Recently I saw an interview with former Florida Governor, Charlie Christ. Years ago I would have called Mr. Christ a flip-flop or pancake, referring to his changing of parties so many times. But I believe that interview enlightened me in two ways:
#1 Mr. Christ is an unapologetic jerk. I believe he should have informed Mr. Romney of his change of endorsement in 2008 or at the very least displayed some form of regret for not doing so.
#2 It is tough to go Independent because of a lack of infrastructure like there is for the Democrats and the GOP. And that is the part of the interview I would like to touch on. The fact that in this country we have to choose between one party that is in bed with Corporate America and the other that is constantly climbing out of bed just long enough to convince the rest of America that they are here to help us. We need more political parties in America.
When the Republicans do something we don’t like we vote in the Democrats, then the Democrats proceed to do the same thing the Republicans were going to do. The reason is that both parties realize more than ever that we only have two choices (for the most part), and that if they lose this time they will always have a 50% percent chance of winning the next time.
Mr. Christ did go Independent for a short period of time. However, one of his biggest complaints was that there was no infrastructure for Independents, and that made it difficult to run as one. But there is one group that does have the infrastructure, the money, and the people to start a third party in this country: UNIONS. Most unions have political delegates at each local. They also have people who are experienced in campaigning. They also know how politics work on a local level and in Washington.
Now the problem. It is both sad and hard for me to face this fact, but unions are drawn to Democrats like a moth to a flame. They know they are going to get burnt, but they don’t care because their line of crap sounds oh so good. But if the Democrats had been defending Labor with the same vigor that the GOP has been destroying it, we would not be at less than 7% membership in the private sector.
It seems to me Organized Labor wants the Democrats to fight their fight. But one thing I have learned is no one is going to argue your points the way you are. It’s like Organized Labor has been sitting around and waiting for a Superman to come out of the Democratic Party when they really should have been creating their own Superman or Superwoman.
I do want to make one point as I do believe there have been pockets of real help from the Democrats. However the two-party system only works for the two parties, and workers will never get properly represented by a system that only focuses on perpetuating itself. This is not only a call for just a Labor party, we need closer to four or five different parties, but organized labor is the only group that I know of that could potentially start their own party and succeed. I think it is time for Organized Labor to stop depending on those who are there to serve the interests of others.
Finally, I will leave you with this. UAW President Bob King said at a conference the UAW has no future without the South. I respectfully disagree with Mr. King. I don’t think organized labor has a future with its continued dependence on the Democratic Party and without creating a political party of its own.
On February 12-14, the men and women who assemble the Volkswagen Passat at a plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, will get to vote on whether or not they want the UAW to represent them and implement a Work Council. Work Councils exists at every other Volkswagen plant in the world except for those in China and the one in Chattanooga.
This election is meaningful on so many levels, not the least of which is that there hasn’t been a major organizing drive at a plant in the south since UFCW organized Smithfield in 2009 after a 16 year struggle there. But it would also be fascinating to see how the Work Council will work in the U.S. Though Work Councils are common in Germany, if the UAW/Volkswagen election succeeds, it would be the first Work Council established in the U.S.
Work Councils operate differently than how the majority of unions are organized in the U.S. A typical industrial or public sector union in the U.S. exists after workers democratically vote for a union to represent them. They elect the president and local officers, and the local unions’ delegates elect the International or council officers who then hire business managers who work with local leadership on the day to day business of unionism. This includes everything from bargaining a contract, holding labor management meetings and representing workers grievances.
The union (local workers with union staff) will then negotiate with management to establish a contract that covers wages, benefits and conditions of employment. They do not get to make decisions typically decided as management’s decisions, and most contracts usually start with a “Management’s Rights” clause laying out management’s rights to hire and make other decisions about how the plant/office will run.
In Germany, worker representatives serve in equal number as management on a council to make mutual decisions about how the plant will operate. This goes well beyond the U.S. model and may include such discussions previously categorized as “Management Rights” like what cars will be manufactured at what plants. Read more here and here
As UAW President Bob King describes it, “In Germany, work councils are a unique model of collaboration between workers and employers that simply doesn’t exist in the U.S. yet. Works councils and the German system of co-determination demonstrate how company management and a strong union can partner and thrive.” http://www.detroitnews.com/
UAW has declared that a majority of workers support the union, and Volkswagen, though not officially in support of the organizing drive, has neither launched an anti-union campaign like what you typically see during an organizing drive. Frank Fisher, chairman and CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga said, “Volkswagen Group of America and the UAW have agreed to this common path for the election. That means employees can decide on representation in a secret ballot election, independently conducted by the NLRB. Volkswagen is committed to neutrality and calls upon all third parties to honor the principle of neutrality.”
This should make for a non-controversial organizing. However, politicians and right wing think tanks are not allowing the organizing effort to go unchallenged. Tennessee’s Senator Bob Corker said Volkswagen would be a “laughingstock” for not fighting the union. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has been a constant critic claiming it will hurt the state’s economy. “I think that there are some ramifications to the vote in a terms of our ability to attract other suppliers,” Haslam told a regional newspaper’s editorial board.
Additionally, Center for Worker Freedom, an offshoot of Americans for Tax Reform the dark-money group headed by Grover Norquist, has reportedly bought radio ads and more than a dozen billboards in the area that are thinly veiled attempts to squash the effort using race and communist fears, an ugly regression of Southern stereotypes.
One of them has the words “United Auto Workers,” written in large black block print, but the word “Auto” is crossed out with what looks like red spray paint and replaced with the word “Obama.” Underneath it reads, “The UAW spends millions to elect liberal politicians, including Barack Obama,” and it directs you to a website: workerfreedom.org.
Another enormous bill board has a picture of a crumbling former auto plant and reads, “Auto Unions ATE Detroit…Next Meal: Chattanooga?” It also directs to the workerfreedom.org website where you are warned that “UAW Wants Your Guns.”
Yet another billboard refers to a Reuters article which claims, “almost every job lost at U.S. car factories in the last 30 years has occurred at a unionized company.”
But I prefer what Pete Seeger had to say about what happens when workers join a union:
That if you don’t let red-baiting break you up
And if you don’t let stoolpigeons break you up
And if you don’t let vigilantes break you up
And if you don’t let race hatred break you up
You’ll win. What I mean, take it easy, but take it
In Nov. 2011, Iowa Democrats held their annual Jefferson Jackson dinner, their biggest event of the year attended by thousands of party leaders from across the state. The keynote that year was Rahm Emanuel, the newly elected Mayor of Chicago, also former senior advisor for President Clinton and Chief of Staff for President Obama.
Touting his credentials, then-state party leader Sue Dvorsky said, ““Mayor Emanuel has proven to be one of the great advocates for Democratic values and middle class opportunity throughout his service in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, as a leader in Congress, and now at the helm of the great city of Chicago.” [Read full transcript of Emanuel’s JJ remarks here]
Dvorsky couldn’t have been more wrong in describing Rahm this way, but one could hardly blame her. Very little up to that time had been written that was critical of the wunderkind who emerged into the national spotlight during the Clinton years. Pundits may have rightfully described Rahm as a cuss-wielding, politically-savvy lobbyist and whip, but few actually surveyed Emanuel’s public service from the vantage point of the poor or of a working class person oppressed by Emanuel’s neo-liberal Democrat Party policies.
But if Emanuel was invited to the JJ dinner to raise money, as the JJ dinner is meant to do, then Rahm was their man. It was this ability that first attracted the attention of Clinton in the early 90s, and which is well documented in the recently published book, “Mayor 1%” by Chicago journalist Kari Lydersen. The thoroughly-researched portrait that emerges is not of a populist advocate for democracy and that elusive mythical thing, the “Middle Class”, but of a cunning and cut-throat power broker, representing the investment class with a disturbing detachment and growing inaccessibility to his Chicago constituents.
The book spans Emanuel’s rise to power from his childhood in the wealthy Chicago suburbs and ends with him rebidding then-union janitor jobs at O’Hare Airport from the barely livable wage of $15.45 an hour down to $11.90 an hour with a non-union mob-connected firm.
Do not mistake this book as a partisan political lambast, à la Ann Coulter. Rather, Lydersen’s training and decades of experience as a professional journalist with the Washington Post populate the pages of the book with heart-wrenching first-hand interviews and dozens of pages of citations.
As Lydersen states in the introduction, “Although this is a book about Rahm Emanuel, it is also a story about organizations – like the Mental Health Movement and the Chicago Teachers union – made up of regular people who are finding it harder and harder to secure basic rights including housing, health care, and a voice in their governing institutions.”
The book speaks for itself (order it online through the non-profit, progressive book publisher Haymarket Books). Some of the stories covered include:
- How Rahm Emanuel earned $18 million during two years as an investment banker between the Clinton and Obama years
- Was a key architect of NAFTA
- Established the Infrastructure Trust that proposes to finance and manage municipal projects by a non-elected board that raises money through complicated financial mechanisms rather than the traditional bond market
- Closed half of Chicago’s Mental Health Clinics and more than 50 Chicago Public Schools, almost all in black and Latino neighborhoods
- Waged a contract battle against the Chicago Teachers Union leading to a week-long strike – first in more than twenty years
- Passed constitutionally questionable city ordinance curtailing civil liberties during NATO Summit in Chicago.
As we approach New Year’s Eve, it’s tempting to write a year-end review of all that passed in the preceding twelve months related to labor and politics. But my memory is bad. And I’d sooner not have to think about most of what transpired so I can retain some holiday cheer (I personally had my pension raided by the Democrat-dominated Illinois legislature and Governor).
So here goes – while it snows, and while I remain grateful for food, a roof over my head, and all the exquisite people I know and have the good fortune to work with – are my not-so-scientific based predictions of what will come in the next twelve months. May you have a Happy New Year. May you also stay angry at the condition of the state of things and motivated to change them, but not obsessed, so you still enjoy good people, good food, good times, and the wonder of the universe (this is why we struggle and not give in to apathy, isn’t it?).
Immigration Reform Won’t Get Passed
Not because it isn’t wise, humane, and simply the best way to evolve into a global economy, but it is an election year, and electeds do not like to take risks when they are under job-review. Recall the damage done to Democrats in 2010 after the extremely compromised ACA passed. If I were captain of the universe I would push hard for passage of the DREAM Act instead, forcing the bigots into saying the ugly ideas they hold in their hearts but rarely articulate (see Steve King prediction below). Then we can hope to pick up enough seats to push for meaningful comprehensive immigration reform in 2015
A Woman Elected to National Office from Iowa
Frankly, this is a battle that I am personally itching to get behind, and I know a lot of other smart, brass tacks ladies in the state ready to champion a woman who makes this the centerpiece of her strategy. Bitter attacks against women’s reproductive freedom hit a raw nerve, and there are plenty of men who care deeply about this cause as well, not the least of the reasons why is because their wives, girlfriends and daughters aren’t earning nearly as much as their male counterparts.
Stacy Appel can do it (women outnumber men in CD3 395,938 to 383,063). So can Janet Peterson. But only if they run aggressive non-traditional campaigns that tap into Iowa’s historic progressiveness. There are probably a half dozen other potential women candidates out there, says Pam Jochum, who are over overly qualified to run and win. I know she’s a journalist not a politician, but Des Moines Register Columnist Rekha Basu is so smart and would be a great any kind of elected official. Run Rehka, run!
A Latino/a Breaks the Glass Ceiling
Currently the highest serving Latina/o elected in Iowa history is Scott County Recorder Rita Vargas. And if the ratio of population matched elected positions, 5.3% of all elected officials would be Latino/a, instead of just eight. So who will be the one to finally crack the code? I’d put stock on Maria Bribriesco who is running for IA SD 47 to do it. She has enormous obstacles to confront, and any victory will be tighter than a Vegas slot machine, but Bribriesco earned a lot of local name recognition in her race against Linda Miller in 2012, and her foray into the race for the corresponding Senate District increases the likelihood as its demographic is a bit friendlier to Democrats. Plus, her biography is proof that with hard work and progressive government policies, the American Dream is still possible. Her down-to-earth personality also balances her intimidating career as an attorney for the Rock Island Arsenal and makes her immediately likeable at the door.
Branstad and GOP Legislators Push for Pension Reform
And some weak-in-the-knees Democrats will cave because they drink the Kool Aid pushed by right-wing think tanks despite actuarial evidence that IPERS remains among the strongest pensions in the country. At this point, there is no public clamoring for pension reform, but Branstad will use Illinois and Michigan as strawmen to demand reform. Cities, which will be cash-strapped thanks to property tax rollbacks passed last session, will have some legitimacy to complain here. But the answer isn’t to fix that bad legislation with another piece of bad legislation. I can’t make a prediction on how the dust will settle on this, only a warning that we all need to lobby hard to honor our seniors and public servants and protect ourselves against the continued erosion of all our retirement benefits, from pensions, ripped off 401Ks as well as national attacks against Social Security.
Smart Watches THE New Fashion Rage
I personally think these gadgets that pair with your smart phone are suh-weet, and I want one but cannot afford it since they are so pricey. So like the Kindle, I’m predicting that soon the technology will race ahead and costs will plummet, then we can all become “that” person, annoyingly talking to our wrists in public.
Another 500-year Environmental Disaster
This is a terrible prediction, and I don’t mean to be a fatalist, but the increased occurrence of severe weather events makes this almost inevitable. Question is, how many 500 year storms, F5 tornadoes, and billions of dollars in severe weather event damage until climate change deniers pull their heads out of their asses and take responsibility? Maybe we should recruit folks in the insurance industry who will soon go broke from all their payouts to lobby with us.
EPA Enforces New CAFO Restrictions
Due to failures by the state legislature and the Branstad Administration to pass meaningful regulatory reform, the national EPA will enforce clean water protections against the explosive growth of industrial hog operations and increased manure spills from irresponsible CAFO owners. Federal regulatory framework exists, Congress just hasn’t funded it adequately. I’m hoping Obama starts to flaunt his Executive Branch authority more now that he has no future election prospects to plague him. Perhaps he’ll also have been emboldened by the usually trepid Harry Reid’s exciting but long overdue filibuster reform in the Senate.
Heroin Continues Spread Across the State
Another Debbie-downer prediction. I don’t mean to be depressing, but this is a deadly issue that is spreading across the state and not talking about it won’t stop this. Heroin’s cheap cost and extraordinary addictiveness will make meth look like candy. Heroin addiction is an epidemic related to increased poverty and marginalization, and unless the state reverses the trend of downward wages, and incarceration-as-answer-to-poverty, more people will be swallowed up by hopelessness. Please read about the damage being done in Waterloo here.
Schultz Will Lose
Whatever race he runs. He’s sure to lose Secretary of State now that his banner cause – Voter Fraud – has proven to be largely a ruse. If he chooses to run for IA CD3, he’ll lose there as well. Sorry, but the shelf-life on some one-trick politician ponies is very short.
Steve King Implodes
Allright, I admit this is purely aspirational, not predicated on any Nate Silver-esque methodology, but how long can one live under the pressure of so much hate and bigotry: Immigrant calves the size of cantaloupes? Hilary a communist? Electric fences to zap immigrants the way we do errant cattle? I’ve never personally heard of an incest rape victim getting pregnant, so the verdict is still out if that’s possible.
There’s always the chance that King will accidentally find himself on a tour of 3rd world poverty (found in spades right here in the US) with a bunch of Quakers whose kindness cures him of his hate.
You may say I’m a dreamer…but I’m not the only one.
Article originally appeared in Iowa Federation of Labor News: http://iowalabornews.com
Americans usually associate large cash flows with lots of bling. But when it’s political money masquerading as grassroots politics, the result is much more obscure…hence the term Dark Money.
Thanks to funding from billionaire libertarian brothers David and Charles Koch, Americans for Prosperity is at the leading edge of dark money spending. In 2012, AFP spent more than $33.5 million against Obama’s re-election bid, but altogether $122 million in all races. This was five times what they spent during the 2010 Election cycle, before the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the flood gates to unlimited and unaccountable political spending from outside groups like AFP.
Dark money has had such a tremendous influence on American politics in recent years that the Koch Brothers have become household names. However, because they organize as 501 (c)(4) organizations, income tax codes do not force them to disclose who funds them. Consequently, Dark Money has emerged as one of the greatest threats to the US experiment in Democracy.
Former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie used to be critical of the undue influence of outside groups on political competitions traditionally fought between the two parties. Gillespie criticized these groups in 2007 saying they, “run wild, unfettered, unregulated, not subject to the same rules and regulations as the national parties. And I think that’s been incredibly unhealthy.” Regardless of his initial reproach, after Citizen’s United passed in 2010, Gillespie and former Bush aid Karl Rove founded Crossroads GPS and American Crossroad, which together spend $325 million in the 2012 cycle.
Dark Money groups are now competing to become the largest spenders in politics. In the two years since Citizens United, Dark Monday was responsible for 1/3 of all money spent in Iowa during the 2012 Election Cycle, and most of these came from out of state. According to People for the American way, “groups federally registered outside of Iowa accounted for 96.21% of all outside [non-party] spending.”
Because the public generally disagrees with large corporations and rich individuals essentially buying elections, more and more often these groups are having to take stealth measures to hide behind a complex funding web, where money is not only flowing from rich individuals and corporations into the groups, the groups themselves often dole out cash to smaller organizations, spread across the states.
And more and more often these groups have moved beyond the national races and are getting involved locally, in statehouse and municipal races, or lobbying under the auspices of the State Policy Network, a web of 64 right-wing think tanks.
Disguised under names like Priorities for Iowa, Iowa Public Interest Institute, Citizens for Responsible Growth and Taxation, American Energy Alliance, American Future Fund, and Iowans for Freedom, these groups pose as if they were local, concerned citizen groups.
In October of this year, Americans for Prosperity spent large sums of money trying to influence the outcome of the Coralville election. The news of AFP getting involved in a local election in a town of fewer than 20,000 people was so shocking that it was on the cover of the New York Times and covered internationally by Al Jazeera.
But Iowa wasn’t the only example of big money is small town America. Dark money groups were also involved in ballot initiatives in Gahann, Ohio (pop. 33,000), and in Fremont, Nebraska (pol 26,000) to block tax increases. AFP has also been involved in statehouse races in Arkansas and Kansas, judicial contests in Florida and North Carolina, and a mayoral election in Lakeville, Minnesota.
The 2014 mid-term Election Cycle is gearing up to be an extraordinarily high-stakes competition. With Gubernatorial, Senate and Congressional races all up for grabs, prepare yourself for a deafening swirl of activity.
Please sign any of the various petitions supporting the Disclose Act and initiatives to pass a Constitutional Amendment overturning Citizens United (to learn more: Commoncause.org).
Lastly, when your friends, family or union brothers and sisters forward a Facebook post from Priorities for Iowa or any Dark Money funded astroturf group, ask them these questions:
1. Where is the organization’s money coming from?
2. If these organizations have Iowans’ interests at heart as they claim, why won’t they disclosure their donors?
Also, please contact your legislator as bills get debated in the 2014 Legislature:
1. Are you a member of ALEC?
2. Have you ever introduced, supported or voted for ALEC model legislation?
3. Has [INSERT LOCAL SPN THINK TANK] ever lobbied you on certain pieces of legislation or policy areas?
4. Do you support the mission of ALEC as an organization? Yes or No
5. If not will you take the following pledge:
The Right Priorities Pledge
I swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Iowa; and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of State Legislator to the best of my ability. I affirm that I will put my constituents first—before corporate interests and their lobbies. I affirm that I will hold this legislative seat and conduct all legislative business in the public light, honoring transparency and a commitment to full disclosure.
ALEC LEGISLATORS, PLEASE SIGN BELOW:
by Mike Matejka
Grand Prairie Union News, Bloomington, Illinois
Expanding the Strike Zone: Baseball in the Age of Free Agency by Daniel Gilbert, U. Mass Press
As this year’s U.S. World Series fades from memory and baseball fans’ hope turns to 2014, we often forget two things: 1) baseball is a business, and 2) baseball is not just the “All-American” game.
In a new book that weaves together baseball unionism, players’ rights and the international reach of America’s past-time, Daniel Gilbert’s Expanding the Strike Zone: Baseball in the Age of Free Agency examines the sport from multiple levels.
First, there is workers’ rights. Gilbert traces how players established a union and with the leadership of the Cardinal’s Curt Flood, challenged baseball’s reserve system, where players could be traded without any input. Although Flood lost his 1969 court case after he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, his battle was won with the establishment of the Major League Players Association (MLPA).
The great break through for the MLPA was their hiring of Marvin Miller, a United Steel Workers economist, as their director. The MLPA was started in 1946, restarted in 1954, and became the premier sports union after Miller was hired in 1966.
Players saw the multimillion dollar deals being made for television, but had little bargaining power. Plus, the reserve clause meant they could be traded at any point.
Miller channeled those frustrations and built a united front, striking in 1981 and winning not only free agency, but also greater control for players over their image and its use.
Gilbert deftly places this organization in the context of 1960s civil rights and other efforts. Stars like Curt Flood entered the League when spring training housing was still segregated; in June 1965, the Baltimore Afro-American ran a statistical report that two-thirds of players hit by pitchers were African-American. In 1962, Flood participated in an NAACP rally in Jackson, Mississippi. With these experiences, it’s no wonder Flood equated the reserve clause with slavery.
Thanks to Miller and player solidarity, baseball players not only forged a strong union, but also gained a financial share in how their image is sold.
The other fascinating story here is how international major league baseball is.
When the major leagues expanded, then Vice-president Richard Nixon saw baseball as a positive U.S. influence, calling for major league affiliates in Havana, Montreal and Mexico City. The Canadians soon won franchises, but U.S. baseball has not expanded further.
When Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line in 1947, not only did African-Americans gain big league opportunities, so did players from Japan, the Caribbean and Latin America.
The 1964 San Francisco Giants not only boasted African-Americans Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, but Orlando Cepeda (Puerto Rico), Masanori Murakim (Japan), and from the Dominican Republic, Jesus Alou and brothers Juan and Mateo Marichal.
The L.A. Dodgers in 1981 featured Mexican Fernando Valenzuela and the 2001 Seattle Mariners succeeded with Japanese star Ichiro Suzuki.
Gilbert does more than trace the transnational careers of these baseball stand-outs. He documents the business relationships Major League Baseball has made with leagues in other countries.
Baseball players is a leading export of the Dominic Republic, where impoverished youngsters vie for spots in baseball camps, some run by U.S. teams, Just as U.S. companies have run off-shore for cheaper labor, is baseball doing the same in the Caribbean?
Professional baseball is more than sport — it’s entertainment and a business with a transnational reach. Gilbert’s book thoroughly explores both topics and leaves one wondering at the end — will there ever be a real “world” series?
Update: November 7 – The following media statement is available on
Statement from Justyn M Miller, South Slope CEO
“We are pleased that our employees represented by the union will be joining us at work on Monday. Although South Slope’s proposal was not approved, we will implement our Final Offer and continue to negotiate in good faith with our union representatives. Contrary to previous reports, South Slope never proposed to lower the hourly wages for current employees in their current positions. We believe the proposed changes to the contract address our competitive industry and regulated telecommunications environment. Our cooperative members are our primary focus and we will continue to provide excellent service.”
Update: Contract was rejected, but South Slope has allowed employees to return to work. LINK
South Slope Uncooperative
Last Friday morning, 55 CWA workers at the South Slope Phone Cooperative in North Liberty, Iowa, were locked out of their jobs after the South Slope Cooperative contract with Communications Workers of American contract expired at midnight October 31st. CWA represents 55 workers in Outside Plant, Clerical and IT departments.
South Slope CEO Justyn Miller had announced to the employees last week that they would be locked out when the 31st contract expired until the membership voted on the Company’s Last Best and Final Offer which was scheduled for Sunday, November 3, 2013.
South Slope employees still showed up for work on Friday as scheduled despite the Company threat to lock the workers out. However, when dozens of workers showed up for their shift early Friday morning, CEO Justyn Miller, met them at the parking lot and told them they were “trespassing” and to get off the property.
On Monday, November 4, the workers intend to return to South Slope to their jobs – we will post an update once we know whether or not they were allowed to work.
The Union Bargaining committee is concerned the two tier pay structure being demanded by the company will negatively impact employee morale and the ability to attract and retain qualified employees. Among other non-starters in the company’s final offer, South Slope has proposed a 30% decrease in pay from existing wages for new hires or existing workers who transfer into new titles. This equates for newly hired workers to take as much as an $8 an hour pay cut (equals to $16,000 cut in average annual pay for full time workers).
Despite the presence of a Federal Mediator, the talks became contentious as South Slope insisted on forcing its proposals on the workers rather than negotiate fairly.
CWA recently filed charges against South Slope with the National Labor Relations Board for Bad Faith Bargaining and the unwarranted suspension of a union supporter. Prior to the contract expiration on October 31, South Slope also refused to continue bargaining or to extend the contract a few days in order to accommodate the ratification vote. South Slope workers previously authorized a strike, however they had notified the company they were willing to extend their contract or work without a contract until a legal vote could be held.
South Slope’s Board of Directors has made no public comments related to the lockout, neither do they serve on the negotiating committee which is composed of local company managers and their hired attorney, James Peters out of Cedar Rapids.
The union first sent notice to bargain in June, and they two sides first met September 26th. After meeting only a few times in October, and after a Federal Mediator attending the last negotiations, the company offered their last and final offer despite the fact that there are more than twenty outstanding proposals unsettled.
Among the issues is a company proposal to eliminate dues deduction – a proposal seen by many as a way to bust the union and which Governor Walker had pushed through the legislature in Wisconsin in 2011, a move that was met with weeks of protests in which hundreds of thousands of people protested in and around the State Capitol. Parts of that bill are still being litigated.
Kay Pence, Representative for CWA, commented that bargaining with this company has always been a challenge, but the current proposals are “ridiculous”. The company is clearly trying to “bust the union” she said, citing incidents in which basic requests for information like company profits and operating procedures have been difficult to get. The company also has one non-member employee circulating a decertification petition.
The union has worked with the company in recent years in order for it to grow and make significant fiber optic improvements. In fact, the union workers took a wage freeze in the last contract with a wage opener only in the last year.
Annual report last year showed that South Slope remains a profitable company. IN FY 2012, company made $792,000 in profits. In FY 2011, made $1.1 million and in FY 2010 earned $1.4 million. Most of the recent losses however are due to the massive investment in fiber optic upgrades to keep the company competitive in the ever-expanding telecom, internet and internet television markets.
Current workers are offered one percent wage increase and have agreed to health insurance changes in exchange for these wages. But the two tier proposal is not grandfathered so current workers taking a different position in the company are not guaranteed their current wages.
The company has 30 managers, 55 bargaining unit members.
Please call CEO Justyn Miller (wearing jeans in the video) and ask him to respect his workers and bargain in good faith his office number is 319-626-2211 cell 319-936-7505 or email Justyn@southslope.com
For more information, contact: Mary Kay Pence, CWA Representative, firstname.lastname@example.org and 515-333-8965.
Campaign to Save the West Burlington Plant
Southeast Iowa Townhall Forum
Wednesday, October 23rd 6:30 PM
Memorial Auditorium, Burlington, Iowa
200 North Front Street (Banquet Room A)
In order to call attention to how corporate tax deals are hurting our economy, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Des Moines, Henry County Labor Council, and others are holding a forum this Wednesday, October 23 to learn more. They are asking GE to:
- Keep your promise to the community – Don’t take our money and run
- Understand that everyday Iowans want good jobs and livable wages, job security and stability, respect and dignity for workers, and companies to reinvestment in the community.
- Make a long-term/long-haul commitment to stay in West Burlington and provide good-paying jobs with decent benefits. And treat its employees with dignity and respect.
This is part of a larger campaign for community/worker justice and corporate accountability.
David Osterberg, Iowa Policy Project
Cherie Mortice, Iowa CCI Action Fund
Local and state elected officials
Community forum co-sponsored by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund, Iowa Federation of Labor, Iowa Policy Project, Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, Des Moines/Henry County Labor Council, Iowa State Council—Communications Workers of America, and Iowa Citizen Action Network. For more information, contact Iowa CCI Action Fund at 515.255.0800 or email email@example.com.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the tax giveaways to corporations to the decimation of city, county, state and federal government budgets.
Rather than recoup some of these lost tax revenues to a shadow of what they were in the heyday of American prosperity in the 1950s, the causal narrative of government budget woes at every level is that public spending is out control.
Public services are unaffordable, we are told, because we overpay public sector workers like librarians, janitors, garbage men and filing clerks more than they are worth. “Generous” benefits like health care and pensions are simply unsustainable in the new economy.
Mayors, city administrators, county board members and Senators explain that the only way out is for us to give more corporate tax abatements, TIFs, forgivable loans, and other tools of “economic development” that pit city against city, state against state, in a “race to the bottom”.
Cities can’t afford to fix sewers and potholes until they have given a ten, twenty, thirty-year tax vacation to a real estate developers who want to build another shopping complex or hotel.
Public nursing homes are being privatized at the same time that casinos are subsidized.
And when States like Illinois raise income taxes to pay decades-old bills and neglected infrastructure, Corporations like Caterpillar threaten to move out of state.
We cannot fully staff the library or parks department because we are subsidizing the development of yet another Walmart who will inevitably close the nearby local, smaller stores. And instead of collecting the increased property tax as we had from those smaller, often locally-owned stores, governments are put on a pay freeze by the TIF that was demanded as a trade-off for the “development.”
One of the beneficiaries of this these policies is General Electric. GE made profits of more than 8 billion dollars over the past 11 years but paid a tax rate less than most working families. The Institute for Policy Studies details it this way:
“Over the last 11 years (2002-2012), GE reported more than $88 billion in U.S. pre-tax profits and yet paid just $2.1 billion in federal income taxes, according to company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). GE paid a paltry tax rate of just 2.4% compared to the official corporate tax rate of 35%. This huge tax subsidy cut GE’s taxes by $28.9 billion over the 11 years.”
These profits are certainly a result of the hard labor of its workers and creativity of its engineers, but it is also due to the 975 people in GE’s accounting department who have turned “tax avoidance into an art form” according to Americans for Tax Fairness. In 2011 this resulted in a tax return more than 57,000 pages long (compare that to the Tea-Party complaint about Obamacare being 906 pages long.)
Some of this wealth could also be attributed to the sweet deal GE received here in Iowa at its West Burlington Plant. Three years ago, GE threatened to close its West Burlington manufacturing plant if workers didn’t agree to nearly $8 million in cuts to wages and benefits. Local and state government (city of West Burlington, state of Iowa, and Des Moines County) also threw in $2.4 million in tax incentives. After the state, county, and city agreed to those tax abatements, and the workers agreed to the severe paycuts, GE agreed to stay in Southeast Iowa for 3 more years.
It’s been 3 years now, and there has been no public report on the company’s progress.
So, join us to ask GE to “Keep your promise to our community”
Southeast Iowa Townhall Forum
Wednesday, October 23rd 6:30 PM
Memorial Auditorium, Burlington, Iowa
200 North Front Street (Banquet Room A)
People see movies for lots of reasons, but mainly because many not-great movies are still worthy of seeing. “Compliance” is one of them.
“Compliance” is based on the true story of a young McDonalds® worker in Kentucky who was detained against her will in the back office, humiliated, and ultimately sexually violated by her store manager, the manager’s fiancé, and others she worked with because they were following the orders of a prank caller they thought to be a police officer.
This lunatic scenario didn’t happen just once. For several years up to 2004 when the Kentucky McDonalds® incident took place, there were a string of similar prank calls to fast food restaurants and grocery stores. In the various cases, managers and compliant co-workers were convinced to detain, strip-search, perform body-cavity searches, spank and otherwise humiliate young female co-workers. The victims were also made to pose in various sexually exploitative positions and to perform other lewd acts.
In one case, a store manager was convinced to act as bait and undress in front of a random customer whom the prank caller said was a wanted pedophile.
David Steward, a Corrections Corporation of America employee, was arrested and charged with the 2004 Kentucky crime. Though the jury found him not guilty, the prank calls have since ended.
When “Compliance” was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009, it reportedly caused walk-outs and shouting matches among filmgoers. People either couldn’t believe that store managers could treat their workers like criminals with no proof, or were incredulous that the victims were so yielding.
The film is worth seeing with a group of friends who want to talk about what is so wrong with our workplace dynamic. Though it takes place in a minimum wage McJob setting, I think that it could also happen in one of those soul-deadening cubicle mazes in suburban office park land.
The fact that co-workers would be so inhumane toward one another suggests something about the silk-gloved style of fascism in America that is supremely ironic. I heard more than once from union stewards how often fellow union members are willing to rat out another union member to management about some trivial work transgression. Why? To hopefully get a management job one day so we can become that horrendous creature, a middle manager?
In the U.S. we thump our chests about our freedoms, yet all to often, we willingly depart from them as soon as an authority figure asks us to. This is why we pull over for ambulances. But it is also why we believe the talking heads who speak from authority on the cable news cycle. Why we nod our heads in agreement with the preacher. Why we succumb to our doctor’s advice to medicate ourselves into health instead of change our diets.
Returning back to the film, “Compliance.” Ironically it’s the worker who isn’t part of the chain of command who calls a stop to the victimization of the girl. The come and go maintenance man arrives as the objective observer on duty run amok, and his outsider status is what permits him to call the prank caller’s bluff. But it is only because the maintenance worker is accountable only the jobs he is assigned to fix. He is not part of the shift clock – that period of time, be it four hours, eight hours, when you effectively become property of the company. When your freedom of thought is curtailed. That time period when you as witness to wrongdoing have to bite your tongue because, like the manager, you too need your job. Or you perhaps have some ambition and want to move up, so you don’t want to ever disagree with the formula. You go along to get along as the saying says.
Check it out. It’s on Netflix. Message me and let me know your thoughts.