Jim Grossfeld

Jim Grossfeld is a writer living a Bethesda, Maryland.

Recent Articles

Labor Gains?

"City and state, please?" For a moment I think the voice at the other end of the phone belongs to a telephone operator, but I've been conned: I'm talking to a piece of voice-recognition technology. Over the course of the last two decades, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) has seen the loss of thousands of telephone operators' jobs and many others, too. Some were due to automation, others to offshoring, but most were the result of structural changes in the industry. After AT&T's 1984 divestment of its 22 regional telephone companies, the CWA, together with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, represented 150,000 of the company's workers. This year, when a much smaller AT&T was purchased by SBC Communications, the union represented only 25,000. All told, the CWA estimates, about 250,000 telecommunications jobs have been lost over the past 25 years. * * * Staggering results like these have devastated some unions, but not the CWA. In fact, it's...

A Temporary Fix

With the White House and congressional conservatives ramping up to make the coming four years as memorable as the last, it is easy to miss some of their less conspicuous exploits. Many of those have taken place at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which has issued multiple decisions that are costing millions of Americans their best chance to join the middle class. One such decision came in November of last year, when the conservative-dominated board overturned the MB Sturgis decision. Sturgis , as it came to be called, was the 2000 NLRB ruling that acknowledged that workers who perform the same job for a company under the same supervision as regular employees can share a “community of interests” even though they may be employed through a temporary-services agency. By removing a legal obstacle preventing unions from organizing and negotiating for these workers, Sturgis gave the labor movement a new opportunity to grow and gain strength in industries that rely heavily on temps...

Losing Lansing

Count me among the many whose lives were touched by Ronald Reagan. For me, it began in 1980 in Lansing, Michigan. I was living on the city's east side, an older neighborhood tucked between Michigan State University and the big Oldsmobile plant. That year I was the Democratic nominee for the Ingham County Board of Commissioners. Though at 23 I wasn't the ideal candidate for a district made up of auto workers and state employees, I was convinced that my tough-minded rhetoric about stray dogs -- and the district's Democratic bent -- would help me overcome the Republican incumbent. But something didn't seem right. Few of us who were active Democrats really liked Jimmy Carter to begin with. Even those who backed him over Ted Kennedy did so with all the enthusiasm of someone paying off a parking ticket. When my new down coat was stolen at a neighbor's party, the thief left only the wad of green Carter-Mondale bumper stickers I was carrying with me. My friends' reactions were about the same...

Ambassador's Journal

John D. Negroponte is expected to be the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. Jim Grossfeld recently unearthed pages from the future journal of the ambitious diplomat: Day 1 Dear Diary, As the jet entered Iraqi airspace, I felt humbled by the enormity of the task before me, but almost giddy over the possibilities. With all the turmoil of the recent weeks, I wasn't sure what to make of the president's sending me here as ambassador. Now I know he's presented me with the greatest gift of my career. W. plainly understands that this posting is no place for a diplomat who's squeamish about mixing it up from time to time. Some of my colleagues just don't get that. All I know is that had I sat idly by in the 1980s, the people of Honduras might all be working on banana collectives or imprisoned in jungle gulags making Hacky Sacks for UNICEF. That why I am especially grateful that Paul Wolfowitz suggested I bring the very savvy Christopher Hitchens with me as my aide-de-camp. He is a kindred spirit, even...

Unhealthy Choice

With the exception of U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson's appearance before the Supreme Court on Tuesday -- to argue against affirmative action in the University of Michigan cases -- few within the Republican Party seem to have much to say these days about racial reconciliation. It's a far cry from the way things were last December, when Sen. Trent Lott's (R-Miss.) nostalgia for the Old South transformed the once-mighty Republican leader into so much political roadkill. At the time, it was hardly surprising when Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) used his first major press event as Lott's replacement to talk about the state of race relations in America. The soft-spoken Tennessee doctor could have chosen to offer up mere platitudes about racial healing -- but he went one step further, saying: For reasons we don't fully understand, but we've got to face and we've got to elevate, we know that African Americans today do not live as long. They don't have the same access, and the doctor-patient...

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