There are times when I would really prefer to be wrong… and Wednesday was one of them.
Yesterday afternoon, the federal judge overseeing Detroit’s bankruptcy proceedings suspended all other legal actions by public workers who are trying to protect their constitutional rights. And it is very unlikely that workers’ rights will be considered during the bankruptcy proceedings.
What good are constitutional rights, if workers can’t get them enforced in court? It’s the same basic dilemma that we’ve been looking at, with all the controversy about members of the National Labor Relations Board. If the NLRB doesn’t have enough members for a quorum – and so they can’t enforce the National Labor Relations Act – then do workers really have the rights supposedly guaranteed to them?
Read my post “Who has rights when Detroit goes to court?” here.
The next step is a procedural hearing on August 2nd, when the judge will decide whether to go ahead and appoint a mediator in the case.
Ever read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War?
Back in the 1990s, the book was a must-read for MBA candidates learning a new, bloodthirsty style of management. When Newt Gingrich was taking over as Speaker of the House in 1994, he included it on his “reading list” for incoming Republicans. It’s also a favorite of Republican strategist and Fox News chief Roger Ailes.
One of its principal themes is: Know your opponent. So let’s look at Detroit from that perspective.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder:
- One of his first priorities was to force through an overhaul of the state’s tax code – giving corporations a $1.7 billion tax break, shifting the tax burden to low-income residents, and adding a new tax on pension benefits. The bill was so extreme that more than a quarter of Republican state senators broke ranks and opposed it, leaving a tie vote that was broken by Lt. Governor Brian Calley. (Remember when Vice President Dick Cheney cast the deciding vote on the 2003 Bush tax cuts?)
- Last December, he pushed a “Right to Work” law through the Legislature. To those of us who believe in democracy, the process was stunning: the bill was proposed and passed almost overnight with no committee hearings and no time for public comment; a legislative maneuver prevents voters from repealing the bill through referendum; and they had locked citizens out of the Capitol while the bill was being considered. (And then he blamed labor unions for the fact that the bill passed.)
- Last December, he pushed through a replacement “Emergency Manager” bill, barely a month after voters had rejected a similar law by referendum vote. This time, they used the same legislative maneuver they used on Right to Work bill, to make the law exempt from the referendum process.
Bankruptcy Counsel, the law firm of Jones Day:
- Jones Day was lead bankruptcy counsel for Hostess Brands. We all know how that turned out: the company’s assets sold off, union contracts tossed to the wind, pension monies lost, bonuses given to top executives, lots and lots of jobs lost.
- According to press reports, Jones Day attorney Jack Newman represents Peabody Energy in a bankruptcy hearing involving health benefits for retired mine workers, which NH Labor News readers know as the “Patriot Coal” case. Peabody Energy was the company that “spun off” Patriot Coal in 2007. A lawsuit filed in federal court in Charleston, WV charges that Peabody violated the federal Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by scheming to eliminate contractually-guaranteed lifetime health care benefits for retirees. (Learn more at the Fairness at Patriot website.)
- Remember the Chicago teachers’ strike? Guess who takes credit for ending it? From the law firm’s website: “The Chicago teachers’ strike settled the day after Jones Day filed a motion for a temporary restraining order on behalf of the Chicago Board of Education against the teachers union.”
- Verizon? Guess who’s their lawyer. Back in 2006, Jones Day won a federal court appeal, limiting the union’s ability to send grievances to arbitration. Now they’re in court defending Verizon’s transfer of pension obligations (described as one of the two “largest pension de-risking transactions in US history”).
- And, back on the subject of the National Labor Relations Board, guess who… oh, nevermind guessing. Just read “How they Won It: Jones Day Invalidates Obama’s NLRB Picks” here.
Yeah, these are the folks that our union brothers and sisters are up against, out there in Detroit.
And it doesn’t look like they are going to be able to rely on the court system to protect their legal rights.
Sun Tzu gets the final word, here: “There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.”
It’s time for the right-wing’s war on the Middle Class to stop.
Read my Friday blog post about Detroit here.
Read Monday’s post here.
Read Tuesday’s post here.
Read yesterday’s post here.