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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Here’s a Labor Day quiz: Most Americans support unions, but only ten percent are union members. What gives?

Business leaders claim that American workers don’t want or need unions anymore. But a new Gallup poll reveals that Americans’ support for unions has been increasing — from 48 percent in 2009 to 64 percent today.

Researchers at MIT found that if nonunion workers who wanted to join a union could do so, union membership would skyrocket from its current 15 million to 70 million.

So why do unions have such a hard time recruiting new members? The answer is fear.

America’s labor laws are so stacked against workers that it is extremely difficult for even the most committed workers and talented organizers to win union elections. Big business spends big bucks hiring anti-union consultants. Employers can force workers to attend meetings that feature anti-union speeches, films and literature.

Try wearing a union button at a mandated Walmart employee meeting and see what happens.

Union organizers are banned from company property. To reach employees, they must visit their homes or hold secret meetings. One-third of all employers illegally fire at least one worker — typically union leaders — during union organizing drives, scaring other workers from joining the campaign. Federal penalties are so small that companies treat them as a minor cost of doing business.

The 30 years after World War II were the golden age of American capitalism. Prosperity was widely shared. Unions allowed many working people to achieve the American Dream. They could buy homes and cars, take vacations, send their kids to college, afford health insurance and retire with dignity.

Since the 1970s, union membership has plummeted from about one-quarter of all workers, to one-fifth in the 1980s, to one-tenth today.

Among private sector workers, union membership is now a dismal 6.4 percent. Big business’ assault on workers’ rights has had real consequences. Income inequality has widened, wages for working people have stagnated, the middle class has shrunk and American families are deeper in debt. Corporate profits have been climbing, but the share going to workers has not. A new report by the Economic Policy Institute found that from 1978 to 2018, CEO compensation grew by 940 percent, while workers’ wages increased by just 12 percent.

Although the national unemployment rate is below four percent, wages for most workers have not kept pace with the cost of living. Many American households work two or more jobs to make ends meet. (More than 60,000 grocery workers in Southern California, members of the United Food and Commercials Workers union, are currently in contract negotiations with major grocery chains, fighting the corporations’ attempt to slash wages, healthcare, and overtime. The union’s slogan: “One job should be enough”).

More than 35 percent of non-elderly adults in families with at least one worker report difficulty paying for basic needs such as shelter, food, and medical care.  Even one-fifth of school teachers need a second job to make ends meet. According to a report by the Federal Reserve, most American families don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency. Most of the fast-growing jobs are in low-paying industries.

Right-wing politicians and their corporate backers want unions completely crushed. The anti-union billionaire Koch brothers, for example, have spent tens of millions of dollars to support misnamed “right-to-work” laws designed to weaken organized labor and help elect anti-union Republicans. Right-to-work laws now exist in 27 states.

In its Janus decision last year, the Republican-dominated Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 majority that workers who benefit from their public sector unions’ collective-bargaining efforts owe no obligation to financially support those unions. It’s like allowing people equal police and fire protection even though they refuse to pay taxes.

Despite his rhetoric about being a friend to the American worker, Donald Trump has consistently adopted policies that hurt working families. He has significantly reduced the number of workers eligible for overtime pay. He’s appointed anti-union members to the National Labor Relations Board, which under Trump has served as an ally to corporate America rather than a neutral arbiter of labor-management disputes. He has issued executive orders making it easier to fire federal workers and weaken their unions. He’s refused to support an increase in the federal minimum wage. He has weakened safety regulations for coal miners, farm workers, oil and gas drilling workers, and many others. He has reversed policies designed to prohibit federal government contracts to companies that consistently violate laws regarding workplace safety, wages, racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and workers’ right to unionize.

Despite efforts by corporate America and its political allies to undermine workers and their unions, the country has recently witnessed an upsurge of labor activism. Teachers, janitors, grocery clerks, hotel housekeepers, fast-food employees, warehouse employees, port truck drivers, maids and domestic workers, and others have been waging grassroots campaigns to improve pay and working conditions.

Hundreds of cities and many states have adopted minimum wage laws that raise pay far above the federal threshold of $7.25 (in place since 2009) and that help lift working families out of poverty. A growing number of cities and states have passed policies to require employees to provide paid family leave and to [schedules]. Seattle, Oakland, Long Beach and, last week, Santa Monica, adopted local laws that regulate working conditions for hotel housekeepers, including rules that protect them from sexual violence and burdensome workloads. In August 2018, Missouri voters rescinded a right-to-work law by a two-to-one margin.

We can see how this groundswell of activism, and changing public opinion about unions, is shaping the presidential election contest. Every Democratic candidate is promising to not only address the question of widening wealth and income equality but also to revamp federal laws to restore more power to ordinary workers. Sen. Kamara Harris has sponsored a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to extend labor protections (like minimum wages and over-time pay) to housekeepers and nannies. Several candidates have proposals to require corporations to give employees the right to elect representatives to the boards of directors.

Thirteen Democratic senators — including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Cory Booker — have sponsored the Workplace Democracy Act. It would help union organizers by banning state right-to-work laws, providing “card check” provisions (similar to in Canada, where one-quarter of workers are in unions) that limit employer intimidation during union drives, and help exploited workers who are currently mis-categorized as “independent contractors.” Several candidates are backing a proposal from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to encourage labor and employers to bargain on an industry-wide basis rather than with each separate employer.

None of these proposals will pass unless Democrats win back the White House and both houses of Congress. A stronger union movement would not only mean better lives for working families but also provide support for progressive goals like universal health insurance, tuition-free college, and paid family leave.

The battle is joined. Americans are asking politicians: Which side are you on?

 Kelly Candaele was a union organizer for 20 years. Peter Dreier is professor of politics at Occidental College.


Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]