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Labor Notes

[ 46 ] August 31, 2012 |

1. Old-school manipulation of workers by Murray Energy. Mitt Romney gave a speech at their mine in Beallsville, Ohio earlier this month. Murray closed the mine for the day, docked the workers the day’s pay, and then forced them to attend the rally. Asked about this, Murray’s COO Robert Moore went full Orwell: “Attendance was mandatory but no one was forced to attend the event.”


Murray is the same company that owned a mine in Utah that collapsed in 2007, killing 6 miners and the company has a notoriously bad safety record.

The workers are angry about all of this but fearful of losing their jobs.

I guess the coal industry’s ability to rule Appalachia like a medieval fiefdom hasn’t declined since the 1920s by as much as I thought.

2. As one might expect, the Republican platform declares total war on unions, ranging from a nationwide right to work a person to death law to barring public unions from political participation (no doubt only to apply to Democratic participation of course–exception for the cops to be expected!) to ending paycheck deduction for public sector unions. I fully expect Republicans to embrace to make labor unions illegal within a decade.

3. Looks like Boeing is going to try and bust the union of its engineers and technical workers, having rejects the union’s offer to simply extend the current contract. Who can blame them, it’s not like Boeing receives billions of dollars in government contracts or anything.

4. The sooner the rare corrupt union official is sent to prison, the better. Let’s hope these UFCW workers get real leadership now.

5. A glimpse into the future–where we are all temporary and contingent labor living in poverty. Just like the Gilded Age!

6. I’m the last person to say that political conventions really matter, but the fact that there is no Labor Caucus at this year’s DNC is telling. Labor’s only missions within the Democratic Party are to serve as a GOTV mechanism and to give money to candidates.


Comments (46)

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  1. Malaclypse says:

    More good news:

    Working to age 70 will not guarantee adequate income in retirement for many, according to research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

    For approximately one-third of the households between the ages of 30 and 59 in 2007, working to age 70 will not be enough. Previous EBRI research indicated delaying retirement past age 65 does not ensure having adequate retirement savings (see “Delaying Retirement No Guarantee of Being Able to Afford Retirement”).

  2. David Kaib says:

    Republicans have understood for a very very long time how important a healthy union movement is the prospects of the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, since at least the 1970s the Democratic Party has not realized that.

  3. djw says:

    It seems to me if I were apolitical, and my employer forced me to attend some stupid politician’s rally without paying me, I’d be less inclined to support that candidate.

    • mark f says:

      I think the photo-op was the main reason they wanted those guys there. Although I wouldn’t rule out management thinking the employees would get some educational benefit as a bonus.

      • djw says:

        Yeah, I figured as much. That would make a lot more sense in, say, West Virginia. “Pissing off white working class voters in Ohio” should really be pretty high on Mitt Romney’s list of things not to do for next two months.

    • Henry says:

      The reality is that these guys are all going to to vote for Romney no matter what. Because otherwise the the Kenyan Muslim Socialist is going to take away their freedoms.

      I have no sympathy for these guys at all.

      • mark f says:

        Uh, you do know how the story got out, right?

        • Erik Loomis says:

          It’s a lot easier to just perpetuate stereotypes about the white working-class.

          • mark f says:

            Also too, maybe it makes me a bad liberal, but I happen to believe that even Romney voters should get paid when their bosses make them do things.

          • numb says:

            downscale whites are more likely to vote for Democrats than those who earn more.

            2008 presidential election exit polls
            whites earning under $50K 47% for Obama (25% of the voters)

            white women 46% for Obama
            (39% of the voters)

            whites earning over $50K 43% for Obama (49% of the voters)

            • Not to trash the miners – if I was to pull a judgment out of my ass I would say not a fucking one would vote for a guy who cost them a day’s pay – but there are local realities as well as national ones. There are red states after all, and they’re not doing well.

      • djw says:

        The reality is that these guys are all going to to vote for Romney no matter what.

        This is nonsense. First of all, we know enough about that demographic to know that “the reality is” their vote will be split. Essentially, we can be reasonably confident that (roughly) a third of those voters will vote for Obama and a third for Romney. By one definition of ‘white working class’–no college degree and under $50K annual income–working class white voters in Ohio were 10% more likely to vote for Obama than working class whites nationally.

        Furthermore, the United Mine Workers has historically been very Democratic. They’re sitting out this election, because Obama’s EPA has been pretty bad for the coal industry, and they rely on the coal industry for their livelihood. In the big picture, Obama’s anti-coal regulatory strategy is absolutely in the best interests of the country.

        Those who don’t vote for Obama because he’s black a Kenyan socialist are overdetermined; they were probably Republican votes anyway. Those who might go either way, but end up voting for Romney, are more likely to do so out of straight-forward self-interest: while a Romney presidency will be bad for the power of their union, it might be good for the security of their jobs. That may be short-sighted and contrary to good policy and our collective national interest, but it’s also one of the most sympathetic, reasonable reasons to vote for Romney I can think of.

        Henry begins by making up a ‘fact’ out of thin air, and uses this fake fact to declare that a group of people who do an utterly brutal and dangerous job, but one that remains, for now, socially necessary, to be entirely beyond sympathy. The funny thing is he probably thinks of himself as some kind of progressive.

        • LBR says:

          Fauxgressives seem to only support the cold calculus of rewarding supporters and “screwing” demographics that do not back you only when it applies to the white working class.

  4. Davis X. Machina says:

    There was supposed to be a Labor Caucus — it’s a victim of the convention’s location in a virulent right-to-work state, in a city notoriously hostile to organized labor.

  5. RedSquareBear says:

    About #5: the problem is that jailing union officials only ever feeds the “unions are corrupt” narrative. They’re never taken as a positive sign of actual improvement.

  6. Alex says:

    Refusing to extend a contract by itself doesn’t mean a company is trying to “bust” the union. By agreeing to continue a contract with 5% COLAs during negotiations the company gives up a lot of leverage. From the article it sounds like Boeing wants to negotiate a contract with more favorable economics, which each side in collective-bargaining is supposed to try to do. SPEEA in turn is supposedly looking for 7.5% increases, according to the article.

    Unless there is a current movement afoot to decertify SPEEA after the expiration of the CBA, which is highly doubtful, this move isn’t about “busting” the union, its about economics.

    The premise of collective bargaining is that the two sides will take opposing economic positions. The whole system is premised upon it. Talking about “busting” a union every time a company takes an opposing stance on an economic issue is a little naive.

  7. Alex says:

    “Attendance was mandatory but no one was forced to attend the event.”

    Worthy of the 2012 Newspeak Award.

  8. Cody says:

    This obviously isn’t a sign that wages for most Americans are too low. We need to reduce their wages ASAP, poor people make way too much money!

    If only they made less, they could afford to retire at 60 like the rest of us.

    (By us, I mean millionaires. And by retire, I mean stop doing nothing while having a title and begin golfing)

  9. wengler says:

    I mentioned it in another thread, but the Chicago Teachers Union is set to strike on September 10th if no contract agreement is reached.

    I’m not a public union worker, but plenty people in my family are, and there has been no constituency so crushed in the last couple years than our public union workers. This is a vital Democratic constituency so the strategic destruction is no doubt part of the grand Republican vision for America.

    • Cody says:

      Funny thing…
      Democrats are the ones busting the teacher’s union in Chicago.

      What Do?

      • Holden Pattern says:

        Those aren’t RealDems[tm], and if they are RealDems[tm], you can be sure that it’s an unavoidable budget problem caused by the Republicans and it’s the fault of the teachers’ union anyway and it’s all for the best in order to implement yet another round of ersatz reforms pimped by some corporate-funded Third Way think tank somewhere.

  10. Cody says:

    CNN wrote something about Unions!

    Are you going to do a special Labor Day extravaganza?

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