Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day

David Sirota

Bashing organized labor is a Republican pathology, to the point where unions are referenced with terms reserved for military targets. In his 1996 article, headlined "GOP Readies for War With Big Labor," conservative columnist Robert Novak cheered the creation of a "GOP committee task force on the labor movement" that would pursue a "major assault" on unions. As one Republican lawmaker told Novak, GOP leaders champion an "anti-union attitude that appeals to the mentality of hillbillies at revival meetings."

The hostility, while disgusting, is unsurprising. Unions wield power for workers, meaning they present an obstacle to Republican corporate donors, who want to put profit-making over other societal priorities.

Labor Day Executive Excess Report from United for a Fair Economy.

Jewish Labor Committee on Jewish values, the immigrant experience, and social justice in a consumer culture.

Workplace Fairness has a new report on The Good, the Bad, and Walmart

five developments that give us hope that working people will be able to reclaim some of the rights, status, and dignity they enjoyed in previous generations, and also be able to lead the way in solving some of our nation's most pressing workplace challenges. Of course, we can't forget the heartbreak of Hurricane Katrina and the Sago Mine Disaster, or ignore the increasing inequality between the haves and have-nots. And then there's Wal-Mart, in its own category, and it's not pretty.

Some of the good news included:
  • Immigrant rights were brought to the forefront of the American social consciousness in the past year, as the country witnessed the mobilization of immigrant groups in a dramatic and unprecedented show of solidarity.
  • When Congress refused to act, a growing number of states—with prodding from labor unions and community groups—took the initiative to raise their minimum wages.
  • Courts dealt with the white collar criminals and their corporate fraud that made headlines earlier in the decade, ushering in an era of greater accountability for corporate executives.
Less positive developments included.
  • While airlines and automobiles have long been considered the industries in which labor was strongest, these industries are now where labor seems most embattled, largely because of the companies' staggering financial losses.
  • As technology progresses, it becomes easier and easier for employers to pry into their employees' personal lives, making employees' concerns about privacy even more important.

Wal-Mart made headlines this past year at an unprecedented rate, but all too often, those headlines revolved around Wal-Mart's infamous employment practices.
There's lots of interesting stuff on the AFL-CIO blog including
Nathan Newman "The Brilliance of Labor" highlights innovative organizing and political strategies being used by American unions.

Bill Onasch, webmaster for the KC Labor website, has essays by Ed Bruno, Peter Rachleff
and Chris Townsend. During the coming week, Bill will be posting his comments daily on the critical issues facing the labor movement. Check them out here.

Joshua Rosenau, KU grad student in ecology and blogger at the always informative and entertaining Thoughts from Kansas, writes about his grandfather who rose to become secretary-treasurer of New York Typographical Union, Local 6 and his confrontation with Congressman Dick Nixon over Taft-Hartley.

James Green in the Boston Globe on "The Rise of the Immigrants" concludes that "immigrant worker centers have become a foundation for an emerging immigrant workers' rights movement, and they could be a building block for a new, multifaceted American labor movement.Such voluntary worker associations were, in fact, the forerunners of the first unions that formed a century ago, long before employees won the right to organize, strike, and bargain collectively. The Workmen's Circle, for example...."

J-spot, the blog of the Jewish Fund for Justice, jumps off from Green's column and suggests that "If Jews want to help today’s immigrants recreate our success, perhaps we should be investing in the modern day equivalent of the Workmen’s Circle."

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