President Trump is looking for a surefire conservative for the Supreme Court. For all the escalating rancor, this round to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia could be the prelude to a more consequential battle. The possibility of a second Supreme Court vacancy in the near future is subtly affecting the strategy of the Republican Trump team in the final stages of selecting a candidate and of Democratic opponents girding for what could be years of political turmoil surrounding the composition of America’s highest court.
Scalia, who died last February, was a rigid conservative on social issues so Trump’s replacement would likely be a wash. But a Trump successor to either of the two eldest justices — liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will turn 84 in March, or centrist-conservative Anthony Kennedy, turning 81 in July — could truly transform the law in America.
How the Fate of Unions Fell Into The Hands of a Single Man
In Commonwealth v. Hunt, (1842), an American legal case in which the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the common-law doctrine of criminal conspiracy did not apply to labor unions. Until then, workers’ attempts to establish closed shops had been subject to prosecution. Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw asserted, however, that trade unions were legal and that they had the right to strike or take other steps of peaceful coercion to raise wages and ban nonunion workers.
The case stemmed from a demand by the Boston Journeymen Bootmakers’ Society that an employer fire one of its members who had disobeyed the society’s rules. The employer, fearing a strike, complied, but the dismissed employee complained to the district attorney, who then drew an indictment charging the society with conspiracy. The Boston Municipal Court found the union guilty.
Justice Shaw, hearing the case on appeal, altered the traditional criteria for conspiracy by holding that the mere act of combining for some purpose was not illegal. Only those combinations intended “to accomplish some criminal or unlawful purpose, or to accomplish some purpose, not in itself criminal or unlawful, by criminal or unlawful means” could be prosecuted.
Shaw, in effect, legalized the American labor union movement by this decision.
Let’s hope that the inevitable Democratic show of force on the first nomination serves as a warning to Trump not to put up an uncompromising conservative for a more consequential opening.
President-elect Donald Trump had the most perfect New Year’s tweet. And by perfect, we mean perfectly awful. Say what you will, the man has an uncanny ability to compress his entire sick personality into a mere 140 characters.
“Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!” he tweeted.
It’s a little hard to celebrate the end of 2016, a truly awful year, when in 20 days, this petty, vindictive man with the maturity and impulse control of a five-year-old and the ossified views of a dinosaur will be president. Though you may be cowering under your bed in dread at the idea, we thought we’d take you on a little stroll to recap of some of the horrors and absurdities the right wing visited upon us during the year that was.
1. Donald Trump staged a year-long assault on the truth.
Donald Trump lies all the time. He lies malignantly, and he lies ridiculously. His entire political career is founded on the birther lie, which he still brags about. He ran his campaign on lies about black crime, dangerous immigrants and non-existent jobs, more or less defrauding the American people the same way he defrauded the students of Trump University. In some cases, the lies he told were so demonstrably false that they were almost funny. Almost.
“There is no drought,” Donald Trump told Californians while campaigning in the drought-stricken state last May.
If there is a water problem, he continued, it’s because someone closed the water, so Trump is going to open it.
“If I win, believe me, we’re going to start opening up the water so that you can have your farmers survive,” Trump said.
It’s just so crazy to say this. Arguably, it’s one thing to deny climate change, which is a bit complicated and requires scientists to explain it. But droughts? Not to mention air pollution. Dude, we can see those.
Another bizarre lie in the final days of the campaign was a depiction of how President Obama dealt with a protester at a Clinton campaign rally.
“He was talking to the protester, screaming at him, really screaming at him,” Trump told his insanely gullible crowd in Tampa, Florida.
“By the way, if I spoke the way Obama spoke to that protester, they [the mean old media] would say, he became unhinged! He spent so much time screaming at this protester and frankly, it was a disgrace.”
This was, in fact, the very opposite of what happened. In what was televised for all to see, President Obama urged the slightly rowdy crowd to take it easy on the protester, who was older and appeared to be a veteran.
So this was not just a lie, it was a masterpiece of projection. For Donald Trump is the one who consistently endangered protesters at his rallies by inciting his supporters to rough them up and worse.
The persistence and outrageousness of Trump’s many lies can be attributed the sobering reality that the Trump era helped usher in the post-truth world we now find ourselves living in. The tweeter-in-chief spreads conspiracy theories, spins minor victories into major coups and occasionally in an unguarded moment spews some accidental truth about how he can’t believe so many people actually believe anything he says.
But still, you’re not supposed to just come out and say that truth and facts don’t matter.
CNN Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes confirmed all of our worst fears after the election when she said, “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts,” on the Diane Rehm Show on WAMU, an NPR affiliate.
She was explaining the truth according to Trump to her fellow aghast panelists when it comes to Trump’s claim that “millions of fraudulent voters” gave Hillary Clinton her 2.8 million popular vote victory.
Here is what Hughes purported to be her logic:
“Mr. Trump’s tweets amongst a certain crowd, a large—a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some, in his, amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies, and there’s no facts to back it up.”
That is seriously scary. We have a president and his minions who now believe truth is what he says it is.
Trump’s videotaped assertions that he could grab women by the genitals because he is famous threw some of his surrogates into disarray, though not all. And a few of them performed some of the more hilarious contortions seen on the campaign trail to deflect attention from the damaging revelations.
One was Newt Gingrich who reinforced his already creepy image by conflating sex and sexual assault in a dustup with Megyn Kelly in October. While she pressed for answers and expressed concerns for women’s safety, Gingrich countered with the accusation that Kelly is “fascinated with sex,” because she kept talking about it.
Funnier still was Betsy McCaughey, the former Lieutenant Governor or New York, whose nutjob takedown of Obamacare invented the concept of death panels. She argued that if you like Beyoncé’s music, you can’t complain about sexual assault. Like other right-wingers, she seemed to think the problem with the leaked video was Trump’s foul language, rather than the whole rapey/consent thing.
Hillary Clinton, a fan of Beyoncé, likes bad words more than Donald Trump, McCaughey argued, before whipping out and performing the lyrics to “Formation.”
“‘I came to slay, bitch. When he f-ed me good I take his ass to Red Lobster.’ That happens to be from Beyoncé, her favorite performer,” McCaughey said of Clinton. “Whom she says she idolizes and would like to imitate. There’s a lot of hypocrisy, in Hillary Clinton expressing such horror at language on the bus.”
McCaughey was triumphant. She really scored there.
Later, after several women accused Trump of sexually assault, McCaughey called their accusations an example of “man-shaming” and suggested the women should not be believed.
“With all due respect, that was the same thing that the folks over at Bill Cosby’s camp said,” CNN Don Lemon pointed out.
“Well, and sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong,” McCaughey countered.
In October, Ted Cruz, who for some reason had forgotten that everyone including his own party detests him, floated an idea about the Supreme Court. Maybe, if Hillary Clinton were to win the presidency, Senate Republicans really would just take all of their toys and go home and stonewall on any Supreme Court appointment she attempted to make. So there.
“There is long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices,” Cruz lied at a campaign event. “Just recently Justice [Stephen] Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job, that’s a debate that we are going to have.”
Cruz’s threat did not quite pack the punch of fellow tea partier Joe Walsh’s threat to “grab a musket” if the election did not go Trump’s way, but was more in Cruz’s trademark mealy-mouthed and thoroughly dishonest style.
For starters, there is no long history of that, and secondly, Breyer did not say that. The Senate’s inaction on Supreme Court appointees has severely affected the high court’s ability to do its job. Deadlocking on cases involving immigration and unions and other vital issues means the court is literally failing to do its job, which is to decide things.
The Supreme Court is only the best known example of the harm GOP stonewalling has done to the judiciary. Republicans have confirmed only 18 of Obama’s federal court nominees, and created a “judicial emergency,” which is a term for when courts are so back-logged and caseloads are so high that Americans’ access to justice is endangered.
Cruz knows about this judicial emergency and has gleefully propagated it. Unlike his idiotic fellow traveler John McCain, whom Cruz was echoing. Cruz is a lawyer and touts himself as a constitutionalist, but for some reason it’s okay for him to ignore the part of the U.S. Constitution that gives the power of appointing justices to the current president of the United States.
Cut to present and Cruz’s name has sickeningly been floated for a Trump appointment to the Supreme Court, while Cruz accused the Democrats of threatening to be the most obstructionist party in history.
Ha! One hopes.
5. Melania Trump’s barely hidden misogyny revealed itself in an interview with Anderson Cooper.
At first glance, Melania Trump did a good job of seeming like a decent and sane person in her softball interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper in October. She reported that her husband had apologized to her about bragging he sexually assaults women, and that she accepted his apology. But she pointed out, it was not his fault. Billy Bush made him do it. Donald is, she acknowledged, a big kid, barely more mature than their 11-year-old, Barron.
But her mixed messages about her husband’s level of maturity were only part of the problem. On closer inspection, there was quite a bit of misogyny lurking behind her words, and viewing women as the real predators seems pretty firmly ensconced in her worldview. Since boys will of course be endearing if potty-mouthed boys, Melania blamed the manipulative women who are always hitting on her husband, sometimes right in front of her, throwing themselves at him. This was in the context of talking about sexual assault allegations, so the unmistakable conclusion was that she was implying some women are asking for it.
As for Natasha Stoynoff, the People magazine writer who said Trump forcibly kissed her at Mar-a Lago, the most important thing Melania wanted to convey was that she was never friends with Stoynoff and would not recognize her on Fifth Avenue, despite the fact that Stoynoff attended the Trumps’ wedding. (And the most important thing Mr. Trump would have you know is that Stoynoff is not his idea of attractive enough for him to sexually assault. Stoynoff has recently confirmed that knowing Trump would attack her looks did give her pause before going public with her ordeal. How many more?)
6. Rudy ‘9/11’ Giuliani conveniently forgot when 9/11 happened.
In September, self-proclaimed September 11 hero mayor Rudy Giuliani managed to forget when 9/11 happened so that he could make the laughably false statement that there were no terrorist incidents before President Obama took office. Around the same time he made that brain fart, and right after the first debate in which Trump tanked badly, Rudy posted a banner week sucking up Trump’s fumes. Here were some of the lowlights:
Immediately following the debate, Giuliani was the first to float the idea that Trump should skip the rest of the debates. Why? Because Trump blew it so badly, and his gnat-like attention span prevents him from actually preparing? No, because it was rigged! Lester Holt was so unfair when he corrected Trump a few times on his lies! (Especially when Holt pointed out to Trump that the police practice he and Giuliani so love, stop-and-frisk, is unconstitutional and racist.)
Later in the week, Giuliani joined the fray in criticizing Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs, because that’s just extremely relevant to Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and Giuliani has always been an exemplary husband and father. Because he cares so much about women and children, Giuliani helpfully pointed out how “stupid” Hillary is to have stayed with Bill. In the same dizzying spew, Giuliani called Trump a “feminist” for hiring women (even if he fat-shames them and fires them for not being attractive enough). He also claimed Bill Clinton “violated” Monica Lewinsky, and as a former prosecutor, isn’t he supposed to know that’s not the case?
By the end of the week, Giuliani decided it was appropriate to make racist, anti-immigrant remarks and insult Mexicans working in the kitchen at the Waldorf Astoria during a black-tie event there, even managing to offend the various business leaders assembled. Red-faced, the head of the Commercial Finance Association, obviously a left-wing organization, was forced to issue a formal apology to attendees.
Diagnosis: The bile has finally eaten all the way through Giuliani’s brain.
7. Britt Hume idiotically whined about how he’s not even allowed to say Hillary Clinton is shrill and needs to smile more.
Hume, Fox News’ so-called reasonable one, gave the following critique after Hillary Clinton’s Democratic convention speech: “She has a habit, when speaking, of breaking into a kind of a sharp, lecturing tone, [it] makes you feel like. She has a great asset, as a public person, which is a radiant smile, but she has a not-so-attractive voice.”
Now, technically, he did not actually use the word “shrill” having somehow gotten the message that that word is not very well-disguised sexism. A few weeks later, Hume and Tucker Carlson were having a little chat about what they can and cannot say about Hillary Clinton. It’s so frustrating being a white male these days. Everybody’s always picking on you, trying to take away the privileges to which you’ve become accustomed.
They were discussing the outrage of Clinton not smiling enough while she was talking to the families of dead soldiers during the “Commander-in-Chief” forum. Carlson said he admires Clinton’s toughness (ha! no), but thinks she undercuts that when she mentions the sexism in the media’s coverage of her. How so? Not sure.
But poor Hume just doesn’t even know what he can say anymore, everything has become so unfair.
“You know at the Democratic convention, I was on after her speech, and it struck me that she did some things effectively in that speech, particularly her critique of Donald Trump,” Hume said. “But she seemed—and she has at other times in the campaign—to be kind of angry and joyless, and yes, unsmiling. I said that on the air, and I really caught it on Twitter from people who said, ‘You’re just a sexist, I can’t believe somebody’s saying that.’ But it raises this question, Tucker, in America today, is it possible for a woman to be shrill, and if so, or joyless, or unsmiling, is it possible for somebody to say that without ending up in jail?”
The dreadful persecution of Hume and other men who wish to call women shrill with impunity continues.
8. Pond scum emerges, says vile scummy things, gets book contract.
If there is a more despicable piece of shower mold than Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos, we do not know it.
In a mediascape that normalized Trump’s demagogic drunk uncle act and legitimized him into the presidency, this other creature from a hateful lagoon was granted a hearing on ABC “Nightline” with Terry Moran.
Yiannopoulos has been banned from Twitter for leading a harassment campaign against the comedian Leslie Jones, something he is apparently proud of.
“I like to think of myself as a virtuous troll,” Yiannopoulos bizarrely self-aggrandized in the interview.
We like to think of him with a stake driven through his tongue, but hey, we like to think lots of things.
Moran thought maybe he could pull some decency out of this cockroach, and asked if Yiannopoulos would tell Jones “she looks like a dude” in person.
Moran again tried to reason with the moron. “You’re going to go after somebody’s body to denigrate their ideas? What grade are you in? Seriously. Are you a 13-year-old boy? Because somebody doesn’t have a weight that you think is proper? That’s revolting.”
Revolting is a word Yiannopoulos can relate to.
“I’ll tell you what’s revolting,” Yiannopoulos responded. “What’s revolting is the body positivity movement. What’s revolting is this idea now that you can tell women that they’ll be healthy at any size.”
And now, having discussed this vile piece of bellybutton lint, we need to go take a bath.
9. Trump sons went from comparing refugees to Skittles to just making sh*t up.
It was Donald Trump, Jr. who compared refugees to Skittles, prompting the candymaker to distance itself from the Trump campaign (as Tic Tac later did). But it was son Eric who made up the absurd original lie of his father’s sh*tshow of a campaign in the fall. He swore it was not President Obama’s Kenyan birth or his secret status as a Muslim Manchurian candidate, it was a Christmas story. Who doesn’t love a Christmas story?
During an interview, Eric said Trump entered the political sphere because the Obama/Grinches stole Chistmas. “He sees the tree on the White House lawn has been renamed Holiday tree instead of Christmas tree. I could go on and on for hours. Those are the very things that made my father run, and those are the very things he cares about.”
One teeny tiny leetle problem. It’s not true. As in has no basis in reality. Didn’t happen. Throughout the Obama administration, the White House Christmas Tree has been called the “White House Christmas Tree.” It’s not even the “White House Xmas Tree.”
So this is a made-up story, a myth, a manufactured crisis, and all part of the nonexistent war on Christmas that isn’t being waged anywhere.
Eric also pointed out other pseudo outrages galvanizing his father’s run.
“He opens the paper and some new school district has just eliminated the ability for its students to say the Pledge of Allegiance, or some fire department in some town is ordered by the mayor to no longer fly the American flag on the back of a fire truck,” Eric Trump told the Stream’s James Robinson.
There are just a few things wrong with this statement. Chiefly, Donald Trump doesn’t open a paper. He opens his Twitter feed, Fox News or maybe Breitbart. Sometimes he glances at the National Enquirer, especially if “people are saying” there’s a good conspiracy theory about Ted Cruz’s father or Hillary Clinton’s health on the cover.
The Kool-Aid in the Trump household was clearly very strong.
10. Before Trump surrogate Carl Paladino said horrendously racist and hateful things about the Obamas, he said other horrible racist things.
Back in August, while Trump was attacking the Khan family for having an American war hero son while being Muslim, his pal and upstate New York school board official Carl Paladino went on “Imus in the Morning” to defend his right to do so. He started by making up stuff about Hillary Clinton.
“We’ve got an unindicted felon [he means Clinton] as his opponent and you’re talking about Khan, about [Trump] making a remark about this man? All right, I don’t care if he’s a Gold Star parent. He certainly doesn’t deserve that title, OK, if he’s as anti-American as he’s illustrated in his speeches and in his discussion. I mean, if he’s a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or supporting, you know, the ISIS-type of attitude against America, there’s no reason for Donald Trump to have to honor this man.”
It’s hard to be worse than Trump himself, but apparently manageable for some.
Keeping the level of discourse as high as possible, Paladino went on to insist that Obama is a Muslim and Hillary Clinton is “devious” for hiding her alleged health problems (that have been thorougly debunked).
“But if you’re really looking at what’s been exposed about Hillary and Hillary’s demeanor, I mean, just look at the deviousness. If it is true about her health problems, I mean, how devious can a woman possibly be? And not telling the American people that she’s got some sickness, she’s definitely impaired.”
Diagnosis: Paladino is morally impaired.
11. Bill O’Reilly instructed black people to hate Black Lives Matter.
In December Bill O’Reilly let his white aupremacist flag fly in a rant about opponents of the Electoral College.
But we shouldn’t let that despicable moment obscure another despicable moment back in July, when several police officers in Dallas were gunned down after a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration, which had nothing to do with the shooting.
O’Reilly took the opportunity to insist that everyone must hate and fear Black Lives Matter immediately. He and other Fox Newsians spent a good deal of their post-Dallas airtime whipping up as much hysteria and anger as possible against a group that has a name and a message no sane person can argue with. But sane people do not sit at Fox roundtables, as an episode of “Outnumbered” clearly shows. Meanwhile, colleagues Megyn Kelly and racist ex-cop Mark Fuhrman took it upon themselves to lecture black people to stop exaggerating problems with the police. You got that, Philando Castile, Eric Garner and Alton Sterling?
But O’Reilly is just so sick and tired of black people not listening to him when he tells them what is good for them. Speaking to his guest, NAACP director Hilary Shelton, O’Reilly said, “So, you know what I think? I think that if you really want, if African Americans really want to bring the country together and have good racial relations, they have to distance themselves from Black Lives Matter. Am I wrong?”
Yeah, you’re wrong, Shelton said, explaining that the Black Lives Matter marches are occurring for a very good reason. And lots of people understand that.
But white people ha-a-a-te Black Lives Matter, O’Reilly whined, mistaking the echo chamber in his head for reality once again. “White Americans despise this crew. And if black Americans don’t understand that, we’re just going to grow further apart.”
Shelton carried on saying reasonable things that were in the spirit of bringing people together, among other things pointing out that people of all races join Black Lives Matter marches and believe in the movement and in justice for all Americans.
All on deaf ears. O’Reilly was just too busy breaking the douchebag-o-meter.
12. Fox Newsians said—with straight faces—that asking Trump for his tax return was discrimination against rich people.
No, seriously, Kimberly Guilfoyle really did say this. She and her co-hosts from “The Five” were discussing this terrible miscarriage of justice—the fact that Mitt Romney suggested there might be a bombshell in Donald Trump’s unreleased tax returns, and that now everyone is all over his case to release them. The Donald had up with various reasons not to produce them, including the hilarious statement that the IRS picks on him because he’s such a strong Christian. One suspects the real secret the Donald is hiding is that he is not nearly as wealthy as he makes himself out to be, which is the only revelation in the universe that could bring the shameless reality star the remotest sense of shame.
But Guilfoyle and equally idiotic Eric Bolling just thought it was so mean—so, so rude—to ask the Donald to produce his tax returns. Co-host Dana Perino tried to explain that the office of the presidency is that of a public servant, not the gold-plated throne from which to order decrees that Trump imagines it to be, and pointed out that although taxes are “complicated for [insert the word rich] people,” they would likely be an issue in the general election.
Juan Williams pointed out that Donald’s taxes are “relevant right now.”
Guilfoyle jumped all over that, whining, “What about discrimination, Juan?”
“Against rich people,” Guilfoyle said. “And one percenters. Nobody ever asks to see the poor—it’s so rude.”
Here’s looking back at some of 2016’s biggest #UnionStrong moments. We stand with you Sisters and Brothers!
Scalia’s death ends Friedrichs threat In a case known as Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, the U.S. Supreme Court was getting ready to impose so-called “right-to-work” status on all public employees in the United States — making dues strictly voluntary and thus weakening unions considerably. But the death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February resulted in a 4-4 deadlock on the case. The threat to labor could return, however, if a similar case is filed after another anti-union justice is appointed.
Unions count Verizon strike as a win America’s biggest strike in four years took place in April and May as 39,000 members of CWA and IBEW struck Verizon’s East Coast landline operations rather than accept contract concessions at the highly-profitable company. The strike ended after 45 days with a deal brokered by U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez on terms the union called a win, including 10.5 percent raises over four years, and protections against outsourcing of call center jobs.
Clinton loses in the electoral college In the general election, Hillary Clinton had the support of nearly every labor union in the country, and she won nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump. But she lost where it mattered: The electoral college, thanks to narrow Trump wins in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Trans-Pacific Partnership, dead at last For the first time since NAFTA, a corporate-written trade deal died on the vine. The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnerhip (TPP) was one of Obama’s top priorities, but broad public hostility to the deal — and the defection of some Republicans over industry concerns — prevented ratification in Congress. Trump’s election sealed its fate.
IN YOUR STATE…
Top legislative win: Minimum wage With unions prepared to put minimum wage increases on the ballot, the Oregon Legislature stepped up to do the job and put the minimum wage on track to 12.50 to 14.75 by 2022, depending on the region. That amounts to an hourly raise of $3.25 to $5.50 an hour for hundreds of thousands of Oregon workers.
Biggest ballot defeat: Measure 97 Despite $16 million in local and national union money, a proposal to raise taxes on the biggest corporations doing business in Oregon was rejected by voters. As a result, instead of new investment in schools, health care and senior services, the state of Oregon faces a budget shortfall next year, once again.
Biggest union organizing wins:
886 support workers at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center joined AFT.
793 PSU grad students joined AFT/AAUP.
310 hospital technicians at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center joined AFT.
165 workers at Boeing paint contractor Commercial Aircraft Painting Services joined IAM.
80 DirecTV workers joined CWA Local 7906.
61 alcohol and drug treatment workers at Volunteers of America joined AFSCME.
Biggest union organizing losses:
205 workers at a Jeld-Wen door plant in Chiloquin rejected the Machinists union in a 52-137 vote.
179 workers at Portland Specialty Baking rejected the Bakers union in a 38-123 vote.
Oregon Bernie vote: a mandate for bolder action by Democrats? Hillary Clinton won among Democrats nationwide, but in Oregon, Democrats showed an appetite for a bolder kind of politics — backing a candidate who rejected Wall Street money and called for universal health care, free public college tuition, and a $15-an-hour minimum wage. In Oregon, Bernie Sanders packed arenas and outpolled Clinton by over 70,000 votes, 56 to 44 percent.
Minimum wage and sick leave Raise the minimum wage to $13.50, and give workers the right paid sick leave? Voters did it, approving union-backed I-1433 by 59-41 percent.
Sound gets serious transit investment Another ballot victory was voter approval for an ambitious 25-year plan to make $54 billion worth of transit improvements in the Puget Sound region, including 62 miles of light rail and new bus and heavy rail service to King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. The project will mean union jobs, less congestion, and a cleaner environment.
Madore is no more, in Clark County Flamboyantly anti-union Clark County Commissioner David Madore — who once pushed unsuccessfully for a local “right-to-work” ordinance — lost reelection in the August primary. In the general election, union-backed candidate Tanisha Harris lost to John Blom, but local unions were still pleased to see their nemesis go.
Berry boycott ends with union deal A three-year union boycott against Sakuma and Driscoll berries ended in September, when Skagit Valley agri-giant Sakuma Berries agreed to allow a union election and recognize and bargain a contract with the farmworkers union.
President-elect Donald Trump selected D-List fast food CEO Andy Puzder to head up the Labor Department. AFL-CIO and other working family advocates condemned the appointment of Puzder, who runs Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s.
Puzder’s nomination shows Trump is backing away from his promise to represent all working people.
Here are nine reasons why Puzder is not our friend:
1. Puzder made more money last year in one day ($17,192) than one of his full-time minimum wage workers makes in a year ($15,130).
2. Rather than paying managers overtime for time they have worked, Puzder says that paying them more would make them glorified crew members and would take away their “sense of ownership” and “prestige.” He continued: “For most businesses it will be just another added regulatory cost they must look to offset. For their employees, it will be another barrier to the middle class rather than a springboard.”
3. He is a member of the so-called Job Creators Network, “a group of CEOs that promotes a conservative business agenda and has ties to anti-union astroturf operative Richard Berman.” Puzder also co-authored a book called Job Creation: How It Really Works and Why Government Doesn’t Understand It, with a foreword by supply-side economist Arthur Laffer.
4. In reference to the Fight for $15 call to raise the minimum wage, Puzder said: “I think you’ll see a lot of restaurants closing. I don’t think that restaurants can operate profitably if they’re paying a $15 minimum wage. So I think you would see a devastating impact to the country.” Researchers have since found that in Seattle, the first city to increase its minimum wage toward $15 an hour, the wage hikes have helped low-wage workers, and have not led to “significant increases in business failure rates.”
5. He has expressed vehement opposition to a recent National Labor Relations Board decision that would make it harder for corporations to manipulate the system and avoid bargaining with employees over improvements in the workplace by hiring temporary workers or contract workers.
6. Puzder promotes the myth that minimum wage jobs are largely held by young people just entering the market. This myth is used to undercut attempts to raise the minimum wage by falsely suggesting that minimum wage workers are not primary breadwinners and lack experience.
7. He is pushing to replace human workers with machines, because machines are “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”
8. Rather than paying working people a living wage, Puzder wants to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit so that the federal government takes responsibility off of employers for paying poverty-level wages. Judy Conti from the National Employment Law Project said: “It’s a form of corporate welfare. A full-time worker should not need the EITC. For private-sector employers who claim to be conservative to say that the answer is a federal subsidy for low-wage work that costs taxpayers’ money [rather than companies paying more] is pretty shocking and pretty transparently hypocritical.”
9. About the ads his company runs that have been widely criticized as misogynistic, Puzder said: “I like our ads. I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American.”
A recent New York Timeseditorial claimed it is simply impossible for “good jobs” to equate to a “good life” for Americans. So a logical conclusion can be drawn, that “bad jobs” (or non-secure work) could ever equate to a “good life”.
Politicians routinely promise that, if elected, they will create more “good jobs,” which are understood to be jobs with solid wages, regular ours and, perhaps, generous employer-provided benefits. During this year’s Presidential Campaign, Hillary Clinton promised “the biggest investment in good-paying jobs since World War II” by a means of a misture of tough trade negotiations, investment in domestic manufacturing, infrastructure investment, research and development, regulatory relief for small business and a tax credit to subside apprenticeships. President-elect Trump proposed to protect American workers from competition with illegal immigrants, the offshoring of jobs by United States-based corporations and harmful practices by trading partners like China.
But far from the campaign stops and Capitol Hill, Americans are asking; shouldn’t we all be able to enjoy “good lives,” even if we have “bad jobs,” or those defined as insecure work… one’s with low wages, irregular hours and poor or no employer-provided benefits?
Well, according to an important new study from the International Labor Organization, which highlights smart policies that have been used to improve insecure work.
The comprehensive study by the ILO documents the rise of “insecure” or “non-standard” forms of work – temporary work, seasonal work, casual or intermittent work, daily work, involuntary part-time work, on-call work, temp agency work, subcontracted work, and employment misclassified as independent contracting—around the world in recent decades.
For most working people, these “non-standard” working arrangements have meant greater economic insecurity, including lower earnings, greater likelihood of unemployment, limited control over work hours, less predictable schedules, lower likelihood of union representation, greater occupational safety and health risk, and reduced access to on-the-job training and unemployment and retirement benefits.
The ILO study identifies policy choices that have made “non-standard” work less insecure, including the following:
Ensuring equal treatment for part-time workers with regard to wages, working conditions, freedom of association, safety and health, paid annual leave, paid holidays, maternity leave, pension benefits, protections against discrimination, and termination of employment;
Ensuring equal treatment for temp agency workers with regard to wages, working conditions and freedom of association, and protecting agency workers against discrimination;
Preventing abuse by setting limits on the use of temp agency work, casual work, on-call work or labor subcontracting, in certain circumstances;
Assigning joint liability for labor and employment obligations to lead firms in subcontracting networks and user firms in multiple-party arrangements;
Establishing minimum guaranteed hours for part-time, on-call and casual workers, and limiting the variability of working schedules;
Cracking down on misclassification of employees as independent contractors by, for example, establishing a presumption of an employment relationship or legally defining contracts for certain kinds of services as employment contracts;
Using collective bargaining to regulate insecure work by, for example, turning contract work into regular jobs; ensuring equal treatment of temporary, temp agency, casual and part-time workers; guaranteeing minimum hours; and negotiating worker-friendly schedules;
Ensuring that all “non-standard” workers can organize and be represented effectively in collective bargaining;
Strengthening remedies against anti-union discrimination, especially discrimination against temporary and on-call workers;
Forming alliances between unions and other organizations, such as day labor worker centers, to address issues of concern to insecure workers;
Promoting fiscal and monetary policies that lead to full employment;
Making social protection programs more inclusive by lowering thresholds for hours, earnings, duration of employment and minimum contributions
Insecure work is not inevitable. Nor is the impossibility of a “good life”. Non-standard employment, including temporary work, part-time work, temporary agency work and other multi-party employment arrangements, disguised employment relationships and dependent self-employment, has become a contemporary feature of labor markets the world over. What is key is that the policies and regulations in place protecting non-standard workers detailed in the International Labor Organization study be an ongoing effort practiced consistently.
As Union Members you know… the “good life” does not have to be impossible.
International trade is a controversial issue surrounding the 2016 Election.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who unsuccessfully sought the party’s Presidential nomination and has given Hillary Clinton his backing, used the Democratic Party Convention in Philadelphia as a platform to express his opposition to one of President Obama’s big trade deals.
It’s called the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. It has been agreed but not yet ratified. Mr. Sanders told the convention, to cheers from his own supporters, that it must not be ratified.
The issue has become even more politically contentious than it already was with groups in both main parties concerned about trade liberalization agreements.
President Obama has treated them as a priority, while opponents see them as harming the US economy, as driven by big business and as being conducted in excessive secrecy.
The TPP is not the only one, but it is a very big one and the negotiations are complete.
TPP in a nutshell
It involves 12 countries: the US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.
The pact aims to deepen economic ties between these nations, slashing tariffs and fostering trade to boost growth.
Member countries are also hoping to foster a closer relationship on economic policies and regulation.
The agreement could create a new single market something like that of the EU.
How big a deal is the TPP?
Pretty big indeed. The 12 countries have a collective population of about 800 million – almost double that of the European Union’s single market. The 12-nation would-be bloc is already responsible for 40% of world trade.
The deal is a remarkable achievement given the very different approaches and standards within the member countries, including environmental protection, workers’ rights and regulatory coherence – not to mention the special protections that some countries have for certain industries.
What do critics of the TPP say?
Lots of things. From arguing it has been a not-so-secret gambit to keep China at bay (which is not part of the TPP) to fundamental problems surrounding increased competition between labor forces; the TPP has faced much opposition.
Here, we’ve collected the Top Ten Problems with the TPP:
1. The TPP allows currency-manipulating countries to kill U.S. jobs.
The current TPP text doesn’t contain enforceable currency manipulation rules. Countries that intentionally devalue their currency cheat U.S. manufacturers and undermine any benefits from tariff reductions. Enforcing currency manipulation rules is probably the single most effective thing the United States could do to create jobs; in fact, doing so could add as many as 5.8 million jobs.
2. The TPP lets foreign corporations bypass U.S. law.
The current TPP text allows multinational companies to challenge U.S. laws, regulations and safeguards through a provision called investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS), a private justice system that undermines our democracy. Through ISDS, foreign investors can seek compensation from the United States for enforcing regulations and safeguards designed to protect America’s working families. In fact, multinational companies currently are using ISDS to attack democratic policies and laws in Australia, Canada, Egypt, Peru and Uruguay, among many others.
3. The TPP allows climate change to go unchecked.
The current TPP text doesn’t contain any enforceable climate change commitments or “border fees” to offset the cost of environment-damaging imports. This undermines our efforts to address climate change and jeopardizes the important U.S.-China bilateral agreement on climate change and clean energy. It does nothing to discourage U.S. manufacturers from moving their factories to TPP countries with weak climate regulations. This damages both U.S. jobs and our efforts to address climate change.
4. The TPP doesn’t strengthen international labor rights protections.
There are extensive, well-documented labor problems in at least four TPP countries (Mexico, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia) but the administration has not committed to requiring all countries to be in full compliance with international labor standards before they get benefits under the agreement. Worker rights obligations have never been fully enforced under existing free trade agreements, which have provided too much discretion for worker complaints to be delayed for years or indefinitely (e.g., Honduras, Guatemala). A progressive TPP would eliminate this shortcoming, not repeat it. Given that no administration has ever self-initiated labor enforcement under a free trade agreement, any promise to “strongly enforce” the TPP should be met with skepticism.
5. The TPP could allow public services to be permanently outsourced.
Public services such as sanitation, transit and utilities should be carved out of trade deals—but the TPP puts them at risk. The current TPP text does not ensure that governments can pull out of wasteful and failing public service privatization efforts without shelling out taxpayer dollars or otherwise compensating foreign firms or trading partners.
6. The TPP allows foreign state-owned enterprises to continue to undermine small business.
The current TPP text doesn’t adequately protect small businesses from the predatory tactics of foreign state-owned and state-subsidized companies. Often, these enterprises benefit from government support and drive their American competitors out of business or put pressure on our companies to ship American jobs overseas. While the TPP contains some limited provisions to address state-owned enterprises, it’s not clear it would level the playing field and provide the fast action small firms need to stay in business when faced with unfair competition.
7. The TPP’s weak rules of origin benefit China and other non-TPP countries.
The rules of origin in the current TPP text are weak and allow China and other nonparticipating countries to reap the agreement’s benefits without having to follow its rules. In fact, the TPP’s auto content requirement allows the majority of the auto content to be Chinese and manufactured outside the trade agreement’s rules. This has the effect of promoting jobs in China while destroying U.S. auto supply-chain jobs.
8. The TPP takes America out of “Buy American.”
The current TPP text will require the U.S. government to treat Vietnamese, Malaysian and other TPP firms exactly the same as U.S. firms for many purchasing decisions—even when “Buy American” rules apply. This will send U.S. taxpayer dollars overseas and undermine U.S. job creation efforts. It is also unclear whether responsible bidding requirements (for example, a bidder must have “clean hands” or provide benefits to same-sex spouses) will be free from trade challenges.
9. The TPP gives global banks even more power.
The current TPP text could make it even harder for countries facing an economic crisis to stabilize their economies. Not only can large international banks still sue countries in crisis using the “prudential exception,” the TPP expands the rights of international banks to use ISDS to challenge bank regulations in front of private tribunals. Giving global banks more power makes another global financial meltdown more likely, not less.
10. The TPP makes affordable medicines harder to find.
Quality, affordable and accessible health care is a human right and trade policy should not interfere with public health care choices, nor should it threaten public health. Unfortunately, the current TPP text threatens access to affordable medicines by including new monopoly rights for pharmaceutical companies—delaying competition by affordable generics—and allowing companies more opportunities to interfere with government cost-saving efforts.
What happens next?
The text of the agreement will have to be signed and then ratified by all 12 signatories. Details of how the deal will be implemented will be argued out in individual countries’ legislatures.
In the US, it comes before Congress in the midst of a presidential election year, which is likely to turn it into a major political football within both parties.
However, Congress has granted President Obama “fast-track” authority over the deal, which only allows lawmakers to either reject it or ratify it.
To take effect, the deal has to be ratified by February 2018 by at least six countries that account for 85% of the group’s economic output. And this means that Japan and the US will need to be on board.
What those striking are now bravely confronting in Atlantic City should resonate deeply with American workers, their unions, and beyond
In Atlantic City workers at the Trump Taj Mahal casino hotel, members of UNITE HERE Local 54 wagered a struggle that should make it one of those crystallizing flashpoints that garner national attention and mobilize support from the entire labor movement, progressives, and working people at large.
Such flashpoints arise only occasionally in workers’ struggles for justice. In living memory, for example, Eastern Airlines, PATCO, Pittston, the Decatur wars, UPS, and most recently Verizon are among those that have attained that status.
Those flashpoints of national concern and mobilization occur when what particular groups of workers are fighting for and against connects with broader tendencies and concerns in workplaces and the society in general. Downsizing, speedup, outsourcing, privatization, capital flight, unsafe working conditions, profitable employers’ demands for concessions that imperil workers’ standard of living are all among conditions that have triggered those moments.
The striking Trump Taj Mahal workers are involved in precisely such a fundamental struggle now, one that should resonate far and wide among American workers and their unions.
How It Started
Nearly 1,000 cooks, bartenders, housekeepers, cocktail servers and other workers there went on strike on July 1—the culmination of a twenty-month struggle to restore pay and benefit cuts that Donald Trump’s crony and notorious billionaire corporate raider Carl Icahn imposed on workers after obtaining permission to do so from a bankruptcy judge. Last year, it should be noted, Trump indicated that if elected he “would love to bring my friend Carl Icahn” to his administration as Treasury Secretary.
The Trump Taj Mahal Bankruptcy Ruling’s Devastation
Following the bankruptcy ruling, Trump Taj Mahal workers lost health insurance, pensions, even severance pay. Workers have seen their average total compensation cut by more than a third. One striker with a chronic medical condition recently died alone at home without access to medical care, and there is no reason to believe that his case is unique. There are many other horror stories, including workers faced with losing their homes and apartments in addition to suffering other material and emotional hardships.
Why This Fight is Everybody’s Fight
The Trump Taj Mahal strike is an important moment for us all because these workers are on the frontline against forces that threaten us all and that lay bare what a Donald Trump presidency would have in store for millions of American workers.
Both Trump, who built the Taj Mahal, and Icahn, who is the current owner, have taken millions from the property, driven it into bankruptcy, and left the workers holding the bag. Icahn, as Trump Taj Mahal’s sole debtholder between 2010 and 2014, took $350 million out of the business. Icahn has a long history—going back nearly thirty years to his takeover of TWA airlines—of bleeding companies of assets, gutting pensions and benefits, and then tossing aside the firms’ hollowed out carcasses. Manipulation of employer-friendly bankruptcy laws has also been a Trump specialty, one that he has used on several occasions to stiff contractors, going back to when he was the original “too big to fail” scamster at the beginning of the 1990s. Combined, Trump and Icahn have used the bankruptcy tool at the Taj Mahal multiple times.
Another reason we need to see the Trump Taj Mahal strike as all our fight—in addition to the outrageous injustice and hardship Icahn has perpetrated on these workers—is that this struggle in Atlantic City sheds light on some important mystifications that need to be clarified if we hope to turn the tide against the intensifying predatory assaults on American workers’ standard of living.
The Taj Mahal fight is a frontline battle in the systematic attacks on working people’s living standards in this country perpetrated by the likes of Donald Trump and Carl Icahn and their ideological affiliates Mike Pence, Scott Walker, Bruce Rauner, Pat McCrory, Paul Ryan and the Congressional Republicans, the education “reform” billionaires, the Koch brothers and ALEC, the many tentacles of the carceral state, all of whom are intent on destroying public goods and services, and good public jobs, if not the very idea of a public. To keep the focus on Icahn and Trump, however, what better poster boys could there be for the predatory “billionaire class”?
If the Trump Taj Mahal was permitted to operate on the terms Icahn imposed, workers, the union, and the broader community understand that the result would be a local race to the bottom, as other casino operators would argue that they have to compete with Icahn’s sweatshop model to remain viable. As by far the dominant industry in the city, the hospitality and gaming sector is directly linked to the economic health and well-being not only of casino workers but of the community at large. It is decent hospitality sector jobs that enable workers to buy houses and provide the backbone for the entire local economy.
And Atlantic City is not alone. Icahn’s attack on Taj Mahal workers is of a piece with broader right-wing attempts to drive down workers’ living standards everywhere. This is what is behind the systematic attacks on teachers’ unions and other public sector unions and efforts to destroy the national postal service. Partly it stems from a desire to eliminate any organized expressions of workers’ power, to clear the way to realizing the other objective: creation of a world in which we would have no alternative other than to accept work on whatever terms employers choose to offer it.
That, of course, would be employers’ utopia and workers’ hell.
The issues at the core of the Trump Taj Mahal strike reflect the concerns shared broadly by workers in this country. The struggle presents a clear window onto the danger within the false promises Trump seems to offer some, and the strikers and their union provide a clear, practical model of the sort of movement we will need to change this country’s political direction to center on the needs of working people.
Making this fight a national issue on the order of those earlier key labor flashpoints certainly seems like a no-brainer.