Don’t Count Out the Labor Movement

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

Almost every conservative political columnist, pundit, commentator, blogger, and bloviator has written about the decline and forthcoming death of the labor movement.

They happily point to Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker shortly after taking office in January 2011 took advantage of a Republican majority in the House and Senate to ram through legislation that stripped numerous collective bargaining rights for public employee unions. Among collective bargaining rights are those that assure decent working conditions and a fair grievance process to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory discipline.

The Republicans point to Ohio, where Republican Gov. John Kasich, with similar legislative support, signed legislation in March 2011 that restricted collective bargaining rights for public sector employees.

They point to state after state where Republican legislators, with the financial support of private industry have brought forth self-serving bills to oppose collective bargaining.  

The conservative mantra is to pander to the middle-class pocketbook by creating a pseudo-populist appeal. The right-wing claims they are the ones who care about the people enough to cut government spending, which will lower all kinds of taxes. They altruistically scream that inflated payrolls and pensions caused economic problems, and the best way to help those who are struggling in a depressed economy is to lower those costs by curtailing the perceived power of unions. It sounds nice; it’s also rhetoric encased in lies.

Numerous economic studies have shown that the pay for public union employees is about the same as for private sector employees in similar jobs. And in some jobs, public sector workers earn significantly less than non-unionized private sector workers, leading to professionals and technical specialists often switching jobs from government to private industry, usually at higher wages and benefits.

So what, exactly, is the problem? Tax cuts. Bill Clinton left office, having given the nation a strong economy. During the Go-Go years in the first part of the 21st century, under the Bush–Cheney administration, states and the federal government created tax cuts for individuals, and held out generous tax cuts, tax waivers, and subsidies to corporations. The Republican theory was that these tax cuts would eventually “trickle down” to the masses by stimulating the economy.

What happened is that instead of benefitting the masses, these forms of wealthfare and corporate welfare, have done little to stimulate an economy that was heading down because the Republican executive and legislative branches, preaching less government, didn’t want government interference in financial institutions, the most politically conservative business. As a result of deregulation or, in many cases minimal regulation oversight, came the twin catastrophes of the Wall Street scandals and the housing mortgage crisis that spun the nation into the deepest recession since the Depression of the 1930s.

But you don’t hear the Republicans tell you they caused it, only that a run-away economy is because of those fictional high government salaries that need to be cut.

Joseph Slater, professor of law at the University of Toledo, says because of the 2008 crisis, states experienced massive budget shortfalls because growing unemployment decreased tax revenue. The problem in the states and the federal government, Slater told NEA Today, isn’t because of collective bargaining, but “because some of the worst state budget problems are in the small handful of states that prohibit public sector collective bargaining, states like Texas and North Carolina.” However, said Slater in an article for the American Constitution Society, “states with strong public sector collective bargaining laws . . . have smaller than average deficits.”

In response to conservative calls to curtail “pension abuse” in the public sector, Slater pointed out that “the vast majority of states don’t allow unions to bargain over public pension benefits,” and that some of the worst pension problems are in the so-called right-to-work states that have no public employee unions.

In contrast to the all-out assault upon the workers by Republicans, Govs. Dan Malloy of Connecticut and Jerry Brown of California, both Democrats, have been reducing budget deficits, sometimes with a heavy hand as they slash programs and the number of workers, in consultation with the unions and without curtailing union rights. Unionized  workers in both private and public sectors have taken temporary pay cuts or agreed to taking vacation days without pay. Few corporate executives and no state legislators have willingly matched the sacrifices of the workers.

Now, as for those conservatives who are dancing on what they think are the graves of the working class labor movement. There’s a few stories they aren’t happily reporting.  

In Wisconsin, the recall election of Scott Walker did fail, as out-of-state individuals, PACs, and corporations contributed about two-thirds of his $30 million campaign to keeping him in office, as opposed to his opponent raising only about one-eighth of that amount. However, in subsequent elections, all three Democratic senators survived recall votes, and two of six Republican senators were recalled, leading to a change in Senate membership from 19–14 Republican to 17–16 Republican, but effectively blocking a “super majority” from ramrodding further anti-worker legislation into law.

In Ohio, voters overwhelmingly rejected, 62–38 percent, the new Ohio law that stripped collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. In defeat, Gov. Kasich, whose attacks upon collective bargaining were a central part of his campaign, said “It’s clear the people have spoken.”

Monday is Labor Day. It’s more than just picnics and a three-day weekend. It’s a time to honor the working class, and the unions that gave them the rights of collective bargaining. They may be struggling but they are far from dead.

[Walter Brasch is a syndicated social issues columnist and author. His latest book is the critically acclaimed journalistic novel, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, which has an underlying union theme. He is a proud member of several professional and trade unions, including The Newspaper Guild/Communication Workers of America.]

 

 

Mission Impossible: Finding a Mini-Van Made in America by Union Workers

 

 by WALTER BRASCH

 

Last year, not one of the 491,687 new minivans sold in the United States was made in America by unionized workers.

Some were manufactured overseas by companies owned by non-American manufacturers. The Kia Sedona, with 24,047 sales, was built in South Korea, Russia, and the Philippines. The MAZDA5, with 19,155 sales, was built in China, Japan, and Taiwan.

Some minivans from Japanese companies were built in the U.S., but by non-unionized workers. Honda sold 107,068 Odysseys built in Alabama. Toyota Siennas, built in Indiana, went to 111,429 persons. The Nissan Quest, built in Ohio, had 12,199 sales.

Only three minivans were built by unionized workers, but they were made in Canada by members of the Canadian Auto Workers. The Dodge Grand Caravan, with 110,996 sales; Chrysler Town & Country, with 94,320 sales; and the VW Routan, with 12,473 sales, all share the same basic body; most differences are cosmetic. GM and Ford no longer produce minivans.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) suggests that members who wish to buy minivans buy one of the three Chrysler products because much of the parts are manufactured in the United States by UAW members.

All cars, trucks, and vans from GM, Ford, and Chrysler are produced by union workers in the U.S. or Canada. The Japanese-owned Mitsubishi Eclipse, Spyder, and Galant, and the Mazda6 are produced in the U.S. under UAW contracts; neither company makes minivans. All vehicles produced in the U.S. have the first Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) as a 1, 4, or 5; vehicles produced in Canada have a 2 as the first VIN number.

Founded in 1935, the UAW quickly established a reputation for creating the first cost-of-living allowances (COLAs) and employer-paid health care programs. It helped pioneer pensions, supplementary unemployment benefits, and paid vacations.

It has been at the forefront of social and economic justice issues; Walter Reuther, its legendary president between 1946 and his death in 1970, marched side-by-side with Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez, and helped assure that the UAW was one of the first unions to allow minorities into membership and to integrate the workforce. Bob King, its current president, a lawyer, was arrested for civil disobedience, carrying on the tradition of the social conscience that has identified the union and its leadership.

The UAW doesn’t mind that corporations make profits; it does care when some of the profit is at the expense of the worker, for without a competent and secure work force, there would be no profit. When the economy failed under the Bush–Cheney administration, and the auto manufacturers were struggling, the UAW recognized it was necessary for the workers to take pay cuts and make other concessions for the companies to survive.

But not all corporations have the social conscience that the UAW and the “Big 3” auto manufacturers developed. For decades, American corporations have learned that to “maximize profits,” “improve the bottom line,” and “give strength to shareholder stakes” they could downsize their workforce and ship manufacturing throughout the world. Our companies have outsourced almost every form of tech support, as well as credit card assistance, to vendors whose employees speak varying degrees of English, but tell us their names are George, Barry, or Miriam. Clothing, toys, and just about anything bought by Americans could be made overseas by children working in abject conditions; their parents might make a few cents more, and in certain countries would be thrilled to earn less than half the U.S. minimum wage.

Americans go along with this because they think they are getting their products cheaper. What they don’t want to see is the working conditions of those who are employed by companies that are sub-contractors to the mega-conglomerates of American enterprise. These would be the same companies whose executives earn seven and eight-figure salaries and benefits, while millions are unemployed.

But, Americans don’t care. After all, we’re getting less expensive products, even if what we buy is cheaply made because overseas managers, encouraged by American corporate executives, lower the quality of materials and demand even more work from their employees.

Walk into almost every department store and Big Box store, and it’s a struggle to find clothes, house supplies, and entertainment media made in America. If you do find American-made products, they are probably produced in “right-to-work” states that think unionized labor is a Communist-conspiracy to destroy the free enterprise system of the right to make obscene profits at the expense of the working class.

We can wave flags and tell everyone how much more patriotic we are than them, but we still can’t buy a minivan made in America by unionized workers—even when the price is lower than that of the non-unionized competition.

[Sales figures of minivans is from Edmunds.com. Also assisting was Rosemary Brasch. Walter Brasch’s latest book is the critically-acclaimed novel Before the First Snow, which looks at the mass media, social justice, and the labor movement. The book is available from amazon, local bookstores, and http://www.greeleyandstone.com in both hard copy or an ebook.]

 

‘10 Commandments Judge’ Running for President

Alabama, Roy Moore, Republicans, presidential candidates, First Amendment, Establishment Clause, judicial ethics, judicial practices, Ten Commandments, abortion, right-to-work, wild horses, wild burros, debt ceiling

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was removed from office for defying the Constitution and a federal court order is one of 14 major candidates running for the Republican nomination for the presidency.

Alabama’s Court of the Judiciary unanimously had ordered Roy S. Moore removed from office in November 2003 after he refused to remove from the judiciary building rotunda a 5,280 pound granite monument to the Ten Commandments. Around its base were extracts from the Declaration of Independence, quotes from the Founding Fathers, and the National Anthem. The three foot square by four foot tall monument was funded by private contributions.

As circuit judge, Moore had placed onto the wall of his courtroom a wooden Ten Commandments plaque he had carved, and opened each court session with a Protestant prayer. He also had defied a Circuit Court ruling to remove the plaque and to cease prayers. A suit filed in the Alabama Supreme Court was dismissed for technical reasons, and Moore said he would continue to hold prayers before court.

His campaign for Chief Justice, supported by the Christian Family Association, was to return “God to our public life and restore the moral foundation of our law.” On July 31, 2001, about six months after he was inaugurated as chief justice, Moore personally supervised the installation of the granite monument, stating that the Supreme Court needed something grander than the wooden plaque in the Circuit Court. In the subsequent lawsuit, Glassroth v. Moore, the chief justice, using the words of the Alabama Constitution, argued  “in order to establish justice we must invoke ‘the favor and guidance of almighty God.’” The Ten Commandments, he said, are the “moral foundation” of American law; the presence of the monument recognizes “the sovereignty of God.” What Moore didn’t state is that Exodus and Deuteronomy have different versions, and subsequent Christian religions have at least three versions. It is a Protestant version that was carved into the granite.

The federal court ruled that placement of the monument, and Moore’s repeated statements that the monument represented God’s sovereignty over all matters judicial and moral, violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. That decision was upheld by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

With strong popular support, Moore said not only were the courts’ rulings illegal, but that he would continue to defy them. Moore frequently cited the Alabama Constitution that justice was determined by “involving the favor and guidance of Almighty God.” The message sent to the citizens was that it’s acceptable to disregard two centuries of legal history that gave the federal constitution supremacy over states, and to violate federal law if you disagree with it. For a citizen to do so carries penalties; for a judge to do so carries removal from office.

Reflecting upon the case, Moore told rockthecapital.com that even eight years after his removal from office, he “would still make the same decision.” The role of government, says Moore, “is to secure those rights that [a Christian] God has given us.”

He says that while he supports religious diversity, the “source of our morality stems from our belief in a god, and a specific god.” However, in his Dec. 13, 2006, column for WorldNetDaily, Moore stated that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a Muslim, should be denied the right to hold office because “in the midst of a war with Islamic terrorists we should not place someone in a position of great power who shares their doctrine.”

Roy Moore says he is running for the presidency because “there’s a need for leadership in the country,” and neither President Obama nor the leaders of both parties in Congress are providing that leadership. “Petty politics,” he says, are taking precedence over the needs of the country. “We can’t get anything done,” he says, “because decisions are [made] not what’s good for the country but what is good for the party.”

Moore identifies a weak economy as “the foremost problem today.” The nation “is going the wrong way,” he says. He acknowledges that much of the problem came under the Bush–Cheney Administration, “but was increased by Obama.” Although the Republicans propose cutting critical social programs rather than raising the debt ceiling, every Congressional leader, Democrat and Republican, voted to increase the debt ceiling during the past decade, with the highest increases under Republican presidents: Ronald Reagan (189%), George H.W. Bush (55%), and George W. Bush (86%). In Bill Clinton’s two terms. The debt ceiling was increased only 37 percent; Barack Obama is asking for a 35 percent increase.

Moore, a “states’ rights” advocate, shares the views of most conservative candidates for the Presidency. Among those views are:

            ● the federal income tax should be abolished.

            ● Abortion, for any reason, should not have federal funds because not only does it “contradict the right to life contained in the organic law of our country,” it violates the 14th Amendment.

            ● People should “have the right to choose their own employment,” instead of having to join unions. Therefore, says Moore, all states should have “right-to-work” laws. If Moore’s vision is enacted, these laws would effectively cripple unions from representing the workers.

            ● Same sex marriage, says Moore, violates the will of God. In one case, while he served as chief justice, he argued that homosexual behavior is “a crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it.”

However, on a couple of issues, his views lean closer to those of liberals. He opposes the nation’s entry into war without Congressional authorization. Moore is a graduate of West Point, who became an MP company commander at the end of the Vietnam War, and then graduated from the University of Alabama law school. He opposes the U.S. intrusion into Libya on both military and legal grounds. “It’s very easy for a president to be sucked into global wars,” he says, “but it’s not our goal to go over there [Libya] and take out a leader just because we don’t like him.” Unlike many Republicans, he acknowledges that the Libyan attack, like the U.S. invasion of Iraq under the Bush–Cheney Administration, should have had Congressional approval under the War Powers Act of 1973.

Moore, who owns horses—he once spent a year as a cowboy in Australia working for a fundamentalist Christian—believes that the dwindling population of wild horses and burros in the Southwest, and all wild animals, should be protected. Both the Bush–Cheney and Obama administrations have failed to do so, often influenced by the cattle and meat industry.

Moore, near the bottom of the pack in the polls, probably won’t become the Republican nominee. But, unlike some conservative candidates, he doesn’t parade his religious beliefs to gain votes. He lives the life of his religious convictions, and isn’t afraid to make sure everyone knows what they are, especially when they provide the base for his political and judicial views.

 [Brasch is an award-winning social issues columnist. His current book is Before the First Snow, a look at the nation’s counterculture and social problems, as seen through the eyes of a “flower child” and the reporter who covered her story for more than three decades.]

 

 

 

‘10 Commandments Judge’ Running for President

Alabama, Roy Moore, Republicans, presidential candidates, First Amendment, Establishment Clause, judicial ethics, judicial practices, Ten Commandments, abortion, right-to-work, wild horses, wild burros, debt ceiling

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was removed from office for defying the Constitution and a federal court order is one of 14 major candidates running for the Republican nomination for the presidency.

Alabama’s Court of the Judiciary unanimously had ordered Roy S. Moore removed from office in November 2003 after he refused to remove from the judiciary building rotunda a 5,280 pound granite monument to the Ten Commandments. Around its base were extracts from the Declaration of Independence, quotes from the Founding Fathers, and the National Anthem. The three foot square by four foot tall monument was funded by private contributions.

As circuit judge, Moore had placed onto the wall of his courtroom a wooden Ten Commandments plaque he had carved, and opened each court session with a Protestant prayer. He also had defied a Circuit Court ruling to remove the plaque and to cease prayers. A suit filed in the Alabama Supreme Court was dismissed for technical reasons, and Moore said he would continue to hold prayers before court.

His campaign for Chief Justice, supported by the Christian Family Association, was to return “God to our public life and restore the moral foundation of our law.” On July 31, 2001, about six months after he was inaugurated as chief justice, Moore personally supervised the installation of the granite monument, stating that the Supreme Court needed something grander than the wooden plaque in the Circuit Court. In the subsequent lawsuit, Glassroth v. Moore, the chief justice, using the words of the Alabama Constitution, argued  “in order to establish justice we must invoke ‘the favor and guidance of almighty God.’” The Ten Commandments, he said, are the “moral foundation” of American law; the presence of the monument recognizes “the sovereignty of God.” What Moore didn’t state is that Exodus and Deuteronomy have different versions, and subsequent Christian religions have at least three versions. It is a Protestant version that was carved into the granite.

The federal court ruled that placement of the monument, and Moore’s repeated statements that the monument represented God’s sovereignty over all matters judicial and moral, violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. That decision was upheld by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

With strong popular support, Moore said not only were the courts’ rulings illegal, but that he would continue to defy them. Moore frequently cited the Alabama Constitution that justice was determined by “involving the favor and guidance of Almighty God.” The message sent to the citizens was that it’s acceptable to disregard two centuries of legal history that gave the federal constitution supremacy over states, and to violate federal law if you disagree with it. For a citizen to do so carries penalties; for a judge to do so carries removal from office.

Reflecting upon the case, Moore told rockthecapital.com that even eight years after his removal from office, he “would still make the same decision.” The role of government, says Moore, “is to secure those rights that [a Christian] God has given us.”

He says that while he supports religious diversity, the “source of our morality stems from our belief in a god, and a specific god.” However, in his Dec. 13, 2006, column for WorldNetDaily, Moore stated that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a Muslim, should be denied the right to hold office because “in the midst of a war with Islamic terrorists we should not place someone in a position of great power who shares their doctrine.”

Roy Moore says he is running for the presidency because “there’s a need for leadership in the country,” and neither President Obama nor the leaders of both parties in Congress are providing that leadership. “Petty politics,” he says, are taking precedence over the needs of the country. “We can’t get anything done,” he says, “because decisions are [made] not what’s good for the country but what is good for the party.”

Moore identifies a weak economy as “the foremost problem today.” The nation “is going the wrong way,” he says. He acknowledges that much of the problem came under the Bush–Cheney Administration, “but was increased by Obama.” Although the Republicans propose cutting critical social programs rather than raising the debt ceiling, every Congressional leader, Democrat and Republican, voted to increase the debt ceiling during the past decade, with the highest increases under Republican presidents: Ronald Reagan (189%), George H.W. Bush (55%), and George W. Bush (86%). In Bill Clinton’s two terms. The debt ceiling was increased only 37 percent; Barack Obama is asking for a 35 percent increase.

Moore, a “states’ rights” advocate, shares the views of most conservative candidates for the Presidency. Among those views are:

            ● the federal income tax should be abolished.

            ● Abortion, for any reason, should not have federal funds because not only does it “contradict the right to life contained in the organic law of our country,” it violates the 14th Amendment.

            ● People should “have the right to choose their own employment,” instead of having to join unions. Therefore, says Moore, all states should have “right-to-work” laws. If Moore’s vision is enacted, these laws would effectively cripple unions from representing the workers.

            ● Same sex marriage, says Moore, violates the will of God. In one case, while he served as chief justice, he argued that homosexual behavior is “a crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it.”

However, on a couple of issues, his views lean closer to those of liberals. He opposes the nation’s entry into war without Congressional authorization. Moore is a graduate of West Point, who became an MP company commander at the end of the Vietnam War, and then graduated from the University of Alabama law school. He opposes the U.S. intrusion into Libya on both military and legal grounds. “It’s very easy for a president to be sucked into global wars,” he says, “but it’s not our goal to go over there [Libya] and take out a leader just because we don’t like him.” Unlike many Republicans, he acknowledges that the Libyan attack, like the U.S. invasion of Iraq under the Bush–Cheney Administration, should have had Congressional approval under the War Powers Act of 1973.

Moore, who owns horses—he once spent a year as a cowboy in Australia working for a fundamentalist Christian—believes that the dwindling population of wild horses and burros in the Southwest, and all wild animals, should be protected. Both the Bush–Cheney and Obama administrations have failed to do so, often influenced by the cattle and meat industry.

Moore, near the bottom of the pack in the polls, probably won’t become the Republican nominee. But, unlike some conservative candidates, he doesn’t parade his religious beliefs to gain votes. He lives the life of his religious convictions, and isn’t afraid to make sure everyone knows what they are, especially when they provide the base for his political and judicial views.

 [Brasch is an award-winning social issues columnist. His current book is Before the First Snow, a look at the nation’s counterculture and social problems, as seen through the eyes of a “flower child” and the reporter who covered her story for more than three decades.]

 

 

 

Iowa Unions Need Your Help

Unless you live in Iowa, there's little chance that you've heard about a fight being waged in the newly Democratic state house. The anti-union Right is painting the measure as a job-killing attack on the state's economy, elderly and virtues. It will not only send employers fleeing for the borders, but also cause a mass exodus of skilled and highly educated workers, steal critical tax money from social programs and force workers to * gasp * join unions. It's Armageddon, the plague, Big Brother and the Sopranos all wrapped up in one.

The proposal introduced in the Iowa Legislature is called "Fair Share," and that's all it asks. That all workers who receive union-negotiated benefits contribute to the cost of providing those benefits.

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