The stunning decision today by a federal court to invalidate President Obama’s appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is being treated by the media primarily as a constitutional power struggle between the president, the Senate and the judiciary. But for labor unions—and the millions of workers they represent—the court ruling is just the latest evidence that the NLRB—a New Deal-era federal agency set up to handle all labor disputes—needs updating. It’s time for a new, more decentralized approach to protecting worker rights that supplements the current structure, which funnels all worker complaints through a single central agency in Washington D.C.
The current NLRB delivered a number of significant pro-worker decisions in 2012, all of which may now be in jeopardy. In a single year, workers gained greater protections in their use of social media; protections from employer-mandated dispute resolution programs; and greater protections for automatic dues deductions, among others. After years of pro-employer boards, many in labor saw the current incarnation, which has served since January 2012, as providing a necessary rebalance of power. However, the NLRB was only able to reach these pro-worker decisions because President Obama used his recess appointment powers to appoint progressive members.
Now, that act may be erased. On Friday, a three-judge panel of the Federal District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia unanimously held that President Obama violated the Constitution when he made three recess appointments to the NLRB last January. The court rested its analysis on the definition of the word “the,” stating, “Then, as now, the word ‘the’ was and is a definite article.” Therefore a recess appointment must take place during “the recess” rather than “a recess.” In this instance, the Senate was not in session, but was not strictly in “the recess,” as it was gaveled in and out every few days.
If this decision stands, the NLRB of the past year will have had only one properly appointed member, Chairman Mark Pearce. Hundreds of board decisions will be retroactively invalidated, and the board will be unable to function until at least two additional members are confirmed by the Senate. With the latest attempt at filibuster reform having failed, it is unlikely that the Republican minority in the Senate will allow new appointees to proceed quickly, if at all.
Since all labor disputes must proceed through the NLRB, this ruling could leave workers with no venue to protect their unionization and bargaining rights. As former Board Chair William Gould wrote in the New York Times in 2011, before Obama made the recess appointments, no quorum on the Board would mean that:
Workers illegally fired for union organizing won’t be reinstated with back pay. Employers will be able to get away with interfering with union elections. Perhaps most important, employers won’t have to recognize unions despite a majority vote by workers. Without the board to enforce labor law, most companies will not voluntarily deal with unions.”
It was this reality that led the sole Republican member on the then-three-person board to consider resigning in order to rob it of a quorum. (The GOP has long loathed the NLRB). Now, the D.C. Circuit Court has held that millions of workers will have their workplace rights suspended because of the definition of a definite article in the Constitution.
The Obama administration will certainly appeal the D.C. Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court, but given the high court’s current composition, it is unlikely that the decision will be overruled. The four conservative Supreme Court Justices can usually be counted on to vote against workers’ rights, and Justice Kennedy will likely be persuaded by the D.C. Circuit’s constitutional exegesis and appeal to Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary.
Labor should take this opportunity to look beyond the NLRB as the sole source of workers’ labor rights. The court’s decision on Friday has made apparent that the board has become too weak to remain the only venue where workers can seek relief for labor rights violations.
It is time to broaden the rights of workers by making labor organizing a civil right, so when employers illegitimately fire or discriminate against workers for organizing a union, workers can appeal not only to the NLRB, but also to a federal court. Just like victims of gender or racial discrimination, workers who suffered discrimination on the basis of union activity would get their day in court. As we discuss in our recent book, this proposal has many discrete benefits under a fully functional board. But it becomes a dire necessity with the prospect of the NLRB remaining defunct for a long stretch of time.
Writing labor rights into our civil-rights legislation does not entail scrapping the NLRB, but rather giving workers the same choice they have with other forms of discrimination: to proceed through an agency or through the courts. The conferral of such a choice may actually strengthen the NLRB by removing some of the enormous political pressures that the noard currently faces as the sole arbiter of labor rights. An NLRB that doesn’t have to carry the weight of every labor rights fight could devote itself to pursuing egregious or particularly difficult cases. Conservatives would have less incentive to rob the NLRB of a quorum if workers could still proceed through the courts and receive potentially greater remedies.
It’s unlikely we’ll see compromise on this issue from an increasingly intransigent GOP that has proven happy to gum up the works of government. Republicans have no incentive to confirm Obama’s NLRB nominees when a non-functioning board will render moot many of the nation’s labor laws and dramatically shift power from workers to corporations, which has been a core GOP goal. Labor should continue to work to strengthen the NLRB, but should also think about moving beyond it. A year’s worth of pro-worker precedent has been erased in a single day; that should be a wake-up call.
When I first read about the horrendous fire in Bangladesh, I immediately thought of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York in 1911 — more than 100 years ago. In many ways, nothing has changed. In some ways, some things have changed.
A Bangladeshi garment factory that was producing clothes for Wal-Mart, Disney, and other major Western companies had lost its fire safety certification in June, five months before a blaze in the facility killed 112 workers, a fire official told the Associated Press.
Separately, the owner of the Tazreen factory told AP that he had only received permission to build a three-story facility but had expanded it illegally to eight stories and was adding a ninth at the time of the blaze…
The factory didn’t have any fire exits for its 1,400 workers, many of whom became trapped by the blaze. Investigators have said the death toll would have been far lower if there had been even a single emergency exit. Fire extinguishers in the building were left unused, either because they didn’t work or workers didn’t know how to use them.
Near closing time on Saturday afternoon, March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top floors of the Asch Building in the Triangle Waist Company. Within minutes, the quiet spring afternoon erupted into madness, a terrifying moment in time, disrupting forever the lives of young workers. By the time the fire was over, 146 of the 500 employees had died. The survivors were left to live and relive those agonizing moments. The victims and their families, the people passing by who witnessed the desperate leaps from ninth floor windows, and the City of New York would never be the same.
The Triangle Fire tragically illustrated that fire inspections and precautions were woefully inadequate at the time. Workers recounted their helpless efforts to open the ninth floor doors to the Washington Place stairs. They and many others afterwards believed they were deliberately locked– owners had frequently locked the exit doors in the past, claiming that workers stole materials. For all practical purposes, the ninth floor fire escape in the Asch Building led nowhere, certainly not to safety, and it bent under the weight of the factory workers trying to escape the inferno. Others waited at the windows for the rescue workers only to discover that the firefighters’ ladders were several stories too short and the water from the hoses could not reach the top floors. Many chose to jump to their deaths rather than to burn alive.
Nothing has changed in 100 years — workers’ lives are thought of as expendable, corners are cut in the name of profit, whether the name is Triangle Waist Company or Wal-Mart.
What did change a bit in the wake of the 1911 fire was a renewed drive to unionize and strengthen health and safety laws. Out of the tragedy, workers mobilized.
Whether that will happen in Bangladesh is to be seen. It would be a great testament to those who died is, out of the ashes of the fire, workers organized to stop the survivors and others from being future victims of the greed of Wal-Mart and its global corporate ilk.
This post was originally posted on Working Life on December 7, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Jonathan Tasini is a union leader and organizer, a social activist, and a commentator and writer on work, labor and the economy. From 1990 to April 2003, he served as president of the National Writers Union (United Auto Workers Local 1981). He was the lead plaintiff in Tasini vs. The New York Times, the landmark electronic rights case that took on the corporate media’s assault on the rights of thousands of freelance authors. He has also written four books, including the Audacity of Greed.
Industrial laundry workers, who wash linen for New York’s hotels, hospitals and restaurants, voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new master contract between 14 laundries in the New York Metro area and the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board, Workers United/SEIU.
The contract includes significant wage gains for laundry workers, a majority of which are African-American women and Latina immigrants. New York Metro area laundry workers will also continue to have free employer paid individual medical, dental and vision insurance and a pension. Laundry workers will be part of one multi-employer contract, which sets the standards for a majority of laundries in the New York Metro area.
“This contract makes real improvements for laundry workers and their families and continues to raise standards for the industry,” Wilfredo Larancuent, Regional Manager of the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board, Workers United/SEIU, told the bargaining committee comprised of drivers and production workers from area laundries, “You can feel proud of what we have accomplished.”
Elected worker representatives from the laundries bargained the contract with employer representatives for over a month. A strike vote was held at the laundries, but the contract was settled prior to the strike deadline. Workers and the employers were able to come to an agreement and both were satisfied with the contract.
The Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board, Workers United/SEIU represents nearly 70% of all industrial laundry workers in the New York Metro area. In August, laundry workers at JVK Operations in Long Island voted to join the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board, Workers United/SEIU and the Joint Board continues to organize the remaining laundries in the New York Metro area in order to bring all laundry workers up to the standards of their membership.
This article was originally published on SEIU on December 7, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Service Employees International Union is an organization of 2.1 million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide and dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society.
Finally, someone is holding Walmart directly accountable for the abuse of workers in its contracted warehouses. “Recent discovery has established that Walmart bears ultimate responsibility for the violations of state and federal law committed against plaintiff warehouse workers,” said a court document filed in Los Angeles.
“Wal-Mart employs a network of contractors and subcontractors who have habitually broken the law to keep their labor costs low and profit margins high. We believe Wal-Mart knows exactly what is happening and is ultimately responsible for stealing millions of dollars from the low-wage warehouse workers who move Wal-Mart merchandise.”
Corporate Welfare: instead of taking a small partition of their record profits, or slightly cutting CEO pay to help out their workers, Walmart wants YOU, the taxpayer, to pay for its workers’ healthcare. Just one more reason Walmart workers, and the population at large, are standing up to Walmart.
Walmart wants you to think its workers love the store and love their jobs. If that’s the case, why are there unprecedented protests against the mega retailer spanning the country? Why is the store facing a lawsuit from contracted warehouse workers? Since Walmart has given us no real evidence that its workers love the store, maybe we are just supposed to take Walmart’s word for it?
This post was originally posted on Change to Win on Monday, December 3, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: J Lefkowitz: Change to Win is a Strategic Organizing Center which focuses on using its “strength in numbers to reclaim the American Dream.” It’s target is middle class and working class Americans to hold corporations and other large entities in our modern society accountable. You can learn more about Change to Win here.
Construction workers and others in the Austin, Texas, area are celebrating a coalition victory this week after Travis County commissioners approved a first-ever economic development policy that includes a living wage requirement.
The policy requires contractors asking for tax incentives to move into the county to pay all employees at least $11 per hour. It’s a significant improvement over the prevailing construction hourly wage of $7.50.
On the same day the county provision passed, a subcommittee of the Austin City Council passed a similar policy, which will come to the full council in the coming months. As reported in the Austin American-Statesman, both the city and county have been criticized about generous tax incentives offered in recent years to major companies such as Apple and Marriott.
“Really, what this means is construction workers are starting to have a say in their working conditions and their pay,” WDP organizer Greg Casar told a celebratory crowd after the county commissioners voted.
This post was originally posted on November 30, 2012 at AFL-CIO NOW. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Barbara Doherty: My dad drove a laundry delivery truck in San Francisco and I came to appreciate unions sitting in the waiting room at the Teamsters vision center there. More than 30 years ago, I joined the international SEIU publications staff (under the union’s legendary, feisty president, George Hardy). Living in California, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., over the years, I have contributed countless news and feature articles, as well as editing, to the publications and websites of unions in the public and private sectors and the construction trades.
Domestic workers, such as caregivers and nannies, make all forms of other work possible and play an increasingly significant role in the U.S. economy. However, a new national study found, on average, domestic workers earn little more than minimum wage and few receive benefits like Social Security, health insurance or paid sick days.
Conducted by the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the study released today offers a startling and provocative look into the often-invisible world of domestic workers. Based on interviews with 2,086 workers across the country, researchers found domestic workers face serious financial hardships and have little control over their working conditions.
As a critical part of the U.S. labor force, domestic workers help thousands of working families by enabling them to focus on their jobs. Yet, they are often paid well below the level needed to adequately support their own family. Forty percent of workers report having paid some of their essential bills late in the previous cycle and 23% are unable to save any money for the future.
One worker featured in the report, Anna, reveals how she was “originally promised $1,500” to work as a live-in nanny in Manhattan but received less than half that amount, averaging “just $1.27 an hour.” According to the report, “Anna sleeps on the floor between the children she cares for, so she is the first to respond to their calls and the last to see them off to sleep.”
Anna’s story exemplifies how the absence of legal protections for domestic workers shapes the systemic substandard pay and conditions they experience. Domestic workers are excluded from federal and most states’ minimum wage laws, as well as by unemployment insurance, anti-discrimination and workers’ compensation laws. They also are excluded from the right to organize and collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions.
Additionally, the majority of domestic workers are women of color and immigrants, a number of whom are undocumented. Researchers found wages differ significantly across ethnicity and immigration status.
At the launch event for the report’s release, Ai-jen Poo, the director of NDWA, said, “The nature of work is changing [in today’s workplaces]. We need 21st century policies that value the dignity of domestic work.”
The study calls for the end of the exclusion of domestic workers from labor laws, including state minimum wage laws and workers’ compensation. Without access to collective bargaining and legal protections, domestic workers remain vulnerable in today’s workplaces.
However, nannies, household cleaners and other domestic workers both in the United States and abroad have organized for years to raise labor standards and improve working conditions. New York became the first state in 2010 to legislate a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, granting overtime pay and other legal rights. Today, domestic workers around the nation are continuing to advocate for similar laws in other states.
In an effort to help raise labor standards for all working people, the AFL-CIO formed a national partnership with the National Domestic Workers Alliance in 2011. Through advocacy and organizing at both the local and state level, domestic workers are joining together with the union movement to help build power for working families.
This article was originally published on AFL-CIO NOW! on November 28, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Jennifer Angarita is is deeply committed to expanding and defending the rights of underrepresented and marginalized communities. She graduated from Yale University with an honors B.A. in Anthropology, and became the first in her family to hold a college degree. At Yale, Jennifer served as president of MEChA, a social justice and immigrant rights organization, and was co-founder of Yale for a DREAM, a student-based group advocating for the passage of the DREAM act.
During the last stages of the campaign, Mitt Romney falsely tried to claim that American manufacturers like Chrysler were moving production to China. As it turns out, at least one company is planning the opposite move: Foxconn Electronics, the notoriously exploitative Apple Inc. manufacturer, is reportedly testing the waters to open new plants in US cities. Foxconn attracted scrutiny earlier this year when its abusive labor practices in Chinese and Taiwanese factories were exposed in a series of New York Times articles.
According to Chinese newspaper DigiTimes, Foxconn is conducting evaluations in Detroit, Los Angeles, and other cities to possibly open plants focused on LCD television production. The company is also discussing a partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology that would bring American engineers to China and Taiwan to learn Chinese and study product design processes.
Foxconn became a household name in the US after a mostly exaggerated and false This American Life segment detailed its mistreatment of workers. Despite the mythology presented in the episode, certain core facts were verified. Foxconn workers live in overcrowded company dorms, working shifts of 12 or more hours, and risk serious injury in appallingly dangerous working conditions. As many as 137 employees fell ill after being forced to clean iPads with toxic chemicals, and 17 Foxconn workers committed suicide in the past five years. The company has also been accused of forcing student interns to assemble iPhones.
Under pressure, Foxconn raised wages for employees and reduced hours, but its still far from meeting basic labor standards. After the company admitted it was struggling to meet demand for the iPhone 5, rumors of a strike over “overly strict demands” emerged.
This article was originally posted on Think Progress on November 8, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Aviva Shen is a Reporter/Blogger for ThinkProgress. Before joining CAP, Aviva interned and wrote for Smithsonian Magazine, Salon, and New York Magazine. She also worked for the Slate Political Gabfest, a weekly politics podcast from Slate Magazine. Previously, she was part of the new media team in Ohio for the 2008 Obama campaign. Aviva received a B.A. from Barnard College.
Watching another politician visit a local diner on the campaign trail, I couldn’t help but notice the irony of politicians—who, research shows, have become exponentially wealthier than the average American family—claiming to understand the daily challenges facing the middle class. Outside of the campaign trail, do our elected officials know what it’s like to have to clock in and out, or live paycheck to paycheck?
With the cost of campaigning growing dramatically with every election, it’s almost impossible for regular working people to run for office, leaving many of us to wonder if our elected representatives truly understand our struggles and represent us in the halls of power. How we can ever expect policymakers to share our concerns as their wealth further removes them from the day-to-day experiences of Americans who are trying to stay afloat in this economy? Aside from campaign finance reform, how can we fix the disconnect between elected officials and the people they represent?
One potential solution comes from the labor movement. Unions across the country have been encouraging their members—often workers from solidly middle-class backgrounds and professions—to run for elected office at the local, state, and even federal level.
As union members, workers can ascend as leaders by taking on active roles in negotiating collective bargaining agreements on behalf of their colleagues to help protect their fellow members’ interests on the job. These positions require both an enormous amount of transparency, accountability, and leadership—bargaining leads can’t just spin, smile, and handshake their way out of a bad deal. They need to look their colleagues straight in the eye and work next to them after a vote’s over.
Las Vegas is home to the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, a union which is actively proving how to run a citizen farm team by engaging and recruiting future political stars through the ranks of its membership. Las Vegas may not seem like a typical training ground for politicos, but through leadership roles with their union, members are learning the skills necessary to serve in public office.
Maggie Carlton is a Local 226 member who waitressed at the Treasure Island casino coffee shop. She got hands-on leadership training while participating in negotiations for three major collective bargaining agreements, covering casinos across the strip.
Carlton was inspired by her ability to impact the lives of her colleagues and wanted to do more for them and others in the community. With the support of her union, she eventually ran for public office and won. Through leadership positions she held within her union, Carlton gained experience directly crafting workplace policy and advocating for workers’ interests. She brought these skills with her when she moved to the Nevada Statehouse, first as a state senator and then as an assemblyperson.
Once a working mom like Carlton is elected into office, she doesn’t forget where she came from. In the current era of political back-scratching, we could easily conclude that a union recruiting their members to run for office is just an attempt to pack legislatures with union sympathizers. But in fact, when American Rights at Work analyzed the 1994–2011 voting records of federal legislators who either had a working-class or middle-class occupation or who self-identified as a union member, we found that a politician’s union background significantly and positively influenced his or her likelihood of taking a policy position benefiting all working families, not just unions. Members with a union background had more “worker-friendly” voting records on issues ranging from protecting Social Security and unemployment to enacting stronger workplace safety laws workplace discrimination even when controlling for other factors, including party affiliation.
Politicians love to extol the virtues and the values of hard work—in their stump speeches, press releases, and in debates. But how many of them are going to bat legislatively for those who work hard for a living? Clearly, an individual’s life experiences and personal history shape how they vote. We need to elect more working moms, public teachers, nurses, truck drivers, and small business owners: people who bring the real perspective and values of working people to the table when developing policy that affects our daily lives.
About the Author: Sarita Gupta is the executive director of Jobs with Justice (JwJ) and American Rights at Work. Jobs with Justice works to build a strong, progressive labor movement working in concert with community, faith, and student organizations to build a broader global movement for economic and social justice. In over 45 communities in 25 states, JwJ local coalitions are organizing to address issues impacting working families. American Rights at Work is an independent labor policy and advocacy organization dedicated to advancing the right to organize and collectively bargain.
The role of training and experience was glaringly obvious in the National Football League’s lockout of its longtime officials. Glaringly obvious as in, the scabs the NFL brought in to replace the experienced referees were first a national laughingstock and then even more widely reviled for their errors on the field. It turns out not just anyone can officiate a professional football game. But what about other kinds of workers?
We’re told that part of the American character is to work hard and take pride in it, and that’s reflected in what we see around us. It’s not just people whose work results in big paychecks or offers the chance to climb the career ladder quickly or get public recognition, it’s a value as alive among low-wage workers as among the highest-paid. But something you hear a lot less about than the value of hard work is the value of skill. This is weird, because presumably if you’re working hard, one of the things you’re working at is getting good at what you do. If you’re taking pride in your hard work, it’s not just pride in how tired you are at the end of the day but at how well you did things, how accurate or efficient you were, how you got something right that not everyone would have gotten right.
But when there’s a labor dispute, or when Republicans are trying to undermine how voters think about other workers to set the stage for taking away pensions or collective bargaining rights, suddenly, to hear them talk, you’d never know that this was a nation that values hard work, because in those moments we’re told it’s not that hard, any idiot could do this job. It’s not that hard to referee a professional football game, so call up the guys who washed out of the Lingerie Football League. Experience is overrated for teachers, so throw people into the classroom after a few weeks’ training, they’ll do fine. More than fine! The youth and energy of the barely trained new teacher will be better than the experience of that useless old teacher. Suddenly, the drive to denigrate the workers becomes so strong that the CEO or the governor asks us, expects us, to forget the years of work that these workers have put into learning their jobs, learning how to teach or to run a snowplow or a cash register.
As the AP’s Paul J. Weber writes, “Professing expertise can also bring on suspicions of elitism and scratch an itch to knock someone down a peg”—an itch that the Roger Goodells and Scott Walkers and Mitt Romneys of the world and the generations of union-busters and racers-to-the-bottom who laid the groundwork for them will hasten to throw poison ivy onto. Hell, if you’re not itching, they’ll sneak up behind you with the poison ivy. But as Weber details, it’s not just on the football field that experience and the commitment that comes from doing a job for years matter.
— In Houston, Adrianna Vasquez makes $8.60 an hour doing what she knows people think is the world’s most replaceable job: She’s a janitor. When the 37-year-old returned in August to resume cleaning the 100 toilets on 10 floors in a downtown Chase Bank tower after a citywide janitor strike that won a 12 percent raise, Vasquez said the bathrooms cleaned by replacement crews looked like stalls in a seedy bar. “I just wanted to cry when I saw it,” she said.
— In New York, Consolidated Edison locked out 8,000 workers in July and brought in replacements from other states to work power lines and operate the grid. It ended just as severe storms hit and threatened power outages. “Not enough people that knew what they were doing,” said John Melia, a spokesman for the Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America.
Most people are willing to concede that it’s better if you have some training and experience before working with power lines, but cleaning toilets? There’s a job that gets basically no respect. But even aside from the toilet-related unpleasantness, it takes physical stamina and attention to detail. Yet among Republican politicians and at Republican think tanks, to say nothing of at big corporations trying to squeeze every last dollar of profit out of their workers to maximize that CEO bonus, the fact that janitors working for the government make a living wage and get benefits is an outrage.
Another piece of the 1 percent’s disrespect for the work of the 99 percent is disrespect for the very real training it involves. At the same time Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was trying to impose harsh new evaluation systems on his city’s teachers, for instance, the teachers had to fight for training so that they would be able to get better at what they do. But training is something workers often fight for, and it’s something that in many industries sets union workers apart—not their work ethic or their drive, but the fact that their unions have been able to bargain for training in the workplace or have put money into union-run training programs. The AFL-CIO’s Alison Omens details just a few of the union training and safety programs you might find:
Remember Captain Sully and “Miracle on the Hudson?” He was a huge safety advocate through his union, serving as the Air Line Pilots (ALPA) representative during a National Transportation Safety Board investigation and as a local air safety chairman.
How about the rebuilding of the World Trade Center? The people who are thousands of feet in the air are union members, as well as veterans. The AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department’s (BCTD‘s) training program Helmets to Hardhats works across the country to train veterans for high-skill construction projects, including at the World Trade Center. [...]
The president of a Chicago-based construction company who works with union workers says this about his experience: “Here’s what [the union’s] training center means to me: We’re getting the highest caliber craftsmen in the business. It’s going toward productivity and attitude.”
But when those same workers who are, through their unions, bargaining for and investing in the best available training are in the way of corporate profit or a Republican governor looking to make his mark, they’re portrayed as greedy, lazy, corrupt, doing a job that anyone could do with a day’s notice and expecting to be able to feed their families and even go on vacation every couple years.
Forty years of the war on workers has led us to this deeply dysfunctional, contradictory place where workers and their labor are concerned. Hard work is great. If you’re not rich and you don’t work hard, brutally hard if your boss requires it, you’re a bad person who deserves poverty. If you’re not rich and you expect your hard work to be valued with pay or benefits those at the top don’t want to give, expect to see your work and experience and skill mocked as nothing. And if you’re at the top? Your wealth is justified by your hard work, supposed or real. About other people’s hard work, the only question is how cheap you can get it.
This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on September 30, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.
There’s an idea floating around the internet today that the National Football League owners “lost” their labor dispute with the NFL Referees Association after the two sides reached a deal last night. The Big Lead’s Jason Lisk said as much in a post today, and others have made similar arguments.
That might be an easy belief to hold, given negotiations got serious as a result of the public relations nightmare that was this week’s Monday Night Football game, when a blown call cost the Green Bay Packers a game. From where I’m sitting, though, that view couldn’t be more wrong.
When the lockout began, the owners had three major asks: they wanted to eliminate the pension benefits current officials receive, add full-time officials, and add a back-up pool of officials. More details will come out, but the deal they reached last night added a group of full-time officials and a back-up pool of officials and grandfathered in pension changes that will eliminate the current defined-benefit retirement program for all officials by 2016. The owners got basically everything they wanted, and somehow they lost?
I’m not seeing it.
If anything, this deal is more evidence of the power corporate interests hold in labor disputes. Laden with cash and able to wait, the NFL spent the offseason moving the NFLRA’s thin red line closer to what the owners wanted, to the point where the reasonable compromise was one that gave the league everything it wanted, if on a slightly slower timeline. That ensured that when fans firmly took a side, the league would still get its way. That power is shared by corporations in lower-profile battles, where companies are locking out workers to pay them less and eliminate pensions and benefits just because they can.
There’s only one loser in this, and it’s the American worker. Another pension is gone, and because the real refs are back on the football field, we’ll all forget about the nonsense and go back to watching the game as if none of this never happened. For a measly $60 million, the owners could have shored up the pensions of employees who make a $9 billion league work. Instead, they ruined three weeks of football to save less than a penny on the dollar, and their reward was to get everything they asked for. And this will keep happening, in sports leagues and factories and workshops across America.
If that’s a “loss,” I’d hate to see what it looks like when they win.
This blog originally appeared in Think Progress on September 27, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.