David Moberg

David Moberg is a senior editor at In These Times.

Recent Articles

Sweatshop Army

Why does the Pentagon use low-road companies to feed and clothe our troops?

An American solider holding a packaged meal (Flickr/nukeit1)
During a 13-month tour in Iraq with her National Guard unit, Amber Hicks ate her share of the military rations known as "meals ready to eat," or MREs. Then, as chance would have it, she returned to her hometown of Cincinnati and found a job in the Wornick Company's factory -- making those familiar MREs. Most of her fellow workers were immigrants -- African, Mexican, Vietnamese, and Cambodian -- and most of them made less than $10 an hour, with very few able to pay for the company's health insurance. The work was fast-paced and stressful, and conditions were worsened by frequent forced hours of overtime work, which caused day-care problems -- even job loss -- for workers with children. The pressures also likely contributed to the company's above-average injury rates. And on top of those problems, Hicks says, "there was a lot of favoritism from the 'good old boy' gang that ran the plant. It wasn't what you know but who you know, for getting promotions." Every year the federal government...

Which Side Is Government On?

Millions of contract workers whose salaries are ultimately paid by government live in poverty. Uncle Sam should demand high standards, not pay as little as possible.

(AP Photo/East Valley Tribune, Thomas Boggan)
Ada Iglesias relies on her job as a cafeteria worker at Paramus High School in New Jersey to put food on the table for three hungry, preteen children. It's not easy. She makes $8 an hour, works only 24 hours a week, and while out of work over the school's summer recess, does not qualify for unemployment compensation. Her construction-worker husband, out of work for more than six months, also draws no unemployment insurance. Then, after having put off seeing a doctor for seven years, Iglesias, 35, found that she needed major surgery that she might have avoided with regular check-ups. Neither Iglesias nor her husband get health insurance through their work, nor do they qualify for New Jersey Family Care, the state- and federally funded insurance program for low-income families -- although some of her co-workers do. Now she faces huge additional bills -- $10,000 for the doctor alone, though her physician will reduce his fee, and she is applying for charity care from the hospital. "It's...

Labor Strikes Back

The AFL-CIO has filed a formal complaint with the International Labor Organization over the state of labor law in the United States. How have things gotten so bad?

When labor union leaders in countries like Guatemala and Colombia face death squads and draconian legal restrictions on workers' rights, they often turn to the Geneva-based International Labor Organization of the United Nations for help. So it was a sign of real frustration, even desperation, that in mid-October the AFL-CIO protested to the ILO that a "sustained assault on workers' rights in the United States" was occurring at the hands of the very agency mandated to enforce this nation's labor laws--the National Labor Relations Board. For the past six years the Bush-appointed majority of the NLRB has steadily reversed legal precedents and eroded the rights of workers in favor of management--limiting who can form a union, strengthening management power to harass pro-union workers, and refusing effective action against management abuses of worker rights. One of the most significant attacks came in early October. The Board threw new roadblocks in the path of one of the labor movement's...

The Labor Lessons GM Never Learned

This week's UAW strike is a reminder that if the company had heeded union demands during the 1970s, substantial portions of our public policy could look radically different.

General Motors retiree Junior Baker stands at a GM plant entrance in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Sept. 24, 2007. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
In 1970, in the midst of the last national General Motors strike (which lasted for a significant 67 days), UAW president Leonard Woodcock urged American businesses to become actively involved in a fight for national health insurance and halt their rising, uncontrolled health care costs. "American management now has the opportunity to help make each American's right to better health a reality -- and at less cost" he said. Some things have changed. This year's strike lasted a mere two days. Roughly 400,000 UAW members worked for GM then; only 73,000 do now. But some things haven't: Health care was an issue then, and is an even bigger issue this year. And the stakes in the auto industry negotiations involve more than those at the bargaining table. They reflect public policy choices that put workers at a disadvantage. And they have repercussions for the country as a whole, especially other workers, both active and retired. If business and labor had joined together in 1970 in the fight for...

Remaking Steel

His union's mission, says Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers of America's international president, is "saving these damn plants for our members, retirees and the next generation of workers" -- not for corporate executives or nonunion subcontractors. With temporary import protections now providing a little stability for the battered American steel business, United Steelworkers is actively encouraging the reorganization of the fragmented, mainly bankrupt industry into fewer, stronger companies. Many analysts have written off the steel industry as hopeless, and most of those who haven't assume that steel companies can only survive by dumping all of their responsibilities to retirees, drastically slashing employment of union workers, and cutting wages and benefits. But the union believes that the industry can be saved -- and the living standards of both workers and retirees protected -- if owners invest in newly consolidated operations, excess management is trimmed, and workers and the union...

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