David Moberg

David Moberg is a senior editor at In These Times.

Recent Articles

Parade to Oblivion

W hen employees at the steel manufacturer LTV cheered the resignation last November of the corporation's chief executive--he had been brought in only a year earlier to save the company--it was a telling sign. Steelworkers, who bristled at CEO William Bricker's continuing campaign to slash their wages and cut off health insurance for retirees, had become convinced that he was purposefully scuttling the operations with his wastefulness and wild threats. Clashes between union workers and corporate executives are nothing new, but this was more significant than the standard wage dispute. Steelworkers are worried about the future of their livelihood--and with good reason: Since 1998 the industry has been in a crisis deep enough to undermine even the best managers and steel mills. Over the past four years, 32 percent of the nation's steel producers--that's 29 companies, including the third and fourth largest--have gone into bankruptcy. Thirteen have stopped operating altogether. Several...

Union Cities

A little over a year ago, 100 workers tried to form a union at Transit Express, a low-wage Milwaukee company that the county government pays to transport disabled people. Their employer put up surveillance cameras, hired security guards, distributed anti-union literature, and gave workers a pay hike--which he warned they could lose if they voted for a union. The workers became frightened, and a pro-union majority dissolved. That kind of employer hardball is common. But in Milwaukee, a coalition of union locals and community groups struck back. Now they are close to winning a county ordinance that will curb the use of such tactics by any major government contractor. The coalition successfully ran two union members for seats on the county board of supervisors last spring, pressured other candidates to support the labor ordinance, and held rallies to counter an intense campaign against the measure by antilabor law firms. The force behind this...

HERE's Hard Times:

L ate last year, Nicole Howard was laid off when Montgomery Ward went bankrupt. In the spring, she happily found a new job cleaning rooms at Chicago's venerable Palmer House Hilton Hotel. But on September 14, she says, her boss "just told me that because of what happened on September 11, they had to lay people off," and another job was gone. A 32-year-old former welfare recipient, Howard was ineligible for unemployment insurance because she hadn't worked long enough, and she and her 15-year-old daughter were soon evicted from their rented room and forced to live with relatives. Now, since some high-seniority room attendants voluntarily cut their hours to share the work, she gets called back for an occasional day's employment, but "I'm borrowing money, and I don't know how I can pay it back," she says. "Why do they deny unemployment [compensation] when it was nobody's fault that they lost their jobs?" In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the mostly low-to-moderate-...

Can Democracy Save Chicago's Schools?

The breaking point for parents of Chicago's schoolchildren finally came in the fall of 1987: For the ninth time in less than two decades public school teachers were out on strike. The years of financial game-playing, continued crisis, and, most of all, educational decline had taken their toll. Reformers had for several years chronicled the failures of the city's schools and the follies of the system's central bureaucracy, which had grown dramatically even as school enrollment, teaching staff, and real teaching time declined. Business leaders had long grumbled that the graduates of the public schools were grossly unqualified. Blacks had long denounced both the system's deliberate segregation and white politicians' attempt to retain control of the system, even though only 12 percent of students were white. But many black parents discovered in the 1980s that the system was still rotten, even with black superintendents and a predominantly black staff. The public anger and frustration, as...

Martha Jernegons's New Shoes

Last fall, Martha Jernegons got a raise. By the standards of the new dot-com economy, it wasn't much--just $2.15 per hour. But for Jernegons, a 56-year-old home health care aide in Chicago, working for a private agency that is reimbursed by the city, it was a 40 percent increase, to $7.60 an hour. Though she still lives below the poverty line--and still lacks health insurance--with a daughter and six grandchildren, that $2.15 an hour made a big difference. She's finally paying off an old $600 medical bill that had been hanging over her for years. "The raise gave me a different outlook on life," she said. "I feel better about myself. Now I can go to Payless and buy a pair of shoes." Jernegons's shoes are courtesy of Chicago's "living wage" ordinance, which required certain contractors for the city to pay a minimum of $7.60 an hour to its employees. Mayor Richard Daley had resisted the local living-wage coalition of unions, community groups, homeless advocates, and religious...

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