The Irony of a Union Win

Michael Kazen writes in Dissent.

The hard struggle the AFL-CIO just spearheaded could become yet another example of a long, ironic tradition in labor politics: When union activists fight for issues that clearly affect large numbers of ordinary people, they often win. But when they try to persuade voters and legislators to defend or expand the membership of their own organizations, they usually lose.

Read More: Why Unions Win When They Win | Dissent Magazine

Things That Caught My Eye This Week

Here are some links of interest that I ran across this week.

Rauner, Public Unions Not Close On Contracts

The contracts for more than 40,000 Illinois state workers will expire at the end of the month, and their unions and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s negotiating team apparently aren’t close to agreeing on new ones. The impasse has gotten more public attention in recent days, with union members staging nearly 100 protests throughout the state to rally public support to their calls for fair contracts. With the potential for a far-reaching strike or lockout looming, here are things to know.

What Would a Sanders Administration Do on K-12 Education?
The most progressive candidate in the 2016 race has some interesting ideas on public education.

Right-to-Work’s big moment | TheHill
People can reasonably debate the merits of unions or how labor law should balance the interests of employers, employees and labor organizations. But the contemporary push for Right-to-Work, like its historical predecessors, doesn’t do this. Today it is being used to burnish the credentials of aspiring politicians on the right and as a blunt instrument to defund a political adversary. The well-being of employees has always been much further down the list.

The Real Meaning of Obama’s Trade Defeat | Robert Kuttner
The real story here is a deep and principled split between the Congressional wing of the Democratic Party, most of whose members are still fairly progressive, and a presidential wing that has been in bed with Wall Street at least since Bill Clinton and Bob Rubin (who among his many other roles is the mentor and patron of Obama’s top trade official, Mike Froman).

To be an anarchist | Adbusters
When an “entire society,” i.e., almost everything around you, seemingly to the smallest detail, reflects assumptions contrary to your most deeply held convictions about what the world is and can be,  merely to persevere in imagining and acting on the assumption of the possibility of another kind of world is, in itself, a monumental and continual effort of resistance.

RWU Statement on Amtrak 188

Here are some excellent thoughts from Railroad Workers United concerning the derailment of Amtrak 188.

If we are serious about preventing future catastrophes of this nature, we must equip railroad workers with the necessary tools to enable them to perform the job safely. Pointing fingers at this or that employee (at any level in the company, union or management) might make some folks feel better, but it does little or nothing to prevent future accidents. Railroad Workers United believes it is time we learn from these terrible tragedies and get serious about implementing the necessary measures to ensure safe railroad operations.

Read More: Railroad Workers United: The Wreck of #AMTRAK188 Talking Points From RWU

From The Jungle to The Chain

Bill Droel takes a look at the meat packing industry as exposed in The Chain: Farm Factory and the Fate of Our Food by Ted Genoways, a new book in the tradition of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

A dirty and perhaps infected carcass more likely makes its way down the line. Workers suffer more injuries, including a nerve-damaging infection that is only detected later. Our relatively inexpensive meat “comes at a high cost to its workers.”

Read More: Food Processing | Catholic Labor Network

Chicago May Day 2015

joe-hill-roadshow

May Day Celebration – Noon to 1: 30 PM Haymarket Memorial, Corner of DesPlaines & Randolph

May Day 2015 March, Rally, and Noise Demonstration – 2:30 PM Union Park

Illinois Labor History Society Annual Membership Meeting – 5 to 7 PM Chicago Federation of Musicians, 656 Randolph Street, Haymarket Square

The Joe Hill Roadshow – 9 PM Hideout, 1354 West Wabansia Avenue, Chicago

Privatization: Profits Over People

Paul Buchheit at Common Dreams takes a look at The Project on Government Oversight’s latest report on privatization. They found that in 33 of 35 cases the federal government spent more on private contractors than on public employees for the same services. The authors of the report said “Our findings were shocking.”

For the U.S. Postal Service, for instance, it costs less than 50 cents to send a letter to any remote location in the United States. For an envelope with a two-day guarantee, FedEx and UPS charge about four to five times as much.

USPS is so inexpensive, in fact, that Fedex actually uses the U.S. Post Office for about 30 percent of its ground shipments. As Ralph Nader notes, the USPS has not taken any taxpayer money since 1971, and if it weren’t required by an inexplicable requirement to pre-fund employee benefits for 75 years, it would be making a profit. Instead, this national institution has been forced to cut jobs and routes and mailing centers.

In other words, privatization places profits over people.

Read the entire article: How Privatization Degrades Our Daily Lives | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community.

Solidarity with our ILWU Brothers and Sisters

A dispute between the International Longshore & Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association has drawn the attention of President Obama, who has now sent Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to meet with the sides. It is not yet known what specific message was conveyed to the negotiators. Some have speculated that the Obama Administration is threatening to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act to reopen the ports in the event of either a strike or a lockout.

A Department of Labor press release on the matter stated the following. “On behalf of President Obama, Secretary Perez made clear that the dispute has led to a very negative impact on the U.S. economy, and further delay risks tens of thousands of jobs and will cost American businesses hundreds of millions of dollars.” It also said that the two sides must come to “immediate agreement to prevent further damage to our economy and further pain for American workers and their employers.”

This sort of talk seems a far cry from Obama’s campaign rhetoric, where he pledged to “put on a comfortable pair of shoes” himself and “walk on that picket line with you, as President of the United States of America.”

The PMA, an association of the owners of the 29 ports on the West Coast, has stepped up a media campaign to draw attention to the harm that the dispute may be doing to the larger U.S. economy. The President of the ILWU, Robert McEllrath, fired back two weeks ago, accusing the PMA of distorting the facts, threatening to close the ports and bargaining in the media instead of at the table.

“What the ILWU heard yesterday is a man who makes about one million dollars a year telling the working class that we have more than our share,” said McEllrath. “Intensifying the rhetoric at this stage of bargaining, when we are just a few issues from reaching an agreement, is totally unnecessary and counterproductive.”

The PMA on Wednesday distributed letters directly to workers at major ports from Los Angeles to Washington state that detailed what they called their last, best and final contract offer, apparently in hopes that the rank-and-file will pressure union negotiators to make concessions.

As the situation unfolds, we may get an opportunity to see whether or not the Obama Administration truly stands with the workers.

For nearly a century, the West Coast longshore and warehouse workers have stood, time and again, on the front lines of the struggle for freedom and justice. They deserve our attention, our respect and our support.

Solidarity Forever Centennial

On a windblown, gray Chicago day 100 years ago, January 17, 1915, Ralph Chaplin left his home on the South Side for a raucous, poor person’s rally at the city’s famous women’s center, Hull House. He asked a visiting friend he’d met organizing coal miners with Mother Jones to listen to the lyrics of a new tune he had been working on. Here’s the story behind one of the most beloved Labor Hymns.

Read the article: ‘Solidarity Forever’ Written 100 Years Ago, Today | Labor Notes.

Stanley Aronowitz on a Post-Political Labor Movement

In These Times has an interview with Stanley Aronowitz on how the labor movement falters and how it might recover.

Post-political means that the union movement may endorse candidates or run its own, but essentially does not rely on electoral politics and public officials—that is, the state—to fulfill its goals. Instead, unions should rely on their own resources, on their own members and on their own imaginations to create conditions to make their members’ lives better, in the way that unions, especially in the early-to-mid-20th century, once established and ran very good, moderate-cost cooperative housing.We’ve been relying for so long on politicians to solve problems that the union membership no longer really relies on its own power. The proper word is really “post-electoral” or “post-state,” and it once had a tremendous resonance among large numbers of workers.

Read the interview: A ‘Post-Political’ Labor Movement – In These Times.

Things That Caught My Eye – Week of August 4th, 2014

Here are some links to articles that caught my eye this week.

6 Ways Wall Street Is Hosing Chicago Teachers – Matthew Cunningham-Cook unpacks how the country’s biggest investment firms are endangering the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.

We Need to Fight for Equality – William Spriggs reflects on how the Labor Movement and the Civil Rights Movement must be united.

Catholic Social Teaching and Adjunct Faculty Organizing – John Russo writes about Catholic Universities and the Social Teaching of the Church.

Some Facts That Poverty-Deniers Don’t Want to Hear – Three-quarters of conservative Americans think poor people have it easy. Paul Buchheit shows that they don’t.

Imagine If People Were Paid What Their Work Is Really Worth to Society – Professor Reich imagines.

Films that Debunk Corporate Education Reform – A list of must-see videos from Diane Ravitch’s Blog.

Israel/Palestine FAQ – Who are the Palestinians? Who are the Israelis? Is Folk Singer David Rovics a self-hating Jew? Find out in this FAQ.

Do Palestinians Really Exist? – When he was nine years old, Dean Obeidallah finally learned about his father’s people.

Lies My Postmaster General Told Me

The Postal Service has been reporting revenue increases for five straight quarters. So why is Postmaster General Donahoe minimizing that winning streak? Over the last few years, faced with falling revenue, postal management has closed post offices, slashed rural office hours, sold historic buildings, cut jobs, and consolidated processing plants. It continues to seek closings and service cuts, such as eliminating Saturday delivery; but some of these moves have been delayed or curtailed by pushback from the public, from employees, and from legislators.

Read More: Why is the Postmaster General Understating Postal Revenue Gains? | Talking Union.