Video: Massive corporations against The Employee Free Choice Act

The who, what, where, when, how and why, of the forces against the American worker.

Wow, everything I speak about, and even more, this fantastic video that explains better than I can, about the opponents of The Employee Free Choice Act, and a bit of history in the process.



A huge thanks to NoahKunin at The Uptake for posting this video

You can read more about Myth Vs. Fact about the Employee Free Choice Act at The US House Of Representative's Committee Of Labor and Education "Employee Free Choice Act: Myth vs. Fact "

Video: Wal-Mart-The high cost of low prices

Never viewed this before, so I got a YouTube account just to put it all together, for more info you can check out what people over at iMDB, the Internet Movie Data Base, have to say about it, it gets a rating of 6.9 out of a possible 10, by 1,822 viewers.



For my viewers via E-Mail, the link for the show is below

Bush to attack the American worker once more

Wow, its certainly a war against the American worker, the Bush administration is at it again, this time they are going after private sector companies which have governmental contracts. This administration would make a card-check negotiated by both sides illegal. That means that even the companies that pre-negotiate a path where the workers can get into a union with just a card check, they will now have to have a 'secret-ballot' election. What part of "if the American workers want a union, they sign a card saying they want a union, the company agreed that this would be enough, so the American workers have a union", is such a terrible idea?

From The Wall Street Journal (8/29/08):
White House Prepares Order On Union Organizing
By KRIS MAHER

The Bush administration is weighing an executive order that would eliminate a union-preferred method of labor organizing at large government contractors, according to people familiar with the situation.

Labor leaders prefer a card-check system in which workers can form a union if a majority of them sign a union-authorization card. Companies generally prefer a secret-ballot election.

The issue has become a factor in some Senate races and the presidential campaign. Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, supports legislation favoring the card-check approach. Sen. John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, opposes such legislation.

The executive order would require large government contractors to use secret-ballot elections for union organizing or risk losing government contracts, say people familiar with the order. Though companies typically prefer secret ballots, some are willing to accept card checks to avoid a fight.

It isn't clear if the order would apply to a company's entire operations or only those operations serving the government. According to a person familiar with a draft of the order, it would exclude companies with small government contracts.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto declined to comment on the matter. It is possible President George W. Bush would choose not to sign the order being prepared by lower-ranking officials, people familiar with the matter said.

Union leaders believe the order, if issued, could derail some current organizing drives. Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, said his union is negotiating a card-check agreement with a large defense contractor and the order "could very well affect us." The union represents 75,000 engineers and technical workers at Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Electric Co., among other companies.

Rick Berman runs the Washington-based Center for Union Facts, which opposes card-check campaigns. He said he was aware of the order and called it "long overdue." He said the order shows "the government is not going to promote the hijacking of democracy through their government-contracting process."

Labor officials who have heard of the plans criticized the idea. "This is politics at its worst," said Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO's director of government affairs. He called the order a gift to the business community "from the most antiunion administration that we've seen."


For more information about Rick Berman and his Center For Union Facts, check out my article at Union Review from 9/7/07, entitled "Center For Union Facts ? Anti-Union Lobby At It's Worst ", and the Anti-Union network at American Rights At Work.

MTA worker, use bathroom, lose your job?

Need to go, your sh!t out of luck

Here's a story which actually shows how bad it is when you have to go to the restroom in the New York City subways, this guy works for the NYC Mass Transit Authority. It's the story of James Mitchel, a NYC transit conductor and member of TWU local100, who has a health problem which causes him to need restroom relief, and even though they won't try to fire him for using the restrooms when he has to go, it seems that they may be going after him on other ways.

From YouTube via NY1


Now, I have had to go to the bathroom when being on a train in New York, it's an amazingly bad experience. While I have actually noticed at least one station with a restroom, they are few and far between. I would think that stopping public urination would be a lot easier if there was more restrooms, hell it could be done very simply, add a few port-o-johns on all the stations, it might not be the greatest restroom break, but at least you wont find a homeless person sleeping in one. It's a nice temporary solution to the discomfort of every subway rider, it would get more users and it would create more jobs as the port-o-johns would need to be trained off to a cleaning location and replaced with a new one each day.

Sometimes a solution is really easy, how much would it possibly cost? Mayor Bloomberg has been stretching for something to leave as his legacy, from the Olympic ready Jet's stadium, to windmills on skyscrapers. He could have his name emboldened on every toilet in the MTA system. We could even call them port-o-bloomies, hell we could possibly curtail the scratcher graffitti in the city if we all one side of the john to be opened to the workings of local artists as long as they get permits for the sites they want to create on, with the stipulation that they are allowed to express themselves as long as they vow to end the scratching and use other mediums such as paint markers and acrylics. The other side could have advertising. This project could give us art, a place to go, more workers and another advertising venue, which probably would pay for it in full.
So without further ado, here's my version, minus the stainless steel, the artwork, the real advertising, and the video camera pointing at it.

The Bloomie

img363/6233/thebloomieqt6.jpg

The job Americans can't do


According to John McCain, American workers can't do this for $50 an hour

I love it since writing the original story "Why is John McCain offering lettuce picking jobs for $50 an hour?" I am now the third hit on Google for the term "picking lettuce"

Dennis Kucinich at DNC: Wake up America

Now I bet you don't see Ron Paul speak at the RNC

One of the censored candidates I wish we got to hear more from.

Wake up America. This is not a call for you to take a new direction from right to left.

This is call for you to go from down to up. Up with the rights of workers.

Up with wages.

Up with fair trade.

Up with creating millions of good paying jobs rebuilding our bridges, ports and water systems. Up with creating millions of sustainable energy jobs to lower the cost of energy, lower carbon emissions and protect the environment.

Full transcript at AlterNet

Frank Zappa on Freedom Of Speech

God rest Frank Zappa's soul, I miss his influence

Rage Against The Machine video

"Wake up! Wake up!, Wake up!, Wake up!, Wake up!, Wake up!" - Rage Against The Machine
That's not the song, this one is "Killing In The Name", It's a great protest song with some explicit lyrics

Why is John McCain offering lettuce picking jobs for $50 an hour?

John McCain voted 19 times against raising the minimum wage in the United States, John McCain voted to remove prevailing wage laws, John McCain has voted yes to every single free trade agreement, I can go on. Well why wouldn't he? This guy is so disassociated from reality it makes me sick to my stomach to think that any union construction worker would even fathom voting for this piece of (work).

Yeah, I know the talking points, people respect him, he's known as a maverick, he was a POW, yeah I know, I won't be able to persuade people to vote against him, or abstain altogether for that matter. Well you know what, I have a principal to uphold, that being telling you the truth. If anyone ever feels I'm wrong or misinformed, I'll always be opened to their views, I mean I'm new to this, I can sure learn a lot.

Now I also have a job to protect, I make my wages off of my labor, without work I would not have food, John McCain has continuously voted against my bread and butter, and unless you are self-sufficient and/or living off a multi-million dollar trust fund, this guy has voted against your ability to feed your family, and he has done this religiously.

In 2006 John McCain spoke in front of a group of union construction workers. My fellow labor activist friend, PaulVA posted a short clip and the story at DailyKOS, here's a video with just the audio.

Here's the transcript
McCain: I don't think I need to tell you that there are jobs that Americans will not do. I don't think I need to tell you that there, are, are....

*Rumblings in the crowd, McCain, obviously flustered sorta continues*


McCain:...backbone of our economy.

Construction worker#1: Why don't you pay them the right wages.
Construction worker #2: Pay them the right wages!

McCain: You know, I've heard that statement before. Now my friends, I'll offer any one of you here $50 dollars an hour if you'll go pick lettuce in Yuma this, this season, and, and pick for the whole season.

*Construction workers obviously agitated by McCain's disassociation for reality are jeering
*

McCain:
(loud and now viciously attacking the workers) So.., OK, sign up....Ok, now you sign up, you sign up and you will be there for the WHOLE SEASON, THE WHOLE SEASON! Not just for one day! Because you just can't do it my friend!

Just one last quip, why on god's green earth would anyone think that when their union sends out Political action letters explaining who they support in elections does the membership always think that they are getting screwed? Are you kidding me? We have seen what voting for the other candidates has brought us, we now live completely under the control of greed, we pay for it at every turn. Why on earth would we even play into the bullshit of off shore drilling, does anyone think that would actually help us at all? It would use our tax dollars to help these corporate scums take our oil and sell it, look what our government sponsored tax giveaway to the biofuel/agricultural industry has gotten us, higher prices for everything. It causes more environmental damage, as biofuel isn't able to be piped from one area to another, it gets lower mileage per gallon than regular gasoline, it uses our food supply, I mean really everything was made with corn because it was cheap, corn syrup, animal feed, etc. I mean how much is corn nowadays? How much is the meat that needs to be fed corn nowadays?

Do I think that a Democratic Congress and President would cure our ills? Well all I know is this. The only way anything will change for working people is if we hold whoever gets elected accountable. It's not just getting them elected, it's making sure that we, as Americans, can actually start uniting against the war against the working class, against the war on the lower 1% of humankind.

We can make this a better world, it's not these elected officials, it's about solidarity, it's about seeing what our human needs are, it's about getting our message across that we will not be screwed anymore, and we must not stop until our united voices are heard.

We have lived through the war on communism, the war on drugs and the current war on terror. I'd like to see a President declare a war on greed. Will Obama do that? I just don't know for sure. Will McCain do that? Absolutely not!

Do something. Union starts with U/you! Hell, for that matter, so does the United States.

New York: Labor Day mass at St.Patrick's Cathederal

This ones for brother Manny, who brought this up at tonight's union meeting, from the New York Central Trades and Labor Council:
Annual Labor Day Mass
Sep. 7 2008
Time: 10:15am
Location: St. Patrick's Cathedral Fifth Avenue & 51 St.

Details:

FOR UNIONS
AND
FRIENDS OF LABOR

WE CELEBRATE THE DIGNITY
OF THE WORKER

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2008
10:15AM Mass
Cathedral of Saint Patrick
NEW YORK CITY

**His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan Archbishop of New York
Celebrant and Homilist

Note: Please bring your organization’s banner and stand.
Arrive at 9:45 AM for the opening processional.

Child labor in America, are we going backwards?

"What happened to the investigation into Agriprocessors? We had over a dozen children testify to us. Children! 14, 15, 16 year old's, who worked up to double shifts in that back room, with full knowledge of their supervisors. When are we gonna take action against them true criminals?" -Congressman Luis Guitierrez

When reading and writing about the crimes committed at Agriprocessor's, the nations largest Kosher meat distributor, they allegedly had a crystal meth lab on the site, they paid no overtime, they had almost 400 illegal aliens working at their plant and forced double shifts upon the workers, but, the one that sticks out, even more than all the others, is their failure to abide by the child labor laws of the United States. They had a girl plucking feathers from dead chickens who was only 13! They had 57 under age employees! They were forced to work double shifts! Their supervision knew it all!

Why does it bother me so much. Well growing up poor and having to work at a wee age myself, I can attest to mistreatment by bosses, I mean I even cleaned the INSIDE of a garbage truck that picked up at the local poultry market and had to wait to get paid, had to even go directly to the owners "mansion" to collect a measly $20. I smirked when I heard that the owner of the company died, good for him, I hope it was painful.

From the last story which I posted today, "Al Jazeera: The truth about illegal immigration in the USA", Congressman Luis Guitierrez, from Illinois, asks, "What happened to the investigation into Agriprocessors? We had over a dozen children testify to us. Children! 14, 15, 16 year old's, who worked up to double shifts in that back room, with full knowledge of their supervisors. When are we gonna take action against them true criminals?"

So how far deeper do we have to go back into time before 5 year old's are picking nuts and collecting oysters?


Remember people, before George W. Bush I worked in a warehouse in Brooklyn, it was a good union job, one day immigration swooped into the warehouse, out of the 600 workers 3 did not have their paperwork, 3, and 2 just didn't have their papers on them. You got that, out of 600 workers in a warehouse in New York, during the Clinton administration, only 1 was an undocumented worker! So where have we wound up in the last 8 years, we have the Department Of Homeland Security, we have the threat of "terrorism" and we now have probably about 15 million undocumented workers who have no rights.

George W. Bush has created a country where anyone can get in, a country where undocumented workers routinely work on the infrastructure and are routinely treated like slaves. George W. Bush and his cronnies have completely f@cked the American working class. John McCain, who is known as a maverick has voted 90% on policies, laws and changes that were approved by George W. Bush. Someone mentioned that that's more like a sidekick than a maverick. Now I don't blame Bush alone, I blame the people who hold the strings to the puppet, John McCain is the next in line to get Bush's strings. Isn't it time to get a new set of puppeteers?

History, if we fail to learn from it, we are forced to repeat it

Here's a few images by Lewis Hine on Child labor in America in the early 1900's
From the National Child Labor Committee Collection, thousands of pictures at link
http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/guide/pp7476.jpg
Shrimp and Oyster Worker, Biloxi, Miss. Lewis Hine, photographer. 1911 Feb.
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pnp/cph/3b30000/3b38000/3b38400/3b38482r.jpg
Six black workers in the Alexandria (Va.) Glass Factory." Lewis Hine, photographer. Photographic print. 1911 June.
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pnp/cph/3b30000/3b38000/3b38100/3b38160r.jpg
Six members of Slebzak family in field, five of whom are working on Bottomley's farm near Baltimore, Maryland. Lewis Hine, photographer. Photographic print. 1909 July

Image, Source: digital file from original photograph, later scan

Unknown photographer: Photograph shows half-length portrait of two girls wearing banners with slogan "ABOLISH CH[ILD] SLAVERY!!" in English and Yiddish, one carrying American flag; spectators stand nearby. Probably taken during May 1, 1909 labor parade in New York City.

Al Jazeera: The truth about illegal immigration in the USA

"By and large our Congressmen and Senators have no clue"- Tommy Bruguiere, 7th. generation apple farmer, Virginia

When our own media turns a blind eye to the stories that matter to us, sometimes you have to go elsewhere, Al Jazeera, who recently wrote up on the underground economy and the real safety concerns in the New York construction industry, does it again, tell the truth.

If you are blind to the facts of immigration, I beg you to take in more facts around the net.

This video covers a lot of area in a short time, one of the greatest lines is by Congressman Luis Guitierrez, from Illinois, who asks, "What happened to the investigation into Agriprocessors? We had over a dozen children testify to us. Children! 14, 15, 16 year old's, who worked up to double shifts in that back room, with full knowledge of their supervisors. When are we gonna take action against them true criminals?"

So I ask, what is going to happen? I have heard rumors that they may face a fine of up to $1,000,000, big deal. Child labor was abolished in this country, people like Mother Jones spoke up about it, some of my newest logo's for the site are from photographer, Lewis Hine, who in the early 1900's went from sea to shining sea to show the nation the abuses of children who as young as 5 years old worked in such industries as canning, coal mines, the seafood industry and clothing sweatshops. What monster has our corporate controlled government become to throw away what our forefathers had so valiently fought for?

Read the story above to see the pictures of how far we have come in 100 years, and why we should never go back

I found this via AlterNet:
AlterNet
Click below to see more videos by Al Jazeera:
http://i3.ytimg.com/u/Nye-wNBqNL5ZzHSJj3l8Bg/watch_header.jpg

Speaking about illegal immigration, Charlie over at UBCNewsroom, posted on Union Review on the most recent ICE raid, this time they detained over 600 workers at an electrical manufacturing plant in Mississippi.

Change To Win brings McSame and his oil buddies to the DNC2008

Spotted this on the CTW Connect web blog, Jason Lefkowitz, one of the managing editors at the CTW blog is in Colorodo covering the Democratic National convention, he brought us back some great photos of the Change to Win truth squad in action, from "DNC 2008: John McSame Crashes the Party":

A few days ago, I told you about a new team — the Change to Win Truth Squad — who were setting out across the country to spread the word about John McCain’s anti-worker, anti-American Dream policies.

Well, this morning the Truth Squad’s bus rolled up in front of the Colorado Convention Center, where Democrats from across the country were busily getting ready for the opening of the convention on Monday. And they brought some new friends with them — John McSame, enemy of change, and his close buddies from the oil industry.

It didn’t take long for a crowd to gather, and I was lucky enough to be there with my camera, so here’s a slideshow for you:



Remember, if you want to follow the Truth Squad’s adventures across America, you can get the latest updates at WorseThanBush.org

Video: Barack Obama on unions


Link to YouTube Video

550,000 sign Employee Free Choice Act petition

Wow, I haven't even submitted the physical signatures from my own home local yet, this is great news, I gathered a few from the union hall last week and noticed that the membership is taking this serious, not only have the union members signed, but there is also family members and friends signatures for the measure, here's the latest info from AFL-CIO now
550,000 Sign on in Million-Member Effort for Employee Free Choice
The union movement’s nationwide drive to get at least 1 million signatures in support of the Employee Free Choice Act is past the halfway mark and is growing rapidly.

In just five months, more than 550,000 people have signed postcards to tell the new president and Congress that working families across America want them to immediately enact the legislation.

The cards will be presented to the new Congress after the November elections in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. (You can show your support for the Employee Free Choice Act by clicking here to sign our online card.)

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) is among the most active groups building support for the bill. As of Aug. 20, some 37,101 CWA members had signed the postcards, as local unions and activists gear up for actions centered around the final two months of the 2008 elections.

This week, members of IUE-CWA Local 83761 sent more than 900 cards. Local union stewards had distributed the cards among members at a GE appliance plant in Louisville, Ky., where employers have threatened to close the plant. More than 40 percent of the local’s members have signed up.

Says William Spires, president of Local 83761:

Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act is key to helping us organize and build bargaining strength in our troubled industry. The Employee Free Choice Act would allow workers to decide freely how they want to choose a union without employer interference.

The AFL-CIO Executive Council voted in March to launch the Million-Member Mobilization. In a statement, the council lays out the urgent need to pass the bill:

America’s workers must regain their bargaining power to maintain and expand the middle class. The American middle class was created by the ability of workers to form unions and bargain collectively after the passage of the Wagner Act in 1935.

More and more Americans are beginning to understand that collective bargaining can promote broadly shared economic growth and prosperity, higher wages, better jobs, better and more extensive health care coverage, retirement security and respect for workers on the job.
You can sign the petition by clicking the image below

LIUNA urges you to sign on to "Build America so America works"

From LIUNA, the Laborers International Union Of North America, comes a petition to Congress urging investment in the infrastructure of the United States, to save money in the long run, create good jobs and help to create a better tomorrow for generations to come.
http://www.liunabuildsamerica.org/files/images/pouringconcrete.jpg

From The LIUNA Action Network:
The United States is the nation that has achieved the most advanced engineering pursuits to benefit its people and the world. We are the first to put a man on the moon, to build a super-highway system, to create unrivaled air and rail transportation, and first-class public spaces, such as schools. But today, we can no longer be assured of crossing the Mississippi River safely, of protecting families from failing dams or levees or of providing a transportation system that works.

* Americans spend 3.5 billion hours a year stuck in traffic on our highways, which due to years of neglect now require $94 billion a year in maintenance and improvement costs alone - more than double what is currently allocated, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. If we maintain and upgrade our highway system, we can save significantly and get to work or pick up our children on time.

* At least 31 percent of our country's bridges are structurally deficient leading to tragedies such as the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis. We can prevent these kinds of tragedies by repairing our bridges.

* Approximately $30 billion is needed to renovate, repair and build new classrooms in our public schools. We can invest in future generations by taking care of our schools.

* Across America there are 3,500 unsafe dams and 50 percent of waterway locks are functionally obsolete leading to deadly breaches such as what occurred in New Orleans. We have identified problems and we have the ability to fix them so that natural disasters aren?t exacerbated.

* Upgrades to the nation's electric transmission system are occurring at only a third of the rate of increased demand, according to the Consumer Energy Council of America. To increase domestic energy production by 30 percent, we can invest in traditional energy sources and biofuel refineries, wind turbines, ethanol production and clean coal technologies.

* Demand for railway shipping is expected to increase 50 percent in the next 12 years, far outstripping our nation's current rail capacity and threatening to divert rail shipping to our already congested highway system. We can free our highways by rebuilding our railways.

For the sake of America's competitive place in the world, for our economy and good jobs, in order to reverse the downward slide in our lifestyles and as an investment for future generations, I want to add my voice to that of the half-million working men and women of the Laborers' International Union of North America in urging Congress to make building America a national priority and redirect our nation's resources to doing so.
You can get involved and let your voice be heard by going to the site and getting E-Active, just click the image below to get started
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Video: Painter's union members in Ohio show support for Obama

In late July, some Obama supporters, and members of The International Union Of Painters and Allied Trades(IUPAT) in rural Ohio found a new way to show their enthusiasm for Obama, by painting their family barn.


Big thanks to the Ohio state AFL-CIO for the link

Why Joe's Union Review is voting Republican

Big hat's off to the folks over at the Change To Win labor federation for linking to our sites (Union Review, Joe's Union Review and Women, Unions and Our Stories) on their new web page called Worse than Bush.org, here's the video that got me smiling

Here's my add in:
"I'm voting Republican because I think our returning vets that claim they have PTSD are a bunch of crybabies, who the hell are they to want medical attention, and while we are at it, why the hell should they get benefits towards higher education, they should feel lucky they even had a job in the first place"

*Joe's Note: John McCain was vehemently against the new GI Bill that has been passed up until someone slapped him on the head and must have told him you better support this thing
http://worsethanbush.org/wp-content/themes/Prosumer/images/header4.gif

Home Depot needs unions, the Employee Free Choice Act and a labor relations firm

I took a look at the RSS feed which I got from the US Chamber Of Congress, this one searches the term "employee free choice" when it's posted on blogs, while the organization is vehemently against The Employee Free Choice Act they have given me a great RSS feed. Thanks US Chamber Of Commerce.

So one of the latest blog entries which used the term was by one of a a pair of labor management experts who run a blog about many issues at hand, The Contended Cows Blog, it's actually a great read. When checking their actual web page, The Contended Cow, I read that they are in the employee relations business, and their aim is to create a great workplace for employees to make better returns for the company. Well I certainly can agree with that, they have a ton of info, and while they might not be favorable to unions, I really don't see much against them.

But, I was a bit taken aback by the same old rhetoric used against the Employee Free Choice Act which I see on less scrupulous sites, the misinformation which is being perpetrated by many union avoidance firms around the net which state that the Bill will "take away secret-ballot" elections for workers wishing to join a union. That's just not true, I really wish they didn't play into that BS. At a quick glance of their site, it really seems that they sincerely want to create good jobs for workers, have good workers for the employers and have a means to retain those employees.

So I read through the article, which was written by Bill Catlette, I would guess is 1/2 of the Contended Cows, and while some of it isn't exactly clear in the message in which the author is trying to convey, the part that Bill made clear is that he is opposed to the Employee Free Choice Act and unfortunately in his explaining that he used the "scripted" untruths about the bill, I'm saddened as this looks like a blog I would really like to hang around, so here's what he said in the article entitled "Employee Free Choice Act isn’t Free, Fair, or Necessary":
The proposed legislation would overturn a 43 year old system in which union representation elections are conducted via a federally overseen secret ballot process, and replace it with a less formal “card check” procedure where the rules are enforced not by an unbiased federal representative, but a decidedly partisan union organizer. In essence, it is designed to do one thing and one thing only - to make it easier for labor unions to shore up their shrinking membership rolls, ‘er bank accounts.
And continues...
As one who for thirty years has been more than a casual student of employee relations, I can attest with some certainty that there is nothing about this bill that is good for American business or its employees. Moreover, as with many of the other labels (e.g., conservative, liberal, values voter) that seem to float unchallenged through our conversation these days, I am totally and completely perplexed by the name of this bill. How in the world can something that actually reduces freedom and eviscerates a scrupulously fair process be known as “employee free choice?”
So I had to reply, and it gave me a chance to explain why Home Depot could use a union
Let's be realistic, it would enormously benefit American employees and as far as the spin-doctored idea of "losing freedom", the Bill actually would let the workers decide if they would like a "secret ballot" election. Obviously the current system is completely in favor of the employers and is the cash cow for quite a few law firms who rely on "the fear of a unionized" work force to make a living. The true difference is that those union avoidance law firms would need to find new areas to make themselves needed. As far as helping American companies, it sure would, imagine if we had some more people with a little disposable income, that's a huge help for businesses, maybe people could actually afford to buy more stuff, consumerism at it's best.

Plus there is a huge benefit to have a work force that has something to work for, like keeping a good union job as opposed to a the fly by night minimum wagers who couldn't care less.

Take for instance the local Home Depot, where there is no union and it has a huge "us against them" worker attitude, the last time I shopped in the store I needed a small part for a shelving system, now without delving into the "if it were a mom and pop" there would have been an employee who went into a back room and came back to me within 2 minutes with the parts needed part of my story, lets focus on what happened.

I walked into the store, around 7:00PM, noticed there was a lot of people on line, around 12 with all sorts of stuff to purchase, with only one cash register opened, that's fine, I know the policy of big box stores, if they spent all that time shopping and they have no alternatives they will wait forever if they have to, but lets continue, I went to the area that the shelves are stored and noticed that the shelving I use was in short supply, sorta like Home Depot was phasing it out, which would be a shame because I see the same shelving in stores all over the place, so I have been in this store for around 15 minutes already, locating exactly where the shelving is as they tend to move stuff around frequently, and notice that the pieces I need are not displayed with the shelving, so I look around and see a worker and I ask the fellow if he could help me and I was told immediately that it was not his section and I need to push an assistance button located every 5 racks or so and wait.

I waited, then I waited some more, having been in the store for over a 1/2 an hour I was kinda getting a little peeved, so I grabbed a young fella and asked him if the button thing actually works and he said "it's supposed to" and explained that if the customer service personnel isn't extremely busy they are to stock shelves in different departments, that sounded fine as I can understand not paying someone for nothing, but if that's the case, make sure the button system works AND make sure you have employees who are willing to do what is needed to attend to the customers needs. I of course asked him if he knew where I could find the part needed, he said that they only let him learn a few aisles and he stated that he wanted o learn some more, but it was against their policy. I asked the kid if he was in a union, he said that Home Depot had one, the managers union, and I laughed, I told him not to mention the word or he would lose his job and he told me he didn't care as they were only being payed a touch above minimum wage and were treated like garbage. He did however find the person who was supposed to be covering the area and then he came over and did not have a clue what I was asking for, he said that maybe I should go to the "hardware" section and seek assistance. Now I'm in Home Depot, a bit angry for the fact that I had already spoken to 3 employees and been in the store for about 45 minutes already, I started making my 1/4 mile trek to the hardware section.

Once in the 'hardware section" I started searching for assistance, aside from the 3 people who asked me for assistance, I wound up figuring after roaming around the 3 aisles of 'hardware' that there was no store employees at all in the section, now it's more than an hour, I decide that I'm a little more than peeved at this point and noticed a desk in the middle of the store which would likely have someone who could get me assistance in a matter of seconds with a phone call, I approached and noticed that the fellow just sitting there BS'ing on the phone, yes he was laughing away, was a part of their management team.

Surely when seeing a customer heading towards him, he would end the call ASAP, but NO, he just waved his hand up with 2 fingers pointing up and mouthed the word "2 seconds" and gave a nod of assurance that he would be right with me. I would guess that his actions are supposed to have me feel as if I'm a friend that should understand his neglect and not a cash paying customer, when I was a kid working in stores, the customer came first, but I guess like pricing merchandise that went the way of the dinosaur too.

Eventually after about 3 minutes, Mr. Manager had decided he laughed enough and hung up the phone and asked me "What do you need?", I said I needed some help finding a certain part, he stated assuredly "I know exactly what you need and where to find it". I was thrilled and said lets get it and he said that he was busy, I guess someone need to keep the seat warm at the Home Depot desk, and that would get someone to meet me in the aisle immediately. There was a call over the store PA system for someone to come to my aid so I made the trek back to "hardware".

I was thrilled, not only did the store have it, but someone was going to help me right away, it may have taken an hour and a half, but if I got the parts I needed it was worth it.

I wait, and wait, and wait some more, it's now past 8:30 and I've been in Home Depot almost 2 hours when an employee walks down the aisle, i think "here she is, I'll be out of here in a few minutes, once again I'm disappointed, she doesn't work in the section and she is on her break, BUT she goes the extra mile and knows exactly where the fellow who works the aisle is and feels really bad for what I've been going through, she tells me it's nothing new and it happens all the time, she further explains that they don't even want the employees to help the customers as that takes too much time and the management feels that the customers will help one another without the company paying for it. I feel like this corporation is really mismanaged and with it's short sided nature will eventually go out of business, but that's another story for another day.

She feels so bad in fact for my plight that she takes me to the section where the guy who knows hardware is working, hes within a football field's distance, so she takes me to the "tool section", mind you, she did this on her own time, to meet the fellow. He's on a giant ladder getting cases of merchandise to stock the shelves, he doesn't hesitate to put down the boxes and assist me, maybe he though I was a friend of the other employee, maybe he was just a person with the old idea that a customer comes first, whatever the case he finds out what i need and without a shadow of a doubt informs me that Home Depot does not carry the hardware components for that particular shelving unit. He explains to me that I should just buy another one and open it, take out the parts I need and return it.

This is what my experience at the local Home Depot was like, and I know for a fact that Home Depot is a huge lobbyist against the Employee Free Choice Act. The would rather spend 10 times the money than it would cost them if they had a conscientious unionized work staff. They could have a union that actually trains employees at the trade of being a hardware store employee, they could have a dedicated staff who really wants to learn and be a part of a corporation that could have workers who believe that there is a real reason to do a good job, to make money for a business that hires union workers, that creates jobs that have a living wage and a sense of responsibility to get the job done each working day, so that job will still be there tomorrow. The current system at Home Depot is a failure to anyone who invests in it for the long term, for their employees and for the United States of America.

One only need to look towards a company that has the right progressive ideals and has a wonderful customer service and employees who work with enthusiasm, take a walk into a COSTCO, where their open to unionization policies have just a fraction of their stores unionized. They treat their workers with respect, it shows when shopping there, the workers in the store by me do not stop unless they are on a break, they know where everything is and they smile when you speak to them. The local Brooklyn store is not unionized, and if there were more employers like COSTCO, they might not need unions in Big Box stores at all. They start their employees with a bit more than $11 an hour. They have something to work for and it shows. They don't want to lose their job. They want customers to come back.

Remember employees are your first line of offense, they can get people to come back and be dedicated consumers, when you have the us against them attitude and the false ideas that when someone who cannot afford to eat is a partner of a major corporation, it is doomed to failure. Starbucks, Home Depot are closing stores by the hundreds. Their anti-union policies and their mistreatment of their workers, along with their short-sightedness and the economic downturn are all a major factor.

Thanks for reading,
Joe
My comment is awaiting moderation over at the Cow's, I anxiously await the response by Home Depot, um, probably wont say a word, but at least their investors will read it and think.

More blatant discrimination against construction workers comes to light, this time prevailing wage violations across America

Kinda, sorta follow up to "Blatant discrimination! Another disposable worker death in New York's underground sweatshop construction industry" from Jan. 2007

http://img524.imageshack.us/img524/9219/59751468do8.png
ow do you under bid the union contractors?

By using a work force that does not understand the law of the land. This construction company forced it's largely Cantonese workers to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no overtime pay, no breaks and massive safety violations, on jobs that were publicly funded. That's right, if you live in Oakland, California, there's a good chance that the school you send your kids to was built with the help of the criminal activity of a few at the top, who profited on the backs of their workers, while screwing the contracting firms who obey the laws, the public who didn't get what they paid for and the workers who worked in pre-1900 conditions.

I thought the abuses of Chinese workers here in the United States sorta ended after the railroads were built, yes for those of you not well versed in http://img526.imageshack.us/img526/4650/cv1412007623mw7.jpghistory, from the "end of slavery" years of 1864 to 1867, on just one leg of the transcontinental railroad construction it is estimated that 1200-1300 Chinese workers died in that three year span. For more information on the atrocities against Chinese workers on the railroads there's a book written by William F. Chew, who is the grandson of two of the railroad workers. His book is called "Nameless Builders of the Transcontinental Railroad". Mr. Chew isn't just a bump on a log, he's a pretty smart fella, in his 45 year career as an aerospace engineer he created components that were critical for spacecraft travel.

So now back to our story, here in New York the homelands might be different but the story is the same, get workers new to the country and cheat the workers and the public out of their legally bound responsibility. Capitalism at it's finest. Screw everyone to get ahead.

Just two weeks ago it came to light that a local scumbag General Contractor pocketed $550,000 of public money which was supposed to go to his employees, according to The New York Times article from July 31st. entitled "Officials of Building Firm Accused of Cheating Workers and City ":
The officials, Yuly Aronson, owner of the May Construction Company, and Anthony Branca, the company’s accountant, ran their scheme from April 2005 through November 2006 during work on two dozen city buildings and courthouses, according to Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.

They were charged in Manhattan Criminal Court with falsifying payroll filings to receive roughly $2 million from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services for employee wages and withholdings, of which Mr. Aronson, 46, and Mr. Branca, 50, ended up pocketing about $550,000 that was supposed to go toward the salaries of 84 workers, the attorney general said.
Here's the how to screw your work force part:
May Construction lured many of its employees with an advertisement in the Polish-language newspaper Nowy Dziennik, according to the attorney general’s office. Most of the company’s workers were secured through those advertisements and were each paid the minimum of the prevailing wage, even though the jobs they were doing required they be paid higher wages, the attorney general’s office said.
The good news, if convicted, according to New York State's Attorney General Andrew Cuomo:
“Contractors on public works projects should be warned: Obey the law and pay the prevailing wage, or face the consequences,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement.

Mr. Aronson and Mr. Branca face several charges including grand larceny. If convicted, they could spend up to 15 years in prison.
So that's the story of how Polish immigrants are getting screwed on prevailing wage violations here in New York, let's get back to what transpired in Oakland, California, it took a Cantonese speaking organizer working with the International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers (IBEW Local 595) to bring the violations to light and that's a good thing. Here's some snips from the East Bay Business Times, from the August 12th. story entitled "Former employees sue Oakland contractor NBC General":
NBC General Contractors Corp., an Oakland construction company that is working on several publicly funded projects in the city’s downtown, has been hit with a lawsuit filed by former employees seeking millions of dollars for prevailing-wage, overtime, meal break and safety violations.
Sounds like your average non-union construction company nowadays, sometimes it's Chinese, sometimes it's Guatemalan's, Mexican's, whoever they can screw and threaten the best. The less they are allowed to speak up, the less they know about US labor law, the more they can be screwed, but enough of my ranting, the story continues:
NBC General became the subject of the organization’s scrutiny because some contractors perceived its bids on projects were often lower than others and that prompted questions about whether its books truly reflected hours worked, said the partnership’s Alameda County compliance officer, Andreas Cluver. The union group wasn’t able to investigate efficiently, however, until it made contact with a Cantonese-speaking organizer who understood the language and culture of many of the NBC General workers.
That's the way to do it fellas, IBEW did exactly what needs to be done, just because the workers did not speak English, did not mean they were stupid, they just needed someone to explain to them their rights. How bad were these workers treated, heres more:
The suit filed July 17 in Alameda Superior Court seeks to represent a group of what is probably about 150 workers who worked on NBC General projects for a period of four years, from July 2004 to the present, said plaintiff attorney Sharon Seidenstein. A judge would have to grant class-action status.

“The company is working on prevailing-wage jobs and they are not paying the prevailing wage,” said Seidenstein. “They are also working them extremely long hours; for instance, during the summer the workers are alleged to be working 12-hour days, seven-day weeks, with no overtime.”

Also named in the complaint is J.H. Fitzmaurice Inc., the Emeryville-based firm that is the general contractor for the Fox Courts housing project.

It is unclear how much plaintiffs will recoup if they prevail, although Seidenstein said it could be “millions.”

Cluver stated that he had calculated about $6.6 million in underpayments to workers, based solely on his calculations and not taking into account any penalties a court might issue.

Monica Mui Ung, president and CEO of Oakland-based NBC General, and J.H. Fitzmaurice, did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment on Tuesday.
I just hope the owners of these companies in NY and CA see the inside of jail, they really deserve it. One can only wonder how badly they treat workers on non-prevailing wage jobs, but you can see that in my first article entitled "Blatant discrimination! Another disposable worker death in New York's underground sweatshop construction industry"

Immigration: the wedge issue of the labor movement

This country is delving deeper into the 3rd. world as anyone is allowed to enter here illegally without penalty, and until recently one of the only times ICE, our Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, has raided a work place it was in the middle of a union organizing drive. Here's just a few facts to ponder.

In Iowa, ICE raided AgriProcessors, the countries largest Kosher meat packing plant and found almost 400 illegal alien workers, reports of weapons and get this, a Crystal Meth lab! There were over 60 underage workers at the plant, the youngest of which was 13 years old.

In California, a pregnant Mexican teenager died on a California vineyard, she wasn't allowed to have water! 5 more immigrant farmworkers in California have died in the fields since.

In New York, undocumented immigrant construction workers were threatened with guns if they decided to join a union. On other sites workers are told to say that if hurt at work, they are to report the injury as happening on the soccer field. On a nearby house getting remodeled I asked the owner of a construction company why he only gave his Guatemalan workers doing siding one plank for each teir of the 32 foot high scaffold, he told me they were like monkeys, they would be OK. I could go on about New York, about how when Fresh Direct, the internet supermarket was raided by ICE right in the middle of a NLRB wait period for a unionization vote. But lets get to the legal issues that are encouraging more illegal immigration, the laws against working rights and the laws that are helping to fracture labor protections. Here's two I reported on recently. Oh yeah, by the way they are both in Right to work states.

Kansas, a state in this United States, has passed a bill through it's Senate that will exclude punishment for the employers of undocumented workers, but would fine a union who lets the worker into it's ranks. You got that? They do not blame the employers and they want to stop anyone from helping the workers.

Utah, there is now a law which will exclude an injured worker from getting Workmans Compensation who has committed any crime, BUT the law does not hold the company responsible for hiring the illegal immigrant, nor will their premimum go up. Now theres a couple of great places to open up business.

To Be Continued, what I've been up to lately

I can continue with this but I really need some rest, you may have noticed I have been writing scarcely recently at Joe's Union Review, there's just so much to write about and so little time lately, I too have a full time job and I'm teaching an apprentice in my trade, it's an honor and a privilege to help her in her career, I was a little concerned that I might not have been ready to train someone, but I'm doing my best, she is my union brother (talk about a weird line) and it's important.

Something you may want to check out

http://img230.imageshack.us/img230/6408/walmartstomppb0.jpgJust in case you don't read Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, you may have missed the news of the meeting they had with their workers that threatened that if Obama were to be elected President, that there would be almost nothing standing in the way of the Employee Free Choice Act getting passed, which would of course pave the way for those damned unions to corrupt the wonderful working environment that their workers currently enjoy by giving them a fighting chance to seek collective bargaining representation. Was it illegal what they did? Was Wal-Mart being a good employer and informing their workers about the candidates or did they threaten them as to how they should vote?

Here's a little fact that slipped through the media unreported, Wal-Mart was recently sued by none other than the US Dept. Of Justice, why would you ask? They refused to rehire a returning veteran in their Florida store. That's right, Wal-Mart, that great American franchise said a big F you to someone who went out and risked their life for them. They of course settled for $12,000 out of court.

Wal-Mart is most likely a big contributor to the organizations against The Employee Free Choice Act, but I'll have more on that soon. As American Right's At Work puts it:
What Wal-Mart is doing for November's political elections is what it, and hundreds of other anti-union companies, do all the time when workers say they want a union: intimidating them to go against their own self-interests.

The most ironic part of this news is that Wal-Mart's political ally, the Chamber of Commerce, sees itself as "David" versus the supposed "Goliath" of unions in the fight for the Employee Free Choice Act.
"This is a David-and-Goliath confrontation, but we believe we'll have enough stones in the sling to knock this out," said Mr. Steven Law, chief legal officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Maybe, if David first set up a front group to defame Goliath with a $30 million television advertising campaign before he loaded up his slingshot.
I'll write some more on this soon, but for now,

Peace, have a great weekend

Joe

Stop the senseless deaths on the California farms, 5 more deaths in the fields since the underage pregnant girl

On June 3rd. I wrote Underage and pregnant Mexican teen dies on California vinyard, seems not much has changed.

You can help the California farm workers get to Sacramento by donating for their bus trip to California. This comes from fellow labor communicator TomP over at DailyKos.

Six California farm workers have died since May from what appears to be heat related causes. The latest one was Maria De Jesus Alvarez, 63, mother of nine, who died early this month. The first one to die was 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, who died in May. Marie was about a month pregnant when she died, and likely did not ever know she was pregnant. The state fined the labor contractor $262,700 for failing to follow heat illness prevention regulations at the time Jimenez was stricken, but that won't bring her back. And the deaths have continued at an accelerated pace since then.

You can help to end this tragedy. This Monday, August 18, more than 800 farm workers from throughout California want to go to Sacramento to lobby the Legislature on a key bill that will help them help themeselves. They want the chance to tell the Governor and their elected officials to support AB 2386, "Secret Ballot Elections for Farmworkers," which has moved out of the assembly and which will be voted on that afternoon in the state senate.

I have been writing for months on the deaths of farm workers in California from the heat. Six farm workers deaths are being or have been investigated because of heat-related causes since May.

This brings to 15 the number of farm workers whose death have been investigated as heat-related since Governor Schwarzenegger took office.

You can learn more details of this continuing tragedy in these diaries:

Sixth Farm Worker Dies from the Heat this Summer in California. A Call for Action.

Another Farm Worker dies. Does anyone give a damn? The Netroots Do.

United Farm Workers Calls for Manslaughter Charges Against Company in Death of 17 Year Old

How many Farmworkers must die before someone cares??

Please Tell Fallen Farm Worker's Family We Care

"How much is the life of a farm worker worth? Is it less than the life of any other human being?"

As UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez said at the funeral of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez:

How much is the life of a farm worker worth? Is it less than the life of any other human being?

The state has fined the labor contractor for whom Maria Isabel worked:

Atwater-based Merced Farm Labor, the contractor investigated in the death of Lodi teen Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez last spring, was fined $262,700 by the state [in July] for failure to follow heat illness prevention regulations at the time Jimenez was stricken.

Jimenez, a 17-year-old pregnant farm laborer, collapsed May 14 in a Farmington vineyard operated by West Coast Grape Farming and died two days later. Her death from heatstroke was ruled an occupational death by the San Joaquin County coroner.

State fines labor firm over death

In honor of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, the march from Lodi, CA to Sacramento State Capitol, June 4, 2008:

Since then, five more farm workers have died from what appears to be heat-related causes.

August 2, 2008: Maria de Jesus Alvarez.

July 31, 2008: Jorge Herrera.

July 9, 2008: Ramiro Carrillo Rodriguez.

July 9, 2008: Abdon Felix Garcia.

June 20, 2008: Jose Macrena Hernandez.

Farm worker dies in Santa Maria, California. Television news report on the death of Jose Macrena Hernandez:

These deaths make it clear the state does not have the capacity to protect farm workers. With all the budget cuts and other issues in California now, the state, even if well intentioned, simply has not been able to protect these workers. So they must protect themselves.

We can make a difference and it will not take much.

The vital legislation that Speaker Emeritus Nunez has introduced--and the workers want to go to Sacramento and lobby for--protects farm workers' right to a secret ballot election and will make it easier for farm workers to organize and enforce the laws that the state cannot enforce.

Please TAKE ACTION TODAY and ask California legislatures to support this vital bill..

If you can't attend please make a donation to help the United Farm Workers rent 14 buses, additional vans, plus pay for food and other supplies which will cost in excess of $31,770 for the day.

There is nothing more powerful than hearing a farm worker story face-to-face, especially to lawmakers.

Doroteo Jimenez, grape worker and uncle of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez who died in May explains why she must go to Sacremento.

I want to go to Sacramento and speak to the legislators.

My niece Maria Isabel died because growers treat us like tools instead of like people. I spoke up and I was unjustly fired. This needs to change now. I don't want to see other families suffer like our family has. This bill can change farm workers' lives for the better.

Please help us.

Margarita Hernandez, grape worker knows that that there must be changes in the workplace:

The reason for me to go to Sacramento is because I want changes in the working conditions at my job and the other companies. In the place where I work, Sun Pacific, we don't have shade and the drinking water is without ice until 9 am—though they know that by that hour it is already hot.

There have been people have felt sick from the heat and the company people always ask if they feel bad because of something they ate...

I feel there is no respect for the farm worker, even though many farm workers have died. The companies don't change their treatment towards the farm workers. That is why I am going to Sacramento. I have the hope that one day, we will be treated better.

Just to rent the buses and vans needed, will cost $26,570 and that does not cover the food and other supplies needed.

The UNF hopes that internet supporters would contribute $5,510 towards this expense. This will cover the transportation costs of 140 workers at $39.36 per worker. Let's show them that Daily Kos can do it and more!

Can you make sure Doroteo, Margarita and others get seats on the bus?

When the union is strong, growers and labor contractors follow the California heat regulations, and lives can be saved. This bill is key to growing the union and, literally, saving lives.

Where farm workers are protected by union contracts, the laws are honored.

And when growers know it is easier for farm workers to organize and bring in the union, employers are much more careful about obeying the law because they don’t want to give the union an advantage.

So the answer, sisters and brothers, is self-help—making it easier for farm workers to organize so the laws on the books are the laws in the fields. Then more important human beings like Maria Isabel won’t have to die.

Remarks by Arturo S. Rodriguez, President, United Farm Workers of America, Honoring Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, June 4, 2008

Please help.

Please TAKE ACTION TODAY and ask California legislatures to support this vital bill.

If you can't attend please make a donation to help the United Farm Workers rent 14 buses, additional vans, plus pay for food and other supplies which will cost in excess of $31,770 for the day.

Yesterday we mourned,
Today we act,
Tomorrow we will gain justice.

Si, Se Puede!

2 SMWIA Heroes Rescue Commuter In Boston

The story of the Labor Movement is filled with millions of stories, many of which are never reported. This week, an extraordinarly one was.

Yesterday, two members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 17 in Boston were honored for rescuing a commuter who had fallen onto the train tracks at Boston's North Station.

The commuter, a man in his mid 50's, had stumbled off the platform and fallen five feet onto the tracks with his arms resting inches away from the 600 volt third rail.

The two sheet metal workers, A.J. Pugliese, Jr. and Robert Johnson, Jr. heard the shouts for help from several commuters standing on the platform. In a video released by the MBTA, the two men are seen springing into action while risking their own safety by crossing the electrified third rail and dragging the unconscious commuter to safety.

It's extraordinary stories like this that happen every day. Of course, with Labor Day coming up we risk hearing less about the extroardinary stories of ordinary citizens like Pugliese and Johnnson, and more about the blitz of television ads attacking the men and women of the labor movement.

In fact, Saxby Chambliss got elected to the US Senate running attack ads distorting Max Cleland and his support for working people as being weak on terror.

The same people who attacked Cleland and are attacking the Employee Free Choice Act and its supporters are the same people who fought the minimum wage, 40-hour work week, child labor laws, and health and safety standards for all workers. They are the same people who fought for the low safety standards that have cost us too many lives in the California farm fields.

The same people running the attack ads on working people and the Democratic Party are the same people who ignored the firefighters, cops and construction workers who sacrificed their own time and in cases cases much more to help their fellow citizens. Whiile they were rescuing their fellow Americans, sleazy opportunists like Tom Delay were busy sending out fundraising letters blaming unions for the terrorist attacks.

One thing Tom Delay and his right wing cronies don't have to worry about is whether or not a union firefighter or even construction worker would help them if they ever got into a jam. It's that kind of selflessness that we need to honor on Labor Day, not the right wing smears that will be thrown at the labor movement.

Still on vacation...

Sorry for the lapse of the latest news, I have been taking a little time off. I figure with about a year straight of using all of my spare time writing on the net, I think I deserve to take it easy for about a month.

There's also a lot of stuff going on I want to write about, but it's still in the panning out phase. Stay tuned, I have a lot of things planned for the site.

Here's a little Bill Moyer's you may have missed

David Macaray: Labor, management and the adversarial relationship

Cross-posted from CounterPunch with permission from the author

The Truth About Cats and Dogs
Labor, Management and the Adversarial Relationship

By DAVID MACARAY

There’s a well known anecdote involving Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. After Douglas had given a long, flowery speech during one of their public debates, Lincoln asked the audience a simple question: “How many legs does a horse have?” “Four,” the audience answered in unison. “And how many legs would a horse have if you called his tail a leg?” The audience answered in unison, “Five.”

“Wrong,” Lincoln said. “Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it true.”

Unfortunately, that same illogic applies to the startling trend we see in the field of labor relations. Apparently, some seminar creature stood on his hind legs 25 years ago and declared that the time had come for management and labor to recognize that their relationship was no longer “adversarial” in nature, that they were, in fact, both looking to achieve the same goal.

Since then, everyone’s been parroting that glib assertion, as if the mere repetition of it makes it true. Moreover, when one tries to suggest that the characterization is not only inaccurate, but, perhaps, part of a deliberate corporate effort to co-opt the labor movement, he’s treated—even by some union officials—as a militant or cynic or, worse, a defeatist.

This is not an attack on capitalism. It is no more an attempt to demonize or excoriate the “profit motive” than acknowledging the presence of fangs and venom is an attempt to demonize a rattlesnake. It’s simply pointing out the obvious, which is that management and labor clearly do not want the same thing. They want two distinctly different things. And it’s been that way for, well, a millennium or so.

If management and labor wanted the same thing, Exxon Mobile executives, in the face of record oil profits (more than $10 billion in a single quarter), would have instantly sought ways to reward its hourly workers. If both sides wanted the same thing, Exxon execs would have said, “Hey, we really need to share some of this obscene oil wealth we just lucked into.”

Another example: When the Big Three automakers were rolling in money, back in the 1960s, the UAW (United Auto Workers) still had to claw and scratch and occasionally go on strike to get the pay raises the membership deserved. As wildly profitable as they were, Ford, Chrysler and GM nonetheless tried their hardest to keep that revenue out of the hands of the hourly employees who helped earn it.

And another example: When a celebrity like Barbra Streisand receives, say, a lucrative recording bonus, does anyone really think she says, “Great, now I’ll be able to increase the pay of my gardener, housekeeper and that guy who walks my dog”? No. This is where Barb’s Malibu “liberalism” peters out, and her sense of economic self-interest kicks in. The more they make, the more they resent parting with it.

But these observations shouldn’t surprise anyone. Corny as it sounds, this is the way of the world: supply and demand, charging as much as the market will bear, and paying employees no more than required to keep them from quitting—these phenomena are de facto laws of economics. We’re all big boys and girls. We know how it works.

Still, the one thing that sticks in our craws and makes us want to collectively puke is when corporate America pretends it’s otherwise. When accountants and executives pretend we’re on the same “team,” when they preach that labor unions are obsolete and that workers need only trust their employers to look out for them.

By saying we want the same thing, they mean, of course, that we all want and need a stable and profitable environment. We need jobs . . . they need workers . . . and therein lies the magic of symbiosis. That’s why, when a new business enters a community, its public relations people are quick to remind everyone that the company is there to improve the economy by providing jobs.

But businesses do not view the workforce as a benefit; they never have and never will. Rather, they see labor for what it is . . . pure “overhead.” And in their relentless effort to reduce costs, American corporations are investing billions of dollars in the development of robotics. Demoralizing as it is, they want those remaining jobs that can’t be shipped overseas and done by Third World beggars to be done by ‘droids.

Now imagine the poor shmuck who just found out he’d lost his job to a Malaysian factory worker (or to a relative of R2-D2), who pleads with his bosses to recall what they’d told him in company seminars—that we all want the same thing and are all on the same team. Sorry, but this guy would be escorted out by security guards and drop-kicked over the front gate (ten years from now, it will be robots doing the escorting).

So, what’s all this have to do with labor unions? Can a union prevent jobs from being outsourced or mechanized? Probably not. And Congress certainly isn’t courageous or imaginative enough to pass laws that would punish companies for leaving American soil or replacing live people with machines. After all, this is the same craven group of politicians who sneaks themselves pay raises at 2:00 a.m., so as not to draw attention.

However, if 30% (instead of the current 12%) of the jobs that can’t be sent overseas or readily replaced with robots were unionized, we’d have an improved, more dynamic economy. We’d have a more equitable economy. We’d have the beginnings of a resurgent middle-class. And, as “noble adversaries,” we wouldn’t have to hear anymore of that management tripe about being on the same team.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and writer, was a former labor union rep. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

Looks Like Maybe, We Should Organize Inmates

By Bendygirl (Cross Posted on Uniongal)

DELL, notorious for using labor all over the world (exploitation shipped from country to country) has contracted with UNICOR to recycle their computers (only after they came under fire from environmental advocates for dumping toxic waste).

CBS News posted a story on this (but since it’s from AP, I won’t be linking to those rat bastards at AP). The most important aspect of this piece is that UNICOR pays their inmates who do recycling as much as $1.26 per hour. Okay, they also pay as little as about a quarter of a dollar, but, whatever.

Years ago, 60 minutes did this amazing piece on how UNICOR (Federal Prison Industries) doesn’t have to worry about trademarks and patents and has actually put textile mills in the states out of business.

So, this got me thinking about why UNICOR’s future challenges tend to be an explosion in the prison population. Why have prison populations exploded and why should I care?

Well, you see, we all should care, because, there's a correllation between unemployment and crime.

In a 1987 study of Growth in incarceration among African Americans showed a direct correlation with growth in unemployment among African Americans. In another study, for the Journal of Human Resources, author Ming–Jen Lin correlates a drop in UNION workers with unemployment and an INCREASE in rates of burglary and robbery. From the paper's abstract:

We find a one-percentage-point increase in unemployment would increase property crime by 1.8 percent under the OLS method, but that the elasticity goes up to 4 percent under 2SLS. The larger 2SLS effect has significant policy implications because it explains 30 percent of the property crime change during the 1990s.


Freakin-A. Not only do unionized workers get a "union-premium," but there's a correlation to the drop in unionzation with a rise in crime (coupled with a rise in unemployment).

So, when I saw the latest post on Unbossed (thanks again Shirah) about inmates and UNICOR, it didn’t really surprise me that UNICOR has complaints against it from inmates seeking help with the recycling program’s toxic exposures of inmates. From UNBOSSED (in its entirety):

They're just criminals - so why should we care about how they are treated in The Big House?
In fact, if we can get "Onshore outsourcing at offshore prices" by using prison labor, what's the problem?

As I said in 2007,

It's hard to imagine a creepier government web page than that of the National Security Agency - do not skip intro. Although the NSA kid's page comes close.
This is sock you in the face creepy. But a far creepier federal agency webpage is that of Unicor. What? Never heard of Unicor?

And don't we just know that the bureau of prisons program through UNICOR is just Poisoning Prisoners for Profit and that Life in Prison is a Riot

Well, now the latest, in the sorry saga. Here is the July 16, 2008 letter from NIOSH on this subject:

On November 27, 2007, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received your request for technical assistance in your health and safety investigation of the Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) electronics recycling program at Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) institutions in Elkton, Ohio; Texarkana, Texas; and Atwater, California. You asked us to assist the United States Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General (USDOJ, OIG) in assessing the existing medical surveillance program for inmates and staff exposed to lead and cadmium during electronics recycling, and to make recommendations for future surveillance.

In addition, you asked us to assess past exposures to lead and cadmium, and to investigate the potential for take home exposure. This interim letter summarizes our findings and provides recommendations to improve the safety and health of the inmates and staff at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Elkton, Ohio. These findings will be included in a final report that will contain findings from the evaluations at all three institutions identified in your request.


As it turns out, monitoring results for past exposures are not available because they just weren't done for the most part or, if performed, they were so badly performed that they are of little use.

Electronics recycling at FCI Elkton appears to have been performed from 1997 until May 2003 without adequate engineering controls, respiratory protection, medical surveillance, or industrial hygiene monitoring. Because of the lack of both biological monitoring and industrial hygiene data, we cannot determine the extent of exposure to lead and cadmium that occurred during that time frame, but descriptions of work tasks from staff and inmates indicate that exposures during that time frame were likely higher than current exposures. The current GBO is a significant improvement, but can be further enhanced to limit exposure to those performing glass breaking, as well as limiting the migration of lead and cadmium from the room into other areas. While some take-home contamination does occur, surface wipe sampling and biological monitoring suggest that take-home contamination does not pose a health threat at this time. Take-home contamination can be further reduced by changes to the GBO, work practices, and improved personal hygiene as recommended below.

We cannot determine the extent of exposure to lead that occurred in the chip recovery process because of the lack of data. Descriptions of work tasks from staff, and a BLL of 5 μg/dL in an inmate 4 months after the process ended indicate that exposure to lead during this process did occur. We found no evidence that actions were taken to prevent exposure to lead at the outset in the chip recovery process and found that no medical surveillance was performed until after the process ended.

Medical surveillance that has been carried out among inmates and staff has not complied with OSHA standards. No medical exams (including physical examinations) are done on inmates; staff receive inconsistent examinations and biological monitoring by their personal physicians; biological monitoring for lead is not done at established standard intervals; and results are not communicated to the inmates.

Inappropriate biological monitoring tests have been done. Records of medical surveillance are not maintained by the employer for the appropriate length of time.


The report makes many recommendations for improvement. I personaly like this one as the most likely to ameliorate the situation:

7. Appoint a union safety and health representative. This individual should be a regular participant on the joint labor-management safety committee that meets quarterly. Since inmates do not have a mechanism for representation on this committee, ensure that they are informed of its proceedings and that they have a way to voice their concerns about and ideas for improving workplace safety and health.

Yep. If you want help getting your workplace conditions improved, get union representations. Not so easy for the prisoners, of course, but maybe they can piggy back on the prison workers' union representation.

After all, contamination for one is probably contamination for all.


But Shirah has only provided the most recent blog posting on UNICOR and their roll in the US. Before Shirah’s most recent posts, there was this one from Ian Urbina, America’s Prison Factories. Where Ian notes that:

Over the years, FPI has grown exponentially, now ranking as the government's thirty-ninth largest contractor -- in no small part due to the quantity and diversity of apparel items it manufactures for the Department of Defense. The company has churned out more than 150,000 Kevlar helmets in the past 24 months, more than $12 million worth. Aside from the battle-dress shirts sewn at Greenville, the company is also a major supplier of men's military undershirts, $1.6 million of which it sold to the Pentagon in 2002. In that year, FPI made close to $3 million fashioning underwear and nightwear for the troops. Inmates also stitch together the vestments donned by military pastors and the gowns cloaking battlefield surgeons. If an item of clothing is torn in combat, it will likely be sent to the prison shop in Edgefield, South Carolina, where it is mended at a cost of $5 per shirt and or pair of trousers. In 2002, 700 prisoners based at FPI laundry facilities located in Florida, Texas and Alabama washed and pressed $3 million worth of military apparel.

Snip

...Out of the 1.3 million pairs of these trousers bought by the Defense Department last year, all but 300,000 were produced by FPI, which means that at least three out of four active-duty soldiers in the region wear pants made by the inmates of the FPI factories in Atlanta and in Beaumont and Feagoville, Texas. These sorts of numbers have earned FPI critics from a range of perspectives. FPI competitors, such as Propper International, point out that they use free labor to make the exact same trousers for the government at $2.39 cheaper per pair. Organized labor questions why the government should buy from a company which depends solely on inmate workers, while paying sub-minimum wages (from 25 cents to $1.15 per hour), skirting workplace safety standards and enjoying exemption from the payroll and Social Security taxes levied on other employers.


Which then brought me over to the UNICOR site where there are no pictures of inmates in prison garb or looking as if they're behind bars or even guards, it's pretty eerie. But I found this statement from their site more eerie and way more creepy:

The Future Challenge
The challenge for FPI is to remain financially self-sufficient while providing enough work for an increasing number of inmates. The Federal inmate population has tripled over the last 10 years, and it is projected to continue growing for the foreseeable future. In order for the Bureau of Prisons to successfully manage the increased number of inmates, FPI will have to create jobs for these additional inmates.

FPI's influence on the successful management of Federal prisons is no secret; it has been a matter of public policy for over six decades. Policymakers have long recognized that increasing the number of incarcerated individuals means increasing the number of prisons and, in turn, increasing the size of FPI in order to improve both the management of the prisons and an inmate's chances of success upon release. As we begin the next decade, continued support of Federal Prison Industries will pay important dividends for the country.


Creepy, huh?

Thanks Shirah for making me think about this.

Since I was already thinking, I decided to put the pieces together for me. I looked at the numerous reports linking crime rates, incarceration and unemployment and thought about how it is possible that it’s okay for UNICOR to pay inmates all of $1 (ish) an hour (if even that much) to produce things that American manufactures had been producing and STILL produce. I'm just not sure why this is acceptable anymore.

To me, it’s almost as if the US Government is in the business of creating inmates to work for almost nothing, driving American manufacturing into the ground and thereby, creating new inmates.

Of course, my understanding of this issue, isn’t science, I just like to read. And sometimes, things strike me. This issue, doesn’t just strike me, it makes me sick.

Honestly, this just really sucks.