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Archive for June, 2014

We Now Interrupt this Blog to Bring You More Tiger-Selfies and Dead Robot House Candidates

[ 133 ] June 30, 2014 |
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Hobby Lobby and the War on Women

[ 238 ] June 30, 2014 |

Shorter Sam Alito: When Congress said that the executive cannot impose a “substantial burden” on the religious beliefs of “persons,” it meant that it cannot impose “any burden, no matter how trivial and no matter what the burden to third parties” on “closely held corporations.” However, our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of women and their strange parts generally presents many complexities.

The SCOTUS War on Women and Workers

[ 130 ] June 30, 2014 |

While today’s pair of horrible decisions might seem like distinct issues, in fact they are both part of a larger war on women and workers.

The absurdity of the Hobby Lobby decision (only contraceptives are exempted for religious beliefs because of sluts) is obviously part of the Republican war on women, but it is also very much a war on the poor. An IUD costs about a month’s worth of wages at the minimum wage. If an executive can’t get birth control because her employer gets too hot and bothered thinking of her having sexy time, she can afford it on her own. A Hobby Lobby floor worker? Probably not. For women workers at closely held corporations, this decision will be devastating.

The Harris case is specifically about home care workers in Illinois. Who are home care workers? Women. Poor women. Lots of African-Americans, lots of Latinos, lots of undocumented workers. Home care workers are a major emphasis for SEIU right now; a close friend of mine has spent over a decade on a campaign to organize them in one city alone. Harris threatens all of this. But moreover, it shows how little Alito and the boys care about rights for women wherever they are. It’s hardly coincidental that this case comes down the same day as the contraception mandate. The Court evidently believes that the home is not a workplace, but of course it is a workplace, especially if someone is getting paid to do work. That it is women working in the home, as it has always been, just makes it easier for conservatives to devalue that work.

Of course, it’s about more than just working women and it opens the door for Alito and Roberts’ continued desire to mandate the New Gilded Age, so no doubt we will see new challenges to public sector unionism that will probably reach the Court in 2016 or maybe 2017 at the latest. I am not a legal expert, but my guess as to why Abood wasn’t overturned entirely is that there wasn’t 5 votes for it yet. Regardless, both of today’s decisions are very much about keeping working women without power both on the job and at home.

Also, when we hear in 2016 that both parties are the same because of [insert pet issue here] and therefore vote for vanity third party candidate, let us remember this day and these decisions. If you think Strip Search Sammy Alito and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are the same, you might want to rethink your positions.

Naval Station Sinking?

[ 33 ] June 30, 2014 |

My latest at WiB examines the impact of climate change on Naval Station Norfolk:

What if the U.S. Navy’s main base in Norfolk, Virginia sinks? It could happen. And it’s not an isolated problem, as climate change alters coastlines all over the world.

A report from the American Security Project identifies Naval Station Norfolk as America’s fifth most endangered military base. The report also lists Eglin in Florida, Diego Garcia, Bahrain and Guam as being particularly vulnerable to climate change.

Monopoly 101

[ 36 ] June 30, 2014 |

Good conversation between Thomas Frank and Barry Lynn over the history of monopoly and politics in the United States connecting the two Gilded Ages, how Americans tamed monopoly, and how monopoly came roaring back (thank Ronnie!).

“Both Decisions By Justice Alito”

[ 329 ] June 30, 2014 |

Well, this is going to be horrible.

I would like to take this opportunity to note that journalism rarely gets worse than Stuart Taylor’s paeans to the reasonable, moderate Sam Alito.

MisogynistFest 14: I Link, You Decide

[ 97 ] June 30, 2014 |

Unreliable narrator.

Reliable narrator. Sample:

Barbara Kay, a columnist for Canada’s National Post, argued that Santa Barbara shooter Elliott Rodger couldn’t have been driven by hatred of women because “he hated women because they rejected him sexually, but he also hated men because they had access to women.”

Rape on college campuses, she added, was a myth perpetrated by man-haters, and the concept of rape culture, how society can tacitly approve of or rationalize sexual assault, was “baseless moral panic.”

“The vast majority of female students allegedly raped on campus are actually voicing buyer’s remorse from alcohol-fueled promiscuous behavior involving murky lines of consent on both sides,” she said, drawing chuckles from the audience. “It’s true. It’s their get-out-of-guilt-free card, you know like Monopoly.” The chuckles turned to guffaws.

Even the hashtag #bringbackourgirls, which emerged in the aftermath of the kidnapping of more than 200 girls in Nigeria, allegedly by the Islamist terror group Boko Haram, was an example of misandry, Kay explained, because there was not a similar response to the slaughter of a smaller number of boys earlier in the year.

To conclude:

As We Await Hobby Lobby

[ 38 ] June 30, 2014 |

A good rundown of the various scenarios.

This Day in Labor History: June 30, 1983

[ 20 ] June 30, 2014 |

On June 30, 1983, workers at the Phelps-Dodge Corporation copper mines in Arizona went on strike. Led by the United Steelworkers of America, miners fought bravely against Phelps-Dodge’s decision to bust their union, but faced with overwhelming odds, they lost the strike, bringing in the heyday of corporations busting the unions and moving aggressively toward a completely non-union workplace.

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The Phelps-Dodge mine in Morenci, Arizona had a long history. Phelps-Dodge and other big mining corporations had operated in the southern Arizona/northern Sonora borderlands for a full century by this point. Hating unions every second, they had engaged in some of the most loathsome anti-union tactics in American history, but had eventually caved to the inevitability of union representation. Phelps-Dodge had long run a workmonth of 26 days on and 2 days off before the United Steel Workers of America ended that bit of oppression, which corporate leaders always resented.

The copper industry was in deep trouble in the early 1980s. Pressure from abroad, especially the giant mines of Chile, led to a reduction in copper prices. U.S. mining corporations responded both by investing overseas and laying off workers in the United States. Phelps-Dodge had made some bad investments and was in some trouble, with its leadership taking a lot of criticism. The mine closed for 5 months in 1982.

It reopened in 1983. But Phelps-Dodge decided to use the situation to bust the union. Seeing that the USWA had caved in recent negotiations with U.S. Steel in Pittsburgh, Phelps-Dodge leaders thought they would like some union contract relief as well. Instead of cost of living adjustments, workers wages would be tied to the worldwide price of copper, forcing them to bear the direct brunt of fluctuations of commodity prices. The union was flexible in its negotiations. It agreed to a wage freeze for the entirety of the three-year deal. But it would not change its COLA requests. It had good reason not to. The other mining companies had agreed to this very reasonable offer from their unions. Phelps-Dodge said they could not afford a union workforce. Others noted that despite the recent downturn in copper prices, the company had made $550 million in the previous decade and that it was the company’s own mines in Peru, Australia, and South Africa that had undercut both prices and union work in the United States.

The company terminated the 40-year continuing agreement with the USWA, an 87-page contract that had been used the whole time with moderate changes. It immediately announced not only a $2 an hour wage cut for new workers but major changes in grievance procedures, disciplinary actions, and the other day to day operations that make unions work. They also began the unprecedented step within union contracts of forcing a medical co-pay on workers, something that we see as inevitable in 2013 but which was outrageous for many workers thirty years ago.

Immediately, the unions (vast majority were USWA but there were 13 total unions) voted to strike. 2400 union members walked out and surrounded the miners to not allow strikebreakers to enter. They were immediately subjected to widespread harassment led by the Arizona Criminal Intelligence Systems Agency, a Tucson-based state-run undercover police force. Using tactics from the violent days of the early 20th century Phelps-Dodge executives longed for, the ACISA quickly infiltrated almost every union meeting, wiretapping about 1/2 of the union meetings. The ACISA shared intelligence information directly with Phelps-Dodge officials. Phelps-Dodge began smuggling arms into the mine.

Pretty quickly, divisions rose within the workforce. About 400 of the 1480 workers scabbed quickly. George Mungia could stay on strike or potentially lose his pension. Or he could scab for 2 months and have worked long enough for the pension his union fought to give him. He went for self-interest, knowing that Phelps-Dodge would never have a union back in the mines. This number actually disappointed Phelps-Dodge, for it thought it could break the strike easily.

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On August 5, the USWA decided it had to raise the level of struggle in order to survive. On August 8, about 1000 strikers and supporters surrounded the mine entrance, chasing away the strikebreakers and forcing others to remain inside the mill. Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt called for Phelps-Dodge to announce a 10-day work stoppage to settle tensions. But this just gave time for Phelps-Dodge to plan its next maneuver. On August 19, the corporation brought in a military force to end strikers’ resistance. Calling it “Operation Copper Nugget,” 426 state troopers and 325 National Guard members, assisted by helicopters, tanks, and military vehicles, retook the entrance to the mines. They used strikers’ “violence” as the reason, which primarily consisted of a lot of swearing and some thrown eggs. Strikers could no longer keep strikebreakers out. Eight days later, 10 strikers in Ajo were charged with rioting. The strike collapsed quickly after this overwhelming display of corporate, military, and legal power.

Among Phelps-Dodge’s leaders was John Coulter, vice-president for personnel. When the company used force to end the strike, it decided to never hire the old workers back. According to Coulter, “As far as we’re concerned the strike is over.”

The strike lasted three years but was basically over in three months. In September 1984, the workers voted on whether to work without a union or maintain their union without a job. They voted out the union. In 1986, the NLRB rejected the last union appeals. It was a complete victory for Phelps-Dodge. The company became entirely union-free in Arizona.

Some labor scholars call the Phelps-Dodge strike the private sector equivalent of the air traffic controllers in 1981. From this point forward, corporations became far more aggressive about busting unions, using increasingly sophisticated tactics with tacit support from the federal government.

Almost as soon as the strike ended, copper prices rose dramatically. While this was no conspiracy, Phelps-Dodge happily combined rapidly increased profits with a union-free workplace.

John Coulter had a daughter named Ann. She became very annoying. She loves her papa though because he was a unionbuster.

The ACISA was disbanded in 1984 after state legislators thought having an undercover agency was a waste of state money.

The mines of Arizona remain union-free today.

This is the 112th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

“No Country For Old Pervs”

[ 65 ] June 29, 2014 |

There’s a lot of great stuff in this Molly Lambert longread. In response to a disgracefully whitewashy New York feature on Terry Richardson:

Whatever your opinion is of Richardson’s brightly exposed white-wall portraits, sometimes explicit personal work, and provocative fashion photography should be irrelevant to the question of whether he should continue to be hired. If Richardson touches and molests models without their consent, as multiple accounts accounts in specific, extremely similar detail allege, there’s no excuse for his ongoing high status in the photography world. Richardson never flat-out denies the allegations in the profile, but he evades taking responsibility and shrugs off any collateral damage. It’s all just part and parcel of the artistic process for Uncle Terry, apparently! He claims ignorance about the sexual politics of his photography and accompanying feminist backlash, but also cannily made a beeline at a birthday party to take an already infamous picture with Gloria Steinem. The profile mostly contains old information, other than Richardson’s taste-damning admission that he loves the Seth MacFarlane movie Ted.

The New York profile’s positive spin on Terryworld is what prompted Anna del Gaizo to come forward. In her Jezebel piece, del Gaizo wrote: “I’m not talking about this now because it’s something that has necessarily been gnawing at me for the past six years, but what does bother me is the fact that this man, who has announced with his actions that his desires, fantasies, and yes, his raging boner are more important than another human being’s state of mind or consequential distress, continues to be revered, hired, and supported by celebrities, professionals, and publications alike.”

On the deposed leader of American Apparel:

But it’s fully possible that the turn in the company’s fortunes had less to do with people tiring of the Last Night’s Party vibe and more to do with the low quality of the high-priced clothes, even though high pricing is ostensibly what helps pay the factory workers a fair wage. American Apparel’s board members didn’t fire Dov Charney because they suddenly realized he was a creep. They have known the whole time, and apparently didn’t care enough to oust him. But American Apparel hasn’t seen a profit since the end of the 2000s. The board may have fired him now only so the company wouldn’t get delisted from the New York Stock Exchange.

Plenty more where that came from; read the whole etc.

Four Pinocchios

[ 60 ] June 29, 2014 |

This is a week old now, but worth mentioning. I normally don’t much care for media rating systems like Politfact, but when the Washington Post decided to aim its guns at Little Tommy Friedman and his penchant for using false historical analogies to press his foreign policy aims (that are mysteriously incredibly influential on Capitol Hill), it’s hard to resist. Basically, Friedman decided to “quote” Dean Rusk in reference to current relations between the U.S. and Putin’s Russia, saying during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Soviet ships supposedly came within a few miles of the U.S. naval blockade, “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”

Problem–the entire scenario was fabricated in Bobby Kennedy’s memoir. Does Friedman care that this is a falsehood? No, he does not care. Because he wants it to be true because toughness is a virtue and if he has to go all The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance about myths, well, print the legend. And if that causes U.S. relations with Russia to decline, great.

Thus, four Pinocchios for Friedman.

Thanks to BlueLoom for the link.

Bullard

[ 36 ] June 29, 2014 |

If you aren’t familiar with Robert Bullard, the founder of the study of environmental justice as a line of academic inquiry, you should be. For over 30 years, Bullard has straddled the line between academic and activist, working with local communities to fight for environmental justice and forcing rich white environmental organizations to come to terms with the structural inequalities in society and in their own movements that marginalize the concern of the poor. At the end, most environmentalism should protect the poor because it is the poor that are most effected by pollution due to their inability to move away from it and their lack of political power to prevent it from occurring near their homes. Unfortunately, this has not always been recognized by the environmental community as important. That has slowly changed, but it’s largely been more superficial than real, as the big green organizations remain mostly dominated by whites. An excerpt of this interview Guernica did with Bullard:

Guernica: As a corollary to marginalized communities shouldering a disproportionate toxic load, do you see the equity issue playing out in access to green energy? Because to date that appears largely clustered in communities of privilege.

Robert Bullard: Oh yes. We have a term for that: energy apartheid. At the same time that all this emphasis is being placed on going green and clean and renewable, if you look at the equity impact, there is a class bias, and a racial bias embedded in class. People with resources can have better access to clean energy and renewables, and better access to green transportation, while at the same time a lot of the dirty energy industry facilities are still getting placed in working-class, lower-income communities of color. We’re talking clean and acting dirty.

Look at the fact that the nuclear power industry is trying to redefine itself. There had not been a nuclear power plant built in decades, and it is not by accident that the first two plants to get permitted are being placed in Waynesboro, Georgia, which is overwhelmingly African-American and that already has two nuclear power plants. So you’re talking about a community of lower-income African-Americans that is going to be used as a guinea pig for restarting nuclear power, a very risky operation. We have to point out the inconsistency of these things—who is going to benefit from this green economy, who’s getting the jobs and the contracts and the benefits? There is a disconnect. If we are going to have a green economy and move toward a green future, we have to make sure that future is equitable and not an opportunity for some communities to just get more dirty industry.

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