Fascism is the union of government with private business against the People.
"To The States, or any one of them, or to any city of The States: Resist much, Obey little; Once unquestioning obedience, at once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, ever afterward resumes its liberty." from "Caution" by Walt Whitman

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012-12-31 "Fired Teamsters Win Jobs after Illegal Company-Union Collusion

 by Ken Paff from "Labor Notes" [http://www.labornotes.org/blogs/2012/12/fired-teamsters-win-jobs-after-illegal-company-union-collusion]:
Ken Paff is the national organizer for Teamsters for a Democratic Union.
Collusion between the United Auto Workers and a Ford contractor to cut wages and oust Teamsters members was flagrant, says the NLRB—so flagrant that the board is seeking an injunction to get displaced Teamsters their jobs back more quickly.
The December 21 decision by a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge [http://tdu.org/news/nlrb-judge-carhaulers-win-jobs-and-backpay] details how Voith Industrial Services, with Ford Motor Co. pulling the strings, underbid a carhaul company that had moved new cars out of Ford’s Louisville, Kentucky, assembly plant since 1952. To make the low bid, Voith prearranged a substandard contract with UAW Local 862, which represents the workers who build Ford Escapes at the plant.
The judge ordered Voith to put 85 named Teamsters to work, pay them nearly a year’s back-pay, reinstate the superior terms of the Teamster contract, and void the deal the company signed with the UAW. The judge also ordered that the decision be read aloud at meetings of all Voith workers.
Under the terms of the Voith-Ford-UAW arrangement, in early 2012 Teamsters who made $20 per hour, with a union pension, were replaced by newly hired workers making $11-14 per hour.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union, the reform movement in the union, reported on this struggle for jobs by Teamsters Local 89 in August [http://www.tdu.org/news/louisville-carhaulers-fight-jobs].
A Louisville TV station obtained an internal Ford document indicating that Ford planned to save $9.8 million a year by replacing the Teamster contract with the cheaper UAW contract [http://www.tdu.org/media/union-battle-louisville].

No Solidarity -
Teamsters Local 89 repeatedly appealed to the UAW local and international to back away from the deal, including in full-page ads in the Louisville Courier Journal. But the UAW stuck with its plan; union attorneys argued alongside Voith's lawyers at the NLRB hearings. UAW President Bob King, in an email to a Louisville labor leader, called the situation “complicated.”
Voith has cleaning contracts at a number of auto plants, including the Louisville factory, but little experience in carhaul logistical work. Ford set up a meeting in October 2011, and invited the UAW but not the Teamsters, the union that had represented the Louisville workers for 60 years.
Ford awarded Voith the contract, and Voith managers then proceeded to exclude most of the experienced Teamsters from hiring.
In the fight for members' jobs, Local 89 got no help from Teamsters President James Hoffa. Hoffa is generally not inclined to support carhaul members, a more militant section of the union where he has little support. Local 89 President Fred Zuckerman had campaigned against Hoffa in the 2011 election for Teamsters president. And Hoffa's carhaul director stood by while Voith took Teamster jobs at the Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan.
Typically decisions such as this one are subject to lengthy appeals, first to the full NLRB and later to a federal court of appeals. But the case is so egregious that the NLRB's general counsel is going into federal court for a section 10(j) injunction, to speed up the process.

2012-09 "Louisville Carhaulers Fight for Jobs" from "Teamster Voice" [http://www.tdu.org/news/louisville-carhaulers-fight-jobs]:
August 22, 2012: More than 100 Teamsters lost their jobs in a corrupt union-busting deal in Louisville. They're fighting back and may be headed to victory.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has taken unusual emergency action in the case. Instead of waiting endlessly for a complaint to move forward, the NLRB has filed for an injunction in federal court to stop union busting.
If the NLRB's motion succeeds, the Teamsters will be returned to their yard jobs at Ford.  They've been out of work for months because of an illegal scheme to gut their Teamster contract.
In February, Ford took the yard work from Jack Cooper Transport, and awarded it to Voith Industrial Services. Then, in a pre-arranged sweetheart deal, Voith signed a cheap contract with a United Auto Workers local union.
To make sure this deal wouldn't be rejected by the workers, Voith refused to hire the experienced Teamsters, except for a token few. Instead they brought in new hires, and told them they would have to join the UAW.
Teamsters Local 89 decided to fight back. They documented what was happening, to get the NLRB the necessary evidence to take action. The NLRB’s motion for an injunction is directed at both Voith and the UAW.
On July 22, Local 89 took out two full page ads in the Louisville Courier Journal, calling on UAW members to ask their union to stop its collusion in corporate union busting.
On July 24, Local 89 mailed a packet of information to every Teamster local union. The cover letter from Local 89 president Fred Zuckerman states that Local 89 has not received labor support in their battle, "including our own International union."

Why No Support from Hoffa?
James Hoffa is a friend of UAW president Bob King. Why hasn't Hoffa asked his friend to withdraw from the cheap contract deal, and settle with the NLRB?  When we ask carhaulers this question, we get three different answers.
One, the IBT is ready to write-off carhaulers. They don't vote for Hoffa and they can't be easily manipulated.
Two, Hoffa won't help Local 89 because Zuckerman ran on the Fred Gegare Slate and Hoffa removed him as carhaul director after the election.
Three, Hoffa's current carhaul director, Local 299 BA Roy Gross, allowed Voith to pull the same deal last year at the Ford plant in Wayne Michigan. There the Jack Cooper yard workers lost jobs, and now UAW workers do the work under a cheaper contract. So it's embarrassing to have Local 89 win the issue, when Local 299 gave it away without a fight.
Whichever it is, it smells bad.
Fortunately, the Kentucky Teamsters may win even without help from the International union.
The NLRB motion for an injunction against Voith and the UAW is available here [https://tdu.org/sites/default/files/NLRBMotionForInjunction.pdf].

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How Big Business Poisons Academic Research

2012-12-27 "The energy industry and Big Agribusiness are distorting academic research by wielding corporate influence" by Wenonah Hauter by OtherWords
Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch. She has worked extensively on energy, food, water and environmental issues at the national, state and local level. Experienced in developing policy positions and legislative strategies, she is also a skilled and accomplished organizer, having lobbied and developed grassroots field strategy and action plans.
In 1862, the federal government created the land-grant university system to produce critical agricultural research. Since then, America has relied on these schools to inform and guide independent scientific advances in areas like food production and energy development.
Yet public funding for that kind of research has eroded over recent decades, and these schools have turned to corporations to augment their budgets. The consequences of increasing dependence on profit-driven research in academia are becoming troublingly clear. The recent exposure of numerous sham scientific reports generated by biased individuals at supposedly objective institutions should draw intense public scrutiny to this new era of corporate-funded science.
While drug makers and other industries have spent heavily in academia for years, a relatively new player in corporate-influenced “research” is the natural gas business. Awareness has grown recently of the serious environmental and health dangers associated with fracking — the highly controversial drilling process that has opened up millions of acres of domestic land to shale gas production by blasting water and toxic chemicals underground at great pressures. In response, the industry has become extremely aggressive in its attempts to influence academic reporting on the subject.
Consider the State University of New York at Buffalo and its now-defunct Shale Resources and Society Institute. In May, the institute released a report claiming that improving technologies and updated regulations were making fracking safe. But to SUNY Buffalo faculty, students, and community members, something smelled fishy. The nonprofit Public Accountability Initiative, based in Buffalo, scrutinized the report and did some additional digging. What it found was alarming.
Despite the report’s conclusion stating the contrary, an analysis of its data actually showed that gas fracking is causing more environmental contamination than ever. Even more telling, researchers determined that the report’s authors had all done previous work directly funded by the oil and gas industry, and that significant portions of the report had been copied directly from a previous industry-funded paper.
Under intense pressure from the university community, including the Board of Trustees, the institute that had released the skewed report was shut down by SUNY Buffalo’s president in November.
An isolated incident? No. The University of Texas at Austin announced on December 6 that the head of its Energy Institute had resigned over allegations of conflicts of interest, ethics violations, and industry influence regarding another pro-fracking study its institute had released in February. In the fallout, the university is currently updating its conflict-of-interest policies.
As for agriculture, corporate influence now appears to be routine. Beginning in 1982 with the Bayh-Dole Act, our land-grant schools have been encouraged to partner heavily with the private sector. By 2010, almost a quarter of all the grant money for agricultural research came from industry, with companies like Walmart, Monsanto, Cargill, Tyson Foods, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s receiving unencumbered access to and exerting great influence on many campuses nationwide.
The integrity of the “science” produced under this funding regime is troubling, but not surprising. The nutrition school at the University of California, Davis is researching the health benefits of chocolate with funding from the Mars candy corporation. A study supported by the National Soft Drink Association found that soda consumption by school children wasn’t linked to obesity. An Egg Nutrition Center-sponsored study determined that frequent egg consumption didn’t increase cholesterol levels.
More broadly, corporate funding steers agricultural research toward the goals of industry. It discourages independent analyses that might be critical of the many hormones used in industrial meat and poultry production, and genetically engineered crops that are now widely grown.
With the health and safety of our families and our communities hanging in the balance, it’s time to demand more transparency and less corporate influence from our research universities.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012-12-24 "System failure: homeless and unemployed college grads

"Socialism would make jobs and homes a right" by Tina Landis from "LiberationNews.org"
We are told we live in the land of the free. In reality, freedom in the U.S. means the freedom to go hungry, freedom to go without a job and freedom to live on the street no matter how hard you work. This reality has become even more pronounced in the current economic recession as the cost of living continues to rise while the majority of new jobs created are low-wage service-sector jobs.
Those most impacted are college-age adults. A recent New York Times article states that “tens of thousands of underemployed and jobless young people, many with college credits or work histories, are struggling to house themselves in the wake of the recession, which has left workers between the ages of 18 and 24 with the highest unemployment rate of all adults.” More than half of recent college grads are either unemployed or severely underemployed—around 1.5 million—in addition to facing lifelong student debt, which has surpassed credit card debt at $1 trillion nationally.
This crisis of an entire generation has repercussions not only on their lives today but also on their economic stability in the future and that of the next generation as well. Many college grads, with parents unable to support them, face no option other than the inadequate welfare and shelter system and risk of chronic homelessness.
Studies predict that this trend of under- and unemployed college grads will only worsen as more midlevel jobs continue to be eliminated due to technological advances. As Karl Marx explained in 1867 on the nature of capitalism, “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole. …” We can see this play out in an ever-increasing pattern since the financial collapse of 2008.
These are not just problems inherent to the U.S. system. These are symptoms of the capitalist system itself as demonstrated in the high numbers of unemployed youth worldwide in Europe, Canada and elsewhere as austerity measures are imposed. Capitalism is an anarchic system and as it develops cannot adjust to social needs. In a planned socialist economy, job creation and education are based on the needs of society not left to randomness and the whim of the market. We need more teachers, health care workers, and environmental planners and scientists to solve the crisis of sustainability and halt climate change. We need to rebuild the infrastructure and create a free and effective mental health system to address the growing violence in our society. Under a planned economy, everyone could work and contribute to the progress of a society to benefit all.
In Cuba, as was the case in the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, education from pre-school through higher education is free for everyone. Only a small fraction of a person’s income is spent on rent and a job is a right. Homelessness is a completely alien concept in Cuba.
When over 3 million people—a third of them children—are allowed to be homeless in a country where the 400 richest people own more wealth than the poorest 3 billion people in the world, it is clear we need a new system. And it is clear that system is socialism, a humane system where all benefit from the wealth that we create.

Socialism would create new freedoms: freedom from homelessness and unemployment.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dominionism and the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre

"Sandy Hook - Beyond the Spin of the Capitalist Politicians (Part 1): Christian Right Uses Elementary School Massacre to Attack Secular Schooling and the Separation of Church and State" by Steven Argue [http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/12/23/18728790.php]:
 This is Part 1 of a series of three articles on the root causes of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre. On December 14th, twenty year-old Adam Lanza murdered his mother and then went to Sandy Hook Elementary School and proceeded to kill 6 adults and 20 young children between the ages of 6 and 7.
 The shock and horror of Sandy Hook naturally causes everyone to ask “why?” and look for solutions. Yet, the corporate media and capitalist politicians are failing to give us the facts, let alone give useful theories of “why?” and what to do about it.
 Part 1 in this series deals with how the Christian right is using this tragedy to argue for Christianity, attack atheists, and argue against the separation of church and state. Part 2 takes up the questions of gun control and violent movies. Part 3 presents evidence that it is the pharmaceutical industry, union busting, and alienation under the failing system of capitalism that are fundamentally responsible for creating the epidemic of mass shootings.
Photo: Truck targeting abortion doctor George Tiller two days after his murder. (Steve Hebert/Atlas Press for The New York Times)

Lacking any information about the motives of Adam Lanza in his senseless human slaughter of children, leaders of the far-right are quick to apply their religious fanaticism to the Sandy Hook massacre. Two who have done so are Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and fascist political pundit, Pat Buchanan.
 Governor Huckabee declares that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre happened because "We've systematically removed God from our schools, should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?"
 So Huckabee’s solution is one of ending the separation of church and state by imposing religious teachings and school prayer on poor unsuspecting children. But did Adam Lanza’s early education really lack an indoctrination into Christianity? No. To the contrary, in middle school Adam Lanza actually was subjected to religious schooling at St. Rose Catholic School in Newton, Connecticut.
 Huckabee then went on to attack the morality of atheists. Huckabee claims, “We’re not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before a holy God and judgement, if we don’t believe that, we don’t fear that.” Pat Buchanan made similar claims that it was Adam Lanza’s lack of fear in God that caused him to carry out the massacre.
 Did Adam Lanza’s lack of fear for “eternal damnation” really cause him to commit mass murder? Was Adam Lanza actually an atheist? Despite Huckabee and Buchanan’s bold assertions, my extensive search of the internet found absolutely no evidence that Adam Lanza was an atheist.
 According to Pat Buchanan, Mike Huckabee, and many other Christians, Adam Lanza must be an atheist because Christians don’t commit mass shootings. This is false. For instance, Anders Breivik is a Norwegian Christian extremist who wants to expel Muslims from Europe and who blames feminism for eroding the fabric of European culture. In 2011 he shot 179 people at a youth camp, mostly teenagers, killing 69 and injuring 55 seriously. That same day he set off a bomb that killed 8 people and injured 209. He said he was fighting for “our Christian cultural heritage.” Apparently he had no fear of eternal damnation, despite his faith in Jesus.
 Does The Bible even teach us not to commit mass murder? Actually, the Bible is full of incidents where God supposedly wiped entire peoples off the face of the Earth. Far from stopping mass murder, those stories actually could serve to inspire genocide. In addition, the Bible calls for killing people for many harmless activities, everything from lying with another man to worshipping another god. Example: “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” (Leviticus 20:13)
 In fact, Shirley Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church declared after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that Adam Lanza was sent by God to punish Connecticut for their same-sex marriage law. Here’s another example of how the Bible incites mass murder: “If you find out a city worships a different god, destroy the city and kill all of its inhabitants... even the animals.” (Deuteronomy 13:12-15)
 “Foul” cry some Christians, that is the Old Testament of the Bible, not the new one. Jesus, we are told, preached love and freed us from the teachings of the Old Testament. Actually, according to the New Testament, Jesus himself says it’s OK to kill people for the flimsiest of reasons. Here’s an example of Jesus from the New Testament: “Those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them -- bring them here and kill them in front of me.” (Luke 19:27)
 Truth is, Charles Manson was inspired by Jesus. So was Dena Schlosser, who, in 2004, cut her baby’s arms off when ordered to do so by God. The baby died the next day. Dena Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity and released in 2008. Dena Schlosser was a roommate with Andrea Yates, a woman who in 2001 drowned her five children in a bathtub to protect them from Satan.
 In the name of Jesus, religious fanatics have been regularly carrying out terrorist attacks on doctors and abortion clinics in the United States. This is a one sided holy war against women’s rights. The murder of doctors has made abortion unavailable in many places, causing some women to need to travel out of state to receive an abortion. Meanwhile, some state governments have passed laws making it illegal to travel to receive abortions in other states.
 The FBI and local police are looking the other way as the God nuts carry out their terror. One example was Scott Roades, the killer of abortion Doctor George Tiller. Scott Roades twice carried out a federal crime by gluing the doors shut at the abortion clinic where George Tiller worked. The FBI was informed of these activities, but they refused to act, claiming that a Grand Jury had to convene in order to take action. The cops and FBI have no such restrictions when carrying out their “zero tolerance” policies against the general public, especially the left. Yet, they simply sat and watched as Scott Roades escalated his illegal activities from vandalism to murder.
 The FBI’s lack of action to defend the safety of abortion doctors from religious nuts has a parallel in the Greensboro massacre of 1979. Textile workers, who were members of what would become the Communist Workers Party, organized coworkers in a rally against the KKK. The KKK responded to the rally by driving up to it and shooting into the crowd, killing five people and leaving one permanently paraplegic. Leading the day’s terrorist operation was Edward Dawson, a federal agent of the ATF who had infiltrated the KKK. Synchronized with this ATF / KKK terrorist attack was the local police who were called away for lunch just before the KKK pulled-up and started shooting.
 The Ku Klux Klan itself is composed entirely of white Christians who believe that their race and religion are superior to people with different colors and religions. They believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible and regard it as their number one source of knowledge. The KKK is a terrorist outfit that seeks to impose their outlook through direct action including murder. For many decades they successfully did so in America’s south. Working hand in hand with the police and Democratic Party, the KKK imposed, and policed, semi-fascist rule in America’s south through murderous terror.
 Many credit the Civil Rights movement for ending Jim Crow segregation, winning the right of Blacks to vote, and greatly weakening the power of the KKK. In reality, it wasn’t until Blacks became armed that the Federal Government took notice and sent Federal Troops into the south. Yet, today, we are told to trust that same government that helped impose almost 100 years of KKK terror as politicians attempt impose big restrictions on the right to bare arms (more on that in Part 2).
 The KKK is a terrorist outfit that is still alive, still promoting fear and racism while opposing the separation of Church and State. This can be seen in the following 2012 Christmas statement from Cole Thorton, the Imperial Wizard of the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan:
 “We also stand for Christianity. The proof is in the pudding. …. IF the Christians were to unite and stop arguing over who has the right system of beliefs, or the right hymns, or the right choir robes then we might just be able to squash the evil influence hindering our beliefs. Once again in history the Christians are coming under severe persecution and it will only grow worse under the guise of separation of church and state".
 To these fanatics, it is the Christians who are oppressed in America. The fact that atheists, Jews, and others aren’t forced to pray or learn their religion in school is seen by them as oppression against Christians. Likewise, they think that equal rights between Blacks and whites amounts the oppression of white people.
 The ideas of Mr. Huckabee actually don’t stray far from those of the KKK. His desire for a Christian state that imposes Christian education is obviously the same. As a mainstream politician in this political period, he can’t openly avow his other agreements with the KKK, but he’s left some pretty big hints. One of these was in 1993 when he sent a video taped address to the annual convention of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC). The speech was reported as “extremely well received”. The CCC is descended from the White Citizens Council and is the largest openly white supremacist group in the United States. The CCC says in their statement of principles:
 "We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called "affirmative action" and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races."
 Huckabee’s speech was well received at the convention. Anyone with anything worthwhile to say to such a group would obviously have been booed and shut down. The CCC also says in their statement of purpose:
 “We believe that the United States of America is a Christian country, that its people are a Christian people, and that its government and public leaders at all levels must reflect Christian beliefs and values. We therefore oppose all efforts to deny or weaken the Christian heritage of the United States, including the unconstitutional prohibitions of prayers and other religious expression in schools and other public institutions.”
 So there you have it. Mike Huckabee is preaching the same morality and the same unity of church and state as the KKK and CCC. Such unity of church and state, he argues, is needed to stop mass murder like what occurred at Sandy Hook.
 Yet, far from stopping people from committing mass murder, Christian governments have often been the reason for it. A few examples include the “Holy” Crusades, Inquisition, many genocides against Native Americans, burning of witches, the Pope’s support for the Holocaust, Orthodox Christian Serb genocides against Catholic Croats and Muslims, as well Catholic Croatian genocides against Jews, Serbs, and Muslims. These are but a few examples. History is littered with the corpses of innocents who were put to death under Christian governments.
 One of the major gains of the American Revolution was the separation of church and state. It was a move that greatly reduced the potential for people being killed by the government in the name of God. It was also a step forward that helped eventually advance the sciences as well as the rights of Blacks, women, and other oppressed minorities.
 Yet, the United States is a violent and angry country. This flows naturally from its history of slavery, semi-fascism in the south, and genocide against Native Americans. It continues on through an extreme and growing differentiation between the standard of living of the working class and those of the capitalists, police brutality, imperialist wars that have murdered many millions of people, the death penalty, and the mass incarceration of the poor (with of over 2 million people in prison mostly for drug offenses).
 The fact that the presidents of this nation are all Christians certainly has done nothing to curtail the brutality and murder of the capitalist state. The Christianity of President Barrack Obama is no deterrent from him carrying out acts of mass murder, including drone attacks that have murdered large numbers of families, including children, or other acts like overthrowing the democratically elected government of Honduras to impose a death squad government. The emotion Obama showed regarding the children murdered at Sandy Hook rings hollow when one considers the fact that Obama has murdered far more children, yet has failed to show any remorse for his victims.
 We need answers to move forward into a future where we can stop tragedies like the Sandy Hook massacre from happening. Likewise, we must adamantly oppose those who say the problem is the separation of church and state, atheism, and removing Christian religious indoctrination from public schools.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wal*Mart means to destroy Human Rights worldwide

What's good enough for workers in Bangladesh should be good enough for workers in Mexico, and in the USA. After all, all humanity is equal.
Human Rights are ignored, as only the right of profit acts as the foundation for the global economic regime. A powerful member of this regime is "Wal*Mart", whose purpose for profit supersedes all notions of Human Rights and dignity.

2012-12-18 "Port Protesters Target Walmart Cargo from Bangladesh"
by Mark Brenner from "Labor Notes" [http://labornotes.org/blogs/2012/12/port-protesters-target-walmart-cargo-bangladesh]:
Protesters and police butted heads in Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, early this morning outside the entrance to the city’s docks. More than 100 demonstrators erected a picket line, hoping that local longshore workers—locked in their own tense contract negotiations—would refuse to report for work.
Their goal was to stop the unloading of the container ship Maersk Carolina, which had arrived two hours earlier carrying garments made in Bangladesh for Walmart. Last month a factory fire in Bangladesh killed 112 garment workers, and protesters say Walmart must shoulder some of the blame.
But the picketers—including activists from Occupy Wall Street and the New Jersey worker center New Labor—were quickly hemmed in by Homeland Security and port police, far away from port workers arriving for their shift. The Maersk Carolina will unload as scheduled, according to reports.
Walmart has been embroiled in controversy after denying any connection to the November 24 fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory outside Bangladesh’s largest city, Dhaka. Despite the company’s initial claims, there is growing evidence that most of the garments in the factory at the time of the blaze were destined for Walmart.

Who's Responsible?
Yesterday a report to Bangladesh’s Home Ministry recommended criminal charges against the factory owner for “unpardonable negligence” [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/world/asia/bangladesh-factory-fire-caused-by-gross-negligence.html?_r=0]. At the time of the fire more than 1,150 people were at work in the eight-story factory, many working overtime to fill orders for international retailers like Sears and Disney.
The preliminary report noted that nine managers prevented workers from leaving their sewing machines even after fire alarms sounded [http://labornotes.org/2012/11/bangladeshi-workers-rally-union-rights-after-deadly-fire].
Garment worker organizations in Bangladesh and the U.S. are pushing for international retailers to take part responsibility for the fire. Walmart’s own internal audit of Tazreen Fashions in May 2011 [http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324024004578169400995615618.html] revealed serious fire hazards, including blocked exits and stairwells, inadequate fire safety equipment, and little evacuation information or emergency training for workers. Workers at the Tazreen factory had also clashed with management over back wages in the months leading up to the fire.

Closer to Home -
Today’s protests were not limited to Walmart’s poor labor practices abroad. Activists were quick to draw a connection to recent friction in Walmart’s supply chain [http://www.labornotes.org/2012/09/strikes-walmart-warehouses-expose-threats-supply-chain]. In late September dozens of warehouse workers in California and Illinois walked off the job, protesting employer harassment and a series of dismissals they contend were retaliation for organizing [http://www.labornotes.org/2012/10/walmart-warehouse-strikers-return-work-full-back-pay].
Like garment workers in Bangladesh, the forklift operators, pickers, and clerks who struck are not direct Walmart employees, but embedded in a web of contractors and subcontractors who ensure that everything from snow tires to Christmas tree ornaments arrives “just in time” to Walmart shelves.
By targeting the Maersk Carolina, protesters were looking to take advantage of negotiations between the longshore workers union (ILA) and the port operators. The union has threatened to walk off the job December 29 if employers don’t agree to increased compensation, job protections, and shift guarantees for the crews loading and unloading container ships up and down the East Coast.

Protesters were on hand at the APM Terminal in Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, urging longshore workers to refuse to unload Walmart apparel from Bangladesh. Photo: Stephanie Luce.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Unoinized workers of the Hostess company versus the Process of Fascism

The Hostess Company used to sell older products at a reduced cost to customers at company-owned stores in low-income cities, such as bread and grains, which other companies would dump in the landfill. People such as the lumpen-proletariat would rely on these stores for our families, as even a single dollar would have meant between slow starvation that night for a child.
The people involved in the attack on the uninized workers of Hostess were also targeting the low-income stores.

2012-12-17 "Hostess Workers Take on Private Equity Pirates"

by Eric Blair from "Labor Notes" [http://labornotes.org/2012/12/hostess-workers-take-private-equity-pirates]:
It was a depressingly familiar scenario. Decades of mismanagement had driven the maker of Twinkies, Wonder Bread, and other Hostess treats into bankruptcy for a second time. The company’s private equity owners were demanding massive concessions and threatening to shut the company if unions did not agree.
Workers could fight the concessions and likely see the company sold to unknown bidders. Or they could take the cuts, save their jobs for the moment, and likely watch the company bleed to death under debt and mismanagement.
The Teamsters, representing mostly delivery drivers, took management’s deal. The Bakery union members, the ones who baked the snacks, rejected it and went on strike.
“I’m better off looking for work and fighting to keep Wonder Bread in a union rather than getting what they offered us and spending the next five years in poverty,” bakery worker Mike Hummell told Truthout. “I have a total lack of confidence and faith in these owners.”
The owners decided to close all the plants and sell the company. Some 18,000 workers are out of a job; their pensions are frozen; their union contracts are null and void, for now.
Already, dozens of firms are bidding to buy Hostess. Soon, a buyer will emerge, reopen most of the plants, and hire back most of the workers. Only time will tell whether the union’s stand will help Hummell and his co-workers win a decent contract under the new owners.

What might the Hostess workers have done to avoid the dilemma in the first place? What can workers do when owners are loading a company with debt, sucking out resources in the form of bloated executive salaries and dividends, refusing to invest in improvements, failing to develop new products, and generally running the company into the ground?
To start, they must understand the ownership structure and business model of their company.
At Hostess, that meant understanding how private equity firms work. These firms buy companies by borrowing huge amounts of money, change the management, slash costs—especially wages, health, and pensions—to pay back the borrowed money, use any remaining cash to pay themselves huge dividends, and then resell the company. And they get huge tax breaks in the process.
It is a high-risk, high-reward model, with the workers taking most of the risk and the owners taking most of the reward.
If the bet pays off, workers keep their jobs, while the private equity investors make a huge windfall. If the bet fails, workers lose their jobs and their pensions, but private equity investors lose only their small investment, since most of the money used to buy the company was borrowed.
At Hostess, the gamble failed twice despite deep worker concessions, first when private equity investors could not get the company out of bankruptcy for five years between 2004 and 2009, and then again in 2012.

Once workers understand that owners have no interest in the long-term health of the company, the next step is to develop an alternative business strategy.
At Hostess, both the Teamsters and the Bakery workers had such a plan. For nearly a decade, they tried in bargaining to get the owners to reduce debt, upgrade plants, create new products, increase marketing and advertising budgets, and hire experienced bakery executives. But owners are under no legal obligation to bargain these issues, and the firms that owned Hostess refused.
In such situations, unions have to try to force owners to change. The mobilization necessary to do so must start long before bankruptcy raises its ugly head.
One step is educating members, giving them an alternative vision of how the company might be run and what their collective power might accomplish.
That’s what the Teamsters, under different leaders, did to prepare for their historic 1997 strike at UPS. The union spent many months building rank-and-file support for full-time work and preparing workers to strike. The strike forced UPS to create 20,000 full-time jobs.
An educated and inspired rank and file can take all sorts of actions to pressure the company to change its strategy. At the workplace, these include educational pickets, work-to-rule campaigns, and even work stoppages.
The Bakery workers went on strike at the final hour. But what might they have accomplished if they’d started earlier? It’s possible to imagine a long-term, comprehensive campaign, together with the Teamsters and community allies, aimed at compelling Hostess’s owners to adopt a different approach to the business and the union.

Workers would need a clear vision around which to organize, and that vision would have to include the needs of community allies. A fight focused solely on workers’ needs will not resonate the way a struggle to save a community institution can. Again, the 1997 Teamsters strike at UPS is an example. Its slogan was “Part-Time America Doesn’t Work,” which millions of people could relate to.
At Hostess, whose products are iconic American brands loved by millions, a campaign to safeguard Twinkies from private equity vultures might have had the dual impact of winning public support for the workers and angering management by interfering in its relationship with its customers.
The fact that consumers started hoarding the famous snack cakes during the Bakery workers’ strike suggests the potential.
And unions can target owners for a broader campaign that exposes how destructive the private equity business model is: how it reduces income for the community as a whole, shrinks government tax revenue and starves the public sector, forces workers onto public assistance, and accelerates inequality.
Since the Occupy movement and Mitt Romney’s run for president, this message is resonating more forcefully. Many groups, including unions, are now fighting to eliminate private equity’s special tax breaks.

One tool in the campaign against private equity firms should be workers’ pension funds. A number of pension funds, including huge public funds in California, Florida, and New York, were investors in Ripplewood Investments, one of the firms that owned Hostess.
Such investments are quite common. In fact, without pension funds, private equity would be about half its current size.
Pension funds account for 44 percent of the $1.5 trillion invested in private equity globally, according to Preqin, a research firm. U.S.-based pension funds account for about $345 billion of that.
Yet pension fund managers rarely recognize the self-destructive absurdity of investing in a business model that strives to slash or eliminate pensions. Only in a few cases, during contract fights or organizing campaigns, have pension funds threatened to cut their investments in private equity firms that did not reach agreement with workers.
Doing so is not easy, given the governance and legal obligations of pension funds, but it can be done.
During several janitor campaigns, the Service Employees mobilized representatives on pension fund boards. Using very delicate language, the funds communicated that they preferred to invest in real estate funds whose buildings paid their janitors a fair wage.
In part as a result of these campaigns, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest pension fund in the country, now has a “responsible contractor” policy. Janitorial and other service providers to CalPERS-owned buildings are required to pay “a fair wage and a fair benefit” and remain neutral in union organizing drives.
At a relatively small private equity firm like Ripplewood, the possibility of lost pension fund investments, backed by worker mobilization, could have had considerable influence.
What if the pension funds aren’t interested in helping? Delegations of workers can visit their meetings or target the fund’s trustees, many of whom are union officials.

A combination of tactics that pressure the company at the workplace, in the community, and in the boardroom has a chance to alter the private equity owners’ calculations of their best interest.
Facing labor unrest that could reduce the value of their investment, loss of future investment by pension funds, and lost sales due to community anger, private equity managers are more likely to negotiate—or sell to owners who will.

Bakery workers struck the Hostess production facility in Peoria, Illinois in November. The bankrupt company decided to liquidate its assets, and blamed the workers for refusing another round of deep concessions. The workers countered that they'd rather organize under the company's new owners than work under the proposed contract. Photo: BCTGM.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Right To Work" law is an abolishment of Human Rights

"Right To Work" without independent worker-controlled monitoring of workplace safety and social environment, any manager regardless of mental stability can conduct work-place conditions a befits the ideology of corporatist fascism, that the profit motive is more important than human rights...

2012-12-11 "Right to Work: As Goes Michigan, So Goes The Nation" by Ruth Conniff from "The Progressive"

As the world watches massive labor protests at the state capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, today, Wisconsinites are seeing a repeat of the struggle in Madison two years ago.
Only this time the stakes are even higher.
Republicans, the Chamber of Commerce, and a coalition of now-familiar rightwing millionaires (the Koch brothers as well as Michigan Amway heir Dick DeVos) have banded together to pass right-to-work legislation in Michigan, the birthplace of the United Autoworkers.
What does it mean if Michigan, cradle of the industrial labor movement in America, becomes a right-to-work state?
"That's the thing, isn't it?" says Jane Slaughter, the editor of Labor Notes, the Detroit-based publication that has been the voice of union activists for the last 33 years.
If Michigan passes right to work legislation, as governor Rick Snyder and the Republicans who control the state legislature have promised, "can Wisconsin be far behind?" asks Slaughter.
What about Pennsylvania, where anti-union Governor Tom Corbett has said right-to-work legislation would be too controversial to pass.
"That's exactly what our governor said," Slaughter points out.
"Are we going to be a right-to-work nation, except for New York or California?" Slaughter asks.
The scene in the state capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, is terribly familiar to those of us who witnessed the massive rallies in Wisconsin in 2011.
Chanting protesters are packing the rotunda, only to be pushed out by police.
A blog post on the Labor Notes web site by Alix Gould-Werth, a member of graduate employees' Local 3550 at the University of Michigan, tries to explain how Michigan came to this.
Governor Snyder, Gould-Werth suggests, learned from Wisconsin's governor Scott Walker's mistakes. Rather than make his bold attack on unions all at once, "the Michigan legislators did it piecemeal: taking away teachers’ automatic dues deductions, defining university research assistants as non-workers, and other measures that wouldn’t rile everyone at once."
In an effort that paralleled the recall effort in Wisconsin, Michigan labor activists worked hard this year on a grassroots campaign, gathering signatures for Prop 2, a ballot initiative that would have enshrined labor rights in the state constitution, protecting against the right-to-work measure.
Big money came into the state to run ads opposing the measure. And voters seemed to underestimate the real threat to labor, Gould-Werth suggests.
Prop 2 lost, 57-to-42, and one month later, Rick Snyder, who had said right-to-work was "too divisive" for Michigan, promised to sign the bill.
President Obama came to Michigan and made a strong statement against right-to-work, calling it "the right to work for less money."
But the progressive tone, nationally, on labor, contrasts sharply with what is happening on the ground.
Not only did Obama win by focusing on the auto industry rescue to beat Mitt "let Detroit go bankrupt" Romney, but progressive victories across the country delivered a stinging rebuke to the right.
But the battle at the state level goes on.
It is serious regrouping time for labor.
A comment at the bottom of Alix Gould-Werth's piece on the Labor Notes web site puts it in stark terms; "Unions did this to themselves," writes commenter NancyEJ.
 Among her complaints about labor in Michigan: "No accountability to the membership. Bullshit third-world election standards. Union busting their own staff . . . Holding themselves to a different abysmal employee relations standard than they do employers. . . . Disenfranchising everyone but the toadies, advancing staff based on their ability to bootlick alone . . . "
This outraged rank-and-filer continues: "You all tolerated this leadership and did their bidding, you turned a blind eye when they wiped their fannies with the NLRA and slept like babies every night after you saw them treat the rank and file like dues cows, annoyances, parade props and tee shirt hangers. "
"You can't just keep walking around in circles, chanting empty folk song lyrics, and shaking your little fist at stuff and expect the membership and the rest of the intelligent life on the planet to just buy in to your 1960s 'vision.’ And the rest of you can't just keep whining about all unions supposedly accomplished a HALF A CENTURY ago either. 'The dinosaurs who brought you the weekend.' Cripes. It's pathetic."
Is it the unions' fault?
I asked Slaughter (whose organization has been a voice for democracy and activism, not an apologist for union leadership).
In part, she says:
Labor's faults include "continually taking concessions," and "making it clear they'd let employers walk all over them in the workplace."
"You could say that the UAW is the leading union in Michigan and is the union that led the way nationally in concessions of all kinds over the last 30 years," Slaughter adds, from labor-management participation schemes to monetary concessions to two-tier pay so that new employees make half the pay of longer term employees.
"The UAW being a pioneer in concessions certainly didn't help."
If the impending right-to-work law in Michigan shows anything, it's that what Slaughter calls the "mythology that the UAW is this 800-pound gorilla and runs politics in Michigan" is total rubbish.
It might be time for those outraged rank-and-filers to take over.
AFSME Local 120 members John Washburn (L) and Brad Sullivan, both of Sterling Heights, Michigan and part of the East Detroit Public Schools, join thousands of union members from around the state gather at the State Capitol to protest Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's proposed budget cuts April 13, 2011 in Lansing, Michigan. Snyder has proposed making significant cuts to public education and taxing some retirement income while also eliminating business taxes for many companies. (Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images North America)

2012-12-10 "Right to Work Laws Violate Human Rights and Labor Law" statement of the "International Commission for Labor Rights"
WASHINGTON - December 10 - The effort in Michigan to pass “right-to-work” legislation has come to the attention of the International Commission for Labor Rights (ICLR).1
December 10 is Human Rights Day around the world. On December 10, 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was ratified. It would be a cruel irony if the Michigan government on (or about) Human Rights day were to pass legislation which abrogates the basic human rights of Michigan workers.
The right of workers to form and join trade unions to protect their interests is a universal human right recognized in both human rights and labor law and is binding on all states. Right-to-work laws prevent unions from fulfilling their duty to protect the interests of the workers. Laws aimed at weakening trade unions so as to prevent them from protecting workers interests, in ICLR’s opinion, must be considered illegal. Therefore, final passage of this legislation and/or Governor Snyder signing it abrogates basic human rights and labor law.

Consider the following:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights requires all governments to work towards achieving the rights stated in the Declaration.
Article 23 of the Universal Declaration states:
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself (and herself) and his (or her) family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his (or her) interests.
The right of everyone to form and join trade unions is for the purpose of protection their interests.2 The “protection of interests” language in the declaration has substantive meaning. Trade unions must be treated under law in a manner which enables people who join together in trade unions to be actually able to protect their interests, so as to achieve such rights as favorable remuneration and conditions of work and ensure an existence worthy of human dignity.
The Universal Declaration was the basis for two Human Rights treaties which provide more specifics to rights contained in the Declaration. These treaties are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). In 1992 the United States ratified the ICCPR. The United States has signed but not ratified the ICESCR.3
The ICCPR at Article 22 reiterates that everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his (or her) interests. The only restrictions on the right are those which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Under the ICCPR, any restrictions on trade unions must be necessary to a democratic society etc. Necessity is a high bar. Trade Unions are one of the major building blocks of a democratic society. As such there can be no necessity for this legislation which is aimed at weakening the ability people to protect their interests by voting for a union.
The ICESCR has similar language. Article 8 (a) ensures “the right of everyone to form trade unions and join the trade union of his choice, subject only to the rules of the organization concerned, for the promotion and protection of his economic and social interests. The ICESCR also has that high bar for restrictions on organization of trade unions.
As human rights norms have developed, so have labor rights norms which protect the rights of unions, freedom of association and collective bargaining. In 1948 and 1949 the International Labor Organization (ILO) which was founded in 1919, issued Conventions 87 and 98 respectively. These conventions protect the right to organize and to collectively bargaining. The ICCPR and ICESCR at Article 22 (3) and Article 8 (3) integrate the provisions of ILO Convention 87, into these human rights treaties. This subsection states that no State which has ratified Convention 87 may pass legislative measures which would prejudice, or to apply the law in such a manner as to prejudice, the guarantees provided for in that Convention. Although the United States has not ratified either Conventions 87 or 98, given their universality, they should be considered binding as customary international law. In fact, in 1998 the ILO issued the Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (FPRW) which gave special status to “core labor” standard which members of the ILO were bound to observe and report progress on to the ILO regardless of ratification. Conventions 87 and 98- the rights to organize and collective bargaining-are part of the core labor standards with this special status. United States membership in the ILO requires compliance with these conventions.
Therefore, reading the ILO Convention 87 together with subsection 3 of Article 22 of the ICCPR and sub section 3 of the ICESCR, no state may be allowed to pass a law which prejudices the guarantees provided for in Convention 87. Right-to-work laws prejudice workers’ rights under Convention 87 and the above described human rights instruments.
Because they are designed to eviscerate the trade unions though which workers have a right “to protect their interests”, right-to-work laws prevent workers from exercising their fundamental human and labor rights. Therefore, in ICLR’s opinion, these laws are illegal. ICLR calls upon the Michigan Legislature and Governor to comply with human and labor rights of the workers in this State and reject the right-to-work law.

Issued: December 10, 2012
Note -
1: ICLR is network of over 300 labor lawyers, labor experts and jurists around the world who consider the rights of workers to be a fundamental element in promoting democracy and economic fairness.

2: ICLR is aware that the Taft-Hartley amendment to the National Labor Relations Act which allowed for “right to work” laws was found constitutional, in 1949 in Lincoln Federal Labor Union No 19129 et al v State of North Carolina, 335 U.S. 525 (1949). However, since then no court has addressed this section of the law in light of subsequent development of human rights and labor law as well as US treaty obligations.

3: Even though the United States has not ratified the ICESCR there are two reasons why the United States is bound by its provisions. (1) under the doctrine of pacta sunt servanda a country which has signed a treaty is bound by its provisions until such time as it is repudiated (see Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties ) and (2) At present 160 countries have ratified this Covenant such that the provisions are customary international law and binding regardless of ratification. Customary international law is that law which is so widely accepted that the law is binding on all countries. See Sarei v Rio Tinto 456 F.3d 1069 (9th Cir 2006) Where the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which was ratified by at least 149 countries was considered customary international law.

2012-12-13 "Michigan Adopts the ALEC Model for Diminishing Democracy" by John Nichols from "The Nation" weekly newsjournal
Michigan legislators did not write the so-called “right to work” legislation that they have enacted in a mad rush of anti-democratic excess.
They simply did as they were told.
The ideas, the outlines and the words themselves came from the American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing “bill mill” that produces “model legislation” at the behest of Koch Industries, Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, ExxonMobil and the corporate cabal that is always looking to “buy” states [http://www.prwatch.org/news/2012/12/11903/michigan-passes-right-work-containing-verbatim-language-alec-model-bill].
As the Center for Media and Democracy’s “ALEC Exposed” project [http://www.prwatch.org/projects/alec-exposed] revealed (in conjunction with The Nation), ALEC has developed binders full of “model legislation” that assaults the rights of working people, consumers and communities [http://www.thenation.com/article/161977/business-domination-inc].
ALEC’s package of “model legislation” includes numerous bills and resolutions that, by any reasonable measure, would be referred to as “no rights at work” schemes.
Those measures formed the basis for HB 4003, the Michigan “Right-to-Work Act” that has provoked mass demonstrations in Lansing and other Michigan communities.
Section after section, line after line, of the Michigan legislation mirrors the ALEC model legislation, as revealed by the “ALEC Exposed” project. “The legislation is straight out of the Koch-funded ALEC playbook,” explains Brendan Fischer, the staff counsel with the Center for Media and Democracy. At some points, the Michigan lawmakers shifted words, from “resign or refrain from…a labor organization” in the ALEC model legislation to “refrain or resign from…a labor organization” in one of the two Michigan bills.
At other points, the Michigan Republicans simply lifted whole sections verbatim, outlining how workers who get the advantage of union representation will not have “to pay any dues, fees, assessments or other charges, of any kind or amount” to a labor organization.
The willingness of legislators in Michigan and, it should be noted, other states to simply take marching orders from ALEC is troubling enough.
But even more troubling is the reason why corporations and politicians in states where the middle class was forged by organized labor agree on the “need” to advance anti-labor legislation.
This is not about economic development, growth or job creation. And it is certainly not about “freedom,” as Michigan Governor Rick Snyder claims [http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2012/12/11/gov-snyder-right-to-work-will-pass-give-workers-freedom-of-choice/].
This is about warping democracy so that corporations have a consistent upper hand, with the result being that those politicians who are willing to do the bidding of corporations and wealthy donors are more likely to prevail. In this sense, the best way to understand the recent rush to enact anti-labor legislation is as part of the same initiative that has produced restrictive Voter ID laws, schemes to limit early voting and proposals to eliminate same-day registration [http://www.thenation.com/article/161969/rigging-elections].
What distinguishes the anti-labor initiatives is that they do not explicitly seek to make voting more difficult. They seek to make it harder for groups that seek high turnout to get voters motivated, to get voters organized and to get them to the polls.
Ultimately, however, the end result of the assault on labor rights is the same as a direct assault on voting rights: a diminished democracy.
Democracy is, of course, about more than elections. And that’s where the anti-union push becomes even more significant. It seeks to narrow the discourse by weakening groups that offer an alternative to a Wall Street–dictated future for communities, states and the nation.
Attacks on labor are nothing new. Michigan is not the first state to enact a “right to work” law—the most draconian of anti-labor initiatives. It is the twenty-fourth. Southern states enacted their laws restricting labor organizing and political engagement decades ago [http://www.thenation.com/blog/165671/right-work-and-jim-crow-legacy-affronts-kings-memory], at a time when legislators and governors in Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and other bastions of segregation feared that integrated unions would unite white workers and African-American workers on the side of social improvement. That created barriers to the labor movement in the South at a time when it was still growing in much of the country.
Now, however, the anti-labor push has come north.
There is a reason ALEC and its corporate sponsors want to undermine unions.
In states such as Michigan, and Wisconsin, and Ohio, and Indiana, organized labor provides a political counterbalance to corporations. Unions cannot and do not match the spending on elections by wealthy donors and corporations. But the willingness of unions to commit financial and human resources to political fights makes a huge difference at election time in states where the labor movement has a significant presence. The 2012 election results—particularly the big wins for President Obama and Democratic Senate candidates in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—point to the connection.
This is not, however, simply about Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Among the Michigan legislators who opposed the latest attack on union rights were six state House Republicans. Unions have long traditions of aiding Republicans, and even social conservatives, who have proven to be allies of working people. Prominent conservatives once opposed “right to work” laws, as Ronald Reagan did at the start of his political career, writing as he launched his 1966 California gubernatorial race: “I also was a leader of our [Screen Actors] Guild in the fight in 1958 against the [California] right-to-work bill. I am still opposed to right-to-work.”
Now, for the most part, conservatives have cast their lot with corporations. And the demand of corporations, particularly those engaged in the ALEC project, is that politicians who want to earn the favor of corporations and wealthy donors such as Charles and David Koch or Michigan right-wingers Dick and Betsy DeVos must advance anti-labor legislation.
Anti-labor laws in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan—and the attempts to do so in states such as New Hampshire—have been advanced by political figures with ALEC ties [http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/ALEC_Politicians]. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is an ALEC alumnus, as is Ohio Governor John Kasich. Among the key sponsors of the Michigan law that Governor Snyder signed today was state Senator Dave Hildenbrand, a Republican who famously paid his ALEC dues with taxpayer funds.
Those political figures are determined to limit the ability of unions to engage in political activity on behalf or working families, communities, public services and public education.
Why? By making it harder for unions to organize and to represent workers, “right to work” laws make it easier for corporations to get their political allies elected. The corporations and the legislators come together in the American Legislative Exchange Council. They produce “model legislation” to advance their project. And that project is about rewriting the rules so that the corporations win.
“What they’re doing is basically, betraying democracy,” says Teamsters president James Hoffa, who promises a great struggle to restore labor rights in Michigan [http://www.politico.com/story/2012/12/hoffa-civil-war-looms-in-michigan-84957.html?hp=l7].
Hoffa’s point is well taken.
Michigan politicians have betrayed democracy.
And democracy betrayed is democracy denied.

2012-12-11 "ALEC's So-Called "Right to Work" Bill as Political Revenge in Michigan" by Lisa Graves from "ALEC Exposed"
As concerned workers come together across Michigan in protest, partisan politicians are poised to make one of the strongholds for America's blue-collar worker rights into a so-called "Right to Work" (RTW) state -- in accordance with the ALEC blueprint to change to state laws at the behest of some of the biggest corporations in the world. Yet, 42 corporations, including General Motors, have distanced themselves from ALEC this year after ALEC's role in controversial and divisive legislation was exposed.

RTW -- Brought Home to You by ALEC (and the Kochs, of course)
At issue is a bill spearheaded by ALEC legislators so beholden to their corporate benefactors that they think it's legitimate to vote in secret as equals with corporate lobbyists on model bills like RTW through ALEC "task forces," as the Center for Media and Democracy's PRWatch/ALECexposed has previously reported [http://www.prwatch.org/news/2012/12/11899/alec-inspired-union-busting-bill-narrowly-passes-michigan-koch-group-cheers]. Key provisions of the Michigan RTW bills (for instance, HB 4054) are taken almost verbatim from the ALEC template.
That agenda is part of a corporate wish list of Charles and David Koch, the oil billionaires who have spent millions trying to popularize extremist ideas and move them from the fringes into binding law. David Koch's group of political operatives known as "Americans for Prosperity" (AFP) -- which I call "Americans for Greed" -- is backing the divisive legislation in Michigan.

RTW -- Brought to You by Vengeful Partisans and Very Lame Ducks
But the bill rushed through the statehouse for the governor to sign is also poisonous political payback in a state where President Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by almost 10% of the vote (nearly half a million votes), despite millions spent by the Kochs and other billionaires in campaign donations as well as dark money operations to get Romney in the White House and to get laws changes to their liking.
Michigan was a landslide loss for Republicans, who also lost seats in the state legislature in Lansing, a loss which will take effect when the next class of legislators is sworn in this January.
The get-out-the-vote (GOTV) effort in Michigan was built on workers banding together to knock on doors, make phone calls, and get people to the polls on election day. Volunteers from organized labor unions were not the only ones working to get people to vote. AFP and others backing Republicans knocked on doors too, and Romney won the vote of 50,000 more Michiganians than John McCain did in 2008, but fell far short of winning the state's 16 electoral votes.
When the dust settled from last month's election, a vindictive and diminished majority in the state legislature decided to push through a bill to weaken not just American workers' power to negotiate effectively with corporate managers but also to weaken organized workers as a political force at the ballot box.
It's a sour, petty, reprehensible maneuver.
It's especially arrogant to push it through at the last minute of a "lame duck" legislature whose authority is about to expire, and it is especially deceptive to do so after Governor Rick Snyder assured voters he would not pursue RTW in the state [http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Organizing-Bargaining/In-Online-Townhall-MI-Gov.-Snyder-Opposes-RTW].

RTW -- Whose Prosperity? The Kochs ....
It's also a calculated move that demonstrates a palpable disdain for the will of the people in a state whose prosperity was built on private sector manufacturing jobs, with wages and benefits negotiated by labor unions. Those were good paying jobs that gave hard-working families financial security and a real chance to achieve the American dream and help their children have opportunities to be better off than their parents started off.
But those were the glory days before David Koch's prior group of operatives, dubbed "Citizens for a Sound Economy" (CSE) and his allies at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, started pushing hard in the 1980s for trade agreements that forced American workers to compete with third world wages and that shipped jobs overseas. And, it was before Koch's CSE launched the inside-the-beltway push in D.C. in the late 1980s to repeal the Depression Era Glass-Steagall protections against banks speculating in the stock market, a repeal that made the Wall Street stock market crash of 2008 possible, if not inevitable. (Koch Industries also lobbied against the modest Dodd-Frank reforms of derivatives trading in the 2009-2010 congressional session.)
Koch-backed ideas like these -- along with passing RTW, privatizing Social Security, thwarting efforts to address climate change -- have been very good for the Kochs. Some have already benefitted the Kochs' operations, including their speculation on oil prices and trading of oil derivatives [http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/04/13/153206/koch-industries-price-gouging/]. Such investments have helped make these two billionaires even richer. Since the Wall Street meltdown began in 2008, "the Kochs have exponentially increased their wealth by 58% while median family net worth dropped 40%," according to the research of the International Forum on Globalization [http://www.ifg.org/].
(chart information source: International Forum on Globalization)

RTW -- Less Pay, More Job Insecurity
But, such policies are very bad for ordinary Americans.
Wages for workers are lower in RTW states.
People who work in states that have bought the economic snake oil [http://www.prwatch.org/node/11877], like RTW, sold by the Koch-fueled hucksters from ALEC, along with their buddies at stink tanks like the Mackinac Center, make less than Americans in states that have not embraced this backward thinking.
It should come as no surprise that when private sector unions are weakened that this weakens the negotiating power of unions and also weakens the competitive wages offered by companies that are not unionized.

RTW is like a receding tide that lowers all boats.
Almost 75 years ago, Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to help protect American workers' rights to organize and negotiate the terms of employment with corporations, helping to level the playing field between powerful corporations and individual workers with little leverage to get better wages, benefits, and working conditions. The NLRA specifically authorized the contracts collectively negotiated by labor unions to require all workers benefitting from the contract to pay dues to the union that negotiated the contract, a fair procedure called a "union security agreement" that helps protect against freeloading and also keep a union's power to enforce the contract strong.

RTW -- Bringing Some of the Worst of the South to the Northern Refuge
But in 1947, Congress under pressure from corporations amended that law to allow states to opt out of those procedures through what proponents call RTW laws. Other than the heart of the old confederacy -- which enacted RTW laws in the same period that states were trying to suppress the civil rights movement, which included many unions acting in solidarity -- most of the states in the country have not adopted RTW.
In fact, only three states have passed RTW in the past 25 years (Idaho in 1995, Oklahoma in 2001, and Indiana in 2012); the 20 other states that passed such legislation largely make up the deep south and a red swath west of the Mississippi. The 2012 presidential election map of "red" states looks strikingly close to the RTW map.
But the vast majority of blue states, like Michigan, have not embraced the long-standing ALEC agenda item of RTW. And, Oklahoma's experience over the past decade since the law passed has not been a poster child for higher wages and economic security for families.

RTW -- Scrooge, but What Will Christmas Future Bring?
It seems that whomever got to Governor Snyder and convinced him to suddenly help ram RTW through is more interested in turning Michigan red than in making sure Michigan workers have a better shot at better wages, a strong wage base that would be spent in local communities and thus help to rebuild the state's economy.
But, this political calculation could backfire at the ballot box because workers in Michigan were not voting this November or Novembers past for policies that result in even lower pay and fewer protections for the health and financial future of their families.
Repealing more than 75 years of protections for private sector unions in the Wolverine State in a matter of hours -- and in disregard of the state's culture of private sector unionization and the lack of public support for this action -- is likely to have many adverse consequences, some intended and some unintended. Just ask Romney's Ohio allies who saw first-hand the public backlash against political machinations to make it harder for Americans there to vote.
Still, there is no doubt that if Governor Snyder signs the RTW bill, Michigan workers will be hurt and unions in the state will be hurting, in the near term.
RTW in Michigan this holiday season -- it's a bill only Ebenezer Scrooge, or his modern day equivalent, could love.

2012-12-13 "Michigan’s New 'Corporate Servitude Law' Takes Away Worker Rights" by George Lakoff from "CommonDreams.org"
George Lakoff is the author of The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic (co-authored with Elizabeth Wehling). His previous books include Moral Politics, Don't Think of an Elephant!, Whose Freedom? and Thinking Points (with the Rockridge Institute staff). He is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute.
Michigan has just passed a corporate servitude law. It is designed to take away many of the worker rights that unions have conferred throughout their history: The right to a living wage. The right to equal pay for women. The right to deferred payments in the form of pensions. The right to negotiate workplace standards and working conditions. The right to overtime pay.
The law is intended to destroy unions, or at least make then ineffective. It says simply that workers do not have to pay union dues to take a job—even if they get benefits previously negotiated by a union. Most workers who don't have to pay dues won't pay, and that will defund the unions, killing them and taking away rights unions have fought hard for over generations. Without workers negotiating as a unified group, corporations will not have to grant those union-created rights. Corporations will have take-it-or-leave-it power over individual workers. In short, this is corporate servitude: you do what you are told and take what you are offered.
The deeper truth about unions is that they don't just create and maintain rights for workers; they work for and create crucial rights in society as a whole. Unions created weekends, the eight-hour workday, and health benefits. And through their politics, they have been at the center of support for civil rights and other social justice issues. In short, unions don't just work for their members. They work for all of us. Including businesses: workers are profit creators.
Since Democratic candidates tend to support the same progressive views, defunding unions would take away their power to campaign for Democratic candidates. The new Michigan law is thus also a partisan law supporting the Republican party.
Language matters. Republicans understand this better than Democrats. Republicans have called their corporate servitude law a “right to work” law, as if the law conferred a right instead of taking many away. The first principle of political and social communication in cases of conflict is: Avoid the other side’s language. The Democrats keep violating this principle, using the Republicans’ name for this law. In this way they are helping Republicans, because using the Republican language activates Republican framing, not just for this law, but for conservative ideology at the deepest level.
Progressives and conservatives have opposing views of democracy. For progressives, democracy is based on citizens caring about each other and acting responsibly on that care, with both individual and social responsibility, to provide through the government protection and empowerment for all. Government thus becomes a means by which citizens pay for public provisions to benefit all: public infrastructure (roads, bridges, hospitals, public buildings), public education, public health and safety (clean air, clean water, safe food, disease protection), a patent office to protection innovations, a justice system, and networks for energy, communication, and transportation. Without all these public provisions, we are not free: business cannot thrive (if it can operate at all) and we cannot live decent, civilized private lives. It is a deep truth about our democracy: our freedom depends on such public provisions and the private depends on the public. Unions both defend these freedoms and add to them the worker rights unions have created.
Conservatives don't accept this truth, if they perceive it at all. They tend to see democracy as providing “liberty”—the liberty to pursue one’s own interests and well-being through personal responsibility, without being responsible for the interests or well-being of others and without others being responsible for them.
From this conservative perspective, businessmen should have the liberty to run their businesses as they please to maximize their profit, and workers should rely on only their personal responsibility to get and keep a job. Unions, for conservatives, thus violate (1) the liberty of business owners to offer workers what is most profitable for the business, (2) the personal responsibility of workers, and (3) the liberty conservatives think workers should have to work without paying union dues.
From the progressive perspective, the new Michigan law is a corporate servitude law, while from the conservative perspective, the law is a “right to work” law.
Language works so that the conservative name “right to work” evokes the conservative political ideology in the brains of those who hear it without wincing. The more an idea is activated in the brain the stronger it gets. Thus, the use of the conservative name strengthens the conservative ideology in the brains of the public.
The press is not being neutral in using the Republican name for the law. Journalists too, in just using the name, are supporting both the Republican framing of the law and conservative ideology. The press is not being balanced — which is what journalists typically claim to be. Balance would be to use both the names “corporate servitude law” and “right to work law” and to explain the differences in the progressive and conservative understanding of what the law is and does.
Of course, to do so would change a false view of language that journalists too often internalize, namely, that language is neutral. To see that it isn’t, just try speaking or writing of “Michigan’s corporate servitude law” and listen to conservatives scream bloody murder over a truth that does fit their view of democracy. And listen to them keep screaming because it is important to keep repeating the true name of the law if the public is to understand what the law really does.

2012-12-09 "Michigan’s Right to Work Law: battle lines, strategy, tactics; Law rammed through as protesters pepper sprayed" by Jeff Bigelow from "LiberationNews.org"
Update: Following the publication of this article on Dec. 9, the Michigan House of Representatives voted on Dec. 11 to approve anti-union legislation while 15,000 workers and their allies demonstrated in protest. The anti-union measures had already been passed by the Michigan Senate, and Gov. Rick Snyder has indicated he will sign them into law.
Michigan legislators rammed through “Right to Work” legislation in less than seven hours on Dec. 6. To get the job done, police closed the capitol building to thousands of union protesters and pepper sprayed or tear gassed union activists. Later a judge ruled that the police had done just what they should. This is what capitalist democracy looks like when critical issues are at stake for the ruling class and people are in motion.

Right to Work: a blow to labor -
“Right to Work” legislation is a deceptive term because it has nothing to do with the demand for jobs. Such laws do not guarantee any rights; in fact they limit rights. They make it illegal to bargain what are called union security agreements, a common feature of contracts for about the last 80 years.
A more accurate term would be “Right to Work for Less.”
Right to Work laws weaken the voice for better wages and benefits by making it illegal to require all who benefit from a contract to pay dues or to bargain a contract clause requiring everyone to pay dues to cover the cost of bargaining and enforcing the contract that they benefit from. That weakens the organization.
Wages are lower in Right to Work states. An average worker in a Right to Work state earns about $7,131 a year less than workers in states where unions are free to bargain over union security. Right to Work states also have higher poverty rates. According to calculations from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of workplace deaths is 41 percent higher in states with Right to Work laws, a reflection of a union voice that is weaker.

The anti-union forces behind the legislation -
Among those driving this bill through the Michigan House and Senate were Sen. Arlan Meekhoff, Rep. Tom McMillin, and Rep. Pete Lund, all of whom are members of American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC helped drive the union-killing events in Wisconsin and is funded by the Koch brothers.
However, it is not just ALEC members who voted for this legislation in Michigan and Indiana (or earlier in New Hampshire). Many ruling class entities are pushing this program.
Sheldon Adelson (whose net worth is $21.5 billion) told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published Dec. 4 that he was not giving up after spending $100 million to defeat President Obama. He said that he was going to refocus his financial and political guns on labor. His strategy now is to stop or weaken a union’s ability to bargain contracts at the state level.
Adelson calls himself a “social liberal.” He owns casinos around the world, and his flagship, the Venetian, is one of the biggest non-union casinos in Las Vegas. The only reason that it continues to be non-union is that management uses vicious and illegal anti-union methods to stop workers from organizing.
He wants what the ruling class wants in general: a union-free playing field where they can drive down wages and rights to a level where people can just barely live.
Captured in that strategy is the reason why those with and without a union should support the fight in Michigan. If the Kochs and their ilk get their way with a Right to Work law in the heart of union territory, everyone who wants to win decent wages, benefits and rights will be that much further away from their goal.

Democrats and Republicans attacking labor -
Michigan has been an established power house of union strength for decades. But labor has been undermined by auto factories moving production abroad and cutting jobs, wages and benefits at home. Concessions by labor have only been seen as weakness and have led to more demands for more concessions.
The one remaining union power in the Midwest, or certainly the biggest union power, is that in the public sector. And within the Midwest there is no greater strength than AFSCME in Illinois. AFSCME represents over 40,000 state workers and tens of thousands of local government and non-profit workers. While the anti-labor attacks in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan have been initiated by Republicans, in Illinois the attacks are orchestrated by the Democratic Party. The governor and the leaders of the House and Senate are all Democrats, and they are all pushing an anti-labor agenda.
Illinois Governor Quinn is the chair of the Democratic Governor’s Association Labor Committee. He views himself as a populist. But this “populist” is attacking labor in ways that even Gov. Walker in Wisconsin never did. Unlike Walker, he has refused to pay raises in the existing contract (5.25 percent from a four-year contract that expired June 30). Like Walker, he insisted that collective bargaining rights be taken from thousands of state workers who already have them. Like Walker, he has attacked pensions for state workers, cutting pension rights for new employees two years ago and trying to cut them for everyone else now.
While the contract for state employees expired in June, bargaining has continued. For the first time ever in Illinois, the governor unilaterally terminated the contract, which had been extended in June, even while bargaining continued. It was a sign of war. Moreover, his negotiators are clearly driving to a point where they can declare impasse and impose terms that will slash incomes. Retirees may have to pay up to 25 percent of their very meager pensions for health care. He has similar plans to drive down the standard of living of current employees. This struggle will come to a head in the coming weeks.

Labor’s next step -
How will labor respond to the challenge in Michigan? Over the weekend, hundreds of union members crammed into union halls expressing a desire to fight back.
Demonstrations are planned for the next few days, which will coincide with the next votes on Right to Work. The two versions of the bill have to be reconciled before passage, and the earliest that they can vote is Dec. 11.
Some unions are talking about civil disobedience. Certainly an action that surrounds the capitol and prevents business as usual would be a welcome development—potentially stopping the ability of the right-wing to pass the law.
However, the real power of labor is the ability to stop everything—not just traffic on a particular street. While police may be able to clear a street of protesters, they cannot replace the workers in offices, stores, restaurants and factories. Organizing a general strike by all of labor is a tactic that is on par with the attack that is designed to strangle labor. The movement created by a general strike would draw a line in the sand on behalf of every employed and unemployed worker across the country who is sick of the race to the bottom, sick of the demands for concessions, sick of low wages and few benefits.
Over the last year, Michigan workers have gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures to get initiatives on the ballot only to find that the legislative and electoral arenas are dominated by and manipulated by the rich and powerful. Now is the time for tactics that use our strength in an arena where we are the ones who dominate—that is at every worksite.

The roots of the Right to Work battle: 1947 and 2012 -
Today’s Right to Work laws are founded on the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. It was passed at a time when millions of workers were striking for a living wage, and for new rights to employer-paid health insurance and pensions. They were striking for justice on the job.
Bankers and businessmen saw the rising tide of worker rebellions as a struggle for power on the job, so they came up with a law that was designed to weaken unions. By taking the financial/organizational muscle out of the union, Taft-Hartley made it illegal to require everyone who benefits from union contracts to pay dues.
That was just one aspect of the law. Others included the creation of new ways for corporations and others to sue unions while at the same time banning union solidarity actions such as secondary strikes and boycotts (actions by workers not directly affected by a contract). The law banned closed shops where all workers in a union shop must belong to the union as a condition of employment.
All of those Taft-Hartley restrictions affected the financial strength of the union and their strategy and tactics. But another aspect of the law aimed directly at the heart of the union. The law required that union leaders take an oath supporting the very government that was undermining the unions. The law specifically banned communists, who had given leadership, vision and life to the labor movement, from playing a role. Combined with the McCarthy witch hunt, communists were hounded out of the labor movement by way of both hearings and neo-fascist violence.
Sixty-five years later, the effects of that 1947 law and the reactionary period that followed can still be seen in the weakness of labor. Waves of state repression, contracting out, plant closings and so on have added layers of weight that shape the state of the labor movement.
But the situation is not all doom and gloom. Labor today is not the same as it was in 1947. The working class is filled with the vitality of millions more African American, Latino, Asian and other workers of color. The willingness to act has been demonstrated by the general strike of Latino workers in 2006 and the Chicago teachers' strike of 2012. The many divisions that separate workers are still there, but the potential for what can be done is infinitely greater than it was in 1947.
More than anything the ranks want a solution.
What is needed in 2012 is a leadership that will act.

2012-12-11 "A 'National Attack': Michigan Passes 'Right-to-Work' Law; Police in riot gear confront thousands as legislation seen as blow to collective bargaining power, middle class passes" by Andrea Germanos from "CommonDreams.org"
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law contentious "right-to-work" legislation on Tuesday after tear-gas wielding police and over ten thousand people protesting the attack on labor converged at the state Capitol and vowed that the day's action was just the beginning.
Snyder's signature makes the state the 24th to have a law dubbed by critics as "right-to-work for less."
Among the thousands speaking out against the legislation Tuesday was United Auto Worker President Bob King, the Detroit Free Press reports [http://www.freep.com/article/20121211/NEWS15/121211011/Police-don-riot-gear-anger-grows-among-thousands-protesters-Michigan-Capitol]:
[begin excerpt]
"Unions built the middle class of America," he said. "This is a national attack. These folks want to shift more and more of the wealth to a smaller and smaller group of people."
Speaker after speaker, including firefighters, teachers and factory workers, vowed today’s protest was just the start. They said they would follow legislators all over the state to remind people of their votes.
[end excerpt]

State Rep. Brandon Dillon, who spoke out against the legislation on the House floor on Thursday [http://www.commondreams.org/video/2012/12/09], told Democracy Now! on Tuesday that Republicans are "pushing a law that is decisively anti-labor-union, anti-worker, and the only defense they can have is to come up with buzzwords like 'freedom to work' and 'pro-worker.'" What right-to-work laws are really about, according to Rep. Dillon, is corporate profits [http://www.democracynow.org/2012/12/11/michigan_gop_push_through_anti_union].
[begin excerpt]
This isn’t about freedom to choose, and they—they know that. They know from their own polling that the more people know about this proposal, the less they like it. What they don’t tell you is that nobody has been forced to join a labor union in Michigan. It’s illegal under federal law. And in fact, if this right to work — or as my colleagues and I like to refer to it as "freedom to freeload" — passes, those that choose not to join a union and not to pay dues will still be given all the benefits that a union contract entails and all the protections that union representation has. The proponents of this legislation will not tell you that. They will not tell you that unions will still be bound to represent those people who choose not to participate in the union.
And for a party that talks about personal responsibility all the time, it seems strangely ironic that they’re promoting this idea of freeloading, because really what it’s about is what Betsy DeVos and her husband have said all along: They don’t like the fact that Michigan workers enjoy a higher standard of living than other states; they did not like high wages; they don’t like the fact that unions have some place at the bargaining table to advocate for their employees; they want to weaken the hand of unions; they want to depress wages; and they want to make it an economy where a shrinking middle class means more corporate profits.
[end excerpt]

San Francisco State University professor John Logan dismantles the Republican worker "freedom" story at In These Times [http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/14281/right_to_work_in_michigan_is_about_politics_not_economics]:
[begin excerpt]
Snyder insists on stating that right-to-work laws give workers the “ultimate choice” on whether or not they join a union. Either through willful ignorance or deliberate misrepresentation, Snyder is professing to give employees a right that they already enjoy.
In fact, right-to-work laws simply outlaw agreements that provide for agency fees from non-members, thereby making it much more difficult for unions to maintain stable organizations. Unions are still required by law to negotiate on behalf of all the workers in the bargaining unit, even though under right-to-work, non-members don't pay for the representation they receive.
[end excerpt]

The Michigan bills have "bill mill" ALEC's fingerprints all over them, Brendan Fischer points out at PRWatch [http://www.prwatch.org/news/2012/12/11902/alecs-so-called-right-work-bill-political-revenge-michigan]:

"This is a major day in Michigan's history," Gov. Snyder said during a news conference shortly after signing the legislation.  But if labor supporters like teacher Mike Ingels are right, the day also marks a major point in the fight against such anti-union efforts.
“This is not the end,” Ingels said [http://www.toledoblade.com/Politics/2012/12/11/Union-members-supporters-crowd-Michigan-Capitol.html]. “This is the beginning.”

Mandi Wright of the Detroit Free Press has video of labor rights protesters in the Capitol Rotunda:

2012-12-07 "Right to Work Looms in Michigan" by Alix Gould-Werth from "Labor Notes"
Alix Gould-Werth is a member of the Graduate Employees Organization, Teachers Local 3550, at the University of Michigan.
Michigan unionists rallied and lobbied in the state capital yesterday to prevent right-to-work legislation. A bill has passed the House and Senate, and fear is that the governor will sign the bill during the lame-duck session. Republicans will lose five seats once the new legislature is seated in January, making defeat of right to work much more likely then.
Capitol police evicted some protesters yesterday, with arrests and Mace, and closed the building.
Here a member of one Michigan union explains how a state that was considered a union bastion came to this point.
Earlier this year I stood on a street corner, holding a clipboard for Proposal 2 and hoping that Michigan would be a trailblazer: the first state to make union rights constitutional rights. Today, I’m filling my tank for the drive to the state Capitol in Lansing, with the apprehension that Michigan will become the 24th state to end unionization as we know it.
The Republican-dominated legislature is poised to adopt “right-to-work” legislation. Yesterday hundreds of workers convened in the Capitol rotunda, chanting “hey hey, ho ho, right to work has got to go.” How did we get here?
Perhaps it began one state over, in Wisconsin. Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder learned from the mistakes of his neighbor across the lake, Scott Walker. When Walker attacked unions in Wisconsin with a bludgeon, provoking intense opposition last year, Snyder was watching. He saw the powerful reaction of union-loyal Midwesterners faced with a clear threat.
So instead, Snyder and his allies in the legislature pursued a strategy of a thousand cuts. Instead of introducing a bill that would affect all unions, the Michigan legislators did it piecemeal: taking away teachers’ automatic dues deductions, defining university research assistants as non-workers, and other measures that wouldn’t rile everyone at once.
Michigan labor went on offense, to pass a constitutional amendment that would have nullified all those laws-of-a-thousand-cuts and insulated us against new legislative threats, including “right to work.” We collected thousands of signatures for Proposal 2, made thousands of phone calls, and knocked on thousands of doors. In the week before the election we were neck and neck in the polls. And then Proposal 2 was defeated—57 to 42 percent.
There are many theories why we lost Proposal 2. Perhaps there were too many proposals on the ballot, perhaps it was the misleading ads financed by corporate interests, maybe we weren’t explicit enough about the threats to labor and the protections enshrined in the proposal.
Regardless, one month later, Governor Snyder, who previously had called right to work “divisive” and said it wasn’t a priority, now says he’ll sign this legislation if it crosses his desk during the lame duck session. The Chamber of Commerce is pushing it. Right-wing activist Dick DeVos of the Amway fortune started airing statewide TV ads Tuesday. The Republicans control both houses of the legislature and have the votes.
So where does this leave us? What’s on the table is the disappearance of union jobs from Michigan and the standard of living they have given workers, union and non-union alike. Last year Michigan was the state with the fifth highest percentage of unionized workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Back from Lansing, Liz DeLisle Rodrigues, communications chair of the Graduate Employees Organization, Teachers Local 3550, reported on the broad spectrum of workers who were there—teachers, electricians, construction workers, service workers, nurses, and more. Rodrigues observed simply: “Working people are getting the word out and banding together to fight.”
See you at the Capitol.
Michigan unionists packed the rotunda of the state Capitol in Lansing yesterday but the House passed a right to work bill. Protests are planned there for Tuesday. Photo: AFT Michigan.

2012-12-07 "Michigan GOP Passes Draconian Union-Busting Legislation Without Public Input" from "Spotlight" newsjournal
Over the course of just one day, the Michigan House and Senate introduced and passed union-busting “right to work for less” legislation, without any hearings or public input from the community. More than 3,000 union members and workers' rights advocates rallied against the legislation and for several hours police shut the doors to the Capitol, keeping protesters out of the House and Senate galleries. Several people were maced as they tried to enter.
The bill, which Michigan Gov. Snyder says he’ll sign into law, will roll back workers’ rights and drag down wages for all Michigan workers families, both union and non-union. The Michigan legislature’s action prompted President Barack Obama to release a public statement reaffirming that he “has long opposed so-called ‘right to work’ laws and he continues to oppose them now."