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Scaife

[ 59 ] July 4, 2014 |

Hope you all aren’t too torn up by the demise of Richard Mellon Scaife. Hard to lose such a good and kindly citizen.

Also:

Harris Aftermath

[ 19 ] July 4, 2014 |

Mostly, this is a good rundown of reactions to the Harris decision. In particular the piece by Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein and the Joshua Freeman essay get at one key issue–that the work of women and especially poor women is consistently undervalued in our society.

From Boris and Klein:

So why do the Court’s conservatives advance an argument that is out of step with historical, economic and social reality? Part of the reason certainly lies with the nature of the work: domestic tasks done by women in the location of the home, unrecognized as a place of waged labor. Additionally, the labor has been devalued and dismissed because of the stigmatization attached to the work of poor women of color, the legacy of slavery and discrimination. In this context, Harris v. Quinn becomes a direct assault on the livelihood of some of the nation’s lowest paid workers. It is part of the right’s war on women, its demonization of public employees and battle against the union idea.

And from Freeman:

Instead, Harris is an extension of a different tradition in American labor law, the denial of rights to workers in industries dominated by female and non-white workers. Far from universal, the major New Deal labor laws—the National Labor Relations Act, the Social Security Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act—explicitly excluded particular occupations, including farm work and domestic labor, which had large numbers of female, African-American and Mexican-American workers. While some racially and sexually biased exclusions were later eliminated, Harris effectively extends this history of discrimination.

I do have to take exception to Jane McAlevey’s article because unlike the historians quoted above, it pushes ideology over analysis as to the real problem at hand in the decision. For McAlevey the problem is not enough internal democracy in modern unions. While I don’t dispute this is a weakness of the American labor movement (although aren’t European unions even more bureaucratic and top-down than American unions? European unions are certainly far larger and more integrated into corporate decision-making than in the US), I fail to see what it has to do with the Harris decision or how pushing more internal democracy unions will to do to influence the Supreme Court. Unfortunately this sort of ideologically charged critique is far more common in left-labor circles than it should be, not because those making it are wrong exactly but because it gets in the way of understanding the real reasons labor is in trouble that are far more persuasive than blaming it on Big Labor. But it’s at lot easier to whip your enemies in the labor movement than deal with the major structural problems causing labor’s decline like capital mobility, the organized conservative movement, and the growth of the business lobby after the Powell Memo.

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor

[ 104 ] July 4, 2014 |

The whites of Murrieta, California sure know how to celebrate July 4. They kick it old school, through expressions of white supremacy.

MURRIETA, Calif. — Suddenly, this city in the desert has become the place that turned away the immigrants.

When the three busloads of immigrant mothers and children rolled into town for processing at a Border Patrol station this week, they were met by protesters carrying American flags and signs proclaiming “return to sender” as they screamed “go home” and chanted “U.S.A.” Fearing for the safety of the migrants and federal officers, immigration officials decided to reroute the buses to San Diego, an hour south.

And a day after many here celebrated what they saw as a temporary victory, more than a thousand residents packed a high school auditorium on Wednesday night for a town-hall-style meeting that lasted more than four hours, voicing fears about an influx of migrants.

“What happens when they come here with diseases and can overrun our schools? How much is this costing us?” one resident, Jodie Howard, asked the mayor.

“How do you know they are really families and aren’t some kind of gang or drug cartel?” another person asked federal officials.

What about when they violate our white women creating mongrelized children and undermining the white race? Who will protect our young women from committing race suicide with these savages? And what about their foreign ideologies they bring up with them from the jungles? Only a campaign of 100% Americanism will save us from this foreign threat.

Patriotic Tetanus

[ 20 ] July 4, 2014 |

This July 4, remember the true cost of freedom:

These wild, towering conflagrations garnered support at the beginning of the twentieth century from an unlikely quarter: the national movement for a Safe and Sane Fourth of July. In 1903, the year that the Journal of the American Medical Association first compiled statistics, celebrations of the Glorious Fourth left more than 400 dead and nearly 4,000 injured. Blank cartridges, fired off by children with toy guns, were the leading cause of injury. “Patriotic tetanus” often ensued; the bacillus claimed most of its annual victims in that first week of July. Parents, one reformer wrote, “each hoped that the Angel of Death might pass by our own child and that it might be only a strange little toddler whose eyesight would be destroyed or whose pretty baby fingers would be torn and mutilated.”

In comparison, the deadliest single battle of the American Revolution was the Battle of Oriskany, during the Saratoga campaign, where about 400-450 died.

And before meaningless rhetoric about how this nation is the greatest in history, perhaps reading Frederick Douglass’ 1852 July 4 address is in order. In part:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

…..Also, if you feel like making your own fireworks, here’s some instructions from the 1920s on how to do it.

Hardware Wars

[ 155 ] July 3, 2014 |

I mostly hate the whole Star Wars series and am generally disinterested in science fiction. But as a man of a certain generation, I have of course seen all the original Star Wars movies, for better and worse. So Hardware Wars, which I don’t doubt many of you have seen, was of moderate interest. I can’t exactly say this is good or even near the level of Spaceballs, which is a bad movie. But it might be the first Star Wars parody, which is something. Right?

Organizing Reality TV Writers

[ 46 ] July 2, 2014 |

Life for a reality TV writer is pretty tough since they have been classified as independent contractors or overtime-exempt and thus can be exploited heavily. The Writers’ Guild is trying to step into the void and organize them.

Tricky bosses, faked timecards, excruciating hours, dangerous scrapes… It sounds like fodder for a reality TV show, perhaps “America’s Next Worst Job.”

But workers say these are the conditions in reality TV itself, known more formally as the nonfiction television industry.

“We are told to be loyal, that this is normal,” said Lauren Veloski of the long unpaid hours she worked for several production companies. “You should anticipate that your workday will be 12 hours long,” one employer informed her.

Veloski said she and her co-workers were required to fake timecards saying they worked from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. In fact, she said, she often worked past midnight, even until dawn.

The companies didn’t pay a penny of overtime. Indeed, the extra work was entirely unpaid in most cases.

Employees also said the companies, in turn, have no loyalty to their workers, sometimes putting them in dangerous situations.

“They don’t care about safety at all. People climb mountains, do things that are unsafe. If they get hurt they [the employers] don’t answer their phone calls or hire them again,” said 30-year industry veteran Helen Smith, who asked me not to use her real name for fear of retaliation.

The Right to Discriminate

[ 59 ] July 2, 2014 |

Who could have guessed that the Hobby Lobby case would lead to religious groups citing their right to discriminate against groups they think Jesus doesn’t like? Oh yeah, pretty much everyone.

This week, in the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ruled that a religious employer could not be required to provide employees with certain types of contraception. That decision is beginning to reverberate: A group of faith leaders is urging the Obama administration to include a religious exemption in a forthcoming LGBT anti-discrimination action.

Their call, in a letter sent to the White House Tuesday, attempts to capitalize on the Supreme Court case by arguing that it shows the administration must show more deference to the prerogatives of religion.

“We are asking that an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need,” the letter states.

This completely fits the worldview of Alito and Thomas, where people can discriminate against whoever they want so long as the discriminators follow the policy points of the Republican Party and those discriminated against vote for Democrats.

Beyonce Voters

[ 151 ] July 2, 2014 |

I’m not sure if this is code for “black” or code for “sluts.” Probably both.

Single women are “Beyonce voters” who depend on the government in lieu of husbands to provide their birth control, according to one Fox News panelist.

Jesse Watters made the comment Tuesday on “Outnumbered” during a discussion of the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Obamacare contraception mandate. After a clip played of Hillary Clinton calling the Supreme Court’s decision “deeply disturbing,” Watters suggested that Clinton would treat access to contraception as a constitutional right in order to curry favor ahead of a potential 2016 bid.

“She needs the single ladies vote,” he observed. “I call them the ‘Beyonce voters,’ the single ladies. Obama won single ladies by 76 percent last time and they made up about a quarter of the electorate.”

“They depend on government because they’re not depending on their husbands,” he added. “They need things like contraception, health care and they love to talk about equal pay.”

Either way, these are the women the Supreme Court targeted in both of Monday’s grotesque decisions.

Sweet Land of Liberty

[ 171 ] July 1, 2014 |

Americans at their finest here:

Three buses carrying 140 undocumented immigrants are heading back to San Diego County after being met by angry protesters at the Murrieta Border Patrol facility Tuesday afternoon.

The group was flown from Texas to San Diego Tuesday morning and quickly boarded buses bound for the facility. They arrived in Murrieta shortly after 2 p.m.

News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 were in Murrieta for their arrival.

A group of protesters waving American Flags actually blocked the buses from entering the Border Patrol facility. Residents were lining the street early Tuesday morning with signs, one of which read, ‘Return to Sender’.

After the protesters intervened, the buses turned around and drove away from the facility. Our crew at the scene confirmed the buses are on their way back to San Diego County.

True American values are summed up by white yahoos spending the time to protest the transport of undocumented immigrants into their communities.

Court Commentary Roundup

[ 23 ] July 1, 2014 |

Few pieces that you should be reading about yesterday’s terrible Supreme Court decisions.

First, Sarah Jaffe on how the two cases are interlocking:

We’ve long known that low-wage workers have very few rights on the job, that their bosses are able to interfere in all sorts of personal decisions. In this case, it’s the particular nature of the benefit denied that is worth exploring for a moment. Eileen Boris, author with Jennifer Klein of Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State, has noted that particular ideas of “intimacy and dirt” influence how we think about home healthcare workers and the work they do, which often involves exposure to bodily processes that are extraordinarily intimate. In the case of contraception, too, we see ideas of intimacy and dirt coming into play—sexuality is dirty, and intimate decisions can in part be influenced by one’s boss. By ruling, in theory, that the state cannot make an employer provide health insurance that covers birth control, or require that homecare workers pay the costs of their representation to the union, the court is in fact weighing in on the intimate relationships of thousands of workers.

Justice Elena Kagan, in her dissent to Harris, pointed out that the care provided by homecare workers is better when the workers are valued and paid better—things that have happened since they have had the right to union representation. In this way, she argues, the interests of the workers and the care recipients are not in opposition, as Alito’s opinion implies—they are actually aligned. The statement of Hobby Lobby’s CEO on raising wages indicates that Hobby Lobby, too, understands that workers do a better job when they are properly cared for. That includes, or should include, the right to make their own healthcare decisions, when it comes to contraception or anything else.

The conservatives pushing both of these cases would have you believe that these are cases about freedom—the freedom to avoid a union, the freedom to practice religion. And yet what they wind up being about is reducing power on the job for thousands of mostly women, mostly low-paid workers across the country.

Attacks on all workers’ rights often come first through attacks on those deemed less important workers. When we decide that birth control isn’t a pivotal issue because it only affects some workers, or that homecare workers’ loss is not a loss for us all, we leave the door open for the next attack.

And so, in a country where these feminized personal service jobs are increasingly the only jobs available, the court continues to rule that workers’ rights are less important than the bosses’, that protections on the job are a luxury working-class women can’t afford.

Second, Moshe Marvit on the implications of Harris.

In Harris, the majority implied that it was not the objecting employees that were the true free-riders, but rather the union. The decision focused on the fact that hourly rates were set by Illinois law and there were significant statutory restrictions over what the union could bargain over. It highlighted the fact that the union received dues for its representation, but questioned what negotiations or grievance representation the union could deliver to employees.

In effect, this analysis places unions in a bind: any reasonable observer would conclude that the union negotiated with the state to set the terms of compensation, benefits, and other terms of employment, which are then codified into law. However, because the Supreme Court has demarcated this activity to the realm of lobbying, which is beyond the strict scope of representation, it concluded that the union is in effect collecting dues for doing little. The majority has drawn an untenable distinction and then complains that the distinction is not tenable.

Toward the end of its peculiar analysis, the majority articulates a new and dangerous standard or test, which surely will open the doors to future problems. “The agency-fee [or fair share] provision cannot be sustained unless the cited benefits for personal assistants could not have been achieved if the union had been required to depend for funding on the dues paid by those personal assistants who chose to join.” In effect, the Court is requiring unions to prove a counterfactual, that the workers could not have achieved the same benefits it received from the union through any other means. The Court concludes that “no such showing has been made.” However, it is not clear how anyone could make such a showing. Justice Elena Kagan, writing for herself and three other dissenting justices, proclaimed that the good news with this case is that the majority did not overturn Abood. However, if the majority’s new test is a prerequisite for fair-share agreements, it may have done irreparable damage to the balance created by Abood.

Finally, I have a little piece at LaborOnline that summarizes the points I made here yesterday.

U.S-Belgium Open Thread

[ 100 ] July 1, 2014 |

Remember the Congo.

Thames Mud Butter

[ 15 ] July 1, 2014 |

Rebecca Onion’s latest Slate Vault piece is typically good, about pollution in the 19th century Thames River. She suggests reading this link at your own risk if you really like pollution stories. I recommend it highly. But probably not while eating.

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