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Labor Notes


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.

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  • Malaclypse

    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”).

    • This is a very real crisis coming in the next few years–the elderly going into retirement with high debt burdens.

      I already assume that I will never retire.

    • Sherm

      I’ve got my retirement plan all mapped out — massive heart attack in my sleep at age 59. My financial and health planning are strategically aligned to reach this lofty goal.

      • Cody

        Good plan. Investing in booze to achieve this goal gives a very good ROI. You both get to enjoy the current while saving appropriately for the future.

        • Malaclypse

          Yea, but to be sure of success, you need to go the Full Breitbart and shift to coke.

      • Bill Murray

        shouldn’t you also have a beautiful significant other there with you. They may be of negotiable affection, or short termers, but going out the Private Benjamin way seems fun

  • 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.

  • djw

    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

      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

        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.

        • mark f

          I suspect that the Romney camp was not fully privy to the circumstances of the miners’ attendance and aren’t thrilled about the story. Couldn’t happen to a nicer campaign.

          • Holden Pattern

            Well, given that R-Money/Zombie Eyed Granny Starver are running on the Corporate Feudalism platform, I’m pretty sure their problem is with the unfair factual reporting of the behavior.

            • mark f

              I certainly didn’t mean to imply that they’d have any problems with it aside from the optics.

    • Henry

      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

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

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

          • mark f

            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

            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

        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

          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.

  • Davis X. Machina

    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.

    • And the fact that the Democratic Party has frankly not cared one iota about labor’s protest about this is quite telling. You won’t hear a peep about supporting the rights of workers to organize the entire convention.

      • RedSquareBear

        This despite the fact that two of the three the most visible outbursts of liberal/left/progressive/centre-right-anywhere-but-this-where politics since 2010 have been Wisconsin’s unsuccessful and Ohio’s somewhat more successful defenses of labor rights.

        (The third was OWS about which, meh.)

        All of the heat and noise in the Democratic party is coming from either organized or would-be-organized workers. And they ignore it. What a shock.

      • Bookmarking this prediction.

        • mark f

          Bookmark it, lib!

        • Debbie Wasserman Schultz was asked point blank whether there would be any statement about the rights of North Carolina workers to organize and she said no.

          • Linnaeus

            Right, but that doesn’t mean that no one at the convention won’t make some kind of general statement about workers’ rights.

            • Sure, maybe.

              In prime time, no.

              • “You won’t hear a peep about supporting the rights of workers to organize the entire convention.”

                We will hear the most prominent speakers at the convention defend the right of workers to organize.

                There. Now, we’ll see.

          • Hogan

            If anyone had asked Priebus whether the GOP convention would feature an old man mumbling at an empty chair, he probably would have said no. Stuff happens.

            • Cody

              Well, Clint Eastwood’s performance fit in perfectly with the GOP demographic!

            • firefall

              No, he would have nervously checked Mitt’s supply of JustForMen

  • RedSquareBear

    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.

    • RedSquareBear

      Correction: #4 not 5.

  • Alex

    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.

  • Alex

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

    Worthy of the 2012 Newspeak Award.

    • Henry

      Right there with “Lagitimate rape” and “forcible rape”

      • I loved the missing-the-point response: “No rape is ever legitimate. Rape is an evil act.”

        Yeah, that was the problem with the statement.

      • Alex

        It equates nicely to “Freedom is Slavery” with the Corporation as Big Brother.

  • Cody

    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)

  • wengler

    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

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

      What Do?

      • Holden Pattern

        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.

  • Cody

    CNN wrote something about Unions!

    Are you going to do a special Labor Day extravaganza?

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