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The other day I read a piece on Talking Points Memo that grabbed my attention. The title of the piece is "Do Blogs Take Labor Issues Seriously?" The writer of the piece points out that a lot of the blogs out there did not mention some important information on recent Supreme Court Rulings. His statements are accurate; it was the comments that caught me off guard.

This is just one labor activist's rant on the whole subject. My hope is to get some people to get on the bandwagon.

The other day I read a piece on Talking Points Memo that grabbed my attention. The title of the piece is "Do Blogs Take Labor Issues Seriously?" The writer of the piece points out that a lot of the blogs out there did not mention some important information on recent Supreme Court Rulings. His statements are accurate; it was the comments that caught me off guard.

There was a clear mix of pro-labor people working day in and day out to help labor move forward and others that didn't know that labor was still alive - those smacked me the hardest.

It is difficult, at best, to know that we are working as hard and fast as possible to spread the word of labor in the United States, and no matter our efforts, we have a long way to go. It seems, at times, that we are making a dent when we review the traffic of Union Review and other labor blogs, or when I know how many emails I am getting from the site and at the MYSPACE counterpart from both union and nonunion workers seeking information; but that dent is what it is ... a dent.

So, what do we do from here? I don't know the specific answers, but I do know that we need to get more people involved online and off line in spreading the word on labor and labor issues in the United States. We need to share stories of our victories, why we strike when we do and why we vote the way that we do.

[A simple Sunday morning aside: I just finished going through the entire Washington Post. My girlfriend read through the house ads and made a comment about the amount of foreclosures in the DC, MD, NVA community. I told her if she thinks its bad here, look to see how many are posted in her home town of Lorain, Ohio].

I think it is imperative that we all talk about the Employee Free Choice Act and why that legislation is so important to us personally and professionally. We need to discuss the American Dream and how it apparently is a dream for only a few nowadays and a foreclosure nightmare (see aside) for many more around the United States.

But do bloggers outside of the labor movement even know about the Employee Free Choice Act? Do folks even understand why Colombian Free Trade Agreements are heinous to consider when a union leader there is shot at on an average of one a week? Does everyday working people (union or nonunion) know what it means to be misclassifed in their job as independent contractors and ultimately refused insurance because of their status? What about Bud being sold to  InBev and the 7,000 or so Teamster jobs; does anyone give a shit out here? Did anyone say they'd rather not take the kids to Hershey, Pa. this year to stand up for the Peppermint Patty workers who were let go when the company took operations to Mexico?

Maybe bloggers don't vent on this stuff in their rants as often as other things because they just don't know what is taking place with labor. Maybe people are confused with the alphabet soup that labor presents: CBA, AFL-CIO, CTW, IBT ... the list is endless and reminds me of a song from the musical "Hair."

The comments at the blog the other day really slapped me around. They are comments from everyday people who have a strong opinion of labor, workers, and this country's labor laws -- but, in my opinion, many of the opinions are terribly ill-informed. I think that is our fault ... we are simply not getting heard.

We can get into a whole argument on mainstream media and how the labor beat is long gone and buried into the business section. We can talk about the fact that rank-and-file are hardly asked what they think -- and mostly how they feel. We can isolate and identify all kind of variables, but the owness is still on us because we have the opportunity, now, to educate, mobilize, and if you are as crazy as me, organize online. So, why are we not doing it?

As for the naysayer-types, those that think labor died with Ronald Regan - we need to talk about our fierce power and how - as a movement we are making changes. And we are making tremendous changes for ourselves, our children and in some contracts, our grandchildren.  

With the Teamsters (where I work) I am endlessly writing about the School Bus and Transit Workers, about FedEx Mechanics, Waste Management Workers, and so many other campaigns. I am also involved with getting people schooled up on Colombian Free Trade Agreements and how that is just a bad deal for both American workers and our Colombian sisters and brothers. I post about Barack Obama's stance on labor and why he is the choice for labor as whole.

[Aside 2: Barack Obama has gone on record about replacement workers. He has said that he would work toward getting legislation passed that would ban replacement workers. Do you know what that means to a rank-and-file worker? That means that, though no one - not the union or the company - likes to strike, if it is the last resort and that tool (striking) is employed, the experienced workforce on the line will not be permenantly replaced by scabs. Do bloggers outside of the labor movement know what a scab is?]

I never so passionately felt the need for help on my mission to spread the word of union labor in this country. I call on anyone who is reading this to help me spread the word of the union movement - even if it is just cutting and pasting articles, commenting more frequently or forwarding the articles you read on Union Review to your friends and family. There is clearly a general public of nonunion people who are severely ill-informed with very strong opinions of us; it is up to us to change that opinion with real life facts and stories of what we contend with on a daily basis.

If anyone is interested in blogging about labor issues in the United States but doesn't understand the intricacies, please feel free and unashamed to ask. My email address is I will do my best to either answer questions that I can, or get an answer from someone else when I don't know how to reply.

Are you in?

"Do Blogs Take Labor Issues Seriously?"

Originally posted to Union Review on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 06:51 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  well (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Youffraita, CryptoPolitico

    some of us do. I'm from an AFT and NABET family.

    "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

    by Greg Dworkin on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 06:55:16 AM PDT

  •  Thankfully (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tobendaro, notrouble

    you are here!

    •  sigh.....very few people today (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pHunbalanced, shirah, Bob B, nanobubble

      realize how much grassroots campaigning owes the labor movement.

      But the bigger question of why "union issues" don't resonate with people is sort of a mystery to me. I've been here some four or five years and diaries about unions have never gotten much attention, even when written by activists or known labor writers (nathan newman used to post here a lot).

      I don't know if it's because of what happened in the Reagan years or because the Democratic Party lost interest or because unions themselves allowed others to frame their issues.

      My own brother is a union member in Seattle, a master at his trade, but he doesn't really understand the terms of his union's contract with his employer, his wage is not at all impressive after 20 years plus, and and he doesn't even get sick days. Some of his lack of curiosity on the topic is due to his personality, but if asked about what his union does for him, he says, "well, I'm worth more dead than alive."

      I found that kind of alarming and don't know if his union has fallen down on its educational responsibilities, or if it's the economy, or some perception, no matter how ill founded, that unions are irrelevant.

      NetrootNews coming soon!

      by ksh01 on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 07:17:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sigh ... is right (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pHunbalanced, ksh01, shirah, nanobubble

        I know that a lot workers, like your brother, have a sense of ambivalence to their contracts because they simply don't understand them. When I was once a steward I'd ask my coworkers in my area, endlessly, if they understood their rights. More often than not, they were a step above clueless.

        I believe it is the responsibility of the business agent or the steward to explain the contract inside and out -- and if that fails to occur, it is on the worker to show up at his/her union hall and ask, UNASHAMED, "WHAT DOES THIS MEAN???"

        I think that there is a lot to say about workers bravado and shame clashing when an individual returns home with his contract and feeling like they are reading King Lear.

        If your brother wants some assistance on his contract, have him contact me and I will get him in touch with the right people ... it would be my pleasure to help him gain some clarity.

        •  One of the biggest problems for EFCA (6+ / 0-)

          is that bosses seem to me to be a lot more motivated to stop it than workers are to pass it -- even organized workers.

          EFCA is going to be pretty damn close to an "over my dead body" issue for the Chamber of Commerce and NAM, and for their biggest constituents.  I haven't seen any evidence that workers see it that way (including in 7 years organizing for 2 unions).

          Major labor law reform -- the kind that redistributes power collectively to workers, like the Wagner Act or the reforms adding health care or non-profits in the 1970s -- happen under 2 circumstances:

          1. Massive change has already taken place in the real world, and the law is passed to sort of acknowledge it and regulate/control it;
          1. The shit is hitting the fan, and Capital agrees to give up some power to prevent something much worse from happening.  This is essentially how you win a contract (give us a wage scale, or safety rules, or whatever, or we'll strike/go public/threaten your gov't contracts, whatever).

          If Labor can force bosses, say, 70% of the time, to use card-check, then EFCA can pass because the change has already taken place.  If Labor can't make that happen, and I doubt it can, then we'll get EFCA when Capital sees EFCA as the lesser evil to whatever the other alternative is.  And that means that workers need to make a legitimate threat that can be traded for EFCA.

          I don't really see a likely scenario for that, either.

          "Run, comrade, the old world is behind you!" -- Situationist graffito, 1968

          by Pesto on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 07:42:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I hate to agree (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            but ... I do.

            A fight is a fight though ... some of us dedicated our lives to it; more of us need to.


          •  Well, and consider actually (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Bendygirl, Pesto, ksh01

            fighting back against those who have mal-interpreted the NLRA.

            Unions have got to stop cutting deals that let people like Battista get appointed to the NLRB.

            February 2, 2008 Bush Re-Nominates the WORST NLRB Chair Ever

            I list lots of information that are what a bad deal unions got for letting this guy and worse through. The NLRA and NLRB are union and worker territory, and the unions and workers need to band together to protect it.

            •  Unfortunately, Bush doesn't give a crap what (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              unions think and doesn't consult them when making appointments to the NLRB. He consults the Chamber of Commerce and other business associations who have much more sway with him.

              But thanks to Kennedy and a few others, we were able to stop Battista from getting appointed this last time.

          •  Passing EFCA will be an enormous battle for sure (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Pesto, ksh01

            There's already anti-EFCA ads on the air. But Obama will sign it if it reaches his desk. If we can get to 60 Senators, I think we can get it passed. National unions are very much on board with getting this passed and are doing some internal organizing on it, particularly CWA.

            •  I'm pretty sure it can pass the House (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              because even the defection of a couple of dozen anti-worker Dems won't completely hose it.  And the Chamber/NAM understand Congress, and know that it makes much more sense to focus on the Senate.

              The last vote in the Senate was a gimme for EFCA supporters:  since Bush was obviously going to veto it, the vote was completely symbolic.  The Chamber and NAM didn't want it to pass, but they obviously knew that it wouldn't become law in any case, and they were much more interested, IMHO, in immigration reform at the time, which actually would have been signed into law.

              On the other hand, EFCA was a very big deal to Institutional Labor -- Senators knew that voting the wrong way could cost an AFL-CIO or CTW endorsement.  So folks like Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu had every reason to vote Yes and not as much reason to vote No.

              And, very significantly, the Dem leadership had every reason to get the whole caucus on board so that Labor would stay enthusiastic and help the Dems get to 60 in 2008.

              Once you get to 60, everything reverses.  The Chamber and NAM will fight to the death on this (what incentive do they have to compromise? something worse than EFCA is going to happen to them?).  No more free votes.  And the Dems already hold all the cards -- so what if Labor gets pissy with Lincoln or Landrieu?  They're part of a massive, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.  They won't have to answer to Labor, especially since it's unlikely that they're really, passionately committed to worker solidarity and the class struggle.

              In the end, it's going to have to come down to this:  how much can we punish Capital for denying us our rights?  They don't need to like EFCA -- they just need to like the alternative less.  But it's up to people outside DC, not the eunuchs in the Palace, to fight that fight.

              "Run, comrade, the old world is behind you!" -- Situationist graffito, 1968

              by Pesto on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 08:05:07 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  You raise some good points (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                pHunbalanced, Pesto

                I know that labor has become better (although there is always room for improvement) at getting strong commitments from new candidates running for office to support EFCA. So hopefully, some of the newer Senators we get elected this year will be committed to getting it passed. Not saying it will be easy at all. And we don't have an alternative plan (i don't think American workers are ready for a national strike over this, or anything else) but, we'll see. Got to get Obama and some better Dems elected first before anything else can happen.

            •  Also, on Obama and EFCA (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              democrattotheend, pHunbalanced

              But Obama will sign it if it reaches his desk. If we can get to 60 Senators, I think we can get it passed.

              It's not getting anywhere near his desk if he doesn't make it a major priority.  Even under the best case scenario electorally, Health Care is shaping up to be the #1 domestic priority at the start of the Obama Administration.  That counts for Obama himself, Institutional Labor, and ordinary, working Americans, too.

              Frankly, I don't think American workers care enough about our own rights to win this fight.

              "Run, comrade, the old world is behind you!" -- Situationist graffito, 1968

              by Pesto on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 08:12:44 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  well, in all honesty (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Pesto, ksh01, Chico David RN

                I don't think labor, and by that, I mean worker's rights and economic justice, are a priority for Obama. It's one of the things that keeps me from being enthusiastic about him. For all of his talk about helping workers as an organizer after they lost their jobs at the steel mills, I don't believe workers' struggles are near his heart. Now Edwards on the other hand....

                In any case, those who care about EFCA, workers having a decent life with good pay, benefits, etc. will have to fight hard for sure to make sure Obama sees this as a priorty.  

                •  Agree 100% (3+ / 0-)

                  Unfortunately, though, Institutional Labor is investing tens of millions of dollars into Obama, and will have a tough time pivoting after the election and saying to members, "Yeah, he's really not that into us."

                  The only hope I have -- which isn't much -- is that Obama's organization will go Frankenstein's monster on him after he's sworn in and will (figuratively or literally) storm DC in a fit of righteous fury.  Those are the kinds of circumstances under which we could get EFCA passed.

                  "Senator Moneybags, the people are right outside and they're pissed!  What do we do?"

                  "Maybe if we throw this EFCA thing at them they'll drop their pitchforks and go home."

                  "Run, comrade, the old world is behind you!" -- Situationist graffito, 1968

                  by Pesto on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 08:36:47 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  We can say that for every issue (0+ / 0-)

                  And every politician - or nearly so.
                  No matter who we elect, they will have an army of lobbyists competing for their attention and an army of consultants whispering in their ear telling them mostly to be cautious, don't stick their neck out, avoid controversy.
                  Real change - in labor law, health care policy, environmental issues, will not come because a president takes the lead.  They will come because a whole lot of people are loud and persistent in demanding it.
                  Anyone who thinks we can elect a better president and consider out work done is living in a dream world.
                  I get requests for money all the time from advocacy organizations on various issues.  I tell them that right now, they can't do much with this administration in office, so all my money is going to elect Democrats.  The time that we need those organizations is after we elect the Democrats, to help make sure those we have elected do what we put them there for.

                  •  exactly right, although they need $ (0+ / 0-)

                    now too to have a good infrastructure in place to fight well when we do win in November!

                    •  Oh, I give them enough to stay alive (0+ / 0-)

                      I give my hundred bucks a year or whatever to the Sierra Club and all those other organizations.
                      But when they call me wanting an extra donation, their sales pitch is always that they need it because the of the latest Bush outrage.  They probably can't stop the latest Bush outrage with any amount of money, they're just using it as a marketing tool.  So my mantra for now is: first elect better people, then keep on their ass to make them do what they should.  

        •  that's kind (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I'll refer him if he has issues.  You'd think he'd ask his lawyer sister but I try not to interfere.

          I think the core of the problem has several facets.  Here are some of the issues I think lead toward the problem of ambivalence:

          Several unions represent workers at his shipyard

          Times have been very bad for Seattle area shipyards in the last decade (especially with global warming and over fishing affecting business)

          Lack of history (they have no realization of what times were like without unions)

          Identification of the union as in bed with the employer (not saying this is valid, just saying the union can be as much a target as the employer)

          Terms that aren't too different from nonunion jobs.

          I think a great deal of the problem is due to the struggling nature of the industry.

          NetrootNews coming soon!

          by ksh01 on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 08:02:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Points well taken (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            These are all valid issues that I seem to deal with on a regular basis.

            1. You go to a union yard/terminal/shop and there could be any number of unions representing workers doing very similar work ... this is an issue the unions need to fix.
            1. Lack of history: you are right ... they haven no idea what it is like without the union. It is like a younger worker I talked with recently who was having a hard time imagining what life was like before cell phones.
            1. Unions in bed with employers ... I don't know what to say. Some unions really suck, not all of them. It is up to us to point out the good and warn against the bad.
            1. Terms being not too different -- is a tricky one because a collective bargaining agreement will always be stronger than an individual bargaining agreement.

            Thanks for being here this morning, this is all good stuff.

            •  thank you....I'm an old style democrat (0+ / 0-)

              I think that means "one with memory" or "one who remembers history."

              About the "union in bed with the employer" thing....I want to expand a little on that because it has relevance in other arenas.

              It seems to me, as a casual follower of union/labor issues, that the "in bed" aspect developed as unions felt forced to make concessions in the twilight of American economic strength.  I think for the most part, these concessions were well-intentioned acts, mostly aimed at keeping old industries alive in a new industry world.

              Maybe you have an opinion on this.  I'd love to hear it, because I don't know much about it.  But it seems that Detroit and associated industries have soooo missed the boat on their chances to revive the auto/transportation industry and that the various unions could have played a role in pushing old technology away and adapting new ones.

              What have unions done to push hybrid and electric technology?  I know it's not their traditional role, but it seems to me they would do well to get involved.

              NetrootNews coming soon!

              by ksh01 on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 08:46:24 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It's part of the big picture/narrow focus problem (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                A useful case study is the way the Auto unions partnered with the industry to fight against safety standards and fuel economy standards for cars, perceiving that those standards would cost them jobs in the short term.
                This enabled the dinosaur mentality of the big auto makers, who continued to make and sell their cars with a short term focus while other makers in other countries did the work and made the investments in better cars for the future.  In the long run, the unions would have been far better off if they had looked at the larger social interest - safe cars and efficient cars are better for the society as a whole and better for the workers and the company in the long run.
                When unions align our interest with the public interest we have our best success.  When we align our interest with the corporate interest, it might work in the short run, but will come back to bite us in the end.

      •  A big problem.... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bendygirl, Pesto, ksh01, shirah

        is that many if not most union members don't really get that THEY are in fact THE UNION. The union is not an insurance company, its an organization of workers -- and the more active, unified, engaged those workers are, the more they will be able to improve at work. When workers tell me their union doesn't do anything for them, one of my first questions is "what are you doing to make your union stronger?"

        •  I am so glad (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bendygirl, Pesto, ksh01, shirah, unionsally

          you wrote this out ... it was, honestly, the first thing that crossed my mind about our friend's brother.

          We have this at every union. It is not an us and them when it comes to the union and the rank-and-file ... the rank-and-file ARE the union ... That should lesson 1, me thinks.

          •  then this is where there is much work to be done (0+ / 0-)

            unions are being taken for granted.

            Do unions have organizing internships? Outreach to high school students in union labor-based communities. Scholarships for union family kids to study labor law,  a particular industry, or techno advancement in the context of labor rights? I know some version of these programs exist, but I wonder if they need to be made more relevant to the rank and file.

            It doesn't seem fair that because workers forget or have no memory of what lead to formations of unions in the first place that the unions themselves have work to do, but there you have it, I think there is work to do.

            If the rank and file sees the union as "them," there's a big problem.

            It's funny, because I also don't see union and labor issues as being close to Obama's heart, but man, Obama is all about "organizing" and we all know where that comes from. It's a big inroad.

            NetrootNews coming soon!

            by ksh01 on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 09:11:32 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  a lot of unions do outreach to local high schools (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              to talk to students about labor history and the importance of unions today. A lot of unions also have various scholarships for rank and file members' kids, and certainly there are a lot of internship opportunities. Unfortunately, I don't think there is a clearinghouse for this type of information, the programs and opportunities vary from union to union so a lot of research on it is necessary. As much as unions do with these types of programs, obviously, more can be done.

              •  It's funny (0+ / 0-)

                (although this has little to do with union relevance to the rank and file) I've been a litigator for more than a decade and I would jump at the chance to work for a union in some capacity that wouldn't force me to start all over. Wish I'd aimed myself at labor issues at the beginning

                NetrootNews coming soon!

                by ksh01 on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 09:28:55 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  my brother (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          is in a teacher's union as is his wife and he complains about the union instead of doing something about the leadership of his local.  I think that is more an issue of being lazy and preferring to complain than doing something about it. If he does something about it, it means that he has ownership of it, and that is too much responsibility for him and people like him.

          For my brother, I could see him crossing a picket line.  He might think about it first, but he'd cross it.  And honestly, that really really sucks.  And there is nothing I can do about it.  The only saving grace with him is that he doesn't vote.  Thank goddess!!

          The most important word in the language of the working class is `solidarity.'--Harry Bridges, longshore union leader

          by Bendygirl on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 08:18:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Tell your brother: Job Security! (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pesto, ksh01, nanobubble, unionsally, Mariken

        One benefit that union contracts have is job security: not the guarantee never to be fired, but rather, the right to be fired only for just cause.

        The rest of us, who work without contracts, can be fired for any reason whatsoever, with no notice or due process at all.  This makes the workplace a total dictatorship, with fear of being fired something we live with day in and day out.

        •  I think he takes it for granted (0+ / 0-)

          20 years a master machinist and he's only worked at two shipyards.  He left his original shipyard after being hired away by the new one.  He's convinced he has security because he has a certain skill set not because of the union. This is especially true TO HIM because his first shipyard had long cycles of lay offs and rehires and the union could do little to stop it.

          Where he sees the union as helping is in his retirement benefits.  He's old enough now (in his 40s) to find that valuable.  I don't know if that's relevant to a 20 something worker.

          NetrootNews coming soon!

          by ksh01 on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 09:21:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  thanks for raising this (7+ / 0-)

    I find that outside the labor blogs, other bloggers aren't that interested in workers' issues. I rarely see a diary here about workers' struggles and when there is one, it might get a few comments but nothing that takes it to the rec list. We're in a vicious circle of sorts -- as the number of union members decreases and workers have less power to make real changes on the job, the less people think unions do. Changing labor laws -- including getting EFCA passed and eliminating striker replacement laws are critical if we're going to turn things around -- as is getting younger union members involved with their unions.

    Again, thanks for posting.

  •  Getting younger members involved (4+ / 0-)

    is a critical point, and is undoubtedly needed in this rant. It is a big big issue when younger members just cannot understand the importance of their union card. One guy I know says that some members treat their union membership like a membership to a country club ...

    Thanks for being here.

    •  sad but true (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RonV, shirah, CryptoPolitico

      There are a few unions that are trying to figure out how to engage younger members, AFSCME being one of them. The Massachusetts AFL-CIO held a Futures Conference earlier this year to bring together younger union leaders and now they have a standing committee that focuses on getting other younger members involved. More needs to be done though.

  •  I think (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Simple Man, unionsally

    that as younger members are exposed to the stories and their union's histories, they might take a more active role.

    One of the things we're doing at the IBT is reaching out to younger members on MYSPACE and FACEBOOK to share with them things that are taking place union-wide, that seems to work well on an individual basis.

  •  Not really (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Not on this site. But some of us do, so keep up the good work.

    Donate to the ACLU. Stand Up for Justice In The Military Commissions Proceedings

    by Valhalla on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 07:15:02 AM PDT

  •  In the abstract, yes. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But real working people are kind of, you know, icky.  I 've seen more than a few sporting mullets! Eeeewwww!

    •  That's so funny because (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pHunbalanced, bugscuffle

      I was recently at a trade show convention center. I was talking to some workers unloading a trailer on the dock when the entreprenurial guru contractor walked over. He says hello, we shake hands ... and I had all to do to hold in my laugh when I saw him wearing a belt and suspenders with pants nearly to his man-boobs. Weird, huh?

      •  Har! (0+ / 0-)

        I kinda run in both worlds.  I'ce worked construction, but I 'm a college grad from a family of the same.  There is a lot of mutual incomprehension, and not a little contempt (running both ways.)

        •  Me too (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I worked on trucks and buses and have a college education. While my parents were traditionally working class, both of my brothers are fairly well educated.

          The mutual incomprehension is something that people like us need to tackle; are you in?

      •  Cultural Divide: White vs. Blue Collar (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Among the stereotypes I more or less believe (acknowledging that there are exceptions):

        Blue collar workers are more interested in sports, drive all-terrain vehicles, have motorboats, and go hunting.

        White collar workers (like me) are less interested in sports, drive bikes, have canoes, and go hiking with cameras instead of guns.

        In spite of these stereotypes and some actual differences, one thing is of overriding importance: our economic interests are the same.  As far as getting a fair economic deal is concerned, we're all in this together!

        •  As a "white-collar" worker, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I would love to have a viable labor union, instead of serving purely at the whim of our masters.

          It's not just a 'helping society as a whole by strengthening blue-collar unions' thing -- I think unions or somesuch ought to be of similar strength in more 'white-collar' fields too.

          If more 'white-collar' people move beyond the 'unions are just for blue-collar jobs' mindset and realize they could have those kind of benefits too...

          My password is: "transparency" This is a communal account. Everyone may play, few will win!

          by nanobubble on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 12:14:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'd guess that most bloggers are white-collar, (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pesto, shirah, boran2, nanobubble, unionsally

    college-educated, non-union workers.  I am.

    However, over the last decade or so, I've come to learn that, as a worker, my economic interests are basically the same as that of blue-collar and union workers.  What hurts one worker, hurts us all.

    Thanks for the diary.  Please do keep reminding us of labor and union issues!

    •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob B

      for this honest comment. For many years I have seen that regardless of the color of the color, there is tremendous power in the union, and that our needs are all the same.

    •  I'm a white collar (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pHunbalanced, Pesto

      college-educated, non-union (or am I?  our state employee's association recently joined SEIU, but as yet I've heard nothing about how that will affect members, and this is an "at will state") worker.  

      Fortunately, when I was going through public school in Wisconsin in the 70s and 80s, American History included labor history.  I grew up knowing that union people had, literally, died to secure better working conditions for my generation.

      So, thanks!

  •  Yes, I do and I write about these issues (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pHunbalanced, Pesto, boran2, Bob B

    and I write about labor issues frequently. In fact, I just posted a diary called Faith-Based Health and Safety. A few days ago I posted a diary on transsexual workplace rights.

    I generally crosspost from unbossed, but do not crosspost everything I write to Daily Kos.

    But put me in the yes column.

  •  Search for diaries by shirah (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pesto, shirah, Union Review

    for lots more stories about labor issues.

    •  Thanks for pointing Shirah out, again. (0+ / 0-)

      I definitely will.

    •  hey (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      what about me?  :)

      The most important word in the language of the working class is `solidarity.'--Harry Bridges, longshore union leader

      by Bendygirl on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 08:06:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think you were being dissed (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pHunbalanced, Pesto

        unionreview had already included you in a comment. I think this was to add to that list.

        In any case, the downside to EFCA is that people are treating it as the salvation of unions. But no one thing is the salvation. While huge effort is being poured into EFCA, other problems are being ignored. To survive, unions need to have more campaigns than just this one.

        •  yeah, I know (0+ / 0-)

          just giving him a hard time!!

          I agree, there is no single salvation. I think of it as the first step. It's a big step, but still only a step.

          The most important word in the language of the working class is `solidarity.'--Harry Bridges, longshore union leader

          by Bendygirl on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 08:21:37 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  A lot of unions need to return to organizing (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Pesto, shirah

          I wish I could re-call the data, since my memory is very approximate on it, but a couple of years back I saw data on the ratio of members to organizers in various unions.  The differences were astonishing - a very few unions putting a lot of their budget into organizing, most putting very little.
          It was no surprise that the unions that are growing are the unions that are investing in growth.  And the two who are on a totally different plateau from all others in terms of investment in growth are SEIU and CNA/NNOC - which also explains one part of the reason we come into conflict with each other - both growing fast in the same industry.
          I know how hard organizing under current NLRB is, but it's not impossible and I think too many unions have adopted a defeatest attitude towards it - "We'll be able to organize after EFCA passes"
          They shouldn't be waiting for rescue, they should be organizing.

          •  Very true, unions should be organizing now (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Chico David RN

            not waiting. AFSCME is doing some tremendous organizing, particularly in some non-traditional sectors like homebased childcare and homecare providers.

          •  A lot of SEIU's growth (0+ / 0-)

            has come from mergers. Not that there's anything wrong with mergers, but it is not the same as organizing new members.

            •  CNA has done this, too (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              They've gotten independent unions to affiliate with CNA/NNOC and "raided" as well (Cook County and their fight with SEIU in Nevada being the two examples that come immediately to mind of the latter tactic).

              Like you say, merging/raiding is different from completely new organizing, but not necessarily just rearranging deck chairs or a bad thing, depending on the entirety of the circumstances.

              "Run, comrade, the old world is behind you!" -- Situationist graffito, 1968

              by Pesto on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 01:44:28 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Organizing statistics (0+ / 0-)

                I don't think it is broken out of organizing statistics, though. So it is misleading because it has an impact on the understanding of what tactics work or do not.

                Another example is that some new members did not actually come from what would be understood as organizing but, rather from getting state legislatures to pass laws that designate the state as the employer of record. This has been the case with home healthcare workers.

                While there is some validity there, in the sense that the state pays for the costs of care, it's not really true that it is the employer of the home health care workers. It creates a wholly different relationship than we tend to mean by organizing and collective bargaining.

                Should this be included in statistics for organizing?

                Well, these are new members. But the "employer" involved has very different incentives than private sector employers.

                Given the strong statements many unions, such as SEIU, have made about card-check organizing, I think most people assume that statistics on new members mean they have been organized via card check. But that is not correct in either the mergers or the home healthcare worker situation.

                Unions need to assess how tactics are working and not just engage in faith-based union organizing.

                To be successful, unions need to take a critical and careful eye at available tactics and their pluses and minuses. For example, in my experience, a lot of card check campaigns go nowhere. But those just get buried and forgotten, even though there are lessons to be learned there.

  •  Yes, of course. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But on a site dedicated to electing Democrats, labor issues become one of many topics competing for attention.  My own environmental posts usually meet with only modest interest, at best.  It's just the nature of the beast.  

    Fear will keep the local systems in line. -Grand Moff Tarkin -SLB-

    by boran2 on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 07:48:10 AM PDT

    •  Yea, but (0+ / 0-)

      who we elect and why needs to be interwoven with our labor issues, no?

      •  yes (0+ / 0-)


        The most important word in the language of the working class is `solidarity.'--Harry Bridges, longshore union leader

        by Bendygirl on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 08:12:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Same can be said for a host of issues (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Environmental, labor, health policy.  All are intimately interwoven with electoral politics - and for that matter with each other.  As a union member/leader and a health care worker, I tend to focus a lot of my attention on the last two.  I'm on this site a lot, read every labor diary I see and comment on a fair number.  Would love to see more.  
        One of the great failures of the union movement in the second half of the 20th century was to largely move away from the social movement aspect of organized labor and focus too narrowly on the interests of their members.  It's one of the many factors that has made it too easy even for left activists to forget what unions can mean to all the members of a society.

  •  Host an Obama Platform meeting (6+ / 0-)

    my blog, uniongal, is hosting a labor platform meeting and we'll be talking about some of what you've noted.  While you're at Netroots, we'll be talking Employee Free Choice.

    BTW, I think for progressives and liberal dems the issue is not understanding how these issues are related.  The strike at American Axle is an example of this.  Alternet took a look at the strike last week and noted that Dick E Dauch who used PR to make him look like he cared about his workers took a 8.5 million dollar bonus from the board of directors (I believe he is on that board, but I digress). After an 11 week strike, workers incomes were dropped by about 60% (there were some buyouts), benefits were also lowered and the areas around those plants have serious economic issues.

    The issues with greed in the case of Dick E Dauch is an example of where we've missed opportunities to build and sustain an American infrastructure and middle class. Instead of investing in the company and its workers here, instead of investing in the communities that made Dick E boy a multi-millionaire, he's tossed that aside and will be building factories in Poland, Brazil and Mexico. And we can all relate and understand what this means, but few bloggers link these issues to labor.  Instead of working with labor to increase environmental standards or to ensure prescriptions for Plan B are filled...pharmacists and pharmacy techs are often represented by unions...

    Gee, I could go on and on and on and on.  It all comes down to missed opportunities.  And these missed opportunities are ALL on OUR SIDE, the Progressive Side of things.

    The most important word in the language of the working class is `solidarity.'--Harry Bridges, longshore union leader

    by Bendygirl on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 07:50:17 AM PDT

  •  Theoretically they do. HOWEVER, too many are (5+ / 0-)

    too affluent to know what it is like to work changing shifts and changing hours and getting fucked outta overtime and having to work 3 hours then getting sent home and and and and ...

    in college, they study the conditions fo the people who clean their college dorms, BUT

    that doesn't mean they really really understand what shitty work rules and shitty work conditions do to the individual and what they do to all of us.


    too many Americans, and blogotopia is full of Americans, have too many bad impressions of unions

    in particulaur, what is seen as union obstructionism when it comes to rewarding those who work harder --------

    while it is bullshit that IF you work harder then you'll be Donald Trump, lots of Americans believe that.

    Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

    by seabos84 on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 08:12:47 AM PDT

  •  Unions have been PR whipped (6+ / 0-)

    As a young man I organized for IBEW in California. Most people had a favorable view of us back then but now Unions get the blame for plant closings and job losses. Reagan and his ilk changed the perception of unions and the union movement hasn't been able to counter.

    Also as a young student the history of the labor movement was treated in a much more respectful manner. Unions need to teach America about their true history and the fight the robber barons put up to keep workers down. Unions need to get out beyond their union families and try to educate the general population. Labor Day should become "Outreach Day" to Unions, a day when they can sponsor community events that highlight workers struggles and union successes. They need to adopt a fifty state strategy of their own.

  •  Excellent Diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pHunbalanced, nanobubble

    I agree that labor issues do not always get enough attention in the blogosphere. And I think some bloggers fail to consider the labor angle when talking about other issues. For example, during the FISA debate, I tried to point out that for all its other faults, AT&T is one of the few companies in America and the only company in the wireless phone industry that actually welcomes unionization among its employees and voluntarily follows what would become law if we got the Employee Free Choice Act passed. I was routinely shot down with "who cares if they provide good union jobs, they trample on the Constitution" and what not. I am not excusing their complicity with the warrantless wiretapping, but I wish more bloggers would consider the impact on their workers had they refused to go along with the Administration and lost multi-million dollar contracts. I wish more people would consider the impact that huge lawsuits over the wiretapping would have on the company's workers.

  •  Thanks for this diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pHunbalanced, unionsally

    I'm a lurker on this blog and a couple of others.  While I consider myself progressive, I still label myself as a labor dem.  I have often thought that labor has become the forgotten group in the democratic party.  My ex is in IBEW Local 1 in St Louis (one of the strongest unions in the area) and a wonderful thing that they do is have new members take a class about the history of unions and in particular about IBEW.  It gets members more engaged and makes them feel more a part of something.

    Being from STL, I couldn't agree more about the AB / InBev situation.  AB has always been a very strong pro union force here (as well as woven into the fabric of life in STL)

    Education is the process of shedding one's prejudices.

    by Luma on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 09:01:52 AM PDT

  •  Unions are the foundation of the middle class. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pHunbalanced, nanobubble, ceebee7

    In fact, without the sacrifices of union activists over the 1870-1950 period, there likely wouldn't even be a middle class.

    But I think most Kossacks know this already, and I doubt there are many, if any at all, people here who oppose the EFCA. Given a choice, I think most Americans would choose to join a union. Even white-collar professionals.

    But there just aren't many members who blog about union issues and activities, which is a shame.

    -6.38/-3.79::'A man is incapable of comprehending any argument that interferes with his revenues.' Descartes

    by skrymir on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 09:54:25 AM PDT

    •  Agree with this wholeheartedly. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I am not ready to say that if unions, labor, the workers are not mentioned frequently on blogs, they or those concepts are not in people's minds.  I believe they are.

      "The workers" as a concept, let alone the people behind the concept, is the mostly non-spoken theme of all my political thoughts, my decisions, and everything else.   I'd be happy to refer to the workers more often if I thought it would help. To me, it's the same as the people vs. the 1 or 5% uber rich who run everyone's lives and oppress the masses.

      It's also extremely clear and important that unions had to be minimalized before Reagan could start and give momentum to this Republican movement of the last 30 years.  Reagan publically derided unions.  Unions were the last front of strength, the last organized force Democrats had.  Their deterioration has gone hand in hand with the advance of Republican strength.  It has to be turned around.  If we cannot do that with Obama has president, we all oughta go  home.

      Kick apart the structures.

      by ceebee7 on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 10:06:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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