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Archive for Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor unions adjust to new reality

September 5, 2011

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In the early days of the Obama administration, organized labor had grand visions of pushing through a sweeping agenda that would help boost sagging membership and help revive union strength.

Now labor faces this reality: Public employee unions are in a drawn-out fight for their very survival in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states where GOP lawmakers have curbed collective bargaining rights.

Also, many union leaders are grousing that the president they worked so hard to elect has not focused enough on job creation and other bold plans to get their members back to work.

“Obama campaigned big, but he’s governing small,” said Larry Hanley, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Labor remains a core Democratic constituency and union leaders will stand with Obama in Detroit this Labor Day, where he will address thousands of rank-and-file members during the city’s annual parade today.

But at the same time, unions have begun shifting money and resources out of Democratic congressional campaigns and back to the states in a furious effort to reverse or limit GOP measures that could wipe out union rolls.

The AFL-CIO’s president, Richard Trumka, says it’s part of a new strategy for labor to build an independent voice separate from the Democratic Party.

Union donations to federal candidates at the beginning of this year were down about 40 percent compared with the same period in 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Last month, a dozen trade unions said they would boycott next year’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., over frustration on the economy and to protest the event’s location in a right-to-work state.

“The pendulum has swung a long way,” said Ross Eisenbrey, a vice president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute. “In the next year, I think all unions can really hope for is to keep more bad things from happening and to get as much of a jobs program enacted as possible.”

Unions fell short last month in their recall campaign to wrest control of the Wisconsin Senate from Republicans. That fight was a consequence of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public-employee unions as a part of a cost-cutting effort. Now they are spending millions more in Ohio, where they hope to pass a statewide referendum in November that would repeal a similar measure limiting union rights.

It’s a far cry from the early optimism unions had after Obama came into office. Back then, unions hoped a Democratic-controlled Congress would pass legislation to make it easier for unions to organize workers. But business groups fought that proposal hard, and it never came to a vote.

Union leaders grew more disappointed when the president’s health care overhaul didn’t include a government-run insurance option. Then Obama agreed to extend President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy.

Obama came out in favor of trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that most unions say will cost American jobs. Despite campaigning in favor of raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.50 an hour, Obama hasn’t touched the issue since taking office.

Comments

tbaker 1 year, 10 months ago

If labor unions want to grow and prosper, they need to offer value to the customer. When they don’t, all they bring to the table is increased labor costs. Who needs this pointless additional expense when non-union workers can provide the same capability at considerably less cost?

Of course the whining will start about the workers being exploited, but even if this does happen it won’t last very long. If allowed to function, the free market will correct this very quickly. Labor moves to where the money is. Abusive employers will quickly find themselves without employees.

Speaking of exploitation, every time the minimum wage is increased, there is a corresponding increase in unemployment. It hurts the very people it is supposed to help. What a stupid law.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 4 months ago

So, any bets on who's spamming this thread and for what purpose? (and it appears it ain't the only one they're doing it to.)

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gr 2 years, 7 months ago

Wow. Looks like another union encroached upon their turf. "One sergeant was threatened with baseball bats and retreated, Duscha said."

So why do some object when unions are compared to the mafia? One commenter said, "Labor has been reduced to street gang intimidation. " Another said, "Will he stand up and accept blame for his incendiary remarks and his demonization of political opponents, his use of mafioso-union thuggery as an illegal private army? Will he?" Another, "Al Capone would be proud...Jimmy Hoffa, Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Rahm Emanuel, Richard Daly...the Chicago mob is back baby!"

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rockchalk1977 2 years, 7 months ago

Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa would be so proud. I guess the guards were Tea Party SOB's that he was talking about Monday.

LONGVIEW, Wash. (AP) — Hundreds of Longshoremen stormed the Port of Longview early Thursday, overpowered and held security guards, damaged railroad cars, and dumped grain that is the center of a labor dispute. Six guards were held hostage for a couple of hours after 500 or more Longshoremen broke down gates about 4:30 a.m. and smashed windows in the guard shack.

http://news.yahoo.com/longshoremen-storm-wash-state-port-damage-rr-144921214.html

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rockchalk1977 2 years, 7 months ago

This is just a big shell game where taxpayer money is given to government union employees who in turn give their union dues to the Democrats. The real problem here is out of control union pensions and health insurance costs. Look at this article about the postal service going broke.

http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/Postal-service-shut-Congress/2011/09/05/id/409766?s=al&promo_code=CFA9-1

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Fossick 2 years, 7 months ago

Bozo: "(though that's hardly the only effect, merely the only negative one. Is why it's the only one you mention?)"

It's not remotely the only one I mentioned. Besides increased unemployment, I mentioned reduced domestic production, inflation eating the living standards of the retired, increased financial speculation, offshoring, a higher trade deficit, and the fact that as soon as things 'leveled out,' the more money that fewer people were making would still only buy them what it bought before. What I did not mention that the nothing that more people were making would put them in even more dire straits, due to the rise in prices.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why progressives insist that these are good things, unless it's Red October's assertion that once things really get bad, people will go socialist. Nothing like helping the inevitable revolution along.

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 7 months ago

"Obama and Jobs: Why I Don't Believe Him Anymore" Some of us didn't believe him to start with.

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Fossick 2 years, 7 months ago

Boz:o "But paying people at a wage that isn't even close to a subsistence wage creates its own problems-- problems you seem to believe are preferable to having employees get paid wages they can actually live on. Please explain."

You seem to have no idea what the word "subsistence" means. If someone's wage 'isn't even close to subsistence' it means they are dying or dead, not having the means by which to live. Since no one is starving in America - we have the richest, fattest poor people the world has ever seen - you must mean their wages are already more than one needs to live on, which while true is hardly reason for complaint. People in China live on subsistence wages, Americans do not get to claim the Chinese peasants' suffering as their own.

But lay out the problems, amigita, let's hear them. Then we can decide which group is preferable.

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Fossick 2 years, 7 months ago

Bozo: "But there are actually folks who get $5000 an hour. Sure, there's no rational explanation for it, but what are the results of that?"

1) higher tax revenues. 2) lower returns (dividend yields and capital gains) for shareholders. 3) higher giving for charitable organizations and colleges. 4) spoiled kids who have never worked and will probably never work in their lives, so long as Daddy is smart enough to put his estate in trust and not give it to his kids. 5) Paris Hilton (perhaps redundant, but worth saying) 6) Conspicuous consumption that exacerbates class envy today just as it always has. 7) Intense competition for position and place within the piratical class itself. 8) incentives to create, develop, market.

Any that I missed?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 7 months ago

"Obama and Jobs: Why I Don't Believe Him Anymore"

by Matt Taibi

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/obama-and-jobs-why-i-dont-believe-him-anymore-20110906

"I was in an airport in Florida yesterday and was forced into a terrible, Sophie's Choice-type choice.

I was hours early for a flight and stuck in a relatively small terminal crammed with people. Only one area in the whole wing had empty seats; an unused gate that contained a TV blaring the CNN broadcast of Obama's Labor Day speech at full volume.

So it was either sit underneath a full-volume broadcast of our fearless president bellowing out his latest hollow promises, or the hellish alternative: retreat to gates full of screaming five year-old children, all of them jacked up on sugar and bawling their eyes out because it was the end of Labor Day weekend and their cruel parents were dragging them home from Disneyworld.

I ended up choosing the screaming children. The one open seat in a nearby gate was next to an extended family of Indian tourists. A four year-old boy from that group wearing a cape and brandishing a plastic light saber thought it was funny when he kept saber-swiping at my knees. But sitting through that was better than having to listen to Obama drape himself in Harry Trumanisms and talk about "shared prosperity."

Obama hasn't been a total disaster on labor. Most notably, he stepped up in the Wisconsin mess and at least took sides in that debate, calling the push to end collective bargaining rights an "assault" on unions.

But I remember following Obama on the campaign trail and hearing all sorts of promises before union-heavy crowds. He said he would raise the minimum wage every year; he said he would fight free-trade agreements. He also talked about repealing the Bush tax cuts and ending tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.

It's not just that he hasn't done those things. The more important thing is that the people he's surrounded himself with are not labor people, but stooges from Wall Street. Barack Obama has as his chief of staff a former top-ranking executive from one of the most grossly corrupt mega-companies on earth, JP Morgan Chase. He sees Bill Daley in his own office every day, yet when it comes time to talk abut labor issues, he has to go out and make selected visits twice a year or whatever to the Richard Trumkas of the world.

Listening to Obama talk about jobs and shared prosperity yesterday reminded me that we are back in campaign mode and Barack Obama has started doing again what he does best – play the part of a progressive. He's good at it. It sounds like he has a natural affinity for union workers and ordinary people when he makes these speeches. But his policies are crafted by representatives of corporate/financial America, who happen to entirely make up his inner circle.

I just don't believe this guy anymore, and it's become almost painful to listen to him."

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AppologiesMyLiege 2 years, 7 months ago

If Hoffa/Obama and the Unions can do for the country what government alliances with Unions have done for the postal service and Detroit, living in the new reality will take some adjusting.

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Mike Ford 2 years, 7 months ago

you're not smart enough to....

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Mike Ford 2 years, 7 months ago

I'd like to nominate ksrush or kspillboy as the voice of those being led by the am radio dial who don't live in the real world and makes ends meet. Those people who let a fired employee of the Kansas City Royals tell them what to think of others based on reagan era stereotypes. Those people who will go to the grave in denial of the failure of supply side tax cuts and the huge deficits they created. After all, a Reagan appointee, David Stockman, said these very words a year ago as the clowns ramped up their I'm Angry volume and marched out this same nonsense. I became a voter in the 1980's and I remember how it didn't work. I remember Charles Keating, John McCain, and Neil Bush and Silverado Savings and Loan....is real history upsetting your made up reagan history apple cart???

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Godot 2 years, 7 months ago

View this, the perfect example of the kind of folk with whom Obama and Solis want us to "get on board."

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ksrush 2 years, 7 months ago

Boz, Merrill. Give it up, you have NO idea of what you are talking about. Your grasp of this is so sad the entertainment value has even gone away. Stick with something else you don't know

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 7 months ago

Damn I should have provided clarification to prevent extreme thinking.

Hey let's think at least $17.50 - $25.00 per hour IF some are truly concerned about workers economic sustainability and keeping the cost of social services contained.

$5,000 per hour = Koch Family and Wal-Mart Familiy and EXXON-Mobil family and Medical Insurance Industry CEO's etc etc etc yet it is this group that wants USA workers at $7.25 per hour.

Yes keep supporting the $5,000 per hour boys and girls and soon YOU should be among the $7.25 per hour boys and girls. Better keep a close eye on those white collar jobs going to India by the millions = here come the $7.25 per hour USA white collar jobs.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 7 months ago

There is plenty of evidence that the higher wages promote a stronger economy throughout any community. It is strange that so many posters believe making less money is a good idea.

It is my belief that corporate america has obligations to keep america employed full time because they are so willing to accept tax dollar assistance in many forms from the people they are screwing aka the USA workforce.

USA corporations were not going broke. The USA was going strong with what union wages brought to the table.

A minimum wage of $7.25 per hour such that Wal-Mart loves to pay increases taxes. Why? Because $7.25 per hour does not pay the bills nor supports any economy due to lack of expendable cash. Spending creates new business, new jobs,new economic growth and new wealth for a country = grow grow grow.

A minimum wage of $7.25 per hour such that Wal-Mart loves to pay increases taxes. Why? Because it increases the need for state sponsored social services. Wal-Mart educates their low wage employees about these services.

If unions and their many wage and benefit packages disappear tons of other white and blue collar workers will see their quality of life go down the tubes. Yes the standard of living will drop considerably.

Unions set the stage for good wages,excellent working conditions,40 hour work weeks,paid vacations,time off for new babies,sick leave,pay raises and retirement benefits.

If corporate america had set the stage for the good quality of life Unions would not have surfaced.

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voevoda 2 years, 7 months ago

It was labor unions that transformed the face of American industry for the better. It was unions that demanded that workers be given a living wage, so that they could afford to buy the products they manufactured. It was unions that insisted that full-time paid work should be accompanied by health insurance, so that employees would not be one injury or one illness away from destitution. It was unions that demanded improvements in working conditions, so that employees did not risk their lives and their health just in order to a roof over their family's head and food on the table, and did not have to put up with arbitrary and demeaning treatment by bosses. Those are all good things for employees and for America. Unions have a vested interest in keeping industries open in the US and profitable, so it is completely wrong to blame unions for undermining American business.
Most of the anti-labor talk on this forum and out in the public seems to arise from three sources: 1) employers who resent having to pay their workers more and have less left over for themselves, even though they still are much wealthier; 2) employees who don't have the benefits of union labor (higher wages, health insurance, protection against arbitrary treatment) and resent the fact that other employees do; 3) misguided persons who assume that unions are the same as "socialism" (wrong!) and that the rights of free assembly guaranteed in the Constitution apply only to wealthy business people and not to working stiffs.
The solution is for more employees to unionize. If all workers receive a living wage, then the market for goods will increase, and that will create more business and therefore a healthier economy. It happened nearly a century ago and we can make it happen again.

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Daffy 2 years, 7 months ago

The Unions need to pirouette off of their successes at the post office. Do not pay attention to their shutting down this winter without stimulus.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/05/business/in-internet-age-postal-service-struggles-to-stay-solvent-and-relevant.html?_r=1

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 7 months ago

If a product or service can't be delivered while paying employees a living wage, it means a combination of one or more of the following-- people really don't want that service or product badly enough to pay what it really costs; management isn't doing their jobs very well; or, there are competitors out there willing and able to exploit their employees' inability to demand and receive a fair wage for their labor.

Unions aren't perfect, but if it weren't for the screwed up, highly hierarchical, oligarchic economic system we have, there would be no need for them.

And in the words of ole Abe Lincoln-- if it weren't for labor, there would be no capital.

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RedOctober 2 years, 7 months ago

We will be victorious. There are more of us than the ones who oppose us. Things just have to get bad enough and then Americans will embrace socialism. All the fascists who opposed it will get their punishment.

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ThePilgrim 2 years, 7 months ago

“Obama campaigned big, but he’s governing small,”

The guy is delusional if he thinks that this statement is true.

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bobberboy 2 years, 7 months ago

I think it's called he can't do anything because of the republicans try to screw everything up for the working guy.

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 7 months ago

Hoffa wants to bust some heads. The Mope in Chief sits there and smiles. "Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa had some profane, combative words for Republicans while warming up the crowd for President Obama in Detroit, Michigan on Monday. "We got to keep an eye on the battle that we face: The war on workers. And you see it everywhere, it is the Tea Party. And you know, there is only one way to beat and win that war. The one thing about working people is we like a good fight. And you know what? They've got a war, they got a war with us and there's only going to be one winner. It's going to be the workers of Michigan, and America. We're going to win that war," Jimmy Hoffa Jr. said to a heavily union crowd. "President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let's take these son of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong," Hoffa added. Obama addressed the crowd shortly after Hoffa." http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2011/09/05/jimmy_hoffa_at_obama_event_on_gop_lets_take_these_son_of_bitches_out.html That new civility sure didn't last long, did it?

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Godot 2 years, 7 months ago

What a joke! After Labor Union Boss declares war on Republicans, and Obama agrees, Labor (Union advocate) Secretary Hilda Solis says, "The presidents needs everyone to be on board....." Riiiiggghhhttt.

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Godot 2 years, 7 months ago

The minimum wage was last raised to $7.25 an hour in 2007. The job losses began then. If unions wanted to see the loss of jobs come to an end, they would lobby for a repeal of the minimum wage law altogether, and to have all states be "right to work."

The reason corporations are moving factories out of the country is a combination of US taxes, US regulation, and unions.

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Mike Ford 2 years, 7 months ago

america...where economic darwinists clobber hard working people and the dumblicans and plantation working southerners of all races work hard for the carpet bagging car companies and the plantation owner/governors like Richard Shelby and Haley Barbour take the credit and work the kickback system. More sinister than anything the dumblicans can make up...where's Norma Rae's job now...China...Malaysia? why did it leave? workers were treated like garbage and complained and the owners with help from state's rights governors took the jobs elsewhere to make more money without trickling it down....just like now...do you think no one is watching???

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Godot 2 years, 7 months ago

Here is the introduction union boss Jimmie Hoffa gave Obama at his Labor Day address.

""We got to keep an eye on the battle that we face: The war on workers. And you see it everywhere, it is the Tea Party. And you know, there is only one way to beat and win that war. The one thing about working people is we like a good fight. And you know what? They've got a war, they got a war with us and there's only going to be one winner. It's going to be the workers of Michigan, and America. We're going to win that war," Jimmy Hoffa Jr. said to a heavily union crowd.

"President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let's take these son of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong," Hoffa added."

Is this what the president means when he says we need to set partisan politics aside and work together to solve our problems? Since Obama did not denounce Hoffa's language, I must assume he endorses it.

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Fossick 2 years, 7 months ago

"Despite campaigning in favor of raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.50 an hour, Obama hasn’t touched the issue since taking office."

Amazing considering the fact that we already have a surplus of labor (aka high unemployment). However, since we are assured that raising the price of labor never results in less of it being demanded, Obama should raise the minimum wage to $5,000 an hour*. $2 here and there is for pikers. Everyone deserves not a living wage, but a living large wage.

  • on the other hand, if he did, everyone would be a millionaire and then would have to vote Republican. I think that's in the Constitution somewhere.
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Liberty275 2 years, 7 months ago

This article could have been titles "Unions not able to blackmail enough Americans for the privilege of working." Unions need to be protected because the constitution says so, but every state needs to be right-to-work. I'll starve before paying a third party so I can get a job and I specifically buy American non-union products when available.

Now this... Merril, you'll like this because it's delicious copypasta. You must eat it.

"Vittorio Hernandez – AHN News Washington, DC, United States (AHN) – The financial hemorrhage of the U.S. Postal Service has turned from bad to worse as the agency approaches default on a $5.5 billion payment due this month. ... Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe warned that unless Congress initiates emergency action to provide stability to the post office’s finances, the agency may be forced to close.

Years of the agency making contractual promises to unionized workers have caused the service’s labor cost to soar to 80 percent of total expenses. In comparison, similar private shipment businesses have lower labor costs at 53 percent for United Parcel Service and 32 percent for FedEx."

http://gantdaily.com/2011/09/05/u-s-postal-service-close-to-default/

How many more jobs are we going to sit back and let unions kill?

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 7 months ago

Republicans aka RINO's are against good wages,excellent working conditions,40 hour work weeks,paid vacations,time off for new babies,sick leave,pay raises and retirement benefits. Without unions none of the above would be in existence.

Republicans aka RINO's do support golden parachutes,obscene CEO wages,putting shareholders ahead of good worker wages and reckless management.

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