Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Posts Tagged ‘unions’

Compare And Contrast: Colombia And Venezuela

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 29, 2011

First, Colombia:

We have known for years about the dangers of being a trade unionist in Colombia, of the murders of organizers and labor officials. The murders have increased in frequency in the years since the US negotiated a trade deal with Colombia. They are well documented.

Now, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has put names to the tragedy. In a letter to President Obama, Trumka says that 22 union activists have been killed in Colombia this year, including 15 since a so-called “Action Plan” designed to crack down on union violence was instituted in the country. All of their names are in a fact sheet at the end of the letter.

Trumka added that six Catholic bishops have been killed in Colombia in 2011.   The Bishops Conference of Colombia believes the killings occurred because of “their courageous commitment… with the prophetic denunciation of injustice and the cause of the poorest in the country.”

Now, Venezuela:

On a hillside overlooking Caracas, Venezuela, Pedro Echavez feeds sweet potato greens to his rabbits. These animals are raised for their meat, but their droppings also fertilize Echavez’s black bean and vegetable plots. This four-acre farm produces enough food to provide 80 percent of the diet for the sixteen people living in his community.

[...]

The Venezuelan equivalent of the US Department of Agriculture is overseeing the project. Yet, unlike the USDA, which gives around $20 billion in subsidies to the largest producers in the United States annually, Venezuela is giving 4.3 billion bolívares fuertes ($1 billion) in low-interest credit solely to small and medium-sized grain producers. Another 13 billion bolívares fuertes ($3 billion) is set aside for fruit and vegetable operations, as well as growers of crops like coffee, cacao and sugar cane. A portion of what farmers grow will be used to pay off the loans, and much of this produce will be locally packaged, processed and sold at state-owned supermarkets.

President Hugo Chávez’s leftist Bolivarian Revolution has embraced the idea of food sovereignty, or the right of a people to define their own food and agriculture policy. The food sovereignty movement is a global one, and the organization at the forefront, La Via Campesina, counts 300 million members. Venezuela is one of many countries, including Ecuador, Bolivia, Mali and Nepal, that have, in response to this grassroots movement, developed a legal framework for food sovereignty.

Tell your congresscritters to oppose the trade deal with Colombia. The fact that this nation’s bloodsoaked ruling classes are feted by the US’ elite, while the far more democratic and human Chavez is demonized by corporate-owned American media and corporate-owned American politicians, shows just how amoral is our leadership.

Posted in Colombia, farming, food, global food crisis, unions, Venezuela | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Mitch McConnell: Why Isn’t Obama Shipping More Jobs To Narcostates And Other Overseas Sweatshops?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 6, 2011

Mitch McConnell was given valuable Washington Post column space to argue for the further destruction of America’s industrial base and what’s left of America’s middle and working classes so that their jobs can be done overseas by people in horrific working conditions who risk being murdered if they try to improve them, all so Mitch’s already-phenomenally wealthy buddies in the Chamber of Commerce can get even richer off of the collective misery of people in the US and elsewhere.

That’s the only sensible way to read his recent whine urging Obama to wave through free trade agreements for Colombia (narcostate with murderously repressive government and US client state), Panama (once similar to Colombia, except their caudillo lipped off to the US once too often and so was replaced with a “democracy” where the principals hew closely to the US neoliberal line), and South Korea (another US client state where workers’ rights are suppressed).

War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Shipping Jobs Overseas to Further Enrich Plutocrats Makes More Jobs at Home.

Posted in 'starving the beast', (Rich) Taxpayers League | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Wrestlers, Paperkids, Grocery Workers: Why the CTUL Fight is Important

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 31, 2011

US Representative Keith Ellison (in red CTUL shirt) and Minnesota Representative Jim Davnie join CTUL hunger strikers on the picket line, Sunday, May 29, 2011. Courtesy CTUL.net

When I was growing up in the ’70s, I shared a paper route with my brother. He did the mornings, I helped him in the evenings, and our parents sometimes helped us on the weekends — if nothing else by making sure we got out of bed on time.

The paper we delivered was the St. Paul Pioneer Press in the morning and the St. Paul Dispatch in the afternoon; the two papers were once separate entities, but were both bought by the Ridder company in 1927, and ever since then were essentially the same paper. In 1990, as TV news continued to eat into print media’s market share, the Dispatch was shut down and the PiPress has been a morning-only paper ever after.

The Pioneer Press was and is a “union” newspaper, in that its reporters belong to a union, the Minnesota Newspaper Guild. Most major newspapers have a unionized reporting staff; this has been the case for decades. The people who deliver the paper to your front door, however, are not unionized employees of that paper. In fact, they’re technically not even employees of the paper, but “independent contractors”, which in essence means they get paid a pittance (and in our case the pay depended on going door-to-door each month to collect the subscription fees, which we didn’t mind doing as at least that way we could get tips or even Christmas bonuses, which didn’t happen when subscribers opted for automatic renewal by mail or credit card).

The “independent contractor” concept shows up in other fields, too. Did you know that Vince McMahon’s wrestlers aren’t actually employees of the WWE, but “independent contractors”? That means that Vince doesn’t have to do diddly in terms of providing benefits, sensible work hours, or job security. That means that he can overwork them as much as he wants without letting them have time to rest and recover — and that means that alcohol and drug use and abuse is rampant, as it’s hard to take such a punishing schedule unless you’re sloshed or doped to the gills, and often not even then. (Jesse Ventura’s first brush with politicking was when he attempted to form a union in the 1980s back when he worked for Vince McMahon — oh, pardon me, I meant was “an independent contractor whose paychecks just happened to come from Vince McMahon”.)

This brings me to discussing the persons that clean the stores belonging to local grocery chains such as Cub Foods. While other grocery-store workers, both at Cub and at stores like Rainbow and Byerlys, are unionized employees, the cleaning people are all too often “independent contractors”, which in their case means they work for an agency that farms them out to various stores and pays them a pittance, thus allowing the grocery-store chain to avoid paying them a living wage, much less provide benefits or acceptable working conditions:

All night long, Jose Garcia performs his job while surrounded by food — a painful bit of irony, he says.

The 52-year-old Mexican immigrant works the overnight shift cleaning floors inside a Cub Foods store in Minneapolis, Minn., a job he’s mostly appreciated for the nine years he’s held it down. But lately, waxing aisle after aisle filled with groceries has simply reminded him of how little he has.

Despite his long tenure with the same cleaning company, Garcia says he earns a wage of $9 an hour — more or less the same rate he was making when he started cleaning floors back in 2002. Taking inflation into account, his salary has effectively gone down since he started working on the cleaning crew.

There are times when he can’t afford as much food as he’d like. He says it pains him to see workers at the store throw out unsold perishables like roasted chicken at the end of the night.

These are jobs that once were good union jobs held by unionized employees. Not any more. They’re all contracted out to third-party companies, who sometimes subcontract to other companies, all in the quest to keep wages low even as the workload grows.

The contracting agencies depend on exploiting the labor of people like Mr. Garcia, immigrants who may not be aware of what rights they may have as workers in America — and may find themselves trapped in untenable situations as a result.

This is why Jose Garcia and his fellow cleaning-crew workers are saying: Enough!

At the Lake Street Cub Foods, CTUL (Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha), began an open-ended hunger strike to change the unfair wages and working conditions of workers who clean Cub Foods and other Twin Cities stores.

For over a year cleaning workers have asked Cub Foods to negotiate a Code of Conduct ensuring fair wages and working conditions for the workers who clean their stores. Ten years ago, many workers who clean Cub Foods made up to $10-$11 an hour. Now, most workers make as little as $7.50 an hour and the workload has doubled. The workers’ requests for dialogue with Cub have been ignored and in one incident peaceful protesters and bystanders were pepper-sprayed by Cub security.

“Every night we work in grocery stores and are surrounded by food, yet often many of us cannot even afford to feed our families. I am hunger striking to bring to light the injustices workers face every day cleaning Cub Foods and to call on Cub Foods to meet with us,” said Mario Colloly Torres, a former cleaner at Cub Foods and who was fired from his job after the protests against Cub began.

One thing that the wrestlers, paperkids, and cleaning crews here have in common is that society has been encouraged to think of them and their concerns as trivial. This is especially true in the case of the cleaning crews, where because so many of the cleaners happen to possess darker skins and non-Midwestern accents, the specter of bigotry plays an unsavory role.

It will be interesting to see who sides with whom in this fight. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1189 union, which has endorsed the campaign, are appearing at the CTUL protests in solidarity on the picket line with the CTUL hunger strikers. Sadly, some persons one would expect to be sympathetic to CTUL’s cause are in fact very friendly with Cub Foods management, and may well want to keep on the good side of Mike Erlandson, the former DFL party chair who now works for Cub’s parent chain, SuperValu.

Time will tell.

(Crossposted to MyFDL and Renaissance Post.)

Posted in food, immigration, Minnesota, unions | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Saturday News Roundup

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 19, 2011

>– The focal point for the latest phase of the class war is the Midwest. If the tide can be turned in Wisconsin, it can be turned everywhere — and the April 5 Wisconsin Supreme Court election is key. Go to http://midwestuniontravel.wordpress.com/ for some dispatches therefrom.

– Mohammmed Nabbous, known on Twitter and elsewhere as “Mo” and an incredibly brave citizen journalist sending dispatches from Libya, was killed last night during a Gaddafi attack on Benghazi.

Twitter has been ablaze with comments on Mo:

bencnn benwedeman
A true hero, Mohammed Nabbous of Sawt Libia al-Hurra, the Voice of Free Libya, was killed in fighting in Benghazi today. #Libya
26 minutes ago Favorite Retweet Reply

monaeltahawy Mona Eltahawy
Damn you, #Gaddafi. Damn you a million times you murderous bastard.

2 hours ago Favorite Undo Retweet Reply

monaeltahawy Mona Eltahawy
RT @Gheblawi: for the sake of our Mohamed Nabbous & all martyrs let’s not stop struggle for freedom, honor their sacrifices and free #Libya
3 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

FreeBenghazi Libya.elHurra
by monaeltahawy

#LibyaAlHurraTV Mo’s wife: “He died for this cause & let’s hope that Libya will become free.” http://bit.ly/e1K8IT #Libya #Oplibya #Feb17
4 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

Here’s an interesting way to combat corporate control of our politics:

Following last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, Minnesota Democrats are proposing a constitutional amendment to define an individual as a “natural person.” The 2010 ruling gave corporations certain rights as “persons” and allowed them to engage in new levels of political activity. Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis said the DFL bill is aimed at curtailing the idea that corporate entities have the same rights as human beings.

The bill, SF683/HF914, puts forward a simple question to voters: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to define ‘person’ to mean natural person?”

“Corporations have been allowed to funnel vast sums of money into elections which distorts our elections and really amounts to buying elections,” Dibble told the Minnesota Independent. “No other entity could begin to match the amount of money that corporations are capable of spending.”

– The Guardian’s Ben Goldacre on why linking to primary sourcing is important:

This week the Telegraph ran the headline “Wind farms blamed for stranding of whales”. It continued: “Offshore wind farms are one of the main reasons why whales strand themselves on beaches, according to scientists studying the problem.” Lady Warsi even cited this as fact on the BBC’s Question Time this week, while arguing against wind farms.

But anyone who read the open-access academic paper in PLoS One, titled “Beaked whales respond to simulated and actual navy sonar”, would see that the study looked at sonar and didn’t mention wind farms at all. At our most generous, the Telegraph story was a spectacular and bizarre exaggeration of a brief contextual aside about general levels of manmade sound in the ocean by one author at the end of the press release (titled “Whales ‘scared’ by sonars”). Now, I have higher expectations of academic institutions than media ones, but this release didn’t mention wind farms, certainly didn’t say they were “one of the main reasons why whales strand themselves on beaches”, and anyone reading the press release could see that the study was about naval sonar.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off

Randy Hopper’s Fond Du Lac ‘Apartment’ = Hopper Employee’s $600,000 Home

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 15, 2011

By now I’m sure you’ve heard that when the folks looking for signatures for the Randy Hopper recall petition came to Hopper’s house of record in his Senate district, Hopper’s wife told them that Hopper, a key ally of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, no longer lived with her in Fond du Lac, but in Madison with his 25-year-old lobbyist mistress.

Hopper, in trying to avoid being booted from his Senate seat, says that he really does too live in his district, in a Fond du Lac apartment. Um, except there’s one small problem with that statement:

[Hopper policy advisor Matt] Phillips provided The Capital Times with the address where Hopper is living in Fond du Lac on the condition the address would not be made public. He and Rebecca Hogan, Hopper’s chief of staff, cited ongoing threats against Hopper and his family as the reason.

According to the online Fond du Lac County property tax map, the address is not an apartment, as Phillips said, but a roughly $600,000 home owned by a high-ranking employee of Hopper’s media company, Mountain Dog Media.

Oooops.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

GOPers Confuse Civil And Criminal Law, Make Asses Of Selves In Public

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 3, 2011

You can tell that Firedoglake is scaring the living daylights out of the conservatives tasked with defending Scott Walker and the other Koch Republicans in elective office in Wisconsin. A whole passel of them — or one determined fellow with a “persona management” account — has decided to invade this comments thread for this post at FDL concerning the highly unconstitutional (not to mention illegal) effort to pretend that the fourteen Democratic state senators in exile have broken a law and therefore are subject to arrest, even though the state constitution expressly exempts them from arrest for all civil complaints and in fact everything but “treason, felony and breach of peace”.

One of the trollies thinks he/she/it has a winning rebuttal with this citation:

Article IV, §15 – ANNOT.

The members of the Wisconsin Constitutional Convention did not intend to create a legislative privilege from criminal arrest and prosecution when they included article IV, section 15 in the Wisconsin Constitution. The phrase “treason, felony and breach of the peace” in that section was intended to mean all crimes. State v. Burke, 2002 WI App 291, 258 Wis. 2d 832, 653 N.W.2d 922, 02-2161.

http://legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/wisconst.pdf

Of course, said trollie is either really dumb and just copying what he/she/it saw cited by fellow trolls, or is an enormous, mendacious, disembodied anus. Because guess what? The Burke case is about criminal, not civil complaints — and a full reading of the paragraph so carefully and deceptively edited by the trollie or the person from whom the troll lifted the trope shows this clearly:

We conclude that the members of the Wisconsin Constitutional
Convention did not intend to create a legislative privilege from criminal arrest and
prosecution when they included article IV, section 15 in the Wisconsin
Constitution. The phrase “treason, felony and breach of the peace” in that section
was intended to mean “all crimes.” We therefore agree with the trial court that
Burke is not privileged from criminal prosecution.

Of course, the reason the Koch Republicans are so determined to try and criminalize time-honored and accepted political procedure is because they are about to lose their Senate majority to recall elections: “The Republicans are engaging in b.s. strong-arming because they know it’s their only chance to finish off the assault on public employee rights before their asses get kicked to the curb.”

(Crossposted to Renaissance Post.)

Posted in (Rich) Taxpayers League, 111th Congress, abuse of power | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Wisconsin Recall Information

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 2, 2011

Those from outside Wisconsin looking to help can do so here:

http://action.seiu.org/page/s/wisconsinrecall/

If you’re a Wisconsin resident, go here: http://www.wisconsinrecall.net/

Have fun, gang!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

NYT Punk’d By Anti-Union Plant: Paunch’s Scoop Is Poop

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 1, 2011

Remember last week when the New York Times, with Arthur G. “Paunch” Sulzberger commanding both the byline and the front page with an article whose thesis, “Union Bonds in Wisconsin Begin to Fray”, was a consummation that Paunch oh-so-obviously (and devoutly) wished? The story that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker loved so much he even talked it up to the guy he thought was his owner, David Koch?

Keith Olbermann has the true scoop — and it’s that Paunch’s scoop is poop. Turns out Paunch wished for it so much, he let himself, and his daddy Pinch’s and grandpa Punch’s paper, get bamboozled by a non-union guy pretending to be a union guy who hated unions:

We know about this Times disaster from last Tuesday because the paper finally got around to correcting it in Saturday’s edition. The mistake got page 1A. The correction got a little box “below the fold” (somebody explain that term to Mr. Sulzberger, too) on 2A, which is read about as thoroughly as the drug interaction warnings that come with aspirin:

A front-page article on Tuesday about reaction among private-sector workers in Wisconsin to Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to cut benefits and collective-bargaining rights for unionized public employees referred incorrectly to the work history of one person quoted, and also misspelled his surname. While the man, Rich Hahn (not Hahan) described himself to a reporter as a “union guy,” he now says that he has worked at unionized factories, but was not himself a union member. (The Times contacted Mr. Hahn again to review his background after a United Auto Workers official said the union had no record of his membership.)

This clear picture of a bunch of agendas happily coinciding – ‘Sulzberger! Find me a Wisconsin union guy who agrees with the Governor!’ – and to hell with the facts or the fact-checking or the spelling, with the truth coming to light only from – gasp! – an actual union guy (from the devil UAW itself!), has been reduced to a “PS, the publisher’s kid kinda screwed up on the most important domestic news story of the moment” instead of serving as the springboard for something fair, or even useful – maybe a front-page piece about the disinformation war being waged by Governor Walker and the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party in Wisconsin and whether or not this Hahan/Hahn was part of it, intentionally or inadvertently.

Go run along and play, Paunch. You make your daddy Pinch look good, and he’s notoriously gormless.

Posted in GOP/Media Complex | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off

Wisconsin Police Join Protesters In Capitol: Eat THIS, Walker!

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 26, 2011

The Capitol Police were ordered by the Republican-controlled legislature to kick out the protesters. Instead, they’ve joined them:

Police have just announced to the crowds inside the occupied State Capitol of Wisconsin: ‘We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today. But we know what’s right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!’ Unreal.”

Face it, Walker: You’re done.

Posted in unions | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Walker Reveals In Phone Call: It’s About Power, Not Budget

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 23, 2011

Ian Murphy of The Buffalo Beast tricked Wisconsin’s Bircher/Koched-up governor Scott Walker into thinking he was talking to Walker’s big patron, David Koch (link via MyFDL). In it, Walker admits — or rather, boasts — that this isn’t about the budget, but about a pure naked exercise of brute-force power:

Walker: I talk to Kasich every day—John’s gotta stand firm in Ohio. I think we could do the same thing with Vic Scott in Florida. I think, uh, Snyder—if he got a little more support—probably could do that in Michigan. You start going down the list there’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big.

“Koch”: You’re the first domino.

Walker: Yep. This is our moment.

Your moment, indeed. You just got served, dipwad.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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