Indiana unions remind voters of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ past opposition to anti-union bill as vote nears

by Laura Clawson

Indiana Democrats have returned to the state House after their third brief boycott aimed at slowing Republicans’ rush to pass an anti-union bill, but, according to the Associated Press, “made no promises they won’t stall again.”

If passed, the law would force union members to pay the costs of representing their non-union coworkers. The Senate is expected to vote today and to pass the bill overwhelmingly, followed by the House later in the week.

Meanwhile, the Indiana AFL-CIO will be running the ad shown above surrounding Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Republican response to Tuesday’s State of the Union, highlighting his 2006 opposition to such a law. No word on the size of the buy, but “The ad will air surrounding the governor’s response on broadcast networks in Indiana and nationally on CNN and MSNBC.”

Discuss

Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 10:34 AM PST

Pro-Romney super PAC leads Florida primary spending, followed by union

by Laura Clawson

Will this union ad be a major player in the Florida Republican primary?

Politico rounds up outside spending on the Florida Republican presidential primary … and so far, a union is coming in second. Mitt Romney’s super PAC, Restore Our Future, leads the way:

[T]he organization has spent more than $2.07 million in Florida alone to fund broadcast advertisements and phone banking designed to both support Romney and attack both Gingrich and fellow GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, federal records indicate.

By contrast, the super PACs aligned with other candidates are spending peanuts so far: Just $225,000 from the pro-Santorum Red White and Blue Fund and a measly $100,000 from the pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future. That $100,000 is an internet ad buy; you have to assume they’ll be doing something more shortly.

But AFSCME’s ad buy targeting Romney, originally reported at $800,000, is in fact around $1 million. That’s still less than half what Romney’s super PAC has spent in the last few days, of course, but right now, it’s some of the most serious opposition Romney is drawing in Florida.

Discuss


Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 08:44 AM PST

Kansas kicks American citizen children of undocumented immigrants off of food stamps

by Laura Clawson


For kids!

The state of Kansas has found a way to deny children who are American citizens nutritional assistance they would be eligible for—if only their parents weren’t undocumented immigrants.

While undocumented immigrants are not eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, many have children who were born in the U.S. and are, as citizens, eligible for aid. Or they were until Kansas tinkered with how household income is calculated.

Here’s how the change works: Until last fall, Kansas would look at the household income of a family made up of a mixture of citizens and non-citizens, and prorate the income to the number of citizens—and remember, we’re talking about dependent children here. So for one family the Kansas City Star‘s Laura Bauer talked to, the two U.S. citizens in a family of five were counted as receiving two-fifths of the total household income of $1,600 a month. That meant they were counted as having $640 a month in income and were eligible for $280 a month in food stamps. Now, though, those two children, aged eight and three, are counted as earning their family’s entire $1,600, and $1,600 a month is too high an income for two people to qualify for benefits.

How’s that for creativity in the service of screwing immigrant families?

The family described above applied for benefits only after the children’s mother was laid off; when the children’s father worked weekends for some months, he reported the extra income and his daughters’ benefits were cut. Then, just as his weekend work and his daughters would have qualified for food stamps again, Kansas made this change going after the children of immigrants:

He now puts $50 a week aside for food to feed his family. When that’s not enough, he borrows from the rent money and the cash put aside for utilities.

His eyes fill with tears when he talks about his struggle to provide for his family.

“My family doesn’t know what I’m doing,” he said. “I try to eat at work (where his boss often provides meals and snacks) so I don’t take food away from my children at home. … The bills are coming in. Now I am getting letters on what they are going to cut off. I know every month it’s going to be worse.

“But I ask myself, ‘What is better, my kids having food or paying the bills?'”

Way to go, Kansas.

Discuss

Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 07:18 AM PST

Newt Gingrich’s ‘Obama is the food stamp president’ line founded on a falsehood

by Laura Clawson


(Adam Hunger/Reuters)

Details, details. Newt Gingrich’s whole schtick about how Barack Obama is “the food stamp president” is founded on a false claim, a USA Today fact-check finds. Gingrich’s basis for the “food stamp president” thing is his specific claim that “more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.” It would be accurate to say that under Obama food stamp enrollment has been at its highest point ever, but:

Gingrich goes too far to say Obama has put more on the rolls than other presidents. We asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition service for month-by-month figures going back to January 2001. And they show that under President George W. Bush the number of recipients rose by nearly 14.7 million. Nothing before comes close to that.

And under Obama, the increase so far has been 14.2 million. To be exact, the program has so far grown by 444,574 fewer recipients during Obama’s time in office than during Bush’s.

Obama still has time to exceed Bush, of course, but the number of people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP, or food stamp) benefits actually went down in October. And even if, during the coming months, the number will go up enough to exceed Bush’s record, Newt Gingrich has yet to prove that he can see into the future, And even if Newt Gingrich can see into the future, he can’t change the rules of grammar such that when he says “more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama” it actually means “more people ultimately will have been put on food stamps.” So no matter what happens in coming months, right now, Newt Gingrich is a liar.

Discuss

Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 09:33 AM PST

Retail industry sells New York workers short with discrimination, low wages and schedule abuses

by Laura Clawson


A large majority of the 436 New York City retail workers surveyed for the newly released study Discounted Jobs have at least some college education. They’ve been working in retail for an average of five years, and half have been at their current job for more than a year. Half of them earn less than $9.50 an hour, only 29 percent get health care through their retail job, and of the 44 percent who do have paid sick days in theory, only 54 percent have used a sick day—in many cases due to pressure from their managers and fear of retribution.

What the report, by City University of New York professor Stephanie Luce and Naoki Fujita of the Retail Action Project, shows is an educated, experienced workforce in an industry that makes it virtually impossible for workers to make a living. Even the most educated workers, who earn more than others, earn poverty-level wages:

For those with a Bachelor’s degree, the median wage was $11.50 per hour. With a median of 36 hours per week, a retail worker with a Bachelor’s degree could expect to gross just under $22,000 a year. Respondents with an Associate’s degree had a median hourly wage of $10 and 32 median weekly hours. This results in an annual gross income of $16,640, assuming year-round employment.

And, as the chart above shows, there’s a significant racial gap in wages, with Latino workers with two years on the job averaging a slightly lower pay rate than white workers with less than six months on the job. As a preview of the report, which I wrote about in December, made clear, women are also paid less than men.

One explanation commonly offered for such wage differentials within an industry is that the lower-paid groups aren’t as qualified for the higher-paid jobs in the industry. In this telling, white men in retail are just more likely to have the qualifications needed to work the more desirable jobs and get more raises. Another study of New York City employment offers a rejoinder to that notion. Sociologists Devah Pager and Bruce Western conducted an audit study, in which they had matched teams of young men with similar attributes and (fictitious; created for the study) resumes, but of different races, apply for entry-level jobs. In some cases, a white tester was given a resume that indicated he was a recently released felon, while his black and Latino counterparts did not do so. Pager and Western found that, in the teams in which no one indicated a criminal record, the white man had a 23 percent chance of getting a positive response, the Latino man had a 19 percent chance, and the black man had just a 13 percent chance of a positive response. In the teams in which the white member was supposedly a felon, those white members were about as likely as the black and Latino non-felons to get a positive response.

That part of Pager and Western’s study speaks to how likely people of different races are to be offered work at all. But they also found significant racial channeling, in which black and Latino applicants for jobs involving contact with customers were instead offered back-of-house jobs—applying for a job as a salesperson or waiter, they were offered a job as a stocker or a dishwasher. White applicants, on the other hand, were sometimes channeled upward, asked to apply for a waiter job rather than the dishwasher one they’d asked to apply for. The only white testers who were channeled downward were those who claimed to be felons, while black testers were channeled down in 10 cases and Latinos were in four cases.

These were, remember, applicants who had been chosen to be similar to each other—race aside—down to their very height, then trained to behave similarly while inquiring about jobs, then given matching resumes (except in the cases of the white testers who were given prison records). The disparate results they experienced in their “job searching” demonstrates the role that employers play in creating racial disparities in pay such as the Luce and Fujita “Discounted Pay” study finds.

Pay isn’t the only racial disparity the workers Luce and Fujita surveyed experience. Scheduling is a major issue for these workers (as anyone who has read Lightbulb‘s diaries here at Daily Kos will be well aware). More than half of the workers Luce and Fujita surveyed were classified as part-time employees, though 30 percent of the “part-time” workers reported sometimes working more than 40 hours in a week. Many reported various forms of schedule-related wage theft, such as not being paid overtime when they should have been, or being called in for a shift, then sent home quickly and not paid for a four hour shift as New York law requires. But even without wage theft, scheduling is problematic for workers:

Only 17 percent of workers surveyed have a set schedule. Thirty percent know their schedules more than a week ahead of time, and the rest – over half – only know their schedules within a week, with about a fifth getting their schedule within three days notice.

Try making child care arrangements when you don’t know your work schedule ahead of time. Try budgeting for food and to pay your bills when you don’t know how many hours you’ll be working in any given week.

Like wages, scheduling problems fall differently on different racial groups:


One of the great brutalities of the retail industry today is that workers are, on the one hand, not given the hours they need to make a living, but are, on the other hand, expected to be always available to come in to work with little notice. For poverty wages, companies demand absolute control over their workers’ schedules—and, this study finds, the burden falls most heavily on Latino workers and least on white workers. Luce and Fujita identify how “hours are the new bonus,” given as rewards or taken away as punishment. Rather than offering raises, managers just give a favored worker more hours.

Though this study focuses on New York City, the struggles these workers face are common throughout the nation. Many of the retail industry’s abuses would require massive and complex societal change. Racial discrimination, for instance, is hardly confined to retail, and while the worst instances of discrimination may be subject to some kind of legal remedy, most cases are much more subtle. Pager and Western, for instance, found cases in which their black and Latino testers were told a position had been filled but they’d be called back if the new hire didn’t work out. That doesn’t sound like discrimination, until you know that their white teammate was hired on the spot. And most job applicants don’t go around in matched teams to know when that’s happening.

But Luce and Fujita’s study does point to some relatively simple ways retail work could be improved. First, we could enforce the laws we already have, so that if you work overtime, you get paid for it and so that employers can’t call a worker in then send her home after 15 minutes and pay her only for that 15 minutes if the state law requires she be paid for a four hour shift. (Obviously managers would be a lot less likely to call people in for just 15 minutes if they actually had to pay for four hours.) Protecting and enforcing the existing legal right to organize, too, would help, since union contracts often deal not only with wages and benefits but with scheduling, and can help reduce racial and gender discrimination by standardizing wages, benefits, and schedules.

Luce and Fujita also point to laws that cities and states can pass to improve things for workers. Congress may not be passing living wage or paid sick leave laws anytime soon, but some cities and, in the case of Connecticut and sick leave, even states have done so. Given the truly wretched state of affairs their study reveals, this is an important fight to wage at any level of government we have even a small hope of changing.

Discuss

Sat Jan 21, 2012 at 04:55 PM PST

This week in the War on Workers: ‘Hoosier jobs are at stake’

by Laura Clawson

And more:

  • Alternet’s Sarah Jaffe looks at rising college tuitions and a system of subsidies that help individuals rather than lowering tuitions and asks one of my favorite questions:

    In other words, the hidden subsidies are not helping those who most need help in getting a degree. It’s also helping lenders, by providing an incentive to borrow.  So why not take that $22.75 billion or so that we’re already spending and putting it directly toward making public higher education free.

  • Fifty years ago this week, John F. Kennedy opened the door for federal employees to join unions.
  • Kay at Balloon Juice takes Newt Gingrich’s child janitors idea from the perspective of what he’s saying about adult workers:

    But Newt Gingrich believes that janitors are overpaid and that children can replace adult janitors, so let’s conduct one of those thought experiments that conservatives love so much, and see if any other adult workers can and should be replaced by children.

    Could nine year olds replace the adults who cleaned up after that gathering of political and media luminaries last night? Working adults did that, after all. After the political and media celebrities left that room, real live adult janitors came in and cleaned up after them. Why didn’t Newt Gingrich suggest that the people who cleaned up after him last night be replaced by children?

    What about Gingrich’s staff? How much do they make? Can children do their work as well as they can? Why or why not? Newt Gingrich has been paid an absurd amount of money for lobbying since he left Congress in disgrace. Could a nine year old replace Newt Gingrich? How hard could Newt Gingrich’s “job” be, after all? A lot of lavish meals, ass-kissing, and bloviating, right? We could employ a hell of a lot of nine year olds on the absurd amount of money Gingrich is paid.

  • And speaking of Balloon Juice, in honor of the crappy jobs Willard Mitt Romney never had, new Juicer Betty Cracker lists the three worst jobs she ever had. How would Mitt do with those?
  • Cablevision workers are attempting to organize and join the Communications Workers of America.
  • And speaking of the CWA, its president has joined with those of the UAW and SEIU to urge New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to keep up the fight for public funding of elections.
  • With so many jobs requiring people to work unpredictable, non-traditional hours, parents face big challenges arranging for child care. Some day care centers are adding evening and even overnight hours to accommodate the demand.
  • Whatever you thought of the AFL-CIO’s new ad, the companion website Work Connects Us All is worth playing around with.
  • The General Council’s Office of the National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against the Hyatt Andaz in West Hollywood for increasing the number of hotel rooms housekeepers’ must clean in a shift, and threatening discipline to workers who spoke up about the problem.

    Hyatt housekeepers voiced concerns in March 2011 immediately after managers increased the cleaners’ room quota by two–meaning housekeepers were expected to complete an additional hour worth of cleaning in the same amount of time. Under the law, the hotel is required to negotiate workload increases with the workers’ union.

    The Assistant Director of Human Resources threatened to discipline workers who voiced concern about the increased workload. The complaint alleges that the Hyatt Andaz’s actions violated the National Labor Relations Act.

 

Discuss

Sat Jan 21, 2012 at 09:00 AM PST

Van Halen supports unions – but you must be a member of the 1% to sit in the first twenty rows.

by Mark E Andersen


While reading this you are going to ask, “What does Van Halen have to do with labor”…we will get there, just indulge me for a minute…

I am a metalhead. I cut my musical teeth on artists like AC/DC, Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Judas Priest, ManOwar, Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, Poison, Cinderella, Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne to name just a few.

I still get pissed off when some snotty young punk music writer, who was born during this era, calls my music “Glam metal.” I grew up in that era and I can assure you it was not called “glam.” They were hair bands, heavy metal bands, hard rock bands, and in the case of Lita Ford and Vixen, hot chick metal (Please hold off on throwing eggs at me for saying “hot chick metal,” I have evolved since the eighties); however, none of them were ever “Glam bands,” “Glam metal,” or anything with Glam in the name! (Yes, I have become that old man standing in my yard yelling, “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!”)

Of all the bands I saw growing up, of all the bands I listened to…one stood out. Van Halen. Now I am not talking about Van Hagar here. For me Van Halen ended when David Lee Roth left the band and I joined the Army in 1985. Van Halen was never the same after that – with Sammy Hagar they had lost the raw edge that had attracted me to them.

I still remember the first time I heard “Eruption” – I was blown away, I had never heard anything like it before. Van Halen I changed how I listened to music. When I finally got a copy of Van Halen II imagine my surprise to find a “thanks to” the Sheraton Inn in Madison, Wisconsin.

[Van Halen] trashed the 7th floor of that hotel during the first tour – fire extinguisher fights, TVs and furniture out the windows. Alex Van Halen used to like gluing people’s doorknobs shut or putting Vaseline on the doorknobs so people couldn’t turn them.

They blamed the whole thing on their headliner…Journey.

For a twelve-year-old kid that was pretty damn cool to know that Van Halen trashed a hotel in your hometown (I was twelve, what did I know?).

“The Cradle will Rock…” off of Women and Children First was one of the first songs that really spoke to me – especially with a line like, “Have you seen Junior’s grades?”

Out of all of the Van Halen albums Fair Warning has to be my favorite – raw and edgy…songs like “Unchained,” “Sinners Swing,” “Dirty Movies,” and “Mean Street” just blew me away. No one, in my mind at the time, could come close to what Eddie could do on guitar and what Dave could do vocally.

I finally got to see Van Halen on the  Diver Down tour – they came to Madison on August 11th, 1982 – I was fifteen years old and going into my sophomore year at Madison East High School. The show cost all of twelve bucks and I got right up front – Eddie gave me a high five when he came on stage and while that show will not go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest metal shows ever, it will go down as the only time I have seen Van Halen live.

After 1984 came out, where I have to admit that I was appalled at the time with all the synthesizers, I found other newer, heavier bands like Metallica. When I went into the Army on August 1st, 1985 I had heard rumblings of trouble in Van Halen in the pages of Circus magazine. While in training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri the rumblings of David Lee Roth’s departure were confirmed with a contraband copy of Circus that had been hidden from the Drill Sergeants and passed around the barracks.

Van Halen was never the same for me after that…not with Sammy Hagar, and certainly not with Gary Cherone. For me Van Halen with David Lee Roth will always be the soundtrack of my teenage years and because of that will always hold a special place in my heart.

Just this last week Van Halen released a new song – with Dave on vocals, you cannot imagine how excited I was…right up until I listened to the song. It was only okay – not the Van Halen of my youth by any means; however, one part of the song caught my attention:

Uncle Denny had a gold tattoo
He fought for the union
Some of us still do
On my shoulder is the number
of the chapter he was in
that number is forever
like the struggle here to win

You can hear the lyrics at about 3:06 on the video.

Awesome! Van Halen supports unions!

Then I looked up their tour schedule…thinking I could take my son if they came close enough to Madison. Imagine my disappointment when I looked up ticket prices for their Chicago show. It will cost a hell of a lot more money than twelve bucks to see them this time around.

Lower Level Seating (100 Level)
US $79.50 Ticket + US $11.24 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $90.74
US $149.50 Ticket + US $12.76 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $162.26

Main Floor Seating
US $149.50 Ticket + US $12.76 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $162.26

Club Level Seating (200 Level)
US $49.50 Ticket + US $10.56 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $60.06
US $149.50 Ticket + US $12.76 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $162.26

Upper Level Seating (300 Level)
US $49.50 Ticket + US $10.56 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $60.06
US $79.50 Ticket + US $11.24 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $90.74

Basically if I wanted to take my son it would cost anywhere from $60 a ticket up to $162 a ticket…$60 is a bit much to pay to see a band that saw its heyday end some twenty years ago; but that isn’t what really chaps my ass. What really pisses me off if the outrageousVIP ticket packages. One of the fondest memories of my youth, right up there with getting a kiss from a pretty blonde girl at the Rollerdrome, and who will remain nameless, was getting right up in front of the stage at that Van Halen show.

Ultimate VIP Package ($995.00)
SOLD OUT
Each Van Halen Ultimate VIP Package includes:
•    One reserved ticket in the front row*
•    Backstage tour
•    Pre-show party
•    Parking (where available)**
•    Early entrance into the venue
•    Van Halen Ultimate VIP commemorative laminate
•    Exclusive Van Halen gift bag
•    Commemorative VIP ticket
•    Crowd-free merchandise shopping
•    On-site VIP host

You will be required to sign a waiver & release of liability.
Package details subject to change without notice.

That’s right…you want front row, you are paying a thousand bucks per ticket, did you notice, those tickets are sold out…and that ain’t all.

VIP Package ($595.00)
Each Van Halen VIP Package includes:
•    One reserved ticket in rows 2-13
•    Backstage tour
•    Pre-show party
•    Early entrance into the venue
•    Van Halen VIP commemorative laminate
•    Exclusive Van Halen gift bag
•    Commemorative VIP ticket
•    Crowd-free merchandise shopping
•    On-site VIP host


The greedy bastards aren’t done yet!

Tour Package ($395.00)
Each Van Halen Tour Package includes:
•    One reserved ticket in the first 20 rows
•    Exclusive Van Halen gift
•    Commemorative VIP ticket
•    On-site VIP host

On the one hand Van Halen touts support for unions in their latest release…on the other, the only way you are going to get up front like I did back in 1982 is if you are a one percenter. Sorry Van Halen, you won’t be getting my money this time around – funny thing, a couple years ago I got to take my son to see Judas Priest at Summerfest in Milwaukee – we sat up front. It cost twelve bucks and I saw one of the best shows I have ever seen in my life.

Now I doubt Eddie, Alex, Wolfgang and Dave read anything I write; however, on the off chance that they do – I ask them that if they truly support unions to drop the VIP seating…donate those seats to U.S. servicemen, give them to unions to raffle off to their members…or, if they must sell VIP packages due to contractual obligation then give the money earned off of them to some worthy cause. If the 1% wants to piss away their money – fine…let them. Just don’t profit off of it. These VIP packages are just another symptom of the disease that is eating away at America, another divide between the haves and the have nots.

Discuss

Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 02:29 PM PST

Compromise on union issues to keep FAA open

by Laura Clawson


Ah, the sweet smell of compromise. The good news is that the Federal Aviation Administration is likely to get its reauthorization before the Jan. 31 deadline; moreover, instead of another short-term extension it is likely to finally get a real, stable, long-term reauthorization; moreover, Republicans are dropping their demand to count workers who don’t vote in union representation elections as having voted no. The bad news? Democrats made one big up-front compromise and the National Journal is using the term “gentleman’s agreement,” as in:

The remaining disputes between Republicans and Democrats on the measure have been worked out in a gentleman’s agreement among the congressional transportation gurus.

In exchange, Democrats have agreed to include a provision that would raise the threshold for rail and aviation workers expressing interest in forming a union from 35 percent to 50 percent.

In one sense, raising the threshold from 35 percent to 50 percent is inconsequential. You don’t file for an election in which you’ll need 50 percent-plus-one support if you only have 35 percent support. But remember when Republicans were fighting the Employee Free Choice Act and their big talking point was that it removed the sacrosanct “secret ballot”? Yeah, well, what the Employee Free Choice Act said was that once a majority of workers had signed cards saying they wanted a union, they had one. Now, Republicans are demanding that a majority of workers have to go through exactly that process, only after a majority of workers sign cards saying they want a union, they additionally have to go through a so-called “secret ballot” election, with management using the time between the petition for election and the election itself to try to persuade or intimidate them into voting against the union.

Obviously we need to hear more details, but my initial take is that this is something of a win. I would’ve expected Republicans to hold the FAA hostage to … elimination of the National Labor Relations Board or something. But boy does this ever show how full of shit Republicans were with all that “secret ballot” nonsense.

Discuss

Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 01:36 PM PST

Union draws parallels between Mitt Romney and Florida Gov. Rick Scott in Republican primary ad

by Laura Clawson

Florida voters have a ton of buyer’s remorse over Gov. Rick Scott, and AFSCME is putting that to use with an $800,000 Republican primary buy for the ad above, which draws a comparison between Scott and Mitt Romney. Greg Sargent reports that:

The unusual involvement of a major labor union in a GOP primary is a sign that Obama’s outside allies view Romney as the all but certain GOP nominee — and the toughest Republican in a general election.

Larry Scanlon, AFSCME’s political director, says the union may invest in other GOP primaries down the line, too, depending on the response this ad gets. He acknowledged that the union views Romney as the toughest opponent Obama could face, but added there’s no reason for labor not to start spending big money to define him right away, to influence not just the primary but the general election, too. Florida, of course, is a major general election swing state.

It’s starting to look like Mitt Romney’s record at Bain will have some unfortunate (for Romney) echo in practically every state he comes to, giving his opponents—primary or general election—plenty of local interest to work with.

Discuss

Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 12:42 PM PST

Republicans want to eliminate labor board now, but wait until next time a Republican is president

by Laura Clawson


Josh Eidelson points out one of the central ironies of the Republican crusade against the National Labor Relations Board:

The Labor Board is charged with enforcing employers’ and unions’ compliance with the Wagner Act – including the anti-union Taft-Hartley amendments Congress added in 1947. […]

Although the Labor Board often fines or forbids unions that seek aggressive action against the 1%, and regularly leaves workers waiting for years to get their jobs back after being fired for organizing, Republicans are on the warpath against the agency.

During George W. Bush’s presidency, you didn’t hear a whole lot of complaints from Republicans about the NLRB—because it was busy issuing a whole bunch of anti-union decisions. And even as Republicans have been howling about how, under Obama, the NLRB was allegedly putting a boot on the neck of businesses and tilting the playing field toward unions, the board has gotten an injunction against disruptive union picketing at the Port of Longview and has fined another union for obstructing an NLRB investigation.

It’s no surprise that Republicans would be outraged at an agency’s very existence under one president after having used it aggressively under the previous one, or that they’d act as if actions taken by the board to protect workers from businesses were the sum total of what it was doing. But it’s an important reminder of just how situational their outrage is. They really are like a bunch of toddlers who go in an instant from loving a toy to flinging it down at the slightest frustration.

Discuss

Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 07:27 AM PST

Caterpillar threatening to move jobs from Canada to U.S. in search of cheap labor

by Laura Clawson


Here’s another entry in the “company going to America for cheap labor” category for you: Iconic heavy machinery manufacturer Caterpillar bought a plant in Canada just two years ago—and now it’s planning to move those jobs to Indiana unless Canadian workers will agree to massive concessions. Massive like a 50 percent pay cut, giving up their pension, and more, and Caterpillar has locked the workers out to drive home how serious it is about this, as Huffington Post’s Lila Shapiro reports.

Caterpillar isn’t suffering financially; in fact, it’s been profitable consistently over the past five years and profits spiked over and above that in late 2011. And it’s not that the Canadian workers of whom Caterpillar is demanding a 50 percent pay cut make outrageously much money. It’s that the Muncie, Indiana workers earn so little: $24,000, below the median income in the U.S. and just above the 2010 poverty threshold for a family of four. Shapiro points out that:

The situation at Caterpillar illustrates an emerging problem with the nascent economic recovery: While corporations are rebounding from the depths of the recession, working Americans aren’t. Corporate profits are at their highest level in decades while worker compensation is at a relative 50-year low. Much hope has been placed in the rebound of North American manufacturing, but while the industry has added some 334,000 positions in the past two years, many of the new jobs don’t pay the old middle class wages. […]

“It’s a fundamental problem: Now we have a situation where there’s not enough purchasing power in the American economy to feed this recovery,” said Thomas Kochan, a management expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“It’s not all bad,” he continued, pointing to companies like General Electric, which have slashed wages while profits were strong in return for continued investment in the United States and the promise of more jobs. Other companies must cut wages to stay alive, such as the auto makers, which pay new workers nearly half what starting employees made before the crash.

“But if it’s just companies slashing wages because they’ve got the power to do so, then it’s dysfunctional,” Kochan said.

Standards may vary on what constitutes “companies slashing wages because they’ve got the power to do so” rather than because they need to; I suspect that MIT management expert Kochan and I locate that at rather different starting points. But there seems to be no question that Caterpillar falls into this “dysfunctional” category. Other words that might be applied include “abusive” and “evil.”

Discuss

Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 02:46 PM PST

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels opposed anti-union bill before he supported it

by Laura Clawson

It’s not exactly a secret that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels once opposed passing a so-called “right to work” law in his state, but it’s nice to have the video reminder that in 2006 he said, to a union audience:

We cannot afford to have civil wars over issues that might divide us and divert us from that path. I have said over and over, I’ll say it again tonight: I’m a supporter of the labor laws we have in the state of Indiana. I’m not interested in changing any of it. Not the prevailing wage laws, and certainly not the right to work law. We can succeed in Indiana with the laws we have, respecting the rights of labor, and fair and free competition for everybody.

Amanda Terkel traces Daniels’ shifting positions on the issue:

In March 2006, the South Bend Tribune in Indiana noted, “Daniels had said earlier this year that he opposed right-to-work legislation as too divisive. But he did not address its inherent merits or demerits.”

In December 2010, however, Daniels said that the right-to-work issue was “legitimate” but was “too big to do without having discussed it out in the open first.”

“I’ll also say I think it would have the potential — just tactically — to possibly reduce or wreck the chances for education reform and local government reform and criminal justice reform and the things we have a wonderful chance to do,” he added, acknowledging that it would be incredibly controversial.

Today, though, the Republican war on workers is in full swing and Daniels has not only given in to Republican legislators in his state who hold hurting workers and unions as their top priority, he’s become the face of their campaign.

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