Monday, September 5, 2022

Labor Day

I think about Brown a lot, as longtime readers know, a genuine radical who keeps getting reelected to the Senate in increasingly red Ohio, and wondering hwo he does it. It looks as if the representative of Brown's old 13th congressional district, Tim Ryan, now running for Senate himself, is following Brown's model in a way he failed to do in his 2020 campaign for the presidential nomination, more and more attuned to the working class as opposed to the "white working class" and more and more likely to defeat the awful Republican candidate, the New Haven hillbilly James D. Vance.

Meanwhile in Tennessee, where three years ago Volkswagen workers were turning down the union even though the company wasn't opposing it, union membership is now up 24% over last year, from 117,000 to 145,000, and substantially up in Georgia, where a lot of new jobs are in the film industry, manufacturing car batteries, and construction. I'd like to think attitudes in all these places are shifting a bit faster than the polls can measure them.

We also know Americans' approval of labor unions is at a 57-year high, at 71%, rising steadily since 2009.


Which reminds me of what we've been saying about abortion rights: It's been clear for a long time that a majority of Americans favor relatively fewer restrictions on abortion, but the reactionaries kept betting that that didn't matter politically; then came Dobbs, and the Kansas referendum, and an explosion of women registering to vote

Why shouldn't the labor movement, and Biden's PRO Act (Protecting the Right to Organize), passed in the House in March '21 and stuck in the Senate (Manchin and Sinema again), be a focus of the campaign? We're seeing drives to organize everywhere from Amazon to Starbucks to Dollar Stores, and repression like the gilded age cutting it down by any means the companies can find.

We should be talking more about the situation

An entire union-busting industry now works nonstop to block working people from exercising our rights. Today, in more than 40% of all union organizing elections, employers are charged with breaking the law. They lie. They threaten and coerce. They routinely fire union supporters. Workers are forced to attend mandatory meetings with one item on the agenda: union-bashing. These messages of fear and intimidation come from the very people who control our paychecks, how much time we can spend with our families and whether we will have a job tomorrow. And the penalties for employers that engage in this illegal behavior are inconsequential.

and the Act itself, which

Gives workers more control

Under the PRO Act, workers and the National Labor Relations Board, not employers, control the timing of union elections and employers can’t force employees to attend anti-union meetings.

Imposes real penalties when employers break the law

Under the PRO Act, employers and corporate executives are penalized for illegally retaliating against workers trying to organize, and workers get monetary damages or other remedies if they are illegally fired or harmed; fired workers must also be reinstated while their cases are pending.

Creates a roadmap to a first contract

Under the PRO Act, employers and workers have a set process to follow to negotiate a first union contract, and if they can’t reach an agreement they go to binding arbitration.

Strengthens strikes

Under the PRO ACT, employers are prohibited from permanently replacing workers when they strike, and workers are no longer banned from engaging in so-called “secondary” activity, such as boycotts, seeking leverage in negotiations.

Cracks down on worker misclassification

Under the PRO Act, workers can’t be wrongly deprived of their organizing and bargaining rights by being misclassified as supervisors or independent contractors.

President Biden himself has set the tone for the campaign—

At one point, someone in the audience could be heard trying to disrupt the speech.

“No, no, no, don’t — let him go. He’s, look, everybody’s entitled to be an idiot,” Biden said. It was not immediately clear what prompted the heckling or what the person was saying.

along with Vice President Harris, who's got an interview at The Nation bragging about her childhood spent with her mother on picket lines:

And she displays as much passion as President Joe Biden has for transforming the character of labor relations in a country where unions have been let down by both Republican and Democratic administrations. “The president and I were talking at lunch today about this,” Harris said. “We are so proud—and I hope I don’t give off any bravado in saying this—but we are very proud that we will end up being the most pro-labor administration probably ever.”

Let's just bring this front and center this Labor Day, and through November. Get your candidates to talk about it, and make Republicans say where they stand: Which side are you on?

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