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The New Religious Exception: Unionization

[ 242 ] July 16, 2014 |

….Sorry for not including the link, I wrote this before a long and horrible day of travel and so just saw I forgot it now. Here is the original link, for what it’s worth 20 hours later.

Among the many potential impacts of the Hobby Lobby decision is for employers to claim unionization of their workforce violates their religious beliefs. This is already percolating through the court system, most famously at Duquense University, when that Catholic institution of higher education used this argument (because all know the Pope hates unions or something).

By declaring that “closely held” corporations may hold religious beliefs, the court may have provided businesses with a new tool for crushing workplace unionization drives. In addition to declaring themselves exempt from contraception mandates and non-discrimination laws, religious employers may soon be able to argue for an exemption from collective bargaining laws.

“All you need is one employer saying, ‘My religious beliefs tell me I shouldn’t collectively bargain,’” said Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. If an employer takes the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to court and uses that argument, it could set the table for a major court battle over the future of union rights in nominally religious workplaces.

Religious primary and secondary schools are already exempt from collective bargaining rules, thanks to the 1979 Supreme Court case NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago. In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that the NLRB does not have jurisdiction over schools “operated by a church to teach both religious and secular subjects.” As a result, schools operated by the Catholic Bishop of Chicago were under no obligation to recognize employee unions, no matter the circumstances. Putting religious schools under the jurisdiction of the NLRB, the court reasoned, would present “a significant risk of infringement of Religion Clauses of the First Amendment.”

Other religious schools have seized on the decision over the years. Most recently, Perelman Jewish Day School in Philadelphia decided to stop recognizing its teachers’ union, citing NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago as legal justification. A March 28 article from the labor-friendly magazine In These Times suggested that the school’s actions may have earned it the title “the Hobby Lobby of Union-Busting.” But the Perelman case may wind up being less important than another legal fight brewing elsewhere in Pennsylvania. In 2012, adjunct professors at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University requested the right to hold a union election, only to have the school claim a religious exemption. The crucial difference in this case is that Duquesne is a university, not a religious day school like Perelman or the Chicago Catholic schools.

The implication of Alito’s opinion in Hobby Lobby, if fully implemented, opens the door to employers using religious exemptions to avoid every law they don’t like, which I have no reason to believe reasonable moderate Sam Alito would oppose.


“A thickly pustulating chancre on the craft of journalism”

[ 50 ] July 15, 2014 |

Pierce on Tiger Beat on the Potomac.

The West’s Disappearing Water

[ 68 ] July 15, 2014 |

In the last 50 years, there’s been a lot of sadness in the environmental community over the destruction caused by many western dams. Glen Canyon is the most famous case, but a lot of beautiful land was erased by the West’s insane dam building mania of the mid-twentieth century. There’s long been calls to tear some of these dams down, but with rare exceptions such as along the Elwha River in Washington, doing so is politically impossible. But hey, long-term drought means that the land is coming back above the water line without tearing down the dams. Of course, this comes at a terrible ecological cost and threatens not only the future of the Southwest but the agricultural production we rely upon to eat lettuce in January.

Although I’m sure importing non-native insects will solve all our problems.

Suing Corporations: Now Almost Impossible

[ 112 ] July 15, 2014 |

As Lina Khan details in this long essay, Over the past thirty years, courts have made citizens suing corporations almost impossible. This is a severe blow to democracy. In the absence of an activist government that holds corporations accountable, citizens using the courts have been central to reform efforts for more than a century. For example, it was workers suing corporations in the 1890s and 1900s that convinced states to develop workers’ compensation laws in the 1910s. Today, as the New Gilded Age develops, this fundamental right of Americans has become largely null and void, thus giving corporations almost unlimited power over everyday people because they face no meaningful penalties when they break the law. The theme of “tort reform,” which actually means “the right of corporations to act with impunity,” has won the day and has made our lives worse.

Restaurant Income Inequality

[ 59 ] July 15, 2014 |

Like those takers serving you at Red Lobster deserve to even make this much:

Last year, according to a new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the CEOs of America’s top 25 restaurant corporations, including McDonald’s, Burger King, the Cheesecake Factory, Chipotle, and Jack in the Box, took home an average of 721 times the money minimum-wage workers did, and 194 times the take-home pay of the typical American worker in a production or nonsupervisory job. Restaurants and food services employ nearly half of all American workers who earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour (or less).

The report “confirms what we have long known,” Cherri Delesline, a McDonald’s crew member and mother of four in Charleston, South Carolina, told Mother Jones. Since November 2012, she and hundreds of other fast-food workers have gone on strike in 150 American cities and 80 foreign cities, demanding they be paid $15 per hour. “While CEOs make millions of dollars in profits, we still can’t afford to pay our rent or buy clothes for our children,” says Delesline, whose hourly pay is $7.35.

Your Weekly Wussy Post

[ 23 ] July 14, 2014 |

Look, if you’d all just buy Wussy’s albums, we’d stop promoting them so much. This recent performance at KEXP has 4 songs from their new album and “Pizza King” from Strawberry. I most recommend “Bug” which is a great song.


[ 182 ] July 14, 2014 |

In this Greg Sargent piece on the need for Democrats to talk more about economic issues is a depressing piece of information about government spending on infrastructure, which is at its lowest levels on record, with data going back to 1947:

Indeed, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis data compiled by Moody’s for its investors and shared with me by White, current state and local investment, in 2009 real dollars, now totals 1.4 percent of GDP. In 1947, the first year for which BEA data is available, the total was 1.7 percent. It steadily rose and peaked in the late 1950s and 1960s, topping out at 4.6 percent, before steadily declining throughout the 1970s and 1980, before dropping below 2 percent during the Great Recession and its aftermath — amazingly — and settling at 1.4 percent today.

Now you can debate whether building more roads is a good idea, but it’s not as if rail or bridges or sewers or other infrastructure is receiving funding either. So basically America falls apart and creating the tax base to fix it is politically impossible.

Good Job University of Miami

[ 38 ] July 14, 2014 |

The University of Miami for the win, if by win you mean destroying the planet:

One of the world’s rarest forests, a section of Miami-Dade County’s last intact tracts of endangered pine rockland, is getting a new resident: a Walmart.

About 88 acres of rockland, a globally imperiled habitat containing a menagerie of plants, animals and insects found no place else, was sold this month by the University of Miami to a Palm Beach County developer. To secure permission for the 158,000-square-foot box store, plus an LA Fitness center, Chik-fil-A and Chili’s restaurants and about 900 apartments, the university and the developer, Ram, agreed to set aside 40 acres for a preserve.

Ram also plans to develop 35 adjacent acres still owned by the university.

But with less than 2 percent of the vast savanna that once covered South Florida’s spiny ridge remaining, the deal has left environmentalists and biologists scratching their heads.

“You wonder how things end up being endangered? This is how. This is bad policy and bad enforcement. And shame on UM,” said attorney Dennis Olle, a board member of Tropical Audubon and the North American Butterfly Association, who wrote to Florida’s lead federal wildlife agent Friday demanding an investigation.

The university said in a statement that it is committed to protecting the forests — only about 2,900 acres of rockland are left outside Everglades National Park — and helped execute plans for the preserve, but would not respond to questions.

I mean, sure we are committed to saving the rockland in the sense that we will sell for the 1,000,000th Wal-Mart in this country and turn it into cash we can then concentrate in improving the salaries of our most administrators. That is what America is all about, destroying rare ecosystems to buy ivory backscratchers (unfairly illegal!) to not only our president and provost, but our deans as well. Thus, no questions.

Business Owners Always Hate Worker Power

[ 184 ] July 14, 2014 |

Yes, I too am shocked to find out that my small-time capitalist who sells lefty books also hates unions like a member of the Walton family.

Water Thieves

[ 55 ] July 14, 2014 |

If only we could combine Michigan’s draconian anti-water laws with Texas’ love of killing people we would be able to deal with these savages committing the heinous crime of having water in their homes.

Pizza Toppings

[ 280 ] July 13, 2014 |

It seems unlikely that we have never had a thread on pizza toppings before, but a quick search of the blog’s archives suggests we have not. I am reminded of this because yesterday my parents took me here. The pie we had was actually quite solid. But you have to search through a menu dedicated to whatever rococo concoctions Oregonians think belong on pizzas to find something that reminds me of pizza. Most revolting is this pizza:

Springfield Sunrise
Classy pizza isn’t just for dinner anymore. We were asked how creative we could be with breakfast & we started thinking about those inspired (& filling) farmer’s omelets. Country sausage gravy, potatoes, eggs, cheddar & country bacon.

First, no food should ever be named after my home town. This is not a good sign. Second, country gravy on pizza is the single most disgusting thing I have ever of, except for getting this very pizza with a cheese stuffed crust (because not enough cheese on the actual pizza).

If you all have heard of a worse idea for a pizza, this is time to share for your therapy.

I am no traditionalist when it comes to pizza. Jon Stewart is fundamentally correct on Chicago style pizza (although if you want a pizza-style casserole at 1500 calories per slice, it can be tasty), but then a lot of traditional New York pizza leaves much to be desired as well. I know this is heresy to many, but I think pizza’s finest forms have come out of California cuisine, adding delicious fresh ingredients to a food too often defined by canned olives and canned mushrooms. Sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, kalamata olives, these are outstanding ingredients for pizza. The year I spent teaching outside of Cleveland, we asked around for the best pizza place in Cleveland. The place universally lauded served a pie with canned mushrooms. I was not impressed. There is some pretty good pizza in Providence. I am particularly a fan of Tommy’s, both for quality and for price. But overall, I can’t help but think that the California food revolution has helped improve the overall quality of American pizza tremendously. Except when people demand country gravy on it.

…Worst pizza idea in the United States anyway. I am reminded of the pizzas of South Korea, consisting of imitation cheese, sliced up hot dogs, canned corn kernels, and ketchup for the sauce. But that’s a different category of bad food.

Latino Lynchings

[ 106 ] July 13, 2014 |

We think of lynching as something whites did to African-Americans and that was of course often the case. But the use of extralegal violence to eliminate perceived threats without a trial was pretty common. Whites were often lynched, especially in power struggles in the West. There’s also a long history of lynching Latinos in the Southwest, a part of American history almost totally forgotten. That’s especially tragic because the white supremacy driving the lynchings of African-Americans was the same impulse leading whites to kill Mexican-Americans at the same time. Our racial history is so often reduced to black-white, but it’s really whites versus all people of color.

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