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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Delta’s Greed Helps Shut Down The FAA

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You probably don’t know that another act of hostage-taking by Republicans is underway. They have shut down the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to help Delta Airlines in its battle to keep its workers from voting in a union. This is costing the government $200 million a week, more than 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed, and as many as 87,000 construction workers and other contractors around the country are being laid off. The agency has been shut down for more than a week and so far the Republicans have refused to let it open before Congress leaves town for the summer. All this apparently so one company can keep employees who want a union from winning an election.
The FAA is the agency that regulates and overseas civil aviation. That is airports, airlines, pilots, employees, air traffic control, and other components of our aviation system. But the agency has been shut down. FAA inspectors and others are working without pay and paying for their own job-related travel. The shutdown is keeping the FAA from collecting federal taxes on airline tickets at a cost of $200 million in revenues each week even as the country struggles with deficits. Republicans said they don’t like deficits, but they clearly hate working people more – this shutdown adds $30 million a day, over $200 million a week to deficits.
A Shutdown Engineered For A Company
This shutdown of the FAA has occurred because of a form of “government shutdown” by Republicans, at the behest of Delta Airlines, over rules about unionization elections. Delta is in the middle of a fight to keep workers from being able to form a union. Delta wants the rules changes so a nonvoting worker, including one who might be sick, on vacation or otherwise absent from the workplace on election day, is counted as a “no” vote for unionization. Republicans inserted this anti-union language into the FAA funding reauthorization and are refusing to fund the agency unless Democrats agree to change these union election rules to help Delta.
Delta is apparently calling in favors to get this. According to Campaign Money Watch, in Is Delta Using Its Campaign Cash to Influence the FAA Debate?,

Delta’s been spending money wisely to try to overturn the decision to let workers organize more easily. They spent $1.6 million on lobbying during the first half of 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. (Over the past ten years they spent at least $32 million to influence Washington.) Their PAC has given $826,243 to members of Congress since 2000. Adding additional incentive for Republicans in Congress to stand with them, Richard Anderson, Delta’s CEO, made a $5,000 contribution to the Senate Republican’s campaign committee earlier this year — apparently his first one ever.

Not Delta’s First Anti-Labor Problems
This is hardly the beginning of anti-labor activities by Delta’s management. There has been a string of actions against its workers to the point that the government has had to step in. WSJ: Delta Probed on Union Drive,

The National Mediation Board said Wednesday it will conduct a full-blown investigation into allegations by a flight attendants union that Delta Air Lines Inc. interfered in last year’s fractious organizing drive at the world’s second-largest airline by traffic.

Joan McCarter elaborates in Daily Kos in June, Delta Air’s anti-union practices earns federal probe,

Delta isn’t just a crappy airline for passengers, it’s a crappy employer, too. At least it is if you can judge by the lengths it has gone to to prevent fairness in the workplace. Around the World Blog has some of the gory details of Delta’s extreme anti-union activities:

  • Open advocacy against fair American elections: Delta issued a press release commending the news that Darrell Issa’s deranged Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will investigate the NMB’s 2010 decision to conduct union elections for air/rail workers the same as all other types of American elections. … Unfortunately for Delta, the facts aren’t on their side — there’s no reason to conduct NMB elections differently from every other form of election, union or non-union, in the nation. ….
  • Bumping paying customers…so Delta employees can lobby: Delta is so committed to its anti-union ideology that it offered its employees the chance to travel to Washington to lobby against fair union elections under a provision that may bump paying customers. …

It goes beyond, however, a general fight against the rights of airline and railroad employees to organize, to a very specific fiht among Delta employees to organize. The airline’s fight against that union drive has made the airline a target for federal investigators.

“Delta is like the Scott Walker of airlines.” Joe Sudbay sums up Delta management’s attitude at AmericaBlog:

“Delta is like the Scott Walker of airlines. It wants to be known as anti-worker. And, of course, the GOPers in Congress are great allies in that quest. They’ll join together to fight this investigation and undermine NMB.”

Two Senators Weigh In On Delta And FAA Shutdown
In an NPR report, Reid Says FAA Shutdown Will Continue; Blames House, Delta Airlines, Senate Majority Leader Reid explains,

“It’s not a battle over essential air service. It’s a battle over Delta Airlines, who refuses to allow votes under the new rules that have been passed by the NLRB [National Labor Relations Board].” The issue, Reid says, is Delta’s “non-union” stance. The bill to fund the FAA, as crafted by House Republicans, includes language that sets new rules for aviation workers’ votes on labor representation.

Senator Rockeffeller, in a USA Today op-ed, Rural America needs Essential Air Service, talks about Delta’s attack on workers rights,

Unfortunately, the Republican House is holding the FAAhostage and using the EAS program to distract from its acknowledged goal: overturning a workers’ rights rule that makes sense and has been upheld in court.
This ugly backroom deal is the work of Delta Air Lines’ anti-worker allies in the House. They want to overturn a decision of the National Mediation Board that allows airline and railroad workers to organize with their votes counted the regular way — yes and no — rather than by counting people who don’t participate at all in the election.
Delta lost in court, and so it lobbied the Republican House leadership for help. That now involves blocking critical FAA legislation and attacking the EAS program, which creates jobs and economic opportunity in small communities by giving business access to travel.

Delta Greed Also Not Good For Customers
Delta’s management provides us an example of what happens to a company that prioritizes greed over all else. We see a company that is not just bad for its workers, it is also bad for its customers. Here are examples.
Greed: When the FAA shutdown meant that taxes would not be collected some airlines let their customers keep the money. But not Delta’s management — they decided to keep that extra cash for themselves. Memphis Business Journal, Delta raises ticket prices amid FAA shutdown,

Air travelers are getting a break from federal taxes as the Federal Aviation Administration has partially shut down, but some airlines, including Delta Air Lines Inc. , have raised fares and nullified the tax break. … While some airlines will allow customers to take advantage of the tax break, others, like Delta, have increased fares following the shutdown…

Greed: Amanda Terkel at Huffington Post: Delta Charges U.S. Troops Returning From Afghanistan $2,800 In Baggage Fees,

Delta Air Lines is facing intense criticism after charging 34 U.S. soldiers returning from Afghanistan $2,800 in baggage fees.
The incident came to light on Tuesday after a couple of the new-media savvy soldiers recorded a video about their ordeal and posted it on YouTube.

Greed: According to Delta Nightmares, a website devoted to describing Delta’s bad customer service,

I’m apparently not the only one who thinks so. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, Delta is having serious issues…ranking LAST among major carriers in customer service last year.

…among major airlines Delta finished with the highest rate of customer complaints filed with the Department of Transportation in the first nine months of last year, and was second-to-last in on-time arrivals and baggage handling through November. Delta also had the highest rate of canceled flights among major carriers in 2010, according to FlightStats.com.

Greed: Delta has earned the #65 place in BNet’s Business Blunders of the Year for offering a $200 flight credit after losing a customer’s dog.

“Delta told Josiah Paco had “escaped” and the best they could do is refund his $200.00 pet transportation fee, but only as a “credit” for future Delta travel. That doesn’t do Josiah any good, as he’s vowed to never fly Delta again”

Greed: just Google Delta Airlines bad customer service and see the thousands and thousands of results that pop up…
Part Of Larger Anti-Worker Campaign
This effort by Republicans in Congress is really just a part of a larger fight against workers’ rights. As we have seen in several states, most notably Wisconsin, this is a coordinate, all-out attack by the larger corporations and their allies in the Republican Party. New Jersey, as just one more example, just passed, and Governor Christie signed an anti-union bill. In Ohio there is a campaign to repeal a law restricting collective bargaining rights. In Florida it is revealed that ALEC was behind the state’s anti-union legislation efforts. In Missouri large protest turnouts beat back anti-union legislation.
FAA Still Shut Down
So the FAA is still shut down, possibly until September when the Congress returns. This is the Tea Party dream, government destroyed, financed and pushed by private companies, this time Delta Airlines. Delta is showing itself as a model of bad corporate behavior. Delta couldn’t keep their workers from joining a union, so they try to get the laws rigged. Meanwhile the Republicans are showing themselves willing to contract out their legislative power to the highest bidders.
Delta Airlines is certainly not the only example of bad, greed-inspired behavior by corporate management these days — far from it. But with the FAA shutdown over Delta’s request for a rule to keep its workers from being able to unionize Delta is putting itself forward as a top example of bad corporate behavior.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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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:
viers_mill_PS-0253
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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What Is The Real Agenda Of The Budget-Cutters?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
What is the real agenda of the budget-cutters? Are they really trying to bring the country back from the edge of financial ruin? Or did they bring about the appearance of a borrowing crisis to create a public panic that enables them to impose “solutions” that change the very nature of our country — while doing little about the borrowing?
In the news this week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker “ginned up” a budget crisis, then introduced legislation that removes collective bargaining rights from public employees, and over time effectively destroys their unions. Similar measures have been introduced by Republican governors or legislatures in several other states.
This legislative attack on public employees follows more than a year of “preparing the ground” with a coordinated campaign from conservative organizations to convince the public that public employees are overpaid and that their pensions are “bankrupting” state governments — not the effects of the recession.
In the news soon, the coming strategic “shutdown” of the federal government by Republicans. After decades of forcing through tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, again and again — most recently just a few weeks ago — Republicans and corporate conservatives are engaged in a national campaign promoting the belief that there is a “deficit crisis.” Their solutions involve gutting the things government does for We, the People like consumer, health, safety, labor and financial, retirement and income protections, while keeping things the government does for corporations and the wealthy “off the table.”
We see variations of the same formula over and over. Here is how it works:
1) Cut taxes for the rich and corporations (corporate stock is mostly owned by the top 1%); big deficits result.
2) Claim a deficit emergency and use their domination of corporate-owned media to whip the public into a panic, creating the appearance of demand for corporate-approved “solutions.” Manipulate the appearance of consensus.
3) With taxes and military “off the table” push through cuts in the things government does for We, the People.
Repeat as often as needed to create a plutocracy.
Today’s “debt crisis” is the culmination of the long-term “starve the beast” strategy from an organized corporate-conservative movement. By cutting taxes for the wealthy they have starved the government, created massive debt (guess where the interest payments go) gutted the infrastructure, and put our country on the road to third-world status. This conservative movement has an agenda, and is not interested in working out “bipartisan” compromised.
In an example in the news this week, a hoax call, purported to be from David Koch, one of the billionaire-industrialists helping fund the conservative movement and major funder of efforts to make it appear that Wisconsin is having a budget crisis. In the hoax call, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker clearly understands that he and Koch are in engaged a joint effort, describing a Democratic Senator who could work with him as “not one of us.”

Koch: Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?
Walker: Ah, I—there’s one guy that’s actually voted with me on a bunch of things I called on Saturday for about 45 minutes, mainly to tell him that while I appreciate his friendship and he’s worked with us on other things, to tell him I wasn’t going to budge.
Koch: Goddamn right!
Walker: …his name is Tim Cullen—
Koch: All right, I’ll have to give that man a call.
Walker: Well, actually, in his case I wouldn’t call him and I’ll tell you why: he’s pretty reasonable but he’s not one of us…

Elsewhere in the call Walker and faux-Koch talk about whether “planting troublemakers” would “work” or not.
In another example of the self-awareness of this strategy: On public radio’s Marketplace, February 22 Vincent Vernuccio of the Koch/conservative movement/corporate front-group Competitive Enterprise Institute discusses how the real agenda of the state actions is to destroy unions and their ability to fight corporate power politically, not to solve budget problems. (Note, he was not identified on the show as funded by conservative/corporate interests and Koch.)

VINCENT VERNUCCIO: Union bosses want to inflate these budgets so they can get more members, so they can get more dues. And in turn, they take that dues money they have and give it to politicians who are going to give them more favors in the future.
Several states are considering bills that would allow workers to opt-out of a union. Again, Vincent Vernuccio.
VERNUCCIO: The main focus of this isn’t just the budget cuts. It’s actually giving workers the right to say no to the union if they so choose.
Professor Bruno also sees broader implications for the debate. Since union money helps support the Democratic party, he argues changes in collective bargaining could shake up the political landscape far beyond the Midwest.

These are just two small examples, in the news on the same day, showing the difference between the public pronouncements of concern for the country and a private agenda to fool the country. It is one thing when responsible leaders disagree on the best way to solve the country’s real problems. It is quite another thing when organized wealth pursues a strategy to scare the country into handing over our remaining wealth and power.
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Pension Envy

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Since the 80s many employers have stopped offering health care, pensions and other benefits to their employees. Many are also cutting pay and hours, while increasing the workload. So more and more people are hurting. As more and more of us fall further and further behind, corporate/conservative propagandists use resentment to drive anti-union feelings. They tell people to oppose unions, saying, “Why should they have it so good?” The real question you should ask is, “Why should we have it so bad?”
The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki, in “State of the Unions,” examines why “public support for labor has fallen to historic lows.”

More than seventy per cent of those surveyed in a 1937 Gallup poll said they favored unions.
Seventy-five years later, in the wake of another economic crisis, things couldn’t be more different. … In the recent midterm elections, voters in several states passed initiatives making it harder for unions to organize. Across the country, governors and mayors wrestling with budget shortfalls are blaming public-sector unions for the problems. And in polls public support for labor has fallen to historic lows.
. . . In 2009, for the first time ever, support for unions in the Gallup poll dipped below fifty per cent. A 2010 Pew Research poll offered even worse numbers, with just forty-one per cent of respondents saying they had a favorable view of unions, the lowest level of support in the history of that poll.

Surowiecki suspects that the gap between workers in and out of unions is the reason,

Union workers, on average, get paid more than their non-unionized counterparts—most estimates put the difference at around fifteen per cent—and that wage premium widens during recessions. Similarly, union workers often still have defined-benefit pensions, which sets them apart from all those Americans who watched their retirement accounts get ravaged by the financial crisis. That’s given rise to what Olivia Mitchell, an economics professor at Wharton, calls “pension envy.”
This resentment is most evident in the backlash against public-sector workers (who now make up a majority of union members).

The problem is that working people feel increasingly powerless, and this weakens support for the very institutions that would, in better circumstances, come to their assistance: government and unions. Normally you would think that when people see that workers who are in unions have it better they would reach a simple and obvious conclusion: they should JOIN A UNION! DUH! But circumstances in our economy today lead people to the wrong conclusions.
Today they see people who try to organize unions fired. They see whistleblowers persecuted. They see fellow employees lose their jobs for calling in sick or taking time off to care for a family member. They see people lose jobs for just reaching “a certain age.” Many are even afraid to take vacations using time they have earned. And they don’t see any way to do anything about it. Unions are unable to organize and workers are told facilities will close or their jobs will be moved overseas. Government inadequately enforces its own laws, or blatantly favors the wealthy and powerful. People don’t feel that elections make any difference. So workers don’t see any help on the horizon.
Crabs In A Bucket
Meanwhile many public employees still have unions, so as a result they in many cases have pensions, health care plans and dignity on the job. People look at that and the temptation toward “crab mentality” is strong. The corporate/conservative anti-union propagandists see an opportunity to set working people against each other and strike at support for unions:

Crab mentality, sometimes referred to as crabs in the bucket, describes a way of thinking best described by the phrase “if I can’t have it, neither should you.” The metaphor refers to a pot of crabs. Individually, the crabs could easily escape from the pot, but instead, they grab at each other in a useless “king of the hill” competition (or sabotage) which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise. The analogy in human behavior is that of a group that will attempt to “pull down” (negate or diminish the importance of) any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of jealousy, conspiracy or competitive feelings.
This term is broadly associated with short-sighted, non-constructive thinking rather than a unified, long-term, constructive mentality. It is also often used colloquially in reference to individuals or communities attempting to “escape” a so-called “underprivileged life”, but kept from doing so by others attempting to ride upon their coat-tails or those who simply resent their success.

The other day in Understanding The Attacks On Public Employees,

What do we see if we look around at the state of the economy? Stocks are soaring, corporate profits are way up, Wall Street gets trillions in bailouts and pays millions upon millions in bonuses. But regular people are having a hard time making ends meet and unemployment is still through the roof. Instead of programs to create jobs, stop foreclosures and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure the government passes more tax cuts for the rich. A few Wall Street and big-corporate types are getting very rich (richer) at the expense of the rest of us. If you are sitting pretty on Wall Street, you probably don’t want people thinking about these contrasts too much.
“Look Over There!”
How do you get regular people to “look over there” with all of that going on? Simple: launch a big campaign to blame the librarians, firefighters and other public sector workers for the hard times. “Don’t blame US,” Wall Street says, “Look over there!” Blame the economy’s victims for economic crimes. And, do you know what? This is a strategy that is proven to work every time.

So the corporate/conservatives pit people against each other, hoping to provoke the behavior of crabs in a bucket, instead of reaching the correct conclusion: stand together and join a union and fight for your rights and a share of the pie and you can have it better.
STOP THE LIES!

This video directs people to a STOP THE LIES website where you can sign up to add your voice, download a fact sheet and find other resources.
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Blaming The Economy’s Victims For Economic Crimes

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Blame the unions, blame the unemployed, blame loans to the poor, blame the government… As income and wealth increasingly go to a few at the top public anger is directed at the economy’s victims.
I am in a clinic all day participating in a medical study, so I was talking to one of the nurses. She brought up that California is in real trouble, is going broke, it’s a real mess. She says she doesn’t know what we’re going to do. She has heard that, “lots of states are going bankrupt. There is no money anymore.”
So I asked her what we should do about it.
She said it is because of the unions. “It’s just ridiculous. They want so much.”
I asked if she follows the news closely, she said she does. “I watch the news a lot.”
Some facts: California is famous for leading the country in a wave of anti-government tax-cutting and into Reaganism. We cut taxes an an anti-government ferver and increased prison spending in a law-and-order fever. Then the federal government cut taxes and increased military spending, leading to big deficits. Now we’re out of money to run the state government and the country is getting there, too. California’s problems have little or nothing to do with what state employees are paid, and a lot to do with tax cuts and people across the state not getting paid enough.
Blaming The Unions
This weekend CBS’ 60 Minutes joined the anti-worker chorus, blaming public employee unions for the problems faced by the states. Media Matters, in 60 Minutes’ one-sided, GOP-friendly report on state budgets describes the segment,

In 2,600 words about state deficits, you won’t find the phrase “tax cuts.” Instead, CBS adopts the Republican framing that deficits are all about spending — frequently with loaded phrasing like “gold-plated retirement and health care packages.” And throughout the report, CBS allows Christie, New Jersey’s Republican governor, to launch attacks on unions and make unsupported claims about budget problems, all without ever challenging his assertions and without including substantive disagreement from Christie critics.
You’d never know from CBS’ report that a big part of the reason that “Christie and his predecessors” failed to make required contributions to the pension fund is that they decided to use the money for tax cuts instead. [emphasis added]

Mike Hall at the AFL-CIO blog explains that New Jersey’s workers and pensions are not the problem,

While politicians like Christie rail against the pensions public employees have secured through collective bargaining—painting them as overly generous golden parachutes, McEntee notes the average annual pension for an AFSCME member is $19,000, and the workers contribute 80 percent during their lifetime on the job.

Tax cuts, income and wealth going to a few at the top, but the unions take the blame because they fight for a better life for working people.
Blaming The Unemployed
The unemployed and the checks they get are often blamed for their plight. They are called “lazy,” and it is even suggested the be tested for drugs. CAF graduate David Sirota, in Why the ‘Lazy Jobless’ Myth Persists

The thesis undergirding all the rhetoric was summed up by conservative commentator Ben Stein, who insisted that “the people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities.”
[. . .] The trouble, though, is that the whole narrative averts our focus from the job-killing trade, tax-cut and budget policies that are really responsible for destroying the economy. And this narrative, mind you, is not some run-of-the-mill distraction. The myth of the lazy unemployed is what duck-and-cover exercises and backyard nuclear shelters were to a past era—an alluring palliative that manufactures false comfort in the face of unthinkable disaster.

Blaming The Poor And Government
Republicans on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission are sabotaging the commission’s work, demanding that “Wall Street” and “deregulation” not appear anywhere in the report. They are refusing to participate, instead releasing a counter-report blaming the government, claiming We, the People forced the giant banks to give home loans to the poor, and blaming the poor for receiving those loans.
What People Think
People tend to think about what is put in front of them to think about. That’s why everyone goes to see a new movie on the first weekend instead of waiting until they can get good seats with no lines. Wall Street and the likes of the Chamber of Commerce understand this so they put scapegoats in front of the public to mask what they are doing. Right now there is a corporate/right campaign to blame working people for the problems they caused.
Like 60 Minutes this weekend, the news sources are run by big corporations, and they have been saying over and over (and over and over) that unions and the unemployed and the poor and the government are the cause of the problems. (When was the last time you saw a union representative on TV, explaining the benefits of joining a union?) And, naturally, after hearing these things over and over (and over and over), viewers like the nurse at the clinic I am in think they should blame the unions, the unemployed, the poor, the government, too.
So much of the income and wealth are concentrating at the top. Taxes have been cut so far. The things our government does for us have been cut back so far. Working people’s wages have been stagnant for so long.
But the blame right now is directed at the unions, the poor, the unemployed and our government: We, the People.
As the AFL-CIO blog concludes,

The long term solution to state and local fiscal challenges … is “a robust economy, one that is creating jobs and replenishing tax revenue.”

To repeat: The long term solution to state and local fiscal challenges … is “a robust economy, one that is creating jobs and replenishing tax revenue.”
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How Companies Turn People Against Unions

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

If you had a company and could make people work for free, keeping all the proceeds just for yourself, you might do that. If you could. What’s stopping you? There are plenty of unemployed people in the country and in the world – more every day thanks to population growth, and computers and machines doing more of the work that needs to be done. So if someone complains, you can just replace them with someone who doesn’t complain. You have the power. So what’s stopping you?

As a working person, how do you negotiate for fair pay, benefits and rights where you work? People in a job can be on their own against a lot of power, taking whatever the employer is willing to trade for their work. Or they can join with the rest of the employees at the workplace and negotiate as a group. Banding together to fight for a fair share is called organizing into a union.

People who own companies think that the company is their “private property” and they can do what they want with it, regardless of the effect on the people who work there or the surrouding community. Their goal is to make as much money as possible and to do that you lower costs as much as possible. Those costs include the cost of disposing of harmful waste products, the quality and safety of the products produced, and the pay and benefits you provide workers. In this equation unions are a problem. They have the power to make you pay more and provide safety and benefits, so they are in the way of keeping as much as you can just for yourself.

Obviously the greater society — the people who make the rules that companies are supposed to follow — has very different interests from the people who own companies. Society wants to avoid being exposed to harmful waste products, and wants the people in the society to be paid well and have good benefits. Society wants healthy communities. Society wants good and safe products that don’t use up our resources. The people in the society are generally going to want rules that lead to better results for the greater number of people. Unless they can be convinced otherwise.

So the owners of companies try to convince us that unions are bad. They form and fund “business groups” like the Chamber of Commerce, to fight to keep unions from having the right and power to organize their workers. We hear it repeated over and over in our corporate-dominated society, a drumbeat that labor unions are sinister, shady, harmful, corrupt, violent, “raise prices,” ”cost jobs,” and generally hurt the economy and country. We hear they force workers to pay dues (never mind that unionized workers pay the dues from higher pay and benefits.) We hear that “union bosses” tell workers what to do and “union thugs”make them do it. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. The owners of companies have a lot of money to spend on convincing the public to let them have free reign, and they know from selling products how to sell things to the public. Repetition, repetition and repetition. Marketing works.

This Labor Day weekend we can expect to hear even more of this. Business groups plan Labor Day blitz against Senate Dems, candidates,

Local chapters of groups like the National Federation of Independent Business, state Associated Builders and Contractors and other commerce and retail groups will hold events on Monday targeting the incumbents and candidates, particularly on their stance on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA, or “card-check”).

But you shouldn’t expect to see, hear or read on any corporate-owned TV station, radio station or newspaper about the benefits to people from joining a union. Think back and see if you can remember the last time you heard it explained to the public in one of these outlets how members of unions are better off?

How widespread is the anti-labor effort? Here’s a quick, admittedly unscientific check. On Google today there are 54,800 websites that refer to “union thugs,” 154,000 websites that refer to “union bosses” and 200,000 that refer to “big labor.” Please click through and look not only at the ridiculous things being written, but also at who is writing them.

The first page of Google “results for “union bosses” lists anti-union pages from Big Government, The Center for Union Facts , The Washington Times, Human Events, Redstate, Townhall, The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the book “Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics” by Fox News analyst Linda Chavez and Danial Gray of the National Right to Work Committee.

The Center for Union Facts, The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee are anti-union sites funded by corporations and right-wing foundations. According to a report in SourceWatch, The National Right to Work Committee and National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation even share facilities and employees. Big Government, Human Events, Townhall, Redstate, Fox News and the Washington Times are conservative movement outlets that are part of the coordinated Right Wing Noise Machine, or echo chamber, in which a number of outlets appear to be different entities but work as part of a single movement with a shared goal. (P.S. Big Government is the site where the doctored ACORN videos and doctored video of Shirley Sherrod were promoted.)

Admittedly unscientific, but interesting nonetheless. There’s a lot of anti-union money floating around out there.
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America Is Strong When Our Unions Are Strong

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
America was formed as a government of, by and for We, the People. It says so right in the first words of our Constitution. To get that Constitution we rebelled against the King and England’s aristocracy and their corporations, with their concentrated wealth and power. And we continued that fight and over time we extended our system of one-person-one-vote, adding women and minorities to that equation.
The fight has gone back and forth. When our democratic government works, it pushes for increasing the protections and benefits of a strong economy for We, the People. This has included, for example, the mandated 40-hour workweek and minimum wages to fight exploitation, both pushed by labor. But at other times our government was “captured” by the power of concentrated wealth and working people are not well-represented. Even then we’re still not necessarily each on our own. During those times we have depended on labor unions to push back against that power of concentrated wealth. Working people can organize into labor unions to bargain for higher wages and better treatment than workers could obtain individually.
What difference can unions make? In 1945 labor unions represented about 1/3 of all workers. When American unions were strong working people got the minimum wage, the 40-hour week, weekends off, paid vacations, health insurance, pensions, dignity and respect. This was when America built the middle class that everyone has been taking for granted since. Even the wealthy benefited greatly over the long run as more consumers with more money to spend lifted the whole economy.
But what has happened to us since the Reagan Revolution, when concentrated power of the big corporations weakened America’s unions? Since the days of FDR membership in unions has fallen, but in 1980 unions still represented 24% of American workers. The Reagan administration famously launched an all-out assault on organized labor, resulting in membership falling to 16.4% by 1989. And the trend continued: by 1998 union membership fell to 13.9 percent. By 2009 that had decreased to 12.3%, but only 7.6% in the private sector. And here are the results:


This is a chart of working people’s share of the benefits from our economy. Note the brief return to normal under Clinton, erased by Bush II. But the assault on working people has recently been bipartisan. Clinton pushed to pass the Bush I-negotiated NAFTA treaty which hammered the bargaining position of workers, while Bush II consolidated the practice of “outsourcing” labor competition from non-democratic countries where workers didn’t have rights or protections.
As we all know, since the Reagan Revolution weakened the negotiating power of working people, wealth and income have concentrated at the top, our country’s debt has massively increased, household debt as well, the country is crumbling and everyone except the wealthy few and big corporations is generally worse off.
Unions still make a difference. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “In 2009, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $908, while those who were not represented by unions had median weekly earnings of $710.” Union members also often have paid vacation, paid sick leave, health insurance and other benefits that non-union workers do not. The difference is dramatic. In March 2009, 78 percent of union workers were covered by health insurance through their jobs, compared with only 51 percent of nonunion workers. Seventy-seven percent of union workers participate in defined-benefit pension plans, compared with 20 percent of nonunion workers.
When you hear someone complain about unions and complain that people in unions are paid better than the rest of us, let them know that they are reaching the wrongest conclusion. They shouldn’t resent union members and complain about their pay, they should join a union and support unions, so they they and everyone else can come out ahead.
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Reaching The Wrongest Conclusion About Unions!

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
A letter-writer in my local paper today reaches the wrongest possible conclusion:

Public, private workers live in different worlds
The current issue of Time magazine includes a cover story on the increasing numbers of nearly bankrupt states and municipalities across the country. An important point made in the story is that public and private workers increasingly live in separate economies. Private-sector employees face frequent job change, relentless layoffs, flat wages and rising health care premiums, and they fund their retirement with 401(k) contributions. If they’re lucky, their employers will match a portion. Many do not. Contrast that reality to public-sector employees, who enjoy relative job security, defined benefit pensions with guaranteed cost-of-living increases, and competitive wages that rise every year. Public employee unions have had a stranglehold on state and local elected officials for decades. This has to end, as the taxpayers are fed up and tapped out. Nancy Pyle needs to get a clue, as do others on the San Jose City Council.
A.S.
San Jose

Summary: Workers in the private sector have it harder and harder. They are increasingly losing benefits, pensions and jobs. Forced to work ever-harder in increasingly degrading work environments their wages stay flat and are starting to fall.
Meanwhile public sector workers have stong unions so they have good jobs with good working conditions, job security, pensions and raises.
Therefore … we should get rid of public-employee unions? Wow! Talk about coming to a grossly wrong conclusion, and working against your own interests! Just wow!
It is a psychological truth that people would rather see others brought down than see themselves brought up, but come on! How hard is it to see that this person should be for strong private-sector unions instead of against public-sector unions.
And the letter-writer demonstrates the core of the conservative ideological argument: All the benefits of our economy to the top few at the expense of the rest of us.
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Are Public Employee Unions Strangling Us?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
For Billionaire Mort Zuckerman it’s those damn unions that are the problem. For so many of the rest of us the problem is that we don’t have a union.
Zuckerman has been with us on lots of things, like what he wrote about the stimulus,

“The fiscal program was a disaster. You have to get the money as quickly as possible into the economy. They didn’t do that. By end of the first year, only one-third of the money was spent. Why is that?
He should have jammed a stimulus plan into Congress and said, “This is it. No changes. Don’t give me that bullshit. We have a national emergency.”

I could have written that. (Except it would probably have bad grammar, occasional CAPITALIZED words and a line in bold here and there.)
But he’s not with us not when it comes to labor. Last week Zuckerman wrote an op-ed, titled The Crippling Price of Public Employee Unions at US News, and Breaking the Public Sector Unions’ Stranglehold on State and Local Governments at Huffington Post, telling us how public employee unions are harming the country. (The Huffington version has about 2000 comments so far – mostly pro-labor. The US News version has about 70 comments, like “Outlaw Unions of any kind.”)
I’m wondering where Mort Zuckerman wrote this piece. Was he at one of his homes in New York, New York, East Hampton, New York and Aspen, Colorado? Or maybe he was writing from his 166 foot Oceanco Yacht, the Lazy Z? We know he wasn’t writing from his Falcon 900 corporate jet, because he recently purchased a Gulfstream G550.
From this high vantage point he seems to have a view that says working people should be paid less, and shouldn’t get good pensions or benefits. He writes, “It is galling for private sector workers to see so many public sector workers thriving because of the power their unions exercise.” He says public employees have “gold-plated perks” and enter into corrupt deals with politicians, a trade-off of supplying votes in exchange for good pay and benefits. He says that since private-sector pay and benefits are dropping, public-employee pay and benefits should, too.
But it’s the other way around. We, the People should set the example for private companies to follow. Good pay and benefits are good for people. It should be public policy to promote this and encourage companies to treat employees better. That way we all benefit, not just a few.
Private sector pay and benefits have been dropping because people have been forced out of unions, so they have no way to fight the power of the billionaires. Because billionaires have been able to play impoverished workers elsewhere against workers here who have fought hard to get what they have. The obvious answer is for more private-sector workers around the world to join unions so they can be lifted up, not to complete the death spiral by forcing down the pay of the rest of us.
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