Labor

The Other Big Ohio Primary

(Flickr/abstract plain)
Tomorrow, one of the nastier primary races in recent memory will come to an end. Nope, not the Republican presidential race. (That may drag on for eternity.) Ohio will be the first state to hold a congressional primary, which means an end to the vicious fight between Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich, two Democrats who both currently hold office. (A third Democrat, Graham Veysey, is also running in what's likely to be a distant third.) After the 2010 Census numbers were in, Ohio lost two congressional seats. The GOP-controlled legislature decided to lump two of the most union-friendly representatives together in one district: Kaptur, from Toledo, and Kucinich, from Cleveland. Both are consistently pro-union, with the same high rating from the powerful United Auto Workers. The unions, by and large, are staying out of the race rather than choosing between the two . However, each campaign does have the the support of a super PAC . The Ohio district favors Democrats, and it's likely that...

Zombie Bill Springs Back From the Dead

(Flickr/welovethedark)
Tuesday was a day for bills to come back to life—zombie bills you might call them. In Virginia, the Senate passed a revised version of its pre-abortion sonogram measure , which had looked dead only a few days before. And in Arizona, senators passed one of the measures aimed at killing public employee unions weeks after the measures appeared to have stalled out. Quite a day for the undead. Arizona started the legislative session with four anti-union bills, including one that would outlaw collective bargaining. Unlike Wisconsin, which also targeted public employee unions, these measures did not exempt firefighters or police officers. Two weeks ago, the senate passed a measure requiring yearly authorizations in order for unions (and other outside groups) to automatically make deductions from paychecks of public workers. The bill makes it harder for unions to collect money. However the other three bills didn't go anywhere. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was hardly advocating for the measures...

The Moral Calculus of Online Shopping

Amazon fulfillment center in Scotland (Flickr/Chris Watt)
I don't know too many liberals who shop at Walmart. The primary reason is principle—the company is notoriously cruel to its largely low-wage workforce, works to crush the faintest hint of a desire for collective bargaining with a ferocity that would be the envy of any early 20th century industrialist, and imposes vicious cost-cutting all the way down its supply chain. But not shopping at Walmart is also easy. The stores are rare in the urban areas where lots of liberals live, and elsewhere, there's probably a Target nearby where you can get stuff just about as cheaply (Target's own corporate citizenship is a complicated topic for another day). So it isn't like not shopping at Walmart is some kind of hardship or costs them any money. But what about Amazon? A few months ago, Harold Pollack explained why he no longer shops there: nearly every sin of which Walmart is guilty, Amazon also commits. And the online world has its own particular sweatshop: the fulfillment center, where people...

Wisconsin Poll Results: Should Walker Be Concerned?

(Flickr/OnTask)
On its face, the latest poll from Wisconsin doesn't seem to offer much in the way of conclusions. But dig a bit and the poll offers a guide to the potential pitfalls of the Scott Walker campaign in the upcoming months, as the governor prepares for a likely recall election. The key results are sort of bland. The p oll of registered voters , the second one of the monthly polls conducted by Marquette University Law School, showed Walker's favorability rating to have slipped slightly. While 50 percent of respondents rated the governor's job favorably in January, only 46 percent did this time around. Meanwhile his negatives were up a bit—from 45 percent to 48. Certainly not good news for Walker, but hardly catastrophic. Meanwhile, there's been almost no movement among the Democrats who seem like potential challengers to Walker, assuming a recall occurs. Most have little name recognition; of the five Democrats the poll asked about, all had at least 47 percent of respondents giving a "don't...

The Fashion Week Bill of Rights

Two veteran runway models work to bring safe labor practices to the glamour industry.

(AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
At the height of the 1990s supermodel boom, Linda Evangelista famously said of herself and her catwalk colleagues, “We don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000.” While Evangelista and her cohort, which now includes household names like Gisele Bundchen and Heidi Klum, commanded six-figures for their photo shoots, the reality for most working models then and now is that they earn close to the minimum wage and face long hours in unregulated working conditions. Models, many of whom are teenage girls, are also vulnerable to sexual harassment and pressure to pose nude. Tired of the exploitative conditions they faced as models, runway veterans Sarah Ziff and Jenna Sauers are launching Model Alliance , to coincide with Fall 2012 New York Fashion Week, which wrapped up this week. The nonprofit aims to bring protections to the industry and has partnered with the Fordham University Fashion Law Institute to craft the regulations. “There is a sense that fashion is frivolous, and that encourages...

What Real Class Warfare Looks Like

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So it looks as though Republicans are going to cave on the extension of the payroll tax cut, pretty much the only tax cut they don't like, seeing as it doesn't do much for the wealthy. But on their way to that capitulation, they made sure they could exact a price : drug testing of people applying for unemployment compensation! After all, we need to send these people a message. The bill, which looks like it will pass soon, now includes a provision that allows states to drug test anyone applying for unemployment compensation if they're looking for a job in an industry where testing occurs, which is pretty much any industry there is. So it isn't enough that you might get tested before you can get a job, you'll now have to get tested before you even start looking. The rationale Republicans offer isn't that there's some kind of epidemic of drug abuse among the unemployed. It's just if you're going to get a government benefit, paid for by the taxpayers, then you should have to prove you...

Arizona's Dissolving Case Against Unions

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
In a state that's already prevented unions from having any clout in the private sector, this was supposed to be the month Arizona put public employee unions on the chopping block. In early February, conservative website The Daily Caller included an opinion piece called "The coming Arizona public employee union apocalypse." It was hardly the only ominous article about the future for labor in the state. "Republicans in Arizona hoped to make Wisconsin's battle against public unions last year look like a lightweight sparring match," wrote Talking Points Memo's Nick Martin. At the heart of the matter were four anti-union bills that together would end collective bargaining rights and cut off sources of money for unions. Unlike Wisconsin, the proposals would impact all public employee unions, including firefighters and police. So far, though, nothing is going as planned. Thursday evening, the Arizona state Senate gave first round approval to a bill that requires yearly authorization in order...

Private Prison Bill Dies in Florida

(Flickr/Tom Pearce, Los Gatos)
In Florida, a coalition of Democrats and a few moderate Republicans killed what could have been a major expansion of private prisons. The measure would have privatized 27 prisons and displaced more than 3,500 corrections officers . In the Florida Senate, nine Republicans voted against the measure, along with all 12 Democratic state senators. It was a rare victory for both Democrats and the labor unions that fought the bill. Proponents had argued the measure would save the state over $16 million in its first year, and the defeat may now lead to increased budget cuts in education and health care. Interestingly, much of the debate around the bill focused on the workers, like prison guards, who would lose jobs as a result of the privatization. With major pushes against public employee bargaining rights in Wisconsin and now in Arizona, state workers have largely been villified. This debate seems to have gone very differently. As the Tampa Bay Times reports: Senators debated privatization...

Ohio Governor John Kasich's Tightrope Walk

AP Photo/Al Behrman
John Kasich is in a bit of a bind. The Ohio governor is, on the one hand, the tough Republican who tried to bring right-to-work legislation to Ohio and reduce government spending. He's also the guy whose efforts to limit collective bargaining got knocked down by Ohio voters. Partisan divides seem to be growing in the Buckeye State. All of which was likely on his mind when Kasich gave his State of the State address today. The governor opted to give the speech at a school rather than at the state capitol, where it's traditionally given. It wasn't the only unusual choice of the day. He also tried to push for the same types of policies he's always advocated —but package them in moderate verbiage. For instance, he told the crowd that raising taxes was not an option, because it would hurt business. "It's not just a philosophy or some sort of an ideology," he explained. "It's what makes sense." Except that it is an ideology. Raising certain taxes—or not cutting them further—is hardly about...

Does Right to Work Actually Lead to More Jobs?

Flickr/quinn.anya
Most people watching the Super Bowl last night probably had no idea that only a few days before, in the same city of Indianapolis, Governor Mitch Daniels signed a law that will cripple unions. As I've written before, Indiana is the first Rust Belt state to pass a right-to-work law, which prohibits both mandatory union membership and collecting fees from non-members. The news, however, has hardly gotten the attention the labor-minded might have expected. Blame it on the big game or the GOP presidential primary. Or blame it on the loss of union power that allowed the law to pass in the first place. Whatever the reason, this lack of stories has meant little discussion of the actual impact of right-to-work legislation. Daniels, along with many proponents of such measures, argues that companies choose to locate in right-to-work states rather than in states with powerful unions. And the Indiana governor says he's already seeing the fruits of the newly passed law. Union advocates, meanwhile...

Indiana Senate Passes Right-to-Work

The Indiana Senate has passed so-called right-to-work legislation, paving a clear path to Gov. Mitch Daniels' desk. The passage was expected—after Democrats in the state House ended their boycotts and efforts to water down the legislation last week, there were almost no major road blocks left. Republican majorities in both chambers were already in favor of the bill and Daniels has repeatedly voiced his support. As I wrote this morning, the move marks a major turning point in labor history as Indiana becomes the first state in the traditionally pro-union northern block to pass the measure. The legislation forbids mandatory union membership and keeps unions from collecting fees from non-members. Still to come, however, is the union response. Indianapolis is hosting this weekend's Super Bowl and Republicans have rushed to get the bill passed before strikes and slowdowns could hurt the festivities. While the event organizers have no-strike deals with relevant unions, strikes could still...

Where Indiana Goes, So Goes the Nation

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy) Rob Parsons, a steelworker from Merrillville, Ind., screams during a union workers protest on the steps of the Statehouse after the Senate voted to pass the right-to-work bill in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. The governor is expected to sign the bill later in the day. On March 4, 1957, Indiana passed right-to-work legislation. The Sunday Herald out of Bridgeport, Conn described how a crowd of 5,000 union members arrived at the state's Capitol the day before the bill passed, demonstrating and demanding that then-Gov. Harold W. Handley veto the measure. The day before, according to the Milwaukee Journal , more than 10,000 demonstrators had come to show their opposition. When the measure finally passed both chambers, Maine's Lewiston Daily Sun declared it " the biggest news right now in labor union circles. " "Seventeen other States have right-to-work laws which declare that no individual shall be forced to join a union as a condition of employment,"...

Indiana Wades into the Culture Wars

Indiana is hardly a state known for its intense culture wars and political battles. Mostly, it's known for one of the greatest sports movies of all time . But this year, Indiana is entering territory usually occupied by places like Kansas and Texas. The state legislature is not only about to pass a controversial bill to decrease union power; a measure to teach creationism has already passed out of the state Senate's Education Committee. The right-to-work legislation is hurtling at lightning speed for Governor Mitch Daniels's desk. After a year of fighting, including recent boycotts from Democrats, the legislation passed the state's House last week, leaving little doubt that the measure, supported by the governor and most of the state Senate, will soon become law. Indiana will be the first state in the Rust Belt to pass such legislation, which prevents mandatory union membership and forbids unions from collecting fees from anyone who chooses to opt out. Proponents argue that the move...

Wisconsin Walk-Through

Wisconsin activists shocked onlookers last week when they presented more than one million petitions asking for Governor Scott Walker to be recalled. Since then, the pendulum has seemingly swung in the governor's favor: high fundraising numbers, a state of the state address celebrating his policies, and a poll showing him leading four potential opponents. But there's still a lot of time left to go: two months of verifying signatures, and then, assuming at least 540,000 are valid, an election six weeks later. If there's a Democratic primary, the process will be even longer. With all that time and a divided electorate, the key questions will likely come down to which side can frame the debate and which side can turn out its voters. With Walker currently ruling the television waves and his opponents perfecting an impressive grassroots organization, it's hard to see one side with a clear upper hand. Even the poll offers few conclusions. So let's take this week's news, point by point. THE...

Go Big or Go Home

For those watching labor fights, the two very close, hard-fought games for the AFC and NFC championships yesterday (I'm talking football here, people), might have echoed what's happening in Indianapolis, host city to this year's Super Bowl. The battle over collective bargaining in one of the country's original manufacturing havens has already spawned teams, rules, and some hard-hitting tackles. And soon, one side may be trying for a Hail Mary. State Republicans, including Governor Mitch Daniels, are pushing for "right to work" legislation that would forbid unions from requiring non-members to pay representation fees. Such laws generally leave unions with little power to bargain collectively, and according to the U.S. Department of Labor, workers in states with such laws make $5,300 less than those in states that allow workers to organize. Proponents of the proposed Indiana legislation argue it will lure more businesses and therefore, more jobs. For three weeks, the Indiana state House...

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