Tag Archives: Labor

Bigot of the Week Award: December 14, Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Legislature

14 Dec
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

Well fetch my smelling salts. Petulant Republicans in Michigan rammed through anti-union legislation in their lame duck session. Even though they will maintain their slim majority in January, supporters of the bill were defeated in November, giving it no chance to pass in the new session. Desperate to gut union power, the soon-to-be-gone legislators colluded with Gov. Rick Snyder to pass the so-called “Right to Work” bill, marking another huge blow to workers.

The bill is modeled on a plan put forth by the Koch brothers, which tells us all we really need to know. Speaking in support of Michigan unions, President Obama wisely called it a “right to work for less” bill. Before the election, Gov. Snyder had maintained that the draft legislation went too far, saying he would not support it. He suddenly changed his tune, championing the odious measure and signing it in record time.

Legislators maintained that the bill was necessary to keep unions from abusing their power in the public sector. Their hypocrisy is revealed in every step of their actions, however. It includes restrictions on private sector unions. It exempts two large public sector unions, fire fighters and police. Is it a coincidence that both of these groups are more likely than other union members to support Republicans? These actions were clearly nothing more than an aggressive political move.

Dishonorable mention this week goes to a regular recipient of the BWA, Justice Antonin Scalia (Thank you to LGBT ally Jennifer Carey for inspiring me to write this).  As the Supreme Court gets ready to hear two marriage equality cases, Scalia reiterated his odious opposition to equality. Asked by a law student about his regular comparisons of homosexuality to bestiality, Scalia repeated and emphasized them. Curiously, the media — who often seem to enjoy his theatrical antics from the bench — are now pondering his viciousness, noting his nasty, behind the times irrelevance.

REMINDER: TSM is still accepting Bigot of the Year nominations. We’ll spend the last week of 2012 recognizing the most horrific and hypocritical behavior of the year. Please submit your suggestions by December 23 for full consideration and stay tuned for the winners!

Boycott Black Friday

21 Nov

In the wake of an impressively progressive election season, let’s carry the concept of human rights into the massive holiday shopping season. The constant advertising and promotion for us to shop on Black Friday is enough to make me spit up! Making all those deals happen involves horrific and abusive employment practices.

Workers are being exploited like never before.  Walmarts around the country will be open 24 hours and are holding holiday sales on Thanksgiving itself for the first time.  The situation is so bad that Walmart employees are mounting unprecedented protests and the retail giant is pulling out every dirty trick to try to stop them.  Have you no decency Walmart?

Please consider some simple facts before you surge into the shopping madness this weekend.

  • For you to shop at 2 o’clock, someone has to be there at 1:00 to set up the store; or stay after closing the night before so all the special advertising material isn’t shown before the sale begins.
  • The stores and malls that offer shockingly “great” deals for earlybirds have to be staffed by people, people who should have lives of their own.
  • Most of those retail staff are underpaid; many try to support families on wages below poverty without benefits.
  • Before you shout “But they’ll earn great commissions!” please realize that most retailers drastically reduce commission levels (if they offer them at all) starting on the day after Thanksgiving because it’s “too easy” to earn the extra money being run off your feet by extra hoards of shoppers fighting over the last Tickle Me Bieber–I think I just made myself spit up a little with that one.
  • Many of those workers rely on public transportation, which doesn’t operate during the hours it takes to get to the workplace to staff these special sales. So even if they get commissions or overtime (or just extra work hours), those minimal wages get eaten up with cab fare or parking fees paid while they deprive the rest of the family of the one vehicle they own.
  • You don’t need a bargain so badly that it’s worth going to the store at 4a.m., and an extra 5% off the latest Wii isn’t worth your sleep or your time with your family. Really.

So please join me in saying “NO” to abusive sales practices. If you have any other local choices, stay away from Walmart. While you’re at it, avoid JCPenney, which promised to skip Black Friday back in February but has reneged on that oath.

Times are hard, so shop smart and save where you can. But please remember the thousands of people it takes to get that bargain ready for you, and treat them with human kindness this holiday season.

Those Lazy Teachers in Chicago…

11 Sep

Thank goodness I have seen bits of the media coverage of the teacher’s strike in Chicago.  The media (shows like The Today Show, or what I call Fox News Lite) have taught me why it is important to vilify these glorified babysitters and why we should take the Paul Ryan and  Scott Walker approach to labor.

Let’s be honest, these teachers only work 10 months out of the year.  So what if they have to teach in over enrolled classes.  So what if they only earn on average 1/7th of the salary of the administrators.  So what if they have no school supplies and often pay for them out of their own pockets.  So what if they have to take on additional duties, thus working far more than 8 hours a day. So what if during their “time off” in the summer they have to take classes to keep their credentials.  So what if they are suddenly required to teach to tests that have no bearing on their teaching skills but are promoted and retained based on those tests. So what if they pay more in taxes than the 5% of the wealthiest of Americans. So what if they now have to parent as well as teach and then are criticized for not doing enough.

They are just labor.  What happened to the good old days when schools and companies ran easily and cheaply?  What happened to the days when we could just send children into factories and coal mines, or send immigrant women into hostile working conditions and they died in a fire? Those there the good old days. Good for Mayor Rahm Emanuel for taking us backwards in time and bullying these teachers into submission (You know, I loved him when he played Uncle Joe Stalin — he was very convincing).

Really? Really? What happened to our country? When did this dramatic shift occur that we no longer value labor? When did we start to vilify people who make little money? When will this perspective shift again, for these people like Rahm Emanuel and Scott Walker are on the wrong side of history.

I stand with the Teachers in Chicago! Ask me why if you want a lesson in history, economics, and social justice.

Hero of the Week Award: September 7, Michelle Obama

7 Sep

Hero of the Week

First Lady Michelle Obama has been celebrated before on TSM and it is such sheer pleasure to celebrate her again.  Her opening night speech at the DNC was nothing less than phenomenal!  She is amazingly candid and authentic.  This is not a Stepford Wife.  Our First Lady is her own woman who loves her family and loves her country.  Her candor allows us to see how human she is and that she is a spitfire,which I love. Her speech leaves us all inspired and hopeful.  Michelle Obama’s speech is being hailed as one of the best convention speeches delivered in the Modern Era.

While, yes, I did cry while hearing her speech (she actually made me proud to be an American), I was also in awe of her ability to really reach all Americans and all families — the poor, the middle class, black, white, multi-racial, gay, straight, Jews, Latino, veterans — she spoke to America and the very rich and complicated fabric of people who make up this country.  At no time did she “other” (marginalize) any population.  Her inclusion of speaking to all Americans speaks to making the entire country feeling safe — that no one will be scapegoated.  Her simply mentioning decency, dignity, and integrity and “how we need to value everyone’s contributions,” easily starts the water works for me.

I need to add that she wrote her own speech and declined to accept the speech written for her.  Yes, she wrote:

Being President does not change who you are; it reveals who you are.

For me the choice is quite easy. I will vote for President Obama because he is truly working for and representing ALL Americans. He has not vowed to take away my rights as a gay man, nor will he repeal the rights of women, or protect only the wealthiest of Americans.  President Obama is truly working for all of us.

If you have not seen First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech, click here to see it.

The Laborer and the Economy…

3 Sep

The American Dream demands a fair chance for everyone

Labor Day was started in 1882 by labor unions, but it would be many more years before it would be recognized as a Federal Holiday. Oregon was the first state to recognize and honor Labor Day in 1887.  Finally in 1894, it became a national holiday on the first Monday in September under the Cleveland Administration.  Congress passed it unanimously, a very rare event indeed.

Reflecting back, the United States can proudly celebrate the influence of its labor unions and how they have helped to protect the too often marginalized and voiceless.  The Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire proved there was still a great deal of work to be accomplished by the labor movement.  Labor Unions also worked to protect children and helped to establish an eight hour work day, fair wage laws, and breaks for safety and meals.

Sadly, America seems to be losing its appreciation of Labor Unions while privileging profit over people.  Thanks to President Clinton’s NAFTA and similar agreements as well as vulture capitalists like Mitt Romney, we find our country sending jobs to other countries where we exploit workers for pennies and then leave those countries to find even cheaper labor.

Even sadder is that when President Obama proposes work bills for the unemployed, all of the bills are met with categorical Republican Obstructionists. All this does is end up hurting the everyday worker in the Unites States.  I have to say it takes a great deal of chutzpah for people like Romney and Ryan to talk about solving issues of the economy when Ryan has been one of the architects of the Great Obstructionist Movement, privileging the rich while crushing and reducing the middle class.

On a personal note, it also saddens me that people like Romney and Ryan are working hard to allow companies like Chick-Fil-A to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and deny us employment for being gay.  At the Federal level, pointless votes are taken to repeal the Affordable Care Act, money is wasted defending the clearly unconstitutional DOMA, and the war on women has the House attacking birth control and Planned Parenthood. They bleat about jobs and the economy but do nothing, while at the state level the Scott Walkers are dismantling unions and isolating workers from the political process.

Labor Day isn’t just an excuse for a long weekend or a chance to grill an extra hot dog before autumn sets in. It’s a chance to reflect on the work that is done at all levels of our society and the value of all that labor. It’s a chance to celebrate the collaboration that makes work better and working conditions safer. In the words of the great Joe Hill (as sung by Billy Bragg, thanks to my husband for the choice of Bragg):

Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws can not defeat us
But who’ll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackeys out to cheat us?

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone
What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child

There is power in a Union.

Happy Labor Day to all of our brothers and sisters that have to work today and that have no pension, no health benefits, and are at the poverty line.

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