Rush Limbaugh Defends The Koch Brothers: They “Haven’t Done Diddly Squat”

During the February 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh – in speaking of, uhem, denying the Koch Brothers influence over Government, specifically the GOP – proclaims; “The Koch Brothers Haven’t Done Diddly Squat Because They Can’t, They’re Not In Government”

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LISTEN TO HIS RANT

RUSH LIMBAUGH: That’s exactly how this country was portrayed last night, and the previous debate, and every other Democrat debate or every Democrat campaign appearance. This place is portrayed as Hell on earth, brought to you by George W. Bush, the Republicans and the Iraq War, in the modern incarnation. The America they want to save us from, the America from which they want to liberate us, is not George W. Bush’s. It’s Barack Obama’s. But they don’t ever say that. They blame the Koch brothers. Nobody knows who the Koch Brothers are. The Koch Brothers can’t do, don’t do diddly — the Koch brothers never enforced a regulation on anyone, the Koch brothers never raised anybody’s taxes. The Koch brothers never sent anybody’s kids off to war. The Koch brothers haven’t done diddly squat because they can’t, they’re not in government. Government does all of this.

Have Democrats Rediscovered Unions Too Late?

In early 2016, a remarkable thing happened. Mainstream liberal opinion makers suddenly decided that labor unions do good things, and that they are worthy of the public’s support. Last February, the Editorial Board of The New York Times sadly described America as “a nation where the long decline in unions has led to a pervasive slump in wages,” and they worried about the ongoing struggle between “pro- and anti-union forces,” noting that “Republicans’ support for anti-union legislation is at odds with their professed commitments to helping the middle class.”

The previous week, the Times op-ed contributor Nicholas Kristof had operatically outed himself as a born-again supporter of labor unions. Saying that, “[l]ike many Americans, I’ve been wary of labor unions,” Kristof first repeated some carefully distorted anti-union anecdotes, but then he announced: “I was wrong. . . . [A]s unions wane in American life, it’s also increasingly clear that they were doing a lot of good in sustaining middle class life.”

This new theme has now become prominent in the Times and elsewhere, with (among many examples) another Editorial Board piece in October extolling the role of union power in raising the wages of automotive workers and in pushing for a higher minimum wage, as well as occasional guest op-eds making similar points. Suddenly, it is acceptable for mainstream liberals to say that they support unions.

The Question of Unions’ Role in American Life

The question of unions’ role in American life found its way into the Supreme Court earlier this month, in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, in which the justices will decide whether public-employee labor unions can continue to collect dues from non-members to help pay for the union’s efforts that raise pay and benefits for members and non-members alike, while leaving in place the prohibition on using non-members’ money to support political activities. The current system prevents the classic “free rider” problem, in which people will sensibly choose not to pay for something when they know that they will be able to benefit from it in any event.

The oral argument in the case was rather astonishing. Chief Justice Roberts blithely offered the unsupported claim that the financial costs to unions resulting from losing the case would be “really insignificant,” evidently believing that people will pay for things that they like, even when they are not required to do so.

But the Chief Justice’s rationalizations were the least of the problem. Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse, calling a comment by Justice Kennedy at oral argument “as unconstrained and revealing a rant as I’ve heard from the Supreme Court bench,” noted that Justices Kennedy and Scalia are now arguing that there simply is no distinction between political and non-political activities by a public-sector union. Justice Kennedy even described as “almost axiomatic” the idea that government agencies deal with matters of public concern, so that if a non-member thinks that the union should not be taking one position or another in negotiations, that position is per se political, with the union “making these teachers ‘compelled riders’ for issues on which they strongly disagree.”

The justices in the majority thus apparently believe that there can be no real distinction between a union’s workplace activities and its political activities. One might impertinently suggest that this would also be true of private-sector unions, many of whose members would also surely be willing to say that they disagree with their representatives’ activities. But whether the Roberts majority ultimately decides to selectively look past the public/private distinction in this area is as yet unknown.

In any event, the outcome of the Friedrichs case seems certain. And with union membership having dropped to ten percent of American workers, and with the vast majority of those who do belong to unions being in public-sector jobs, this could be a further blow to the ability of unions to do the good things that the editors of The New York Times and other liberals now proudly support.

If this outcome is not the death blow to unions, therefore, it will certainly be a major event. And if mainstream liberals are worried about this case, they need to think seriously about how we reached the point where unions are in such a precarious state.

The New Political Case for Unions

At the top of the Democratic Party, there is continued discomfort with pro-union activity. When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker aggressively attacked his state’s public-employee unions, as part of a broader national strategy to weaken labor unions even further, President Obama was notably absent from that debate. Wisconsin’s progressive activists were disappointed but not surprised, because Obama had been tepid at best in his support of labor’s interests.

Even so, people who used to disparage or discount the importance of unions are now apparently seeing the light. It is easy to see why. With inequality having become a matter of concern even among some Republicans, we can no longer ignore the clear connection between declining unionization and the expanding gap between the wealthy and everyone else. These recent decades in which Democrats have been pulling away from unions, after all, are exactly when we have seen workers’ incomes essentially stagnate even while workers’ productivity has multiplied impressively.

More generally, the decline of the middle class is unambiguously related to the decline of unions, simply because it is labor unions that are best able to preserve mechanisms that allow workers to share some of the gains of a growing economy. Most obviously, it is unions, as noted above, that have led the fight to increase the minimum wage across the country.

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, a Professor of Law at George Washington University, and a Senior Fellow at the Taxation Law and Policy Research Institute asks and answers;

“Is still time to prevent further declines in the role that unions play in America? And can the decline of unions be reversed?

“Liberals who once recoiled from unions have suddenly seen that unions must play an important role going forward. If it is too late to stop the anti-union momentum in this country, however, the killing of the labor movement – and of widely shared American prosperity – will have been aided and abetted by far too many people who should have known better.”

Your Turn

Is still time to prevent further declines in the role that unions play in America? And can the decline of unions be reversed? Sound off in Comments, on the Union Built PC Facebook Page in the #UnionStrong Facebook Group or on Twitter. And don’t forget to sign up for our monthly eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

The Poisoning of a City: Flint Water Crisis

Despite the severity of contamination and the many, many warnings, it would take years before officials did anything. The lack of response was so egregious that The New York Times editorial board described it as “depraved indifference,” suggesting there was “little doubt” that a richer, whiter community would ever have to face such negligence.

“If I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself,” President Barack Obama said during a visit to Michigan earlier this month.

But amidst all the hand-wringing, two questions are still largely unanswered by officials: How could this go on for so long? And who was ultimately responsible?

Jim Chase of Work in Progress and Retiree of Teamsters Local 406 joins Charles Showalter of The Union Edge – Labor’s Talk Radio – to discuss the new details emerging surrounding the Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan and the latest developments as more information is becoming available to the public.

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Since 2008, The Union Edge has led robust but respectful discussions on issues that affect working and middle class families – education, voting, healthcare, employment rights, community activism and more. Host Charles Showalter and co-hosts Angela Baughman and Brittany Sheets interview citizen group leaders, international union presidents, labor historians, environmental experts, activists and reporters of all kinds, discussing breaking news and top issues that impact day to day life. 

What This Means for Unions: The NLRB Judges Decision; Walmart Strikes Lawful, Must Reinstate Workers

This week Reuters broke the news that the National Labor Relations Board Judge found the 2013 Walmart strikes lawful and they must offer to reinstate 16 dismissed employees.

The Ruling
Administrative Law Judge Geoffrey Carter said in a ruling posted on the board’s website that the U.S. retailer violated labor law by “disciplining or discharging several associates because they were absent from work while on strike”.

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The ruling was hailed by labor group Making Change at Walmart as a “huge victory” for employees, although Walmart indicated it would likely appeal the decision to the labor agency’s board in a statement:

“We disagree with the Administrative Law Judge’s recommended findings and we will pursue all of our options to defend the company because we believe our actions were legal and justified,” Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg said (@korylundberg).

Walmart had argued that it was lawful to discipline workers with unexcused absences to participate in the protests because the strikes constituted “intermittent work stoppages” not protected under labor law.

But the judge found this case differed materially from other previous work stoppages not protected by law because, among other factors, it was not a brief strike – meaning the risk for workers was higher – and because it was not scheduled close in time with other strikes.

Judge Carter ordered Walmart to offer 16 former workers their previous jobs and make them “whole for any loss of earnings and other benefits suffered as a result of the discrimination against them”.

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Union Built PC spoke to a former Walmart Employee for his feedback on his victory… and when it is a victory at all:

“As a former Walmart employee about a decade ago, I remember how hard I laughed when my training had anti-union videos that seriously reminded me of cold war era propaganda.

“‘If you are approached by a Union Representative” – shows shady person approaching you in the clothing section as if he’s about to flash you – “don’t’ talk, get a manager to have them escorted off the premise immediately.’

“And I ‘loved’ receiving my evals; “Outstanding. Excellent. Outstanding. Enjoy your .10 raise.”

“I don’t bear any ill will to my former employer, but they definitely abused their workers when it came to pay. All under the banner of ‘the customer is always right’ and under the guise of corporate profits.”

This video is shown to all associates at on-boarding – it is mandatory that everyone working for Walmart understands they are “better off” without a union! This training video – boasting the care and concern Sam Walton has for its employees – actually leaked and posted to social platforms such as YouTube (see minute marks 2:34 and 6:45).

The Impact… Is it a “huge victory”?
Administrative Law Judge Geoffrey Carter also ordered Walmart to hold a meeting in more than two dozen stores to inform workers of their rights to organize under U.S. labor law.

The impact, if any, the decision would have on the efforts by Making Change at Walmart and other groups to pressure Walmart on wages and benefits is unclear. The UFCW has tried for years to organize Walmart workers and the hurdles remain high. With a consistent history of anti-union messaging presented to their employees – and a statement already issued by Walmart spokesman Lundberg disagreeing with these with intent to file appeal defend the company on the grounds their actions were legal and justified – how can we trust the meetings ordered by Judge Geoffrey Carter will be transparent and without bias?

We suppose Union Built PC will need to source out more Walmart employees who attended one of these meetings to understand just how clearly their right to organize under U.S. Labor Law was communicated.

Your Turn

What do you think of Judge Geoffrey Carter’s decision? What impact do you think it will have on Walmart Workers? How do you feel about the inevitable Walmart appeal?

Sound off in Comments, on our Facebook Page and #UnionStrong Facebook Group, and on our Twitter or LinkedIn Pages… And don’t forget to subscribe to the Union Built PC monthly eNewsletter where we regularly cover topics related to the Labor Movement and have a regular feature called #WalmartWatch.


Additional Sources: Nathan Layne, Reuters

Commentary: As Supreme Court Weighs Unions, Middle Class Hangs In the Balance

by Ron Grossman, Chicago Tribune

I don’t belong to a union. I didn’t have to because my maternal grandfather was a member of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. His brother was, too, and their sister belonged to the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. Another brother drove a taxi, a union button pinned to his cap.

They were part of a labor movement that was midwife to the American middle class.

Unions never enrolled a majority of workers. At their high point in the 1950s, they counted a third of American workers as members. But their impact was far greater. Where unions are strong, nonunion workers benefit because employers offer competitive wages to keep their workforce from defecting.

That’s how I got to wear a white shirt and tie, the dress uniform of the middle class. I was a child during the Great Depression, when my father sometimes drove a cab. Other times he was a furniture mover, and most often he was out of work. Then defense production for World War II kicked off an economic boom, and my father became a department store salesman.

There was no union, as many white-collar workers disdained the labor movement as beneath their newfound dignity. But salaries were decent, buoyed by the general rise in pay as unions got members a bigger slice of the pie. My father could afford for me to stay in school and go to college. So here I am. And not just me. Such was the experience of myriad families.

Think about that as the U.S. Supreme Court wrestles with the issues in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.

Earlier this month the justices heard oral arguments in the case that turns on the so-called no-free-lunch provision of the union contract in a school district near Anaheim, Calif. It requires teachers to pay a portion of the union’s dues even if they choose not to join. Several teachers sued, claiming that violates their First Amendment rights. Unions take political positions, the teachers noted, with which they might not agree.

By the union’s logic, all teachers benefit from the salary scale it negotiates. So shouldn’t all have to pay their share of the cost of negotiating a contract? Can’t the free-speech issue can be addressed by giving nonmembers a discount — subtracting an amount proportional to what the union spends on political activities?

Some legal scholars say it’s hard to imagine a line cleanly separating politicking from collective bargaining. Fair enough, but should the justices agree, it will close a chapter of what, in the heady days of the 1960s, was proclaimed “People’s History.” The story of the little guy. The kind who carries a lunchbox and a thermos to work.

Before unions, he long got the short end of the stick. His work day was arduous — 10 and even 12 hours was the norm — and extra pay for overtime was unheard of. In the needle trades, when orders backed up, the boss’ mantra was: “If you don’t come in on Sunday, don’t bother to come in on Monday.” Unions were handicapped by courts declaring them a “conspiracy.” Even when unions got a toehold, progress was painfully slow.

My grandfather supplemented his sweatshop wages by working evenings at home. I can still see him sitting behind a sewing machine, occasionally joining the conversation between running a line of stitches. Yet even then, the union provided a benefit: an exhilarating sense that a worker wasn’t on his own. My grandmother complained that all her husband wanted to talk about was “shop, shop, union, union.”

The benefits got more tangible in the postwar decades. Industries that had held union organizers at bay were organized. Assembly line workers got contracts, and the nation’s demography was radically altered. Most societies look like a pyramid: a few rich people at the top, a lot of poor people at the bottom, and a small middle class in between. But America’s profile got a potbelly: the middle class grew until, by 1971, it was larger than the upper and lower classes combined.

Ordinary folks bought homes and, every few years, could trade in their car for a newer model. They proudly watched their kids go off to college.

But beginning in the 1970s, the process was reversed. Decade after decade, the middle class declined and its clout was lost proportionally. Now a week doesn’t go by without the media or a blogger proclaiming that America’s middle class is getting squeezed out.

As the Great Recession eased, upper-income folks did nicely. Middle-class families went back to the short end of the stick. No voice insisted that they get a fair share of the pie — as the labor movement did at the end of the Great Depression. Union membership has declined to about 11 percent of the workforce. Organized labor’s remaining strength is in public-sector unions, and that is up for grabs — pending the Supreme Court’s ruling on the no-free-lunch issue.

Yet if its fate is sealed, it deserves a proper obituary. So let us remember the mothers and fathers of the middle class, brave souls who persuaded others to sign petitions asking for union representation. Who denied themselves a paycheck by voting to strike. Who walked picket lines. Who came home bubbling over with news of the shop and the union, the shop and the union.

Your Turn

What do you think the impact will be as the U.S. Supreme Court wrestles with the issues in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association? Sound off in Comments, on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or in the #UnionStrong Facebook Group. And don’t forget to sign up for our monthly eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.