Category Archives: Labor

The New Union Busting Tactic…Just Drown ’em in Paperwork…

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Who is Grover Norquist? He is a GOP hack conservative anti-union lobbyist and President of the tax lobbying group, Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist, along with Bill Kristol, Ralph E. Reed, Jr., Clint Bolick and David McIntosh is one of the so-called “Gang of Five” identified in Nina Easton‘s 2000 book by that name, which gives a history of leaders of the modern conservative movement.

They are all anti-union at their core of mud.  

Every dollar that is spent [by labor unions] on disclosure and reporting is a dollar that can’t be spent on other labor union activities.

Grover Norquist

Well, at least Grover was honest about his motivation for strangling labor unions, and a new in depth report from the Center For American Progress, shows that’s not the case with most of the partisan Republican hacks who have been directed by their corporate masters to drown unions in paperwork.

The CAP report details what all union officials already know. Over the past five or six years, the Bush Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards has systematically and dramatically increased the financial reporting burden faced by labor unions.  Now, no real unionist is opposed to transparency and sensible reporting – but the reporting requirements imposed by the Bush administration have little to do with transparency, and everything to do with forcing unions to waste time and money jumping through hoops.  

Here are some passages from the report: 

Lax regulatory enforcement, however, has not been a government-wide policy. In at least one instance, rigorous and in fact pernicious regulatory enforcement was the course chosen by the Bush administration. That instance involved the regulatory authorities of the U.S. Department of Labor under the Landrum Griffin Act aimed at improving the governance of the nation’s organized labor organizations.

Rather than relax these regulatory responsibilities, the Bush administration shoveled significantly more federal tax dollars into the department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards so that key political operatives in OLMS could expand and exercise regulatory authority to:

-Impose costly and confusing new reporting requirements
-Attempt to increase the number of criminal prosecutions
-Disclose the results to the public in seriously misleading ways
-Mis-characterize the published data through a variety of false analyses

The underlying purpose, of course, is to undermine the reputation of the labor union movement through a classic political misinformation campaign-all under the supervision of a lifelong partisan political operative whose career has been dedicated to the destruction of his political opponents.

Read the whole report here…

Make no mistake. Any conservative who says they are pro-union is lying to your face. I haven’t met a genuine conservative labor supporter yet. Unions and union bebefits eat at the almighty profit margin, and we all know Bush won’t have any of that. This report frames the perpetual greed and complete lack of respect that conservatives have for the American worker. They outsource our jobs, force wages downward, and bust unions all in the name of profit.

Just ask anyone who works at Wal-Mart.

The ideology and actions of the so-called “Gang of Five” is pathetic, short-sighted and patently anti-American. Little do they realize that the artificial pressure they endorse that is strangling unions will ultimately backfire as more and more American workers are realizing that they’re employers are not working in their best interest, only their own.

The cycle will come full circle…it is already beginning. 

  

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Extreme Workers and the Ripple Effect of Long Hours on the Job…

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I’ve always been perplexed by those who are content with working their lives away. Of course I’m no one to talk. On more than one occasion I have been labeled a work-a-holic. But now there is a new term – ‘Extreme Worker. I first heard it on the radio a few years back but more recently on NPR. In the end, I did what I always do with new buzz words. I filed it under “another meaningless word to describe something equally meaningless that doesn’t deserve my full attention.” 

As it turns out, two reports were released last week, from two well respected organizations, in the field of life and work studies. 

The general message of both studies is that we spend far too much time at work. Moreover, the consequences of that extra work are far reaching, and destructive.

“Extreme Job” is the phrase coined by the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force of the Center for Work-Life Policy. According to this think tank, you have an extreme job if you work 60 hours or more a week and meet at least 5 additional characteristics from a list of 10. These include fast-paced work under tight deadlines, responsibility for profit and loss, a large amount of travel, an unpredictable flow of work, and work- related events outside business hours.

Based on two surveys and dozens of interviews and focus groups, the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force estimates that about 20 percent of high earners in the United States, defined as those in the top 6 percent of income levels, meet the definition of an extreme worker. That means 20 percent of those who make it to the top are working harder than any human can sustain for very long.

A 60-hour workweek, with a one- hour commute each way, means leaving the house at 7 a.m. every morning and not returning until 9 p.m. And more than half of extreme workers log longer hours than that.

Some say they love the thrill, the meaning, the challenge, the oversized compensation packages and the brilliant colleagues.

Of course the term “Extreme Worker” generally refers to those in the white collar world. However, does this phenomena also extend to the average service or blue collar worker as well?

In the U.S., working time has actually been increasing across all sectors. Many workers put in longer hours than the forty hour standard. Two weeks of paid annual leave is standard, with some workers receiving three weeks after long periods of service. Frequently, workers are afraid to take up their full entitlement in case it might jeopardize their job security.

In blue collar industries like service and manufacturing, hours are rising as well, and we all know about the two earner household being the new standard. The United States is an example of a country where workweek policies are not strictly enforced. The U.S. legally allows mainly two types of compensation, those being wage and salary labor. Wage earners are compensated on a per-hour basis, whereas salaried workers are compensated on a per-week basis. The 40-hour workweek, in effect, applies only to wage laborers, yet legally they may be required to work more than forty hours. The kicker…firms are only required to pay time-and-a-half, or 1.5 times the worker’s base wage, for each hour of work past forty.

As you might imagine, overtime is very popular with larger companies.

In some states firms are required to pay double-time, or twice the base rate, for each hour of work past 60. This provides an incentive for companies to limit working time, but makes these additional hours more desirable for the worker. It is not uncommon for overtime hours to be accepted voluntarily by wage-earning workers. In fact, unions often treat overtime as a desirable fringe benefit when negotiating labor contracts. 

Salaried workers however, are not covered by overtime protections. Some have argued, as I have, that the concept of being exempt from overtime is now being abused by many companies, as increasing a salaried worker’s working hours effectively reduces his or her per-hour pay, resulting in cheaper labor for the enterprise.

The current economically conservative and anti-worker political culture in the federal government, doesn’t help the situation much. Unlike Europe, our government doesn’t seem to care much about the health and welfare of the average American worker.

So what do Americans do in the face of constant job insecurity in the form of outsourcing, layoff, and a total absence of union protection that is perpetuated by the government in the interest of big business?

They work longer to keep their job at any cost – even those who say they love it. In reality they have no choice because some other fearful empty suit will be right in line behind them to scoop up their job. What is even more ridiculous, is that they do this having full knowledge of the consequences.  

Sixty-nine percent say their extreme jobs undermine their health, 46 percent say work gets in the way of a good relationship with their spouse, and 58 percent say it gets in the way of strong relationships with their children.

And what about those children?

Catalyst, a research and consulting organization that aims to expand opportunities for women at work, looked specifically at stress on working parents at the office, which they call “parental concern about after-school time,” or PCAST.

All those instances where child care falls through, all the hours children are left alone or with a sitter, all the hours people spent at the office knowing a child is home sick – affects close to 50 million employees in the United States, the Catalyst study says.

The solution, both groups say, is what Catalyst calls “the agile workplace.”

That means a philosophy of flexibility. On the specific topic of PCAST, that could include subsidies for after school care and backup care, and the ability to telecommute.

The alternative, the task force warns, is that today’s distracted and overworked employees will become tomorrow’s drag on the bottom line.

Are any of these proposed solutions being implemented? Of course not. Just ask yourself if you know of any free after school programs or care programs designed to help overworked parents?

You won’t find any. 

Harvard professor Juliet Schor (check out our book review here), author of the book, The Overworked American, writes:

A decade of research by Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild suggests that many marriages where women are doing the “second shift” are close to the breaking point.  When job, children, and marriage have to be attended to, it’s often the marriage that is neglected. The failure of many men to do their share at home further problems. A twenty-six-year-old legal secretary in California reports that her husband “does no cooking, no washing, no anything else. How do I feel? Furious. If our marriage ends, it will be on this issue. And it just might.”

Serious as these problems are, the most alarming development may be the effect of the work explosion on the care of children. According to economist Sylvia Hewlett, child neglect has become endemic to our society.” A major problem is that children are increasingly left alone, to fend for themselves while their parents are at work.  Nationwide, estimates of children in “self”—or, more accurately, “no”—care range up to seven million.  Local studies have found figures of up to one-third of children caring for themselves.  At least half a million preschoolers are thought to be left at home part of each day.  One 911 operator reports large numbers of frightened callers: “It’s not uncommon to hear from a child of six or seven who has been left in charge of even younger siblings.”

Even when parents are at home, overwork may leave them with limited time, attention, or energy for their children. One working parent noted, “My child has severe emotional problems because I am too tired to listen to him. It is not quality time; it’s bad quantity time that’s destroying my family.” Economist Victor Fuchs has found that between 1960 and 1986, the time parents actually had available to be with children fell ten hours a week for whites and twelve for blacks.  Hewlett links the “parenting deficit” to a variety of problems plaguing the country’s youth: poor performance in school, mental problems, drug and alcohol use, and teen suicide. According to another expert, kids are being “cheated out of childhood…There is a sense that adults don’t care about them.”

In the end we must ask ourselves as a culture – is it worth it?

Another good link on this topic from Harvard here

Another Reason Not to Trust China…

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Family members were left stunned in Hong Kong on Thursday (November 22) after a Chinese decision denying the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier entry into Hong Kong. 

The decision was later reversed by Beijing.

Hundreds of families poured into Hong Kong to greet servicemen from the aircraft carrier and fleet, which holds 8,000 of United States’ servicemen, airman and sailors, only to find out Thursday morning that the carrier would not come port-side.

The Kitty Hawk is not expected to make it back to Hong Kong by the end of the Thanksgiving day in Asia, according to the
U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is home to thousands of U.S. expatriates, with many gathering at midday for special Thanksgiving day service at the city’s oldest church, St. John’s Cathedral. Hong Kong is also a favoured stopping point for U.S. warships in the Pacific region. 

There are several issues which may have prompted Beijing’s action, including U.S. plans to sell Taiwan a $490 million U.S. dollar upgrade to its missile system and last month’s meeting between George Bush and the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader whom Beijing considers a traitor.

The State Department and Defense Department said it remained unclear why the aircraft carrier strike group had been denied access at the last moment just as the crew of some 8,000 sailors and airmen were to celebrate the annual US holiday on Thursday.

“At present, it appears the USS Kitty Hawk strike group will not be making a port call in Hong Kong as previously planned as a result of a last minute denial by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” said State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson.

“The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not give an explanation for its denial. The United States is pressing the Chinese Foreign Ministry for an explanation and for a reconsideration,” she stated. 

A spokesman for the Pentagon, Lieutenant Commander John Daniels, said, “We don’t know the reason the Chinese have done this.”

It is no secret that China has an array of industrial spies roaming the planet. It freely pirates US technology with no regard for intellectual rights, and has used that technology to cyber attack countries like Germany, blast a satellite out of orbit and demonstrate that it can cripple US defenses if need be. 

It was only a few years ago that China could barely make a stable rocket launch. Now the Chinese turned that program around with purchased and stolen American technology.

So why did China bar the Kitty Hawk? 

They barred it because they are an aspiring global super power, and they want everyone to know that they could – a demonstration of diplomatic bullying. 

China is a quasi capitalist/communist super state that is rapidly expanding with a carefully controlled, state run ideology. The curious thing is, unlike the old Soviet Union, it is working. They believe in what they are doing, because their approach is producing tremendous wealth which conveniently for the Chinese, is driving the world’s fastest growing economy at the expense of U.S. workers. There is no period in history where so much wealth and economic power has been created in such a short period of time. In turn, from that wealth and industrial power, the Chinese are building military might. They are rapidly militarizing, and in a few short years, will be able to control events in Asia, without any interference from the U.S. 

Taiwan will become whatever China wants it to be, the U.S. economy will continue to suffer, and the United States will simply have to accept that, because we continue to cow-tow to a country that is run by Communist thugs and continues to ignore international law.

To neutralize, or at the very least, attempt to check this coming military might that China will undoubtedly exploit to its full advantage, the U.S. must begin to respond in kind to such diplomatic slaps in the face. Our current policy of bending but not breaking, in the name of an apparantly failed mutually beneficial economic relationship with the Chinese, must be halted immediately. That is to say, scrap globalism…it isn’t working as intended.

We must begin to rebuild from within, and that includes rigorous education reforms that focus on science and technology including medicine, a wholesale change in our international economic policy with regards to China, and a renewed push in the area of space exploration, as well as advanced defense technologies. 

Shoring up what little manufacturing we have left here might not be a bad idea either.

Anything short of this is suicide, and it can be done in as little as twenty years.

More to come on this. 

Indian ‘Slave’ Children Found Making Low-Cost Clothes for Gap

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Another sad and absurd chapter has been written in the long, destrcutive saga that is the new ‘Global Economy.’

Child workers as young as 10 years old, have been found working in a textile factory in conditions close to slavery to produce clothes that appear destined for Gap Kids. Children described long hours of unwaged work, as well as threats and beatings. Gap said it was unaware that clothing intended for the Christmas market had been improperly subcontracted to a sweatshop using child labor.

I bet they weren’t aware. 

GAP announced it had withdrawn the garments involved while it investigated breaches of the self-imposed ethical code by the company three years ago.

All this, so suburban American white kids can look more fashionable, as their parents take them to the mall where they can over consume and perpetuate this cycle of exploiting the poor.  

Children working in filthy conditions in Delhi, India, has renewed concerns about outsourcing by large retail chains, and their garment production in third world countries. The United Nations has long recognized India as the world’s capital for child labor, yet little change as there are now an estimated 15,000 garment factories in India. According to one estimate, more than 20 per cent of India’s economy is dependent on child labor.

Despite its charitable activities with an eye on polishing it’s image, Gap has been criticized for outsourcing clothing production to the developing world many times in the past. In 2004, when it launched its social audit, it admitted that forced labor, child labor, wages below the minimum wage, physical punishment and coercion were among abuses it had found at some factories producing garments for the company. In the past year Gap has dealt with 23 suppliers reagarding workplace abuses.

Human rights violations in the form of illegal child labor are a logical extension of globalism, in that they serve to apply downward pressure on retail prices, so a debt driven Western economy can continue to over consume, and keep the world retail industry afloat. There is no other solution anything short of exploitation. That’s why human rights violations and child labor keeps happening…no matter what GAP, Wal-Mart or any other retailer wants you to believe. 

The fact is that companies like the GAP and Wal-Mart, are completely insulated from any legal liability or criminal prosecution as they hide behind nameless and faceless sub-contractors who wholesale clothes to these retailers on the backs of beaten children. When caught, they simply do what they always have done – declare that the practice is an outrage and pull product from their supply channels from that contractor, until they receive another shipment from the next contractor. 

If these retailers were really concerned about human rights, they would shift productions operations to countries where these types of abuses cannot happen – the U.S. might be a solid move in that direction…but we know that will never happen. Instead they continue to willingly sacrifice children in the name of profit. They do not care about these third world children because they own everything there is to own, including most governments, and they are simply above any real prosecution that has any teeth. 

Until consumers take action, this dynamic simply will not change, and there’s no sign American consumers, blinded by false prosperity and vanity, are willing to change their habits. Ensalved children aren’t even a blip on the radar to them.

This  deplorable and overtly criminal situation in India is a clear violation of international trade law as well as a gross violation of human rights. GAP executives should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law based on any knowledge they had regarding the use of sweatshops. Surely we can punish those who abuse children and send a message to the money and power elite that this type of activity will not be tolerated.    

Gap said in a statement from its headquarters in San Francisco: ‘We firmly believe that under no circumstances is it acceptable for children to produce or work on garments. These allegations are deeply upsetting and we take this situation very seriously. All of our suppliers and their subcontractors are required to guarantee that they will not use child labor to produce garments. In this situation, it’s clear one of our vendors violated this agreement and a full investigation is under way.’

That’s commendable on their part, but I say consumers in the West should be demanding answers from retailers as to how goods are produced and think twice about where they spend their money. Why you ask? GAP will not police themselves and willingly give up garments made for pennies, even if they are made by enslaved children. Quite frankly, profit trumps all other cards, even a moral conscious or human rights. That’s what globalism is at it’s core of mud – the blind pursuit of ever cheaper labor. It’s happening everywhere at the expense of the poor – child labor in India, wide spread and unrestricted pollution resulting in ‘cancer villages’ in China…all so we can have cheap jeans and lower cost sweaters. 

Proof is embodied in how GAP reacted. They did not immediately cut ties with the supplier it accused of improper subcontracting.

Company spokesman Bill Chandler said the company was taking the breach of its child labor policies “extremely seriously,” and continued by saying, “We’re willing to end relationships with vendors when they don’t meet our standards.” 

The problem is, they didn’t.

Huge Labor Organization Drive in New York City Adds 28,000 New Members to UFT…Most Since 1960!

Providers celebrate the victory at UFT headquarters

Recently, home child care providers in New York City held an election with the goal of organizing and joining the United Federation of Teachers. The votes of the union election have been counted, and the results are in.

Yes to joining the UFT :8,382 votes
No to joining the UFT :96 votes
The effort took two years of organizing and a month-long get out the vote campaign, but the end result was worth it and serves as an event for organized labor in general. With this vote, the UFT gains 28,000 new members – making this organizing drive the largest labor organizing drive in New York City since 45,000 teachers joined the UFT in 1960.

The 28,000 home child care providers that chose to join a union, care for over 100,000 kids and they serve as the first educators for these kids, helping them with their reading and fine motor skills, as well as speech and homework. What did American business owners think this effort was worth? Their average salary is $19,000 a year with no pension, health insurance or paid sick days – making home child care providers in New York City among the lowest-paid workers in the region. That is why home child care providers voted overwhelmingly to join the UFT.

Provider Luz Alvarez tells her story:

Thank Heaven we finally have a union. I’ve been a provider for eight years and in that time I’ve had one vacation, which was to attend my daughter’s wedding. The union can help us go in and negotiate a salary and other benefits so we can take a vacation once a year or take a sick day without losing pay.

Americans better realize that unionizing is the only hope workers in this country have when it comes to leveraging their position against large corporations that only concern themselves with the bottom line and the whims of stockholders, and smaller greedy companies that clearly do not value what their employees do.

Workers must begin to utilize their collective strength to regain the respect they deserve or they will continue to be trampled by downward wage pressure and a global movement to replace higher paid American workers with lower paid and exploited foreign workers both domestically and abroad. Too often workers fell isolated and helpless in the face of management pressure that often results in intimidation, or job loss. As a nation of workers, we must reverse this trend.

Key roles in the New York City organizing drive were played by ACORN and New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. It is in this way, that is, building relationships with Democratic politicians and other labor organizations, that American labor can return to a level of respect and job security that they deserve. The predatory redistribution of wealth from greedy owners to needy workers is the first step in restoring a system that saw both workers and companies prosper during the post World War II era.

Anyone who says labor unions hurt business, only needs to look at the numbers.

From 1945 to the 1960s, union density in this country and corporate profitability increased steadily as unions and management worked together to build an environment of cooperation that resulted in a winning situation across the board.

Then came Reagan.

With the birth of the Neo-Con era, we saw open hostility toward unions, egged on by uninformed media pundits who simply want to protect the rich and exploit American workers.

Enough is enough. The conservative experiment is not working, in fact, it is slowly destroying the middle class as health-care costs sky-rocket, wages become depressed, job security drys up, and our education system falls to pieces.

Anyone who labels themselves as an ‘American’ must look out for labor. Only enemies of this nation and our way of life would look to destroy unions and the protections they offer the middle class. If this group includes conservatives, and I believe it does, then they are nothing more than treasonous leaches.

Support unions if you know which end is up…in the long run it is our only hope as middle class workers. 60% of your fellow workers want to…   

Should the H-1B Visa Cap be Raised? Absolutely Not…

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By continually flooding the labor market in the U.S. with inexpensive foreign workers, we are destroying our own talent pool in a long run. What would motivate a prospective college student go into a technology, spent years of time, money and effort and keep on developing his own skills if he can see how quickly the market could be flooded with a cheap replacement? This will only compound an ongoing issue, as we continue to create tremendous downward pressure on wages, and force businesses to complete based on the dependency of foreign workers. I can see corporate America’s view I suppose, if you can’t have slavery, this is the next best thing. These are people who routinely work overtime for free under the threat of their visa being ‘revoked’ and universally accept lower wages for equal work being done by their American counterparts.

Moreover, large corp[orations like Microsoft, want us to buy into the idea that there is such a shortage of skilled tech workers, that HB-1 workers are needed. Places like Monster are loaded with resumes of American IT workers who can’t buy a job with their soul – and if you’re over forty, you may as well hang it up. It also takes longer for unemployed IT people to find jobs than ever before – just talk to people like myself (MCSE, MCDBA, A+, Net+, Linux+, 15 years experience, etc.) It took me 17 months to find gainful employment at a reasonable wage. In fact, during the last economic downturn (that Bush said never happened), IT people were among the hardest hit, and many had to leave the industry all together as IT budgets sank to just 3% of total sales on average, while training dollars went up in smoke. The real effort should be to re-claim these workers and get them back into the industry, not replace them with lower paying HB-1 Visa holders. Any other explanation is a smoke and mirrors tactic by the corporate fat cats who need to pad the almighty bottom line at the expense of American workers.

Equally important, given how many resources a local IT worker invests in their skills, they should be carefully protected so we might keep our economy moving. It is one thing to jerk around an employee who has just couple of months of formal training at the entry level, it is quite another to push someone out who has spent 10 years and $100,000 on education and skills development, like myself and many of my colleagues did. Where do these fools, who are perpetuating this nonsense, think this is all going? When did corporations stop caring about American born workers and begin sacraficing them for profit?

Lastly, the quality of foreign workers is mostly a myth. Many companies put foreign workers through internal training and there is absolutely no reason why this training should not be offered to American born workers instead. In fact, many IT advocate groups for American workers have found that few foreign workers start providing high quality, high volume output from the first day on the job.

Many bloggers are questioning whether HB-1’s should be regulated or levels allowed to be dictated by the market. Some question whether or not supply and demand laws have been artificially manipulated. I say they have and that manipulation is causing a back-log of foreign workers which ultimately results in brain-drain as often higher skilled and more experienced American workers are forced to exit in the name of lower wages and profit.

Check this study…

 http://www.globalizationresearch.com/

Companies have overloaded the market with foreign labor while American workers struggle, it is as simple as that. From that situation, the market works to force domestic workers out of the industry. Meanwhile, foreign workers are getting subsidized education in their home countries, addition training by their new American employers, and ultimately hired for much less – sometimes up to 25% less.

The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected job growth in Core IT (Information Technology) jobs of 110,000 a year through 2007; it also estimates that about 35,000 degrees in IT per se are earned a year. That may sound at first like a worker shortage in IT. A closer look at the situation, however, suggests otherwise. What people don’t realize is that as many as half of all IT professionals do not IT degrees. Many American IT workers are industry certified like myself and as many as 80,000 more per year get certified without getting a college degree. These people are competent and no better or worse off than any HB-1 worker from an entry level knowledge standpoint. So what are we being fed here by cry babies like Bill Gates? And if foreign IT workers are so much more qualified, why did the Indian company Wipro just announce plans to build a new facility in Atlanta, hiring American workers? Check out link here…

 http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/08/28/ap4059658.html

We’re being lied to by the greedy.   

According to the BLS, changes in the earnings of Core IT Professionals have been similar to those for all professionals and only marginally higher than those for the entire civilian labor force.

There is evidence, in part, that the “labor shortage” has been artifically created by the IT industry. The alleged worker shortage is at least partly due to the stinginess of the American corporations and the general practice of cutting forcing wages downward. Check out a very informative article complete with references regarding the ‘artificial shortage.’

http://www.fairus.org/site/PageServer?pagename=iic_immigrationissuecenters60e9

Finally, a quick story I found on a blog. Five years ago, an American IT worker in New York City needed some additional training and approached a school that provided programs in Oracle. The coordinator there was frank and told the truth, “You shouldn’t take this class. Most of the Oracle people in New York are workers from India. You will not be able to break into a shop because they tend to hire their own. So don’t waste your time.” 

Is this what we want in the long-term? Congress and American corporate greed farms are wrong. I am not anti-immigrant – I am born of first generation immigrants. I simply want to make sure Americans don’t suffer due to bad policy, and that is exactly what the HB-1 program is. We must build from within to ensure high paid jobs for all, including our immigrant friends, not the least common denominator so one group is under-paid and the other not paid at all. This is what corporations want, and they must challenged on it. 

Bush’s Position on Employee Free Choice Act 2007 (H.R. 800)…

In an official release, the Bush administration completely disregards labor law reform to strengthen unions embodied in the Employee Free Choice Act, holding firm to the status quo that is slowly destroying unions in the United States. The Republican position on unionized labor is disgraceful and fundamentally unamerican.   

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EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET WASHINGTON, D.C. 20503

February 28, 2007 (House Rules)

 

STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY

H.R. 800 – Employee Free Choice Act of 2007

(Rep. Miller (D) CA and 233 co-sponsors)

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 800, the “Employee Free Choice Act.” H.R. 800 would strip workers of the fundamental democratic right to a supervised private ballot election, interfere with the ability of workers and employers to bargain freely and come to agreement over working terms and conditions, and impose penalties for unfair labor practices only on employers — and not on union organizers — who intimidate workers. If H.R. 800 were presented to the President, he would veto the bill.

The Administration opposes any effort to circumvent supervised elections and private balloting. It is a fundamental tenet of democracy that individuals are able to vote their conscience, privately, free from the threat of reprisal. It was in part because of widespread intimidation of workers during organizing drives in the 1930s and 1940s that Congress amended the National Labor Relations Act in 1947 expressly to provide workers with the right to a private ballot. Substituting a “card check” mechanism for private ballots would turn back the clock 60 years and return us to a failed system.

Additionally, compulsory binding arbitration as required by this legislation would be an unprecedented government intrusion into the right to bargain freely over working terms and conditions, would take away the right of members of a newly recognized union to accept or reject a contract, and would overturn nearly 60 years of law and precedent on collective bargaining.

Under this bill, workers would lose substantial control over their employment situation: without a private ballot they lose control over whether they belong to a union in the first place, and with mandatory binding arbitration they lose control over the decision to accept a collective bargaining agreement.

Finally, the bill would provide excessively punitive penalties that apply only to employers, not to unions, that interfere illegally with organizing drives. The National Labor Relations Board can already order remedial damages if an employer is found to have committed such violations. The bill’s one-sided penalties are particularly troubling in conjunction with a mandatory card check process. The bill would effectively expose workers to coercion to join a union through card check, and then muzzle employers with new penalties, without any offsetting check on unions’ behavior in obtaining signed cards.

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The True State of the American Workforce on Labor Day 2007…

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Corporate America continues it’s war against the labor movement. After a long period of prosperity from 1948 to 1973 in which unions and corporations both prospered, most corporations have adopted a hostile attitude toward unions, spurred on by a series of anti-union presidents, including Reagan, Bush #1 and Bush #2. Where unions are present, large employers, like Wal-Mart and others, seek break them. In workplaces without unions, employers are prepared to do whatever necessary to prevent workers from organizing, even if that means violating the law.

The anti-union drive has largely enjoyed the support of the government. According to a study by John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, one in five organizers will be fired during an average organizing drive. Such firings are illegal, but enforcement is painfully slow, and the penalties ineffectively small. As evidence shows, most anti-union employers eagerly embrace this blatantly anti-union loophole.

Government policies have also supported anti-union practices in other ways. The main purpose of trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), no matter what supossed advantages of this destructive policy you are spoon fed by short-sighted globalists, is to make it as easy as possible to relocate factories overseas and allow corporate fat cats to stuff their pockets on the back of American workers. This, coupled with incompetent management of the economy by the Bush administration has resulted in a 30 percent over-valued dollar which in turn effectively imposes a 30 percent tariff on goods exported from the United States.

The result of these dog-and-pony-show policies is that much manufacturing, and in once manufacturing powerhouse places like Buffalo NY – virtually all manufacturing – has been moved overseas in the last quarter century, giving the country a trade deficit of more than $700 billion annually that continues to grow. These lost jobs have been disproportionately union jobs. While the unionization rate in manufacturing was more than 40 percent in the sixties, in 2007 it is just around 12.0 percent. And, with the loss of these union jobs has come weaker, watered down benefits because workers simply do not have the muscle to negotiate for fair treatment against collossal, well financed anti-union employers, who are prepared to hurt American workers at the prodding of stockholders.  

The weakening of the labor movement is not just bad news for the workers who lose union jobs. According to polling data, there are tens of millions of workers who would like to be represented by a union at their workplace, but don’t have that option. Right to work laws in many Southern conservative states make it all but impossible to organize. While public sector managers are not generally friendly to unions either, they are more restricted when it comes to firing union organizers or using other harsh anti-union tactics that are now standard practice in the private sector. As a result, more than 36 percent of public sector employees are members of unions, while private sector unions languish. When polled regarding the freedom to choose, data suggests that as many as sixty percent of American workers would join a union if they could. 

Congress is currently debating a bill that would take an important step toward re-establishing the right of workers to join a union. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would require a company to recognize a union once a majority of workers have signed a card indicating they want to be represented by a union. This gets around the election process, which gives employers a chance to intimidate workers and fire the leaders of an organizing effort. (Under the EFCA, workers can still request an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.) The bill passed by the House by is currently being blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate. While the EFCA is not likely to become law under this Congress (anti-worker President Bush would almost certainly veto the bill even if it did pass), pro-labor groups should recognize the importance of legislation. The right to organize is not the concern of just a small special interest group as many conservatives would have the American electorate believe, it is a basic and essential right that should concern every American that wishes our country continued prosperity. 

Unions have also been essential to a wide range of political initiatives over the post-war World War II period. Programs including Medicare, Medicaid and Head Start would not have been possible without the strong support of the American labor movement. Big labor has also prevented President Bush from privatizing Social Security and it will be difficult to make more progress on other key social and economic legislation without the support of a strong labor movement.

This Labor Day weekend, make an effort to say thanks to all of those who have built and continue to make America the greatest place on earth in which to live – call out conservatives for the short-sighted, anti-American worker, political hypocrites that they are – support organized labor.

Bob Murray is Whistling a Different Tune these Days…

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A sorrowful glow of somber concern envelops Crandall Canyon mine owner Bob Murray these days, marking a sharp detraction from his chest thumping just a few days ago.

As the situation at the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah becomes more ominous, anti-union as well as anti-MSHA conservative owner Bob Murray, announced that the Utah based mine will never re-open. “It will not be reopened,” Murray said. “We are already discussing about how we might go about honoring the trapped miners and to make this site for perpetuity.”

No kidding it won’t re-open Bob. You’re going to be sued into oblivion and with any luck maybe hit by a train carrying coal, as those like me continue to hold out for poetic justice.

Spare me the manufactured -choked up drama act – on camera that seems to have miraculously overwhelmed you in the last three days or so. 

Maybe your single-handed effort at referring to the MSHA as “union lackeys” (whatever that is supposed to mean), knowingly engaging in the most dangerous and illegal mining practices in the industry, accusing the U.S. Geological survey of lying about the fact that an earthquake did not trigger the mine accident, and icing the cake by giving up on the rescue effort, seals the deal for me. You’re a scumbag who put his workers in harms way for profit, much the same way our president puts our troops in harms way for senseless ideology and profit. 

What we have here ladies and gentlemen is another, in a long line of neo-modern industry owners and CEOs, who could care less about their workforce as long as the profit continues to roll in – nothing more. Besides being a heartless and greedy bastard, what infuriates me about Murray the most is his callous boldness like so many other conservatives, when it comes to the poor – that is, everyone making less than $200,000 per year. Among his first statements after the collapse… 

“Without coal to manufacture our electricity, our products will not compete in the global marketplace against foreign countries…and people on fixed incomes will not be able to pay their electric bills… every one of these global warming bills that has been introduced in Congress to date eliminates the coal industry and will increase your electric rates four to five-fold.”

Spoken like a true conservative knucklehead. Tell me this Bob – what the hell does mine safety have to do with global warming? Only a nit-wit could make that connection – or a conservative maybe. Only in recent days has Murray’s bald forehead begun to really perspire as the death count now includes three rescue workers who might be alive if it weren’t for the trapped and presumed dead miners, who are only presumed dead because Murray willfully exposed them to a situation that could have easily been prevented with only a minute exercise in human conscious and concern for your fellow man. Leaving a few safety pillars was too much to ask I guess.

Bob Murray should receive the same cordial treatment, courtesy of the federal government, as Dennis Koslowski and so many other irresponsible corporate executives run amok have…the rest of his life in jail. He should be charged with three counts of second degree murder, convicted, and spend the rest of his days in jail – and as he draws his last ragged breath, may his conscious eat him alive as the death of these miners, rescuers, their widows, and fatherless children, haunt his heartless soul forever.  

Check out our ‘Documents and Writings’ page at ShadowDemocracy.org to see a brief video on what Bob Murray thought was appropriate to say in the wake immediately following the Utah tragedy…

I’ll bet he never mined a shovel of coal in his life. Just another conservative hypocrite….

Organized Labor Shouldn’t get too Comfortable with the Democrats…

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During and after last nights democratic forum in Chicago, organized labor hooted and hollered over the lip service they were getting from the democratic candidates for president. Personally, I’m embarassed by the lack of compassion that my party has shown labor over the past 40 years. Indeed, back to the time of John F. Kennedy and his handling of the railroad workers strike during his tenure in office, through Jimmy Carter – who managed to accomplish absolutely nothing of any substance for labor with a democratic majority in Congress, right to Bill Clinton who could only boast an ‘unpaid’ Family Medical Leave Act, democrats have hardly been the saving grace they all claim to be for big labor. This is also evidenced during the current administration. Congress has managed to pass the Employee Free Choice Act in the House, but not in the Senate. The consistency is frustrating. 

If you listened closely to the pundits and the candidates, only Dennis Kucinich appeared to be honest when dealing with labor related issues. For instance he was the only candidate who stated unequivically that he would withdraw from NAFTA during his first week in office. No other candidate dared make that claim. Instead they tried to tap dance around the issue claiming that the U.S. could work within the framework of NAFTA – unfortunately none said exactly how. Obama and others said we need to “take China to the mat…” on currency manipulation, but no plan was offered. Most of the candidates said China was a competitor rather than an adversary – stop the train. A quick definition of these two words for the benefit of the Webster impared Democrats. A competitor strives within the same marketplace toward certain economic goals, an adversary opposes or resists. Does currency manipulation, human rights violations, enviromental violations, ignoring international trade laws, and illegal import restrcitions against the U.S. sound like ‘competition’ or ‘opposition’ on the part of China? 

The fact of the matter is, China is playing by their own rules and they are, as Joe Biden said so frankly last night, “holding the mortgage on our house.” A trade war at this point would be disasterous, however small steps toward reversing the current short-sighted and damaging trade policies that are currently in place – like protecting the auto manufacturing and the aerospace industry, coupled with paying down our debt, would leave us in a more advantageous international trade position. But, if labor is waiting for the democrats, they’ll be waiting until someone finds Jimmy Hoffa, because until  greasy money is separated from politics, corporate fat cats will continue to sell us out in the name of short-term profit. Make no mistake, the Democrats are as corrupt and insulated from the plight of the middle class as the Republicans. If they win the presidency in 2008, I predict they will not pass any meaningful legislation to help labor. Labor should demanding to see something significant. If the Democrats really want to make a big splash in the labor pond, they should repeal the Taft-Hartely and Lundrum-Griffin Acts!     

  

    

The Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800)…

The Employee Free Choice Act was passed by the House in March and it would at long last amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to establish a new system enabling employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations in the establishment of a union more easily. Ronald Reagan just sat up in his grave I think – sorry Ronny. Anyways, certain provisions call for mandatory injunctions that would thwart unfair labor practices directed at employees, during organizing efforts, by employers. The bill would also establish harsher penalties for employers who violate employee rights when an employee attempts to form a union, and institutes new mediation and arbitration processes for first-contract disputes in dog’s years. Of course all that is very nice, but the card check provision is all that really matters in the new legislation. The law would essentially allow employees to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation as opposed to the current law that calls for a secret ballot election. Under current law, if employees present an employer with union authorization cards signed by a majority, the employer can demand a secret ballot election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). However, the (NLRB) election process, unknown to most outside of labor circles, provides a distinct advantage to the employer due to its tedious and time-consuming nature. Predictably, it gives employers time to intimidate, coerce and harass workers; dragging out the review process indefinitely while workplace anti-union activities run amok. Even more predictably, when workers try to form a union after a card check, employers routinely respond with intimidation, harassment and retaliation. Polls suggest that 65 percent of the public approves of unions, but those same polls also show that nearly one-third of the public does not realize how hard management fights workers who seek to form unions. Personally, I believe it is high time that organized labor gets to hang one in the win column. For twenty-five years, courtesy of Ronald Reagan’s PATCO precedent, organized labor has been getting bludgeoned to death with the (NLRB) stick by employers who exercise an unrestricted reign of terror on anyone who even thinks of unionizing a workplace. Sadly, these practices are often upheld by politically motivated (NLRB) case decisions, a pathetic lack of labor reform policy by labors so-called party in Washington, namely the Democrats, and a general cultural brainwashing that is fueled by right wing talk radio blow-holes. Here are some hard stats. Currently, 15.4 million or 12 percent of the American work force belongs to unions, down 325,00 workers from last year. Another 60 million workers, when polled, stated that they would support a union in their workplace. Also, 67 percent of all workers say that they disapprove of employer anti-union activities when a union is proposed and another 77 percent say that they strongly support laws that help form new unions. With these statistics serving as a backdrop, the contrast of employer’s reactions is startling. Statistics show that when employers are faced with the establishment of a union, they universally engage in a variety of anti-union activities. For instance, 25 percent of all employers fire at least one employee during union organizing activity. 75 percent of all employers who face union organizing activity hire outside union-busting consultants to disrupt the union organization drive. 78 percent of all employers force their employees and immediate supervisors to attend at least one anti-union information session, while 92 percent force employees to attend anti-union closed door meetings. And the most ridiculous and underhanded tactic of all deals with illegal workers that were consciously hired by an employer. When those workers start talking union, 52 percent of employers threaten to call immigration and report the employee’s illegal citizenship status. Given all this, it is about time the tables begin to turn. What is the worst that can happen – higher union wages that pay a real working wage and robust union mandated health and retirement benefits force some manufacturing companies out of business or to relocate to China? What do we have to lose?

Posted by Matthew Podoba 3/30/07   

Farm worker rights…

Farm workers who pick tomatoes for the fast food industry are among this country’s most exploited workers: sub poverty wages, no rights to overtime pay, no benefits of any kind.
Two years ago, Taco Bell did something about it — agreeing to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes to double the workers’ earnings, and establishing a real code of conduct to ensure safe working conditions. But the fast food giant McDonald’s has refused to follow Taco Bell’s lead. Consumers have joined together with religious, human rights, student, and workers’ rights groups across the country to protest McDonald’s behavior to advance real rights for these workers. I just signed a petition to McDonald’s to urge them to do
better. Will you join me?
Just go to:
http://action.americanrightsatwork.org/campaign/araw_mcdonalds
and tell McDonalds these workers deserve real rights and fair wages.
http://action.americanrightsatwork.org/campaign/araw_mcdonalds?=adAVzA715zG8WPosted by O.K. 03/19/07  

The real price of Wal-Mart’s low cost health insurance…

Recently, Wal-Mart has introduced a series of public image polishing commercials that boast their “less than a dollar a day” health care plan available to all Wal-Mart associates. Wal-Mart claims in their commercials and at their public relations website www.walmartfacts.com, that the company insures 80% of their associates or roughly 1 million employees and that the coverage provided only costs the average associate about $23.00 per month or sometimes less depending on their geographic area, while families can be covered for only $15.00 more per month. The PR document posted on the website goes on to highlight $3.00 co-pays for prescriptions, the doubling of matching funds for health care savings accounts by the company and a new initiative to make health insurance available to part-time employees as well (1). On the surface, all of this sounds very compassionate and progressive however, one thing is conspicuously missing from the document – what kind of care does your $23.00 get you? Although Wal-Mart does mention in this document that a $1000 health care deductible does exist for individuals, it fails to mention that a $3000 deductible exists for families and that those waiting for enrollment wait twice as long as associates at other retailers. The plans offered are also filled with hidden fees and charges (2). Examples include a $300.00 “Pharmacy” deductible and a $500.00 “Out-Patient Service” deductible. The set-up of the new health savings account is complicated and confusing as well, getting off to a disappointing start (3). Wal-Mart is also at or near the top of a list of companies who employee the most people who depend on state funded health care programs (4). That statistic has barely changed with this new initiative. To be frank, my cats “Pet-Med” policy is more comprehensive. In all fairness, Wal-Mart is not remotely alone in masquerading their low-cost, limited-benefit health plan as sound health coverage for those in their employ. Many large companies including McDonald’s, Lowe’s and others that cannot or will not pay for skyrocketing health costs have chosen to offer watered down coverage for a low weekly out-of-pocket expense in the spirit of not being seen as the bad guys. Unfortunately for the unsuspecting insurance-desperate service worker, these coverages do little or nothing to offset costs for the seriously ill. In the end, if this is the only option available, the American retail sector worker must often choose – take the watered down coverage that will only help with sprained ankles and sore throats, or nothing at all. I suppose “Check-Up-Time Elmo” might be a third option. The reality is that none of these limited benefit plans will help these workers through a major ordeal like a serious car accident, back surgery, or cancer, without leaving tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid costs at the feet of the insured. Maybe some of those pseudo-insured Wal-Mart associates should ask themselves before this latest feel good PR campaign gets real traction…what did that $23.00 buy me again?Posted by Matthew J. Podoba 03/11/07    Sources… (1) http://www.walmartfacts.com/FactSheets/832006_Health_Care.pdf(2) Wal-Mart Associates Benefits Book PP 32 and 38.(3) NY Times 02/27/06(4) Associated Press 03/03/05