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Different Nations Have Different Standards for Allowing Workers to Yawn–And That’s OK!

[ 79 ] May 19, 2016 |

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Above: More beneficiaries of free trade

As I posted about in January, Nike is no longer allowing the Workers Rights Consortium to monitor its Vietnam factory, ending its tradition of allowing for independent monitoring. The WRC has released a report evaluating the plant and it is not favorable to the company.

In the e-mail list sending out the report to supporters, this is the summary:

In spite of Nike’s refusal to assist the WRC, the organization has obtained initial findings through interviews with Hansae employees. These findings, described in further detail in the new report, are, frankly, quite damning. The labor rights violations—all violations of university codes of conduct—identified at the factory include:

Reckless management practices that endanger workers’ health, including extremely high production quotas, forced overtime, and insufficient rest breaks

Excessive heat on factory floors, which has led to many workers fainting from exhaustion at their work stations

Verbal harassment of workers, including yelling, swearing, and profane insults

Degrading restrictions on workers’ use of the factory’s toilets

Denial of legally-guaranteed sick leave

Firing of pregnant workers

Draconian and abusive restrictions such as forbidding workers from yawning

These findings are a stark contrast to Nike’s claim that the October strike was over a “miscommunication.” The gap between the reassuring portrait Nike has painted of this factory and the harsh reality revealed through worker interviews underscores the importance of independent monitors such as the WRC. Nike must be pressed to allow the WRC to conduct an onsite inspection of the factory so that its investigation can be complete and that our universities can obtain full knowledge of the working conditions at this collegiate supplier.

Forbidding workers from yawning. Let that sink in for a moment.

Clearly, we should defend globalization as a fundamentally just system making workers’ lives better! Why bother doing anything about the actual oppression of workers, like firing pregnant workers, banning workers from yawning, or having their factories collapse upon them? Different nations have different standards for yawning, and of course for factory safety, and that’s OK!

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The Verizon Strike Continues

[ 23 ] May 19, 2016 |

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The Verizon strike continues without an end in sight.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam is baffled. Recently, he walked up to a picket line and told striking workers, “This makes no sense to anybody. To be honest, I’m not sure why you’re out here.”

Well, it makes sense to me. Let me explain why I’ve joined nearly 40,000 workers on strike from Massachusetts to Virginia.

For the past 16.5 years, I’ve worked as a Customer Service Representative at Verizon’s Customer Sales and Service office in Bloomsburg, PA. I take calls from customers and handle everything from setting up payment to transferring telephone service. I love my job. My mom is a Verizon retiree, and our family is proud to be part of the team that has made this company so successful.

Yet Verizon is treating us like nothing more than numbers on a spreadsheet. The company is planning to close our office and relocate us to Scranton without any consideration of the working families who have put down roots in Bloomsburg. That’s about 65 miles away, or a three to four hour commute every day.

That’s not only a lot of time in the car, but a lot of time away from my family. I have two stepsons, ages 11 and 15. I help them with homework every night, and you can find me cheering at every one of their swim meets and after-school events. Commuting to Scranton means I would be gone before the kids got up and maybe home for an hour before they go to bed — if I’m lucky. I already work a lot of overtime, as much as seven hours each week, because we’re so understaffed. Sometimes, Verizon asks us to work weekends.

I can’t simply pack up my entire life and move to Scranton. My husband and I have joint custody of our boys, which means we can’t just move them out of their school district. Given the choice between giving up custody and commuting, I’ll always choose commuting. We’re looking after my husband’s mother, who recently had open-heart surgery and can’t drive. My mother, who lives just a few miles from me, also needs our help getting to doctor appointments and the grocery store. This is what family does. We’re each other’s strength. We lean on and support one another.

Obviously none of those things matter to Verizon executives. Part of the issue is also outsourcing American jobs overseas, which Verizon is doing as fast as it can.

The two unions involved, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, say they cannot accept Verizon proposals that would allow additional outsourcing of call center workers to the Philippines and Mexico, greater use of nonunion contractors, and the assignment of employees to other cities for up to two months at a time.

When one of the strike leaders went to the Philippines to visit one of the call centers, he found out real fast how intimidation and violence are used with overseas workers, a story the above link starts with. Of course, Verizon won’t take responsibility because they naturally enough use contractors instead of directly employ the Filipino workers. The strike is having some economic impact and Verizon stock prices are falling because of declining orders for its Fios product, directly related to the strike. This is a good thing. The Obama administration is now getting involved. Normally, federal interference worries me and it still does here, but I certainly have more faith in Tom Perez than any Secretary of Labor in my lifetime.

In any case, give the strikers a Solidarity Honk as you drive by, if nothing else.

As a Democrat, I Cannot Contain My Fear at This News

[ 107 ] May 19, 2016 |

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All Democrats are now quaking in their boots.

Billionaire businessman and philanthropist David Koch has pledged “tens of millions of dollars” to help bankroll the campaign of Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, according to a source within Johnson’s campaign.

Koch’s money will be made available should Johnson, a former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, secure his second consecutive Libertarian Party presidential nomination, the source said.

The Libertarians will select their presidential ticket during the party’s national convention later this month in Orlando.

When asked about Koch’s eight-figure pledge to support Johnson, a source close to David Koch did not deny that such an agreement is in place.

It would be very, very, very sad if this was true. As a Democrat, I truly fear 5-10% of Trump’s vote being siphoned off in critical states.

Thursday Links: Now with Frogs!

[ 123 ] May 19, 2016 |

  • Matt Taibbi’s obituary for the Republican party–while I’m sure premature–is still must-read. “If this isn’t the end for the Republican Party, it’ll be a shame. They dominated American political life for 50 years and were never anything but monsters. They bred in their voters the incredible attitude that Republicans were the only people within our borders who raised children, loved their country, died in battle or paid taxes. They even sullied the word “American” by insisting they were the only real ones. They preferred Lubbock to Paris, and their idea of an intellectual was Newt Gingrich. Their leaders, from Ralph Reed to Bill Frist to Tom DeLay to Rick Santorum to Romney and Ryan, were an interminable assembly line of shrieking, witch-hunting celibates, all with the same haircut – the kind of people who thought Iran-Contra was nothing, but would grind the affairs of state to a halt over a blow job or Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube.”

     

  • Lindy West on trolls and body positivity.
  • This photographer takes amazing photos of “lost frogs.”
  • I’ve been meaning to write a post about the term “friendzone” and how much I hate it because it’s dumb and fictional. But some meanie on twitter beat me to it. Please check out this thread.
  • Here’s my latest piece, “Metamorphosis.”

A Strawman Appropriately Repurposed

[ 192 ] May 19, 2016 |

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Ross Douthat finds the “smug style of American liberalism” guff news he can use:

THE rise of Donald Trump, and with him a white-identity politics more explicit than anything America has seen in decades, has created an interesting division on the political left — over the question of what, if anything, liberal politics ought to offer to people who seem bigoted.

On the one hand there are liberals determined to regard Trumpism as almost exclusively motivated by racial and cultural resentments, with few legitimate economic grievances complicating the morality play. From this perspective, the fact that Trump’s G.O.P. has finally consolidated, say, a once-Democratic area like Appalachia is almost a welcome relief: At last all the white racists are safely in the other party, and we don’t have to cater to them anymore.

On the other hand, there are left-wingers who regard Trump’s support among erstwhile Democrats as a sign that liberalism has badly failed some of its natural constituents, and who fear that a Democratic coalition that easily crushes Trump without much white working-class support will simply write off their struggles as no more than the backward and bigoted deserve.

I like how the left-wing gadfly Fredrik deBoer framed this issue: “What do you owe to people who are guilty of being wrong?” It’s a question for liberals all across the Western world to ponder, given the widening gulf between their increasingly cosmopolitan parties and an increasingly right-leaning native working class.

He definitely gets where deBoer and Rensin are coming from. And between the three of them, they have collectively identified zero liberals who share the set of beliefs (“white working class Trump voters have no legitimate economic grievances and we should not try to help them materially”) attributed to them.

I won’t repeat my previous arguments about this in full, but to summarize: nobody (well, not literally, it’s a big internet and I’m sure someone in a comments section somewhere is saying something dumb, not nobody of any influence) is saying that because racism a major factor in Trump’s support that federal economic policy should not try to help Trump voters. The argument is against the pundit’s fallacy that if you materially help the kind of working class voters in states like West Virginia that now support Trump and Republicans for federal office they will immediately start voting for liberal Democrats for federal office. But, of course, the fact that (for example) greatly expanding Medicaid hasn’t helped Democrats even in the red states that have taken the expansion like Kentucky doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done, and I defy you to name me one liberal Democrat who thinks otherwise.

In addition, although people like Rensin and deBoer can’t see it because this is more about their hatred of liberals than any kind of serious political analysis, the fact that white supremacy constitutes a factor (not a monocausal factor, but a factor) in explaining white working class support for Trump is also a powerful argument against 90s-era DLC gestures to the right, which didn’t stop West Virginia and Kentucky and Tennessee from going deep red either. To the best of their ability, Democrats in federal office should strengthen the safety net and expand access to health care and expand labor protections and increase regulation of business where necessary because it’s the right thing to do. Doing so doesn’t guarantee electoral victories, but not doing it doesn’t guarantee electoral success either.

One other example in the liberals=neoliberals=conservatives trend that I hope will not persist in the same volume after the primaries are over:

As Bouie says, it’s an impressively layered strawman — pretend to believe that racism is about individual morality rather than structural inequality, so that you can falsely attribute to left-liberals a belief that if working class voters have racist beliefs the government shouldn’t do anything for them. As an alternative, one could argue with actually existing liberal arguments, but I guess that would be too much work.

11 White Reactionaries

[ 72 ] May 19, 2016 |

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If you like Sam Alito, you’ll love who Donald Trump would nominate to the Supreme Court. In conclusion, not a dime’s worth of difference!

Pat McCrory Seems Nice

[ 119 ] May 19, 2016 |

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North Carolina governor Pat McCrory’s embarrassing signature of the state’s transgender bathroom law is fitting for a man who has hated gay people his whole public life.

McCrory has rejected LGBT anti-discrimination measures every chance he’s had in his 25 years in public office. He voted down a Charlotte ordinance in 1991 as a city council member, opposed another one in 2004 as the city’s mayor, and now, as governor, he just made it illegal for localities to pass these kinds of protections.

“We have laws in our Constitution which forbid discrimination based on race, gender and religion,” McCrory said after opposing the 1991 measure. “Beyond that, no other group should be given special status, and this community is often wanting special status.”

He had a chance in 2014 to offer protections to LGBT government workers, when he signed an executive order barring discrimination against state employees. But he specifically left them out, keeping the order limited to discrimination based on “race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age disability and genetic information.”

He hasn’t just opposed anti-discrimination measures. As the mayor of Charlotte, a post he held from 1995 to 2009, McCrory defended a local YMCA for rejecting a gay man’s application for membership. The club turned away local resident Tom Landry in 2006 when he tried to join with his partner and son. Landry wrote to McCrory about it, and he wrote back, “Thank for letting me know about your situation in trying to secure a membership at the YMCA. The YMCA has every right to set their membership criteria, but as you found, Charlotte has many options for health club memberships, including the Jewish Community Center.”

McCrory was also no fan of the Charlotte Gay Pride Festival. As the city’s mayor in 2005, he said it wasn’t appropriate to have the parade in a public place. He suggested the LGBT celebration “belongs in a hotel.” That same year, he refused to write a welcome letter to leaders of the Human Rights Campaign when they hosted a large dinner in Charlotte. He said later that he had the right “not to show any visible support” for the LGBT rights group.

The governor has even gone after local theater productions. In 1996, as mayor, he pressured the Charlotte Repertory Theatre to tone down the nudity and gay themes in its production of “Angels in America,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the AIDS crisis. “The Pulitzer Prize does not give you license to break the law,” McCrory said at the time. The theater had to obtain a court injunction to continue with its show.

Wendy’s Boycott

[ 130 ] May 18, 2016 |

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On the issue of consumer boycotts, the general rule should be that if affected workers are calling for it, then it’s something we should support (the UFW grape boycott) and if it’s consumers calling for it without consulting the workers, we should probably find out what the workers think about it first (people saying we shouldn’t buy clothes from Bangladesh when the workers there say that doesn’t help them). So therefore I endorse the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ call for a boycott against Wendy’s, the only one of the 5 largest fast food chains not to sign on to the CIW’s Fair Food Program and a chain that has switched to incredibly exploitative tomato suppliers in Mexico after that program was implemented throughout Florida. The CIW has done this once before, a successful boycott that forced Taco Bell to join the program and set off the rush of all the other big fast food companies except Wendy’s also agreeing.

The CIW recently picked up a major endorsement of its Wendy’s boycott from the Presbyterian Church, which was also a critical supporter in the Taco Bell fight.

But the church’s support for the Fair Food movement extends well beyond the Wendy’s campaign. Indeed, the PC(USA) was among the first to endorse the Taco Bell boycott back in 2002, far before the Coalition had won agreements with now 14 corporations and before those agreements had made possible the implementation of the Fair Food Program. The church’s unwavering support was catalytic, generating endorsements from many other religious denominations for the boycott over the years and dramatically expanding the base of committed consumers. With its Louisville headquarters just across town from those of Taco Bell parent company Yum! Brands, the PC(USA) engaged executives, hosted massive rallies, animated and mobilized thousands of its members, and its representatives served as a guarantor of the CIW talks of that led to the first-ever Fair Food agreement in 2005.

By answering farmworkers’ invitation to work in partnership, the PC(USA) played a crucial role in the realization of the simple — but then seemingly improbable — vision cast by farmworkers: an agricultural industry free from abuse and exploitation. Fourteen years and fourteen agreements with corporations later, the farmworker-designed Fair Food Program is transforming the day-to-day working conditions of tens of thousands of farmworkers — not only here in Florida tomato fields, where the Program began, but now also in Florida strawberries and in six northern states.

“For so many years the PC(USA) has acted with fortitude and love in the Campaign– standing with us through thick and thin, speaking out consistently and courageously, and matching their words with deeds,” said CIW’s Gerardo Reyes Chavez. “Together, we know that it is not a matter of if Wendy’s will join the Fair Food Program, it is only a matter of when. And with the church’s support, we hasten the inevitability of that day.”

And unlike many other boycotts, Wendy’s actually is the only fast food chain I ever eat at, when I am on the road and need a fast meal. So this one actually is going to force me to find other options. Not McDonald’s though. Because really, who likes a burger that tastes like nothing?

Trump’s True Base

[ 136 ] May 18, 2016 |

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Interesting Jacobin essay on Trump’s real base of support:

What does it mean that Trump has done well among middle-income and higher-income voters but not the most-educated? This suggests that his real base of support is small-business owners, supervisory and middle-management employees, franchisees, landlords, real estate agents, propertied farmers, and so on: those who are not at the executive pinnacle of corporate America (who largely have MBAs and other similar degrees) and those who are not credentialed professionals (doctors, lawyers, and the like), but the much wider swath of those people whose livelihood is derived from independent business activity or middle-band positions in the corporate hierarchy.

This corresponds, of course, to the classic scenario in which the petty bourgeois — the middle class whose ownership of small parcels of property does not protect them from vulnerability in the business cycle and the need to exact self-exploitation — experience worry and insecurity following a financial crisis and economic slump, making them receptive to right-wing authoritarian solutions and scapegoating of ethnic-racial minorities.

The presumptive Republican nominee is running into flak from his party’s own leadership, particularly the powerful Chamber of Commerce faction represented by Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan which seeks to bring him to heel on trade and immigration. These tensions are likely to be papered over, perhaps by backroom assurances by Trump that it’s all for show, but they are reminiscent of the classic tensions between big and petty bourgeois — or, in American terminology, big and small business — in central European politics during the worldwide slump of the 1930s.

Although he resists releasing his tax returns, most likely because they might show his wealth to be less than claimed, Trump offers “art of the deal” business savvy as his answer to capitalism’s problems.

A malfunctioning bourgeois politics can be solved, this projects, by a billionaire megalomaniac who will suspend his class’s self-interest because he cannot be bought, a scenario particularly attractive to a small-business mentality that resents taxes, minimum wages, and “red tape” and seeks someone who knows “the real world.” Those who have run their own little domains are prone to seek answers in a strong leader.

The great shock of 2008 left a punctuation mark in popular psychology. A less-than-persuasive economic recovery and lower rates of unemployment have not altered a situation in which most of the population feels itself to be scraping by, still fears business failure or the scythe of unemployment, is uncertain about retirement, groans under student and consumer debt, and waxes pessimistic about their children’s prospects. The entire population apart from the super-rich top one percent has suffered flat or declining incomes across four decades.

Such conditions breed not only anxiety but resentment, explaining the appeal of Trump’s bellowing about Mexicans and Muslims. The significance of this development is not to be minimized. Not since the campaigns more than four decades ago of George Wallace, the Alabama segregationist, has such naked bigotry attracted such mass support in American presidential politics. Then it was a desperate, declining revanchism. Now its popularity is fresh and gaining.

Talking With Threatening Trolls

[ 236 ] May 18, 2016 |

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They are an unrepresentative minority, but Bernie Bros are real and they are less than spectacular.

As Rob reiterated earlier today, there’s nothing about this unique to Sanders; neither Clinton’s supporters nor surrogates behaved any better at thus stage of the 2008 campaign, and evidently Mark Penn et al. could see and raise any of Jeff Weaver’s aggressive intelligence-insulting and rube-running about his candidate’s chances of winning. But am I ever looking forward to this being over.

The Feckless Neoliberalism of the Democrat Party

[ 163 ] May 18, 2016 |

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Surely the Department of Labor in a Romney administration would have done the same thing:

Millions of Americans will get a raise beginning Dec. 1, and not because their employers will have a sudden outbreak of Christmas generosity. Rather, it will come courtesy of the Obama administration, which on Tuesday evening released the final version of a long-planned update to the nation’s overtime regulations.

Under the new Department of Labor rules, salaried employees earning less than $47,476 annually will automatically receive overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week, double the current $23,660 ceiling. Administration officials estimate that more than 4 million workers will be impacted by the change, which will increase their pay by an estimated $12 billion over the next decade. “It is based on a simple proposition. If you work overtime, you should actually get paid for working overtime,” Vice President Joe Biden said on a press call.

The change in overtime eligibility rules was first proposed by the Obama administration two years ago and immediately ran into opposition from pro-business groups like the Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, and the National Restaurant Association. Opponents claim the change will be a job- and income-killer, forcing many businesses to either cut their employees’ hours, make do with less workers, or even switch more work over to automated technology that minimizes or eliminates the need for human involvement.

This is a really important change. As Olen explains, under the status quo ante, companies could easily evade overtime laws by making ordinary workers “managers” and paying them low salaries rather than by the hour, allowing employers to demand more uncompensated hours. Requiring workers with such titles and salaries to be paid something like a middle class salary is the only effective way of combating this scam.

Hillary Clinton’s “Shift to the Left”

[ 109 ] May 18, 2016 |

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Political reporters have been characterizing Clinton coming out for a Medicare buy-in and against the Hyde Amendment is a shift to the left. This is not exactly true, as both reflect long-standing views. Which doesn’t mean her emphasis on them isn’t important:

Last week, Hillary Clinton unveiled a single-payer health insurance plan that would allow people to buy into Medicare starting at age 50 or 55. To some political reporters, this embrace of a public option represents an ideological shift. “Mrs. Clinton is moving to the left on health care,” asserted The New York Times, attributing it to her unexpectedly strong challenge from Bernie Sanders. Clinton was “floating a new idea,” declared The Wall Street Journal.

But this is not precisely correct. There’s nothing remotely new about Clinton’s support for a Medicare buy-in or a public option for health insurance. From the beginnings of her husband’s administration, health care has been a major priority for her, and she deserves major credit for the Affordable Care Act, which closely resembles the plan that was a centerpiece of her 2008 campaign. Sanders is having an effect on Clinton, but he is not causing her to change her stance, so much as he is compelling Clinton to emphasize her existing, more-liberal positions.

Indeed, Clinton’s support for a Medicare buy-in is nothing new, and dates back at least 15 years. In a 2000 debate in her New York Senate campaign against then-House Republican Rick Lazio, Clinton said that she would ideally “allow people between 55 and 65 to buy into Medicare.” This shouldn’t have been surprising, since her husband had floated the idea in his 1998 State of the Union address. It’s hardly a novel concept.

[…]

But a better example is her expressed support for repealing the Hyde Amendment ban on Medicaid coverage of abortion.

The Amendment is one of the most important legislative barriers to abortion access, and also exacerbates the unequal access to reproductive care faced by poor women. Even if a Clinton replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Anonin Sclaia ensures that Roe v. Wade survives, the Hyde Amendment substantially limits practical access to abortion. So it was very welcome for progressives to see Clinton come out against it (as has Bernie Sanders.)

Even so, this is not actually new for Clinton. In a 2008, her campaign told a reproductive rights website that she “does not support the Hyde amendment. She believes low-income women should have access to the full range of reproductive health care services.” Her opposition to the Hyde Amendment is a change in emphasis, not a change in ideology.

Does this mean that the Sanders campaign is having less of an effect that some people have claimed? I don’t think so. For national political leaders, emphasis and priorities matter. There’s a difference between opposing the Hyde Amendment while answering a question in an online interview, and pledging to repeal it during a presidential campaign speech. That’s not because Clinton’s saying something in public will cause people to change their views, but because party leaders help set the legislative agenda. Democrats have to try to figure out what they will do during the next period of unified Democratic government, even if it doesn’t come about in 2017. For the presumptive nominee to support policies like a Medicare buy-in and a repeal of the Hyde Amendment makes the next Democratic Congress more likely to put them on the front burner.
Like most politicians with ambitions for national office, Clinton has both more-liberal and more-conservative aspects of her record and policy views. Sanders, and the support he’s receiving, are encouraging her to emphasize the former—and to progressives, who want the party’s left flank to keep the pressure on, this is an immensely valuable thing.

In that sense, whether these ideas are “new” positions for Hillary Clinton may not matter very much in the end. Progressives saw more of their agenda realized under Obama than under Bill Clinton, but that had more to do with political circumstance than with the president’s personal ideological preferences. Opposition to the Hyde Amendment is a longstanding part of Hillary Clinton’s record; so is feinting to the center by saying that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” That she feels more inclined to emphasize the former rather than the latter matters, and it’s evidence of a party moving in a more progressive direction.

Another way of putting it, as I elaborate on in the piece, is that if you compare the body of legislation signed by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, it looks as if the latter is considerably more liberal. But most of the difference is that the Democratic coalition to the whole has moved to the left, not differences in their personal views. Had he assumed office in 2009 Clinton would have governed much more like Obama than like he did in the 90s. And there’s never been a penny’s worth of difference between Obama and Hillary Clinton on domestic policy. The relative success of the Sanders campaign both reflects and (if played correctly) should accelerate the leftward shift of the party.

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