|The Bronx Burns - with Activism |
Speaking Out for Social Justice
| By Bill Hohlfeld |
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Last night, in the auditorium of Our Lady of Refuge School, in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, the clergy representing several local churches and faith based groups, neighborhood residents and community organizers, came together with union representatives from RWDSU, 32B&J, Local 608 of the Carpenters, and of course, Local 46 Metallic Lathers to put pressure on NYC elected officials to ensure that the development project at the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx, is of maximum benefit to the NYC citizens and taxpayers who live there. The event was aptly titled: Rally for Responsible Development, and its chosen slogan was: Good Jobs - Strong Communities.
The meeting was brought to order and the seriousness of both the subject and the moment was made evident by one of the local pastor’s fervent opening prayer ”to the Almighty God of justice” that her community might be empowered. Make no mistake about it. A little divine empowerment will come in handy when a Bronx community is up against a multi-billion dollar Corporate developer like Related, who, after receiving city and state subsidies that allowed them to purchase a property estimated to be worth 20 million dollars for a much reduced price of 5 million dollars, plans to install yet another “big box” store in the space.
That type of development provides no real benefit to the community because operations of that nature typically employ people at low (non-union) wages in part-time jobs with no medical benefits. In the Kingsbridge scenario, the picture becomes even bleaker as such a retail model would virtually destroy the two neighborhood Associated Stores and possibly the seven other smaller supermarkets in the surrounding areas that manage to employ over 450 local residents with living wage jobs. And living wage jobs are very much on the minds of members of a community that is currently trying to cope with an 18% unemployment rate, a rate that is roughly double the national average.
Another chief concern among the community residents is the usage of the non-retail space being developed. At present, only 3% of the 875,000 square feet is being allocated for community usage. That’s totally unacceptable to the young people from SUBA (Bruthas and Sistas United) Don’t be misled by the hip-hop choice of spelling. These kids are bright, articulate and focused on the future and the path they need to take to insure that future. They know that the library needs to be developed, a minimum of another 2000 school seats need to be provided, recreational facilities made available and a general attitude of investment in our city’s youth be taken. Their voices did not fall on deaf ears.
NYC Controller, and candidate for mayor, Bill Thompson has pledged his unbridled support for the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA) and all its aims, bar none. City councilman Koppell has pledged 100% commitment to the residents right to organize the workplace as well as to hammer out a palatable community benefits agreement with Related. And last, but certainly not least, the indefatigable Assemblyman Jose Rivera, one time union carpenter and one time ILWGU member pledges his support in the “fight for the right to be union.” In NYC politics, this might be as close to divine empowerment as one gets.
An interesting footnote to the story is that the NYC Union Building Trades have been “good” on this project for well over a year now. Yet, that hasn’t stopped or even slowed down their efforts to guarantee that all the stakeholders receive their fair share. The Building Trades were keenly aware in this case, that to simply insure that the project was to be “union built” and walk away, was simply not good enough. There is a revitalization in the belief that only through true solidarity can working people ever acheive the economic justice they want and deserve.
I started things off by telling a brief story of a similar workshop I ran last month for a few hundred local leaders affiliated with the Teamsters. In the workshop it was mentioned that if the locals don't get on point with online organizing, mobilizing and education than they should expect that their local unions would exponentially decrease in size over time.
I exmplained that there was a 15 year-old kid who, in just a couple years will be looking for a job -- and not by way of his local newspaper classified section. He will be, most likely, using his Facebook account, his Myspace account, Twitter and probably even setting up a small site that tells of his qualifications.
If this kid wanders over to any number of local union web sites he will be blown away that some sites he visits haven't been updated since the mid 1990s. While the thought of that to some us working in the online community seems impossible, these sites are out there representing the working class every minute of everyday on the World Wide Web.
This is a big problem in the labor movement. Local unions will say that they don't have the resources - both finanical and human resources to build out and maintain a web site. My response to that is: the locals have no choice ... it is either they come up to speed online or plan to lose membership as older workers retire.
At Metro I talked a little about UnionReview.com, how I started the site shortly after the split of the AFL-CIO. I told people how I was getting calls from friends who, after learning of the split in the morning papers, were calling me asking if there were going to be any changes in their dues ... everyone seemed a little in the dark. Labor communicators, apparently, didn't communicate that this split was going to occur or what it really meant for rank-and-file workers.
I highlighted my experience in getting information to folks, sending out emails, starting a blog on blogger and then moving it to its current platform in 2007 after meeting with the people from Prometheus Labor Communications. Proudly I shared with the group that Union Review is now getting anywhere from 15,000 - 20,000 hits a day, and that this is proof that there was/is a hole in labor communications in the United States.
When I thought I was alone in the endeavor of spreading labor news and opinion I began to use other online tools. First Myspace and then Facebook, hooked up with Twitter, YouTube and Reddit. In short, I began to sign up to every social networking tool I could find, learned how they work -- and began to build a little community.
This was not to just blow smoke up my own ass for accomplishments with UnionReview.com ... it is more to prove that 90% of what I have done, so far, costs no money at all, the other 10% is very affordable, enough for me to pull it from my own pocket. The excuse that unions don't have the resources is ... well, not good enough.
I think that the presentation went over well, or at least I hope. It was an honor to be asked to moderate and sit on a panel with folks with incredible credentials, all of whom supported, shared and taught how this simple technology and organizing the working class is imperative for our survival.
FedEx CEO Fred Smith’s arrogant campaign of threats and intimidation continued this week when his top spokesman threatened to take down members of Congress who oppose FedEx’s position on a key piece of legislation.
When asked about FedEx’s multi-million dollar ad campaign against the legislation that is reported to launch on Tuesday, June 9, top FedEx flack Maury Lane told U.S. News and World Report in a story posted in The White House Bulletin, “I’m going to try to destroy them.”
This follows Smith’s repeated threats to cancel a $10 billion contract to purchase Boeing 777 planes if FedEx Express workers were moved under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
FedEx clearly threatened in a March 24, 2009 SEC filing, and Smith reiterated in testimony before Congress in May, that its contract to purchase additional aircraft from Boeing is contingent upon its labor relations for all of its employees being governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA). Under this provision, if Congress dares to grant even a portion of its workers the rights enjoyed by most American private sector employees under the NRLA, FedEx has the right to cancel those purchase orders.
“Fred Smith and FedEx breed a culture of arrogance,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “First, they cut wages, increase medical insurance premiums and eliminate pension benefits for its employees. Then they try to blackmail Congress with threats to pull the Boeing contract. Now they threaten to destroy the political careers of those who oppose them.”
Currently, all workers at FedEx Express are covered by the RLA regardless of whether they have any direct relationship with the operation or maintenance of the air fleet. This includes package delivery drivers, workers at sorting facilities and truck mechanics.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation on May 21 that is a part of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization and would place those workers under the NLRA, the statute that protects virtually all other private sector workers. Under the NLRA, workers may organize by individual terminals while the RLA requires a more difficult path to unionization that requires a national vote by every worker at FedEx Express. The reauthorization bill is currently awaiting action in the Senate.
“It’s astonishing that Fred Smith and his flacks will go to any length to boost FedEx’s profits at the expense of American workers and the economy,” said Ken Hall, Director of the Teamsters Package Division. “By threatening to destroy members of Congress, FedEx’s efforts to manipulate the American system of government have crossed the line.”
45% of the US blood supply comes from the American Red Cross.
45%, that's a huge amount from a single source.
Blood is collected through donor blood drives. And the blood is then handled or transported by phlebotomists, drivers, RNs, LPNs, technicians (in the lab, product management, and apheresis departments), and one mechanic.
These are front line workers for the collection and processing of blood.
These front line workers set up blood drives all over the country.
When you think of a blood drive, think of the work as equivalent to the set up and break down of an event like a small circus, carnival or maybe a convention.
And these are safe events, or at least intended to be safe events through the regulation of blood as a "drug" but the FDA. Yep, these events are FDA regulated.
Front line American Red Cross workers follow FDA guidelines, yet since 1993, the FDA has fined the American Red Cross more than $21 million for violation of blood safety laws and regulations. In fact, the American Red Cross has been under a Consent Decree
The 2003 consent decree settled charges that the Red Cross had committed "persistent and serious violations" of federal blood safety rules dating back 17 years.
So, what does all of this mean?
What all of this means is that BLOOD is BIG BUSINESS. Blood is, as the New York Times noted after the FDA announcement of a $5+million fine:
The Red Cross has struggled for years to get its multi-billion dollar blood business, by far its biggest money-maker, into compliance with federal rules.
The American Red Cross makes MULTI-BILLIONS of dollars on donated blood.
Let me repeat that
They make Billions of dollars based on all of our volunteer blood donations.
So, the Red Cross makes billions and billions on supplying 45% of the nation's blood, but is now fighting unions representing front line blood drive event workers. These are the same workers who put on these blood drive events, make them safe and then do it all over again at another location. These workers provide reading material, documentation throughout the blood drive, ask health history questions of donors, perform mini physical exams for donors, take blood, care for the donor afterward donation, pack up the blood, break down the event, and bring it back to the lab for processing and testing, only to do it again the next day or week, depending on their schedule.
And the fines? Are they based on the work of the front line workers? The ones primarily handling the blood, well, according to NPR's All Things Considered, not so much, it is a "management problem".
So, we have a multi-billion dollar business, management problems, FDA fines, and now, they're crying broke as they sit at bargaining tables with 9 different unions as they negotiate front line worker agreements.
So, the unions got together and told the American Red Cross just what they thought of their anti-union, anti-worker negotiation tactics and I got to meet some of these workers on Friday on E street in Northwest DC.
These are the workers who make our blood supply safe, and they have been reduced to marching on Washington for getting what they deserve, a fair negotiation with the American Red Cross.
The request for massive concessions and pay freezes across the board has been covered in a number of local papers, like the New Haven Register who noted something interesting which really got me thinking:
The union claims that the Red Cross is demanding pay cuts for workers, as well as staffing changes that would replace some workers with management representatives.
“They’re not licensed. They’d be making medical decisions, based on what?” asked Crystal Guimaraes, a registered nurse from Naugatuck. She said workers at blood drives need to know what to do in the event of medical complications, physical reactions or seizures.
Would these be the same managers who were at the heart of the fines to the American Red Cross in 2006? Are they part of the "Management Problems" that NPR reported?
And, what about the response from the American Red Cross:
In a statement released Friday, Donna M. Morrissey, spokeswoman for American Red Cross Blood Services Northeast Division, said the Red Cross blood supply “has never been safer, and the American Red Cross is committed to the health and safety of every blood donor who volunteers to roll up their sleeve and every patient who receives blood.”
Morrissey said the pay and benefits package offered to union members is “consistent” with pay and benefits provided to nonunion employees. The Red Cross also has frozen salaries for nonunion workers for the next year and made changes to its retirement programs for all staff.
What I notice in this comment is something big that's been in the news lately and was oddly unaddressed:
What about BONUSES?
So, I went hunting and found that the American Red Cross pays "incentives", from the American Red Cross website:
Donor Recruitment Representative (Great Lakes Region-Flint/Saginaw/Bay City/Midland, Michigan) American Red Cross Blood Services, Ohio/Michigan Division; Salary: $35,000 +Incentive; Benefits: TBA; FAX: (517) 484-0374; Email: email@example.com; Please send resume via email; Posted: 3/2/2009.
Incentive pay sounds like a bonus to me, and this is only at a volunteer recruiter level. What about higher levels like the CEO level (which has been a virtual revolving door since Bernadine Healy left in 2001) or directors and regional levels? And for an organization with more than 30 CEO's, can you imagine the kind of money we're talking about when we're talking about a multi-billion dollar business?
Take the Director of Collections in Connecticut who received a sizable un-reported bonus (the size is unknown because it's not being reported by the American Red Cross and is not being provided to the unions during the negotiations). And why would this blood collections director receive a huge incentive? Well, it's for introducing the MCS machines to the region.
I suppose I'm way more concerned today than say a year ago about how big companies hide their payments to employees. After the issues with AIG bonuses and all the banks that got money from the government for sinking their companies, well, would you really blame me for being suspicious?
Let's take the case of Theresa Bischoff, American Red Cross CEO for New York. In 2005, based on Red Cross records, she earned a salary of $315,656. And performance bonus of $60,000. And this is on the American Red Cross web site.
There's also Christopher Lamb who received a retention bonus of $132,600 and Douglass Loock who received his retention bonus of $105,215. And these three folks all work in areas related to plasma and blood.
If in 2005, when the Red Cross was going through turmoil due to their response to Katrina, they were also handing out retention bonuses of $100k to some of their top executives, and these are only reported on the top 5 paid non officers. If during turmoil they were handing out this kind of money, what are they doing now? Clearly, what they're doing now is trying to get out of negotiating with people like Christine Holschlag (she's the one with the mega phone). And for a Congressionally chartered non-profit like the American Red Cross, that's just not acceptable.
The American Red Cross does answer to a higher power, they answer to all of us donors. We make it possible for you to make volunteer blood donation into a MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR business. It's time for them to negotiate in good faith with the unions representing the folks who make our blood supply safe. Until they do, they won't be getting checks from me or my blood. I'm just not comfortable with the American Red Cross profiting on the backs of folks making our blood supply safe. It's time for them to do the right by workers and not so much their CEO's.
American Red Cross, I think you can put down the AIG play book now, don't you?
Your help is needed! During this time of economic downturn and continuing job losses, we need to reiterate our opposition to trade deals left over from the Bush Administration, such as the Panama Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The Panama FTA is modeled after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and should not be approved by Congress. Congress should not continue the Bush legacy of bad trade agreements, which cost jobs and hurt families.
We especially should not enter into a trade agreement with Panama, a country known as a tax haven for multinational corporations. A Government Accountability Office study identified Panama as one of eight countries listed on all the major tax haven watchdog lists. A trade agreement with Panama only perpetuates the use of this country as a tax haven and a money laundering center.
The Panama FTA as currently written, along with the Colombia and South Korea agreements, are examples of the flawed trade policy that our country can no longer afford to live with. We cannot continue to outsource American jobs, undermine our Buy American or Buy Local procurement policies, place downward pressure on wages and labor standards, degrade the environment, import unsafe food products, and allow the decimation of family farms in other countries.
Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Representative Mike Michaud of Maine introduced the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment, or TRADE, Act last year and will do so again in this Congress. The TRADE Act offers a blueprint for what our trade agreements with other countries should look like and ensures that these agreements are fair for all those involved. Eighty members of the U.S. House and Senate signed on as cosponsors last year, and we need to have even more support when the legislation is reintroduced this year.
Your members of Congress need to hear from you! Please take the time today to ask your representative and Senators to come out publicly against the Panama FTA and to sign on as a cosponsor of the TRADE Act when it is reintroduced this year. It is time for a new, balanced trade policy, not more of the same!
Take action here.
Bobo says wage theft in America is the crime wave no one talks about, and she is right. Billions of dollars' worth of wages are stolen from millions of workers in the United States every year. The scope of these abuses is as staggering as it is wrong - paying workers far less than the legal minimum wage, purposefully misclassifying employees as independent contractors, and illegally denying workers overtime pay. But now people are starting to take notice -- and it is my hope that they do so starting with this very good book.
Chapter 5: Organizing to Stop Wage Theft: Why Unions Matter, starts with a story of 39 year-old Mercedes Herrerra. She came to this country from Mexico, lives in Houston since 1994 and works as a janitor for staffing agencies cleaning buildings and sports facilities. Bobo says she was never paid for overtime!
Her employers would tell her, "There is no overtime. After 40 hours you work for someone else." (This is not legal).
The story continues that after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the worker was hired by a cleaning firm contracted to clean the Reliance Center. She was in charge of keeping the bathrooms clean. Her staffing agency charged her $100 per week for her shoes, gloves, masks, cleaning supplies, and shuttle rides to the Center. She wasn't told when she was hired that such charges would be taken from her paycheck. As a result, her hourly wage fell significantly below minimum wage. (This is not legal).
The lower paid workers in our country are treated like crap. Union activists have been saying this for a long time. Some claim we blow it out of proportion or distort the reality -- for Herrerra, according to Bobo, worse than the wages stolen was her ill treatment. Managers would scream at her and her colleagues. Some would tell workers they were old and worthless.
I was there once. I used to load trucks for a small production firm in NYC. I was hired as an independent contractor. It was hard to get any other work at the time for myself and I took what I could get. I had to pay $35 a week for "supplies" but never used anything but my body. One day a dumpster was filled with packing wrap and cardboard. The boss screams at me (note, he did this to others, he didn't signal me out for any apparent reason)to flatten the dumpster, "Jump your fat fucking ass in there and keep this motherfucker moving, will ya?" My coworkers laughed, then shook their heads. I wondered what kind of a sentence I would receive for throwing that boss in the dumpster and thankfully just went back to work. Moved on.
Wage theft and disrespect are twins for a worker. One is slightly more evil than the other, but both are equally painful. Bobo does a phenomenal job in telling that story -- and then says, "wage theft has been wiped out for the unionized janitors. Anytime there is a problem on wages, workers call the union hotline and someone works out the problems." (NOTE, This is the same with any unionized jobs, including my former line of work as a truck loader).
Unions not only raise wages, benefits, and working conditions ... they stop wage theft.
Bobo on: Why Aren't Unions Stronger?
Given the crisis of wage theft in the nation and the effective role unions play in stopping wage theft, one would think that unions would be growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, many workers would like to have a union in their workplace - 53 percent of all working Americans who are not currently represented by unions would vote to join a union if they had the opportunity to do so without risking their jobs. But workers are afraid. I used to be afraid.
It is simply a matter of fact, which this book does so well of spelling out for everyday folks, that no other industrialized nation has such a powerful union-busting industry or weaker labor protections.
Stopping wage theft in the United States and strengthening our unions has all to do with changing or strengthening labor laws. But it is confusing stuff -- as I have said in the past, today you need a JD just to go to work to know your rights.
Section 7 of the NLRA sets out your right to organize. It says:
"Employees have the right to self-organization, to form, join or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all of such activities except to the extent that such right might be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as authorized in section 159(a)(3)."
Actions by the employer that violate this right to organize are called "Unfair Labor Practices" (ULPs), and they are ILLEGAL. Section 8A of the NLRA deals with unfair labor practices by employers. These include:
* Making threats— threatening that the plant will have to close or move if people vote in the union; threatening to take away jobs or benefits if the workers bring in the union, or threatening they will need to make rules stricter if workers bring in the union.
* Giving raises— giving wage increases timed to keep people from voting for the union OR not giving regularly scheduled raises because workers are organizing. (NOTE - IF YOU ARE GIVEN A "TIMELY" RAISE, TAKE THE RAISE AND VOTE UNION ANYWAY ... IT IS A WINNING PROPOSITION).
* Questioning people— asking questions about union activities or people’s support for the union in a way that would "restrain or coerce" them.
* Spying on union meetings—or pretending to spy on union meetings.
* Discriminating against people— discriminating in hiring, promotion, layoff, termination, benefits or working conditions in order to discourage people from organizing.
* Discriminating against people who give testimony to the National Labor Relations Board (the body that enforces the NLRA).
Please learn your rights as working people. Please buy Kim Bobo's book.
Let me know what you think.
by Bill Hohlfeld, Local 46
Yesterday, in New York City, the second annual Memorial Mass for fallen construction workers was held at St. Patrick's Cathedral where, to the strains of IBEW bagpipes about 1000 people gathered and honored the memory of the 18 construction workers who lost their lives in the past year.. Father Brian Jordan, chaplain to the NYC Building Trades said the Mass and his homily centered on solidarity and the dignity of work. He stressed the fact that the economy exists to support people. People do not exist for the sake of wealth accumulation. Local 46 was well represented, not only bits elected officers and members who filled the pews, but also by our own Business Manager, Bob Ledwith,who took his place at the pulpit for the second reading of the Mass.
In addition to the Building Trades, present on the altar were members of the Building Trades Employers Association, OSHA representatives and the NYC Buildings Department. Eighteen chairs, empty except for roses, were on the altar too; one to represent each fallen worker. The goal was set by Father Jordan to celebrate the Mass next year with no empty chairs. He went on to say that in his perfect world, every construction worker would be a union member with wages and benefits workers need and deserve.
Gary La Barbera, President of the New York City Building Trades went on to offer condolences, and thanked the representatives of employers and government agencies for taking the time to recognize the tragedy of each lost life within the construction industry. This year, the ceremony was particularly poignant for our Local, as on March 18th, we lost one of our own - a 28 year old Apprentice, Anthony Paino, who, soon to become a Journeyman and soon to be married, fell ten stories to his death. May we all remember him in our prayers.
You can join me under my name Joseph Michael Worker (link to the right->the Rats behind)
I'm actually finding it really easy to add stories from other sites, gotta try and find a way to get that feed into this site easily
Click the link below to see my ideas about Facebook
Rick Smith of the Rick Smith Radio Show interviewed me about blogging.
And Rick Rocks:
Rick grew up in a housing project on the West Side of Cleveland, OH. He was literally poor whitey in the hood. SNIP Rick is currently a 19 year member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Vice-President of the International Labor Communications Association, www.ilcaonline.org.
There's more on the flip
I'm just amazed at how much I have in common with this guy, all the way to getting drunk on the same college campus probably during the same years!! Here's more of Rick's Rocky-ness!!
When John Kerry lost in 2004 Rick realized that he had to do more. So on Labor Day weekend 2005 Rick began his radio journey. United for Progress was born out of frustration and optimism as a vehicle to add balance to the conservative controlled airwaves. 2008 looks to be a very positive year and the Rick Smith Show will be on the front lines.
Kind of cool, huh? Well, there's more, you see I was a bad, bad girl...
Here's the thing, I couldn't stick to the script. The script being blogging. That was the topic, but talking about blogging when I'm not actually blogging, ugh. Instead, I decided I wanted to talk about a recent diary I posted on DKos, a rescued diary, thank you very much.
I was able to talk about women in the labor movement, women like Mandy from Ohio and how she's now driving a dump truck and getting steady apprenticeship work through her union. And why is she getting steadier work now? Well there was this little thing called the Stimulus Bill. She's working a Shovel Ready Project. As a single mom with two little girls, that steady pay check is important, very important. But what I love about Mandy's story is that she'd been working at a Good Year service center and had been promised that she'd be able to get certified to be a mechanic. She kept working there, watching as her male counter parts hired after her just kept getting promoted or trained and she couldn't. So, she applied for the apprenticeship program and although it was hard at first to make ends meet during the first part of the apprenticeship, she's now got steadier work, makes more than she did at Good Year and is moving up the ranks, toward a journeyman level.
I also got to talk about how the Employee Free Choice act will have a greater impact on women in the labor force than it will on men. My point on this piece was that women make different choices when we take a job. It might be because we're thinking about the hours, getting kids to school or trying to figure out a way to be home to make dinner. We simply think differently about working and how to work than our male counterparts.
That's when Rick made an excellent point. In a union, everyone knows what everyone else makes. You see, it's part of the contract. But women outside of unions don't get this break, take the story about Mandy. She discovered after the fact, that men hired after she was were getting paid more. When waited tables, male servers made more than we did. My mom always said it's because people think they're raising a family and need a higher wage. But so are we.
So, if you get a minute, check out the audio file. I'd love to hear what everyone has to say. And, if I'm on again, what do you think I should talk about? Keep in mind, I'm pretty labor and women focused, but I really would like some new ideas. Who knows where those thoughts could lead me?
And, in case you missed it at the top, here's the audio file again:
Rick Smith Radio Show
Joe the so-called Plumber is shilling against The Employee Free Choice Act and doesn't even know what it is!
Even though the "Astro-Turf" corporate front group, Americans for Prosperity, would like you to believe that he is the average American, I hope to god that most of you aren't even remotely that stupid. When I think of Joe The so-called Plumber, I think of him as a prime candidate for Presidency in the fictional future as told in the movie Idiocracy. A world 500 years in the future that is so dumbed down that they don't even know how to farm anymore, a world that needs a "plumber" like Joe.
Our future President, the guy driving, according to Idiocracy, Joe fits right in.
Think Progress has this to say on the matter:
Remember that Joe never had a plumbing license, and many of the people in that profession are members of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry (UA). UA political and legislative director Rick Terven responded to the latest news, saying, “Real plumbers want and need the Employee Free Choice Act as a way to empower themselves to join a union, without fear of intimidation or losing their jobs. Joe the Plumber doesn’t speak for real plumbers.”Yes, Joe has been hired to talk about The Employee Free Choice Act in the state of Pensylvania, all I can say is What The F@ck??!!
YouTube Video Page:
March 31, 2009, Harrisburg, PA. Just before this video starts, out of microphone range, Joe admits that he has not read the Employee Free Choice Act legislation. Still, he came to Pennsylvania to tell workers that they do not need the protections of the bill.
Fuck you Joe, get a real job!
Big thanks to people over at Keystone Progress for asking the right questions
"Some of the girls, in jumping, smashed through the sidewalk vault lights on the Washington place side of the building. The bodies that continued to crash upon the vault light finally made a hole in it about five feet in diameter. Just at dusk firemen and policemen were pulling many half nude and burned corpses from this hole."
Learn more at Cornell University ILR School online\
Great article on the 98th. anniversary at Labor Is Not A Commodity:
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire 98th Year Anniversary
The Bullshit of Big Business
Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus: "This is the demise of civilization," he exploded. "This is how a civilization disappears. I'm watching this happen and I don't believe it!"...hour-long conference call with various other corporate executives and their political operatives. The purpose was to collect industry funds for a campaign to kill a piece of legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).
Hightower: Time for real workplace democracy-- not the phony company version
In the past the corporate and financial elite have been very careful to work in the shadows…………..but their opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act has forced them into the light of day. The best they can do is blatantly lie about it
Workers are being robbed, over and over again
Hilda Solis on Government Accountability Office investigation regarding Wage and hours divisionResearch and Development Shifted to low-Cost Countries, Hidden in Corporate Research Budgets. We just don't make anything here anymore
In a report scheduled to be released Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office found that the agency, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, had mishandled 9 of the 10 cases brought by a team of undercover agents posing as aggrieved workers
In the latter half of the 20th Century and thus far into the 21st Century, America has witnessed millions of blue and white-collar jobs outsourced to low-wage Third World Countries. As jobs are outsourced ...
Next generation fighting for jobs
Labor Film Festival, Worker Support Key WSU Student Labor Week of Action « Talking Union
The Young Democratic Socialists chapter at Wichita State University is planning an array of exciting events for the 2009 Student Labor Week of Action. In 2008, WSU students participated in the national campaign organized by Jobs with Justice for the first time. This year, Campus Progress and other campus groups are joining the YDS in a greatly expanded week of action.
All they want is a union
US Food Service Worker Talks to us about the Employee Free Choice Act and the harassment he received organizing
A US Food Service Worker who was harassed and intimidated from his employer just for trying to organize a union.
The US Chamber of Commerce is the fist of Corporate greed, while local chapters are very helpful and filled with mom and pop businesses, the mother group wouldn't care if we were left eating dirt sandwiches. “We are disappointed with President Obama’s executive order, the purpose of which is to interfere with an employer’s ability to communicate with its employees about whether they should be represented by a union,”
Mid-Atlantic States Labor » President Obama signs several pro-labor Executive OrdersNotice the "Business" propaganda "Union demands threaten", Meanwhile the PLA in the NYC school construction has saved a ton of money for tax payers, while using SKILLED CRAFTSMAN who are LEGALLY ABLE to work in this country. Without a PLA you get MISCLASSIFICATION schemes, unpaid workers, no overtime pay, unsafe conditions and the taxpayers get to pay for the employers responsibilities. Education+Communication=Power
LEHIGH VALLEY, March 15th- President Obama signed several Executive Orders benefiting organized labor that will have an immediate impact on private businesses that provide goods and services to the federal government. ...
Construction: GlobalFoundries: Union demands for ‘PLA’ could threaten $4.2B fab - The Business ReviewPharmaceuticals in our fish! "The average person hopefully will see this type of a study and see the importance of us thinking about water that we use every day, where does it come from, where does it go to? We need to understand this is a limited resource and we need to learn a lot more about our impacts on it,"
GlobalFoundries Inc. is warning that demands by construction unions for a so-called Project Labor Agreement could put the $4.2 billion chip fab project in Malta at risk.
“We have a narrow window of time in which to complete this complex project in order to successfully bring products to market,” spokesman Travis Bullard said. “It is critical that we complete this project on schedule and within budget.”
Study: Range of Pharmaceuticals in Fish Across US | CommonDreams.orgMain Steam Media blaming the entire mess on Barack Obama: "The sad thing is that most of the Mainstream Media just don't seem to get it. They continue to act as if this is Barack Obama's recession, a problem that he could be, and should be, fixing...and that he hasn't is indicative of some sort of personal failure. The almost complete inability of the media to recognize this recession for what it is- the bastard child of the past eight years of the Reign of Error "
Fish caught near wastewater treatment plants serving five major U.S. cities had residues of pharmaceuticals in them, including medicines used to treat high cholesterol, allergies, high blood pressure, bipolar disorder and depression, researchers reported Wednesday.
Findings from this first nationwide study of human drugs in fish tissue have prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to significantly expand similar ongoing research to more than 150 different locations.
It's easy to sound concerned from the warmth and safety of your ivory tower - What Would Jack Do?Image from What Would Jack Do?At the press conference Tuesday night, NBC's Chuck Todd asked Obama why he hadn't asked the American people for specific sacrifices. And, Todd wanted something specific. I thought it was an odd question considering how many jobs and homes have been lost across the country. Almost everyone who has a 401-k has watched it tank. Things just aren't good. But, Todd wants more. Obama basically told him the American people are suffering enough. That seemed lost on Todd. That exchange revealed just how deep the chasm is between reality and the DC elite.I'm (thankfully) not old enough to have first-hand experience of the Great Depression. Therefore, I'm not going to blithely toss around bon mots about how our current situation is this generation's "Great Depression". I don't know that to be the case, and while the symbolism might be apt, it does nothing to help further the understanding of why we are where we are...never mind how we got here or what we need to do to pull ourselves out of this hole.
Why regulate when the banks are doing so good?
Bank Of America's Lewis Against Reinstating Glass-Steagall Act | Crooks and LiarsWhat the Right Wing want's you to believe
No, of course not. Because so far, that little arrangement has been working rather well for them - they got obscenely rich, and we got the tab:
Union Maine: Web Wandering on the Left Wing and Advice from the RightStrauss says screw the workers
Hi, I am from the Right wing and I am here to help you.I preach fiscal control and morals. I will tell you how to live your life. I am going to give away our whole history and our strategy for 2010. It won't matter because you are all too dumb to remember.
I might chase congressional pages.....but it won't hurt the party. As long as we can stand self-righteously against the abortion and gay marriage the base won't care. We could arrest all of the black population for smoking a joint and no one will care. We fixed the courts to get Rush Limbaugh a pass for buying $8000.00 a week in Oxys. I stand here before you and say to my brain-dead constituency that I know you will keep my political career going. Without me, Wall Street will be regulated and we would lose our biggest backers, but we won't let that happen. Sure some of us were sent packing in the last election and maybe we will lay low for awhile, then reappear and issue a budget with no numbers.
R&S Strauss wants to give out nearly $700,000 in bonuses while their workers are left hanging
Strauss Auto Workers Protest for Fair Contract, Against Corporate Greed
Activists rally outside of a Strauss Autobacs service center in New Jersey. The company is demanding outrageous sacrifices from its workers while rewarding executives with $600,000 in bonuses.
French workers take to BossNapping, I guess this is why we should hate the French? They are taking unscrupulous bosses hostage and I can't even punch a super anymore.
Sacked French workers take to 'bossnapping'Unemployment up everywhere except Nebraska
Bosses across the world are having to break bad news to employees as companies go under. But that can be a risky business in France, where some furious workers have taken to holding their managers hostage to demand better pay-offs.
In the latest outbreak of "bossnapping", workers at a pharmaceutical factory were Wednesday holding their boss in his office for a second day to force him to improve their redundancy packages.
Unemployment up everywhere except NebraskaDr. Martin Luther King standing up for workers in the days leading to his execution
About 800 fewer people were unemployed in Nebraska last month than in January, enough to drop the jobless rate one-tenth of a percentage point and set the state apart from the rest of the country.
On April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. traveled to Memphis to support AFSCME sanitation workers. That evening, he delivered his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech to a packed room of supporters. The next day, he was assassinated.
Taking over the worlds food supply
The world plagued by Monsanto
So I read on Common Dreams that Monsanto is trying to “fight back” using Web 2.0.One example of a company that effectively did that is PC maker Dell Corp. Dell-bashing escalated a few years ago, giving rise to the term "Dell Hell." When the company finally started its own blog, it became the forum of choice for critics.Why even bother to comment on their blog? That allows them to control the debate which cannot be allowed. It’s one thing to monitor their online activities but totally another thing to engage them on their own battlefield. For example I follow the dirty coal industry’s @americaspower on Twitter. I responded to them a few times but no more. There’s no point. Now I just monitor what they’re saying. It’s about building power against them not engaging them.
Monsanto similarly appears to be trying to steer discussion about critical issues to its blog so it’s easier to influence the debate, Barnes said.
"Now they’re controlling the posts, they’re answering the questions, they’re directing them to different places within Monsanto and maybe another site," she said. "They’ve taken control of the situation."
Joe the wanna-be plumber-douche fighting against the Employee Free Choice Act and more up to date info'
After Specter Flip-Flop: Unions' Grass-Roots Campaign vs. Joe the Plumber, ShillStrauss Protest in New Jersey
Washington pundits and even some anxious progressives pronounced the Employee Free Choice Act virtually dead because of Sen. Arlen Specter's flip-flop on the bill. But the union movement is ramping up its largest grass-roots campaign ever, and quite willing to flex its political muscle on behalf of workers' rights.
Stewart Acuff, the special assistant to the president of the AFL-CIO, points out the scope of the grass-roots campaign -- and also sends out hints that centrist and Blue Dog Democrats can't count on labor support anymore if they don't back this bill as they did in the previous Congress. Not only has the AFL-CIO alone helped generate 55,000 hand-written letters to legislators in Washington since January, but Acuff has observed:
Strauss Discount Auto Workers Rally For Fair Contract, Protest Executive Greed (3/26/09)Bridge Painters Injured on Whitestone Bridge
NEWARK, NJ, Thursday, March 26, 2009 – Leaders and members of RWDSU Local 108 representing workers from the Strauss Discount Auto stores rallied with leading labor leaders and elected officials in Newark today to urge the giant retailer to do what is necessary to negotiate a fair, equitable and responsible labor contract. The current contract expired in October 2008, and Strauss Discount Auto’s executives have refused to offer a contract that provides economic relief or fairness for its loyal and dedicated workforce. Leading analysts believe the impact of the current financial crisis on the auto parts industry is minimal.
TWO BRIDGE PAINTERS INJURED IN BOOM TRUCK ACCIDENT ON THE WHITESTONE BRIDGE « GANGBOX: CONSTRUCTIONUnions are good for the American economy
An M.T.A. construction truck struck an overhead road sign on the Queens-bound plaza of the Whitestone Bridge at 1:10 p.m. on Friday, causing the steel sign structure to come crashing down on all six lanes and injuring two people who were on the truck, according to M.T.A. ...
Unions Are Good for the American EconomySLAVERY THAT WE PAY FOR!!!
U.S. fact sheet (pdf)
Interactive map: Unions Are Good for Workers and the Economy in Every State
Press call: Robert Reich, Beth Shulman, and Karla Walter
The essence of what labor unions do—give workers a stronger voice so that they can get a fair share of the economic growth they help create—is and has always been important to making the economy work for all Americans. And unions only become more important as the economy worsens.
One of the primarily reasons why our current recession endures is that workers do not have the purchasing power they need to drive our economy. Even when times were relatively good, workers were getting squeezed. Income for the median working age household fell by about $2,000 between 2000 and 2007, and it could fall even further as the economy continues to decline. Consumer activity accounts for roughly 70 percent of our nation’s economy, and for a while workers were able to use debt to sustain their consumption. Yet debt-driven consumption is not sustainable, as we are plainly seeing.
Poultry industry: It's bad enough that they hire undocumented with 0 labor rights in most states, but in Iowa, they go a step further, abusing mentally retarded workers from Texas, working from 4:30 till dark, giving them a rat infested hovel to live and sucking the teet of the social security for $400+ in rent.
State closes bunkhouse that housed mentally retarded workersGreat interview with Jack Ahern, president of the NYC Central Labor Council in this week's Irish Echo about worker struggles in a tough economy, the dignity of work when joining a union, and growing up in an Irish working-class home in Brooklyn with his Carpenter Local 608 Father and Firefighter Grandfather.
Federal police, state health inspectors and county prosecutors descended on this eastern Iowa town over the weekend, launching a major investigation into the care and treatment of a group of mentally retarded men and ordering an emergency evacuation of the men's living quarters.
The investigation focuses on Henry's Turkey Service, a Texas-based company that for 34 years has employed dozens of mentally retarded men who work at the West Liberty Foods meat-processing plant in Muscatine County.
Late Saturday, the state fire marshal shut down the deteriorating building — known locally as "the bunkhouse" — that for decades has served as housing for Henry's workers. State social workers moved the 21 occupants of the bunkhouse to a hotel where they were expected to spend the night.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice, which investigates allegations of civil rights violations against the disabled, were on the scene Saturday night, as were agents of the FBI.
Ahern leads NYC workers in tough timesHelmets To Hardhats: Over 1,700 returning veterans have entered careers as skilled union tradesman in 2008 thanks to Helmets to Hardhats
"I enjoy going to work every day. I couldn't envision a day when I would get up and not go in to work. At times the work is very, very challenging, at times it's depressing, quite frankly. You don't win every battle," he said. "There are employers who despite our best efforts still take advantage of people. There's a lot of heartache out there, unfortunately. But even on those toughest days, I wouldn't trade my job for anybody's else in the world."
"We arise through difficulties" is the Ahern family motto, he noted. "It sums up a lot of what Irish immigrants felt. Obama paraphrased it in his [economic] speech [in February]," he said. "But it's very much true of the labor movement -- we don't always win, we don't always get what we want, but we're there representing our members. We're fighting to get what's best for our members and for all working people.
Helmets to Hardhats Increases Veterans Placements in 2008Union Construction Workers Always Help: Union construction workers are a very giving bunch, at Bank Of America tower in NYC, we collected over $1000 in one hour for "Walk Now For Autism", and in one lunch session, retired Steamfitter, Gene Jackson, sold over 400 shirts whose proceeds went directly to "Wounded Warriors" which helps our severely injured returning veterans. We always help.
The Helmets to Hardhats program is placing veterans in careers and apprenticeship training programs at an increasing rate. In 2008 alone, 1,701 veterans were placed; representing a 10 percent increase over 2007. Of the 1,701 placements, 79 were entered into the recently conceived “Wounded Warriors” program. The Wounded Warrior program recognizes the supreme sacrifice that our Veterans have made for this country. Its supports disabled Veterans by providing the tools, information and community support that will help Veterans gain prosperous and sustainable careers within the building and construction industry.
Construction Workers Turn ‘Tip’ Into Cash for Sick KidsWorldwide recession has 29 of the largest construction projects stopped dead
...by the end of the day, a nickel and dime were taped to the wall next to the penny. “It went from nickels and dimes to quarters and dollar bills,” Bullock said. Pretty soon, Bullock had more than $10 on the wall.
“I didn’t want to keep the money,” he told the NW Labor Press. So he posted a sign saying: “Children’s Cancer Society.”
Word spread that Bullock was giving the money to the cancer center at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. In less than a week more than $200 was tacked to the elevator walls.
Global recession stalls skyscraper constructionAmazon.com CEO actually does what all CEO's should do; He's out there working in the fields with the rest of the employees. As another reader pointed out "Another stunt by a union-busting overpaid executive. Don't buy this milarky. I remember a few years back when he and his hired guns crushed an effort by his distribution center workers to choose union representation and win a living wage. It was shameful"
There is a gaping hole where one of the world's tallest buildings is supposed to go up.
The planned 150-story Chicago Spire would be 2,000 feet tall (610 m) if it gets built atop its completed foundation, ranking the tower the tallest in the Western Hemisphere and the sixth-tallest among the world's planned skyscrapers.
The Spire was supposed to be finished by 2012 and the Irish developer staged a global marketing campaign. Buyers snapped up a third of its 1,194 luxury condominiums priced between $750,000 and $40 million. Ty Warner, creator of the Beanie Baby toys, opted for the top-priced penthouse.
But after digging a 76-foot-deep (23 m) hole and sinking caissons, construction on the twisting Spire -- inspired, its famed architect Santiago Calatrava said, by swirling smoke from a Native American campfire -- was stalled in January by the credit crisis that is stifling construction worldwide.
Jeff Bezos Works In Kentucky Distribution Center For A WeekUPS drops advertising on O'Reilly
He apparently wants to see what it's like to be a rank-and-file Amazon employee. More CEOs should try that once in a while.
UPS Dumps Bill O'Reilly Sponsorship: They're Just Not Into Stalkers
"Screw the big banks. I learned my lesson. The only question is:
In response to our Stop Supporting The O’Reilly Harassment Machine campaign, UPS told us yesterday that it was investigating whether to continue supporting O’Reilly’s show. “We are sensitive to the type of television programming where our messages and presence are associated and continually review choices to affect future decisions,” spokeswoman Susan Rosenberg told us.
Today UPS announced it will stop advertising on O’Reilly’s show. Here is the statement UPS emailed out just moments ago:
Thank you for sending an e-mail expressing concern about UPS advertising during the Bill O’Reilly show on FOX News. We do consider such comments as we review ad placement decisions which involve a variety of news, entertainment and sports programming. At this time, we have no plans to continue advertising during this show.
Will you remember this lesson when times are good again?"
Citi tried to kill our small business - Local bank might save usThat's just 2 days of links at the Facebook site
We bailed them out. We bailed them out to help them start lending.
As a small business owner with 15 employees I have been struggling to keep us above water for the past 3 months. We're living payroll to payroll. All three partners stopped taking salary so as not to lay off any people. We've been teetering on the edge but somehow we've postponed the drop month by month. Last week we saw our first glimmer of hope with a few extra sales - light at the end of the tunnel.
Yesterday Citi pulled our Line of Credit.
From the Video Page at YouTube:
This video is a brief overview of changes in the labor process under capitalism. Many of the ideas are from Harry Braverman's "Labor and Monopoly Capital" and from vol. 1 of Marx's Das Kapital.
I hope this video to be first in a long series I plan to call "A Brief History of Crisis" about the evolution of modern society under capitalism- a series that will eventually bring us up to the present crisis.
Bonus just to cheer you up:
Flintstones cartoon that got banned
So what exactly does all that mean? Well a filibuster obstructs the passage of legislation, it wastes time, it wastes the tax paying American's money, from Wikipedia "One of the most notable filibusters of the 1960s was when southern Democratic Senators attempted, unsuccessfully, to block the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by making a filibuster that lasted for 75 hours." If a motion of cloture was petitioned and voted for, then it would have to get debated and voted on.
Specter: I'll Vote No on Employee Free Choice Act
(Talking Points Memo):
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) just dealt a big blow to the labor movement by announcing publicly that he would support a GOP filibuster of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), unions' No. 1 priority for this year and a subject of intense lobbying on both sides of the aisle.Fight for Employee Free Choice Continues Despite Specter’s Flip
"My vote on this bill is very difficult for many reasons," Specter said in a Senate floor speech, minutes after the news was broken by the Washington Independent. "It is very hard to disappoint many friends ... who are urging me to vote their way."
Even though he was a sponsor of the original Employee Free Choice Act in 2003, supported the bill again in 2005 and voted against a Republican filibuster of it in 2007, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) announced today that he would support a filibuster this year in an attempt to block the legislation from coming to a Senate floor vote.American Rights At Work:
Specter made a statement today about the failures of America’s labor laws—failures that make the Employee Free Choice Act necessary—but he also advanced falsehoods spread by corporate front groups. The statement shows that he’s listening not to his constituents, but to the big-money interests who are hoping to prevent workers from exercising their basic freedom to form unions and bargain.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says that while Specter’s cave-in to corporate lobbyists is disappointing, it won’t blunt the momentum behind this critical bill to protect worker’s freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life.Today’s announcement by Sen. Specter—a sponsor of the original Employee Free Choice Act who voted for cloture in 2007—is frankly a disappointment and a rebuke to working people, to his own constituents in Pennsylvania and working families around the country.
The fact is the Employee Free Choice Act has more support than ever—large majorities in both houses of Congress, the president and vice president, 73 percent of the public. We will continue to work with Democrats and a number of Republicans to create common-sense solutions to the decades of corporate power.
We do not plan to let a hardball campaign from Big Business derail the Employee Free Choice Act or the dreams of workers.
There are deep flaws in our labor laws, as Sen. Specter acknowledged today. The freedom to join together and bargain with employers for fair wages and better benefits is critical to rebuilding our middle class—and now is exactly the time to do it, as we begin to revive our economy in a way that works for everyone. In the coming weeks, we will be escalating our campaign and finding the best ways forward to a balanced, strong economy.
He has continually acknowledged the need for practical solutions to the huge barriers workers in our country face when trying to form a union. His statement today opposing an up or down vote and real discussion is inconsistent with his own record of support for working people.Change To Win:
“The Employee Free Choice Act is a vital component to restoring our economy, rebuilding the middle class and renewing the American Dream for America’s workers. Allowing workers the choice to join together, free from intimidation and harassment, to bargain for job security, better wages and health care will stimulate our economy and put working families back on the path of prosperity. We will continue to work with Democrats and Republicans, including Sen. Specter, to pass this critical legislation and make our economy work for everyone.”Statement from SEIU President Andy Stern on the Employee Free Choice Act
In the middle of this economic crisis, passing the Employee Free Choice Act is exactly the right thing to do to give workers the chance to level the playing field. Majority Leader Reid said today, and as even Sen. Specter acknowledges, we need strong labor reform. Now more than ever, America's workers need a choice, free from intimidation and harassment, to bargain for job security, better wages and health care. Our President, Vice President and majorities in both houses of Congress share this goal, and we will not stop in our efforts to achieve it.
In an essay Senator Specter recently wrote for the Harvard Journal on Legislation, he states that for people like himself, "finding a practical solution is more important than political posturing." That's why we're dismayed by those who say they support the democratic process, yet refuse to allow meaningful debate and a democratic vote on critical legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act.
It's simple: If you support democracy, you should support the right to debate legislation that could improve the lives of millions of working Americans, pump $49 billion into the economy at a time when we desperately need it, and that's supported by the vast majority of the public.
We look forward to working with Sen. Specter and the rest of the Congress to find ways to give workers the free choice to join a union free from intimidation and harassment.
Young women were toiling away in their factory. The factory was littered with lint, dust and fabric. Fabric hung above them, finished shirts, unfinished, strips of cloth and everywhere, women toiled, trying to feed their families. Within only a day, many of these same women would be dead.
Near closing time on Saturday afternoon, March 25, 1911, a fire broke out... and this Friday, you can do something to remember these women and all those whose workplaces continue to put them at risk. If you live in New York, join UNITE HERE:
To honor the women who died at the Triangle Fire and our continued fight for workers rights and workplace safety, we would like you to join us at the commemoration of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire -- a definitive event in the history of American labor and in the history of New York City.
Triangle Fire Commemoration
Friday, March 27, 2009 at 12 pm
New York City:
Corner of Washington Place & Greene Street
For more information about the commemoration, please contact
Ed Vargas at 212-265-7000.
An "inadequate weld" by repair workers in China factored in the May 30 tower-crane collapse on East 91st Street that killed two construction workers, say government investigative documents obtained by The Post.
When the turntable weld snapped 13 stories above East 91st Street and First Avenue, the crane's engine, hoisting booms and operator cabin, fell to the street, killing the operator, Donald Leo, 30, and ground-level construction worker Ramadan Kurtaj, 28.
Other culprits may be unearthed in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration probe of the tragedy - the second of two fatal tower-crane topplings in Manhattan last year. Among the other factors are the crane's age and whether it was adequately inspected before it was set up.
OSHA officials won't discuss the probe. But sources outside the agency say it is withholding its report while Manhattan prosecutors weigh possible criminal charges.
The turntable on the 24-year-old Kodiak crane was damaged at a high-rise construction job on West 46th Street in May 2007 by what its owner, New York Crane & Equipment, says was a lightning strike.
New York Crane and its owner, James Lomma, weighed two options to fix the turntable bearing.
An Ohio company, Avon Bearings, offered to do the job for $120,000 in about 196 days. The other offer was from a Chinese firm, RTR Bearing, which said it could fix the bearing for $20,000 in 90 days - despite the time needed to ship the part to China and back.
Corporate greed has gone unchecked recently in part due to the decline of the labor movement. Is it a coincidence that union membership declined dramatically from 20 percent of the private sector workforce in 1980 to just over 7 percent in 2006 while CEO pay has increased from 42 times what the average worker made in 1980 to 364 in 2006? Unions demand an economy that works for all, not just those at the top, such as AIG executives. As William Greider, author of the Soul of Capitalism, told me, "Unions are an honest broker in the economy.”
Through pension and retirement funds, workers can fund companies that invest in communities and in green jobs, promote workers' rights and operate in a transparent manner; and penalize companies that don't. With over $6 trillion of workers' money in retirement plans, pension funds, profit-sharing and stock plans and union reserve funds, the money of workers' plays a large role in fueling the global economy. Through putting workers' representatives on the board of these funds, unions can make sure that "worker investments are managed in workers' best financial interests." By investing in transparent, open and financially healthy companies, unions through stockholder activism can lead the way in ending the culture of reckless corporate short-term profit-seeking, which led to the rise of subprime mortgages and credit-derivative swaps.
Unions have long sought ways to make corporate profits sustainable in the long run in order to both retain and create jobs. It is ironic that the United Auto Workers (UAW) has been unfairly scapegoated as the cause of the demise of the auto industry since, as early as 1949, they have called for the Big Three to make small, more fuel-efficient cars. In 1949, in a pamphlet entitled "A Small Car Named Desire," the UAW cautioned automakers against investing solely in big cars since some consumers would ultimately be interested in cheaper smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. In short, unions have also sought was is best for all— not just for workers, but creating the economic conditions that will allow their companies to thrive.
The irony of Wal-Mart's use of the words "coercion" and "intimidation" to campaign against the EFCA is pretty evident. Wal-Mart is notorious for its own coercive anti-union tactics, and is considered by labor and human rights groups as one of the largest union-busting firms in the country, often intimidating, coercing and harassing employees to prevent unionization at its stores.
Federal labor law charges have been filed on behalf of Wal-Mart workers in more than 20 states. By June 2008, Wal-Mart had at least 80 class-action lawsuits in 41 states pending against it for worker abuse. From 1998 through 2003, the National Labor Relations Board filed more than 45 complaints accusing Wal-Mart managers in more than two dozen stores of illegal practices, including improperly firing union supporters, intimidating workers, and threatening to deny bonuses if workers unionized.
Wal-Mart's anti-union intimidation tactics are the exact sort of worker harassment the EFCA is set to end. Labor rights' groups point out that workers often choose to pursue "card-check" campaigns simply because secret-ballot elections are easily manipulated by employers during the long pre-election period. Employers often use this extra time to engage in coercive anti-union campaigning to influence workers not to vote for the union. During this period, workers can face harassment, intimidation, and even be fired simply for trying to exercise their right to organize.
Strip away the propaganda, though, and what's at stake is clear. The measure finally levels a playing field that has been tilted against organised labour ever since the Founding Fathers – or at least since a Philadelphia judge ruled in 1806 that an attempt by a group of shoemakers to secure a wage increase was an "illegal criminal conspiracy". Abraham Lincoln, who extolled the moral superiority of labour over capital, might have been a supporter of unions – but most often the movement struggled against the overwhelming power of the bosses.
The story of Jay Gould, financier, railroad magnate and archetypal "robber baron", sums up an era. In 1886, Gould was confronted by the so-called Great SouthWest Railroad Strike. Was he worried? someone asked. Not at all, Gould is said to have replied: "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half." Predictably, the strike failed.
More than a century later, employers still practise intimidation, albeit of a subtler variety. They can keep outside union organisers off the premises, and fire employees who agitate for unions, at the risk of derisory fines. Workers are told of the evils of unionised life. Jobs, they are told, will vanish as costs rise. If "socialism" comes to the shop floor, the entire company may be forced to relocate to friendlier, even foreign, climes. Honing these tactics are so-called union-avoidance consultants, "union-busters" as they are better known. They are masters of stalling, prevarication and generally exploiting every loophole in America's labour laws.
Yes, the employees may get a secret vote – but to what end? According to a recent study, out of 22,000 organising drives at companies between 1999 and 2005, only one in five succeeded in establishing a union that negotiated a collective contract with employers. And this despite polls showing that up to 50 million non-unionised workers would join if they could.
The country would benefit as well. In fact, the health of the unions and that of the national economy move almost as one. In the 1920s, unions were weak and corporate excesses contributed to the crash that followed. But in the Depression, membership soared, as the great social programmes of the New Deal helped build the middle class that took wing after the Second World War.
Just as in the 1920s, this latest "boom" has done little for the middle classes. A declining union movement was mirrored by a concentration of wealth among the rich. If labour reasserts itself, its extra bargaining muscle should help protect jobs and improve healthcare coverage, the two greatest worries of ordinary Americans.
And, you could argue, with stronger unions worldwide, this crisis might never have happened. In China, the other contributor to unsustainable global imbalance, a genuinely independent union movement might have forced that government to divert resources into consumption, rather than pile up a surplus that financed America's ruinous borrowing binge.
But will the bill gain approval? A couple of years ago, a similar bill foundered in the Senate. Back then, George Bush threatened to veto the measure. Now, President Barack Obama strongly supports it – as well he should, given the money and organisation the unions contributed to his victory. Several influential Democrats, doubtless prodded by their own corporate donors, are having second thoughts, however, claiming the priority is to put the economy to rights. But again, that is precisely the point. If organised labour had had a stronger voice, the US might never have got into this mess in the first place.