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as [livejournal.com profile] zarq reported yesterday, Whole Food CEO John Mackey showed all and sundry that he is a rich libertarian prick. Which has provoked interesting articles:. This was one that caught my attention.

The view from a former Whole Food Employee

A warning on prepared food items... Anything you buy that is "prepared" be it chopped up watermellons, soup, or something from the hot bar, is likely not something you would buy in its raw form. Which is to say, gnarly produce that wont sell, meat that is a day or two from spoilage etc... Dunno just something to think about before you cough up 7.99lb on some mashed potatoes and some asian inspired beef dish. I'm guessing that most stores do this though as it is a way to cut down on shrink and also adds value to an otherwise worthless product. As a decent to good cook, I refuse to buy anything that is not only more expensive but also less quality. (Go next time and see how many items use ground beef, sausages or bits and pieces of fish)


Finally, each year employees vote on the new benefits package, what kind of health plan, what kind of personal days and how many, retirement and stock options etc... If you are savvy in the employment/legal fields you will realize that this is very similar to an in-house or owner sponsored union, which is a violation of the NLRB, but I have not done enough of the research to determine if this is a true violation, though I will say my labor law professor about had a heart attack when I told her. It's one of the things I liked about working there, but it is also the main reason why WF employees think unions are meaningless and just take your money for dues.MORE
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Walmart Workers Fight For Change

Walmart pulls in billions every year but barely pays its workers a living wage. Not only that but they've aggressively resisted efforts among workers to unionize. Walmart's slogan is Save Money, Live Better. As Vikki Gill, a former Walmart store manager in Illinois says, the company is saving money and living better at the associate's expense. In this documentary from Walmart Workers for Change, employees discuss their fight for a living wage, union representation, and decent benefits. Walmart's union busting tactics are notorious but Union Federation Change to Win has been turning up the heat lately and says efforts to unionize are underway at over 100 stores.

EFCA Democratic ‘fence-riders’ increase as Chamber Courts opposition in Senate

What Obama has done for labour in his first 100 days

The Unemployed and US Society

Heather Boushey of the Center For American Progress on the current economic crisis and how mass unemployment will change the way we live. This time around, men are losing jobs at a much faster rate than women--four out of five in fact. Boushey says that means that millions of families are making due on much less than they were before. Thus focusing on pay equity issues and making sure women are getting a fair days pay is more important than ever. The gap between men and women's unemployment, Boushey says, has never been higher.
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What exactly does Obama's budget do? With 1,000 jobs being lost every hour and a tax system that favors the wealthy, our guests discuss what’s in the new budget and the limits to progressive reform.
David Cay Johnston former New York Times reporter and the author of Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense, Irasema Garza president of Legal Momentum, and Joel Berg Executive Director of New York City Coalition Against Hunger and the author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America? discuss the budget battle.
Chris Bowers of Open Left on the netroots and Obama’s budget. Did they make a difference? And why healthcare will be at the heart of upcoming deliberations.
A report from Warehouse Workers in California organizing for living wages and fair treatment. Finally, the senate race that may at last be coming to an end. Part II of the Uptake’s documentary on Franken v. Coleman.
Thanks to the Uptake for video in tonight’s show.

Obama’s War: Is It Any Different?

It's a persistent notion: we're not like them, we're better, we're different.

As you heard on this program, it's the insidious notion from which genocides are made.

It also lies at the heart of what the Rev. James Lawson called the plantation capitalism on which our economy's based. The idea that some are expendable, that some are less human, that we are simply different, is wrapped up in our Afghanistan policy too.

The US, for example, since 9-11, seems to have believed that lives lost here in 9-11 were worth avenging even at a cost many times that of other people's lives. Each year that the combat mission continues, more Afghan civilians are caught in the combat. The US tried a troop surge in 2007 -- the number of US and NATO troops was increased by 45 percent. More civilians were killed than in the previous four years combined. MORE

In his new book, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror, Columbia University Professor Mahmood Mamdani argues that the use of the word genocide is as political as ever and strategic ignorance about the history and current day politics of post-colonial Africa is just as great. Mamdani discusses the crisis in Darfur, the nature of Save Darfur advocacy, and what he sees as a dangerous collusion of colonialism and Anti-Terror rhetoric. Then, just in time for tax season, Robert Gates has reminded us just how much money we spend of foreign wars. Tax resisters, however, say that you don’t have to fund the imperial budget. Andy Heaslet of the Peace Economy Project, Ed Hedemann author of War Tax Resistance: A Guide To Withholding Your Support From the Military, and Robert Weissman editor of the Multinational Monitor and Co-Director of Essential Action discuss what you can do with your money and why it doesn’t have to end up as part of the defense budget.
Finally, part I of the Uptake’s documentary on the Al Franken/Norm Coleman senate race.
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Wall Street controls America

Two must-read articles came my way today detailing how the financial industry has successfully engineered a coup of the government, holding it hostage for its every whim.
First, here’s Marcy Wheeler detailing how the same banks who took taxpayer money are now forcing the automakers to accept draconian bankruptcy terms.
Then read Glenn Greenwald’s lacerating account of the revolving door between lucrative corporate consulting and high-level administration posts that Larry Summers and Tim Geithner are benefiting from.MORE

Chrysler’s Two Options: What JP Morgan’s Insistence on Bankruptcy Will Mean

Yesterday, I pointed to a WSJ report that JP Morgan wants to force Chrysler into bankruptcy rather than make the concessions necessary for a Fiat merger.
There was some uncertainty about what those two different scenarios really mean--and therefore what the impact of JP Morgan's intransigence might be. So this is an attempt to lay out what those scenarios are. Details on these two scenarios come from the viability plan Chrysler submitted on February 17, though some of its assumptions are optimistic and both the VEBA numbers and the secured debt numbers are out-of-date.
The bottom line, though, is this: If Chrysler goes into bankruptcy, it will likely mean 210,000 extra lost jobs and the loss of healthcare for up to 700,000 UAW retirees.MORe

How JP Morgan Chase Intends to profit Off the 300,000 people that it is forcing to lose their jobs

As I pointed out Saturday and yesterday, JP Morgan Chase is reportedly pushing Chrysler into bankruptcy. And as I explained yesterday, that will mean 300,000 people will lose their jobs. So who will be left to bank with Chase in Michigan, you might ask, after JP Morgan Chase forces so many people out of work?
Well, as klynn pointed out, JP Morgan Chase has figured out a way to profit off all the unemployed people it is creating in Michigan. Chase, you see, provides Michigan's unemployment insurance debit cards.
And the services can end up being pretty expensive for beneficiaries. Here's what Chase charges (and will be able to charge those that it causes to lose their job) for use of their debit card.
More than two withdrawals in a 2-week pay period: $1.50 each
Non-Chase withdrawals: $1.50 each
More than one bank teller withdrawal in a pay period: $4.00 each
Transaction denied for insufficient funds at POS, ATM, or teller: $1.50 each
More than one ATM balance inquiry in a pay period: $1.00 for each
Statement delivered by regular mail: 95¢ per statement

It appears that the bankers investment in our politicians are paying handsome dividends...
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From Feb 27-Victory At Republic Windows and Doors?!

Three weeks ago, we sat down with workers and organizers at Republic Windows and Doors who staged a sit down strike in December after their employers literally vanished overnight laying off over 200 workers and denying them severance and vacation pay. Now it appears that the workers may have found a new buyer for the factory who will recognize the union and ensure that all workers "will be rehired at the former rate of pay," making union wages.
The new owners, California-based Serious Materials, produce eco-friendly windows and doors.

GRITtv spoke with Melvin “Ricky” Maclin, Vice President of United Electrical Workers Local 1110 and Raul Flores, a shop steward in the same Union about the difficulties of organizing in today's political climate and the excitement of building a strong shop that fought back against the threat of mass lay-offs. Now they're serving as a new example in a battered economy: that strong unions can bring closed factories, and solid jobs, back.
“We have all been working hard to get our factory re-opened since December 10, 2008. We are so glad this day has come,” said UE Local Vice-President Melvin Maclin.

EFCA and the End of Civilization, the Smithfield Story, and Textile Workers in Puerto Rico (that would be THIS Smithfield Foods)

The end of civilization as we know it? The worst bill ever? That is how the right and much of business have characterized the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). From Newt Gingrich to Mitch McConnell and business leaders including Warren Buffet the argument is being made that EFCA will in fact cost jobs. The 600,000 figure they’ve cited is based on a Chamber of Commerce funded study that uses questionable evidence to make the case that EFCA is bad for the economy.
Today on GRITtv Michael Goodwin, President of the Office and Professional Employees International Union, Irasema Garza Executive Director of Legal Momentum, Chris Kromm Executive Director of the Institute for Southern Studies, and Gene Carroll Director of the Union Leadership Workshop Series at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations discuss what is really driving the fear behind the right to unionize.
So how would EFCA actually affect workers? Gene Bruskin, a former strategist for the United Food and Commercial Workers Smithfield campaign, says that the 16-year battle for union recognition at the North Carolina meat packing plant would have happened a lot sooner if workers not employers had been in charge. Finally we hear from textile workers who make US military uniforms and Unite Here! organizers struggling to form a Union in Puerto Rico.
Thanks to Disorderly Conduct, Brave New Films and American Rights at Work for video in tonight’s show.
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Europe Protests, America Sleeps

Last week, thousands of GM workers protested in the suburb of Ruesselsheim outside of Frankfurt. Demonstrations were also held at GM factories in Austria, Belgium, France, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and Britain. European workers are not only protesting the financial crisis and the bank bailouts but nearly three decades of neo-liberal reform and free market fundamentalism. The question now is whether the left and labor can recover after years of acquiescing to the strategies of the right.
John R. MacArthur of Harper's, Newsweek's Senior Editor Rana Foroohar, and Tony Benn, a former Labour MP and Cabinet Minister discuss the protests in Europe and whether similar actions can be expected on this side of the Atlantic. Also, an interview with Sally-Anne Kinahan, the Assistant General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on recent protests in Dublin.
There is also concern that if the left does not step up to the challenge, economic unrest will fuel xenophobia and policies that continue to target illegal immigrants. In Arizona, several thousand people marched on Saturday to protest Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Program’s (ICE) sweeping crackdown on illegal immigrants. Roberto Lovato, a contributing Associate Editor at New America Media, Aarti Shahani, co-founder of Families for Freedom, and Salvador Reza an immigrant rights activist and one of the organizers of the protest on whether a change in policy can be expected from the Obama administration.
Thanks to the Coen Brothers and thisisreality, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and Jeremy Levine for video in tonight’s show.


Feb. 18th, 2009 11:35 pm
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How Regulation came to be: 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act
According to an AP article that appeared in our local daily this morning, one of the tools the federal government may use in going after Stewart Parnell and other management of the Peanut Corporation of America is the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. Ironically, the 1938 law has its roots in an incident of corporate hubris and disregard for public safety not unlike the present salmonella-tainted peanut butter case.
"A spoonful of sugar," Julie Andrews sang in her role as Mary Poppins, "Helps the medicine go down." In the middle of the Great Depression, the S. E. Massengill Company found something much better than sugar. Or so they thought. The disaster unfolds on the flip.MOREblockquote>

Chicken in America: A Lesson In Irony (And Bad Taste).

There are a lot of reasons why chicken today has no taste, but the main one is because someone seems to have decided that chicken must be cheap. And for chicken to be cheap, each chicken must be cheap to raise, which is to say quick and easily-managed. Thus, for starters, you need to get rid of genetic diversity, which is what occurred in the 1950’s with the wide-scale commercial production of chickens. In a recently-published study by William Muir of Purdue University, it was found that more than 50% of the diversity of ancestral breeds has been lost. See Native birds might restock poultry industry's genetic stock, Add to this the fact of commercial chickens being fed a diet of "super-grow" chicken feed, which is typically 70% corn, 20% soy, and 10% other ingredients such as vitamins and minerals, and you have the perfect recipes for chickens that grow quickly but taste like nothing.
It need not be this way, however. And in France, it is not. There, chickens that have earned the designation "Label Rouge" are guaranteed to taste not just better than commercially-raised chickens, but to actually taste like chicken. The label started in the early sixties when French chicken farmers banded together in cooperatives to protect the traditional methods of raising chickens on small farms. To be entitled to the coveted red-sticker that is the Label Rouge, farmers must comply with a long list of strict requirements, including the raising of only slow-growing breeds suited for living outdoors, which is what the chickens do, roaming in the open air for their relatively long lives. For a longer discussion of Label Rouge and Chickens, and other quality-labels prevalent in the European Union, please see Sticker Shock, by Barry James MORE

Green Energy and the Stimulus - the details

The American Recovery and Investment Act contains $61.9 billion in energy-related public spending and industry building tax credits and bond provisions estimated at $20 billion over a ten year period (in reduced tax revenues).
So lets take a look at that $61.9 billion
1. R&D total : $8.2 billion
$8.2 billion has been set aside for research into renewable energy and improving energy efficiency. This will be administered by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).
Of this research funding, $800 million is to be spent on biofuel research, $400 million on geothermal projects, and $50 million on the integration of the grid with information technology. I assume this last provision is related to the "smart grid".
$3.4 billion of the R&D total is fossil fuels related including clean coal (what a waste) ... $1 billion for fossil energy R&D programs, $1.52 billion for carbon capture, $800 million for Clean Coal, and $70 million for geologic carbon sequestration.MORE

Meet the Stans: Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan lies on the Eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, with Iran to its southwest, Afghanistan to its southeast, and Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to its north. The country is dominated by the massive, flat Kara Kum desert, which takes up over 80% of the country. The Kopat Dag mountain chain runs along the south of the country, forming the border with Iran and home to the capital city, Ashgabat (whose name, supposedly, means "city of love"). The other major mountain range is the Kugitangtau chain in the southeast, which contains the country's highest elevation, 10,290 ft, at Mt. Ayrybaba. In total land area, the country is slightly larger than California.
According to the CIA world factbook, most (85%) of the population are ethnic Turkmens. Their language, Turkmen, is similar to Turkish (I've read there is a degree of mutual intelligibility, but knowing neither language I can't say for certain). The country also possesses small minorities of Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Russians. Most Russians are Orthodox Christian, and the other inhabitants are mainly Sunni Muslim. The total population is slightly over five million.MORE

Steelworkers, Hip-Hoppers and Tree-Huggers Get It On at 'Green Jobs 2009'!

When you walk into a large and stately Washington, DC hotel lobby and find it teeming with thousands of smiling, buzzing people-half in labor union jackets and ball caps, the other half dressed in 30-something hip-hop causal-you know some special is happening.

This was the lively, energized scene for three cold wintry days this Feb 4-6 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, as nearly 3000 activists and organizers gathered for the "Good Jobs, Green Jobs" National Conference. The gathering was convened by more than 100 organizations, representing every major trade union and every major environmental group in the country, among others.

It's called the "blue-green alliance," the core of which is the United Steel Workers and the Sierra Club, which jointly launched the "Green Jobs" movement nationally at a conference in Pittsburgh, PA a year ago. The turnout this year is triple in size and highly energized by both the victory of President Barack Obama and the looming onset of an economic crisis unmatched in scope since the Great Depression of the 1930s. In addition to the steelworkers, the building trades were well represented, and the green groups spanned a wide range of concerns, for toxics to alternative energy to climate change. Also notable was the participation of a contingent of "high road" corporations rooted in the growing "green economy." Gamesa, a major Spanish firm specializing in wind turbines, and Piper Jaffray, a large paper company focused on recycled paper products, are two examples.

But a critical new dimension was added by Green For All, an organization rooted among inner city youth, and headed up by Van Jones. Jones is the author of "The Green Collar Economy" and an inspirational voice for a rising generation of multinational, multicultural insurgent youth.MORE

Going EV #13: Everything you ever wanted to know about the Aptera electric car (almost!)

How to obtain Medical/Prescription assistance in this financial crisis

Food Democracy Now: 10 Ideas for a Sustainable Future

Unschooling Instead of High Schooling

Solar vs Coal, Land Area Comparison.

Behind The Great Firewall

Historic firsts in labor history

Big business using civil rights imagery to fight EFCA/UPDATR

United Healthcare Workers Holding Our Ground

The Myth of Data Mining
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Burger King Bailout Shocker

Goldman Sachs, where former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was once CEO, switched from an investment bank to a bank holding company last year so it could qualify for $10 billion in bailout funds. They then spent $6.8 billion on bonuses for their financial staff. Goldman's recklessness is one of several scandalous stories of Wall Street giants abusing the bailout at the expense of taxpayers and the economy. But in this case, Goldman's excessive spending has had an immediate and profound impact on the American work force.

Who's Keeping Burger King Workers Below the Poverty Line?

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Wage Theft

In the aftermath of Hurricane's Katrina and Ike federal money was set aside for the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. What you may not know is that the Bush administration, at the same time, suspended regulations guaranteeing that federal employees receive a minimum wage. According to Kim Bobo, the author of Wage Theft in America, billions of dollars are stolen from workers every year, not only in times of crisis. And there are few incentives for employers to obey the law.
Roughly 2 million American workers are not paid a minimum wage. And some 3 million are mis-classified as independent contractors instead of employees and millions more are illegally denied overtime pay. As the recession deepens and the government pledges to create jobs will they be jobs that pay a livable wage?
GRITtv speaks to Kim Bobo, Cathy Ruckelshaus, Litigation Director for the National Employment Law Project, Terri Gerstein, Deputy Commissioner for Wages and Immigrants at the New York State Department of Labor, and Deborah Axt of Make the Road New York.

The F Word: Caterpillar And Obama

President Barack Obama, campaigning for his economic plan in East Peoria, Illinois, visited machinery giant Caterpillar Inc. where he said laid-off workers would be re-hired if Congress approved a sweeping stimulus bill.
The President visited Caterpillar's plant Thursday on the very same day that Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, became the first US college or university to divest from Caterpillar, along with five other companies involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Caterpillar provides the Israeli military with bulldozers that have been used to demolish thousands of Palestinian homes and orchards and build settlements and roads, and what Israelis call a Security Fence, but Palestinians call the apartheid Wall.
For years, international activists have called for a boycott of Caterpillar products, which include heavy equipment but also jackets and shoes. And one US family has brought a suit against the company charging them with complicity in human rights crimes. On March 16, 2003, US activist Rachel Corrie was crushed under bulldozer supplied by Caterpillar, as she tried to block its path towards a Palestinian home in Gaza...Rachel's father Craig Corrie joined us earlier today with this message to the president:

War Profiteering

Even as congress denies billions in assistance to states, there is little if any talk of cutting US defense spending. Since the end of the Second World War, when Dwight Eisenhower warned of the ever expanding military industrial complex, military spending has been linked to the nation's economic well-being. In times of prosperity and economic distress, defense spending is pushed as economic stimulus. And it's a bipartisan affliction. But who benefits and what is their interest in maintaining a war time economy?
On GRITtv Pratap Chatterjee, the author of Halliburton's Army and Managing Editor of Corpwatch, Eugene Jarecki, documentary filmmaker and director of the acclaimed Why We Fight, and Scott Ritter the author of Target Iran examine the business of war and why stimulus and star wars are so hard to separate.
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Bush Scandals list It actually stops at 399, for gods sake.

Table of Contents

Reflection on List by the Author

To be blunt, the reason there was a need for the list at all was because the media and the Democratic party didn’t do their jobs. The media did not report, underreported, misreported or reported far too late to matter most of what went on in the last 8 years. They fed us narratives filled with talking points, not facts. Access and he said / she said reporting became the order of the day. Real journalism occurred by accident or was perpetrated by a lonely few. Meanwhile the Democrats refused to raise any opposition and found silence and complicity the better part of valor. So to create the list I had to do what all of us in the blogosphere have had to do. I had to pick among the media, unpack, unspin, and deconstruct their narratives. I went to primary sources. And I did this not alone but benefiting from the collective effort of us all.

And what I found horrified me.

Our government has been hollowed out. It is not just the Justice Department but all departments and agencies whose mission it was to help citizens that were filled with Bush appointees whose job it was to dismantle them. Interior became a playground for drilling, mining, and developers, Labor for Big Business, the EPA for polluters, Energy for oil and gas companies, the Pentagon for neocons, the SEC for Wall Street. Nor was it just the top echelons where this rot occurred but went down to the fourth and fifth tiers, to the Monica Goodlings and Kyle Sampsons. And it wasn’t here or there but across the board that this demolition of our government occurred.

Our government has been looted. It began with tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. It continued with the promotion of deregulation and the financial bubbles. It is finishing with us on the edge of depression. While the rest of the economy falls apart the government continues to announce one monster bailout of the financial industry after another.

Our Constitution and the rule of law have been trashed. The last 8 years saw the creation of a Presidential dictatorship: torture, indefinite detention, kidnapping, spying, kangaroo courts, signing statements, illegal wars, and for all these things there was no accountability, none.

What I hope the list conveys in its own imperfect way is that these were not isolated events committed by a few people. This was an undertaking that thousands in the Bush Administration worked on day in day out for 8 years. This was their job. They made a career out of doing in our government, and we were paying them to do it.

And yet, Americans did not take to the streets. Democrats did not oppose. The media cheered on. As I said, my list is a judgment on George Bush. He is the worst President in our history. My list is a testament to that fact. But it is also a judgment on us because we let it happen. Yes, some of us spoke out, but the question that haunts many of us, and certainly me, is could we have done more.
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Via: commenter on Firedoglake

Bruce Cockburn- The Trouble With Normal (3:35)

Strikes across the frontier and strikes for higher wage
Planet lurches to the right as ideologies engage
Suddenly it's repression, moratorium on rights
What did they think the politics of panic would invite?
Person in the street shrugs -- "Security comes first"
But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse

Callous men in business costume speak computerese
Play pinball with the 3rd world trying to keep it on its knees
Their single crop starvation plans put sugar in your tea
And the local 3rd world's kept on reservations you don't see
"It'll all go back to normal if we put our nation first"
But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse

Fashionable fascism dominates the scene
When ends don't meet it's easier to justify the means
Tenants get the dregs and landlords get the cream
As the grinding devolution of the democratic dream
Brings us men in gas masks dancing while the shells burst
The trouble with normal is it always gets worse
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What the UAW Made
Indeed, it was Reuther's UAW that established the détente between organized labor and capitalists that engendered -- or at least facilitated -- the unprecedented post-war gains in both productivity and household income. By settling the 1950 Big Three contract, which became known as the "Treaty of Detroit," the UAW exacted gains for its members that allowed them to move firmly into a new middle class, with retirement and health security as the cornerstones of the new prosperity. In exchange, big business obtained a sense of relief, as the Treaty of Detroit represented a new, thoroughly American unionist approach to collective bargaining that eschewed the Marxist demand for ownership of the means of production. The right wing extremists who would begin their takeover of the Republican Party twenty years later excoriated the deal as creeping socialism, and Communists pilloried Reuther and the UAW as capitalist lackeys and sellouts. But as the radicals fumed, the nation prospered, and the hardworking men and women of the UAW -- and subsequently, the rest of blue-collar America, both union and non-union -- reaped the benefits of a mature labor peace that saw workers get their piece of the capitalist pie.
There's no question that other unions played a role in the establishment of the postwar peace, but the UAW played the leading role -- both because it bargained with America's biggest corporations, and because of Walter Reuther's charisma and ideological leadership. As a former socialist who spent a couple years in the Soviet Union, Reuther recognized the watershed importance of a labor union at the height of its powers, in the most critical industry in the nation, choosing to broker a mutually advantageous master agreement rather than pressing for gains that might kill the goose who laid the golden eggs. It's true that the building trades, among others, had been negotiating agreements that recognized the permanency of capitalism for decades prior to the Treaty of Detroit, but the leadership of the construction unions had always been fundamentally accepting of the idea of wage labor. Reuther and the UAW came out of a far more radical milieu, and their decision to embrace a sort of American social democracy -- to create an American social contract -- had ripple effects that essentially killed the Marxist left in America. But it also played a massive role in building a broad middle class that enjoyed real security, that didn't survive at the tender mercies of their employers. That was something new in American life, and it persisted for thirty years, give or take.
During the Reuther years, the UAW also used its resources to incubate every up-and-coming liberal movement in America. It was the UAW that funded the great 1963 March on Washington and provided the first serious financial backing for César Chávez's fledgling farm workers union. The union took a lively interest in the birth of a student movement in the early '60s, providing its conference center in Port Huron, Mich., to a group called Students for a Democratic Society when the group wanted to draft and debate its manifesto. Later that decade, the union provided resources to help the National Organization for Women get off the ground and helped fund the first Earth Day. And for decades after Reuther's death in a 1970 plane crash, the UAW was among the foremost advocates of national health care -- a policy that, had it been enacted, would have saved the Big Three tens of billions of dollars in health insurance expenses, but which the Big Three themselves were until recently too ideologically hidebound to support.

Narrow? Parochial? The UAW not only built the American middle class but helped engender every movement at the center of American liberalism today -- which is one reason that conservatives have always held the union in particular disdain.


GOP vs. UAW, USA-Part II

GOP vs. UAW, USA--Part III

I'm thinking that we REALLY need some labour history to be taught in our schools and to our journalists and pundits. Like...pronto!
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UAW busting, Southern style:Foreign carmakers are enlisting the help of GOP senators from states in the South to break the union.

However, an internal Toyota report, leaked to the Detroit Free Press last year, reveals that the company wants to slash $300 million out of its rising labor costs by 2011. The report indicated that Toyota no longer wants to "tie [itself] so closely to the U.S. auto industry." Instead, the company intends to benchmark the prevailing manufacturing wage in the state in which a plant is located. The Free Press reported that in Kentucky, where the company is headquartered, this wage is $12.64 an hour, according to federal labor statistics, less than half Toyota's $30-an-hour wage.

If the companies, with the support of their senators, can wipe out or greatly weaken the UAW, they will be free to implement their plan.

Bill Ford v. Larry King: Village Idiocy about the Auto Industry

Interesting segment on Larry King Live with Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford last night that I thought would get more attention today:
KING: What about the UAW in all of this? FORD: Well, the UAW obviously has been our partner through all of this. Have they made mistakes and have we made mistakes? Of course. The UAW has come a long way. I think their leader, Ron Gettelfinger, is an excellent leader and he really understands our business. In this last contract, he gave up a lot. He’s also indicated they’re willing to come to the table to do more. And so for anybody to blame the UAW as the sole reason for this is frankly wrong.
One other thing is, when I look at the people who work in our plants, I don’t think of them as UAW. I think of them as Ford employees, Ford employees who take tremendous pride in building quality and safety into our products. If you ask someone in our plant, where do they work, they say I work at Ford. To me, everybody who works in our plant is part of our extended family.
Here's Larry King completely missing the fact that most developed nations are backing their auto industries--and so it's no big surprise that any American car companies might need credit.
KING: Why do you need the line of credit?
FORD: We're saying we don't need it now, but we're saying, if the global economy does not pick up, you know, it would be, basically, a line of credit that we could draw upon. Larry, it's interesting because this slowdown now is happening in Europe, Asia and South America. And governments around the world are lining up to support their auto industries.
Here's Larry King repeating the ignorant assumption that Ford ought to be rooting for GM's downfall.
KING: Would it frankly benefit you if GM and Chrysler went under?
FORD: No, because the dislocation to the supply base that we all rely upon would be massive. Our suppliers are not in terrific shape. By the way, those same suppliers also supply the Japanese and European transplants as well. It wouldn't just be us affected.
Here's Larry King getting reminded that Ford cars in other markets--because they respond to sound policy like gas taxes--are very efficient (making the argument I've made--that we need a gas tax).
FORD: Because it's interesting, as gasoline was low here, it was taxed and much higher in other parts of the world, particularly Europe, but also in Asia. And as a result, we made small cars in Asia and in Europe and in South America and we made money doing so. Now we're bringing those vehicles here to the U.S.
So what's interesting is, while we stuck with that business model here, because of the price of gasoline, we were pursuing a very different strategy in Europe and South America and Asia, and we were growing and profitable. We're bringing those vehicles here now.
KING: I keep forgetting how global you are.

President Bush: Employees of American Companies Must Get Paid Less than Employees of Foreign Companies!

Yet then Bush throws in the demands that Republicans made--without noting that this was basically an ideological ploy to break the union, all the while demanding that employees of American-owned companies make significantly less than the employees of Japanese-owned companies.
Targets: The terms and conditions established by Treasury will include additional targets that were the subject of Congressional negotiations but did not come to a vote, including:
  • Reduce debts by 2/3 via a debt for equity exchange.
  • Make one-half of VEBA payments in the form of stock.
  • Eliminate the jobs bank. Work rules that are competitive with transplant auto manufacturers by 12/31/09.
  • Wages that are competitive with those of transplant auto manufacturers by 12/31/09.
These terms and conditions would be non-binding in the sense that negotiations can deviate from the quantitative targets above, providing that the firm reports the reasons for these deviations and makes the business case to achieve long-term viability in spite of the deviations.
In addition, the firm will be required to conclude new agreements with its other major stakeholders, including dealers and suppliers, by March 31, 2009.
Remember, the measure the Republicans were using to measure "wages that are competitive with those of transplant auto manufacturers" was the lizard lie number--the $73/hour, the number that includes legacy costs, the payments to retiree pensions. Otherwise, there would be no reason to make this stipulation--because if you use the real wage number, and not the lizard lie number, American manufacturer wages are already competitive with the transplants!!MORE
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Lets talk paychecks
Deb already pointed out that the average line worker makes only about $28 an hour (or $56,000 per year). I don't think many people would try to argue that $56,000 is too much for a family with a couple of kids, a mortgage, and the usual needs of a typical American family. Bill Kav noted:
Several Senators have used a figure of $73 per hour to describe UAW labor rates. The actual UAW rates vary, from $14 per hour for new workers at the Big Three to $33 per hour for skilled trades workers. The Republican $73 per hour figure includes not only adding in benefits, but also adding a hefty additional total of ALL current retirees benefits from contracts of years gone by, divided by the number of current workers (a much smaller workforce). Somehow, this figure made it seem as if current workers were rolling in clover at a huge hourly salary— which none of them are actually drawing.
In stark contrast:
[E]xecutives have been redistributing shareholder wealth to themselves -- while the company headed toward a cliff -- and the executive-friendly board allowed them to do it.

For example, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner's 2007 pay ($14 million) breaks down to $7,000 per hour (based on a 2000-hour year). Yes, you read that correctly -- and that was a year that GM had $38 billion in losses.

If the average autoworker makes $28 per hour, then Mr. Wagoner's hourly pay could have instead paid 250 average GM workers -- people directly involved in making products that make money for GM shareholders.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally's 2007 pay was $21 million, which amounts to $10,500 per hour. A year earlier, Ford had record losses of $12 billion. Mr. Mulally's hourly pay could have instead paid 375 average Ford workers.

It doesn't stop with CEOs. Four of Ford's vice presidents were paid $39 million in 2007, an average of $9.75 million each or $4,875 per hour. The total hourly pay of all four execs combined could have instead paid 696 average autoworkers.

I don't have access to compensation data for the dozens -- or hundreds -- of other execs at GM and Ford... (BN-Pol)

But wait! There's more:MORE

Read more... )
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Workers in Immokalee, Florida have won an important victory over Subway, compelling the fast food giant to impose an industry wide surcharge on tomatoes to increase wages for tomato pickers. Workers will now receive 72 to 77 cents for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes, up from 40 cents. According to Cruz Salucio of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, wages have been stagnant since 1978 and the victory is a product of local organizing, community radio, and weekly meetings. When every buyer participates, he says, workers’ wages will nearly double. Now that they’ve taken on the big fast food chains—Taco Bell, McDonalds, and Burger King—they have their eyes on the big supermarket chains. You can find more information at the coalition’s website.

Smithfield: HUGE victory for labor in the South!

In what unions are hailing as a crucial victory in the South, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union prevailed in their 16-year campaign to organize the world's largest pork slaughterhouse.

By a vote of 2,041 to 1,879, workers at Smithfield Foods' massive hog plant in Tar Heel, N.C. voted to unionize the plant in what had become one of the most closely-watched labor battles in the country.

Virginia-based Smithfield had earned a national reputation for its hostility to organized labor: A 2005 report by Human Rights Watch had singled out Smithfield for creating a "climate of fear" among workers, including intimidation, harassment and even beatings of suspected activists.

Indeed, such tactics are what caused the two previous union elections at Smithfield to be dismissed:

The results of two previous elections at the plant in the 1990s were
thrown out after federal officials declared that the company had
harassed and fired union supporters, even forcing an employee to stamp
the words "Vote No" on dead hogs.

Smithfield was forced to pay $1.1 million in back pay plus interest to
employees who had been fired for union activity, after a federal judge
ruled in the union's favor in 2006.MORE

Victory for Republic Windows and Doors Workers in Chicago
In a truly historic victory, workers at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago (UE Local 1110) approved an agreement with the company and Bank of America that ended a 5 day occupation of the factory. 2-12-10-08republic-cag According to UE:
The settlement totals $1.75 million. It will provide the workers with:

* Eight weeks of pay they are owed under the federal WARN Act,
* Two months of continued health coverage and,
* Pay for all accrued and unused vacation.

JPMorgan Chase will provide $400,000 of the settlement, with the balance coming from Bank of America.MORE

Today's New York Times (Tuesday Dec 9th) reports that the owner of the Chicago plant where the sit-in is taking place was, in fact, packing up and moving the plant to a cheaper location, in Iowa. He started another company named "Echo Windows LLC".
So there you have it. The race to the bottom. No doubt, this new plant will be non-union. And even if the workers win, all they will get is the vacation pay that is owed them -- they won't get to keep their jobs.MORe

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Myths about labor unions

1. “Unions are why all the jobs left the United States.”
No, not by a long shot. Many jobs evaporated as automation was introduced on a larger scale. Other jobs were outsourced not because of union wages, but because of United States wages; the option to relocate to nonunion areas of the United States wasn’t taken. Corporate greed, a tax code that provides preferential treatment for foreign earnings, the lack of a national healthcare system, desire to avoid environmental laws, avoidance of health and safety laws, helpful dictatorships (subsidized by the U.S., and assisted by the U.S. military) to torture and assassinate labor organizers, and federal programs designed to encourage foreign investment in the form of offshoring had/have far more of an impact than union wages (especially considering the precipitous decline in union membership). White-collar jobs in IT and financial services are outsourced, and those aren’t usually union jobs. It should also bear mention that the United States isn’t the only country that is hemmoraging jobs—the corporate-led race to the bottom is global.

2.“Unions raise the cost of goods and services.”
Because price gouging, market manipulation, monopolies, mergers and acquisitions couldn’t have anything to do with it. Besides, the price of clothing, shoes, food, etc. have all plummeted with outsourcing, right? (Right? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?) And speaking of prices, what is the true cost of those “low, low prices”, hmm? Who is carrying the freight for corporations that don’t provide health insurance? What is the real cost of the impoverishment of communities? And…..why are those prices artificially low to begin with? Those “low prices” are paid for by the blood of women of color.

3.“Unions strike all the time.”
Not even close. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates there were 21 work stoppages (BLS does not differentiate between strikes and lockouts) in the U.S. in 2007. Less than 1/10th of one percent of work time is lost to strikes with employers involving 1,000 or more workers; in 98% of all collective bargaining negotiations, agreements are reached without a strike. Despite the rarity of strikes, media coverage of them dominates labor news. The days of newspapers having a “labor beat” are long gone (coinciding with newspapers becoming a nonunion environment).

4.“Unions slow productivity; union workers are goldbrickers.”
Actually, unionized environments in various industries are more productive. Unionized construction workers are more productive.

5.“Unions protect deadbeats; incompetant union workers can’t be fired.”
No union contract forbids an employer from firing a worker who is drunk, high, lazy, incompetant, etc. The union insures that such firings are for ‘just cause’, and not because of discriminatory purposes (too old, too black, too lesbian, speaks Spanish to co-workers, etc.) or because the employer is having a bad day. Union members should be aware of their Weingarten rights.

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Eight Hours for Work, Eight Hours for Rest,
Eight Hours for What We Will!

That was the motto for the Eight-Hour Movement, chanted in labor demonstrations and union halls far and wide in the latter part of the 1800s. The fight for the eight hour day was a long one, originating with the onset of the Industrial Revolution itself (first in the form of the ten-hour day, with two hours for meals). In the earlier part of the nineteenth century, the fight was primarily through pressure on state legislatures to limit the hours of the workday; the existing trade unions tended to have a narrow focus on their own crafts, and their power rose and fell with the economic tide (as did their level of solidarity with other crafts in the form of labor councils). Legislatures were reluctant to hear arguments in favor of working hours on a human scale; it was felt that “the remedy is not with us” (as a Massachusetts legislative committee formed in response to the many petitions received from factory workers replied) and/or that limiting the hours of the workday would be bad for the economy. Workers shifted their arguments from more time for citizenship duties or further education, to the better quality of work that would result from the shorter workday. By the time the mid-1800’s rolled around, several states (New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Ohio, California and Georgia) had passed various ten-hour laws due to popular demand—laws which inevitably included loopholes for ’special contracts’. Those ’special contracts’ nullified the law; employers demanded them as a condition of employment, and blacklisted workers who stood up for their (paper-tiger) legal rights.
The general ineffectiveness of those laws spurred more interest in forming labor organizations—not the relatively smaller, city-based craft brotherhoods that occasionally would assert political power, but larger, regional unions that were politically driven. Those unions were also craft-based, and concerned primarily with the welfare of their own members (as well as control of their jurisdiction), but the seeds had been planted for national labor unions, and there was a renewed interest in forming trades’ councils and solidarity with other unions. This intensified with the rise of the railroads, when economies were no longer so “local”.


It wasn’t until the New Deal with its Fair Labor Standards Act that the eight hour day became standard. …or has it?
For the past two decades the eight-hour day has been little more than a footnote in the history books; the recent downturn in the average number of weekly hours worked in the U.S. can be attributed to rising unemployment. What happened?
Overtime pay was designed to penalize employers for not hiring more workers. But as the number of workers organized into labor unions fell, fewer workplaces paid double time—overtime fell back into time-and-a-half. Industries also adopted the practice of reclassifying workers as “associates” or “managers” in order to opt-out of paying overtime. The illegal practice of “working off the clock” (being required to work without pay as a condition of employment) has made a comeback. And the skyrocketing cost of health care benefits (for workplaces that provide them) has made overtime a cheaper alternative to hiring more employees. Introduction of the four-day, ten-hour work week in many industries (including construction), or of the three-day, twelve-hour week (especially in health care) has further eroded the eight-hour day; “4-10s” are likely to be in more demand due to the rising cost of gasoline (the state of Utah has instituted the four-day work week for most state employees). It should probably go without saying that displaced workers often work two jobs to replace the wages lost from their former employment.



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