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Oh Special Happy Day

[ 48 ] October 19, 2014 |

Happy Alexander Hamilton Publicly Accuses Thomas Jefferson of Sex with Slaves Anniversary.

Reject This Script. Too on the Nose

[ 49 ] October 19, 2014 |

Bill O’Reilly is actually from the original Levittown? What is this, a bad episode of West Wing?

This Day in Labor History: October 19, 1935

[ 8 ] October 19, 2014 |

On October 19, 1935, the American Federation of Labor was holding its convention in Atlantic City. While usually a staid affair, this convention was rocked by a fight on stage between United Mine Workers of American president John L. Lewis and United Brotherhood of Carpenters president Big Bill Hutcheson. This incident and the lead-up to it helped cement the withdrawal of the UMWA from the AFL and the creation of the CIO as an industrial alternative to the AFL’s craft unionism.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters was the largest member of the AFL. It was also among the most politically conservative unions. While, like much of the AFL, technically nonpartisan in these years, Hutcheson was an active Republican and would remain so throughout his life, openly campaigning for Republican candidates against Franklin Roosevelt. His son, who took the union over upon his death in 1952, shared his political conservatism. In fact, the UBC would not endorse a Democrat for president until Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Hutcheson would become a member of America First before World War II, castigate FDR for not supporting the House Un-American Activities Committee, and oppose Harry Truman’s proposal for a national health program. He also opposed unemployment insurance. For all the criticism the old AFL gets today for its politically conservative positions, it is worth noting that even a more aggressive AFL leader would have faced enormous resistance from his constituent unions. It is a federation after all, not a single organization.

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Big Bill Hutcheson

The Carpenters were distinctly uncomfortable with not only the idea of industrial unionism but the industrial workers. The AFL gave the UBC jurisdiction over the timber industry. Loggers in the Pacific Northwest went on strike in 1935. The Great Strike finally organized the loggers who had agitated for unionism since their days as IWW members twenty years earlier. The Carpenters gained 100,000 new members. But the UBC feared the influence of a bunch of ex-Wobblies and current commies (of which there were no small number, especially in Washington although decidedly less so in Oregon). So they did not give the loggers full union rights, including the right to vote for union officials. Hutcheson already ran one of the least democratic unions in the United States and was not about to let a bunch of commie treecutters in an industry marginal to the union’s central mission undo the work he had done building his empire. The loggers seethed under Carpenters’ representation, such as it was.

John L. Lewis saw the labor movement very differently than Hutcheson. Not that Lewis was more democratic or some sort of raging leftist. Far from it. Lewis and Hutcheson had even been allies in the past, playing poker together regularly when they both lived in Indianapolis. But Lewis knew that his laborers, one of the only industrial unions in the United States, required the organizing of the nation’s other industrial laborers to create a stable union. Lewis would later personally engineer the organizing of the steel plants for this reason. Lewis and other labor leaders were also concerned that AFL president William Green’s tepid response to the Great Depression was undermining the labor movement. During the early 1930s, the AFL was losing up to 7000 members a week. Lewis demanded that Franklin Roosevelt aggressively move to pass legislation that helped workers while encouraging the AFL to give up its long-standing animus to the industrial workers that made up a huge chunk of the American labor force and engage in an organizing campaign of workers who wanted to join unions. Green and Hutcheson demurred.

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John L. Lewis campaigning for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1936.

The growing tensions between the craft unions and those who sought to organize the millions of under- and unemployed Americans demanding economic change grew through 1934, as revolts around the nation made many Americans fearful for capitalism’s future. But the AFL still largely refused to act. By the time the AFL met in Atlantic City in the fall of 1935, Hutcheson was determined to squash any industrial unionism talk. At the convention, Hutcheson was running the floor. When a rubber worker began speaking about a point of order, Hutcheson interrupted him. Lewis quickly responded. When Hutcheson called Lewis a “bastard” in response, Lewis jumped on the stage and punched him in the face. He then re-lit his cigar and calmly returned to his seat.

Some have questioned whether Lewis had planned to punch Hutcheson. I kind of doubt it but he certainly took advantage of the situation to very publicly announce to the AFL old guard that he was serious about organizing the nation’s industrial workers. Three weeks after this dramatic event, Lewis, David Dubinsky of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and Sidney Hillman of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers (AGW) formed the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) within the AFL. This set the stage for the withdrawal of the industrial unionists from the federation in 1937, when the CIO became the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

In the timber industry this split gave the radicals the room to bolt the Carpenters and found the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) in 1937. If there’s one thing Hutcheson loved, it was a jurisdictional battle and he went full-bore against the radical loggers, using his Teamsters allies to not load IWA processed wood, among other intimidation tactics. The IWA itself was torn apart by communism, requiring the personal intervention of Lewis before the union fell apart. By 1940, the battle faded and about 2/3 of the loggers were in the IWA and 1/3 in the UBC. The bickering between these two unions would never fully end and even when the IWA could no longer sustain itself in 1987, it merged with the International Association of Machinists rather than create one union in wood.

This is the 121st post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

LGM-Based Tourism

[ 58 ] October 15, 2014 |

Last night, I said I had epic tourism plans today. And indeed I did. I visited the greatest place in all of Orange County: What is believed to be SEK’s office at the UC-Irvine campus where he caught students having sex.

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To say that my friend was befuddled when I dragged him around the UC-Irvine campus for this is an understatement. But really, this could be Irvine’s most famous location. You should go too. This should be a thing we start doing.

McDonald’s

[ 128 ] October 15, 2014 |

Isn’t the real reason for McDonald’s slumping sales and potential slow decline that it makes a horrible burger and that a generation perhaps somewhat more sophisticated on food than the previous realized this? Whether a nouveau fast food joint like Five Guys or Shake Shack or In-n-Out–or just good old Wendy’s–there isn’t much reason to eat McDonald’s today outside of being stuck feeding at the chain’s monopoly on the Mass Pike.

A General Strike in Philadelphia?

[ 10 ] October 15, 2014 |

One story I was unable to talk about after my computer theft earlier this month was the Philadelphia School Reform Commission cancelling the contract with the city’s teachers unilaterally. It was a classic move by the anti-union appointees of Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett and part of the reason he is on the way out.

What’s interesting is that the city’s labor leaders evidently talked about a rather extreme action in response:

Outraged by the School Reform Commission’s decision to cancel its collective bargaining agreement with Philadelphia public school teachers, city labor leaders contemplated calling for a general strike.

In two meetings, last Thursday and Sunday, labor leaders debated the wisdom of asking members of all area unions – laborers, electricians, communications workers, janitors, nurses, bus drivers, city employees – to walk off their jobs to protest the SRC’s decision.

“If there is going to be a fight, we have to fight about the future, and the kids are the future,” said Henry Nicholas, president of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, headquartered in Philadelphia.

They chose not to do so, for complex and I think understandable reasons:

Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, told the group that he wanted to exhaust legal remedies first.

And the leaders decided to await the outcome of the Nov. 4 gubernatorial election. Democratic candidate Tom Wolf has said he supports returning Philadelphia’s schools to local control. The SRC is a state board.

“After a thorough vetting, we decided to go out and get Tom Wolf elected” governor, Dougherty said.

Despite the desire of a lot of lefties to see labor take radical actions and forget the political game, I think this decision makes a lot of sense.

First, labor leaders don’t really have the power to dictate worker action for something like this. In other words, were the rank and file of these other unions willing to go on strike for teachers? If so, how long? What would a 1-day general strike have accomplished? Probably nothing. We can even ask whether labor leaders can really lead this kind of action or whether it has to come from the rank and file itself? While I tend to downplay the romanticized idea of rank and file action that so many on the left love to talk about, this is one circumstance where I think everyday workers have to lead unless the union structure itself is a real democratic voice for the workers, which it usually isn’t. So I’m not sure what the labor leaders themselves really could have done here unless their workers were also motivated, which they almost certainly weren’t.

Second, while I doubt Tom Wolf is a panacea, he’s almost certainly better than Corbett on every issue and may actually reverse this action. So here the political arena makes sense. This is publc-sector labor after all, making the electoral game vital. On the other hand, mayor Michael Nutter supports the action and will Wolf really reverse it?

I’m not a labor lawyer so I can speak less fluently about the legal remedies might fix the problem. I can say that relying on the courts to enforce labor law is a problematic situation in 2014. But still, I think it is worth asking what a general strike would have accomplished here. The answer is almost certainly not much–but who knows. Just doing so might have sparked a broader-based protest, i.e., an Occupy-type movement, that would have made it worth doing. I absolutely makes sense for labor leaders to not call for such a thing. But it’s hard to not wonder what would have happened had they gone with their first instinct.

What Stand Your Ground Really Means

[ 39 ] October 15, 2014 |

Stand Your Ground laws are horrible by themselves. But the idea that these laws are meant to allow citizens to defend themselves is laughable. The laws’ real meaning is to allow white men to reassert their authority over non-white men in whatever way they choose. South Carolina has effectively affirmed this:

South Carolina is one of more than 20 states that has passed an expansive Stand Your Ground law authorizing individuals to use deadly force in self-defense. The law has been used to protect a man who killed an innocent bystander while pointing his gun at several teens he called “women thugs.” But prosecutors in Charleston are drawing the line at domestic violence.

In the cases of women who claim they feared for their lives when confronted with violent intimate abusers, prosecutors say the Stand Your Ground law shouldn’t apply.

“(The Legislature’s) intent … was to provide law-abiding citizens greater protections from external threats in the form of intruders and attackers,” prosecutor Culver Kidd told the Post and Courier. “We believe that applying the statute so that its reach into our homes and personal relationships is inconsistent with (its) wording and intent.”

In other words, a woman using armed force to defend herself against a home invading man she had a relationship with doesn’t apply because, again, these laws are about white dudes. And South Carolina refuses to take domestic violence seriously even thought it is an epidemic:

The Post and Courier, which originally reported prosecutors’ position, has been doing a series on domestic violence over the past few months, in which it found that women are dying at a rate of one every 12 days from domestic abuse in South Carolina, a state “awash in guns, saddled with ineffective laws and lacking enough shelters for the battered … a state where the deck is stacked against women trapped in the cycle of abuse.” More than 70 percent of those who kill their spouse had “multiple prior arrests on those charges” and the majority spent just days in jail.

It is in that context that the Post and Courier gave front page treatment to another strike against domestic victims in Stand Your Ground laws, even as those who engage in what many consider vigilante killings are protected by the law. The man granted immunity for killing an innocent bystander, Shannon Anthony Scott, reportedly had a sign posted in his window that read, “Fight Crime – Shoot First.”

Orange County

[ 46 ] October 15, 2014 |

Upon arriving at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, this is what greets you. It is the most Orange County thing ever.

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Yet this cannot even compare to what I will post tomorrow, the most epic photo ever posted on LGM and Orange County’s truest tourist attraction. None of you will guess what it is but you will all agree once I post it.

Today in Hacktackular Business Reporting

[ 8 ] October 14, 2014 |

I suppose it’s too much to ask major newspapers to write stories about corporations that are more than fawning portrayals of brilliant CEOs. But this Washington Post piece on departing Gap CEO Glenn Murphy is gross. Jena McGregor, who writes a column on “leadership,” a category that inevitably reinforces the power of the elite, lauds Murphy for raising wages to a grandiose $10 by next year. Yes, yes, Gap floor workers will now be flying to Ibiza for vacation. And the article says how he great Murphy is for women at the workplace.

What this piece sort of leaves out, except for a throwaway at the end, is that no CEO has done more to make sure workers in Bangladesh labor in dangerous factories while American retailers hold no responsibility than Glenn Murphy. Murphy refuses to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which would legally bind his company to improving conditions in factories where Gap clothing is made. European companies have led on this but most American companies have refused, led by Gap. People have tried to shame Murphy but he has no shame. I guess that’s part of the reason the WaPo thinks he so brilliant.

Noncompete Clauses for Fast Food Workers?

[ 120 ] October 14, 2014 |

Even by the standards of the fast food industry, this is a gratuitous way to treat workers:

If you’re considering working at a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop, you may want to read the fine print on your job application.

A Jimmy John’s employment agreement provided to The Huffington Post includes a “non-competition” clause that’s surprising in its breadth. Noncompete agreements are typically reserved for managers or employees who could clearly exploit a business’s inside information by jumping to a competitor. But at Jimmy John’s, the agreement apparently applies to low-wage sandwich makers and delivery drivers, too.

By signing the covenant, the worker agrees not to work at one of the sandwich chain’s competitors for a period of two years following employment at Jimmy John’s. But the company’s definition of a “competitor” goes far beyond the Subways and Potbellys of the world. It encompasses any business that’s near a Jimmy John’s location and that derives a mere 10 percent of its revenue from sandwiches.

Since there are obviously no trade secrets at stake here, this is clearly just punching employees. Let’s take the one thing we have trained this low-skill, low-wage workers at and make sure she can’t use it if she leaves it at one of our equally low-skill, low-wage competitors!

The Worst Thing Ever

[ 23 ] October 14, 2014 |

Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis was all geared up to run for mayor against the odious Rahm Emanuel. She had a huge lead in the polls and it could have been an amazing victory. Unfortunately, pretty much the worst thing possible has happened:

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who just pulled out of mayoral contention, is suffering from a cancerous brain tumor that was diagnosed shortly after she experienced a severe headache on Oct. 5.

As a result, Lewis underwent a five-hour surgery at Northwestern Hospital, where she is scheduled to undergo a regimen of chemotherapy and radiation. The tumor had nothing to do with her weight loss surgery in Mexico.

Lewis has wanted Mayor Rahm Emanuel gone practically since he took office, but she will not be the one to unseat him in February, the head of her mayoral exploratory committee said Monday.

The feisty 61-year-old CTU leader will not run for mayor, Jay Travis, he head of her mayoral exploratory committee said in a statement Monday.

I just have no words.

Thom Tillis: The Welfare State = Slave Reparations

[ 47 ] October 13, 2014 |

In 2007, North Carolina state House speaker Thom Tillis voted for a state resolution apologizing for slavery. Of course, in conservative land this is controversial. So he explained his vote by saying he needed to undermine the reparations movement, which had already basically succeeded anyway because the welfare state is pretty much the same thing:

“This measure does not obligate legislative members to provide reparations. A subset of the democrat [sic] majority has never ceased to propose legislation that is de facto reparations and they will continue to do so as long as they are in the majority,” Tillis said. “Federal and State [sic] governments have redistributed trillions of dollars of wealth over the years by funding programs that are at least in part driven by their belief that we should provide additional reparations.”

“I believe there are several conservative democrats who are prepared join Republican in OPPOSITION to measures that propose new entitlements and reparations,” Tillis added. “However, a vote against the resolution would most likely eliminate any chance that we would get support from more conservative members of the democrat party members to oppose such measures.”

Tillis is now in a tight campaign to defeat Kay Hagan as senator from North Carolina. He is obviously the kind of voice the Senate needs to moderate American politics.

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