Archive for labor unions

Soros is no Koch brother

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Soros is no Koch brother, close up

Those on the right love to compare the Kochtopus to George Soros. Yes, both the Koch brothers (scroll) and George Soros are wealthy individuals who donate to the party and candidates of their choice. They're allowed to by law, even more so under the most recent (and terrible) Supreme Court decision.  But that's where the comparison should end.

Which brings us to today's Los Angeles Times letter to the editor about the difference between these "big spenders":

Re "Big spenders," Letters, April 8

One letter writer asserts that exposing the Koch brothers' financial involvement in various conservative causes is mudslinging. He claims their political spending is no different than that of major Democratic donors such as George Soros and unions.

What the writer fails to acknowledge is that the Kochs fund a web of foundations and organizations created by and for themselves to promote their own views. Their political groups are given populist-sounding names — such as Americans for Prosperity — that distract from their real purpose, which is to protect the Kochs' extraordinary personal fortune.

And, but for their wealth, many of these organizations would either cease to exist or lack real political clout.

In comparison, when Soros and unions make political donations, they do not take extraordinary lengths to hide their involvement. We know to whom they gave and how much. The same cannot be said for the Kochs.

That is the difference.

Robert J. Switzer

West Hollywood

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Billionaires and Supreme Court undermine our "1st Amendment right not to be drowned out"

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citizens united check republic billionaires Koch brothers dark money

Today Michael Hiltzik gets a twofer at TPC, this time regarding the appalling Supreme Court decision that favors billionaires, the decision that extends the influence of big money on elections... brought to us by SCOTUS's previous Citizens United ruling.

Via a New York Times email alert:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a major campaign finance decision, striking down limits on federal campaign contributions for the first time. The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will change and probably increase the role money plays in American politics.

The decision, by a 5-to-4 votes along ideological lines, was a sort of sequel to Citizens United, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions. But that ruling did nothing to disturb the other main form of campaign finance regulation: caps on direct contributions to candidates and political parties.

I'm beyond furious, way past frustrated, and drowning in worry over turning on enormous spigots of money that will drown out the majority of ordinary (aka 99% of us) political donors. Our voices will no longer be heard (are they now?) over the deafening ka-chings and the triumphant stomping all over our rights and campaign finance reform efforts.

We are being silenced by five Supreme Court Justices and the powerful entities with gigantic bank accounts to which they genuflect. Money talks, we're just audience members. But we are not applauding.

booo

Think it was bad before? You ain't seen nothin' yet. You thought Sheldon Adelson and the ass-kissing at Jewish Mingle were obscene? Billionaires like him are just getting started. Super PACs are morphing into Super Duper PACs, Mingles will become orgies, and the kajillions of TV ads will turn into mini-series sponsored by Deep Pockets, Inc.

Anyone still wondering why the GOP is trying to kill labor unions? If so, here's why: They tend to support Democrats, and those very few union sources for campaign cash are dwindling:

chart maddow unions v corps campaign spending smaller

Hiltzik:

The notion that an unrelenting torrent of money can suborn the entire political process doesn't seem to occur to Chief Roberts.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the minority, didn't accept this charade. [...]

It's not only the 1st Amendment right to be heard, but also the 1st Amendment right not to be drowned out that are at issue, he wrote:

"The First Amendment advances not only the individual’s right to engage in political speech, but also the public’s interest in preserving a democratic order in which collective speech matters.... Where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard."

For proof, he needed to go no further than the majority opinion.

So what do we do? Vote in droves. It's time to stop the endless obstruction by the GOP: Obstruction to voting rights, civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, and constitutional rights. Get. Out. The. Vote. We can do this.

Please read the entire piece by Hiltzik here.

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Labor union gets help from pastors, students... in Mississippi! "God supports the working man."

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labor union brought us

When we think of labor union support, Mississippi doesn't usually come to mind. But it may be time to think again, because a union effort is gaining momentum there.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, labor union workers are finding an ally in the South. The United Automobile Workers are getting help from unusual sources in organizing a Mississippi Nissan plant. The plant employs 5,000.

Nissan management has been pushing their employees harder and harder by speeding up the assembly line, leaving them exhausted and feeling mistreated with no way to stand up for themselves. People are noticing, supporting a "more pleasant place to work" so that workers will feel less pressured, demeaned, and become more productive.

In the words of one longtime employee, now "other people are willing to stand up for you. It takes the fear out of you."

This time, union organizers have help from an unexpected source. Pastors and students across this part of central Mississippi have joined the campaign, championing the workers' cause. From pulpits, at leafleting campaigns outside Nissan dealerships and at auto industry events in Brazil, Geneva and Detroit, these new organizers have a message: God supports the working man. [...]

The UAW is very clearly involved with the pastors' efforts, helping them form the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan...

But for the pastors as well as the workers the organizing drive is not just about union membership. For many, it has become a way to shore up a shrinking middle class. Their campaign, they say, is a modern-day civil rights struggle whose antecedents go back more than 50 years to the days when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, the day after he spoke to striking sanitation workers.

Mississippi's conservative Legislature also has waded into the fray. The House of Representatives earlier this month passed a package of bills that would restrict union organizing, one of which labor leaders say is meant to prohibit pastors and outside groups from protesting with the Nissan workers.

Gee, what a surprise: Conservatives trying to bust labor union efforts. And we know how union members tend to vote come election day, right? (Hint: Democratic.)

African Americans have a history of being more open to unionizing than white workers are, so that may be making the difference here, since most of the plant's work force is African American. It will be an uphill battle, but this is good news. One day, pairing the words "labor union" and Mississippi may not seem so extraordinary.

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Workers push to join unions becomes big headache for MSNBC, liberal hosts

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msnbc lean forward

I often hear from indignant or disappointed Twitter followers that the progressive MSNBC political show hosts don't go to bat for this or that cause, and have threatened to boycott the network if their favorites let them down. I understand the frustration, but unfortunately, demands like those are not always realistic.

What many don't realize is, at least in some cases, on-air personalities are unable to speak out for contractual reasons. "Breach of contract" is nothing to sneeze at. For example, protesting on MSNBC air time or threatening to walk out on their jobs because of Martin Bashir's departure was very likely not an option. They'd get their asses sued faster than Megyn Kelly can say "Santa Claus is white."

However, perhaps publicly backing workers who want to join unions is different, and the AFL-CIO is all over them about that. I'm no legal expert, so I have no idea if this particular action would be contractually kosher or not.

Via The Hill:

The AFL-CIO is calling upon liberal MSNBC hosts to meet with workers at the cable network who are trying to unionize.

In a letter sent to Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, Rev. Al Sharpton, Chris Hayes and Lawrence O’Donnell, the nation’s largest labor federation said the television personalities should speak out in support of workers at Peacock Productions, who produce programming for MSNBC.

Workers at Peacock have complained about their access to health insurance, low pay, long hours and job insecurity, according to the AFL-CIO letter. [...]

The union drive has become a headache for MSNBC. The liberal-leaning network covered the battle between unions and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) over collective bargaining. But the network hosts have been silent regarding the Peacock workers who are fighting their employer.

"All In" host Chris Hayes has already secretly met with workers, per Salon.

Ed Schultz has been a strong and consistent supporter of labor unions on his show. He regularly travels to GOP-run, union-busting states and brought us live reporting that is sorely missing elsewhere in the "news" media. And according to Salon, he has pushed back against criticism that he has not stood by workers.

As Rachel likes to say, "Watch this space."

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Thumbs Up: AFL-CIO plans to emphasize state-level elections in 2014

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thumbs up smaller

The AFL-CIO is doing exactly the right thing, the very thing Democrats need: Concentrating some badly needed support and attention on state and gubernatorial elections, not just national ones. This is where some of the most bigoted, anti-women, anti-union, and anti-civil rights laws have been passed by the GOP: state legislatures.

2014 is exactly the right time to throw some of their badly needed weight around. Unfortunately, they're not too optimistic about taking control of the House of Representatives.

Via First Read:

The focus won't come at the exclusion of efforts to help Democrats win in Congress. But four years after the 2010 elections swept to power a series of Republicans who would enact sweeping collective bargaining reforms, state-level races are at a premium.

"Right now, the Republicans are moving ferociously anti-worker, anti-women's health agendas … in the states," [Michael Podhorzer, the labor group's top political official] said. [...]

The AFL-CIO is banking on the unlikelihood that Republicans won't be able to count on the 2014 electorate resembling the more conservative-leaning makeup of the voting public in 2010. As immigration reform falters on Capitol Hill, Podhorzer argued that the 2014 electorate could even tend toward Democrats, especially as Latinos who are embittered by the failure of comprehensive immigration reform extract a toll on Republicans. [...]

But Podhorzer also acknowledged that the 2010 elections — which also saw Republican dominance in state legislative races — helped the GOP shape the decennial, Census-mandated redistricting process to their benefit.

That last sentence packs a punch. Because of redistricting, Republicans have made Democratic victories nearly impossible. Just one more reason for getting out the vote, helping Dems to register, and again, getting Progressives into office starting with the most local races on up, including school boards and city councils.

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Guess who makes more income in states with lots of #union members?

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no sh-- Sherlock

From the Department of No Sh** Sherlock:

Think Progress: The middle class brings home a substantially larger share of aggregate earnings in states that have high rates of union membership than in those where fewer workers are organized, a Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) analysis of Census data shows. Amid very high and still increasing income inequality, union density appears to offer some buffer for middle-class Americans. [...]

...CAPAF’s David Madland and Keith Miller found that the states with the lowest rates of union membership return below-average shares of income to their middle-class residents. [...]

The rise of inequality over the past three decades tracks closely with the decline of union membership.

The income of the richest one percent has risen as middle class incomes drop.

As TP points out, and as we have in many posts, as unions get stronger, they increase their ability to stand up for workers. When that happens, not only does it improve work place conditions, but in the long run, income inequality is reduced.

And since the very rich make way more than the rest of us, leveling the playing field benefits the entire country, the health and welfare of more Americans, and the economy.

Not to mention, the decline of organized labor has helped worsen racial wage gap.

While you're at it, check out "What a difference a union can make!" and "Why unions matter, in a measly 1 minute 19 seconds."

chart graph why unions matter

unions gave us

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Decline of organized labor has helped worsen racial wage gap

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union pay difference food industry

unions right to work for less cartoon gop

Meredith Kleykamp and Jake Rosenfeld are professors of sociology at the University of Maryland and the University of Washington, respectively. Both are members of the Scholars Strategy Network, and both wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.

The topic: How the decline of labor unions has widened the racial wage gap and that "African Americans and other people of color have a lot at stake." They track the history of unions, their rise, their more recent sliding numbers, and the effect that has had on wages:

[O]ur research aimed to discover what wage trends among blacks and whites, men and women, would have looked like if union membership in the private sector of the U.S. economy had not declined so sharply. Here is what we learned:

• Had union membership rates for women remained at late-1970s levels, racial wage inequality among women in private sector jobs today would be reduced by as much as 30%.

• If rates of union membership among African American men working in the private sector were as high today as in the early 1970s, weekly wages would now be about $50 higher. For a full-time worker, that translates to an income increase of $2,600 a year. Regardless of race, all male workers have lost ground in the private sector as unions have declined.

They describe the modern labor movement as "remarkably inclusive" and one that has boosted African American and white workers and their families economically. The authors also conclude that the dwindling number of private sector unions has made the state of America's economic and social problems worse, including racial wage gaps.

Here are a few of the benefits that unions have provided:

labor unions brought us

See: "What a difference a union can make!" and "Why unions matter, in a measly 1 minute 19 seconds."

chart graph why unions matter

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