Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Posts Tagged ‘labor

EFCA update

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Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake:

The NRSC put together a commercial that’s supposed to scare the bejesus out of everyone at the thought of EFCA (the Employee Free Choice Act) passing under an Obama administration, but I couldn’t have made a better one myself. The prospect should be exciting for everyone who considers themselves a progressive.

Click the link to see the commercial and to read more.

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2008 at 2:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Democrats, Election, Government

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What the unions have to work against

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From the Center for American Progress:\

The Bush administration’s assault on organized labor is well-known, as the current union organization system is tilted against America’s workers. Each year, over 20,000 U.S. workers are illegally fired, demoted, laid off, suspended without pay, or denied work by their employers as a result of union activity. In 2000, 13.5 percent of all wage and salary workers were unionized. In 2006, just 12 percent of workers were in unions, as existing laws — and the administration’s interpretation of them — make joining a union a Herculean task that few want to undertake, even though half of all U.S. workers say they would vote to join a union. While the Bush administration has been lax on most regulatory enforcement throughout most of government, a new report from Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Scott Lilly points out that the Labor Department’s Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) has embarked on a path of “rigorous” and “pernicious” regulatory enforcement of organized labor. This regulatory assault has resulted in a “political misinformation campaign” aimed at damaging organized labor.

BURDENING AND SLANDERING UNIONS: The Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959 “tasks the Labor Department with enforcing union financial reporting requirements and investigating their finances.” In 1992, former Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA) urged Labor Secretary Lynn Martin to direct OLMS to significantly increase union reporting requirements because it would “weaken our opponents and encourage our allies.” The Bush administration followed suit, revising the so-called LM-2 reporting form, resulting in a “radical increase in paperwork requirements placed on unions.” Unions were thus forced to spend considerable sums in purchasing new software to comply with the record-keeping burdens. “Most workers don’t have the time or ability to satisfy the requirements,” observed Bill Samuel, director of legislation for the AFL-CIO.

HEAVILY DOCTORED DATA: OLMS and its right-wing allies appear to knowingly propagate misleading data in order to drum up allegations of union corruption. Using “double-counting” (where the Department lists an individual case multiple times by reporting as a separate “case” the date of indictment, charge, date of plea, and date of sentencing), OLMS doubled the total number of “convictions” in their data on criminal actions involving labor unions. Much of those records did not even involve union members per se, but accountants, lawyers, and business owners, observed John Lund of the University of Wisconsin. This doctored data was also picked up by the right-wing anti-union group Center for Union Facts. Furthermore, OLMS reporting on court-ordered restitution to labor unions is also misleading, reporting $23 million in court-ordered restitutions in fiscal year 2005. But, as Lilly observed, only 10 percent of that amount actually involved unions: “embedded” in the data were “cases in which perpetrators were not members of unions and the target of their crimes were not union treasuries.” “President Bush is using the Department of Labor as a weapon to undermine the labor movement. … The Bush administration’s goal is harassment, plain and simple,” said Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

POLITICAL APPOINTEES RUN OLMS: The Bush administration’s injection of politics over the rule of law is well-documented. From the U.S. Attorneys scandal to Karl Rove’s politicization schemes, the administration has used political appointees to create an arm of the Republican party in the federal government. OLMS was run by a career civil servant for most of President Clinton’s tenure; under Bush, political appointee Don Todd — neither an attorney nor an individual with labor experience — was chosen to run OLMS. Todd, who led opposition research at the Republican National Committee in 1988, “is credited with helping George H.W. Bush win the presidency in 1988 by convincing Lee Atwater to use a television ad featuring a furloughed murderer.” (Todd was named “RNC Man Of The Year” for this tactic.) Several other campaign operatives moved into the office. Todd’s special assistant came to the Labor Department from the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, along with another assistant, Patrick Bosworth. Sean Redmond, also special assistant to Todd, was on the advance staff of Bush-Cheney 2000. Todd and his staff used their campaign communications experience to discredit unions, uploading millions of pages of data on finances of unions to the OLMS website and creating databases of legal actions taken in courts against union members. This data was conveniently picked up by right-wing groups like the Center for Union Facts, who publicized “the data that Todd had added” in their own anti-union ad campaigns.

Written by Leisureguy

20 December 2007 at 9:29 am

Good review of two books on the Labor movement

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Worth reading. The review begins:

State of the Unions: How Labor Can Strengthen the Middle Class, Improve Our Economy, and Regain Political Influence by Philip M. Dine (McGraw-Hill, 276 pages)U.S. Labor in Trouble and Transition: The Failure of Reform from Above, The Promise of Revival from Below by Kim Moody (Verso, 320 pages)

In their well-regarded 1998 book, Organizing to Win: New Research on Union Strategies, labor experts Kate Bronfenbrenner and Tom Juravich found that labor unions’ strategies matter more than employers’ tactics when it comes to determining the success of organizing campaigns. Even workers with their backs against the wall can overcome the financial advantages of their bosses, the authors argue, if they are smart and persistent. Two new books, State of the Unions by Philip M. Dine and U.S. Labor in Trouble and Transition by Kim Moody, embrace this premise with gusto. In dissimilar but equally thoughtful works, Dine and Moody propose internal changes that the struggling labor movement can make to regain its influence. While each has its shortfalls, labor leaders serious about sustainable union growth would be wise to engage with these pressing volumes.

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Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2007 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Government

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What workplace do you want?

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And what workplace are you working toward? Paul Waldman:

These are not good times for American workers. Real wages are lower today than they were before the recession of 2001, and barely higher than they were thirty-five years ago. Health insurance is more expensive and harder to obtain than ever before. Manufacturing jobs continue to move overseas. The unions whose efforts might arrest these trends continue to struggle under a sustained assault that began when Ronald Reagan fired striking air-traffic controllers in 1981, in effect declaring war on the labor movement.

This is a story with which you are probably familiar. But these are in no small part symptoms of a larger transformation of the relationship between employers and employees, in which Americans increasingly sign away their humanity when they sign an employment contract.

Let’s take just one component of today’s work environment that most people have simply come to accept:

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Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2007 at 7:05 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, GOP, Government

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GOP favors forced labor

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Good article:

Forced labor

If ever there was a single newspaper story that showed just how much today’s Republican Party hates working people, this Rocky Mountain News story is it. The headline reads “Right to Strike in Colorado Paid With Blood,” and documents how after National Guardsmen mowed down striking mine workers in the early 20th century’s Ludlow Massacre, the Colorado state legislature solidified workers’ right to strike – that is, workers’ right to withhold their labor as a way to protest the way they are treated. It was the least the legislature could do following one of the ugliest displays of worker oppression in American history.

This would seem like a basic right in an industrialized countries because, really, what’s the opposite? Right – forcing workers to work, whether they like it or not. However, as this article shows, even with the right to strike in Colorado “paid with blood,” the Colorado Republican Party is gearing up to eliminate that right for workers.

The article includes the above picture of troops heading toward the Ludlow workers to execute them back in 1914 – and in the paper, the picture is, rather appropriately, juxtaposed next to the legislature’s Republican leaders who are leading today’s assault on workers.

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Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2007 at 1:46 pm

Posted in GOP, Government

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Labor movement and communication

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In thinking about Strike!, it occurs to me that the labor movement is probably better equipped than ever before to grow in numbers and power because of the Internet: better communications through email and Web sites and blogs, education on the history of the labor movement via Web sites and pod casts, and overall consciousness raising.

For example, here’s a group that builds free Web sites for unions. And another Web services company for unions. Also, just a sampling of education resources:

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 10:34 am

Posted in Business

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Strike!, by Jeremy Brecher

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UPDATE: I updated the link that provides the source of the book—all the used copies were scooped up immediately, but the paperback (and clothbound) edition is still available new, from the publisher (at the link). Also, read the beginning of the Prologue.

Strike!: Revised and Updated Edition is a book well worth reading—important and relevant today more than ever before. And today Labor has new tools at its command. Let me just show you the Introduction—it’s a relatively long but (in my opinion) fascinating story:

This book is the story of repeated, massive, and sometimes violent revolts by ordinary working people in America. The story includes virtually nationwide general strikes, the seizure of vast industrial establishments, non-violent direct action on a massive scale, and armed battles with artillery and tanks. It encompasses the repeated repression of workers’ rebellions by company-sponsored violence, local police, state militias, and the U.S. Army and National Guard. It reveals a dimension of American history rarely found in the usual high school or college history course, let alone in the way that history is presented in the media.

The United States is often presumed to be a land of individual freedom. That view often leads people to try to meet their needs by individual effort. But from time to time people come up against another reality. Most of our society’s resources have long been controlled by a few. The rest have no way to make a living but to sell their ability to work. Most Americans are—by no choice of their own—workers. The basic experience of being a worker—of not having sufficient economic resources to live except by going to work for someone else—shapes most people’s daily lives, as well as the life of our society.

As workers, people experience a denial of freedom that is very different from the touted liberty of American life. “Opportunity” is reduced to the opportunity to sell your time and creative capacities to one employer or another—or to fall into poverty if you don’t. The “freedom to choose” is replaced by the freedom to do what you are told.

Meanwhile, the wealth created by the labor of the many is owned by a tiny minority, primarily in the form of giant corporations that dominate the national and now increasingly global economy. They control the labor of millions of people in the United States and worldwide. The wealth and power of corporations and those who own them is further parlayed into power over the media, the political process, the institutions that shape knowledge and opinion, and ultimately over the government. Workers are thereby rendered relatively powerless, as individuals, even in supposedly democratic societies.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 10:29 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Tagged with , ,

More on the labor movement

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The unions have helped all who work, many of whom have been taught that unions are “bad.” Read this:

“Red November, black November/Bleak November, black and red./ Hallowed month of labor’s martyrs,/Labor’s heroes, labor’s dead.” So wrote radical poet and American political prisoner Ralph Chaplin in 1933. The month of November is indeed a hallowed month for leftists in this country and around the world.

In November 1915, a Utah firing squad executed Joe Hill, the labor activist and songwriter whose tunes would later inspire such politically oriented musicians as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. Jailed on a murder charge under dubious circumstances, Joe Hill had supporters around the world, including President Wilson, who said the radical troubadour had not received a fair trial because of his membership in the militant Industrial Workers of the World labor union, also known as the Wobblies.

A year later, in November 1916, police gunfire killed five Wobblies who were arriving by boat for a labor rally in Everett, Wash. Two police officers also were killed, probably by “friendly fire” from their own ranks. The Everett Massacre was another chapter of labor history written in blood.

Washington’s long saga of labor unrest reached a high point of horror in the small logging town of Centralia in November 1919. During an Armistice Day parade celebrating the end of World War I, members of the newly-formed American Legion attacked an IWW meeting hall. Union men fought back and there was gunfire from both sides in the conflict. Wesley Everest, a lumberjack, IWW member and World War I veteran, vowed, “I fought for democracy in Europe and I’ll fight for it here” as he fired his pistol at the mob. That night, the captured Everest was taken from jail and lynched in his Army uniform. His body was displayed to gawking townspeople for three days and pieces of the lynching rope became coveted souvenirs of an event still remembered in labor history as the Centralia Conspiracy.

No event in the history of American labor strife has had the impact of the trial and executions of the anarchists and union organizers hanged in Chicago on Nov. 11, 1887, for their roles in what historian Paul Avrich has called “The Haymarket Tragedy” in his definitive book about the incident.

Union men and women were on the march in post-Civil War Chicago, and the city had become a mecca for radicals. Both the Democratic and Republican mainstream political parties offered little hope for disgruntled and downtrodden workers both immigrant and American-born, so doctrines like anarchy, socialism, communism, feminism and labor activism sprouted in the political soil of late-19th-century America.

In 1886, a bomb powered by the newly invented dynamite was thrown into the ranks of cops who were attacking a labor rally in Chicago’s Haymarket district. One officer was killed outright and several others were wounded. To this day, no one knows precisely how many labor activists were killed or injured in the incident and no one knows who threw the dreadful bomb. Historians do know that martial law was declared in Chicago as the whole country came under the hysteria of this nation’s first “Red Scare,” as men who had no part in the bombing were hanged for their anarchist opinions.

“Make the raids first and look up the law afterwards,” sneered Chicago prosecutor Julius Grinnel. After a sensational trial that had what Avrich called “the dimensions of a historical tragedy,” four of the anarchists were hanged by Windy City authorities on Nov. 11, 1887 – 120 years ago this week.

The Haymarket affair had many political elements that we still struggle with today: government surveillance, police misconduct, immigration, workers’ rights. It was one of the most important events in American history, but it is history that often is ignored by schools and colleges. As Ralph Chaplin wrote in “Wobbly,” his autobiography: “Working people, like everyone else, have a way of forgetting the struggles and sacrifices that made possible the improved conditions they enjoy today.”

Written by Leisureguy

10 November 2007 at 11:51 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Tagged with ,

Bad times for Labor in the US

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It’s obvious that times are bad simply from the stagnant pay that workers take home as prices rise. And now a formal complaint has been made by the AFL-CIO to the International Labor Organization:

When labor union leaders in countries like Guatemala and Colombia face death squads and draconian legal restrictions on workers’ rights, they often turn to the Geneva-based International Labor Organization of the United Nations for help.

So it was a sign of real frustration, even desperation, that in mid-October the AFL-CIO protested to the ILO that a “sustained assault on workers’ rights in the United States” was occurring at the hands of the very agency mandated to enforce this nation’s labor laws–the National Labor Relations Board.

For the past six years the Bush-appointed majority of the NLRB has steadily reversed legal precedents and eroded the rights of workers in favor of management–limiting who can form a union, strengthening management power to harass pro-union workers, and refusing effective action against management abuses of worker rights.

One of the most significant attacks came in early October. The Board threw new roadblocks in the path of one of the labor movement’s most productive strategies for organizing new workers–securing union recognition as soon as a majority of employees sign union membership cards.

“It’s worse than a bad decision,” says AFL-CIO organizing director Stewart Acuff. “It’s further evidence of ideological bias of the Bush Board. It’s incontrovertible evidence that this Board is determined to impede collective bargaining, not encourage collective bargaining, as the preamble of the [National Labor Relations] Act says.”

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Written by Leisureguy

1 November 2007 at 10:17 am

We need a more equitable NLRB

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The GOP has pulled all the teeth from the NLRB so that companies can illegally fight unions with impunity. A Democratic sweep in 2008 may enable/encourage Congress to address the imbalance. For now:

As part of a wider campaign to free mall workers from low wages and unfair working conditions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) began organizing janitors employed by the cleaning contractor Service Management Systems (SMS) at Paramus Park. Within weeks, workers say supervisors with SMS threatened to fire anyone who supported the union.

“We work everyday with fear,” Christian Valle, a janitor at Permaus Park, told The American Prospect through an interpreter. Valle said he wanted to join the union for “job security” because “sometimes [SMS doesn’t] pay us the full hours, they raise their voices at us, and they threaten to fire us so we don’t become part of the union.”

In July, SEIU filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board against SMS, citing interrogation, surveillance, and coercive statements and threats against workers joining the union. SEIU is the nation’s largest union, representing more than 225,000 janitors.

The complaint against SMS was just the beginning, as SEIU documented a more systemic practice of intimidation against union-affiliated workers in malls owned by General Growth Properties. In August, SEIU filed six more unfair labor practice charges against cleaning contractors hired by General Growth, and one specifically against the corporation itself. Then in September, SEIU filed 10 more unfair labor practice charges against the company.

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Written by Leisureguy

18 October 2007 at 3:26 pm

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