September 17, 2007
Food Industry Requests More Regulation
In an interesting twist major US food corporations are asking for increased regulations.
I've searched but couldn't find any union position on the matter. Union's have ceded space to corporations over the years to the point where they no longer have a major voice in industry regulation/lobbying.• The News: The food industry is seeking more government regulation on safety measures.• The Alternative: Without a uniform standard, companies face a web of rules and audits from states and customers.• The Bottom Line: Some calls for rules on imports may be protectionist. But they underscore the challenges of U.S. companies as they seek to ensure the safety of products sourced from around the world.
September 03, 2007
Mexican Trucks On a Highway Near You
The Teamsters Union's request to halt a Bush Administration plan to allow trucks from Mexico on U.S. highways has been rejected by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This move will affect both union and non-union truckers further shaking up the labor market and U.S. trucking firms. The Bush Administration's plan will also compromise border control and highway safety. I am a bit surprised there isn't more of an uproar over this.
The plan will only be in effect for a year as a test or experiment. I guess next year at some point they will tally up how many fatalities were caused by unsafe trucks from Mexico and then decide on whether or not to expand the program?
I don't know the full extent of the program i.e. how will they ensure these vehicles meet U.S. standards, what labor laws will govern these drivers etc but I will look into it.
October 11, 2005
Losing Hearts & Minds or Lack of Political Power
Many progressives, liberals and unionists would probably say that our problems stem from lack of political power. But our lack of power has its roots in something even more important and that is our inability to capture the hearts and minds of the people. Strategy is important, tactics are important but fundamental to all of this is having answers to peoples problems that make sense and are easy to understand.
Recently I had a conversation with a Professor who asked my opinion of what has been happening in the labor movement. I responded by telling him that I think our main problem is that we are coming up with answers to the question 'what do unions need to do to increase membership?' rather than asking the question 'what do workers need in today's economy?'.
Answers to the first question can lead an institution to do many things, even come up with strategies to increase membership, while at the same time having little or no impact on the daily lives of workers. I think labor unions on both sides of the Change to Win/AFL-CIO split are essentially only looking out for what is in the best interest of their particular institution. To be sure these unionists (on both sides) do believe that what they are doing is ultimately in the best interests of their membership but they are viewing the terrain through the lens of the existing institution.
The second question is much more difficult to grapple with. While the unions in Change to Win have been making a big deal about how bold a move it was to leave the AFL-CIO in reality, major unions have been moving in and out of the AFL-CIO throughout the 50 years of its existence. A move which was truly bold would be one that fundamentally reorients and alters the institution. Such a change could only occur if unions asked "what do workers in today's economy need?"
But it is not only unions which are losing the battle, it is the entire progressive project. An article in today's NY Times highlights the problem:
Liberal Hopes Ebb in Post-Storm Poverty Debate (NY Times-Free)
As Hurricane Katrina put the issue of poverty onto the national agenda, many liberal advocates wondered whether the floods offered a glimmer of opportunity. The issues they most cared about - health care, housing, jobs, race - were suddenly staples of the news, with President Bush pledged to "bold action."
But what looked like a chance to talk up new programs is fast becoming a scramble to save the old ones.
Conservatives have already used the storm for causes of their own, like suspending requirements that federal contractors have affirmative action plans and pay locally prevailing wages. And with federal costs for rebuilding the Gulf Coast estimated at up to $200 billion, Congressional Republican leaders are pushing for spending cuts, with programs like Medicaid and food stamps especially vulnerable.
Once again the conservative agenda wins. It is not only because they have political power but it is also because the progressive agenda is just not capturing the hearts and minds of people. The best progressives have to offer is "saving the old agenda."
And many of us still don't get it:
"We've had a stunning reversal in just a few weeks," said Robert Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal advocacy group in Washington. "We've gone from a situation in which we might have a long-overdue debate on deep poverty to the possibility, perhaps even the likelihood, that low-income people will be asked to bear the costs. I would find it unimaginable if it wasn't actually happening."
The most important clue in this article is the following and hopefully our arrogance doesn't cause us to miss it:
"This is not the time to expand the programs that were failing anyway," said Stuart M. Butler, a vice president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research and advocacy group influential on Capitol Hill.
While the right has proposed alternatives including tax-free zones for businesses and school vouchers for students, Mr. Butler said, "the left has just talked up the old paradigm: 'let's expand what's failed before.' "
There is a real sense among people that yesterday's solutions are just not up to today's task which leaves them open to new or different methods of treating what ails. Our problem is that the right wing has not only out-strategized us, but more importantly they are the ones providing a vision, providing alternatives and providing answers.
A typical response from many in the left is epitomized in the following paragraph:
Doubt about the effectiveness of some programs is only one factor shaping the current antipoverty debate. Another is political muscle: poor people do not make campaign contributions. Many do not even vote.
It seems to me this is more of an assumption than fact. The effects of Katrina and Rita affect people across the board. Sure, the experience of the poor was much worse because their lives were endangered, but the economic destruction and the eventual reconstruction affects an entire swath of the population even beyond the state's borders. The problem has nothing to do with whether or not poor people vote in large enough numbers or not(did they ever?), it is whether people are excited and convinced that there are solutions worth fighting for. The right has given new solutions and visions that are exciting more people, the left has only responded with trying to defend old institutions that no longer inspire.
A case in point is when Bush did away with labor and wage protections after Katrina. How many people, even in labor, knew or cared? There is almost a complicit silence that yes maybe it is better that these rules are relaxed. If even the core base which has benefited by these regulations are left uninspired how do we expect the broader population to care? Or maybe prevailing wage laws never affected enough people in Louisiana so defending them never entered people's minds? (We cannot just blame people here, it seems more and more unions themselves are looking out only for their particular union's interest).
As long as progressives spend their energy defending 20th century institutions and unionists ask themselves how to strengthen their institutions we will be one step behind. That doesn't mean we throw away our principles and the moral foundation of our project but that we reorient them towards a 21st century economy.
October 04, 2005
The State of NYC Unions
Jonathan Tasini sums up the state of NYC labor best. Check out his take on the teacher's contract & the mayoral race.
September 19, 2005
NYC Mayor Nixes SEIU
As I have blogged about in the past NYC's Republican Mayor has received endorsements from many progressive labor unions in NY. This is despite the fact that he is a big fan of Wal-Mart, raised millions for the most anti-labor politician in post ww2 America (George Bush) and has been at war with the teacher's union during the course of his tenure.
While SEIU's 70,000 member strong janitor's local (a local whose members are majority Latino in a race where the Democratic contender could become the first Latino to be mayor of NYC) endorsed Bloomberg before the Democrat primaries SEIU's other large NYC based local 1199 sat by the side not endorsing anyone. That is until now.
Apparently Local 1199 attempted to cut a deal with Bloomberg. In return for an endorsement Bloomberg would have to promise adding 25,000 private homecare workers onto the public payroll.
I have no problem whatsoever with a union attempting to make such a deal. What bothers me is that there seems to be some delusions regarding Bloomberg and labor's power in NYC. Unions fell over themselves backing this Republican mayor not because he is good for the working men and women of NYC but because it is expected Bloomberg is going to win. These unions made an opportunistic bet.
These early union endorsements did nothing to help Bloomberg's chances of winning. Rather these unions sent a signal that labor in NYC was too weak to sway an election in favor of a candidate who supports labor and a working families agenda. As the saying goes "If you can't beat em join em."
So it is foolish for local 1199, as powerful as it is economicaly and politically, to think Republican Bloomberg is going to play ball with them. Bloomberg is going to win despite his union endorsements not because of them.
September 18, 2005
NY Mayor Vetoes Healthcare Bill
Republican Mayor of NYC, Michael Bloomberg, who has been endorsed for re-election by unions such as SEIU and UNITE-HERE vetoed a bill passed by the city council which would have forced stores such as Wal-Mart to provide a minimum level of healthcare to their workers. Below is a link to the NY Times article:
Mayor Vetoes Healthcare Bill (NY Times Registration Required)
August 19, 2005
Republican Backing Unions Protest Democratic Mayoral Candidate
Yesterday I posted on the comments Congressman Anthony Weiner made during a mayoral debate in NYC regarding unions endorsing Republican billionaire Michael Bloomberg for mayor.
SEIU, The Carpenters and others who are backing Republican candidate Bloomberg rallied outside Democrat Congressman Weiner's offices yesterday with signs calling Weiner a scab and displaying an inflatable rat outside his offices.
Here is a link to the story and an excerpt:
ugust 19, 2005 -- Enraged union leaders called Democratic mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner "a rat" yesterday, after he said during Tuesday's debate they should "hang their head in shame" for backing Mayor Bloomberg's re-election.
The unions placed an inflatable rat outside Weiner's campaign headquarters.
"The only time we hear from Anthony Weiner is when he's looking for campaign donations," fumed Steven McGuiness of the carpenters union.
Weiner said he would not apologize.
Meanwhile, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields got the endorsement of the National Organization for Women's NYC chapter. Carl Campanile
Criticisms Hurled Against "Sell Out" Unions in NYC Debate
SEIU local 32BJ has endorsed Republican Michael Bloomberg for mayor of NYC. I had the opportunity to attend the first debate amongst the Democratic challengers the other night. All the candidates criticized the move by SEIU and a couple of others to support Bloomberg's republican incumbency. As most readers are aware SEIU and other unions that have split from the AFL are considering opening their arms up to more Republicans.
Here is one particulalry harsh criticism from Congressman and Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner:
Q. Congressman Weiner, the mayor must be doing something right to land these massive endorsements (From some NYC Unions).
WEINER. Well, I have to tell you, these labor leaders should hang their head in shame. They should hang their head in shame because they have turned their back on the values that made the labor movement so powerful in this city. They're supporting a candidate who feels warmly towards Wal-Mart and abandons small business. They support a candidate who raises gobs and gobs of money for Republicans who then turn their back on us rather than supporting progressive Democrats through this country. They are supporting - they are supporting a candidate that in 2004 allowed there to be 500,000 children in this city that had to turn to a soup kitchen or a church basement for a meal. This is the candidate that they are supporting. They are supporting a candidate who stood up at Madison Square Garden and urged everyone to vote for George Bush, saying that he was the best candidate for New York. The heads of these unions should hang their head in shame.
But I have to tell you something, something else should happen. Every one of their rank and file members that have been abandoned by their leadership should walk away from these union leaders and vote for one of these candidates up here.
For full transcripts of the debate Click Here
August 10, 2005
Labor Blog Makes Front Page of NY Daily
Jonathan Tasini's Working Life blog has made front page news. Today's NY Sun, in a front page article on Democrat & CAFTA supporter Congressman Meeks, credits Tasini with exposing a fiery letter sent from Meek's office towards a critic of Meeks stance on Cafta.
Here is a link to the NY Sun article and an excerpt:
Mr. McKay's heated e-mail was first reported yesterday on a labor-related blog, Working Life, which is run by freelance journalist Jonathan Tasini. Mr. Tasini is among those who have called for the CAFTA 15 to be punished. "They must pay," he wrote.
August 07, 2005
SEIU to Fund New Political Think Tank
Silicon Valley progressives, a major labor union and a centrist Democratic organization have joined forces to fund a startup think tank that focuses on politics, not policy.
The New Politics Institute (NPI), unlike conventional think tanks that churn out white papers and policy briefs, will work to counter “[White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl] Rove and [RNC Chairman Ken] Mehlman on the other side,” said Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, formerly the New Democrat Network but now known just by its initials.
“We still have a long way to go in battling them in the way they are battling us,” said Rosenberg, who unsuccessfully ran to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee earlier this year.
So whatever ju-ju Rove is doing and the Democrats aren't (could it be the very act of thinking?), pretty soon now the Democrats will start-up, thanks to this investment. Scott Ott, of Scrappleface brilliantly satirizes this:
In a novel approach for the Democrat party, a group of left-leaning investors said it has raised $80 million in pledges to fund thinking, in hopes that thought and actual policies might be the secret to victory in coming elections....
"People need something to believe in," said one unnamed investor in the new Democracy Alliance. "We Democrats have always believed, but now we're looking for that 'something' -- you know, a concept or principle or idea...whatever that means."....
However, a spokesman for the Democrat National Committee expressed concern that "this new so-called thinking strategy might divide the party, and reduce the amount of money available for our TV ads which make people feel bad about Republicans."
"People always run after the latest new thing," said the unnamed DNC spokesman. "But when they find out how difficult thinking really is, we're confident that they'll come back to the DNC."