Archive for Labor

Apr
13

Springtime for Pat

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Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina

Oh, those Producers. It’s springtime in Raleigh. Just not for Pat McCrory. When last we saw North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory he was backpedaling on House Bill 2 (HB2).

Critics now call the so-called “bathroom bill” aimed at his gay and transgender constituents a radical Trojan Horse for eliminating anti-discrimination protections in the workplace. Since McCrory signed the bill passed during a one-day, special session Republicans called in March, prominent businesses began boycotting the state, canceling expansions and conventions there, and national performers such as Bruce Springsteen began canceling concert dates. Projected job losses number well over 1,000. Revenue losses have not been calculated. It’s almost as if … they designed HB2 to fail.

Nah.

The national and international backlash forced McCrory yesterday to sign an executive order aimed at quelling the controversy over the bill he signed just weeks ago:

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Apr
06

There is power in high hopes

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A rubber tree plantation in Phuket, Thailand.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Last night during his speech in Laramire, Wyoming, Sen. Bernie Sanders brought up how real change happens in this country. It was an inspiring nod to #fightfor15, and worth reading if you missed it:

If we were here in this beautiful auditorium 5 years ago, not a long time from a historical perspective, [and] somebody would have jumped up and said, you know, I think a $7.25 federal minimum wage is a starvation wage and it has got to be raised to $15 an hour.

Now [if] somebody stood up 5 years ago and said that the person next to them would have said,

‘You’re nuts! Fifteen bucks an hour?! You want to more than double the minimum wage? You’re crazy! Maybe, maybe we get up to 8, 9 bucks an hour. But 15 bucks an hour? You’re dreaming too big.’

Sound familiar?

‘You are unrealistic. It can’t be done. Think smaller.’

But then, what happened is fast food workers, people working at McDonald’s, people working at Burger King, people working at Wendy’s, they went out on strike …

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Mar
30

NC’s HB2: Is it getting hot in here?

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House Bill 2 (HB2), North Carolina’s new anti-LGBT law is drawing lots of fire from inside and outside the state. New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and West Palm Beach have banned travel to North Carolina for their employees. Apple, Biogen, PayPal, IBM, and the NBA have condemned the law. Plus Dow Chemical, Google, Bayer, the NCAA, and others. The press center for the annual High Point furniture trade show announced Monday that “dozens of customers have contacted the High Point Market Authority to inform us that they have cancelled plans to attend the Market in April due to passage of HB2.”

Yesterday, former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr. criticized HB2 as “inappropriate, unnecessary legislation that will hurt North Carolina.” The Charlotte-based Bank of America was a major player in the financial crisis in 2008, but still figures prominently among the state’s employers. McColl’s criticism will not help McCrory, Charlotte’s former mayor.

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Mar
10

Dying from despair

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Downtown Appalachia, VA. Photo by pfly from Pugetopolis [CC BY-SA 2.0

Downtown Appalachia, VA. Photo by pfly from Pugetopolis [CC BY-SA 2.0

Michael Cooper, Jr. sends a message from Donald Trump’s America, meaning, the last places and people in America the casino and real estate magnate would care to visit. You know, “losers”:

I live in Trump’s America, where working-class whites are dying from despair. They’re dying from alcoholism, drug addiction and suicide, trying to take away the pain of a half century’s economic and cultural decline. In the foothills of Appalachia, Wilkes County, North Carolina, is second in the nation in income lost this century, where the number of manufacturing jobs decreased from 8,548 in the year 2000 to about 4,000 today, according to Stateline.

If the color coding on the Stateline map of income decline appears less dire for Appalachia proper, it is because once at the bottom there is no further down to go. Near-ghost-towns dot southwest Virginia and West Virginia. Small but once prosperous from logging or coal, they hug hillsides along what are barely

secondary roads. And that’s what their people feel like: secondary. Voters have been forgotten in towns where over 20 percent live in poverty and a quarter never finished high school, Cooper explains:

They lost their influence, their dignity and their shot at the American Dream, and now they’re angry. They’re angry at Washington and Wall Street, at big corporations and big government. And they’re voting now for Donald Trump.

My Republican friends are for Trump. My state representative is for Trump. People who haven’t voted in years are for Trump. He’ll win the primary here on March 15 and he will carry this county in the general.

His supporters realize he’s a joke. They do not care. They know he’s authoritarian, nationalist, almost un-American, and they love him anyway, because he disrupts a broken political process and beats establishment candidates who’ve long ignored their interests.

This is the America where the unemployed and underemployed still line up for free health care each year at the fairgrounds in Wise, Virginia and in smaller places. They are “poorer, less educated citizens who are fiscally liberal and socially conservative,” Cooper believes, and both parties have ignored them for years. In part, because they tend not to vote. But they are voting now, now that Trump has given voice to their grievances.

Thousands receive free medical care at the Remote Area Medical clinic each year in Wise, VA. The greatest need is dental care.

Thousands receive free medical care at the Remote Area Medical clinic each year in Wise, VA. The greatest need is dental care.

This year’s primaries are like a real-life exercise in those old Verizon Wireless ads. America’s forgotten working class left behind and discarded by globalization, automation, and deindustrialization has found an unlikely voice in Donald Trump, if not really a champion. Independent Bernie Sanders too is finding traction there, as his Michigan win this week proved. In primary after primary, the American worker is asking party elites, “Can you hear me now?

It is not clear yet that they have.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Jan
30

Pay equity: Time for a run to the gun store, boys

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President Barack Obama signs into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in the East Room
of the White House. January 29, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Joyce Boghosian)

President Obama yesterday proposed a new rule for employers to make it easier to identify discriminatory pay practices in the workplace:

Women workers in the United States earn 79 cents for every dollar men do. And President Barack Obama doesn’t want you to forget it.

Speaking Friday at a White House event celebrating the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Obama proposed collecting pay data from companies with 100 or more people — and breaking down the numbers by gender, race and ethnicity. About 63 million workers would be covered, according to a news release accompanying his announcement, which aims to “focus public enforcement of our equal pay laws and provide better insight into discriminatory pay practices across industries and occupations.”

The White House also called again for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, calling it “commonsense legislation that would give women additional tools to fight pay discrimination.”

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Jan
02

Avenging angel

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We called him “Rumor Control.” He was the guy in the office who periodically ducked into your cubical to say with a conspiratorial whisper, “Keep your head down and look busy. They’re talking about a layoff.” Oh, and if you ever needed a good deal on a used Camaro, he could fix you up. (I never tested that.)

One other signal that you’d better update your résumé is when the phrase “shareholder value” is heard in the hallway or in a meeting. When shareholders get restless, employees become even more than normally disposable. Making employees disposable never appears in the mission statement. It’s implied.

Shannon Liss-Riordan has an ear for those euphemisms too. From her Boston law office, the “avenging angel for workers” dubbed “Sledgehammer Shannon” brings class-action lawsuits on behalf of bartenders, cashiers, truck drivers, and baristas against firms pursuing creative ways to enhance shareholder value by disposing of employees altogether. Liss-Riordan is taking on Uber, Lyft and several other on-demand services who make their money by classifying employees as independent contractors or micro-entrepreneurs. Mother Jones has a profile worth reading:

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Categories : Labor
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Nov
04

List of demands

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How far down the rabbit hole have we gone that Republican candidates for president think they are entitled to a list of demands from networks hosting debates (and I use that term reservedly) that would make rock bands blush? (Remember, no brown M&Ms.) The Washington Post obtained the list. Here are just a few:

  • Will there be questions from the audience or social media? How many? How will they be presented to the candidates? Will you acknowledge that you, as the sponsor, take responsibilities for all questions asked, even if not asked  by your personnel?
  • Will there be a gong/buzzer/bell when time is up? How will the moderator enforce the time limits?
  • Will you commit that you will not:
    • Ask the candidate to raise their hands to answer a question
    • Ask yes/no questions without time to provide a substantive answer
    • Allow candidate-to-candidate questioning
    • Allow props or pledges by the candidates
    • Have reaction shots of members of the audience or moderators during debates
    • Show an empty podium after a break (describe how far away the bathrooms are)
    • Use behind shots of the candidates showing their notes
    • Leave microphones on during the breaks
    • Allow members of the audience to wear political messages (shirts, buttons, signs, etc.). Who enforces?
  • What is the size of the audience? Who is receiving tickets in addition to the candidates? Who’s in charge of distributing those tickets and filling the seats?
  • What instructions will you provide the audience about cheering during the debate?
  • What are your plans for the lead-in to the debate (Pre-shot video? Announcer to moderator? Director to Moderator?) and how long is it?
  • What type of microphones (lavs or podium)?
  • Can you pledge that the temperature in the hall be kept below 67 degrees?

Dude, can I get on the “guest list” and a backstage pass to hang out with the band?

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Jul
01

How should we then rule?

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For a sub-sect of Christians, it is an attack on “religious liberty” when they can no longer tell equally free Americans how they can and cannot live. As Yul Brynner said, playing Moses, their god “IS God.” The Big G, the top dog, the Big Kahuna. Freedom of religion in America is fine, and all, so long as other, lesser faiths understand whose god IS God.

Fear of losing that top-dog status is behind the insistence by conservative Christians that America was founded as a Christian nation. White fear of having to share power with former slaves was behind decades of Jim Crow and KKK terror. Thus, it is “erasing white history and white culture” to take down a flag flown as a constant reminder of just whose race is boss.

“Religious liberty” has become the catchphrase for people who find their ability to lord it over their neighbors eroded by America extending freedoms they enjoy to “lesser thans” whom they fear. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges to extend the blessings of legal recognition of marriage to same-sex couples has them freaking out. The American Spectator calls the ruling “the Dred Scotting of religious liberty.”

It’s as peculiar a conception of liberty as it is a peculiar definition of persecution. Especially for a group so flush with cash and influence. Talking Points Memo reports on the Hobby Lobby Bible museum planned for just off the Mall in Washington. Among other things, it will be there as a staging area for lobbying efforts and marches by the Christian right:

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Categories : Labor, National, Race, Religion
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Jun
12

Friday Open Thread

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The U.S. House will vote on Fast Track today. Let your voice be heard.

NC-10: Rep. Patrick McHenry
WASHINGTON, D.C. OFFICE
2334 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Telephone: 202.225.2576

NC-11: Rep. Mark Meadows
WASHINGTON, D.C. OFFICE
1024 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Telephone: 202.225.6401

Categories : Labor, National, Open Thread
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Dec
03

Bracing for Thursday

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This is getting to be a Buffalo Springfield kind of thing, ain’t it?

Fast food workers in at least 150 cities nationwide will walk off the job on Dec. 4, demanding an industry-wide base wage of $15 per hour and the right to form a union. Workers unanimously voted on the date for the new strike during a Nov. 25 conference call, held shortly before the second anniversary of the movement’s first strike.

The first of the recent fast food strikes took place on Nov. 29, 2012, in New York City. Two hundred workers from various fast food restaurants around the city participated in that strike, making it the largest work stoppage to ever hit the fast food industry. Since then, the size of the movement has ballooned several times over: With the backing of the powerful service sector labor union SEIU, the campaign has come to include thousands of workers in the U.S.

Laura Clawson for Daily Kos Labor:

The fast food strikes and other actions by low-wage workers have been a major source of momentum behind increasing the minimum wage. No one was talking about $15 an hour until fast food workers started fighting for it in late 2012. The Democratic proposal of a $10.10 federal minimum was generally portrayed in the media as a reach, the grounds for a compromise to something lower. $15 sounded impossible, yet now two major American cities—Seattle and San Francisco—are on their way there, while Chicago is about to pass a $13 an hour minimum wage, Oakland has approved a $12.25 wage, Washington, DC, and neighboring counties in Maryland are on their way to $11.50, and Massachusetts is going to $11. Doubtless some or all of these cities and states would have done something about the minimum wage without this level of worker organizing, but there’s no way we’d be seeing so many places going above $10.10.

Chicago passed its $13 an hour measure yesterday.

Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and Moral Mondays organizer, spoke on the conference call, saying, “The battle for fair wages is as critical as the battle that young people waged in the 1960s when they came into the sit-in movement.”

San Diego Free Press:

The particulars of these events are not as important as what they represent: a growing sense of frustration with economic and social conditions. These actions are symbolic, intended to break through the “everybody knows” noise generated by the mass media.

Philly.com:

Millions of people make $8 to $10 an hour working as cashiers or in restaurants, or providing elder or child care – a far cry from a living wage. Despite working hard, many of these people live in poverty or on the edge of poverty.

This isn’t what America is about, and it can’t be reconciled with political rhetoric that says if you work hard and play by the rules, you will succeed in the United States.

In a season when the western world empathizes with Bob Cratchit’s struggles – with no heat for his office – to feed his fictional family, real families working for miserly wages and hours must choose between buying food and heating their homes. Food banks are sorely taxed. With every succeeding year, Dickens’ morality tale looks more and more like a quintessentially American story.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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