Monday, September 24, 2007

Hear Art Levine tell Thom Hartmann about union-busting -- and read more.

Here's a link to my talk with Thom Hartmann today on union-busting. Click on the player icon to play the interview of about 10 minutes. Then you can read an informative blog posting about the highlights of my article, and the article itself, on the AFL-CIO blog. The writer observes:

Polls show most Americans are unaware of the extent to which some employers will go to stop workers from exercising their freedom to form a union. But a chilling new article, by journalist Art Levine, exposes the dirty details of these often sinister actions.

In the October issue of In These Times, Levine gives us a blow-by-blow account of a seminar he attended in Las Vegas led by two attorneys from Jackson Lewis, one of the major law firms in the field of union-busting. Union-busting—the so-called “union avoidance” industry—is a multibillion-dollar industry involving more than 2,500 lawyers.

In “Unionbusting Confidential,” Levine exposes the techniques these lawyers teach their clients to keep unions out of their workplace. The first suggestion to employers: Act respectful of workers’ concerns to prevent union sympathies from growing. They even suggest writing out—but not adhering to—a mission statement that includes treating workers with dignity.

The lawyers then give seminar participants a litany of tricks to derail the efforts of their workers to do what the law says they have a right to do: join together to form a union and bargain for a better life. The Jackson Lewis lawyers encourage the employers to be proactive, to take a leading role in denying their workers their freedom to form a union.

Here are just a few of the comments of what the lawyers told Levine and the other seminar participants:

If a supervisor sympathizes with the workers who want to form a union, one of the lawyers jerks his tie upward against his neck to suggest a hanging.

Tell employees stories about other workers in a union going on strike and losing their jobs to replacements because “It’s lawful. What happens if this statement is a lie? They didn’t have another strike, there were no replacements? It’s still lawful: The labor board doesn’t really care if people are lying.”

Firing workers for seeking to form a union is illegal under current labor law, so Jackson-Lewis encourages employers to make sure they fire union supporters for other reasons.

Levine also shows that these actions have human consequences. They hurt families and communities. He cites the story of Bill Lawhorn, who was fired the day after he and his fellow workers narrowly lost an election to join a union and bargain for better wages and working conditions. Five years later he is still without a steady job.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Who made the biggest blunder of the war, dismantling the Iraqi army?
The Village Voice offers a comprehensive look at the conflicting claims, and shows that, in fact, according to the top British liaison with the Bush administration, the Home Secretary David Blunkett, it was, yet again, Rumsfeld and Cheney. All that's been missed in the recent news accounts about Paul Bremer telling Bush beforehand about the decision to dismantle the Iraqi Army -- and, it turned out, fuel the insurgency. But the Voice also quotes the savvy George Packer of the New Yorker, who points out:

No one has ever been able to explain the history of that crucial decision, which countless Iraqis have told me was the biggest mistake of the American occupation and a huge factor in the growth of the insurgency. When I was researching The Assassins' Gate I learned that, just before Bremer went to Iraq, in early May, 2003, he had discussed the issue at the Pentagon with Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Walt Slocombe (who became Bremer's adviser on Iraqi security forces in Baghdad), and then he cleared the decision with Donald Rumsfeld. This account was later borne out in Bremer's book. Did Condi Rice know? Dick Cheney? Bush himself? It's been impossible to be sure, and a former Administration official once told me that this fact alone shows what a dysfunctional policymaking process it was.

A history-changing decision, upending a previous policy, was made on the fly by a handful of officials at the Pentagon who consulted with no one else in Washington, let alone in Iraq. (In The Assassins' Gate, I describe the disbelief of a U.S. Army colonel, Paul Hughes, who at the time was knee-deep in the effort to organize and pay soldiers of the defeated Iraqi army; his outrage is the high point of the powerful new film No End in Sight.) Bremer's letter to Bush proves that the President was told at the last minute and gave the O.K. — but that's it. He had nothing to do with the decision either way and seemed barely aware of it.

For a good overview, check out this article:
The Village Voice: The Bush Beat

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Lessons for the anti-war left: How progressives and Dems folded on FISA.

With progressive groups facing Democrats in Congress seemingly more willing to cave in on demands for a firm withdrawal deadlines from Iraq, it's worth looking at how Democrats and progressives caved in to Bush's "War on Terror" politicking earlier this month on the draconian FISA bill. But traditional progressive groups and the emerging "netroots" of bloggers failed to work together effectively to halt the passage of the FISA bill. The same thing could happen again as the anti-war left is divided over how to proceed in pressuring Congress to stand up to Bush's war plans. (You can keep abreast of the shifting debate in Congress over the war at a new blog, Iraq Files, by Ian Fried.)

As I point out in my article on FISA:

The progressive movement was essentially caught off-guard by rapidly moving legislation that threatens some of our most basic values. Here's a thought experiment: If the situation were reversed, and a weakened liberal Democratic president tried to quickly ram through legislation, say, restoring full federal funding for abortion, would a Republican-led Congress and the right-wing media let it slide through without a rapid response and a real fight? Not likely.

[ACLU lobbyist Rachel] Perrone, for one, has drawn some hard lessons about the ACLU's outreach efforts to the blogosphere. "It could be improved on our side by being more consistent. We knew the bill was moving, but we waited until things were on fire." Previous administration proposals to win legislative authority for warrantless eavesdropping died in Congress in the spring, so, she points out, "things fall off the radar until the ship's ready to run into an iceberg."

For their part, some influential bloggers distrust not only Congressional Democrats but the traditional advocacy groups that should be their natural allies. Although Open Left blogger Matt Stoller, who has specialized in using the Web to mobilize activists, now believes that the ACLU did its best to fight the FISA bill, he condemns what he sees as slow-footed, inept communication and organizing strategies by the ACLU and traditional groups on a host of progressive issues, pointing to the ACLU's Find Habeas campaign as "patronizing and idiotic." (The ACLU defends that campaign as part of a broader lobbying initiative that is causing Congress to revisit the habeas issue.)

"We have to leverage these groups to do what they're supposed to be doing," he says. However, he contends that many bloggers don't take what seems to be the obvious step of linking to well-established advocacy groups' Congressional contact pages because "we don't trust them." Yet that was the secret of the successful effort to save net radio -- many websites linking to a well-organized lobbying group. As an advisor on the comparable "net neutrality" campaign, Stoller points to factors of its success missing in some traditional groups' use of the Web: "It explained the politics clearly, and the people being asked to participate trusted those doing the asking." But he won't acknowledge the failures of the blogosphere to work together with groups that share their values by amplifying those groups' lobbying resources.

Yet with the Bush Dog initiative that Stoller's Open Left is launching to hold conservative Democrats accountable, he's taking an important step -- independent of the major progressive advocacy groups -- in using the Web to force the Democratic Congress to stand up to Bush's far-right agenda. "Terrorism is the third-rail issue for Congressional Democrats, but the base has moved on," adds the ACLU's Frederickson. But the key factions in today's progressive movement won't succeed until they learn to work together to create enough pressure on Congress to vote on behalf of those who voted the Democrats into power.

To read more, check out this article:
Behind the FISA Flop | The American Prospect

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