#ILGov: Bruce Rauner, GOP Candidate for Illinois Governor, Promises Government Shutdown and Mass Firing of Public Workers
In a newly surfaced video, Illinois’ Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner suggested if elected governor, he will fire public employees and potentially shut down the government to address his state’s fiscal challenges.
The video, circulated today by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, shows Rauner addressing the Tazewell County Republican dinner in March. In remarks to that group, Rauner said: “We may have to go through rough times. We may have to do what Ronald Reagan did with the air traffic controllers. Sort of have to do a do-over and shut things down for a little while. That’s what we’re gonna do.”
In 1981, members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization decided to go on strike in its push for better working conditions and higher pay. In response, President Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers. The federal government subsequently decertified the air traffic controllers union. His action came months after he sent a letter to the head of PATCO acknowledging “too few people working unreasonable hours with obsolete equipment” and pledging that his “administration will work very closely with you to bring about a spirit of cooperation between the president and the air traffic controllers.”
Rauner’s call to “shut things down” took place only a few months after the federal government shutdown last October. It also comes amid Illinois’ ongoing debate about how to address an estimated 30-year, $100 billion pension shortfall.
Critics of Illinois’ recent move to slash pension benefits have pointed to the state’s spending on tax cuts and subsidies as proof Illinois has plenty of money to address its pension obligations. For example, a New York Times analysis indicated, Illinois currently spends roughly $1.5 billion every year on taxpayer subsidies to corporations. Additionally, the state in 2011 passed a corporate tax cut bill that is estimated to cost $371 million a year. That bill was designed to award tax breaks to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Rauner is considered a top pickup opportunity for Republicans. He has been consistently leading in polls in his election matchup against incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. His rhetoric against public employees stands in contrast to his business experience as a billionaire private equity executive who made his fortune managing government workers’ public pension money.
In the months preceding his call for mass firings of public employees and a shutdown, Rauner has proposed to use budget savings from pension cuts to finance new income tax cuts. He has also called for public employees to be moved out of traditional pensions and into 401(k)-style accounts.
The Associated Press reported recently those defined contribution systems tend to generate large fees for financial firms. Union-affiliated groups have argued states that have converted their plans to 401(k)s have ended up losing taxpayers’ money rather than cutting costs. Additionally, a Republican legislator in Alaska recently cited exploding pension costs as proof his state’s 2006 transition to a 401(k) system was a mistake.
The Rauner campaign did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.
UPDATE: Another video has surfaced today showing Rauner making a similar comment in a March 2013 speech to Illinois Republicans. In that video, Rauner says: “I may have to take a strike and shut down the government for a few weeks and kinda redo everybody’s contract. That’s a possibility…I will do it proudly.”
FUCK Bruce Rauner, and he needs to be kept out of office!
h/t: David Sirota at IBTimes.com
Iowa radio host Steve Deace was on Larry Pratt’s Gun Owner’s News Hour last week to promote his new electoral strategy book, “Rules for Patriots.” The two spent quite a bit of time lavishing praise on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for his crusade to bust his state’s public-sector unions.
Deace shared his theory that that public-sector unions are one of the “four pillars of the leftist, statist, Marxist movement,” along with “the child-killing industry, the homosexual lobby” and “government education” (which is “how they get the next generation to indoctrinate them”).
He praised Walker for removing “one of the four pillars,” namely “the worker bees, the grassroots, the mobocracy, the ‘Hail Satan’ chanters down in Texas last year, that’s the government-sector employee unions.” Deace apparently thinks that five anonymous teenagers yelling “hail Satan” at a pro-choice protest in Texas means that all public employees are Satanists.
Deace counseled Republicans against supporting any GOP politician who supports any one of the “four pillars.”
Pratt agreed, adding that the public-sector employees, including teachers’ unions, that protested at the Wisconsin state capitol in 2011 were “such ugly, dirty people” that nobody would want teaching their children.
Deace: There are four pillars of the leftist, statist, Marxist movement in America: the child-killing industry, the homosexual lobby, government education – that’s sort of their youth ministry, that’s how they get the next generation to indoctrinate them. The homosexual lobby and the abortion industry is where they get their mega, mega hundreds of millions to fund their schemes. But the worker bees, the grassroots, the mobocracy, the ‘Hail Satan’ chanters down in Texas last year, that’s the government-sector employee unions. And if you cut them off, that’s like cutting off the recruiting ability of a college football team. That’s the lifeblood of their program is those government-sector employee unions.
And if you do some of the math, I think the average annual union due in Wisconsin is like $1,500 a year for an AFSCME member. And if they truly lost 40,000 members, Larry, 40,000 times 1,500, you can pretty much buy the Wisconsin state government every year for that kind of money. And to have him cut off the head of the snake like that, he removed one of the four pillars. He’s maybe the only elected Republican in my lifetime I can think of who’s actually removed one of their pillars. And now you know why they have done everything they can possibly do to get rid of him.
And I would just say to your audience, if you’re supporting a Republican who doesn’t threaten at least one of those pillars, you’re wasting your time. If you’re supporting a Republican who aids and abets or collaborates with one of those four pillars, I don’t care how good he is on every other issue, he’s actually working for your opponent. Because that’s the infrastructure of the American left, those four facets.
Pratt: When Scott Walker had those union thugs lying all over the lobby of the capitol dome, the capitol building itself, they were such ugly, dirty people. ‘Those were teaching my kids?,’ I think people might have been thinking. They lost so much stature, it was just amazing what was happening.
From the 04.12.2014 edition of Republic Broadcasting Network’s Gun Owner’s News Hour:
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
Despite strong opposition from both sides of the aisle, extremist lawmakers in the Missouri state Legislature are pushing ahead with a so-called “right-to-work” law that could mean a big pay cut for the state’s middle class.
HB 1770, sponsored by Eric Burlison of Springfield, stalled this week after nearly a third of House Republicans voted against it in a procedural vote. But Speaker Tim Jones says he’ll do whatever it takes to get the votes he needs to pass the bill. Why? Because big national donors like the Koch brothers and fiscal radicals like Grover Norquist issued their marching orders,and House leadership isn’t about to disappoint the people who help pay their bills.
Many members of the Legislature know that “right-to-work” isn’t right for Missouri, and Missouri’s workers don’t support it. Republican John McCaherty says he voted against it because he knows that “right-to-work” will hurt his constituents. If HB 1770 were to pass, he says, “here in the St. Louis area we undoubtedly would see a drop in wages.”
But concern for the people you represent is no way to get ahead in a political climate that’s all about out-of-state money. One Republican representative, Ron Hicks of St. Louis, found himself hounded by interest groups who smeared his name and even sent robo-calls to his home phone number following his “No” vote.
“I understand right-to-work is a big issue across the nation, but I think I should still be able to vote the way my constituents want me to vote,” he told the Washington Post. “This one time I’m going outside the box to stick up for my constituents and all the sudden I’m a RINO [Republican in name only]?”
If the bill passes the Legislature, the measure will appear on a statewide ballot in August, where wildly misleading ballot language will obscure the real intent of the law.
But Missouri voters should make no mistake: “right-to-work” isn’t about your rights at all. It’s simply an attempt to sow division among coworkers and drain union resources so that workers can’t bargain for better pay and conditions.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — United Auto Workers lawyers issued subpoenas Wednesday for Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Senator Bob Corker and key members of the Haslam administration to testify at an upcoming hearing over the union’s efforts to organize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.
Economic and Community Development (ECD) Commissioner Bill Hagerty, ECD chief-of-staff Will Alexander, House Speaker Beth Harwell, Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson and Rep. Gerald McCormick were among the 20 individuals or organizations to receive subpoenas.
Corker’s chief-of-staff Todd Womack and press secretary Micah Johnson were listed on the subpoena list, along with conservative activists Grover Norquist and Matt Patterson.
The subpoenas call for them to testify before a National Labor Relations Board hearing later this month, where the UAW is challenging a vote that it narrowly lost at the VW plant. It asks those officials to bring all documents relating to economic incentives offered to Volkswagen.
Documents recently leaked to NewsChannel 5 Investigates show the Haslam administration wanted a say in the automaker’s deal with organized labor — in exchange for $300 million in economic incentives to help VW expand its Chattanooga operations.
The governor had emphatically denied rumors heard by Democratic lawmakers that state incentives were tied to Volkswagen rejecting the UAW’s role on its workers council.
But the documents, marked confidential, stated that the proposed incentives were “subject to works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee.”
Emails obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates also showed that Corker’s staff was in contact with anti-union activists and then shared that information with members of the Haslam administration who were in charge of the incentives.
UAW President Bob King explained the union’s motives in a statement.
"The purpose of the NLRB’s investigation is to determine the truth concerning the third-party interference in the February election at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant," he said.
"The NLRB’s rules call for the use of subpoenas as part of this truth-seeking exercise. The UAW hopes that all parties who receive subpoenas will fully comply by providing the NLRB with the requested documents and with their testimony."
Corker’s chief of staff, Todd Womack, reacted strongly to the news.
"After a stinging defeat, rather than respect the workers’ decision, the UAW is trying to create a sideshow," he said. "We’ve referred this matter to legal counsel. We hope other people who might be inclined to consider the UAW will take this development as a cautionary tale."
Haslam spokesman Dave Smith said, “It would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time.”
Emails Show Sen. Corker’s Chief of Staff Coordinated with Network of Anti-UAW Union Busters - Working In These Times
Leaked documents obtained by Nashville TV station NewsChannel 5 WVTF reveal communications between the employees of two Tennessee Republicans—Sen. Bob Corker and Gov. Bill Haslam—and a network of prominent anti-union professionals during the United Auto Workers’ union drive at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga earlier this year.
Sen. Corker and Gov. Haslam have been blamed by the union for contributing to the drive’s defeat by making public statements against the UAW. Prior to the election, Corker claimed that the plant would add an additional SUV assembly line if workers voted against the union, while Haslam implied that businesses had told him that they might not relocate to Tennessee if workers at Volkswagen voted to join the UAW.
There was no direct evidence, however, that these politicians were coordinating with the various anti-union forces that had gathered in Chattanooga to oppose the drive, although In These Times reported in November 2013 that Washington, D.C.-based anti-union campaigner Matt Patterson had bragged about developing anti-UAW messaging with “politician [sic] and businessmen” in Tennessee. The documents by NewsChannel 5 provide the first direct proof of such coordination. In addition, In These Times magazine has obtained documents and conducted interviews with a top anti-union consultant that shed new light on the origins of the anti-union videos referenced in the communications.
Chain of evidence
The documents released by NewsChannel 5 show that, just before the union election, Sen. Corker’s chief of staff and one of Gov. Haslam’s cabinet members were part of an email chain with both Chattanooga-based and national anti-union consultants about efforts to draw attention to three videos produced to fight the UAW at Volkswagen. The videos feature testimonials from workers at previous UAW plants claiming that the UAW destroyed Detroit and led to the closure of a former Volkswagen auto plant in Westmoreland County, Pa. (Full disclosure: This author’s mother worked at the Westmoreland County Volkswagen plant until it closed, and was a member of UAW.)
In a February 10 email with the subject line “Video views so far today,” Peter List, the CEO of the anti-union labor-relations consultant group Kulture LLC and editor and chief blogger of LaborUnionReport.com, boasted of the videos’ web traffic. The email was addressed to, among others, Sen. Corker’s chief of staff, Tony Womack; Maury Nicely, the head of the local Chattanooga anti-union group Southern Momentum; Charleston, S.C.-based anti-union consultant Jim Gray; and former Volkswagen plant manager Don Jackson, whose role in campaigning against the UAW has been previously detailed by In These Times. Also on the chain was Tim Spires, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers’ Association, which promoted anti-UAW events, and Ron Harr, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.
The next day, Corker’s Chief of Staff Todd Womack forwarded List’s email to Tennessee economic and community development commissioner Bill Hagerty—a member of Gov. Haslam’s cabinet—and Hagerty’s chief of staff Will Alexander (who is the son of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander) with a message saying “If you would, please don’t forward this version, but this is the video I mentioned. Thanks much, Todd.”
Womack did not return request for comment about what level of coordination Senator Corker’s office had with anti-union consultants. Likewise, Peter List refused to answer questions about why he was emailing Senator Corker’s staff, stating in an email to In These Times, “It seems you’ve fallen into the trap that people actually pay attention to what politicians say.”
The other major revelation of the NewsChannel 5 investigation is a document titled “Project Trinity,” dated August 23, 2013 and labeled “confidential,” in which Haslam offered $300 million in incentives to Volkswagen if the company would bring a new SUV line to its Chattanooga plant and add 1,350 jobs. At the time, the UAW and Volkswagen were discussing the process by which the company would recognize the union and how the UAW would interact with a potential German-style works council being at the plant. In the “Project Trinity” document, Haslam’s office informed Volkswagen that the “the incentives … are subject to works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee.”
In remarks in Chattanooga today, Haslam denied that he was attempting to use the incentives to influence the union vote. However, the emails show that top Haslam staffers conducted an extensive legal analysis of how quickly the union election could occur at Volkswagen once either the union or the employer filed for it. (Unions tend to advocate quick elections, since they believe that delaying organizing drives deflates their momentum.) In a February 4 letter to the Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations CEO Frank Fisher, Haslam also voiced concerns about union organizers being granted access to the plant.
Who’s behind the videos?
Through an interview with prominent “union avoidance” consultant Jim Gray and a leaked document from an anti-union consulting group, In These Times has learned the source of the videos discussed in the email chain. Gray, who was sent the email, tells In These Times that he played a large role in developing the videos, in conjunction with Southern Momentum, whose head, Maury Nicely, was also on the email chain. Gray says that he helped write the script for the video and “helped point towards” Projections Inc., a prominent anti-union consulting group, as a possible producer.
A document from Projections’ UnionProof.com website titled “Case Study: Volkswagen and the UAW” that is available to the site’s “insider members” reads, “On February 3, the call came in to Projections’ Union Proof Team from the Southern Momentum non-profit group. … When Volkswagen asked for a fast vote on February 3, the Union proof Team immediately went to Chattanooga to begin drafting a communications strategy. Scripts were written, testimonials shot, and in plant footage was recorded.”
Projections states that it in a matter of four days, it was able to produce three “highly professional” videos against the UAW and even traveled to Westmoreland County, Pa., to film a former Volkswagen worker who claimed that the UAW forced the plant there to close in 1988.
The videos were then made public at meetings organized by Southern Momentum on February 8 and 9, just a few days before the February 12-14 union election, and uploaded to www.no2uaw.com, a website run by anti-UAW workers at the plant.
The Case Study document quotes Projections CEO Walter Orechwa as saying, “The truth is, regardless of the timeframe, powerful employee communication is always key to remaining union-free.”
The legal ramifications
After the union defeat, the UAW filed a case with the National Labor Relations Board charging that outside political interference by Corker and the state GOP leadership prevented workers from receiving a fair election. On Tuesday, the UAW used the NewsChannel 5 report to file a supplemental brief with the NLRB, alleging that the leaked documents provide even greater evidence that government officials coordinated their efforts to hinder the union drive. “Doubtless there is more evidence of such coordination in addition to this particular leaked email chain, given the tone of familiarity among the email recipients,” wrote the UAW in the brief.
Also, the UAW cited the new connection in the email chain between the anti-union group Southern Momentum and government officials to challenge the NLRB’s decision to grant Southern Momentum “intervenor status” to participate in the NLRB hearings. In an unusual move in March, Southern Momentum petitioned for standing in the case, arguing that it was a group representing anti-union workers involved in the dispute. The NLRB agreed, which will allow Southern Momentum to bring in its own legal team to make arguments. Southern Momentum has deep pockets: Previously, In These Times quoted No 2 UAW anti-union VW worker committee activist Mike Burton as saying “not one of us [workers] raised a penny” of the $100,000 raised by Southern Momentum to fight against the UAW drive. The UAW however, argues that the email chain provides further evidence that Southern Momentum is tied to outside special interests rather than workers and that its intervenor status should be revoked.
According to labor lawyer Moshe Marvit, a fellow at the Century Foundation, the case has far-reaching legal implications, since outside groups with dark money sources are rarely allowed to fight unions in NLRB cases.
However, Marvit notes that “there is an irony to the Board’s granting intervenor status to outside groups” because “the hearing is only necessary because outside groups became involved in the election in an improper way. Now, the Board is affirming that these groups have a legal interest in the proceedings, and is thereby affirming their position as parties.”
The NLRB trial is set for April 21 in Chattanooga, Tenn. While it’s unclear whether the NLRB will be swayed by the new evidence to call for a do-over election at Volkswagen, to one local activist these documents represent something startling.
"When a billionaire governor, a millionaire senator, and the local Chamber of Commerce all unite to kill jobs in reaction to the mere possibility of one union local being organized at one factory in one city in the state of Tennessee, the full extent of the corrupting influence of the business community in our state government becomes clearly visible,” says Chris Brooks, an activist with the pro-UAW community group Chattanooga for Workers. “What chance do workers have to organize a union when they are pitted against our state’s most powerful politicians who coordinate their attacks in secret with a shadowy corporate cartel composed of everyone from the local Chamber to out-of-state anti-union consultants?"
#WIGov, #2016GOP: Crackpot Conservative Scott Walker Claims Reagan Ended The Cold War By Busting Unions
In a desperate attempt to make himself look presidential, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is claiming that Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War by busting U.S. unions.
According to the Washington Examiner, Gov. Walker said:
When Ronald Reagan took that action against the air traffic controllers, that in my mind was the beginning of the end of the Cold War. And the reason was, from that point forward nobody doubted how serious Ronald Reagan would be as president. Our allies knew that they could trust him, that he was rock solid. Our adversaries knew not to mess with him. And even though he presided over an incredible buildup in our nation’s national defense, in our military, we had very few, very limited military engagements during his eight years as president.
To me, if you have a strong America led by a strong president who makes serious statements about what they mean not only on national security and foreign policy, but on all other issues, we’re not going to be faced with many of these situations because people will know if they’re allies we can be counted on and if they’re adversaries not to mess with us. And when we have an America where … Prime Minister Netanyahu was in the White House getting the cold shoulder from the president who still can’t figure out exactly where they stand on Israel, and when you have… a red line in discussions about Syria which apparently (he) was never serious about doing anything about, no wonder, whether you were in Iran or Russia, or anywhere else around the world, no wonder people feel certain comfort taking action because they don’t see this administration as willing to act. I’m not necessarily encouraging that we draw red lines all over the place. My sense is just, you shouldn’t point a gun at somebody if you’re not prepared to shoot.
Gov. Walker (R-WI) envisions himself as a 2016 Republicans presidential candidate, and he thinks that he is ready to lead the free world, because he too, busts unions. Walker’s retelling of the Reagan myth is so far off base that it is absurd.
The Soviet Union did not watch Ronald Reagan bust the air traffic controllers union, and then decide to call it a day. Scott Walker has taken two unrelated events, lumped them together, and drawn a laughably illogical conclusion. As with all Republican presidential nominating contests real issues don’t matter. The whole process is nothing more than a showcase of who can talk the toughest.
Republicans love tough talk. They are addicted to it, but Scott Walker’s problem is that he has no foreign policy experience. In order to make himself look like a viable national contender in 2016, Walker had to invent the myth that Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War by busting American unions.
His argument was illogical, ridiculous, and it made no sense. It also perfectly sums up the crackpot conservatism that Scott Walker is using to destroy Wisconsin, while plotting a 2016 run for the White House.
Hopefully the citizens of Wisconsin boot out Koch Brothers/ALEC/union-busting toady and renegade corrupt thug Scott Walker in November. And his reign as President— if elected in 2016— will destroy our nation worse than Bush 43/Reagan ever did.
On Monday, New Mexico’s Republican governor issued what union leaders are calling a “declaration of war” against unionized state employees. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Gov. Susana Martinez told a group of commercial real estate developers…
The editorial board of the Salem Statesmen Journal, one of the most influential newspapers in Oregon, is not messing around.
Their piece on the coming fight over making Oregon a so-called “right to work” state goes right to the point: this law is bad for Oregon, and the only reason we’re talking about it is because of deep-pocket out-of-state special interests.
Don’t know what a “right to work” law is? The editorial kicks it off with a succinct definition:Under right-to-work laws, employees in unionized workplaces no longer can be required to pay unions for the cost of being represented. That’s the sum and substance of right to work, in one sentence.As we’ve written, the national “right to work” effort sputtered in 2013. In Oregon, Portland attorney Jill Gilbson Odell is sponsoring a “right to work” initiative intended for the 2014 ballot. “There’s national money to be had,” she told the Associated Press, mentioning “large donors” who would back her. But 2013 saw little movement for Odell’s effort, and popular Gov. John Kitzhaber has already stated his opposition.
These laws, passed in 24 states, have nothing to do with protecting those who have a job from losing it or granting anyone who needs a job the right to find it.Yet the phrase persists, because political factions that back such legislation aren’t courageous or honest enough to call them what they are.
Right-to-work is a misnomer. If proponents were straight with us, they’d call these transparently vindictive efforts a “Right to Weaken Unions Act” or a “Right to Punish Those Who Oppose Us Measure.” The laws drain money from unions under the guise of creating a more business-friendly environment for states.
VW Isn't Fighting Unionization-- But Leaked Docs Show Right-Wing Groups Are | Activism, What Matters Today | BillMoyers.com
After Volkswagen issued a letter in September saying the company would not oppose an attempt by the United Auto Workers (UAW) to unionize its 1,600-worker Chattanooga, Tenn., facility, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was flabbergasted.
“For management to invite the UAW in is almost beyond belief,” Corker, who campaigned heavily for the plant’s construction during his tenure as mayor of Chattanooga, told the Associated Press. “They will become the object of many business school studies — and I’m a little worried could become a laughingstock in many ways — if they inflict this wound.”
Corker isn’t the only right-winger out to halt UAW’s campaign. In the absence of any overt anti-union offensive by Volkswagen, conservative political operatives worried about the UAW getting a foothold in the South have stepped into the fray.
Leaked documents obtained by In These Times, as well as interviews with a veteran anti-union consultant, indicate that a conservative group, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, appears to be pumping hundred of thousands of dollars into media and grassroots organizing in an effort to stop the union drive. In addition, the National Right-to-Work Legal Defense Foundation helped four anti-union workers in October file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that Volkswagen was forcing a union on them.
“Everyone is definitely looking at this fight,” the anti-union consultant, Martin (not his real name), told In These Times. “This is the union fight going on right now and everybody [in the anti-union world] is looking to play their part and get compensated for playing their part.”
The last VW plant where workers don’t have a voice
As the only major VW plant in the United States, Chattanooga is also the only plant whose workers have no opportunity to join German-style “works councils” — committees of hourly and salaried employees who discuss management decisions, like which plant will make specific car models, on a local and global scale.
Organizing with the UAW, workers say, would help them to both form new works councils and gain representation at existing ones — which, in turn, would attract more jobs to the area.
“I personally feel like not having a union and not participating in a works council is going to do more damage for future expansion and new product development in Chattanooga than any unionization would do,” says Volkswagen employee Justin King. “The way VW works on the international level, [management] almost expects to work with a union. Now, we aren’t able to say, ‘Hey we would like to build that new SUV, or we would like to hire some new workers.’ We are only hurting ourselves by not going union.”
Workers also say having a union would help the plant be more efficient. “On the assembly line, the process changes each year because [of] new models,” says worker Chris Brown. “A voice in the company would help smooth the process from year to year.”
Beyond this, VW employees feel that organizing could help address their problems with corporate policy, including the fact that nearly one-fifth of workers at peak times in auto production have been temporary employees. Temporary employees’ starting wages are more than two dollars an hour lower than full-time employees’, and their healthcare and retirement benefits are much less robust, says the UAW.
According to Brown, approximately 200-300 “temps” are currently employed in the VW factory — and the UAW says they can remain classified as temporary even if they work at VW for years.
“I am friends with these people, and they want a job. Some of these people have been there for 18 months as a temp and that’s just … wrong,” says Brown. “If this is a job that I do, they should be making the pay that I make. [They] should have the same job security that I have as an employee.”
Fellow employee Lauren Feinauer agrees that a union would improve workers’ communication with management. “We heard a lot in the beginning about how VW works with their employees: close relationships and a lot of communication. I know there is a lot of that going on, but I think some of the VW way got lost in translation,” she says. “This is why we want a union.”
This September, the UAW announced that a majority of VW workers have signed up to join the union. But according to the UAW, it and VW still have yet to agree on a process for recognizing the union. That has left time for outside anti-union forces to try to dissuade workers from joining the UAW — time that many of those groups have capitalized upon.
Anti-union consultants get in the game
In a proposal dated Aug. 23, 2013, which was presented to a prominent anti-union group before being leaked to In These Times, Washington, DC-based consultant Matt Patterson outlined a vision of how anti-union forces can work with community groups to persuade VW workers that organizing is not in their long-term economic interest.
In the report, Patterson explained his approach thus far to laying the groundwork for an anti-union campaign, which he calls the “Keep Tennessee Free Project,” in Chattanooga. From last May to August, he said, he “leveraged a $4,000 budget into a deep and effective anti-UAW campaign that received national media attention, pressured politicians to issue public statements against unionization, forced the union to expend resources to counter our efforts, developed an extensive intelligence network that stretched from Chattanooga to Germany to Detroit and brought the terrible economic legacy of the UAW to the forefront of the debate.”
Patterson claimed that during the summer, he generated 63 stories denouncing the UAW effort in Chattanooga. In three months, he said, he was able to build a media echo chamber that now hammers Chattanooga with anti-union messaging on a regular basis.
And such remarks aren’t idle boasting. The fruits of Patterson’s anti-organizing crusade have appeared in the National Review, Forbes and local Chattanooga TV station WDEF 12, in addition to a host of smaller conservative talk radio shows.
But he didn’t stop there — he also gathered grassroots support. “Within a few weeks,” he wrote, “I had organized a coalition consisting of members of the Tea Party, Students for Liberty, former VW employees, politician and businessmen to craft and deliver a consistent message that has shaped public opinion.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) are trying to attach a national so-called “right-to-work” law to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), according to Roll Call. The two filed an amendment connecting ENDA to the anti-union measure hours before the discrimination ban passed a key hurdle on its way to its first floor vote in the Senate in six years. The proposal would effectively require workers to trade protections from discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender identity for their rights to strong union protections from other employer abuses.
A person can be fired for being gay or transgendered in a majority of states, and ENDA would ban employers from discriminating against LGBT people nationwide. ENDA has languished for 20 years, but a procedural vote on Monday night put it on track for its first floor vote in the Senate since 2007.
The idea behind right-to-work laws is much more complicated than the name suggests. The laws prohibit unions from requiring dues payments from all employees in a unionized workplace. That creates a free-rider problem whereby workers who stand to gain higher wages and better job conditions from a successful union contract bargaining effort can refuse to help pay for those efforts. While the laws are often billed as rescuing workers from being forced to pay union dues, workers can already refuse to contribute to the political efforts of the union that represents their interests on the job site.
Despite their branding, right-to-work laws are designed to weaken unions, which in turn drives down wages. Workers in right-to-work states like Michigan and Indiana make about $1,500 less per year than those in other states. States with strong unions have a stronger middle class than others. Right-to-work laws don’t boost job creation, either, according to studies of the 22 states that operate under the policy. Workplace safety and health insurance benefits are also weaker in right-to-work states.
Yet with help and funding from the business community, conservative activists have made a concerted effort to advance right-to-work laws at the state level in recent years, with 19 states considering versions of the law in 2011 and 2012.
The move to connect anti-worker laws to ENDA is particularly galling given that unions are often the only form of protection that LGBT workers enjoy. In the 21 states where a person can be fired for her sexuality and the 33 states where a person can be fired for his gender identity, union contracts can offer some shelter from discriminatory bosses. McConnell and Paul may be trying to divide two major components of the Democratic party’s base, but the equality and labor movements have worked in concert for years on a variety of issues.
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler tossed his hat into the2014 Governor’s race to unseat Democrat John Hickenlooper in September of this year, and has been working to capture an early lead when he suddenly suspended his campaign in order to send his resources into a local school board election.
Understandably, this has outraged many, including the good citizens of Douglas County, the focus of Gessler’s efforts. Denver Post:
Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler says his passion for education reform is why his 2014 gubernatorial campaign is shifting gears over the new few days to focus on electing a conservative slate of candidates to the Douglas County School Board on Tuesday.
But Gessler’s announcement, both in an e-mail and on Facebook, has attracted critics who contend the state’s top election officer — and a former elections law attorney — is violating campaign finance laws with announcements about “paid opportunities.”
Not at all, said Gessler’s political director Rory McShane.
“We are currently following and will continue to follow all campaign finance laws,” McShane said.
Campaign finance laws prevent a candidate committee from accepting contributions or making donations to another candidate committee.
Here’s what Gessler wrote in his e-mail: “We’re actively recruiting door-knockers to get out the vote. We also have paid opportunities … .”
Here’s what he wrote on his Facebook campaign web site: “If you would like to help we’re looking for walkers! It pays $11 per hour!”
McShane said groups supporting the conservative school board candidates are paying the walkers, not Gessler’s gubernatorial campaign but that’s not how critics read the missives.
Boy, are those groups supporting the conservative candidates spending money in that race, too. There’s a slate of four candidates who are associated with the Tea Party who have received between $38-40,000 each from 25 donors or less. Compare and contrast that with the homegrown candidates sponsored by people who actually live in the area. They have ten times the number of donors but only about a quarter of the funds.
The Douglas County School Board race is ground zero for union-busters right now, but it’s not the only one, nor is this a new tactic. Conservatives going all the way back to the halcyon days of the John Birch Society have long believed school board takeovers are the very first step to “taking back their country,” and education reformers are taking advantage of that to bust unions for their own ends.
However, it could be the first time that an elected official and candidate for Governor has decided to pay people to get out the vote for them while suspending his own campaign. In the email he sent out to his supporters onhis email list, he was clear about his motives:
Against the advice of the Denver political elites, I’ve ordered my campaign for Governor to shift focus for the next week until the Douglas County elections, to ensure that conservatives are victorious this year.
We’re actively recruiting door-knockers to get out the vote. We also have paid opportunities – but we need you if we’re going to be successful as a team.
He donated his email list and a piece of his website to recruitment to elect candidates funded with outside money in order to bust unions, but he’s just fine with that. He’s an election lawyer and known for his own voter suppression efforts in Colorado during the 2012 general election.
Gessler also appears to be ethically challenged.
First, it was learned that a discretionary account intended to cover official state business was tapped to pay for a partisan junket to Florida. Reporting by The Denver Post also showed that, at the end of the fiscal year, Gessler reimbursed himself $1,400 for expenses for which he has no documentation.
A short time later, Gessler lowered fines owed the state by the Larimer County Republican Party by tens of thousands of dollars and then agreed to help them raise money to pay off the debt.
He may have shrugged off criticism about the moonlighting and the GOP shilling, but Gessler will have a hard time ignoring complaints that he misused taxpayers’ money.
Earlier this month, it was learned that he spent $1,452 from his office’s discretionary account to attend a Republican National Lawyers Association meeting and the Republican National Convention in Florida. Questioned as to the prudence of spending taxpayer money on partisan activity, the secretary implied that everybody does it and criticized the scrutiny as politically motivated.
Oh, maybe so, except that he didn’t produce the receipts for it.
Gessler has long-standing ties to shady political groups, like the Western Tradition Partnership, now renamed the American Tradition Partnership by Gessler as part of his services to whoever funds that particular 501c4. Whatever the name, boxes of financial records were discovered in a meth house in Colorado, and shed some light on the dark money moving in Colorado and Montana:
But the details available on WTP, which has worked to elect conservatives in Montana and Colorado and has won national attention for a lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to apply itsCitizens United ruling to states, are striking.The bank records highlight WTP’s ties to groups backing libertarian Ron Paul. The Conservative Action League, a Virginia social welfare nonprofit run at the time in part by John Tate, most recently Paul’s campaign manager, transferred $40,000 to WTP in August 2008, bank records show. Tate was also a consultant for WTP. In addition, WTP gave $5,000 to a group called the SD Campaign for Liberty, affiliated with Paul and the national Campaign for Liberty.
The bank records also illustrate how cash passes between dark money groups, further obscuring its original source: $500,000 passed from Coloradans for Economic Growth to WTP to the National Right to Work Committee, over a few days in October 2008. Coloradans for Economic Growth and the National Right to Work Committee are social welfare nonprofits that don’t have to disclose their donors. Tate and others paid by WTP were also once associated with National Right to Work.
What Gessler and his moneybags pals are doing in Douglas County isn’t all that different from what Republicans do in general. They move in gangs, they capture big bucks to buy the office and then pay off their sugar daddies with quid pro quo activities like suppressing the vote, weakening campaign finance laws, and busting unions.
Is it any wonder the parents in Douglas County are aggravated? What happened to caring about the children, after all?
“Right to work” is the most dishonest phrase in American political discourse. It sounds like it’s defending people’s right to earn a living. But as used by its supporters, it means making it impossible for workers to form an effective union, couched in the language of “freedom” and “choice.”
Specifically, it means laws banning “union shops,” in which everyone in a workplace has to join the union or pay a fee to cover the cost of union representation. Twenty-four states have such laws. All were in the South and West until last year, when Indiana and Michigan enacted them. Michigan’s law was rammed through the Republican-dominated legislature in a lame-duck session last December.
The Michigan law was “pretty devastating for the labor movement,” says Erin Johansson of American Rights at Work. It came in the state where the United Auto Workers’ six-week occupation of General Motors plants in Flint in 1937 won the victory that opened the doors for unions throughout American industry, the state whose union labor defined the working-class prosperity of World War II to the 1970s.
Both Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Dick DeVos, the heir to the multibillion-dollar Amway fortune who bankrolled the campaign for the law, stuck to the party line about “freedom.” Snyder said the law would give workers “the freedom to choose” and unions “an opportunity to be more responsible to their workers,” because instead of automatically collecting dues, they’d have to show workers “a value proposition.”
“Absolute horseshit,” responds Ed Ott, former head of the New York City Central Labor Council. “This is a total offensive against workers. They don’t want workers to have any say. After workers vote for a union, they don’t want them to maintain membership.”
This year, “right to work” measures were introduced in 17 states, according to Peggy Shorey, director of state government relations at the AFL-CIO. Ten were defeated, including those in Missouri, Kentucky, and New Hampshire, where Gov. John Lynch vetoed one in 2011. Republicans in the Ohio legislature introduced one in early May, but the state senate president said he didn’t want to give Democrats an issue to raise funds on. (Ohio voters overwhelmingly overturned draconian limits on unions in 2011.) Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced one in January, but it hasn’t gotten a committee hearing.
“It’s striking that they were not successful in passing it in Missouri,” says Shorey. The most significant measures still pending, she says, are in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. In North Carolina, House Speaker Thom Tillis proposed making the state’s “right to work” law and a ban on public-worker unions an amendment to its constitution, after declaring that he wanted to keep North Carolina “the least unionized state in the United States.” In Pennsylvania, the sponsor is Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, chair of the State Government committee, who also sponsored the state’s voter-ID law and fulminates against “illegal alien invaders.”
Neither measure has made it out of committee, but “after Michigan, anything could happen,” warns Ott.
The Michigan and Indiana laws came as part of the 2011–’12 offensive against worker rights in the upper Midwest, but the concept emerged after the great union victories of the late 1930s. The phrase “right to work” was coined in 1941 by William B. Ruggles, an editorial writer at the Dallas Morning News who didn’t want to join a union. His bosses feared that federal laws and regulations backing union rights were forcing unions down the throats of employers and socializing industry. Ruggles proposed a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to work with or without union membership.
Lobbyist Vance Muse, founder of an organization called the Christian Americans, picked up the campaign—but realized that it would be much easier to win state laws than a constitutional amendment. Without such a law, he argued. “white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs.” He also said the law would help “good niggers, not these communist niggers.”
He won support from business groups, and Texas outlawed the union shop in 1943. Arkansas followed in 1944. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which restricted strikes and banned communists from being union officials, specifically allowed states to pass such laws, in its Section 14(b). By 1960, 18 states had done so, and Wyoming, Louisiana, Idaho, and Oklahoma trickled in over the next few decades.
In 1961, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “right to work” a “fraud,” saying that it “provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ …Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining.” In 1965, the high-water mark of liberal power in Congress in the last 70 years, the House voted to repeal Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, but a filibuster in the Senate preserved the provision.
In today’s network of anti-union think tanks and lobbying groups, the two most concerned with right to work are the National Right to Work Committee and its offshoots, based in Washington’s Virginia suburbs, and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, in Michigan.
The National Right to Work Committee, founded in 1955, has grown to include a legal offshoot, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, and the National Institute for Labor Relations Research. Reed Larson, who headed NRTWC for 45 years, touts the Foundation, established in 1968, as the nation’s first conservative litigating organization.
The committee proclaims that it is “dedicated to the principle that all Americans must have the right to join a union if they choose to,” but its masthead motto is “No one should have to be forced to pay tribute to a union boss to get or keep a job.”
Asked what these organizations have done to support the right to join a union, spokesperson Patrick T. Semmens says that there’s no risk that union membership will be outlawed, but “the right not to join or associate with a union…is not currently the law and therefore is our focus.”
In practice, responds Erin Johansson, if a worker complains to the National Labor Relations Board that she was illegally fired for union activity, it can take eight or nine years to get her job back. “We have nothing now. We don’t have a functioning NLRB,” she adds.
Republicans in the Senate have filibustered President Obama’s nominees to the NLRB for years, to prevent if from having a majority that recognizes workers’ legal rights. If the vacant seats are not filled by August, the board won’t have a quorum. In January, a federal court said Obama’s recess appointments were unconstitutional, and voided rulings they participated in. The National Right to Work Foundation filed an amicus brief in that case, the result of a lawsuit filed by the Chamber of Commerce-backed Coalition for a Democratic Workplace.
The Foundation has won several Supreme Court decisions banning unions from using dues collected from nonmembers for activities not directly related to collective bargaining—that is, supporting pro-union candidates or legislation. It’s also represented people who don’t want to join unions or pay dues, and calls strikebreakers “courageous individuals.”
The Foundation’s list of “Big Labor’s Top Ten Special Privileges” includes just about anything that would make a union effective.
It claims that union “monopoly bargaining” is “depriving employees of the right to make their own employment contracts.” In other words, it denies them their right to ask for a raise on their own and not get one—or to undercut the union by agreeing to work for less.
It claims that unions have the privilege to “strong-arm employers into negotiations,” because “unlike all other parties in the economic marketplace, union officials can compel employers to bargain with them.” As opposed to employers’ right to ignore workers or tell them, “you’re fired, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.”
It claims that union workers have the privilege to “refuse to work while keeping their job,” because they can’t be fired for going on strike. This isn’t exactly true. Employers can’t fire workers striking against unfair labor practices, but they can legally “replace” workers striking for more money. The union movement of the mid-20th century was strong enough so employers rarely did that until after 1981, when President Ronald Reagan fired striking air-traffic controllers. And if employers can fire striking workers, that makes it next to impossible to have a successful strike.
If one wants proof of the union slogan that “right to work” really means “right to work for less,” it’s in a book excerpt posted on the National Right to Work Committee’s Web site. In Stranglehold: How Union Bosses Have Hijacked Our Government, Reed Larson blames the New Deal for establishing the plague of “compulsory unionism.” He writes that the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, by setting minimum wages in various industries, “trampled the rights of workers” by denying them the freedom to make a contract to work for less money.
The “right to work” network’s other main argument is that weakening unions stimulates job growth, that jobs are increasing in states with right-to-work laws. As companies often prefer to move to places with the lowest wages and the weakest safety regulations—witness the garment industry’s migration from the Triangle Shirtwaist Company to the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh over the last century—this makes sense, although Armelagos says, “companies are still moving out of Indiana.”
It’s harder to sell low wages to the public. In 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly wage for union workers was $943 a week, compared to $742 for nonunion workers. To get around this, they argue that per capita income in “right to work” states, adjusted for the cost of living, is equal to, almost equal to, or more than it is in “forced union” states.
Leave it to Fox to do the bidding of the House Republicans and their allies, who are doing their best to try to destroy the U.S. Postal Service. Never mind the damage that would be done to the elderly who rely on the mail to receive their prescriptions, small businesses and Americans who live in rural areas with shoddy Internet service and the thousands of Americans who earn a decent middle class living from being employed there.
No, in the view of the majority of the panel members on this Saturday’s edition of Cashin’ In, that’s a terrible thing that those people are gainfully employed and heaven forbid have union representation and it’s all their fault that the Post Office is in financial straights. And par for the course with these “business block” shows of theirs, the only voice of reason was the one, poor, lonely outnumbered “liberal” Christian Dorsey, who did actually tell the truth about one of the problems — which is that Congress has “forced the USPS to pre-fund 75 years’ worth of pensions for its employees, a requirement not made of any other public or private institution.”
Instead we were treated to the rest of them screaming that we need to privatize the Postal Service, lying and telling the audience that other industries would provide the same services less expensively and ignoring, other than Dorsey again, that they have a mandate to serve all Americans which those other companies are not bound by. It really just boiled down to another shameful exercise in union bashing, which is what these Saturday shows on Fox do week, after week, after week, or at least when they’re not attacking the poor and demonizing liberals in general.
Wisconsin’s embattled Republican governor Scott Walker sat down with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network this week where he defended his union-busting record ahead of the June 5 recall election. Last year Walker pushed through a bill stripping the collective bargaining rights of public worker unions (except for the ones that endorsed him) while passing pricey corporate tax giveaways, which even his fellow Republicans in the state legislature admitted was a ploy to hurt Democrats by crippling unions.
But Walker denied that his move was “anti-union” and said he was committed to creating jobs by “building infrastructure, roads and bridges and rail and things of that nature,” which is ironic since Walker rejected funding for a high speed rail line connecting Milwaukee and Madison. “I put the power back in the hands of the taxpayers,” Walker told Brody. “What I did is also very pro-worker.”
Pro-worker my ass. His (and other GOP crooks) policies are anything but “pro-worker.”
H/T: Brian Tashman at RWW