Saturday, September 30, 2006

A real bad week

If your name is Denny Hastert, and you tried to put a lid on the Congressional Page Harassment Scandal of 2006.

Or if your name is John Boehner and you assisted in the cover-up. And you then call the Washington Post to try and change what you actually said to their reporters.

Or if your name is John Shimkus, and you interviewed the alleged harasser but didn't inform anyone else on the committee (including the Democrat on that committee) that oversees Congressional Pages. Cause, you know, you took care of it yourself and all.

See, this isn't about one creep in Congress who likes little boys, it's also about how a ton of very powerful people helped cover his ass. Many of these people appear to be from Illinois, strangely. All of them belong to a party that rhymes with "Repugnican."

What I wrote to Hugo Boss executives

Dear Hugo Boss Executives:

Look, as pricey as your clothes are, and as fat as I'm sure your own pension and salary plans are, I'm willing to bet that you can all cough up a little more than 30 cents an hour in wage increases and that you can start funding the pension plan for the people who work in your warehouse. It's bad enough that your clothes are probably made in sweatshops where 30 cents isn't the wage increase, but the wage itself, but to continue to treat people like disposable commodities and force them to work without a contract is simply unconscionable.

I urge you to respect your workers and their union and to negotiate a fair contract with them immediately.


Me and my name.

Why did I do it? Learn why here.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Well, we may have lost the rule of law...

But at least we've won the 2nd district of Florida.

Mark Foley is resigning due to some unseemly emails he sent to a 16 year-old page.

The Day the Music Died

Yesterday our country accepted the idea that this man alone has the right to determine whether YOU ought to be imprisoned forever, tortured, or sent abroad.

What's that you say? That's actually two guys? I know but the one doesn't make a decision without the other, so there ya go.

I'm seriously terrified for my country now.

By the way, apparently the President has a passing familiarity with torturing people and animals himself.

Republicans: Take your pick





Thursday, September 28, 2006

"None of us are right all the time."

John Boehner (R-not pronounced like 'boner') makes excuses for the complete lack of accountability for people who have never been right about why to start, and then how to run, a war.

In other news, I'm ashamed to say that Christians are more likely to support torture than secular people. Especially evangelical Christians.

WWJD? I guess this gives new meaning to "The passion of the Christ."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Man, that's shrill

Sayeth the atrios:
We truly are ruled by cowards, both the pathetically incompetent creatures actually running the government and the guardians of our elite discourse who see punditry as their personal parlor game or a vehicle for social climbing. They failed when they thought blowjobs were more important than terrorists, and they failed when they thought that after 9/11 invading a country which had nothing to do with it would be a jolly good idea.
But, he's right. This week the National Intelligence Estimate came out and definitively said that the country is less safe because of Iraq specifically. That's just a suck suck suck sucky suck thing. This sort of thing is only important if you're trying to somehow connect facts to foreign policy.


I'm sure putting bamboo slivers under people's fingernails to get them to talk is what we need in this country to keep us safe from terra-ism.

Friday, September 22, 2006

This time last week...

We were in basset waddle heaven. Need proof? Look no farther.

$ell outs vol. xviimclm....

I don't even think that it's a number. But as soon as you can say "maverick", McCain, Huckleberry Graham, and John Warner all sold out to the President. Torture is now legal.

Thanks a million, guys.

So these are the serious thinkers when it comes to keeping our nation safe, eh? I'd rather take my chances with a Kucinich presidency.

I have no idea who the Party for Socialism and Liberation are...

But God bless them for following this story of pizza drivers trying to form a union. This is an indsutry that works to squeeze every drop of profit out of its workers as possible.

In my hometown, I worked for a small mom and pop outfit called Papa John's, and had my hours ripped off (once that I'm aware of). It was a pretty ingenious idea. While the drivers were out, the manager would run out of his office, (where he was usually busy trying to score some coke) log me out, and when he saw my car pulling up, he'd log me back in.

Wile E. Coyote, Supergenius.

So anyway, hail to the union pizza slinger! Throw off your doughy chains of exploitation, and take the charge upon ye!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Speaking of pissed...

David Sirota is seriously pissed. I mean, he's right in everything he writes, but man, maybe switch it to decaf or something.

Boy he looks pissed, doesn't he?

It must be that he's losing control over a Congress that used to line up lick his boots.

Or it could be that's becoming painfully obvious, even to him, that he's the most unpopular president in history. More so than Nixon. More so than LBJ. You'd never know it from the news coverage, though.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

This will be my last one today...

Jordan Barab relates the tale of a North Carolina United Steel Workers union member whose bosses wanted to send something very important to India.

Not his job.

His gall bladder. To be operated on. It's apparently cheaper to do it there.

The union stepped in, and got management to back off. As Jordan notes, the guy was willing to go. What the hell choice did he have really? To say no would forever seal off any future coverage he could get through his employer. Might even result in his dismissal from his job.

It's the ultimate outsourcing, and it's sick.

It's getting cold here too...

Gunther must be getting cold in Sweden. I bet you thought I forgot about Gunther, didn't you? Well, I didn't.

The best tv you'll see all day.

Via Feministing.

You ain't got no hair on your chest.

Thanks Condoleezza Rice! Freedom and Democracy are great!

You know those stories that left-wing wacko tells you, about how America really doesn't care about freedom abroad, about how we use our power to further our own goals at the expense of human diginity and democracy? How we prop up tin-horn dictators who torture their own people to placate corporate interests bent on exploiting native resources.

You know those stories?

This is one of those.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Back in the saddle...

Hey all. Last week was busy, to say the least. We won our election, which was good. You know, I go back and forth about how much I should reveal about my employer on the blog, and I think that for the time being, while I'd like to point out all the cool stuff I'm doing, I think my anonymity is something I should maintain for the time being. Suffice it to say I had a loooooong week, but a productive one. Then, this weekend, we went to the annual Bassett Waddle & Bash in Dwight, Illinois which was off the hizzle. For shizzle.

So...what else has happened in the past week? It looks like San Francisco and Chicago hotel workers settled good contracts, resulting in higher wages, union security, and protected health care. National organizing works, I guess. Read the fairly heartbreaking story of a California newspaper being run into the ground, with management interference in news coverage, editors and writers quitting, and finally, the Teamsters are getting called in to represent the remaining journalists.

And, oh shit, apparently we're already at war with Iran. Who knew?

And we can see that Halliburuton isn't getting investigated by Congress for being such assholes. They promised to help wounded employees find out how to get the benefits and honors they are entitled to, if they don't sue Halliburton. Assholes.

And speaking of assholes, you'd think that the creator of Girls Gone Wild would be a stand-up guy. Apparently not so much.

And watch our President (and I use the term loosely) fall apart while trying to explain a point of view. It's sad, really.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Today's the day

Today is the day for the union election I've been working on. I feel good, but I'll put up a post after the polls are closed and the votes are counted.

In the meantime, even dating between Shia's and Sunnis in Iraq is now forbidden to anyone wishing to keep their head in its proper place on one's shoulders.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Happy Anniversary

If you had told me that five years ago that we'd be celebrating the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with a fraudulent movie that rewrites its history and unvarnished fakery from the White House about how we got there, well, I would have asked you how you got to travel into time, and who won the 2005 World Series. That way, I could place a high stakes wager on the outcome, knowing ahead of time who the winner would be!

All in all though, it's pretty depressing how little the nation has learned from the tragedy. To a shocking degree, we still allow ourselves to get played by our leaders, long after they've stopped giving us any reason to believe a goddamn word they say.

And, it's election season, so there's that to look forward to. Who's going to be running the last 60 days of the Republican campaign for the Congress? Don't ask.

But September the 11th marks a tragic day in the histories of two nations (at least). Ours, of course doesn't need me to tell you how awful it was. I don't think there's really that much I can add to it except to say that it now looks like the recovery workers got screwed by our government as well, which will have the sad effect of ensuring that the death toll from that day keeps climbing.*

But the other 9/11 often gets overlooked. For good reason.

On September 11th, 1970 Henry Kissinger got his wet dream come true. That was the day a man named Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected Salvador Allende, President of Chile. What ensued was that thousands upon thousands of Chileans were massacred, imprisoned, and tortured. It would not have happened without the assistance, the prodding, and the support of our government.

When I think of hell, I often think of a place where Henry the K will pay for all eternity for the evil he has wrought in this world. And his crimes in Chile count as the first indictment of a very long list of naughty (by which I mean pure evil) activities.

So Osama bin Ladin shares his day of infamy with others.

*As a side note, wouldn't you think that government officials who are complicit in prolonging the agony of the bravest among us who actually tried to help that day, and in continuing to basically kill more of them, well wouldn't that make them morally complicit in Al-Qaeda's historic crimes? Just wondering.

Friday, September 08, 2006

This week was good, next week will be better.

How do I know? Because next week I'm going to take part in an election which may result in one of the biggest victories for my union. I can't give away too many details, but getting to this election requires a 5-hour drive to the ass-end other side of the state. But I'm excited because we will (in all likelihood) do pretty well. I've also started to assist one of our locals here in the 'burbs. It's a local of bus drivers, and they face a sever threat from their school superintendent who wants to give all their jobs away to a private company. Needless to say, we are not going to let that happen without a fight.

And I missed this post by Nathan Newman, but as usual, he proves his brilliance and insight about the labor movement are beyond compare.

And check this out. To all my white-collar friends who have good jobs in the tech or banking industries, I hate to break it to ya, but the moment your company thinks they'll be better off by showing you the door, it will happen. And it doesn't have to be for a reason. They may keep other less-qualified people over you. You may have to fight like hell to get unemployment, or a severance deal. So that's why you (yes, even you) should have a union. It's not just for plumbers and pipefitters, or teachers, or factory workers.

Got a boss? Get a union. The fact that United Professionals was started by Barbara Ehrenriech makes all the sweeter. And check out who's on their advisory board--a former HR director for a banking company, a guy who spent time in Poland with Solidarity (the union that broke the Communist Party's control over unions in that country), and the founder of the freelancers' union.

Pretty cool.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Little Red Songbook

NPR had a great story on Monday about the Little Red Songbook, the holy grail of labor songs that had been compiled and maintained by the the International Workers of the World, or the Wobblies. Give it a listen, it's another overlook piece of American history, and the songs themselves are both funny and moving. I especially like "Hallelujah, I'm a bum." And, if you listen to the piece, I promise you'll never hear "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" the same way.

Solidarity forever!

to my wife

I'm sorry I have to be away for a couple of days, but I miss you, and I wish very much I were up there instead of down here. But I'm doing something cool, and I know you're proud of me.

Everyone else, move along.

That is all.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The End of Iraq

I just finished this book over the Labor Day weekend. It was a quick read, and more illuminative than anything I've picked up either online or in the major news media in the past few years. It was written by Peter Galbraith, who has a history of aiding the Kurds to develop their own state and eventually independence , and he makes a pretty persuasive case that the only sensible solution at this point would be to partition Iraq into three separate states, maybe under one national government. He argues that Kurdistan is already its own independent state, it refuses to allow Iraqi federal government agencies to open offices in Kurdistan, the Iraqi government must ask permission to enter Kurdistan, and it will not even fly the Iraqi flag.

Galbraith argues that people have a psychological attraction to retain Iraq into one state, and it is this attraction that has led to the current untenable situation. The Bush administration has pushed for a non-ethnic (that is, non-Shia or non-Sunni) army at exactly the time that all Iraqis are using their ethnic identity for protection and political affiliation. He cites the Iraqi elections to validate his point, where Iraqis overwhelmingly voted along sectarian lines.

The result (according to Galbraith) is the current intractable mess we're in.

I suppose I share some of the psychological attraction to retaining Iraq as a unified state, but Galbraith makes the most reasonable case I've yet heard about exactly what to do.

Also, the Bush administration are even far greater wankers than was previously known, even by me. And I am familiar with much of their wankitude.

Thi is depressing.

Happy late labor day. These numbers represent loss of jobs by state. My home state of North Carolina is a loss leader and my current state of Illinois also sucketh the big one.

Friday, September 01, 2006

This is pretty cool.

America Rights At Work has compiled a list of the best companies of 2006--the ones who've developed cooperative relationships with their unions to address common problems. It's an inspiring look at a largely under-examined way of doing business. Take a look.

And have a happy Labor Day. I'm going home to my 10-year high school reunion, so I'll be back online Tuesday.

By the way...

I just started my job (again) as a union organizer. Although it may come across like sarcasm online, I really can't tell you how excited this makes me. I love everything about organizing. I love working in potential, dealing in enthusiasm and hope. I love bringing people to a place where for the first times in their lives, their boss has to listen to them. I love being a small (very small, very small) counter-current in a tide that threatens to swamp us all. I love the feeling of momentum. It's great dealing with people who actually give a shit about something.

I love my life.

For some reason, this picture just makes me happy.

This is Cecil Roberts. Cecil is the President of the United Mine Workers of America. The UMWA has one of the longest, most violent, and most storied histories in the American labor movement. I just finished reading "The Battle of Blair Mountain", by Robert Shogan, which chronicles the largest violent uprising in America that took place after the civil war. The long and short of it is that since the union miners in Mingo County, WV had been denied any legitimate forum to resolve their problems with the mine operators (who refused to recognize their union), they resorted to means which were bloody and dire to get their point across. I probably don't need to tell you how it all ended for them in the end. Not well, as it turned out. The US Army was actually brought in to settle the dispute, and they did. In favor of the mine operators.

I bring all of this up, because (to borrow a phrase from Rachel Maddow) the business community and the government keep flicking the same Bic lighters at the Constitution, at the National Labor Relations Act, at people's right to assemble, to petition their employer for the redress of their grievances, and to bargain in good faith collectively.

Recently, much has been made of the Kentuck River cases, which have the potential to bar millions of American workers from joining a union. The basis of the cases is that since some workers have miniscule 'supervisory' duties, they could be excluded from the right to bargain collectively. In the real world, this means that once an organizing drive is going, a lot of people will be getting a lot of meaningless promotions.

The labor movement these days finds itself in the position of pushing for recognition out of the traditional framework of the NLRA which provides only for union elections. As has been written at length, 'card check' agreements are quickly becoming the favorite tactic of unions looking to gain a foothold in an unorganized workplace. The reason is quite simple. Most employer simply use the elections process as the opportunity to harass, fire, and threaten workers in to voting 'no' on the union.

By filling out cards (or signing a petition) to signal their support, a majority of workers under 'card check' can gain the voice that an election (ironically) may have denied them. Which is why you see some unions going to such great lengths to get 'card check' recognition.

The point to all of this is that in the 1920's of "The Battle of Blair Mountain", labor similarly found itself in one of the most marginalized positions in its history. It finds itself there again. And before things get better, workers may have to resort to more desperate tactics to get their voices heard. They already are desperate. It's really just a question of how far they can go to get their point across.

Washington simply doesn't care right now. I guess that picture of Cecil makes me happy becasue I feel like screaming at the Bush administration, at the business world, at the NLRB. I feel like screaming that negligence isn't benign. It just kills. Their indifference isn't funny or hip. It's just running people into the ground. Being eloquent doesn't help our case. Being right doesn't even help. Sometimes, just yelling at the top of your goddamn lungs helps when nothing else will.