AFSCME Forum No Big Deal?

Senator Obama's decision to skip the Nevada Democratic Party/AFSCME forum today gives him distinction among his rivals: he will be the only one absent.  In recent weeks, his supporters claimed this wasn't a big deal.  They chose instead to focus on the size of the Edwards house.  Skipping the event wouldn't be an issue.

But what are the media reports for the Illinois superstar saying?

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Bloggers and Labor: We Need Each Other

Cross posted from DailyKos

In labor's heyday -- the 1940s and 1950s -- as post-war Americans built the middle class, there were thousands of reporters who covered labor full-time. Today, there are only two full-time labor reporters at metropolitan newspapers in the United States -- Steven Greenhouse of The New York Times and Stephen Franklin of the Chicago Tribune.

This is why labor needs bloggers. This is why the Teamsters are on YouTube, MySpace, Flickr, Kos and MyDD. Because while the MSM prattles on about Britney's shaved head, and Anna Nicole's body, hundreds of cases of unfair labor practices and other incidents of worker injustice would otherwise go unreported.

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The Card Check and Its Enemies

Dick Cheney swore this week that should the Employee Free Choice Act ever manage to reach the President's desk, it would quickly meet the sharp end of a veto. By way of refresher, the Employee Free Choice Act would (among other things) give employees the right to form unions by having a majority of them sign cards indicating their selection of a collective bargaining representative. When Cheney said, "we will defend their right to vote yes or no by secret ballot," he was cheered by commentators on the right. This rhetoric -- elections are sacred! -- is designed to be repeated and will be heard again and again in the legislative back-and-forth over card check and the Employee Free Choice Act. So who's lining up on the "sacred elections" side? Two pillars of the Republican establishment: the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (see M. Stoller, U.S. Chamber of Commerce: The Right Wing's Right Hand in D.C.). Here's what NAM says:

Trading federally supervised private ballot elections for a card check process tramples the privacy of individual workers. Secret ballots are the only way to protect an individual’s freedom to choose without subtle or overt coercion.

And the Chamber, in a post-election day letter to members of Congress:

Just as your constituents cast their vote on election day by secret ballot, and just as you recently cast a vote via secret ballot for the individuals you felt best suited to hold leadership positions in your party, American workers should have this traditional, democratic protection when making decisions about their own work environment.

But here's an instance where feel-good rhetoric runs smack into reality, as it's a real stretch to call the system by which union elections are held today 'democratic.' TNR's Jonathan Cohn:

Going through the requisite election process is notoriously cumbersome and difficult, particularly since it gives employers all sorts of opportunities to intimidate workers or otherwise derail the process unfairly. In theory, the NLRB is supposed to watch over the election process to keep employers in line. In practice, the NLRB is so ineffectual --and the penalties for violating labor laws so relatively meaningless -- that a determined employer can manipulate a union election with virtual impunity.

If we're going to be talking about unions and elections, I've been thinking that it might make sense, to explore the idea that workplaces are seriously flawed marketplaces of ideas. For one thing, the way it works now, employers can call employees into mandatory "captive audience meetings" to share their perspective on unions, while union organizers have to catch employees at home or when their otherwise off the company's dime. This isn't a candidate asking for your vote, it's your boss telling you not to do something you might otherwise want to do. (Disclosure: I'm working with the AFL-CIO on the legislative push around the Employee Free Choice Act.)

For a better future: the Employee Free Choice Act

Something strange is happening in the American workplace. The percentage of U.S. workers who belong to unions declined from 12.5 percent to 12 percent last year.

That in itself is no surprise as good jobs continue to be a major U.S. export, thanks in part to bad trade deals that create a global race to the bottom.

The weird part is that polling data from samples conducted in December 2006 by Peter D. Hart Research Associates indicated that 60 million U.S. workers would join a union if they could.

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AFL-CIO NOT Endorsing Prez Candidates in Next 4 Weeks

HOTLINE got it wrong today. The AFL-CIO is not endorsing a candidate for president in the next four weeks. Here's the HOTLINE correction from Amy Dudley:

According to AFL-CIO spokesperson Steve Smith, they are "working out details right now" for their endorsement process for WH '08 and are likely to announce particulars of their plan in early March, following their first Executive Council Meeting since the Nov. '06 elections in Las Vegas, NV, March 6th - 8th.

Each of the 54 national and international labor unions within the AFL-CIO has their own respective endorsement processes and must be considered in forming the general AFL-CIO endorsement.

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