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union and income decline graph
(ThinkProgress—click for full-sized version)
You want a war on workers? Well, this is a week in which the good news was that the FAA shutdown ended after "only" two weeks and the economy added enough jobs that at the rate we're going in 2011, we could be back to 2007 job levels by June 2016.

The bad news? A record number of people are on food stamps, unemployment benefits are getting cut in states across the country, and the Women, Infants, and Children nutritional assistance program could get cut. The wealthy paying 25 percent less in taxes than in the 1990s doesn't really help things, and adding insult to injury, Eric Cantor says that unemployment benefits are "pumping up" the jobless. And the graph at upper right? Yup, that's happening.

A few good things did get talked about this week, like a jobs program for veterans—particularly important in light of this diary by Downtowner—some ideas for better manufacturing policy and a bill being introduced in the Senate to end discrimination against unemployed job applicants. Stitch those three ideas and about a dozen more like them together and you have the beginnings of an actual jobs plan. But don't worry! Republicans have a plan—to eliminate 300,000 jobs.

In the workplace

Union organizing and contracts

Most union organizing drives and negotiations never make it into the public eye; they may show up in local news here and there, but unless you pay attention you don't hear much about them. So here's a small sampling of little skirmishes in the war on workers going on around the country.

  • It's not just the Onion News Network. Workers at another nonfiction (aka reality) television production company, Optomen Television, have joined the Writers Guild of America East. Optomen produces shows including Monsters Inside Me, Samantha Brown’s Great Weekends, and Worst Cooks in America. Contract negotiations at two other reality production companies are set to begin in the next week.
  • Via the AFL-CIO blog:
    Members of the United Steelworkers (USW) employed at 13 paper mill sites in 10 states ratified a new four-year master economic agreement with Georgia-Pacific. The agreement establishes the terms for USW-represented Georgia-Pacific mills.
  • This one did not end well for workers or patients: Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, NM, pushed for and won a contract that makes it easier for management to short-staff shifts and prevents nurses and technical workers from refusing to work overtime. So patients end up with inadequate staffing levels and exhausted nurses.
  • Lockout, lockout, and another lockout, this one ending for better or for worse, depending who you talk to. These days, when workers and management can't agree on a new contract, workers don't go on strike; management locks them out.

Workplace safety

Workplace safety has its place in discussion of the war on workers because while accidents do happen, it's important to understand that a lot of "accidents" are because companies have disregard for their employees' safety, and that strong regulations and enforcement are enormously important. When someone dies or is injured because of foreseeable hazards that went unfixed, it's a lot less accidental than it should be. Do we live in a society that has regulations and enforces them, or not?

  • In Colorado, a grain elevator company pleaded guilty to workplace safety violations leading to the death of a teenage worker:
    When he was killed, Rigsby was 15 feet off the ground performing a job called "walking the grain," in which workers step around the edge of a grain bin, dislodging clumps as they flow into the container.

    Rigsby lost his footing at a hatch opening for the bin. He was sucked inside, where the weight of the grain crushed his chest, prosecutors said.

    The teenager was not equipped with a safety harness.

  • In the world of safety violations, "serious" means that serious injury or death could result, and "willful" means the violation involves voluntary disregard. A small sampling of cases showing up in local news: In Connecticut, a filter manufacturing plant got its initial $121,000 fine knocked down to $63,000 over 29 safety violations, 24 of them serious. In Wisconsin, a company faces up to $378,000 in fines for 18 violations, 13 of them willful; as we see in the previous case, that fine is very likely to be cut significantly. In New Jersey, a company faces up to $135,000 in fines for two willful and 18 serious violations.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 06:55 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yeah Well We're Firing Back. Herself Joined Union (7+ / 0-)

    and in a few months I'll have eligibility to join a union retiree auxilliary.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 07:08:10 PM PDT

  •  Gotta stop fining those companies for safety (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10, HylasBrook, Book of Hearts

    violations.  They are the job creators.  It's hurting job creation.  Then we gotta abolish workman's comp, if workers get hurt on the job, why should the job creators have to pay?   Then we need to abolish minimum wage.  Why are we forcing the job creators to pay such luxury wages of $7.25 per hour?  Why even pay workers?  Chain them to their work stations and feel them gruel, and fire them if they ask for "more please."


    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 07:08:28 PM PDT

    •  Funny. I think we ought to stop fining (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Navy Vet Terp, JayFromPA, HylasBrook

      these companies.  Killing someone because of a failure to respect a law is murder.  Put the CEO, CFO, and Board in prison instead.

      "The attack on the truth by war begins long before war starts and continues long after a war ends." -Julian Assange

      by Pierro Sraffa on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 07:19:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Funny how corporations are 'persons' when it (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        citydem, Eric Nelson, swampyankee, Nance

        comes to free speech, but when it comes to responsibility for safety and workers' deaths, then all of a sudden it's a business again.

        I like the Chinese approach.   More for embezzlement though - they execute the businessman.

        HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

        by HylasBrook on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 07:36:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Good for the goose, good for the gander. (0+ / 0-)

        Someone dies in a grain silo event, throw the ceo into the grain as well.

        Someone dies in a workplace crushing event, toss the ceo into the crusher as well.

        Ceo lives, then merely fines of the amount of the deceased's lifetime wage is okay with me.

        Ceo dies, next ceo learns a lesson.

        Don't fuck with the people.

        "I must confess, when I see anyone with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to the gene pool." - Republican Congressman Allen West (FL-22) Rawstory Source

        by JayFromPA on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 07:36:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Congratulations (0+ / 0-)

          It's rare here on DK for commentators to support the death penalty (or at least some sort of game which results in the convict's death most of the time). Nice to see someone stand up and express their support in defiance of the "conventional wisdom", however right or wrong their views may be. Expression of independent thought is refreshing here.

          I assume that if someone gets distracted while driving and causes an accident which kills someone that you think the distracted driver should get the "death penalty game" sentence -- implemented by traumatic death just as the victim was. Eye for an eye and all that...

          •  The difference between negligence and accident... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            is huge.

            A company that chooses to send workers into danger without a harness (why? to save time? money?) is deliberately endangering lives, and is responsible for any harm that results. That's negligence, punishable under law.

            A driver who chooses to distract him/herself by, say,  texting, also endangers lives, and is also responsible for any harm that results. Also negligence, and punishable.

            Your example, an attentive driver who "gets distracted" by some unpredicted noise or sight--a deer, a soccer ball rolling into the street--might also result in harm, but the circumstances (rather than the driver's negligent choices) are to blame. That's an accident, and the law doesn't penalize it.

            •  A thought: that corporate choice to save a buck by (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              not attending to worker safety is not engaging in "negligence,"

              Criminal negligence is negligence which requires a greater degree of culpability than the civil standard of negligence. The civil standard of negligence is defined according to a failure to follow the standard of conduct of a reasonable person in the same situation as the defendant. To show criminal negligence, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the mental state involved in criminal negligence. Proof of that mental state requires that the failure to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur must be a gross deviation from the standard of a reasonable person. Criminal negligence is conduct which is such a departure from what would be that of an ordinary prudent or careful person in the same circumstance as to be incompatible with a proper regard for human life or an indifference to consequences. Criminal negligence is negligence that is aggravated, culpable or gross.

              The following is an example of one state's statute defining criminal negligence:

              ''A person acts with 'criminal negligence' with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.''

              but an intentional act that if death results ought to be charged as some degree of homicide.

              Negligence is a much "softer" state of mind than the depraved indifference that so many of our fellow humans so easily fall into when they are absorbed into a corporation and start feeding off each others' impulses to greed and power. And then go home to their loving and supportive families and religious communities, feeling for all the world that they are doing God's work.

              Remember the "Pinto memo?"

              No consequences, no change for the better. Simple equation, always the same result.

              "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

              by jm214 on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 05:51:36 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Fines don't do anything. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Navy Vet Terp

      Because the fines are significantly less than the cost of safety equipment. It's just a cost of doing business to them. Fines have little impact.

      I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - M Angelou

      by Lightbulb on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 07:27:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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

        I'd think most companies factor in the financial cost of potential accidents when they design their operations.  Someone in the top floor office has to be figuring out how many lives can be lost in a grain elevator before it becomes financially disadvantageous.

  •  Re: Workplace Safety (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bythesea, Eric Nelson, LordMike
    "No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country" - Franklin D. Roosevelt

    Or endangering their workers (or consumers). The economy was made for the people, not the other way around.

    Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

    by David Kaib on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 07:21:51 PM PDT

  •  does the jobs bill for veterans (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    include all vets of wars???

    Please do not tell me you are involved by being a member of DK4....really get involved.... The goal is not to bring your adversaries to their knees but to their senses. -- Mahatma Gandhi

    by Mindmover on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 07:25:48 PM PDT

  •  I had an accident at work this week. (4+ / 0-)

    A malfunctioning piece of equipment pierced me with metal shards.

    Employees without unions can't do anything about workplace safety if we want to stay employed.

    I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - M Angelou

    by Lightbulb on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 07:26:13 PM PDT

    •  Tell your employer's insurance company (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You can probably do it anonymously.

      OK, the insurance company probably doesn't care about you.  That's a given.

      But the insurance company doesn't want malfunctioning equipment damaging inventory, the building or other equipment.

  •  I just heard of another anti union move (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HylasBrook, LordMike, Nance

    being done by my employer.

    A couple years ago, the next location over from mine voted in a union.

    Over the next few days, the entire site was sold lock stock and barrel to a private company. A few of the people were kept on, as a 'reward' I figure, but the employment terms and conditions... Whoooo, I don't know how those guys still manage to pay all the bills. Seriously, I don't see how they even make the same amount as before all that went down. Jeez. But it was all kept hush hush, nothing but rumors got to us at my site, because that other location is a good couple hundred miles away.

    And I just heard a rumor that it's happening again, still in the works so to speak.

    Jeebus, the squeeze just keeps tightening. When this pressure cooker blows, there ain't going to be anyone safe from this anger.

    "I must confess, when I see anyone with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to the gene pool." - Republican Congressman Allen West (FL-22) Rawstory Source

    by JayFromPA on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 07:27:03 PM PDT

  •  We have got to get workers to VOTE. Part of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike, swampyankee

    the problem is that they don't see much difference between Democrats and Republicans as seen from their point of view.

    Workers' deaths pass under the radar in most newspapers unless it's a local accident.

    Even so, people just don't put 2 and 2 together.  Massey kept two sets of books.  I think the workers probably knew that, yet there was the learned helplessness or the idiocy of voting on social issues (abortion, gay marriage) instead of economic issues.

    Workers' lives aren't worth much, especially to big companies that have a million workers or more, so who cares?  Why bother to have safety when you can just get another desperate worker?

    Depressing -- I feel so sorry for the men and women and their families when they are killed or permanently injured.

    HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

    by HylasBrook on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 07:34:08 PM PDT

  •  Corporate greed is good. (Sometimes) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Yes, I know that evil corporations are going to kill us all.

    But here's what happened where I work:

    We have 55 gallon (216 liter) drums of industrial alcohol.  Our local fire inspector had no problem with how we had them stored.  (On pallets, with grounding wires.)

    But our insurance company made us made metal fire cabinets and store the alcohol in there.

    I have to wonder how these companies with all these safety violations obtain insurance.  Or maybe they don't.

  •  The AFL CIO should make (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    UnionDaughter, LordMike

    Labor law reform the #1 priority. During Clinton's time they made fighting NAFTA the priority and lost. Labor law reform was more important, but keeping "foreign products" out was the easy issue. Now the AFL CIO doesn't know what to do. The US has the most anti labor organizing law in the developed world. Labor needs to make improving that law the focus.

    Cities are good for the environment

    by citydem on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 08:07:05 PM PDT

  •  3 decade long decline of Unions and the Middle (0+ / 0-)

    Class, while the Top 1% has rapid growth:  Class war from Aristotle to James Madison with similar chart plus top 1%ers overlayed for comparison

    This begs the question of why. For many, it is a difficult proposition to accept that those in power would sacrifice the health and well-being of the American people just to make more money or climb a little higher on the social ladder. Unfortunately, the reality is much more shocking. This is all about the control of power, and all other concerns are irrelevant. Aristotle understood this over two thousand years ago when he wrote:
    And it is absurd to suppose that the state changes into oligarchy merely because the ruling class are lovers and makers of money, and not because the very rich think it unfair that the very poor should have an equal share in the government with themselves.

    More recently, in what Founding Father James Madison called, "the daring depravity of the times," described:
    The stock-jobbers will become the praetorian band of the government, at once its tools and its tyrants, bribed by its largesse, and overawing it by clamors and combinations. Substituting the motive of private interest in place of public duty, leading to a real domination of the few under an apparent domination of the many.

    This link has a vey similar graph showing union membership decline paralleling worker income decline with the top 1%ers huge increase

    Thx Laura Clawson Ed Shultz has been hammering this home recently also.

  •  Reducing the Federal Government Workforce (0+ / 0-)

    Is underway (I suppose in anticipation of budget cuts).  For example, the Census Bureau is in the early stages of closing six Regional Offices: 12 Regions are being cut to 6.  Probably happening in most Departments/Bureaus.  Fewer workers needed.  Many current workers will be forced to choose between moving or taking early retirement.  Some newer hires can be pushed out.  A worker for Census or Bureau of Labor Statistics could be working for the Employment/Unemployment survey one month and then become part of the bad statistical news the next month.

    Let's organize neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community, and state by state.

    by brunoboy on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 11:37:10 PM PDT

    •  Not intrinsically bad. (0+ / 0-)

      But probably not the right solution.

      Government inefficiency is the problem, not government workers.

      Paltry example: try retitling a 1980s boat trailer (and boat) from Penna in Maryland.

      Hundred of dollars, hours of running around hundreds of miles, one office giving you the wrong form the other office doesn't want, can't read the original VIN anymore, pay for a new State of Maryland Mfd VIN plate, etc, etc.

      Who the bloody hell needs a vehicle ID number on a bleeding BOAT TRAILER?

      What's the carbon footprint of this state-mandated process? (And no, you have no choice but to drive 50 miles there and back to a DMV office).

      Or the Maryland State Highways. Thousands of engineers and managers for engineers and they contract out everything anyway. Left hand doesn't know what the right is doing.

      We're now in Year 40, roughly, of a bad-needed parkway-bypass-new river crossing for the county seat. County gov't and state electeds were just given a briefing where, for the 6th or 7th time, they're talking about the need to plan for a new bridge. (Actually, the discussion goes back to about 1928).

      But they can't plan because they haven't budgeted money for planning.

      Thump! Bang. Whack-boing. It's dub!

      by dadadata on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 03:25:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  45,000 Workers Out on Strike at Verizon (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nance, David Kaib

    As a cap to this week, 45,000 CWA and IBEW members went out on strike at midnight. Verizon has over 100 concessionary proposals on the table. Verizon's greed is destroying middle class jobs.

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