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Why the economy doesn’t work for the 99%

Today’s New York Times has a really good picture of what’s happened to America’s economy over the past 50 years.

Please take a few minutes to look at it, and pay particular attention to what’s happened since the Bush tax cuts started going into effect in 2001.

  • Corporate profits are at their highest level ever.  After-tax corporate profits were 5% when the Bush tax cuts started taking effect — now they’re at 9.7%.
  • Wages are at their lowest level level ever.  When the Bush tax cuts started taking effect, 46.7% of the gross domestic product was paid to workers as wages — now it’s 42.6%.
  • Corporate taxes are at almost-record lows.  Corporations paid 30% of their profits as taxes, when the Bush tax cuts started taking effect — now they pay 21.6%.
  • Personal taxes have also dropped.  Taking all taxpayers together (the 1% as well as the rest of us), individuals paid 17.8% of their incomes as taxes when the Bush tax cuts started taking effect — now, it’s 14.1%.

Remember, the Bush tax cuts were supposed to be temporary.  They were supposed to “stimulate the economy” and then expire in 2011.

Instead, the Republicans in Congress have used one fiscal crisis after another to keep most of those tax cuts in place.

Top Tax Rates 1952-2008And now they’re talking as if those Bush-era tax rates are a ceiling, not a floor.  (Read “Corporate Tax Cuts are almost twice the Sequester cuts” here.  Read about the $161 billion annual cost of the dividend and capital gains tax cuts here.)

Republicans in Congress keep agitating about the federal debt — but they’re not willing to raise revenues by returning to historical tax levels.  No, the GOP keeps insisting that the only way to address the debt is by cutting “entitlements”.

Let’s use real words, here, so everyone knows what the choice comes down to.  Translated from GOP-speak, “entitlements” are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  (Remember, you have paid into the Social Security and Medicare trust funds with every paycheck, for as long as you’ve been working.)

So here’s the choice:

  1. Congress can continue to let the federal debt grow.
  2. Congress can return taxes to historical levels.
  3. Congress can cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Congress is going to be making this choice over the next two and a half months.  The current federal budget expires on September 30th — about the same time that the federal government will hit the debt limit (again).

Go back and look at those New York Times “what happened to the economy” charts again.

Don’t you think it’s time to finally end the Bush tax cuts?


Coming Soon An Epic Mini-Series “Strength In Union”

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Edmund Burke

I don’t think truer words have ever been spoken.  The labor movement’s history is long and glorious.  There were many points along the way that, looking back, we can say “that was the moment when….”  There were good days and bad days.  Stories of life and death.  All of these stories are important.

The NH Labor News along with other pro-labor websites are working to ensure that our proud history is not forgotten.  We regularly post ‘Today in Labor History‘, where we talk about some important moment on today’s date.

What if we could capture all of these moments in an epic mini-series? That is exactly what Arete Living Arts Foundation is doing.  They are creating a five-part mini-series of the best and worst moments in our history.

“Strength In Union” will most likely air on PBS.  The films will also be shown at film festivals throughout the country.   Here’s how the Foundation describes the project:

The Strength In Union film will….

  • Present union workers in a heroic light as men and women who have sacrificed for the public good
  • Combat anti-union propaganda that is presented in right wing media such as Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck
  • Use engaging entertainment to educate the public on the many rights and benefits unions have given to all workers, such as weekends, 8-hour work days, sick days, health and retirement benefits, safety regulations, etc.
  • Create an emotional connection and personal identification with the labor movement for people all across America

According to Film Director Caeser Pink, “This is a great story that must be told, and it is another way of understanding the history of the American people. Among the film’s goals are to educate the public so that they understand the struggles and sacrifices that were made by heroic union men and women so that working people are able to enjoy the lifestyle that we now take for granted.”

Principal filming is progressing rapidly. Over 50 top labor leaders, historians, and activists have been interviewed for the project, including

  • Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steel Workers,
  • Cliff Guffey, President of the American Postal Workers Union,
  • Captain Lee Moak, President of the Airline Pilots Association,
  • Lawrence J. Hanley, President of the American Transportation Workers, and
  • William Dougan, President of the National Federation of Federal Employees.

Narrators include famed actor Reg. E Cathey (The Wire, Person Of Interest, House Of Cards), Emmy and Golden Globe winner Barbara Hershey, and legendary activist and folk singer Pete Seeger

Here is a much more in-depth look at the movie from Arete Living Arts.

Are you as excited as I am to see this movie? Here’s a sneak peak for you:

Be sure to visit Strenth In Union website for more information and release information.


Starting in Detroit… next stop: Social Security

Frederick Bancroft, prince of magicians: the wizard's enchantments, performing arts poster, ca. 1895Buried on the PBS website, there is a blog post that ought to strike fear into the heart of every working-age American.

“Detroit Today, Washington Tomorrow” takes dead aim at the Social Security system, using the same “inflate the numbers” messaging strategy that Kevyn Orr and Gov. Rick Snyder have been using lately in Detroit.

What’s the strategy?

  1. Just pick the biggest number that you can find, and use it to scare the bejeezus out of people.
  2. Once you’ve got folks focused on that huge number, it’s easy to convince them that “oh, we’re so sorry! But Detroit can’t afford to pay the retirement benefits we’ve been promising all these decades.”
  3. Nevermind that all those Detroit workers have been paying into the system, all these decades, and planning their futures based on the promises that were made.
  4. Just keep everyone’s eyes focused on that really huge number – and they won’t even think about questioning your claim that “oh, so sorry! We can’t afford it!”

It’s the rhetorical equivalent of old-fashioned magic tricks.  And just like those old-fashioned magic tricks, it will work so long as people don’t pay attention to what’s really going on.

In Detroit, they’re hiding a $326 million accumulated deficit under the rhetorical handkerchief of $18 billion in total outstanding debt.  They’re basically saying: “don’t look at that smaller deficit number (caused by cutbacks in state revenue-sharing) – look at this huge number over here!  Look at how much Detroit is supposed to pay bondholders back, over the next 30 years!  Look here, Detroit can’t afford to pay back $18 billion right now!  (Nevermind that it’s not supposed to be paid back, for decades yet.)  Look here, if we can’t afford to pay back $18 billion, then we should declare bankruptcy and get rid of the debt (that we owe to our public employees).  We just can’t afford to keep our promises!”

Can’t you just hear the calliope music?   (If not, here’s a YouTube to help get you into a properly gullible mood.)

Now, read that PBS post by Boston University professor (and presidential candidate) Larry Kotlikoff.

  1. All of a sudden, our federal debt isn’t just $12 trillion (the number that outrages Republicans, as long as nobody suggests increasing taxes to pay it back). According to Professor Kotlikoff, “the true measure of our debt – the one suggested by economic theory – is the fiscal gap, which totals $222 trillion.”
  2. Now, keep looking at this number over here – it’s really, really huge.  According to Professor Kotlikoff, “Given the $222 trillion fiscal gap … current policy is clearly not sustainable. Making it sustainable requires either an immediate and permanent 64 percent increase in all federal taxes or an immediate and permanent 38 percent cut in all spending or some combination of tax increases and spending cuts.”
  3. Nevermind all those decades that workers have been paying into the Social Security system. Again, here’s Professor Kotlikoff: “If anything, the Social Security benefits, and not the Treasury bond payments, should be recorded as official debt.”
  4. Keep folks paying attention to that really big number.  Professor Kotlikoff borrows the authoritative voice of former Secretary of State George Shultz to finish his performance: “Our country doesn’t have a lot of elder statesmen to guide us. But this tough ex-marine knows our country is broke, knows our children are threatened, and knows we’ve been hiding the truth.”

Yep, that’s where things are headed.  Detroit today, Washington tomorrow.

They’ve been trying to “reform” Social Security since Barry Goldwater ran for President.

And they’re still trying.

And they’re about to have the biggest Congress-created crisis yet.

  • Read about January’s Fiscal Cliff crisis here and here.
  • Read about the March Sequestration crisis here and here.

There is another “perfect storm” of crises coming up in the next two months: the current federal budget will expire at about the same time that the Treasury runs out of debt limit “headroom” (again, thank our federal and postal service employees, whose retirement contributions provide this reprieve!).

What sorts of magic tricks do you think they’re going to try, then?

Detroit today, Washington tomorrow.

My recommendation?  Remember Professor Kotlikoff’s patter, and keep your eyes on the magicians’ hands.


Read the LTE in response to this post.

The Outrageous Truth About A $12 Minimum Wage And Your Grocery Bill

Every time I even mention the idea of raising the minimum wage, I am immediately attacked on social media.

Opponents imagine that inflation will skyrocket; some have even claimed that ‘milk will be $10.00 a gallon’ if we raise the minimum wage. Oh, the hysteria. Milk is currently around $3.50 a gallon and that is up 25% from just ten years ago. Is that 25% due to rising wages? Sadly, no – wages in America have declined during that time. Must be some other economic force at work. (Read “Even Dairy Farming has a 1%” here.)

So, what if we raised the floor to a living wage, and paid non-tipped employees a minimum wage of $12.00 per hour? Oh, more hysteria. Opponents claim that will drive our costs up so much we will be unable to eat!

Let’s look at a few facts about minimum wage.

Who gets paid minimum wage? People opposed to raising the wage claim that ‘minimum wage workers are kids in high school; adults do not make minimum wage’. The fact is 25% of minimum wage workers are below the age of 19 – which means that 75% of all minimum wage earners are above the age of 20. That means they’re adults – not high school kids. In fact, almost half of all minimum-wage earners are above the age of 25.

Another fact: under the current minimum wage, a full time worker makes only $15,500 per year – before taxes.

Another fact: 64% of all minimum wage earners are women. Of that a whopping 66% are women above the age of 20.

Another fact: More than a third of minimum wage workers (35.8 percent) are married, and over a quarter (28.0 percent) are parents. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that if Congress raised the minimum wage, it would raise the standard of living for more than 21 million children.

The UC Berkley Labor Center studied the effects of raising the minimum wage to $12.00 per hour. They specifically looked at the nation’s largest employer, Walmart.

Walmart employs about 2.2 million peoplealmost 2% of America’s workers, these days.

If the minimum wage is raised to $12.00 an hour, 37% of Walmart employees would see a raise ranging from $3,200 (part-time workers) to $6,500 (full-time workers). Another 14.6% would see a raise between $1,670-$2,640 per year.

Impact of Raises on Wal Mart WorkersOpponents claim ‘pay raises like that are unrealistic and unsustainable’. They claim ‘Walmart would go bankrupt having to pay that much for labor.’

But that’s completely wrong. According to the UC Berkeley study, increasing the minimum wage to $12.00 an hour would add only $3.21 billion to Walmart’s annual labor costs. To put that in perspective:

Giving all those workers a pay increase might cut Walmart’s profit margin by 20% – but it certainly won’t bankrupt the company.

Now, let’s assume that Walmart passed every penny of the minimum wage increase onto customers, rather than taking it out of profits or dividends. What would that mean to consumers? The average customer would see an increase of $12.49 per year – about 46 cents per visit – if Walmart executives passed the total cost along, rather than cutting their profits.

FOURTY-SIX CENTS per visit would ensure that all Walmart’s workers are paid a living wage.

Annual Cost Per Shopper

Annual Cost Per Shopper

That’s a lot less than the increase in the price of milk.

Would it be worth it, to help the nearly 4 million Americans who are currently working at or below minimum wage? Even if corporate executives pass the total cost along to consumers, rather than taking some of it out of their dividends. I think so.


A closer look at Walmart’s dividend payments: corporate “insiders” own more than half of Walmart’s stock. Once again, the people who run the company personally benefit from decisions about profits paid out as dividends.

For example, Walmart Director Jim Walton owns 10.5 million shares of the company. This year, the company paid out $1.88 per share in dividends. That means Director Walton received more than $19.7 million in dividends (which are taxed at about half the rate as executive salaries).

Walmart President and CEO Michael Duke owns about 1.2 million shares of the company – that means he personally received about $2 million in dividend income this year.

All that money to corporate executives. And some people claim Walmart can’t afford to give raises to its workers?


What happens in Detroit WON’T stay in Detroit.

8easystepsIt’s amazing, the stuff you can find on the Internet these days.

Step-by-step instructions for all sorts of things, including – oh, yeah – how public employers can relieve themselves of retirement obligations through the Chapter 9 bankruptcy process.  Like they’re trying to do in Detroit, right now.

And reading through Ice Miller’s description of the process – right here, if you’re interested – it sure doesn’t seem all that hard.

Ice Miller, by the way, is a nationwide law firm that has provided services to the New Hampshire Retirement System for years.   Here’s how they summarize the bankruptcy process that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has just started:

“A proceeding under Chapter 9 is very different than under other chapters of the Bankruptcy Code.  [Under Chapter 9,] the court must determine whether the petition was properly filed and then, at the end of the case, must determine whether a plan for the adjustment of debts is confirmable. Between those two points, a bankruptcy court cannot require the sale of assets; does not oversee the use of funds; does not interfere with political or governmental powers; cannot require tax increases; and generally does not take an active role.”

Whoa.  Doesn’t look like there’s much protection for city workers, in that process.  And according to Ice Miller, during bankruptcy a public employer can:

  • try to reject their obligations under existing collective bargaining agreements;
  • try to reduce pension contributions and retirement benefits.

Which sounds pretty much like what they’re trying to do, out in Detroit right now.

Starting to feel a little queasy here?  Let’s look a little closer.


Will of the voters?

Yeah, right.  The “emergency financial manager” who filed Detroit’s bankruptcy petition last week was appointed under a law passed by the Republican-led state legislature in December 2012.  Trouble is, that law is almost identical to a law rejected by voters barely a month before, in a referendum vote.  (Whatever happened to democracy?)

And then there’s the timeline.

I’m not even going to try to figure out which chicken came before which egg.  The newest emergency manager law became effective in March.  The law firm Jones Day was awarded a $3.35 million contract as Detroit’s “restructuring counsel” in March.  Jones Day partner Kevyn Orr was named Detroit’s emergency financial manager in March.  (Or maybe by then he was a former partner? Attorney Orr resigned from the firm sometime in March.)  Different media reports give different dates;  and from this many miles away, it’s impossible to figure out what happened in what order.

And then there’s the law firm.

I’m human; I can’t help but sometimes judge a law firm by its clients.  And Jones Day’s client list includes Koch Industries, as well as Mitt Romney’s old firm, Bain Capital.

And then there’s the lawsuit, filed by Jones Day lawyers, challenging a ban on political contributions by foreign sources (including foreign corporations).  And then there’s the lawsuit, filed by Jones Day lawyers not long before last year’s election, challenging an Obama administration regulation regarding insurance coverage.   (Also can’t help but wonder at all the work this law firm is apparently doing for free!)

And then there’s the attorney.

According to his official bio, Attorney Orr worked for the FDIC’s Resolution Trust Corporation in the 1990s; and while there, his duties included “serving as the agency’s chief lawyer responsible for the agency’s participation in the Whitewater investigation.”  Yeah, you read that right: the Whitewater investigation.

Starting to think that maybe there’s politics involved here, somehow?

And then there’s the Governor.

Last December was a busy month for Gov. Rick Snyder.  Not only did he push through a new emergency manager law, to replace the one rescinded by voters, he also pushed through a Right to Work bill.  Read “GOP, Koch Brothers Sneak Attack Guts Labor Rights in Michigan” here.  (Yes, there’s the Koch brothers, again.)  He was so effective at pushing stuff through the Legislature that the Washington Post named him “The Scott Walker of 2014”.

And… oh, dear:  is there really a Rick Snyder for President Facebook page?

Got a headache yet?

The big trouble here is, whatever happens with Detroit – with its very expensive law firm, with its history of highly-political cases…

whatever happens in Detroit will set a legal precedent for other politicians and other employers who may want to relieve themselves of their obligations to public workers. Yesterday’s USA Today even has an interactive graphic; read “Detroit not alone under crushing pension obligations” here.

So… you think you’ve got retirement benefits? Think again.

That Ice Miller report has a state-by-state breakdown of the requirements to go through the Chapter 9 bankruptcy process.   Including a note that, when the report was published, Michigan didn’t have any law authorizing a municipality to declare bankruptcy.  Which it didn’t, until Governor Snyder and the Republican-led Legislature pushed through “The Local Financial Stability and Choice Act” last December… just days after pushing through the Right to Work bill.

If it’s happening in Detroit, it can happen almost anywhere.

Editorial: Would we be having this conversation if Travyon ‘Stood His Ground’?

NLHN Editor’s Note: For many years the labor community has been standing arm in arm with members of the civil rights community.  We have been there to fight against racial discrimination. We have been there to fight sexual discrimination.  Now I am taking a stand on the issue of racial profiling.  Discrimination in any form should never be tolerated. 

Way back in 2010, Melissa Nelson was fired from her job as a dental assistant – because she was ‘too attractive’.  The Iowa Supreme Court recently upheld the termination, ruling that the dentist’s reason for firing her – he was worried he would try to start an affair with her – was not ‘illegal sex discrimination’ .

Maybe the court didn’t think it was illegal – but it’s still discrimination.  “Discrimination” is defined as “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.”

Discrimination based on looks is known as ‘lookism’ – and it is another form of profiling.  In one of many studies about ‘lookism’, ABC News put two female actors on the side of the road in front of a broken-down car.  Both were wearing the same outfit, but one was better looking than the other.  The results were what you might expect: the ‘looker’ had dozens of cars stop to assist her, while the average-looking woman only had a couple of people stop.

trayvon-martin2I can only wonder what the results would have been, if it had been Trayvon Martin in front of the broken-down car.

Don’t we all agree that discrimination is wrong, whether it is based on looks, sex, or race?  In its recent decision severing part of the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court ruled that racism is merely a thing of the past.  But last week’s jury verdict in Florida drives a stake through the heart of that belief.

Anyone who thinks that the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case does not have anything to do with race needs to honestly ask themselves the question, would the outcome have been different if the roles were reversed?  President Obama answered this question in his recent press briefing.

“If a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.”

President Obama went on to say, “the African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws — everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws.

The Martin/Zimmerman case also throws a spotlight on the highly controversial ‘Stand Your Ground’ law – which was spread around the country by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at the request of the NRA.  This ‘Kill at Will’ law allows people to instigate situations that escalate to lethal outcomes.

In the Martin/Zimmerman case, everyone agrees that the dispatcher advised Zimmerman to stay in his car and wait for the police.  Instead, Zimmerman confronted the unarmed teenager.


Getting out of his car and confronting Trayvon – was that really something Zimmerman needed to do to survive?  Anyone who really believes that needs to ask themselves another question:

(President Obama) “If Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?  And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened?”

Without the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, Zimmerman might have done as the dispatcher advised – and if he had stayed in his car, he would never have had any reason to reach for his weapon.

(President Obama) “I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if it — if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than diffuse potential altercations.”

“If we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?”

Imagine you are meeting a stranger on the street.  What will stop him from shooting you, if he happens to be afraid of you?  Sadly, this is even more of a risk if you are a member of the African-American community.

President Obama openly admits that many of us are guilty of racial profiling.

“There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.  That happens to me — at least before I was a senator.”

How do we fix this?

First, we need to admit that discrimination and racism still exist in America.  We cannot fix something until we openly admit there is still a problem.

Then we need to repeal these ‘kill at will’ laws that legitimize fear and racial profiling.  That won’t cure our race issues – but it will be a step in the right direction.

And we need to keep taking steps in the right direction – because, despite what the Supreme Court said, we’re not there yet.  We can do better, and we should do better.
As President Obama said when he closed his press conference yesterday, “We’re becoming a more perfect union — not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.”

We need to keep working toward the day when all strangers – even neighborhood watch captains – will look beyond the color of someone else’s skin.

Is it about Right To Work? No, it’s about profit margins.

Boeing DreamlinerBoeing’s Dreamliner was in the news again last week:  one plane caught fire at Heathrow Airport; and a second experienced a “technical issue” and returned to its originating airport.

When I heard that news, I couldn’t help thinking about the announcement that gunmaker Sturm, Ruger would be opening a new factory in Mayodan, North Carolina, rather than expanding their facility here.  Don’t get the connection? Let me explain.

After Ruger’s announcement last week, the spinmeisters went into overdrive.  The way they spun things, this was a rejection of New Hampshire’s supposedly union-friendly atmosphere.  (Done laughing yet? The Granite State isn’t exactly a hotbed of union activity; only 12% of our workers are covered by a collective bargaining agreement.  West Virginia, Nevada and Montana all have higher “union density” rates.  Alaska and Hawaii, their union-representation rates are almost twice what it is here.  So you just gotta wonder about people who say New Hampshire is “friendly” to unions.)

By last Thursday, the spinmeisters – and the Union Leader – had twisted Ruger’s facility-siting decision into some sort of referendum on (so-called) Right to Work legislation.

Personally, I would guess that it was simply a case of Mayodan-area  government officials offering up enough “economic incentives” to lure the company there.  These days, lots of manufacturers choose factory sites based on which state is going to give them the most money.  And here’s what the Mayodan-area Business Journal is saying about all this:

Did someone jump the gun on the Ruger announcement by any chance?  Rockingham County and city of Mayodan officials were even told Tuesday to hold off on speaking with media outlets because the Connecticut-based gun maker (NYSE: RGR) apparently took issue with the wording of the notice and wanted to clarify that while the building is a preferred site, the expansion is still subject to the approval of an undisclosed amount of local and state incentives.

Did I miss something?  I didn’t see anything about “Right to Work” in that Mayodan story.  But RTW evangelists have a bad habit of taking a needle and building their own haystack around it.  They tend to stretch a single anecdote into “proof”, and hope that nobody looks too closely at what’s really going on. From “Indiana Company Rejects Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Claim That It Added Jobs Due To ‘Right-To-Work’ Law”:

Less than two months after he signed the [RTW] bill, Daniels is already touting its success. Daniels claims more than 30 companies have asked about moving to Indiana, but so far he’s only named one, MBC Group, that added Indiana jobs.  Unfortunately for Daniels, it seems he jumped the gun… company president Eric Holloway …says the law had no effect on his decision to expand.

The reality is, CEOs make factory-siting decisions based solely on their corporation’s bottom line.  Huge “economic incentives”? Cheap labor?  These are the things that drive corporate decision-making – not whether a particular state has written radical right-wing ideology into law.

Any CEO who based a siting decision on whether a particular state has a RTW law would probably soon be looking for other career opportunities.  Think about it: the employer decides whether or not to agree to fee-payer arrangements in a union contract.  If employers don’t want to have all their workers paying a fair share of collective bargaining costs… well, there lots of other things to bargain about (like, maybe, better health benefits; or job security).

Blake's Lotaburger - French friesNow, back to Boeing.  Here’s what the Seattle-area press was saying, years ago, when Boeing decided to build its Dreamliner in a new factory in Charleston, South Carolina:

Take away the heat, all the union-bashing or management second-guessing as Boeing now appears ready to move a major piece of its plane-building operations to South Carolina. At the core of this breakup drama is a cold statistic: 14.

As in $14. Per hour.  That’s the average pay of the local line workers who are building the fuselage of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner in a Charleston, S.C., plant.

Average pay of a Boeing Machinist around here? $28 an hour.

…Boeing right now is paying less to build airplanes in South Carolina than we pay for cutting hair or shelving 3-pound jars of olives [at local Costco stores].

…it’s got to be shortsighted to build planes at near fast-food wages.

Yes, well… I personally am not planning to get on board a Dreamliner anytime soon.  Near fast-food wages, got to be shortsighted, indeed.

Still haven’t connected the dots, between Boeing and Ruger?  It’s that “cold, hard cash” thing.

Just like huge government-funded “economic incentives”, cheap labor enhances corporate profits.  Manufacturing wages are about 10% lower in North Carolina than here in the Granite State – and from Ruger’s perspective, that probably makes a significant difference in their expected profit-margin.

But as all of us consumers have learned through the years, cutting labor costs does not improve product quality.

T-SHIRTSFor those folks still buying T-shirts at Walmart: maybe quality doesn’t matter that much when you’re talking about T-shirts.

But airplanes?  When it comes to airplanes… product quality makes a difference. A huge difference.  Just ask any of the folks stuck at Heathrow Airport last week.

And it seems to me that guns are another one of those products where quality makes a huge difference.  I mean, it’s right there in Ruger’s corporate slogan: “Reliable Firearms”.

Ruger’s going to locate a new factory in a low-wage state.  What difference is that going to make in the quality of their product?

As astronaut Alan Shepard once said, “It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one’s safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract.”

Seems to me that when folks are buying guns – or getting onto airplanes – they don’t want to be experiencing that same “sobering feeling”.

Maybe that’s just me.  But I’m getting really tired of spinmeisters and politicians who worship corporate profits above all else.


Last word on Indiana’s RTW law and Governor Daniels’ hyperbole:

Indiana, of course, has tried “right-to-work” once before, passing a similar law in 1957. The law was so unpopular that voters demolished Republicans at the polls in 1958, and Democrats repealed it in 1965.

House Democrats Blast Senate GOP Leader for Blocking NLRB Nominees

Mitch McConnell, Filibuster King by DonkeyHotey via FlikrLooks to me like it was unanimous. Earlier this week, 201 House Democrats sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, expressing their “serious concern” about his position on nominations for the National Labor Relations Board.

Here is some of what House Democrats said:

This is nothing more than a blatant and cynical attempt to shut down the NLRB’s lawful ability to investigate and remedy unfair labor practices. …The NLRB provides critical protections to American workers and gives businesses much needed labor certainty. Each day that the Board sits idle is one in which workers’ lawful rights are put at risk. This continued ideological obstructionism is denying hardworking Americans the crucial worker protections that the NLRB provides.

Read their full letter here. I looked through the signatures and didn’t see a single House Democrat missing. Do you know how hard it is to find unanimity in Washington, DC these days?

The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency vested with the power to safeguard employees’ rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative. The agency also acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.

Federal courts have previously ruled that the NLRB needs a minimum of three members in order to have the authority to make rulings. If there are less than three members, the Board cannot issue any decisions or take any official actions.

Right now, there are only three members of the NLRB – and the term of one of those members expires on August 27th. If Senate Republicans continue to block confirmation votes on NLRB nominees, then very soon the Board will be down to only two members – and then it will have no authority to protect collective-bargaining rights.

Here’s another thing that concerns House Democrats:

Specifically, [Senator McConnell’s] office stated that the Senate will not vote on the full package of Board nominees unless current Board members Ms. Sharon Block and Mr. Richard Griffin are replaced.

Apparently, Sen. McConnell now wants to give Senate Republicans veto power over the NLRB Board members who are already in office.

And here I thought that the Republicans are the minority party in the Senate. Yet, they’re holding hostage the rights of 80 million private-sector workers around the country, by refusing to allow the Senate to vote on any replacement NLRB members.

And yeah, the Republicans are using President Obama’s “recess appointments” to spin their decision to paralyze the NLRB. But I looked back – and since 2002, only one NLRB member has joined the Board through the usual nomination-confirmation process; all the other members joined through a recess appointment process. And even before that, Presidents appointed NLRB members during Senate recesses. President Reagan appointed two members during Senate recesses; President George H.W. Bush appointed one. So it’s not like President Obama somehow invented the process of recess appointments.

No, what’s really going on here is that the Senate GOP is using parliamentary maneuvers to make sure the NLRB loses its ability to act.

If there is no one to enforce workers’ rights, do workers still have those rights?

Maybe not.

  • You can read about Panera Bread baker Kathleen Von Eitzen here. (And please remember her and her coworkers, the next time you’re thinking about eating at Panera Bread!)
  • You can read about Illinois pressman Marcus Hedger, fired for being a shop steward, here. (He just lost his house to foreclosure, waiting for the job reinstatement and back pay that the NLRB awarded more than nine months ago.)

Rights? Our rights?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to use delays and parliamentary maneuvers to strip rights away from 80 million Americans. House Democrats have protested – unanimously. Isn’t it time we did, too? Here’s how to contact him.

Hillsboro-Deering School Board Found To Be Negotiating In “Bad Faith”

Contract negotiations is a delicate art form.  There is always a little pushing and pulling from both sides.  Good negotiators can get what they want without giving up too much.  When negotiating contracts both sides have a duty to openly and honestly bargain.  We call this ‘bargaining in good faith’.

To bargain in good faith means that both sides will work to find common ground, and will abide by the terms agreed to in the negotiating process.  The ability to trust the other side is key to the negotiating process.  Sometimes, this trust is lost.  When that happens, one side gets burned.  In negotiating terms we call this ‘bad faith bargaining’.  Bargaining in bad faith means that you never intended to follow through on the actions you agreed to in the negotiation process.

The Hillsboro-Deering School Board (HDSB) was charged with bad faith bargaining earlier this year.  The New Hampshire Labor News covered the story back in January of how the HDSB failed to vote on the contract their negotiating team had agreed to.   The main context of the unfair labor practice filed against the HDSD is that their lead negotiator, and school board chairperson, failed to advocated for the agreed upon contract.

On June 28th the New Hampshire Public Employees Labor Relations Board (NH PELRB) issued a ruling that the Hillsboro-Deering School District did negotiate in ‘bad faith’.

“The School Board committed an unfair labor practice in violation of RSA 273-A:5, I (e) when it failed to vote on ratification of the tentative agreement and when its negotiating team member failed to support the agreement during the ratification meeting as required under the ground rules, the statute, and PELRB decisions.”

Attorney Terri Donovan, Director of Collective Bargaining and Field Services for AFT-NH, explained importance of this decision.

“This decision is important because it clearly lays out in a comprehensive decision from the NH PELRB  the elements of good faith bargaining and the responsibilities of negotiating teams. As we enter into negotiations for a successor agreement, it is the hope of the Union that the School Board will not only understand their obligations but negotiate in good faith going forward.”

As previously stated, negotiating is a delicate process of give and take.  Without trust from both sides we would never be able to reach an agreement.  Without an agreement, nobody is happy.

Here is the full decision by the NH PELRB.

Without The IBEW, Nik Wallenda’s Grand Canyon Walk Would Never Have Happened

Did you see that crazy guy Nik Wallenda walk 1400 feet across the Grand Canyon on a high wire? This was a record setting moment would not have happened without the hard work and dedication of the IBEW 1249 linemen at O’Connell Electric.   Here is a snippet of the walk that aired on the Discovery Channel.

Without the knowledge and expertise of these linemen from IBEW 1249, this record breaking moment would not have happened.  In fact without their help, you may not have even heard of Nik Wallenda before.  The lineman from IBEW 1249 were responsible for rigging up the two inch wire that Nik walk on when he walked across Niagara Falls.  When he decided to walk across the Grand Canyon, he knew exactly who to call, the IBEW.

Check out this amazing video of how the linemen from O’Connell Electric rigged up the two inch cable across the Grand Canyon and how their work was instrument in the success of Nik’s walk.

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