pay the banking fees from the financing.
  3. Cut. Cut costs, including the quality of the product or service and customer support operations. Externalize environmental costs onto the community. Wait for the union contract to expire and offer wage cuts and elimination of benefits and refuse to negotiate (where are they going to get other jobs?), fire union organizers, threaten to close the operations and move them overseas, and don’t worry about labor laws – they aren’t enforced anymore.
  4. After breaking the union and cutting costs, close the plant. outsource production to China.
  5. Now the books look better because of reduced costs, so take on new financing and pocket it.
  6. Further stoke up the books for a couple of quarters using gimmicks like pushing product into distribution channels to make sales look better than they are, find another buyer and pass what’s left to them to repeat the cycle – there are always more costs to cut.
  7. Pocket your millions, then go back to step 1 and repeat the process with another company.

This is the buyout game and it is part of the story of what has happened to our economy, our jobs, our communities and our country. It has become a machine, with profits fueled by tax and social incentives. These incentives create a formula that follows the steps described above, with an inevitability to the consequences. Because it CAN be done, of course it IS done. It is a great game for short-term profits for a few. It is justified as “finding efficiencies” and the ideology behind it insists that the profits prove the market demands the behavior.

Continue reading

Sisters of St. Joseph and Hospital Workers

This post oroginally appeared at Speak Out California.
So many of us have a hard time living up to our own values. Here is a story of one example.
The Sisters of St. Joseph have a proud history of fighting for human rights and human dignity and improvement of conditions for working people. But like so many progressives — and people in general — the Sisters of St. Joseph appear to be having trouble living up to these values when they apply to themselves.
A few days ago Julia Rosen wrote a Calitics post titled, Sisters of St. Josephs it’s time to make peace with your workers. I urge readers here to go read that post. Julia writes,

It is a dirty little secret, but often times the more virulently anti-union employers are religious orders that run health systems. Such is the situation with the Sisters of St. Joseph who run the St. Joseph Health System. They have been resisting the efforts of their service employees to join SEIU-UHW for the past three years.

And at Huffington Post Delores Huertes has a post titled, Together We Marched in Solidarity. I also urge readers to click through and read it. She begins,

Continue reading

Donna Edwards Says You Should Run For Office

I had the opportunity to talk with Donna Edwards for a while today, at the SEIU 2008 convention. She says that you should run for office, and a lot more than that.
This year Donna Edwards challenged incumbent “corporate Democrat” Al Wynn for Maryland’s 4th Congressional District in the primary election and won, with help from the Netroots, multiple progressive organizations and labor, including a great deal of help from the SEIU. Her win is “reverberating – wide and deep” among members of Congress. It shows that accountability has arrived. It also shows that “Democrats can do this without begging and relying on corporate interests.” She goes on to say,

“There is a huge lesson in this. A lot of elected officials start out in the grassroots community – and then the money happens. One step after another they are following the corporate agenda.”

She says that help from the netroots will “enable candidates like us to be as independent inside as we were on the pathway getting there.”
In 2006 Donna ran against Wynn and lost by 2731 votes. Many progressive organizations and labor groups were reluctant to challenge any Democratic incumbent. After that defeat she went from labor organization to labor organization saying that she was just one union hall away from winning. So in 2008 a coalition of labor and progressives joined up, and she ended up winning the primary by 20 points. Incumbent Wynn resigned from office and immediately joined a lobbying firm for big bucks.
She says the wind of change is out there, a demand for change is building. She says regular people have to run for office to start building a farm team for change. Regular people have a story to tell, and the more we run regular folks, the more opportunity there is to tell the public where we have to go. The power of the moneyed interests that want to keep us where we are is incredible so we have to empower regular people to tell their stories.
She said she talked to a number of people, telling them they should run, and finally decided to run herself. “But why didn’t I say that first?” She wants all of us to say that first. (Not that Donna should run, but that YOU should run.) Progressives need to create a farm team to run for office.
Donna_Edwards.jpg
Donna_Edwards_Group.jpg
From Left: Todd Beeton (MyDD), Donna Edwards, Watertiger (Firedoglake) and me.
Disclaimer: Blogger hotel and airfare paid for by the SEIU

You Git What You Git

They’re having an “open mike” session at the SEIU convention in favor and against a motion, and a woman from one of the locals just said something great about joining a union and fighting for your rights:
If you don’t step up you git what you git and you can’t throw a fit.

SEIU’s Accountability Project – Making Politicians Do The Right Thing

I am at the SEIU 2008 convention in Puerto Rico. Todd Beeton posted earlier today over at MyDD about the SEIU’s Accountability Project and I’d like to add to this discussion. This is a big, big deal for progressives! As Andy Stern said in his address to the convention today we are tired of, “Politicians who want your vote but after the election are at your throat.”
In his post Todd explained,

. . . In a nutshell, after November, the SEIU intends to hold our Democratic representatives to their promises and let them know that there is the money, the organization and the will not only to fund primary challenges but to recruit and even train qualified candidates around the country if they don’t do what they said they’d do.
What makes this threat real, of course, is that SEIU was instrumental in the defeat of Al Wynn by Donna Edwards in Maryland’s February 12th primary. The SEIU spent $1 million on that race alone. Next year and all during the ensuing cycle, they’re prepared to spend $10 million to target Democrats who don’t follow through on their promises. Think about what the SEIU got for their money in MD-04: Congresswoman Donna Edwards who will champion progressive legislation on issue after issue affecting not only those in her district but impacting people’s lives for the better all over the country, as every new and better Democrat added to congress by definition does.

The primary race between Al Wynn and Donna Edwards was a very big victory for progressives. Prior to this race Democrats in Congress only saw one effective power bloc on the playing field which meant going against those big corporate interests could cost them their jobs. Whatever they might want to do, politics is about what you make them do. Wherever their hearts might have been, elected Democrats could see that only one side was able to rally the only real support or punishment that counted: enough votes. Yes, Ned Lamont caused some problems for Joe Lieberman but it’s still Senator Lieberman.

Continue reading

Blogs Brought Attention To The Security Guard Strike

Over the last few weeks I have been writing about the plight of security guards working for a company called Inter-Con, a contractor at Kaiser Permanente Hospitals in California. One post I wrote on this was titled, Why Don’t We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore? and I want to get to that subject some more here. But first, I want to go over what was covered.
The security guards went on strike because their employer was interfering with their right to form a union. The first post, Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced

This strike is not against Kaiser and is not to ask for money or benefits; it is not even to form a union in the first place. This strike is just to ask that our laws please be enforced. This may be a lot to ask for in today’s corporate-dominated system, but they’re asking for it anyway.

The second post, Why They (And You) Need A Union, asked,

How else are workers going to get back their rights, get health care, get pensions, and get paid? If you see a better idea out there, please let us all know because this strike and the things happening to these security guards shows that it is very very difficult to form a union. In today’s environment where workers are afraid of employers moving their jobs overseas – or even just laying them off and telling everyone else to work harder – and then giving their pay out as raises to the executives and multi-million-dollar bonuses to the CEO, this is a very brave action to take.

Then, in Unions: Sticking Together to Fight Corporate Power,

You and I are individuals, alone. But corporations have the ability to amass immense power and wealth and influence. You and I as individuals must stand alone against this power and wealth. What can you or I or anyone else do on our own? The average person in our society has very little ability to stand up against this kind of power and wealth.
Over time people discovered that there are some things they can do that will work. One of these has been to form unions. By joining together the workers in a company can amass some power of their own. The company needs the workers in order to function so the workers — if they stick together — have the ability to make the corporation obey employee/employer laws, provide decent pay, and all the other benefits that the unions have brought us. This is why they are also call “organized labor.” By organizing into a union and sticking together people have the ability to demand respect and compensation for their work.

There were also some other posts with news about the strike itself.
In the post Why Don’t We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore? I wrote,

A few local TV news broadcasts covered the story, and there were a few newspaper articles announcing that there was going to be a strike. But there was almost no actual coverage of the strike except on progressive sites and labor outlets. What’s up with that?

This is a significant problem with today’s corporate media. There is overwhelming coverage of business issues like the stock market, investment, mergers and CEO personality profiles. There is story after story pushing new products, cars, bigger houses, consumption, even listings of which movies are making more money than other movies – as if that was a concern to ordinary people.
But there is very little coverage of issues that might help regular people live their daily lives. And in particular there is no, none, nada, negatory, zero coverage of ordinary working people fighting back against the corporate domination of our democracy and other decision-making, including the commercialization of everything.
Labor issues are a big part of that equation. Organized labor is the vehicle that enables regular people to fight back against domination by the big corporations. Big corporations are able to aggregate immense wealth and power. Individuals have no change standing against such wealth and power on their own. But banding together they do. And the more that band together, the better the chance to stand up to the wealth and power of the corporations.
But not if people don’t find out that they can’t do this. And that is where the blogs come in. I was able to post the stories about the security guards’ strike at Huffington Post, MyDD, Seeing the Forest, and in DailyKos and Calitics diaries. Other sites like AlterNet picked up these stories and passed them along to their readers. In this way literally millions of people were able to learn about this strike, which helped raise awareness of the situation as well as apply more pressure to Inter-Con, the employer as well as to government agencies responsible for enforcing the labor laws. If stories like this can be kept entirely quiet strikes like this would be completely ineffective. But if the blog-readers and other progressives start demanding that laws be enforced and workers be allowed to organize, we can start to make a difference.
Please visit StandForSecurity.org.
I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

Why Don’t We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore?

Last week security guards working at Kaiser Permanente facilities in California went on strike to protest illegal anti-union activities on the part of their employer, Inter-Con Security. Instead of hiring security guards directly in California, or using a union-friendly security contractor, Kaiser contracts with Inter-Con. The strike lasted three days.
A few local TV news broadcasts covered the story, and there were a few newspaper articles announcing that there was going to be a strike. But there was almost no actual coverage of the strike except on progressive sites and labor outlets. What’s up with that?
Why does the media barely cover labor issues?
Of course, when I write “the media” here I mean the newspapers, TV and radio that we usually call the “mainstream” media and lots of us call the “corporate” media. This is where most people get the news and information that forms the basis of their opinions and understanding about what is happening – and why it is happening. And therefore for most people the information presented by this mainstream or corporate media necessarily forms the basis of their voting decisions, their opinion poll survey answers, and their overall acceptance of and consent for actions conducted in their name by government and other institutions of society.
When things are repeatedly reported in “the media” as problems, most people begin to become concerned and perceive that these “problems” need to be somehow “solved.” We see cycles of this development of public concern. In recent years, for example, the media has done a great deal of reporting on the problem if children being kidnapped. And there is a great deal of concern about this among parents — to the point that societal patterns are changing and children rarely are allowed out of the house unaccompanied. Fewer and fewer children walk to school, go to parks alone, etc.
In reality child kidnappings are extremely rare, which makes this a case study of the power of the major media to sway the behavior of the entire country. Over the years similar media-driven concerns about drugs, shark attacks and satanic cults have created waves of national hysteria.
If actual threats held sway, car accidents, guns, and other real threats would receive much, much more public attention and concern.
The other side of this ability to drive public attention is the power to hide real problems. The national debt is approaching ten trillion dollars, and interest on that debt is approaching half a trillion dollars per year, but is rarely mentioned as a concern. The military budget is greater than the military spending of all other countries in the world combined, much, much higher than when we faced down the Soviet Union, while a lot of people are making a whole lot of money from it with little public scrutiny. (This is not even counting Iraq/Afghanistan spending.) But this is never brought up.
And then there is the problem that labor unions are trying to address. This is the domination of our government by big-business interests and the accompanying concentration of wealth into the hands of a very few people at the expense of the rest of us. Workers like the Inter-Con security guards who are trying to organize to demand even minimal pay and benefits are absolutely invisible in today’s mainstream/corporate media. The illegal tactics being used – with the assistance of the Bush administration – are not covered by today’s mainstream/corporate media. But what else would you expect, as the media becomes further and further concentrated into the hands of a few very, very large corporations? Do you think for a minute that a large corporation would allow any kind of pro-labor stories to be carried on news media that it owns?
You hear that the reason for this is that “labor is declining.” Well there are a lot more members of unions in this country than there are Fellows at neo-con think tanks, but you sure do hear from them a lot in the mainstream/corporate media. There are a lot more members of labor unions than there are members of the far-right Christian Coalition, but you sure hear a lot about their concerns the corporate media. And there are a lot more people who work for a living in jobs that pay too little, don’t provide adequate health care or sick leave or other benefits and need to hear about the benefits of joining unions. That’s for damn sure.
In fact any coverage of the plight of these security guards is necessarily pro-labor. When you hear about their living and working conditions you will understand what I mean. My next post will be about that, so stay tuned.
I encourage you to visit StandForSecurity.org.
I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

p5rn7vb

Kaiser Security Guard Strike

This week I wrote about the Kaiser Permanente / Inter-Con Security Security Guard strike.
The post Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced discussed why the guards are striking. They are employees of Inter-Con Security, Inc., which contracts services to Kaiser Permanente facilities in California. This company (not Kaiser) is trying to stop the guards from forming a union and the guards are striking to ask that laws allowing union organizing be enforced.
In Why They (And You) Need A Union a comparison with unionized security guards at Kaiser facilities in other states demonstrated the difference that forming a union can make to workers everywhere.
The post Unions: Sticking Together to Fight Corporate Power discussed how individuals are unable to stand up against the immense power and wealth that corporations are able to accumulate. Over time workers learned that by organizing into unions they were able to also build enough power to fight back and demand fair compensation and benefits for their work.
Outside of the blogs there was remarkably little coverage of this strike. Here is a roundup of some of the other coverage:
This is a good story online at Urban Mecca, Three-Day Strike by Hundreds of Security Officers at Kaiser Hospitals,

“The public needs to know that the security officers responsible for making Kaiser hospitals safe and protecting vulnerable patients are being denied our fundamental civil rights. Inter-Con freely uses intimidation, spying and retaliation to harass its workers,” said Shauna Carnero, a security officer in Hayward.
The strike, which began May 6 and included major rallies outside Kaiser medical centers in Oakland, Sacramento and Los Angeles, followed numerous federal complaints that workers have filed with the National Labor Relations Board in recent weeks charging Inter-Con with unfair labor practices over the past two years.

The Pasadena Star-News had Kaiser guards strike,

Hospital security guards went on strike statewide Thursday, citing poor working conditions and lack of health coverage.
About 200 Southern California employees of Inter-Con Security, which is contracted by Kaiser Permanente to provide security guards, joined their Northern California counterparts who have been on strike since Tuesday, Service Employees International Union officials said.
[. . .] Security guards have little legal recourse when they are denied the right to organize, an SEIU attorney said. A loophole in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 gives security guards only one method of forming a union.
While most employees have the option of holding an election to bring in a union, security guards can only organize if their employers agree to recognize the union, said attorney Orrin Baird.
“It’s sort of out-dated,” Baird said. “If they were not guards they could file a petition with the (National Labor Relations Board) and then they would have to have an election.”

While a few local TV stations carried news about the strike, there was a near-blackout of coverage in the corporate media. WHy do you think that is?
Please visit StandForSecurity.org.
I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2