Celebrating Labor Day 2016

September 5, 2016

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, used to be the traditional school-starts-the-next-day in the U.S. Here in Texas, our students have been hitting the books (we hope) for two weeks. Rules require football practice start no earlier than two weeks before the start of school, so if football practice is to start in the first week of August, school has to start by the third week.

Wagging the dog in education, in other words.

Labor Day is the traditional start of the presidential campaign, with voting about 60 days away. In the 21st century, candidates don’t wait for Labor Day any more. Tragic for the nation to lose that tradition, I think.

So there’s nothing left to do but celebrate labor on Labor Day.

Here are some things to think about, on celebrations.

From a National Geographic on-line feature on women working, around the world: Teachable Moment  A school teacher conducts class in Atobiase, Ghana. Women make up more than half of trained primary education teachers in Ghana, according to the World Bank. Photograph by Frans Lanting, National Geographic Creative

From a National Geographic on-line feature on women working, around the world: Teachable Moment A school teacher conducts class in Atobiase, Ghana. Women make up more than half of trained primary education teachers in Ghana, according to the World Bank. Photograph by Frans Lanting, National Geographic Creative

You can’t have a labor movement without music. What do you have around the house? Woody Guthrie? Pete Seeger? Leadbelly? Play it!

Music of labor weaves its way into history. “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “Erie Canal,” barge-pulling rhythms with seeming-nonsense lyrics.  We also remember those who worked and died to advance labor, and those still dying from work-related injuries and disease.

Labor Day cards? AFL-CIO has a series of cards you can send to people who work, to thank them. Send the cards on-line, e-mail, or print them out and mail them.

Sample Labor Day Thank-you card from AFL-CIO, "That barbecue didn't make itself."

Sample Labor Day Thank-you card from AFL-CIO, “That barbecue didn’t make itself.” Find more cards at http://www.aflcio.org/thankyou

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August 16 quote of the moment: FDR, ‘I’d join a union’

August 16, 2016

One wag, who didn’t want to discuss things after all, referred me to President Franklin Roosevelt’s message to the National Federal of Federal Employees (NFFE), of August 16, 1937 (from the American Presidency Project at the University of California – Santa Barbara (UCSB)).  The wag asked me to confess that FDR was anti-union, and that Wisconsin Gov. Scott “Ahab” Walker had acted in Roosevelt’s path in Walker’s assaults on the unions of policemen, firefighters and teachers in Wisconsin.

I demurred, and pointed out instead that Walker went after the unions despite their having NOT struck, that Walker refused to bargain in good faith, or bargain at all.  I pointed out that Walker had failed in his duty, in the view of FDR.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in 1936 (Checking to see whether, when and where FDR said that; Robert Reich says he did.)

It’s a good way to send wags packing on Twitter, I’ve learned.  They don’t like to read or think, and they certainly don’t want anyone pointing out that they may have misinterpreted something. Anything.

NFFE had invited Roosevelt to speak at their Twentieth Jubilee Convention; Roosevelt sent a letter declining the invitation. In declining, Roosevelt noted he opposed strikes by government employees.  No doubt there is more history there that deserves our attention.  We can get to it later.

Here’s the meat of FDR’s letter:

Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that “under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government.”

What do you think Roosevelt would have made of the current and last “do nothing” GOP blocs in Congress?  (Or should we say “blocks?”)

Doesn’t this describe Republicans in Congress today?

” . . . intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.”

Is it too much to ask Republicans in Congress to be at least as loyal to the U.S. as the unionized government employees who pledged not to shut down the government?

FDR was pro-union, for very good reasons. Patriots should be, too.

More:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


César Chávez Day, 2015

March 31, 2015

features a portrait of Cesar against a background of empty grape fields. It was painted by illustrator Robert Rodriguez from a 1976 photo,

Postage stamp honoring Cesar Chavez in 2003. “The stamp features a portrait of Cesar against a background of empty grape fields. It was painted by illustrator Robert Rodriguez from a 1976 photo,” according to the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

President Obama declared March 31, 2015, César Chávez Day, as he did in 2014.  Here’s the press release version of the proclamation.

For Immediate Release                                                         March 30, 2015

Presidential Proclamation — Cesar Chavez Day, 2015

CÉSAR CHÁVEZ DAY, 2015

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION

For more than two centuries, the arc of our Nation’s progress has been shaped by ordinary people who have dedicated their lives to the extraordinary work of building a more perfect Union.  It is a story of achievement and constant striving that has found expression in places where America’s destiny has been decided — in Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall, and in the golden fields of California where an American hero discovered his mighty voice.  Today, we honor César Chávez and his lifetime of work to make our country more free, more fair, and more just, and we reaffirm the timeless belief he embodied:  those who love their country can change it.

A son of migrant workers and a child of the Great Depression, César Chávez believed every job has dignity and every person should have the chance to reach beyond his or her circumstances and realize a brighter future.  When no one seemed to care about the farm workers who labored without basic protections and for meager pay to help feed the world, César Chávez awakened our Nation to their deplorable conditions and abject poverty — injustices he knew firsthand.  He organized, protested, fasted, and alongside Dolores Huerta, founded the United Farm Workers.  Slowly, he grew a small movement to a 10,000-person march and eventually a 17-million-strong boycott of table grapes, rallying a generation around “La Causa” and forcing growers to agree to some of the first farm worker contracts in history.  Guided by a fierce commitment to nonviolence in support of a righteous cause, he never lost faith in the power of opportunity for all.

As a Nation, we know the struggle to live up to the principles of our founding does not end with any one victory or defeat.  After César Chávez fought for higher wages, he pushed for fresh drinking water, workers’ compensation, pension plans, and protection from pesticides.  He strove every day for the America he knew was possible.  Today, we must take up his work and carry forward this great unfinished task.

When immigrants labor in the shadows, they often earn unfair wages and their families and our economy suffer — that is one reason why we have to fix our broken immigration system and why I keep calling on the Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.  We need to continue to defend the collective bargaining rights countless individuals have fought so hard for and ensure our economy rewards hard work with a fair living wage, paid leave, and equal pay for equal work.

César Chávez knew that when you lift up one person, it enriches a community; it bolsters our economy, strengthens our Nation, and gives meaning to the creed that out of many, we are one.  As we celebrate his life, we are reminded of our obligations to one another and the extraordinary opportunity we are each given to work toward justice, equal opportunity, and a better future for every one of our sisters and brothers.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 31, 2015, as César Chávez Day.  I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate service, community, and education programs to honor César Chávez’s enduring legacy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.

[signed] BARACK OBAMA

No call for a flying of flags, but you may certainly fly your Old Glory, if you wish.

More: 


Quote of the moment: FDR on government shutdowns

February 24, 2015

One wag, who didn’t want to discuss things after all, referred me to President Franklin Roosevelt’s message to the National Federal of Federal Employees (NFFE), of August 16, 1937 (from the American Presidency Project at the University of California – Santa Barbara (UCSB)).  The wag asked me to confess that FDR was anti-union, and that Wisconsin Gov. Scott “Ahab” Walker had acted in Roosevelt’s path in Walker’s assaults on the unions of policemen, firefighters and teachers in Wisconsin.

I demurred, and pointed out instead that Walker went after the unions despite their having NOT struck, that Walker refused to bargain in good faith, or bargain at all.  I pointed out that Walker had failed in his duty, in the view of FDR.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in 1936 (Checking to see whether, when and where FDR said that; Robert Reich says he did.)

It’s a good way to send wags packing on Twitter, I’ve learned.  They don’t like to read or think, and they certainly don’t want anyone pointing out that they may have misinterpreted something. Anything.

NFFE had invited Roosevelt to speak at their Twentieth Jubilee Convention; Roosevelt sent a letter declining the invitation. In declining, Roosevelt noted he opposed strikes by government employees.  No doubt there is more history there that deserves our attention.  We can get to it later.

Here’s the meat of FDR’s letter:

Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that “under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government.”

What do you think Roosevelt would have made of the current and last “do nothing” GOP blocs in Congress?  (Or should we say “blocks?”)

Doesn’t this describe Republicans in Congress today?

” . . . intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.”

Is it too much to ask Republicans in Congress to be at least as loyal to the U.S. as the unionized government employees who pledged not to shut down the government?

More:


Fly your flag for Labor Day 2014

September 1, 2014

Remember to fly your flag today for Labor Day, to honor all laborers, and especially those in the union movement to whom we owe gratitude for the concepts and reality of safe work places, good pay, benefits (including health benefits), and vacations.

Members of the Silver Platers and Metal Polishers Union carry a large flag in Rochester’s (New York) 1918 Labor Day Parade. A poster depicting Uncle Sam can be seen to the rear of the marchers. Albert R. Stone Photo Collection, Monroe County Library System

Members of the Silver Platers and Metal Polishers Union carry a large flag in Rochester’s (New York) 1918 Labor Day Parade. A poster depicting Uncle Sam can be seen to the rear of the marchers. Photograph by Albert R. Stone, Albert R. Stone Photo Collection, Monroe County Library System

2014 notes the 100th anniversary of the Ludlow, Colorado Massacre.  Labor Day should give us all pause to consider those who lost their lives campaigning for good wages, for decent working hours, for good and safe working conditions, and for the right of workers to negotiate collectively the companies who employ them for these things.

Have a good Labor Day.  Celebrate with family and coworkers.  Kick off the 2014 elections.

And remember.

Monument in Haymarket Square, Chicago, noting the 1886 Haymarket Riot and the workers who died or were murdered later.

Monument in Haymarket Square, Chicago, noting the 1886 Haymarket Riot and the workers who died or were murdered later. Photo by TRiver on flickr, Creative Commons license, via AtlasObscura.

More:


Want to wave the flag while your kids go back to school? Buy union-made

August 24, 2014

Union-Made School Supplies Checklist, from the Twitter feed of AAFSCME

Union-Made School Supplies Checklist, from the Twitter feed of AFSCME

You may have to shop a little harder; my experience, from the classroom, is that these products generally work better than non-union-made, and cheap import substitutes.  Over the course of a year in class — or a year in a kid’s backpack — quality can save you a lot of money.

Having difficulty reading the board?  Check out a similar list from Mike Hall at AFL-CIO Now:

photo by Avolore/Twitter creative Commons

Back to School photo by Avolore/Twitter Creative Commons

International Paper Co.; Mead Lined Paper; Roaring Springs Wirebound Notebooks (including these sub-brands: Environotes, Imagine, Genesis, Enviroshades, Emoticon, Lifenotes and Maxim); Roaring Spring Environotes Index cards; and Roaring Spring Legal Pads (including these sub-brands: Boardroom, Enviroshades, WIDE, Enviropads and Envirogold).

Notebooks and Binders:

Acco/Mead; Day-Timer Organizers; Roaring Spring Pocket Folders; Roaring Spring Composition Books.

Pens:

Sharp; Sheaffer; and Parker.

Student and Teacher Supplies:  

Martin Weber Art Supplies; Roaring Spring Art Supplies; Scotch Tape; Master Lock; Kleenex and Puff Tissues; and Claus Scissors.

Shops Staffed by Union Employees:

Office Max; Safeway; Giant; Albertson’s; Supervalu; Ralph’s; and Vons. 

Back to School Clothes:

All USA Clothing; Ben Davis; Hugo Boss; Oshkosh B’Gosh; Russell Athletic; Union Line; and Windjammer.

Lunchbox items:

Jif peanut butter; Oroweat bread; Farmer John lunch meat; Mott’s apple sauce; Wheat Thins; Slim Jim; Minute Maid juice; and  V8-Splash.

Go, students: Make America and your parents proud.


Another hoax goes viral: No, Volkswagen is NOT closing Chattanooga plant

March 2, 2014

U.S. flag flies at a United Auto Workers  union hall (UAW).  Reuters photo, via The Economist

U.S. flag flies at a United Auto Workers union hall (UAW). Reuters photo, via The Economist

No, Volkswagen did not announce that it will pull out of Tennessee and close its billion-dollar automaking plant in Chattanooga. Those reports are based on a hoax.

Most people understand anything that comes from The Onion is parody at best, bad hoax at worst. It took me a while to catch on to The Daily Currant, another hoax site on the internet.

How long will it take others to catch on to the fact that “National Report” is a nasty hoax site, and nothing reported there can be taken at face value, since most of it is completely false?

National Report put up a parody post, quoting real statements from real people, but with a lead claiming Volkswagen decided to close down the Chattanooga plant.  Within a week or so, it had 63,000 shares on Facebook.

I started seeing the reports on Twitter last week, but they’ve been buzzing around for a few a while, since the union vote at the Chattanooga VW plant.  Here’s the earliest I found:

Union leaders in Europe, accustomed to good relationships with management and looking out for workers, announced they might oppose further expansion of VW in the American south without unionization — but that’s the closest real news comes to what “National Report” claims.

“Unfair labor praxis?”  What sorts of clues must a parody site drop before people start seeing through the hoax? Check out the author’s bio-line, while you’re at it.

Could we hope for a little bit of skepticism?  After the contentious, national headline-making union vote at the Chattanooga plant, wouldn’t it make sense that an announcement the plant would close, would also make headlines? But check the Chattanooga News-Free Press.  Stories there are about moving on, in Chattanooga, after the VW vote.

Nothing about closing the plant, from the newspaper that would surely be all over such a story. Or, check Volkswagen’s corporate website in the U.S. — closing their only U.S. plant would merit some mention there, don’t you think? What do we see:

Feb 21, 2014 VOLKSWAGEN GROUP SEEKS TO ACQUIRE ALL SHARES OF SCANIA

  • Volkswagen Group today resolved to make a voluntary tender offer of SEK 200 (approx. €22.26) per share to the shareholders of Scania Aktiebolag (“Scania”) for all Scania A and Scania B shares

Feb 21, 2014 ANDREAS RENSCHLER NAMED BOARD OF MANAGEMENT MEMBER FOR COMMERCIAL VEHICLES AT VOLKSWAGEN GROUP

  • At its meeting today, the Supervisory Board of Volkswagen Group appointed Andreas Renschler (55) as member of the Board of Management with responsibility for Commercial Vehicles effective February…

Feb 21, 2014 VOLKSWAGEN REPORTS SUCCESSFUL FISCAL YEAR 2013

  • With sales revenue of EUR 197.0 billion (previous year: EUR 192.7 billion), the Group’s operating profit of EUR 11.7 billion (EUR 11.5 billion) exceeded the record prior-year figure.

Feb 14, 2014 VOLKSWAGEN CHATTANOOGA EMPLOYEES VOTE AGAINST UNION REPRESENTATION

  • Volkswagen Chattanooga employees have voted in a secret ballot election against United Auto Workers (UAW) representation.

Nothing there. Google it, Bing! it, Yahoo! it, search on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll find repeats of the hoax story, but zero confirmation from any authoritative or official source, and no mentions on mainstream media who don’t deal in hoaxes. So, can we knock off the harmful hoax recirculation?

VW is in Chattanooga to stay.  VW built a $1 billion dollar, energy-efficient, state-of-the-car-making-art plant to use U.S. parts to make Volkswagens for sale in the Americas. VW is proud of it: “First and only LEED Platinum certified Auto Plant worldwide. LEED Platinum certified Volkswagen Academy.”  That’s not the sort of investment a company walks away from unless in extremis — and VW is doing okay.

VW may be troubled.  Their kanben manufacturing methods require active participation of the workers, and generally such a system works better when the workers are organized.  The Washington Post noted shortly before the vote:

If a majority of Volkswagen’s 1,570 hourly workers vote yes, it would mark the first time in nearly three decades of trying that the UAW has successfully organized a plant for a foreign brand in the United States. This time, the union has a powerful ally: Volkswagen itself, which is hoping the union will collaborate in a German-style “works council” and help manage plant operations.

Voting against a union, then, was a bit of a poke in the eye of management of Volkswagen in Chattanooga.  But it was also a poke in the eye the United Auto Workers and unions in the U.S., and conservatives are not disinclined to take a shot at friends, or work against the interests of the U.S., if they can take a shot at unions.  Tennessee conservatives like Sen. Bob Corker have sworn allegiance away from the U.S. already, promising never to increase taxes regardless how badly the nation might need it (consider how such a pledge would have crippled the U.S. in fighting either of the two world wars). So Republican elected officials let their hatred of unions overcome their love of economic development, Tennessee and the U.S. — and they interfered in the election trying to tilt it against the union, Volkswagen be damned.

But close the plant?  No.

Where does such a wild, and inflammatory story come from?

We’ve discussed “National Report” hoaxes here at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub before.

This is just one more complete falsehood, designed to get people worked up unnecessarily and snare the unwary.  National Report created the hoax almost whole cloth, duping many by offering real quotes from real people, which do not say what the headline claims.

Do false reports cause any damage?  Sometimes.  Consider this: Tennessee U.S. Sen. Bob Corker promised VW would announce plant expansion in Tennessee almost immediately, if the workers rejected the union.  Oops.  Hasn’t happened.

What else did Corker fib about? Why are so many people giving credence to National Report, an admitted fib site?

More:

Caption from Nashville Tennessean: Sen. Bob Corker speaks to reporters in Chattanooga, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, about the defeat of the United Auto Workers in a three-day election at the Volkswagen plant in the city. The multiyear effort to organize Volkswagen's only U.S. plant was defeated on a 712-626 vote Friday night amid heavy campaigning on both sides. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig) / AP

Master hoaxer? Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, promised VW workers the company would announce an expansion in Chattanooga “within two weeks” if the unionization vote failed. March 1 marked the end of that two-week period. Caption from Nashville Tennessean: Sen. Bob Corker speaks to reporters in Chattanooga, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, about the defeat of the United Auto Workers in a three-day election at the Volkswagen plant in the city. The multiyear effort to organize Volkswagen’s only U.S. plant was defeated on a 712-626 vote Friday night amid heavy campaigning on both sides. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig) / AP


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