Jon Stewart: “It’s really a ‘right to work’ … around the union for the corporation.”

“It’s really a ‘right to work’… around the union for the corporation. It’s one of those things that are actually named for the opposite of the thing they do, like strip bars call themselves ‘gentlemen’s clubs.’ Or the TV network, dedicated to making us stupider, is called ‘The Learning Channel.’ Or a TV show that airs four days a week calls itself The Daily Show.

— JON STEWART, The Daily Show (via inothernews)

What’s next for labor in Michigan? Organizing a backlash…

Political Wire reports on what’s next for labor in Michigan:

Organized labor and its allies essentially have two options to overturn the state’s new “right-to-work” law signed yesterday by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R).

First Read: “First, they have filed legal actions charging that the process violated the state’s Open Meetings Act… Second, critics say they could overturn it by passing a voter-initiated law, which would require getting 258,000 signatures to get on the ballot. And, of course, there’s 2014, when Snyder is up for re-election.”

Fox News: Snyder braces for union backlash.

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TPM: Whatever happens, the labor groups say, expect union attempts to exact political vengeance in 2014 when Snyder and other Republican members of the legislature who pushed the legislation are up for reelection. The likely first decision for pro-labor groups is whether to try and overturn the new right-to-work law at the ballot box. [...] The new law won’t take effect for 90 days after the end of the legislative session. It may take longer than that for the law to have a real effect — existing worker contracts are exempted from the new law. So labor and its allies has some time to figure out what to do next in Michigan. But labor groups are determined that Snyder’s signature was just the beginning of a new fight over worker’s rights in Michigan, not the end.

Meanwhile in Lansing

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan House approved the first of two right-to-work bills Tuesday that would weaken union power in the historical labor stronghold as hundreds of protesters rallied at the Capitol. The Republican-dominated chamber passed a measure dealing with public-sector workers 58-51 as protesters shouted “shame on you” from the gallery and huge crowds of union backers massed in the state Capitol halls and on the grounds. (Washington Post)

Lansing, Michigan: Thousands of union workers and community members flood the front lawn of the state Capitol to protest union-busting legislation, December 11, 2012. (via)

Feefees hurt in Michigan: Tea Party advocates protest union supporters, get yelled at

Joe.My.God: “Early this morning Tea Party advocates traded screams with union supporters on the steps of the Michigan Capitol Building.  Breitbart has posted the below video.”


WHERE do these plutocracy-supporting, low-wage-jobs-loving, Koch and Walton ass-kissing, shoot-themselves-in-the-foot people come from?

Right to work laws give you the “right to work” for less money

Why are Michigan Democrats opposed to right to work laws being contemplated by Gov. Rick Synder? “Workers are currently not required to join a union — …they simply wanted to preserve the right of unions to collect fees from non-members to pay for wage and benefit negotiations that actually benefit them.”

Michigan prepares for mass protests today against right-to-work legislation: Union leaders in Michigan have been training members in “peaceful civil disobedience” methods in preparation for a protest on Tuesday against controversial right-to-work legislation. Supporters of the law, which among other measures would prohibit unions from collecting fees from non-union workers, are also expected to demonstrate at the state capitol in Lansing. The Republican-dominated Michigan Senate voted the right-to-work bill on Thursday by 22 votes to 16. Governor Rick Synder has said he will sign the bill into law and could do so on Tuesday.

Laura Clawson reports on Obama’s appearance in Detroit yesterday:

Speaking in Detroit Monday afternoon, President Barack Obama strongly criticized the push by Michigan Republicans to pass an anti-union law during the lame duck session. In a speech largely focused on his proposal to tax income over $250,000 and making the case that “our economic success has never come from the top down, it comes from the middle out and the bottom up,” Obama characterized the bill being rushed through the Michigan legislature as political and part of a race to the bottom:

And by the way, what we shouldn’t do. I’ve just got to say this, what we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions. These so-called right to work laws, they don’t have to do with economics, they have everything to do with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.

You only have to look to Michigan, where workers were instrumental in reviving the auto industry, to see how unions have helped build not just a stronger middle class but a stronger America. [...]

We don’t want a race to the bottom. We want a race to the top. America’s not going to compete based on low skill, low wage, no workers rights. That’s not our competitive advantage. There’s always going to be some other country that can treat its workers worse.

That appears to be just what Michigan Republicans do want, however. After hearing from his state’s congressional Democrats, Gov. Rick Snyder once again insisted that the bill “is all about creating more and better jobs in Michigan.” In fact, we know that freeloader laws lower wages by about $1,500 a year for the average worker—the “right to work for less money” that President Obama referred to. 

The Waltons have created lots of jobs — but are they jobs YOU’d want to try to support your family with? How many of us want an American economy based almost exclusively on minimum-wage, no benefits “Mcjobs” — or a future for our children where, if you’re not born into wealth, those kinds of jobs are the only aspiration?

How Wall Street’s plutocrats consumed American industry and its blue-collar heart

Steve Fraser discusses the “archaeology of decline,” or “another Great Migration — instead of people, though, trillions of dollars were being sucked out of industrial America and turned into “financial instruments” and new, exotic forms of wealth.  If blue-collar Americans were the particular victims here, then high finance is what consumed them.  Now, it promises to consume the rest of us.”

Camden, New Jersey, for example, had long been a robust, diversified small industrial city.  By the early 1970s, however, its reform mayor Angelo Errichetti was describing it this way: “It looked like the Vietcong had bombed us to get even.  The pride of Camden… was now a rat-infested skeleton of yesterday, a visible obscenity of urban decay.  The years of neglect, slumlord exploitation, tenant abuse, government bungling, indecisive and short-sighted policy had transformed the city’s housing, business, and industrial stock into a ravaged, rat-infested cancer on a sick, old industrial city.”

That was 40 years ago and yet, today, news stories are still being written about Camden’s never-ending decline into some bottomless abyss.  Consider that a measure of how long it takes to shut down a way of life.

Once upon a time, Youngstown, Ohio, was a typical smokestack city, part of the steel belt running through Pennsylvania and Ohio.  As with Camden, things there started turning south in the 1970s.  From 1977 to 1987, the city lost 50,000 jobs in steel and related industries.  By the late 1980s, the years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency when it was “morning again in America,” it was midnight in Youngstown: foreclosures, an epidemic of business bankruptcies, and everywhere collapsing community institutions including churches, unions, families, and the municipal government itself.

Burglaries, robberies, and assaults doubled after the steel plants closed.  In two years, child abuse rose by 21%, suicides by 70%. One-eighth of Mahoning County went on welfare.  Streets were filled with dead storefronts and the detritus of abandoned homes: scrap metal and wood shingles, shattered glass, stripped-away home siding, canning jars, and rusted swing sets.  Each week, 1,500 people visited the Salvation Army’s soup line.

The Wall Street Journal called Youngstown “a necropolis,” noting miles of “silent, empty steel mills” and a pervasive sense of fear and loss.  Bruce Springsteen would soon memorialize that loss in “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”

And no one can forget Detroit. Once, it had been a world-class city, the country’s fourth largest, full of architectural gems.  In the 1950s, Detroit had a population with the highest median income and highest rate of home ownership in urban America.  Now, the “motor city” haunts the national imagination as a ghost town. Home to two million a quarter-century ago, its decrepit hulk is now “home” to 900,000.  Between 2000 and 2010 alone, the population hemorrhaged by 25%, nearly a quarter of a million people, almost as many as live in post-Katrina New Orleans.  There and in other core industrial centers like Baltimore, “death zones” have emerged where whole neighborhoods verge on medical collapse.

One-third of Detroit, an area the size of San Francisco, is now little more than empty houses, empty factories, and fields gone feral.  A whole industry of demolition, waste-disposal, and scrap-metal companies arose to tear down what once had been. With a jobless rate of 29%, some of its citizens are so poor they can’t pay for funerals, so bodies pile up at mortuaries.  Plans are even afoot to let the grasslands and forests take over, or to give the city to private enterprise.

Unprecedented for the United States, these numbers come close to the catastrophic decline Russian men experienced in the desperate years following the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Similarly, between 1985 and 2010, American women fell from 14th to 41st place in the United Nation’s ranking of international life expectancy. (Among developed countries, American women now rank last.)  Whatever combination of factors produced this social statistic, it may be the rawest measure of a society in the throes of economic anorexia.

One other marker of this eerie story of a developed nation undergoing underdevelopment and a striking reproach to a cherished national faith: for the first time since the Great Depression, the social mobility of Americans is moving in reverse.  In every decade from the 1970s on, fewer people have been able to move up the income ladder than in the previous 10 years.  Now Americans in their thirties earn 12% less on average than their parents’ generation at the same age.  Danes, Norwegians, Finns, Canadians, Swedes, Germans, and the French now all enjoy higher rates of upward mobility than Americans.  Remarkably, 42% of American men raised in the bottom one-fifth income cohort remain there for life, as compared to 25% in Denmark and 30% in notoriously class-stratified Great Britain.

Meanwhile, for more than a quarter of a century the fastest growing part of the economy has been the finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sector.  Between 1980 and 2005, profits in the financial sector increased by 800%, more than three times the growth in non-financial sectors.  …In the early 1990s, for example, there were a couple of hundred hedge funds; by 2007, 10,000 of them.  A whole new species of mortgage broker roamed the land, supplanting old-style savings and loan or regional banks.  Fifty thousand mortgage brokerages employed 400,000 brokers, more than the whole U.S. textile industry.  A hedge fund manager put it bluntly, “The money that’s made from manufacturing stuff is a pittance in comparison to the amount of money made from shuffling money around.”

For too long, these two phenomena — the eviscerating of industry and the supersizing of high finance — have been treated as if they had nothing much to do with each other, but were simply occurring coincidentally.

Here, instead, is the fable we’ve been offered: Sad as it might be for some workers, towns, cities, and regions, the end of industry is the unfortunate, yet necessary, prelude to a happier future pioneered by “financial engineers.” Equipped with the mathematical and technological know-how that can turn money into more money (while bypassing the messiness of producing anything), they are our new wizards of prosperity!

Unfortunately, this uplifting tale rests on a categorical misapprehension.  The ascendancy of high finance didn’t just replace an industrial heartland in the process of being gutted; it initiated that gutting and then lived off it, particularly during its formative decades.  The FIRE sector, that is, not only supplanted industry, but grew at its expense — and at the expense of the high wages it used to pay and the capital that used to flow into it.

Think back to the days of junk bonds, leveraged buy-outs, megamergers and acquisitions, and asset stripping in the 1980s and 1990s.  (Think, in fact, of Bain Capital.)  What was getting bought and stripped and closed up supported windfall profits in high-interest-paying junk bonds.  The stupendous fees and commissions that went to those “engineering” such transactions were being picked from the carcass of a century and a half of American productive capacity. The hollowing out of the United States was well under way long before anyone dreamed up the “fiscal cliff.”

Continue reading: Steve Fraser, The National Museum of Industrial Homicide | TomDispatch

And the GOP is calling for MORE austerity cuts for the rest of us while supporting an extension of Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. How on earth do middle / working class Republican base voters justify this in their minds?

Michelle Malkin is a shitty person, but you already knew that

C&L: Who was today’s official Fox puppet, with all the GEORGE SOROS talking points memorized, defending the “poor, oppressed millionaires and billionaires and standing up to those evil union thugs and Occupy protesters”? None other than good old twitchy, angry Michelle “Internment Camps were a great idea!” Malkin:

According to Michelle Malkin, these strikes aren’t about protecting workers, but are about protecting entrenched big labor power. During an appearance on Your World, Malkin called the protests a “toxic combination of these left-wing activist groups funded by George Soros … along with a rag tag group of Occupiers across the country who’ve been fomenting this kind of agitation for agitation’s sake for more than a year now.”

She stressed, “People really need to understand that these big labor thugs do not have workers interests at heart.”

I didn’t count how many times the words “Soros” and “thug” were used in the video clip, but it was enough to convince me that Fox has subliminal messaging down to an exact science. The thing about both of those words in the context of Walmart and Black Friday? It’s a flat-out lie about George Soros being involved with this strike / boycott — pure Fox creative fiction.

And secondly, if there’s a group of thugs in this current situation, it’s certainly not the unions or the workers or labor. I think the more accurate term we could use here would be corporate thugs – those people who intimidate and rob their workers (and the taxpayers) to keep all the profits for themselves.

I believe Michelle Malkin would defend the money changers in the Temple against Jesus and his 12 thugs — after Fox wrote the talking points for her.

Related: 

Disasters and union thugs

Romney in June“He wants another stimulus, he wants to hire more government workers,” Mr. Romney said of Mr. Obama. “He says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

team-joebama:: In case you forgot.

Have you heard the one about NJ unions kicking out non-union Sandy volunteers…?

Another rightwing extremist fringe lie. Because Unions are Evil™ (in the alternate, extremist RWNJ universe).

The truth:

Non-union utility crews from out of state can work in N.J., power companies say: “We take crews as they become available,” said Ron Morano, a spokesman for Jersey Central Power & Light. “Everyone understands this is an all-hands-on-deck event.” He said crews from throughout the nation were now working in JCP&L’s service area, including from California, Idaho, Kentucky, Florida, Michigan and North Carolina. He did suggest that municipal companies might have issues working side-by-side with non-unionized contractors. “We did not turn any crews away,” he said. A Public Service Electric & Gas spokeswoman also said the extent of damage from Monday’s superstorm called for as much manpower as could get here. “We have not turned any mutual-aid crews away,” Deann Muzikar said. “We’re taking any help we can possibly get.” As of Wednesday, about 1,050 out-of-state contractors were working in PSE&G’s service area, she said, including from utility companies in Canada, Texas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Pennsylvania and other states.

It’s a shame these spokesmen had to take time away from the actual work of cleaning up and putting people’s lives back together after the storm to comment on this bit of manufactured, political nonsense. But isn’t that the world we live in, here in the U.S. of A.?

Low wage, part time jobs are key to Romney’s claims of job creation “success”

Low-wage, part-time Staples jobs are Romney’s go-to example of job creation ‘success’

Mitt Romney often champions the success of retail chain Staples as one of his main qualifications for the presidency. Here are some facts about the nearly 90,000 jobs Romney likes to say he helped create at Staples:

  • 41 percent are part-time jobs.
  • Hourly wages for sales associates are less than $9 an hour.
  • Retail salespeople make about $20,670 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is lower than the federal poverty line for a family of four.
  • Staples describes its own workforce this way: “Many of our associates, particularly in retail stores, are in entry-level or part-time positions with historically high rates of turnover.”
  • Staples has been listed by the National Employment Law Project as one of the 50 largest low-wage employers in the country.
  • In 1987, a year after Staples was founded, there were 13,347 office supply stores across the country. Ten years later that number was cut in half, to just 6,178 office supply stores.
  • When Staples was founded in 1986, the market share of small and medium-sized sellers of office supplies was 20 percent. By 1998, it had plunged to just four percent.
  • The market share of large superstores, meanwhile, shot up from less than one percent to 20 percent during that same period.

Read more about Romney’s job creation record at Staples — including our interview with Staples founder Tom Stemberg — on our website.

Mitt Romney wants you to have the freedom to work 3 or 4 of these jobs all at once. He’s fightin’ for the middle-class! 

And remember: unions are the problem, with all their fighting and negotiating for living wages and benefits for the working class… right, GOP base zombies?

Gov. Scott Walker’s signature achievement ruled “null and void”

Wisconsin Collective Bargaining Law Struck Down By County Judge

A Wisconsin judge on Friday struck down nearly all of the state law championed by Gov. Scott Walker that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most public workers.

Walker’s administration immediately vowed to appeal, while unions, which have vigorously fought the law, declared victory. But what the ruling meant for existing public contracts was murky: Unions claimed the ruling meant they could negotiate again, but Walker could seek to keep the law in effect while the legal drama plays out.

The law, a crowning achievement for Walker that made him a national conservative star, took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most workers and has been in effect for more than a year.

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled that the law violates both the state and U.S. Constitution and is null and void.

Job-ettes: the Republican jobs plan for America

“Well, they weren’t jobs, they were ‘job-ettes,’ right? No health care, no benefits, low pay. You can go to a waitress anywhere from Texarkana all the way to El Paso and say to a waitress, ‘Did you know Rick Perry’s created 1 million jobs? And she’d say, ‘Yeah, I’ve got three of them.”

Former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower on Texas Governor Rick Perry’s ‘1 million jobs’ claim. (Source: kileyrae)

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Mitt Romney in his RNC speech: “You deserved it because you worked harder than ever before during these years.  You deserved it because, when it cost more to fill up your car, you cut out moving lights, and put in longer hours.  Or when you lost that job that paid $22.50 an hour, benefits, you took two jobs at $9 an hour…”

Matt TaibbiAre you kidding? Mitt Romney was the guy that fired you from that $22.50 an hour job, and helped you replace it with two $9 an hour jobs! 

He was a pioneer in the area of eliminating the well-paying job with benefits and replacing it with the McJob that offered no benefits at all. One of the things that killed him in the Senate race against Ted Kennedy were Kennedy ads that reminded voters that Mitt’s takeovers resulted in slashed wages and lost benefits. He was exactly the guy that eliminated that classic $22.50 manufacturing job, like in the case of GST Steel, where Bain took over with an initial investment of $8 million, paid itself a $36 million dividend, ended up walking away with $50 million, and left GST saddled with over $500 million in debt. 750 of those well-paying jobs were lost.

What kinds of jobs were left for those fired workers to look for? Well, in the best-case scenario, you might have found one at Ampad, another Bain takeover target, where workers had their pay slashed from $10.22 to $7.88 an hour, tripled co-pays, and eliminated the retirement plan.

So a guy who eliminated hundreds of $22 an hour jobs and slashed hundreds more jobs to below $9 an hour blasts Barack Obama for not giving you the better life you deserved, after you lost your $22/hour job and had to take two $9/hour jobs. Are we all high or something? Did that really just happen?

Republican Labor Day: the day we celebrate employers?

Josh Marshall comments on Eric Cantor’s Labor Day message yesterday:

Labor Day, the day we celebrate … employers.

Look, I don’t expect Republicans, whose party has moved to a place of mutual loathing with the US Labor Movement, to use Labor Movement slogans. But people “who have taken a risk …. and built a business”? Really?