Archive for March 18th, 2012

They’re 17 States Considering A State Owned State



This Week In The War On Workers: Rich Kids Get To Go To College, Poor Don’t

In our supposed meritocracy, it isn’t a surprise that kids from high-income families are more likely to graduate from college than kids from low-income families. But, while test scores from eighth grade math are nowhere near the only measure of student merit, it does say a little something about that meritocracy that high-income kids with low eighth grade math scores graduate from college at the same rate as low-income kids with high eighth grade math scores.

And more:

  • If you eat chicken you’ll want to pay attention to this one: The Food Safety and Inspection Service is proposing a new inspection system for chicken plants, raising the line speed from 91 chickens per minute to 175 chickens per minute, reducing the number of inspectors, privatizing some current inspection jobs so that the poultry plants are inspecting their own work (do you want to trust them with that?), and spraying chickens with chemicals to kill salmonella and other nasties.
  • Every teacher I know is sick of hearing about how their work days supposedly end at like 3:00 in the afternoon. It’s a ludicrous thing to say—when do people imagine kids’ work gets graded, or lessons get planned? A new survey of teachers offers a reality check: Teachers reported working 53 hours a week on average.
  • Six things rich people need to stop saying.
  • It’s always a big scandal when an NCAA athlete takes a gift … but the NCAA is raking in tons of money on those athletes’ performances.


I don’t often write angry; however, after over a year of listening to Gov. Scott Walker’s bullshit I have had it with that union-busting bastard.

The Wisconsin State Journal, a right wing rag, quotes Walker puppet Cullen Werwie as saying,

“The latest letter from public sector union bosses shows clearly that Democrats and their allies put their politics before everything else, even their own members’ jobs.”

“Union bosses”—I am sick and fucking tired of hearing that nonsensical term. Want to know who the “union bosses” are, Walker? See that guy running the jack hammer fixing the public street? Yeah, that guy. He is the vice president of a union. That woman who took care of me in the hospital after I had neck surgery, she is a union president. That guy driving the snowplow … he is the secretary of the union.

In other words, these “union bosses” you keep talking about are my friends and neighbors. My brother was a “union boss” for a time. He was a carpenter for a local school district. But according to you, he was some big union fat cat. Gov, Walker, you have obviously never met my brother.

It is obvious why the Glorious Grand Poobah of Wisconsin uses terms like “union boss” and “union thug” … it is one hell of a lot easier to demonize a so-called “union boss” or “union thug” than it is to denigrate a kindergarten teacher. It is time to end the politics of division that the GOP is perpetrating. Shame on the Wisconsin State Journal and other media outlets for not calling Republican politicians to the mat for using these slurs when referring to our friends and neighbors. Teachers, county, municipal and state Workers are not the enemy. People in unions are not the enemy. Stop blaming the working class for the problems your rich fucking friends, I am looking at you Koch brothers, created!

We need to re-frame the unions in the media. If a politician or other rich asshole says “union thug” or “union boss” then we must respond with, “Why are you attacking our friends, neighbors and loved ones?” Turn it around on them make the GOP bastards explain why they are attacking working folks. We need to take the offensive!


Missouri’s Republican Senate candidates may not know what the minimum wage is, but they’re in agreement on one thing: It shouldn’t be raised. No, whatever the minimum wage is, it’s plenty as far as Rep. Todd Akin, businessman John Brunner, and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman are concerned.

The minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, which means $15,080 for a year of full-time work, just under the poverty threshold for a family of two. Of course, these candidates for United States Senate don’t know that. Asked during a radio debate what the minimum wage is and if they’d support increasing it, all three showed just how little they know.

Steelman, the only candidate to offer a specific guess for the minimum wage—getting it wrong at $7.50—offered a slightly garbled version of a classic argument against raising the minimum, that “young people sometimes can’t find jobs because they’re taken by other people and they don’t pay a lower wage … are unable to pay a lower wage because of the minimum wage so that squeezes jobs out.” Akin, too, claimed that raising the minimum wage would cost teenagers the chance to get experience at the low pay they are, according to him, worth.

The line that teenagers won’t be able to get jobs is a multipurpose argument that raising the minimum wage will lead to fewer jobs and that teenagers working part-time jobs are the only people making minimum wage anyway. But in fact, this is wrong on both counts: “a majority of minimum wage earners are adults working many hours and living in low-income households,” and studies show “that an increase in the minimum wage has a small—and even positive—impact on employment.”

That set of myths wasn’t Akin’s only objection to raising the minimum wage, though. He actually opposes its existence altogether, saying it’s “Just another example of a wrong thing that the government does. I don’t think the government should be setting the prices or wages on different things, I don’t think that’s the function of the government.”

As for the extremely wealthy Brunner, he didn’t know what the minimum wage is and, clearly taken aback at being asked about something as esoteric as how much businesses must legally pay their workers, and gave a nonsensical, buzzword-laden answer about how his business had always paid more than the minimum wage. Which is … not at all helpful for everyone who doesn’t work for him.

Missouri Republicans sure face a fantastic set of choices.


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has claimed to have a “laser focus” on jobs. He has failed spectacularly, as you can see in the graph above comparing employment change in six Midwestern states, with Wisconsin lagging dramatically behind its neighbors.

While governors don’t have total control over everything in their states’ economies, when other states in your region of the country post jobs gains and your state struggles to break even in the private sector at the same time as you are laying off public sector workers, leading to an overall loss … well, that’s on you. The Economic Policy Institute’s Doug Hall points out why laying off public sector workers would hurt other workers, too: Goal Thermometer

Because public sector workers are a vital part of every state economy—firefighters, teachers, police officers and department of health officials all buy clothing, groceries, and movie-tickets just like private sector workers—laying them off hurts us all by reducing economic activity, which holds back the recovery.

Walker used jobs to justify his assaults on public workers and his efforts to hand over any possible advantage to big business. But a year of data gives us the big picture: If he was “laser focused” on jobs, apparently that laser was set to “destroy.”

Please, contribute $6 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to recall Scott Walker.


Trumka and Obama

President Obama with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in August 2010. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Politico’s Joseph Williams sallies forth with a story titled “Labor’s lost love for Obama returns,” a perfect example of how political reporters miss the big questions by trying to fit labor into the standard narratives of political reporting. You see, “After three years of spats, President Barack Obama and the unions have embraced each other again” and “The AFL-CIO became the latest major union to support Obama’s reelection when it endorsed him this week.” (The AFL-CIO, of course, is not a union. It is a federation of unions.) So the story as Politico tells it is unions loved Obama in 2008, then got mad, but then he started talking about jobs and now they just love him again, no questions asked. Why did they get mad in 2009 and 2010? Things like this:

The White House’s failure to communicate its position angered the unions, [a former government official who worked closely with the White House on labor issues] said, but the administration thought defeat on the EFCA was a foregone conclusion.

“Organized labor had the sense EFCA was going to get done,” the former White House aide said. “We thought we’d already lost that fight.”

The thing is, if organized labor “had the sense” the Employee Free Choice Act was on the agenda, it’s because people in the Obama administration told union leaders that was the case. One can question the decision by union leaders to believethe Obama administration on that, particularly as the claim that this union priority would become an administration priority immediately after health care reform was being made at the same time environmental leaders were apparently being told an energy bill would be the next priority. But it’s not like union leaders just decided, on their own, to believe that the White House would support EFCA even as people in the administration were flatly telling them otherwise.

But, according to Politico’s 2012 election narrative, Obama gave some pro-union speeches and pushed some jobs legislation and poof, unions were uncritically back on his side.

And, okay, yeah, maybe the stark comparison between the fierce anti-union positions of the Republican presidential candidates and Obama’s theoretical, if not usually fiercely fought, support for union rights has something to do with it. Maybe it’s that, in the words of American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, “Elections are choices. They’re not referendums.” But either way, to hear Politico tell it, 2012 will be 2008 all over again as far as union support for Obama goes.

In fact, the AFL-CIO at least has made a serious point that it will not be campaigning for Obama in 2012 and then relaxing, relying on him to push through the legislation unions care about. Instead, the labor federation will be working in 2012 to prepare union members to keep campaigning, after the elections, for a pro-worker agenda. That’s a significant shift and one that speaks to the clear view that while a second Obama term is necessary if unions and non-union workers alike are not going to be completely trampled starting in 2013, a second Obama term without a strong progressive movement in the interests of working people is in no way sufficient to end the dominance of the top 1 percent.


Mitch Daniels

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (Secret list not shown)

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has been bragging about a secret list. It’s the list of companies that he claims are thinking about moving to Indiana and creating jobs there because of the passage of the state’s new right to work free rider law, and it’s 28 companies long, three of them supposedly committed to moving to Indiana. That sounds like a genuine boost to a state’s economy. The catch is that the only company Daniels has been able to name as having brought jobs to Indiana because of the anti-union law says that’s not actually what happened:

MBC Group President Eric Holloway said Thursday that he always planned to expand his Brookville operations and that a state news release issued two weeks ago mistakenly quoted him as saying “right to work” legislation factored into his decision.

“We are not a union shop. The effect that this was going to have was not going to affect our decision one way or another,” said Holloway, whose company estimates that its planned $4.1 million expansion will create up to 101 new jobs.

When your evidence that a law is creating jobs is 28 companies you can’t name and one that says the jobs it’s creating have nothing to do with your law, that’s called grasping at straws. Also “making shit up.”


Romney hates unions

To amplify a bit:

  1. Right to work No rights at work laws are terrible for workers.
  2. Mitt Romney is angry at the National Labor Relations Board because, under President Obama, it has been fulfilling its mission of upholding labor law. Sometimes that means companies get in trouble for illegally firing workers or otherwise retaliating against them for exercising their rights. When George W. Bush’s NLRB was routinely favoring business, Republicans were not so outraged.
  3. Can you say “race to the bottom”?
  4. The people of Ohio made clear how they felt about Senate Bill 5.
  5. Union leaders get labeled as “having no interest in a constructive relationship with management” when they lead fights against wage and pension cuts, against making it easier to fire workers or cut their hours—in general, when they try to deny corporations the total control over workers’ lives they want.


Louisiana education protest

Teachers wait to get into the Louisiana Capitol. (@LAEducators)

Education reform bills that would scapegoat teachers rather than actually improving schooling in Connecticut and Louisiana drew rather different demonstrations this week. In Louisiana, many schools canceled classes as teachers traveled to Baton Rouge to protest Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to expand charter schools, make it easier to fire teachers and implement a voucher privatization program. Hundreds of teachers gathered at the state Capitol to lobby against the bill—but they had trouble getting inside:

State policy and legislative security officials conceded that they restricted access to two of the three Capitol entrances usually open to the public. Only staff and credentialed news media and lobbyists could enter through those doors. That left just one entrance, at the top of the front steps, with the assembled teachers funneled through one metal detector.

A Louisiana House committee approved the charter expansion and voucher program, paving the way to take money out of the public schools and lessen accountability.

Connecticut’s Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy has an education plan that’s bad, but not as bad as Jindal’s—corporate education reform superstar Michelle Rhee came to Connecticut to push for its passage, but also told the Hartford Courant that the bill is just “a good first step.” Rhee’s StudentsFirst organization, which claims 15,000 members in the state, joined with other education reform groups to hold a rally in favor of the bill. By contrast with the hundreds who turned out in Louisiana and despite those 15,000 alleged members, this rally drew 75 people.


Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 06:41 AM PDT

Initial unemployment claims drop to 351,000

by Laura Clawson

unemployment initial claims

The Department of Labor is reporting that there were 351,000 initial claims for unemployment last week, dropping 14,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 365,000. This ties a four-year low reached last month and continues the trend of unemployment claims falling below the 375,000 threshold signaling sustained job gains. The four-week moving average, a measure which reduces volatility, was unchanged at 355,750.

The number of people claiming benefits in all state unemployment programs plus the federal emergency extended program for the week ending February 25 was 7,424,040, an increase of 36,392 from the previous week. As Meteor Blades has noted, though, we can expect that number to drop in coming months as reduced eligibility for the extended program kicks in.


Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Hans Pennink/Reuters)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s legislature are reported to be close to a deal on public worker pensions. Cuomo had been insisting he would force a state government shutdown rather than bend on his demands, but the New York Daily News reports that a deal may be reached “by the end of the night” Wednesday that includes several key concessions from Cuomo.

Instead of raising the public employee retirement age to 65, as Cuomo wanted, it will go to 63; workers would be eligible for pension benefits after 10 years, as is currently the case, rather than the 12 years Cuomo sought. Firefighters and police are likely to be exempted in some form.

Crucially, the reported deal would omit Cuomo’s desired defined contribution plan, of which the AFL-CIO said in a statement that it “would pull employee contributions out of the Pension system, fail to provide retirement security for those who opt in and turn billions of dollars in administrative fees over to Wall Street in the form of commissions.”

Unions have been organizing against Cuomo’s plan, with AFSCME beginning to run ads on black radio stations urging listeners to contact the governor opposing the pension cuts.


Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 01:50 PM PDT

Latino share of labor force projected to grow

by Laura Clawson

Hispanic share of workforce growth

The quickly growing Latino population in the United States may lag as a share of voters, but it is ahead of other groups as a share of the labor force. Pew’s Rajesh Kochhar examines a Bureau of Labor Statistics projection that between 2010 and 2020, 74 percent of the growth in the American labor force will be Latino workers. During that decade, “Hispanics are expected to add 7.7 million workers to the labor force while the number of non-Hispanic whites in the labor force is projected to decrease by 1.6 million.” If this projection holds, 18.6 percent of the labor force will be Latino in 2020.

Kochhar cites not just the rapid growth of the Latino population due to births and immigration, but the fact that:

The nation’s labor force participation rate—that is, the share of the population ages 16 and older either employed or looking for work—was 64.7% in 2010. Among Hispanics, the rate was 67.5%. There are two main explanations for this gap: Hispanics are a younger population than other groups, and include a higher share of immigrants.

Labor force participation doesn’t necessarily mean employment, though, and the unemployment rate among Latinos was 10.7 percent in February, 2.4 points higher than the overall unemployment rate. But expect the Republican fear-mongering about brown people taking “our” jobs to increase along with the Latino labor force.


Xiomara Perez

Xiomara Perez was fired for taking a bathroom break. (

The attempt by port truck drivers working in Southern California for the Australian-owned Toll Group to join a union has reached the retaliatory firings stage: Xiomara Perez, one of only two women among the 75 truck drivers working for Toll in Southern California, was fired on March 9 for having taken an emergency bathroom break days earlier.

It is illegal for a company to fire a worker for trying to join a union, but it happens all the time. The company doesn’t admit that’s the real reason for the firing, of course. It’s just that coincidentally someone who’s been an outspoken union supporter gets fired for a common practice that doesn’t typically draw any disciplinary action, let alone firing. Companies do this because it removes a leader from the workplace and intimidates other workers who might support the union, and because the penalties for doing so are laughably small. So it’s no coincidence that Xiomara Perez, who exactly fits that description, was targeted (PDF):

On Tuesday March 6th, Xiomara was driving to Rialto with a cargo load andbegan to feel slightly ill, thought she might throw up, and thus made an emergency detour. As a professional driver, Xiomara adheres to U.S. Department of Transportation regulations that require any hauler to pull over if they feel faint, fatigued, etc. – in other words, truckers must use their best judgment to protect their own safety, the public, and the merchandise they carry. She found a McDonald’s she was familiar with where she could freely use the restroom and get a sandwich to settle her stomach to continue her workday. She instantly felt better and got back on the road; the safety diversion took roughly 10 minutes at the most.

A male supervisor quickly questioned her, via radio, about why she had stopped; “Already feeling intimidated, and reluctant to disclose private information about her body functions to a male manager, she made an excuse in order to instead contact a female human resources supervisor.” But when she got back to Toll after delivering her cargo, supervisors inspected her clothes and truck—apparently nothing less than vomit splattered all over would have justified her 10-minute bathroom break. Three days later:

Toll fired Xiomara, citing an unreasonably restrictive work policy prohibiting employees from stopping – even to use a restroom – when delivering a load. Xiomara had asked for the policy in writing but was denied. Many of her co-workers say it is common practice to stop to use the restroom…

A group of Xiomara’s coworkers(PDF) is sending Toll a letter calling for her reinstatement and the Teamsters have filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

Let the Toll Group know its truck drivers aren’t the only ones who are outraged by this firing. Sign our petition calling on the Toll Group to reinstate Xiomara Perez, let truck drivers take bathroom breaks, and stop intimidating union supporters.



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