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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Driftglass: "Collective bargaining is counterrevolutionary!"

Comrade Will Exhorts Workers:

"Produce more! Contribute more!"

Thanks to driftglass for this fantastic cross-post - THANKS DRIFTY!

In fact he pretty much says it right here, in the WaPo (Will has a certain kind of verbal incontinence when it comes to his ability to control his comtempt for working people, so emphasis has been added where Will‚s uncontrollable bias and loathing first begin to leak through his pants.)

An Assault On Corporate Speech
By George F. Will
Tuesday, February 27, 2007; A15
Good for Adrienne Eaton of Rutgers University's Labor Studies & Employment Relations Department. Her forthright description of a central issue in the debate about the Employee Free Choice Act, which she supports, clarifies why that legislation is symptomatic of a disagreeable tendency in today's politics.

Labor unions hope this exquisitely mistitled act, which the House of Representatives probably will pass this week, will compensate for their dwindling persuasiveness as they try to persuade workers to join. It would allow unions to organize workplaces without workers voting for unionization in elections with secret ballots. Instead, unions could use the "card check" system: Once a majority of a company's employees signs a card expressing consent, the union is automatically certified as the bargaining agent for all the workers.

Unions say the card-check system is needed to protect workers from anti-union pressure by employers before secret-ballot elections. Such supposed pressure is one of organized labor's alibis for declining membership.

There are, however, ample protections against employer pressures that really are abusive. Tellingly, the act would forbid employers from trying to influence -- pressure? -- employees by improving their lot: It would fine employers that, to reduce the incentive to unionize, give workers "unilateral" -- not negotiated -- improvements in compensation or working conditions during attempts at unionization. Clearly, the act aims less to help workers than to herd them as dues-payers into unions.

Under the card-check system, unions are able to, in effect, select the voters they want. It strips all workers of privacy and exposes them, one at a time, to the face-to-face pressure of union organizers who distribute and collect the cards. The Supreme Court has said that the card-check system is "admittedly inferior to the election process."

Repealing a right -- to secret ballots -- long considered fundamental to democratic culture would be a radical act. But labor is desperate. The card-check shortcut to unionization comes before Congress after last month's announcement that union membership declined, yet again, in 2006, by 326,000.

You will notice that Will never bothers to attack any single union principle or directive as destructive or lazy or nuts, only the means they are using. And while there may be some point in having this discussion in the oxygen-deprived void of Conservative Theory where Will makes his nest, the idea that labor and management operate in the real world with some kind of parity when it comes to opportunities to present their respective cases is laughable.

So let‚s look at the world outside of Will‚s short and selective arrow-slit of perception. At a leader and poster-child for with the kind of reflexively berserker attitude towards organized labor that Will is tacitly cheerleading.

At WalMart which, outside of the federal government, is the single largest employer in the United States.

A few fun facts about WalMart from this site:

The poverty wages they pay:

A Substantial Number of Wal-Mart Associates earn far below the poverty line.

In 2001, the last year for which Wal-Mart has released figures for most occupations, sales associates, the most common job in Wal-Mart, earned on average $8.23 an hour for annual wages of $13,861.The 2001 poverty line for a family of three was $14,630. [„Is Wal-Mart Too Powerful?‰, Business Week, 10/6/03 and US Dept of Health and Human Services 2001 Poverty Guidelines, 2001]

The people they work off-the-clock:
Wal-Mart forces employees to work off-the-clock.

As of the printing of their 2005 Annual Report, Wal-Mart faced 44 wage and hour lawsuits. Major law-suits have either been won or are working their way through the legal process in states such as California, Indiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington. [Wal-Mart Annual Report 2005]

And a merry assortment of violations of the FLSA:
Wal-Mart violates the Fair Labor Standards Act

In 2002, statisticians estimated Wal-Mart shortchanged its Texas workers $150 million over four years by regularly not paying them for working through their 15-minute breaks. [Sources include Associated Press, "Federal Jury Finds Wal-Mart Guilty in Overtime Pay Case," Chicago Tribune, Business 3, 12/20/03 and Steven Greenhouse, „Suits Say Wal-Mart Forces Workers to Toil Off the Clock,‰ New York Times, A1, 6/25/02)]

One week of time records from 25,000 employees in July 2000 found 1,371 instances of minors working too late, during school hours, or for too many hours in a day. There were 60,767 missed breaks and 15,705 lost meal times. [Steven Greenhouse, „Suits Say Wal-Mart Forces Workers to Toil Off the Clock,‰ New York Times, A1, 6/25/02]

Combine these with dozens of other examples and you get a Thurston Howell III Republican‚s idea of perfect labor-management relations.

Of course in recent years they‚ve learned to wipe the drool off their mouths and wear spiffy trench coats and gloves when publicly jerking off to the idea of a Corporate Feudal State with an elite 1% in unfettered command of every resource and institution, and the rest of us slobs are worked like rented mules until we drop in our traces, and then harvested for our organs

But they were not always so discrete about their disdain for working people.

Consider this from the Salad Days of their very own Dear Leader:
President George W. Bush was introduced to the film "The Grapes of Wrath" as a student at the Harvard Business School, where he got admitted on his family's name. "I wanted to give the class a visual reference for poverty and a sense of historical empathy," macroeconomics professor Yoshi Tsurumi told a researcher for Kitty Kelley's book, "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty."

"George Bush came up to me and said, 'Why are you going to show us that commie movie?'" Tsurumi recalled. "I laughed because I thought he was kidding, but he wasn't. After we viewed the film, I called on him to discuss the Depression and how he thought it affected people. [Bush] said, 'Look, people are poor because they are lazy.' A number of students pounced on him and demanded that he support his statement with facts and statistics. He quickly backed down because he could not sustain his broadside."

The incident and a semester of exposure burned into Tsurumi's memory a disturbing view of the future president. "His strong prejudices soon set him apart.... Most business students are conservative, but they are not inhumane or unprincipled. George Bush came across as totally lacking compassion, with no sense of history, completely devoid of social responsibility and unconcerned with the welfare of others."

Lacking compassion?

No sense of history?

Completely devoid of social responsibility?

And unconcerned with the welfare of others?

For humane people, average people -- normal people -- this sounds like the description of a sociopath.

For men like Will and Bush, it is their checklist for social policy.

Their's is a Perfect Randite Universe purged of meddlesome government, „activist‰ judges and unions.

A world where you ˆ all by your lonesome ˆ are pitted against global corporations who don‚t give a shit about anything beyond shareholder value. Who have deeper pockets than you could possibly imagine and can tap vast armies of lawyers, lobbyists and a billion dollar marketing budget to lay the hurt on you if you starting raising a fuss about being herded down the economic slaughter line for the greater glory of the likes of the Family Walton.

Where there is no one left to take your side or intermediate on your behalf as you are pulverized in a rigged game that is the very definition of unfair and unbalanced.

So consider here just how far WalMart was willing to go to annihilate the tiniest inkling of the possibility that one group in one store might join a union.
A National Labor Relations Board judge recently ruled that Wal-Mart must bargain with unionized butchers at its store in Jacksonville, Texas, about 100 miles southeast of Dallas. About three years ago, butchers there voted seven to three to join the United Food and Commercial Workers. The vote had significance far beyond those puny numbers: It was the first time any union had succeeded in getting a toehold at America's largest retailer.

Wal-Mart, characteristically, fought every step of the way, before and after the vote. In one appeal, Wal-Mart alleged that the union had used "food, alcohol, cash and sexual titillation" to influence the vote--based on a meeting that took place at a topless bar.

From a packaging viewpoint, Wal-Mart's other reaction was more interesting. A week after the vote, the company announced that it was converting all its meat packaging to case-ready (that is, packaged by the meat processor), phasing out butchers entirely.

Got that?

When seven people in one store in Texas voted to unionize, WalMart went nuclear without batting an eye.

Seven meat cutters - and WalMart changes its global retail policy just to fuck with them.

Now there are many fine companies in this world that are not union shops.

Many places that treat their workers well, that are willing to haggle honestly about what salaries and benefits can be, given a fair assessment of what company profits are and the company‚s future looks like. That see their employees as important members of the organization who make the place hum and grow, and reward them commensurately.

But having stipulated that -- and stipulate here and now that Unions have certainly had their own history of discrimination, corruption, inertia and any other of the deadly sin you‚d care to name -- the WalMart ideology is becoming more and more universal.

Instead of reaching a consensus on how honorable labor/management relations should of be conducted ˆ the genuine „Centrist‰ position if you will ˆ that debate has followed the Radical Right's model of political, social, international and environmental feudalization in lock-step right off the cliff.

So as the as the "Left" has grow steadily more modest and practical in its goals, the „Right‰ has grown steadily more rigid, dogmatic and hysterical. Where there once may have been willingness to compromise, now there is reflexive opposition to any hint of collective bargaining and a bloody-minded keenness on the part of corporate America to take the working man to the mats over anything and everything.

This is real world of unions.

And in this world the distribution of guns, butter, cash and lobbying power all wildly favor the Corporate side over the worker, so to hint that there is anything like a fair fight or an even playing field between management and labor in the United States is a symptom of either a pollyannaish naiveté that might be cute in a four-year-old but is decidedly creepy in a smelly old crank like George Will..or the rankest kind of lying.

So as I said at the beginning, you will notice that Will never bothers to attack any single union policy or directive as destructive or lazy or nuts: he doesn‚t need to. People like Will are programmed from the moment they are weaned off their Mother‚s pickly teat and onto Adam Smith and Ayn Rand to despise labor.

To despise the working man.

To despise any attempt by free citizens in a democracy that also happens to be capitalist ˆ and not a Capitalist Utopia that is still nominally democratic ˆ to organize themselves in order to better their circumstance.

He opposes only the means they are trying to use to offer workers the choice of organizing or not, and it is this Radical Republican Elitism ˆ this naked contempt for the whole idea of honest sweat for honest pay, honestly negotiated ˆ that will eventually do them in.

Because, George, in the end most people are working people.

And it was the Twelve Labors of Hercules that made it into the pantheon of human mythology and will live there forever.

Not the Twelve Snippy Op-Ed Columns of Hercules.

- posted by driftglass

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