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“If a man has an apartment stacked to the ceiling with newspapers we call him crazy. If a woman has a trailer house full of cats we call her nuts. But when people pathologically hoard so much cash that they impoverish the entire nation, we put them on the cover of Fortune magazine and pretend that they are role models.”
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 Labor News: Waiter, Am I Subsidizing Your Pay?

Business NewsThe rest of us need to stop picking up the restaurant industry's tab.

By Marjorie Elizabeth Wood

Late April doesn’t just bring flocks of tourists Washington. It’s when hundreds of members of the National Restaurant Association — a.k.a. the “other NRA” — swarm Capitol Hill for two intensive days of lobbying.

With a $65 million budget and over 52,000 members, the other NRA ranks among the nation’s most powerful corporate lobbies. In 2014, its top priorities include fighting pro-worker measures like paid sick days and new health care requirements the Affordable Care Act mandates for employees.

Challenging efforts to raise the minimum wage is the other NRA’s top priority right now. Legislative observers expect Congress to vote on a bill to raise the federal minimum from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour this spring.

The bill also includes a raise in the minimum wage for restaurant servers and other tipped workers, which has been stuck at $2.13 per hour for over 20 years. To date, the other NRA has spent more lobbying dollars opposing a minimum-wage boost than any other single industry group.

During their lobbying spree, members of the other NRA will no doubt profusely thank members of Congress who have helped maintain the status quo.

While they’re at it, there’s another group of people they should be generously thanking: American taxpayers. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Wednesday, April 23 @ 20:58:17 EDT (1537 reads)
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 Labor News: WalMart Workers Taking Action Against the Corporate Giant

Business NewsBy Steve Edwards and Joshua H. Koritz

Many workers and activists have been excited by the recent reports of walkouts and strikes against Walmart. For years unions have tried to organize workers in this notoriously antiunion corporation. Walmart employs over 1.4 million people in the U.S. and many earn so little that they have to rely on food stamps and other government assistance. Activists want to know if the strikes at warehouses in California and Illinois and walkouts at retails stores in multiple states mark a turning point, or merely a ramping-up of the UFCW's public relations campaigns against the $400 billion retail giant?

The warehouse strikes were launched by two separate campaigns, the one in Illinois led by Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ) with organizing staff from UE - the independent, Left-wing unionthat successfully occupied Republic Windows in December 2008 - and the California Warehouse Workers United which is sponsored by the SEIU and UFCW.

In these warehouse strikes, "permanent temps" employed through employment agencies (rather than WalMart "associates" who are subjected to an intensively anti-union regime, complete with token company shares and an imposed rah-rah culture) were fighting back on behalf of workers who were fired for filing wage-theft claims. Having stepped to the front of the struggle the warehouse workers then marched to take their message to company HQ in Benton, Arkansas and to the retail stores, dozens of which have now seen walkouts. The Elwood, Illinois campaign was a smash success, with all employees returned to work after 21 days with back pay for the period they were on strike. This is a sharp victory which needs to be publicized far and wide. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Friday, October 19 @ 19:08:06 EDT (718 reads)
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 Labor News: Turning College Students into a Commodity

Business News
After graduation, students' incomes would be "attached" by financiers.

By Jim Hightower

Let's take a trip deep into the magic kingdom of "Laissez Fairyland" and prostrate ourselves before the infallible and inscrutable force known as the free market.

While this awesome deity cannot be seen, the high priests of free-market fundamentalism insist that we mere mortals must simply have faith that its mysterious workings are always in our best interest. Yeah, sure, your holiness. We saw how well that worked out for us wandering pilgrims after you true believers deregulated Wall Street, which then crashed on our streets.

Well, get ready. Free-market purists want us to have another ungodly religious encounter with their omnipotent deity. Looking at America's trillion-dollar student debt crisis, these spiritualists had a burning-bush revelation. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Monday, August 06 @ 19:32:14 EDT (1488 reads)
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 Labor News: Nothing to Celebrate:

HolidaysThis Labor Day, Don't Party, Organize and Raise Hell!

by: Dave Lindorff

This faux "workers’ holiday" on Monday is not a day for celebrating for American workers.

The official unemployment rate, just released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed unemployment in July to be 9.1%, which is exactly the same as the rate was in June, and which is an increase from the months in the spring. But that’s not even the real picture.

Worse than the official number of unemployed is the BLS’s official number of unemployed together with those who are part-time employed, usually in marginal low-paid jobs, but who want to work full-time. That figure hit 16.2% in July. Things are likely to get worse, though, because the BLS also reported at the same time that in August, no net new jobs were added in the U.S. -- the first time the new jobs figure was zero since 1945.

But even that is only part of the story of the miserable economic situation facing American workers. The BLS doesn’t even count people who have stopped trying to find a job because they’ve tried for so long unsuccessfully that they have realized the effort is pointless. Many of these are people who are now staying home, perhaps helping to raise children. Many others have decided to retire earlier than planned (and earlier than they can afford to). Adding these people to the mix raises the unemployed rate to 17.7%. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Monday, September 05 @ 09:57:44 EDT (911 reads)
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 Labor News: Volunteers of America

The Newsby: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

Did you hear about the uprising?

Not the one in Tunisia, or Egypt.

No not the one in Libya, though what has been happening there is certainly riveting. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in several cities, defying the forty-year rule of Muammar el-Qaddafi under threat of death.

Not the similar one in Bahrain, where several died and many more were injured.

Not the similar one in Yemen, which has been going on for more than seven days.

Not the really interesting one in Iran, which has been a long time coming, and which prompted the ruling elite to call for the immediate murder of anyone and everyone who is not down with the sickness. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Saturday, February 19 @ 17:21:22 EST (674 reads)
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 Labor News: Corporations, Unions and the Value of Opposition

Business Newsby: Ellen Dannin, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

The news is full of bad news about unions these days. Unions are blamed for holding up the bailout of GM and Chrysler with foot-dragging over wages and benefits. Teachers' unions are accused of protecting bad teachers and standing in the way of providing good education. Public employees are supposed to be overpaid and lazy. The bottom line seems to be that, at best, unions are dinosaurs and about to go extinct. At worst, they are a drag on our economy.

So, why have unions? Because the persistent problem of unlimited corporate power requires an effective counterbalance.

The need for such a counterbalance is clear. We saw the effect of increasing corporate power in the 2010 elections. We see it in virtually every law considered by Congress and state legislatures. And we saw it in the period leading up to the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression. As corporations grow mightier, they are able to amass even greater power. Then, just as now, Supreme Court decisions made corporations unaccountable to their societies by removing limits on corrupting and destructive power wielded by corporations. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Saturday, January 22 @ 19:43:59 EST (730 reads)
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 Labor News: Throwing Public Unions Under the Bus

Politicsby: Shamus Cooke, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis

The stage is set and the main actors in Congress and in the corporate establishment are ready to perform after rehearsing behind closed doors for the coming assault on organized labor's most powerful sector: public workers.

The final preparations were smoothed out in Obama's tax "compromise" with the Republicans, which gave details of the drama's first act. The tax plan purposely did not include a critical element for state funding, called the Build America Bonds program (BAB), which allows recession-sunk states to easily borrow money from the federal government. In the face of enormous deficits, the states would be left to drown. Reuters blogger James Pethokoukis explains:

Congressional Republicans [and Democrats] appear to be quietly but methodically executing a plan that would a) avoid a federal bailout of spendthrift states and b) cripple public employee unions by pushing cash-strapped states such as California and Illinois to declare bankruptcy. This may be the biggest political battle in Washington, my Capitol Hill sources tell me, of 2011.

Public employee unions would be crippled by bankruptcy because unioncontracts are notoriously easy to shred in the court system, where "nonpartisan" judges always decide against unions.

To further ensure that states will become bankrupt, yet another law was recently proposed that, if approved, will keep money out of states' pockets by making it harder for states to sell public bonds. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Monday, January 03 @ 19:42:55 EST (677 reads)
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 Labor News: Sweet Tomato Victory

Business NewsThe Coalition of Immokalee Workers' longtime strategy is bearing fruit.

By Sean Sellers

Some of America's worst-paid and least-protected workers have scored agreements with two of the nation's largest tomato growers after a 15 year labor dispute. They even got a long-overdue apology.

"In a free society, few are guilty, but all are responsible," explained Jon Esformes, operating partner of Pacific Tomato Growers, the first to ink a deal with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. "The transgressions that took place are totally unacceptable today and they were totally unacceptable yesterday."

The landmark social responsibility agreements between the coalition and Pacific, as well as Six L's Packing Co., mark the dawning of a new day for the group, which represents Florida farmworkers who pick tomatoes. The coalition has fought to raise abysmally low pay and horrific conditions in the fields, in part by drawing public attention to the conditions under which American food is produced.

Florida's $400 million tomato industry supplies the vast majority of the nation's tomatoes between October and June. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Wednesday, November 03 @ 23:00:02 EDT (571 reads)
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 Labor News: ‘I Would Join a Union’

Business NewsBy Richard Trumka/ AFL-CIO

More than 70 years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt said, “If I were a worker in a factory, the first thing I would do would be to join a union.”

Barack Obama recently referenced FDR’s statement and took it further:

I think that’s true for workers generally. I think if I was a coal miner, I’d want a -union representing me to make sure that I was safe and you did not have some of the tragedies that we’ve been seeing in the coal industry. If I was a teacher, I’d want a -union to make sure that the teachers’ perspective was represented as we think about shaping an education system for our future.

Like Roosevelt’s, Obama’s words were spoken in the midst of painful economic upheaval—the recession that almost became the second Great Depression.

So why are the benefits of joining a -union so clear to presidents when the bottom falls out of the economy?

Several reasons. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Tuesday, August 17 @ 20:07:45 EDT (605 reads)
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 Labor News: When Teachers Unions Back War Escalations

PoliticsBy David Swanson

On July 12th I received an Email from the American Federation of Teachers with a soft pink headline and an image of a heart. It said: "Pink Hearts. Not Pink Slips." That sounded nice. The text continued: "Now is the time to tell the Senate to put our children first. The House of Representatives approved an emergency spending bill that included $10 billion to save educator jobs and $5 billion for Pell Grants. It is now up to the Senate to do its part and approve the same level of assistance when it returns to Washington, D.C., this week."

That was true, I suppose, in as far as it went, but horribly misleading because of what it left unsaid. Congress had not passed an emergency bill to save teachers' jobs. Congress doesn't treat such things as emergencies. This was a bill that had been sat on for half a year, and the teacher funding was an amendment tacked onto it. The bill itself served primarily to dump $33.5 billion into escalating a war in Afghanistan by sending 30,000 more troops plus contractors. It was called an "emergency" bill purely in order to keep war spending off the books and make the government's overall budget look less imbalanced than it is.

Now, it's hard to blame teachers unions for promoting a bill, any bill, that saves teachers' jobs. The National Education Association, too, has been promoting the same bill. It's easy enough to blame the peace movement for not building relationships with the teachers unions. And no doubt the Democratic House Leadership gets the lion's share of blame for packaging teacher funding together with war funding. But there's something extraordinarily revolting about an Email that asks us to "put our children first" by escalating a criminal foreign war. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, July 15 @ 18:01:35 EDT (586 reads)
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 Labor News: One Fire A Week

Business Newsby Mark Gruenberg/Press Associates, Inc.

Imagine you’re living in a medium-sized city, say of 150,000 people. It’s got big older houses, some of them rundown, others subdivided into apartments. Some are firetraps, and few have smoke alarms.

Some of the houses have one family living in them. The subdivided ones have many families. The landlord doesn’t care. Nobody’s inspected the furnaces in years and nobody’s trained the occupants in the quickest ways to escape should a fire start.

And fires do break out. One house a week burns down, usually before the fire department can get there. That’s one house every week, year after year, going up in smoke. Some even explode. The occupants get injured and many of them die.

There’d be an outcry, don’t you think? Horror at the needless loss of life. Demands for reform. Demands for inspection. Demands for prosecution of the landlord, too.

Well, that “city” does exist. And those fires do break out. And the explosions occur. Once a week. And people die. The “city” is the nation’s oil industry. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Monday, May 10 @ 18:46:26 EDT (594 reads)
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 Labor News: The Man Who Didn't Die

History / Cultureby: Dick Meister, t r u t h o u t | Report

It's November 19, 1915, in a courtyard of the Utah State Penitentiary in Salt Lake City. Five riflemen take careful aim at a condemned organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Joe Hill, who stands before them straight and stiff and proud.

"Fire!" he shouts defiantly.

The firing squad didn't miss. But Joe Hill, as the folk ballad says, "ain't never died." On this 94th anniversary, he lives on as one of the most enduring and influential of American symbols.

Joe Hill's story is that of a labor martyr framed for murder by viciously anti-labor employer and government forces, a man who never faltered in fighting for the rights of the oppressed, who never faltered in his attempts to bring them together for the collective action essential if they were to overcome their wealthy and powerful oppressors.

His is the story of a man and an organization destroyed by government opposition, yet immensely successful. As historian Joyce Kornbluh noted, the IWW made "an indelible mark on the American labor movement and American society," laying the groundwork for mass unionization, inspiring the formation of groups to protect the civil liberties of dissidents, prompting prison and farm labor reforms, and leaving behind "a genuine heritage ... industrial democracy."

Joe Hill's story is the story of, perhaps, the greatest of all folk poets, whose simple, satirical rhymes set to simple, familiar melodies did so much to focus working people on the common body of ideals needed to forge them into a collective force. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, November 19 @ 21:49:14 EST (764 reads)
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 Labor News: Labor Pains 2009

HolidaysBy Rosemarie Jackowski

On Labor Day we celebrate those who work - as opposed to those who inherit family wealth and those whose financial investments work so they don’t have to. Many workers who deserve to be honored on this special day have come from across the border. In a global economy, workers who strive for justice in their own country must, by necessity, unite with workers around the world.

In Vermont workers from other countries keep the dairy industry operating. These workers - in a xenophobic culture - often face discrimination but many Vermonters, including Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Pat Leahy, and Congressman Peter Welch have come to their defense. Some of the farm workers have the required legal documents - many others do not. Vermont dairy farmers have testified that without these workers the Vermont dairy industry could not survive.

Kevin O’Connor, Rutland Herald Staff Writer, has written about the plight of Vermont's farm workers in an article titled 'Of Milk and Mexicans' published on March 9, 2009. It is available online - see Rutland Herald. com. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Friday, September 04 @ 22:21:20 EDT (716 reads)
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 Labor News: There Are Really Two Questions:

Politics1) Which Side are the Democrats on? and
2) Which Side are the Labor Unions on?

By Dave Lindorff

It is refreshing to hear the new head of the AFL-CIO, former mineworker and Mineworkers President Richard Trumka, get mad at sell-out Democrats and make a threat not to “support” them next year.

As Trumka pointed out in a talk to the Center for American Progress this week, for years, Democratic politicians, and the Democrats as a Party, have counted on the labor movement to get out the vote of its membership on Election Day, only to turn on workers after getting to Washington, on the issues that really matter, like jobs-killing free trade agreements, the gutting of bankruptcy law and credit law protections, and, most recently, the undermining of needed labor law reform.

Trumka, quoting from a famous Florence Reece song popularized by Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger, said that going forward, Democrats will have to make it clear to labor “Which side are you on?”

But really, that’s only half the question. Reece, in her song, was asking that question of workers themselves. And indeed, the reason Democrats have become such traitors to working class interests in recent decades is that the labor movement itself has not answered Reece’s musical question resolutely or honestly. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, September 03 @ 22:59:24 EDT (607 reads)
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 Labor News: Legendary Lawyer Doris Brin Walker Dies;

History / CultureRepresented Angela Davis, Smith Act Defendants

by: Marjorie Cohn, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Doris "Dobby" Brin Walker, the first woman president of the National Lawyers Guild, died on August 13 at the age of 90. Doris was a brilliant lawyer and a tenacious defender of human rights. The only woman in her University of California Berkeley law school class, Doris defied the odds throughout her life, achieving significant victories for labor and political activists.

Doris's legal and political activism spanned several decades and some of the most turbulent but significant periods in US history. She organized workers, fought against Jim Crow and McCarthyism, was active in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements and actively opposed the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At UCLA, Doris became a Marxist. After she was sworn in as a member of the California State Bar, Doris joined the Communist Party USA, remaining a member until her death. Upon graduation from law school, Doris began practicing labor law; but a few years later, she went to work in California canneries as a labor organizer. When Cutter Labs fired Doris in 1956, the case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. Although the Court refused to hear the case, Justice Douglas, joined in dissent by Chief Justice Warren and Justice Black, wrote, "The blunt truth is that Doris Walker is not discharged for misconduct but either because of her legitimate laborunion activities or because of her political ideology or belief. Belief cannot be penalized consistently with the First Amendment ... The Court today allows belief, not conduct, to be regulated. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, August 20 @ 23:44:36 EDT (714 reads)
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