Saturday, September 13, 2003

letterman's pregnant 

CBS News


From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

A top United Nations envoy has warned that Liberia's ousted president Charles Taylor was still trying to run the country from exile and that Nigeria may want to reconsider its agreement to serve as his new home.

Jacques Klein, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan's special representative for Liberia, said Mr Taylor was believed to have taken an estimated $US1 billion in government money with him, leaving the western African nation with an empty treasury as it tries to start rebuilding after 14 years of civil war. Mr Klein said Mr Taylor was believed to be still taking kickbacks on Liberian purchases of fuel and other goods through intermediaries and there was "good evidence that over the past three weeks at least one or two government officials and several business leaders had gone to Nigeria to see him".

"We had a president who was his own treasury," Mr Klein said, a former US diplomat and Air Force major general who has called Mr Taylor a "psychopath".

"Whatever resources Liberia had - the ships registry, the rubber plantation, the import and export of fuel - all that money went to him," he said.

When he left for Nigeria, "there was an agreement Taylor would maintain a low profile and be apolitical, and we hope that he will honour that commitment that he made," Mr Klein said. "If he is violating that, obviously at some point the government of Nigeria will have to reassess how it views his continued presence."


The Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel movement has threatened to pull out of a broad-based transitional government that is due to take power next month, claiming there are plans to deny it key government posts."

"There are attempts by some associates of incoming transitional leader Gyude Bryant to stop the warring parties from occupying certain slots given to us in the Accra agreement," Joe Gbala, LURD Secretary General told IRIN on Friday. "They want Bryant to appoint all assistant ministers, which is a violation of the agreement," he added.

Gbala formed part of the LURD delegation to talks in Ghana which led to the signing of a peace agreement between the government, LURD and another rebel faction, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL)on 18 August.

From the Australian Broadcasting Company:

West African peacekeepers have intervened during heavy fighting between rebels and government troops in Liberia, with hundreds of civilians fleeing the unrest outside the capital Monrovia.

Rebels armed with mortars stormed the town of Kakata, 50 kilometres north-east of Monrovia. The members of the rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) fired shells and automatic weapons as they took control of the town. Government soldiers were forced to abandon their positions. West African peacekeepers were deployed to restore order.

From the Guardian:

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) - U.N. workers started trucking refugees from Liberia's badly overcrowded capital back into the countryside Thursday, as the humanitarian focus shifted to the still insecure and restive interior.

At least 300,000 refugees from the countryside had flooded into the seaside city of Monrovia in June when rebels opened 2 1/2 months of siege against the city of 1 million in a bid to oust President Charles Taylor. More than 1,000 were killed in the fighting. Rural families took shelter in schoolyards, churches and abandoned buildings - many of them falling prey to hunger and cholera and other diseases in the jam-packed capital. On Thursday, U.N. workers moved 450 families in 15 trucks from their makeshift shelter at a mission school in central Monrovia to camps just outside the capital, said Ross Mountain, the top U.N. humanitarian official in Liberia. Aid workers estimate one-third of Liberia's 3 million people have been displaced by fighting since rebels took up arms in 1999 against Taylor, a former warlord who plunged Liberia into crisis with his 1989-1996 insurgency. The war-weary populace elected him president in 1997.

From CBS News:

(CBS/AP) The number of malaria cases among U.S. Marines serving in Liberia rose again Thursday, with 51 showing symptoms of the illness, defense officials said.

Five new patients were identified with mild cases and were treated aboard the USS Iowa Jima rather than evacuated out of the region, officials said.

the last mass produced mechanical musical instrument 

I got in bar argument with a guy a few weeks ago about whether DJing was live music. C BAR where I'm showing my art is a new bar and had been having DJ's play a few nights a week until the Oregon Liquor Control Commision had put an end to that. Their license didn't allow for live music. We both agreed that the OLCC were a bunch of Stalinist control freaks that just have to get their grubby mits all over everything. (A few weeks later the OLCC has allowed live music there - They couldn't allow it until they had raked them over the coals a little bit. Bastards.) But Glenn couldn't get off his point that DJing isn't "live" music. I argued that some was and some wasn't. A vague and highly debatable position - I said that someone who was mixing their own compositions on the turntable's was engaged in live music, while someone who was simply making remixes in the background was not. The Ming and FS show I saw last year certainly was "live" music, but the guy spinning at the restaurant Saucebox while we all ate 'crispy duck spring rolls' and drank martini's was not. (My line of reasoning put me on the slippery slope of saying that a cover band isn't live music, since it's an elaborate form of remixing, but he was too incensed to pick up on that.) Glenn wouldn't hear of it. Him: It's just replaying someone else's music. Me: It's using an instrument to create sounds, rhythm and melody the same as any other instrument. Him: They are someone else's songs. Me: There isn't any chord on a guitar that you can play that Keith Richards hasn't already played, so isn't playing guitar (using a guitar to produce chords) just a form of sampling Keith Richards. Him: Argghhh

I went to the bathroom and had this epiphany which I laid on him when I got back:

Not only is a couple turntables, a mixer and a stack of vinyl an instrument. It's the last instrument. Or rather it's likely the last mass produced mechanical musical instrument. Now what do you think of that.

the independent musician's homeowner association 

This really shows up the RIAA's lie about their concern for artists' vulnerability to filesharing.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

While executives at major labels wail about the industry's imminent collapse, indie labels and artists are singing a much happier tune. Profits are up - in some cases by 50 to 100 percent. That's in contrast to overall album sales, which dropped about 11 percent in 2002.

"We don't do too much crying over here," Cameron Strang, founder of New West Records, admits proudly. The home of artists like Delbert McClinton, the Flatlanders, and John Hiatt has doubled its business for the past three years and is projecting a $10 million income in 2003. Paul Foley, general manager of the biggest independent label, Rounder Records of Cambridge, Mass., happily brags, "2002 was actually Rounder's best year in history. We were up 50 percent over 2001."

You won't hear many of these labels' artists on pop radio - and ironically, that's one of the secrets to their success. By avoiding the major expenses associated with getting a tune on the air - which can cost upwards of $400,000 or $500,000 per song - independent labels are able to turn a profit far more quickly, and share more of those profits with their artists. Another secret of their success is that the labels target consumers - namely, adults - who are still willing to pay for their music, rather than download it for free.

Other artists, such as Aimee Mann and Michelle Shocked, are going even further - forming their own labels so they don't have to answer to anybody (see "Artists Sing Their Own Notes," at right).

At a major label, most artists are unlikely to earn anything unless they sell at least 1 million albums, and even then, they could wind up in debt. Everything from studio time to limo rides are charged against their royalties, which might be only $1 per disc sold. That compares with an indie artist, who can sell a disc for $15 at a concert. If they make $5 profit a disc on 5,000 discs, they pocket $25,000.

"That's the difference between us and them," Mr. Strang says. "Artists on our label who sell 200,000 copies make a very good living."

Independents also pay profits only after recouping expenses, but they keep those down by curbing marketing and overhead costs. They also have more equitable arrangements with artists, often sharing profits 50-50.

But perhaps the biggest difference is that they let artists keep the rights to their work. Michael Hausman, who manages Mann, says once the large labels get those rights, they may choose not to release a note of music but won't let the artist work for anyone else - essentially bringing career momentum to a halt.

The whole article is worth reading. I addressed the indy labels ability to thrive under the new rules in a thought piece a few months ago. That piece looks at a whole raft of issues around P2P and the viability of the big labels current business model.

Thanks to Ken Layne for the link.

Friday, September 12, 2003


From the Guardian:

Margaret Beckett, the British environment secretary, said the standoff between rich and poor nations had to be resolved quickly to secure a deal by tomorrow night's deadline.

The United States and European Union urged developing countries to compromise after the Group of 21 bloc, headed by Brazil, China and India, prevented any real progress in the first 48 hours of talks.

"I absolutely welcome the G21 coming together and speaking with a strong voice about what it wants," said Ms Beckett. "This is an important step forward, but it is also crucially important that we very soon begin real negotiations. There is only limited time and we must do more than merely exchange positions."

...Washington and Brussels blamed the G21 for the impasse, accusing it of making demands on rich countries but offering nothing in return. "The G21 has shown no ambition at all. We have shown flexibility, we are showing flexibility and we will show flexibility but there are limits," said Franz Fischler, Europe's agriculture commissioner. "Without flexibility on their side, the talks will go nowhere." Al Johnson, the chief US agriculture negotiator, said: "It's not clear whether the G21 will negotiate. It's easy to issue a set of demands but not easy for such a diverse group to negotiate."

Observers said there was a real danger ministers could leave the Mexican resort without an agreement on a framework for the rest of the negotiations, due to be completed by the end of next year.

"There is only a 50-50 chance of a deal," said one senior trade source.

The EU and the US denied accusations that they were trying to use their economic clout to undermine the united front of the G21.

..."Having been pushed around in trade negotiations for far too long, developing countries now have the organisation and determination to match the EC blow for blow," said Oisin Coghlan of Christian Aid. "It's going to be much harder for the EC and US to stitch up a deal behind their backs."

Senior trade sources said China's membership of the G21 represented a shift in the WTO's balance of power. China joined the organisation only two years ago, but with its 1.3 billion people and the world's fastest-growing market, it cannot be ignored by Washington and Brussels.

The EU and US also face a tough battle to get the rest of the WTO to agree to an extension of the "peace clause" that prevents the poorer south from taking legal action at the WTO to challenge the richer north's lavish farm subsidies.

Digby Jones, the CBI director general, said a breakdown in Cancun could lead to the trade talks being put on hold until after next year's US presidential election. "If the NGOs [non-governmental organisations] think they can push the Americans down to the wire they are playing with fire," he said.

It's hard to understand the Guardian accepting the spin that it is the G21's intransigence that is the obstacle. Clearly, it is the intransigence of the countries that spend $320b a year to prop up their agricultural industries and undercut struggling third world farmers (often knocking them out of their own markets) that is what is holding up talks.

If we were serious about fighting terrorism, ending the trade imbalances in agriculture would be a good to start. The "peace clause" should be renamed the "smoldering resentment and hostility clause".

Joseph Stigletz writing in the Guardian:

The last set of trade negotiations was so imbalanced that the poorest region in the world, sub-Saharan Africa, not only didn't share in the gains - it was actually worse off.

...Europe at least seemed to be beginning on high ground with the Everything But Arms initiative, which unilaterally, without demanding political or economic concessions, opened up European markets to the poorest countries of the world. EU consumers benefited, it cost European producers a negligible amount, and it was a strong demonstration of goodwill.

...Since 1994, America has doubled its subsidies, rather than phasing them out: the "concession" that may well emerge is, rather than a redressing of the imbalance, a mere rollback to the levels of a decade ago. In intellectual property, America has been the only country to hold out on granting access to drugs to the poorest countries, such as Botswana, that are too small to produce their own; the great "concession" - already in the works - will be to agree to what everyone else has already agreed to, but to do nothing about the more fundamental problems, such as biopiracy, in which multinationals patent traditional foods and drugs, forcing developing countries to pay royalties on what they all along thought was theirs.

...While something should be done about existing problems such as the proliferation of non-tariff barriers, America is also making new demands on developing countries -that they open themselves up to destabilising speculative capital flows. Just as the IMF has recognised that such flows do not promote growth, but actually result in greater instability, and have accordingly scaled back pressure on developing countries for capital market liberalisation, America is trying a new forum, the WTO, to push this agenda, which may be good for Wall Street but is bad for developing countries.

Listening to the US and EU negotiators complain about the "obstructions" that the G21 is throwing up just makes me want to punch somebody.

Speaking of wanting to punch somebody: A site search at the NY Times for "Lee Kyung Hae" comes up empty handed. A google new search comes up with a smattering of international and US left press sites. The Washington Post does not come up in that search but they did cover it.

Lee Kyung Hae, leader of the Korean Federation of Advanced Farmers Association, was an farmer/activist who had lobbied and protested for fairness and justice for Korean farmers in international trade. On Wednesday Lee Kyung Hae committed ritual suicide to call attention the inequities in the West's system of agricultural subsidies.

Tom Haydan reports in

Before our eyes, Korean activists pushed a wagon covered by an enormous yellow dragon to the police barricade. A man, who turned out to be Lee, climbed from the wagon to the top of the security fence and shouted towards the sky. He appeared to wave his arms, then fell, as if slipping. Medics quickly intervened and Lee was taken to the hospital, apparently injured at the fence. In truth, the wagon was his coffin, and he died shortly after.

It is shameful enough that the mainstream press has mostly snoozed through this round of talks, but to let such a dramatic act of desperation pass unnoticed is unconscionable.

This just in:

The NY Times:
Editorial gets behind the African cotton initiative in Cancun.

Reuters Video It's there you just have to find it. Those crafty bastards at Reuters won't let me link to specific stories. You must allow pop ups for this to work. If you have the Google toolbar, hold down the Ctrl key when you click on this link and while it loads.

johnny cash 

Johnny Cash died this morning in a hospital in Nashville. He was 71. He was, along with Willie Nelson, Duke Ellington and William Burroughs, one of the rarest of individuals still setting the standard for cool in their seventies. 1994's joint venture with Rick Rubin, American Recordings, kicked off what would be an intensely creative and innovative final decade of work. The two would record three more albums including last year's American IV: The Man Comes Around. He was writing some of the best work of his career. I can't think of a Cash song that effects me more than Drive On, the story of Vietnam vet damaged by the war and unable to connect quite right with his family. He kept an openness to new music that all the greats retain, covering songs by Soundgarden, Danzig, Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode.

I saw Cash play in 1995 or 6 at Seven Stages in Birmingham, Alabama. It was an amazing show with June Carter Cash and various sons and daughters on hand. When he played Orange Blossom Special they projected the old 16mm film of he and Bob Dylan hoping freight trains on a sheet stretched over the stage. What could be cooler than hopping freight trains with Bob Dylan in 1964?

He had a moral force unmatched in popular music. Only Johnny Cash could go into prisons to play, cut up with the inmates, take pot shots at authority, absolve the inmates of blame and still make it missionary work. This because he had the moral presence to transform both the inmates and the guards and maybe even the warden.

Merle Haggard was doing time and in the audience at Folsom when Cash played and that was when he decided to become a musician. How's that for fatherhood?

His achievements are matched by a bare handful of others and maybe none stand in such stark contrast to the times we are living through. He will be sorely missed.

He is remembered in a series of MTV interviews: Metallica | Chris Cornell | Jack White | Snoop Dogg | Anthony Kiedis.

Listen to the Fresh Air interview

Watch his last video Hurt.

NY Times audio slideshow by Stephen Holden

The BBC obituary | VH1's bio | |

seiu and dean 

So it became official Wednesday that SEIU is putting off endorsing for now. More than likely they will endorse in October and it will most likely be Dean. Dean was the clear favorite at the SEIU political conference over the weekend. Gephardt rallied some more support and Edwards strong face to face showing shot him from nowhere to edge Kerry out of the top three.

Over the course of the conference that 1500 members saw the candidates debate, spent time in small groups with them (without union staff present) and saw films about the candidates. The films were commissioned by the union and were documentaries shot of the candidates behind the scenes. A survey of those attending found that 60% were not ready to endorse. The executive council is honoring that sentiment.

The most striking thing in all this is that Stern really is working his union through a participatory, democratic process in arriving at the endorsement. The union has held numerous local meetings with candidates, distributed taped interviews with the candidates, sent members to other events with the candidates and conducted multiple surveys, polls, focus groups, and dozens of conversations with leaders as well as rank-and-file members.

Most unions, if they bothered doing anything but having the candidates meet with the executive board and then issue an endorsement, would set up a process that seemed democratic but was manipulated by the staff to produce the results they wanted. Stern approach will see to it that more members take their cue from the union when an endorsement is issued and more members will work more enthusiastically in the race. It may be that if the membership wants to do something that is a dead end, like endorsing Gephardt, then more meetings and forums and surveys will be organized so that "the membership can get the information it needs" but the process seems genuine to me.

In a move that may signal where the leadership is at, Dennis Riveria of New York's powerhouse Local 1199 is hosting a fundraiser for Dean this week. Riveria is very independent within the union, but International insider Sal Roselli the head of the union's other big healthcare local, leftcoast Local 250 in northern California has warmly praised Dean publicly.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

9/11 in Chile 

From Fresh Air:

Peter Kornbluh is director of the National Security Archive's Chile Documentation Project. He led the campaign to declassify official documents of the secret history of the United States government support for the Pinochet dictatorship. That information has now been collected in the new book, The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability. The book chronicles 20 years of policy in Chile from 1970 to 1990. This September 11th marks the 30th anniversary of the bloody coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende and led to the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

Jack Devine was stationed in Chile during the coup as part of the agency's Chile task force. He is now a crisis management consultant in New York with the firm The Arkin Group.

From the Washington Post:

SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Though the music of Chile's Victor Jara for decades has been an international symbol of the repression suffered under the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, and though Chile has been a democracy for 13 years, the government is only now paying homage to the man.

Three decades after the musician with a social conscience was tortured and murdered by Pinochet's military government, the covered concert stadium in downtown Santiago where he was slain will finally be named after Jara.

From the Clash:

Washington Bullets

Oh! Mama, Mama look there!
Your children are playing in that street again
Don't you know what happened down there?
A youth of fourteen got shot down there
The Kokane guns of Jamdown Town
The killing clowns, the blood money men
Are shooting those Washington bullets again

As every cell in Chile will tell
The cries of the tortured men
Remember Allende, and the days before,
Before the army came
Please remember Victor Jara,
In the Santiago Stadium,
Es verdad - those Washington Bullets again

And in the Bay of Pigs in 1961,
Havana fought the playboy in the Cuban sun,
For Castro is a colour,
Is a redder than red,
Those Washington bullets want Castro dead
For Castro is the colour...
... That will earn you a spray of lead

For the very first time ever,
When they had a revolution in Nicaragua,
There was no interference from America
Human rights in America

Well the people fought the leader,
And up he flew...
With no Washington bullets what else could he do?

'N' if you can find a Afghan rebel
That the Moscow bullets missed
Ask him what he thinks of voting Communist...
... Ask the Dalai Lama in the hills of Tibet,
How many monks did the Chinese get?
In a war - torn swamp stop any mercenary,
'N' check the British bullets in his armoury

From Vicor Jara:

Who Killed Carmencita

Con su mejor vestido bien planchado, iba - | - With her best dress carefully ironed, she walked along
temblando de ansiedad sus lagrimas corrían - | - trembling with anxiety, tears streaming down her cheeks.
a los lejos gemidos de perros y de bocinas - | - In the distance, barking dogs and motor horns,
el parque estaba oscuro y la ciudad dormía. - | - the park was dark, the city slept.
Apenas quince años y su vida marchita - | - Hardly fifteen and her life burnt out,
el hogar la aplastaba y el colegio aburría - | - Home stifled her and school was boring,
en pasillos de radios su corazón latía - | - Only queuing outside the radio stations did she come alive,
deslumbrando sus ojos los ídolos del día. - | - her eyes dazzled by the idols of the moment.
Los fríos traficantes de sueños en revistas - | - The cold blooded dealers in dreams,
que de la juventud engordan y profitan - | - grown fat at the expense of youth,
torcieron sus anhelos y le dieron mentiras - | - had distored her ambitions and riddled her with lies,
la dicha embotellada, amor y fantasía. - | - canned happiness, love and fantasy.
Apenas quince años y su vida marchita - | - Hardly fifteen and her life burnt out,
huyo, Carmencita murió - | - She fled, Carmencita died,
en sus sienes la rosa sangro - | - on her temples a bleeding rose,
partió a encontrar su ultima ilusión. - | - she went to meet her last illusion.
La muchacha ignoraba que la envenenarían - | - She didn't realize that her mind was being poisoned,
que toda aquella fábula no le pertenecía - | - by false dreams that didn't belong to her,
conocer ese mundo de marihuana y piscina - | - that world of marijuana and private swimming pools,
con Braniff International viajar a la alegría - | - 'Fly to happiness with Braniff International!'
Su mundo era aquel, aquel del barrio Pila - | - Her world a sordid workers' district,
de calles aplastadas, llenas de griterías - | - dreary streets full of shouting and quarrelling,
su casa estrecha y baja, ayudar la cocina - | - home cramped and crowded, working in the kitchen.
mientras agonizaba otros se enriquecían. - | - While she was dying, others made their fortunes.
Los diarios comentaron: causa desconocida. - | - The newspapers declared 'Causes unknown.'
Huyo, Carmencita murió - | - She fled, Carmencita died,
en sus sienes la rosa sangro - | - on her temples a bleeding rose,
partió a encontrar su ultima ilusión. - | - she went to her last illusion.


Thoughts on the anniversary of 9/11:

That morning I was staying with a friend in Hoboken across the river, working in renovating his condo. I was sleeping on the couch when he woke me up raving. Was saying something about how he was going into work when a plane hit the Tower where he worked. It didn't make any sense. We turned on the TV. And plane hit the Tower where he worked. And then another plane hit the other Tower. And then they collapsed. It didn't seem real and my reaction was to it as a blockbuster movie. Now THAT is what I call a terrorist act. Then I when up to the roof and it became real. Where the Towers once stood was a plume, no a monolith of smoke. I was looking directly at what I had seen on TV. Fighter planes roared far overhead. All I could think of that day was Malcolm X's remarks when Kennedy was shot. It surely felt like the chickens were coming home to roost that day.

It was an impossibly clear crystalline day in New York. The sky was so clear that it was hard to imagine it ever clouding over again, ever raining, ever snowing. The air had that cool autumn crispness you get in New England for about three days in October. It literally was a perfect day. A perfect day for the most perfect and grandest act of religious nihilism the world had ever seen or ever may see.

In the days that followed what be came the most haunting were the posters tacked everywhere. Missing loved ones. Their intimate pictures and the plaintive cries to help locate them. See that man cutting the birthday cake? His six year old son wishes you would help find him. Assure him that his dad is recovery in a hospital in Brooklyn instead of liquefied at the bottom of the biggest pile of molten rubble since Nagasaki. I learned that the paths threw the city that I took every day. Others took. And they were missing, dead. You would see the same posters getting on the train in Hoboken as you would when you got off on 4th Street.

There was a woman, a doctor, very attractive whose picture I saw every day in several different places; in the photos their was something utterly charming about her. I couldn't help thinking that if I met her maybe I would've wanted to date her and maybe we would have and maybe who knows? But that potential was gone and million other potentials much more concrete and viable for that one woman and the same went for three thousand others. Some times when I'm driving around town I become a little overwhelmed when I stop and really think about the houses that I'm driving by. They aren't inert domiciles. They are the site of a couple of lives being lived, people are making love, kids are drinking from their parents liquor cabinet for the first time with their best friends, people are fighting and scarring each other horribly, a baby is saying it's first word, some one is reading 'The Hobbit', somebody's grandmother has died, they have had Christmas' and Thankgivings and graduations and baptisms, birthday parties. That's what I try to get my mind around when I think about when I think about what happened that day. I think about the opportunity lost when for a brief moment we all became humans and citizens instead of mere workers and consumers and instead of being called to action we were exhorted to go back to shopping and keep an eye on our neighbors, they might be the enemy.

Today I think about the 7000 Iraqis killed in our invasion. I think about the birthdays that they won't celebrate, the weddings they won't attend, the children they'll never have, the soccer games they won't play in, the pilgrimages they won't make to Mecca, the hand of their dying mother they will never hold. And I wonder who will get the contract to dig their mass grave.

rumsfeld's turn in the hotseat and high time 

From All Things Considered:


Growing criticism of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's postwar planning for Iraq is straining relations between Rumsfeld and the White House. The persistent problems in Iraq may end up changing Rumsfeld's plans to transform the U.S. military into a smaller, more agile force. Hear NPR's Eric Westervelt.

Rumsfeld is taking heat for the things that I've been complaining about from jumpstreet (and some things I haven't). Retired Marine General Joseph Hoar and Larry Goodson with the US Army war college raise the issues that the Department of Defense had no plan for post bombing Iraq. Where is the Army Corps of Engineers? Where is the military police? Where are the foreign area officers? These were the questions I was asking right after we got into Baghdad and the place immediately degenerated into chaos. But then I thought, maybe I'm a fuzzy headed liberal and these are unreasonable demands. So it's nice to hear the same questions coming from people who have some credentials to speak on the matter.

Why aren't we helping Iraqi's create companies to rebuild Iraq, instead of bidding it out? Why isn't there a call and funding for medical, political and educational volunteers to go over and help create civil society?

Why weren't these things taken into account by TeamBush? They're Republicans. They don't think it takes anything to build and maintain a civil society.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Labor News Round Up 

I started with the coverage of the angling and wrangling for Labor's endorsements. If you are looking specifically for that then start here.
Plenty of cool other news this week, though. You might want to save that for last.

take that 

From the Charleston Post and Courier:

BENTON, ILL.--John Osborne threw his football pads down with a disgusted shout, a few yards from where his teachers and football coach walked a picket line in front of the high school.

The strike that has postponed the first day of school since Aug. 20 also has forced his team to cancel its first three games. The 17-year-old senior said he'd rather quit than watch a potential championship season slip away. Minutes later, Osborne's father roared up in his pickup truck. "You people are selfish. (You) don't know what you're doing to these kids," Mike Osborne yelled at the teachers, who winced and moved away.

And that concludes this week's Blogonaut Labor News Roundup.

putting on the rat suit 

From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

The biggest rat in town is about to get his day in court.

The rat is a 12-foot-high balloon that has been the centerpiece of labor protests this year outside the Fairfield Ford auto dealership on Ohio 4.City officials say the giant inflatable rodent has to go because it violates zoning rules. The union says the rat is a recognized symbol of labor protest and is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

The union sued the city in U.S. District Court on Wednesday and could get a hearing before Judge Sandra Beckwith this week. "We may have to bring the rat into court,"

get on the bus 

From the NY Daily News:

Taking a cue from the Freedom Riders of the 1960s civil rights movement, immigrant workers, labor leaders and activists will set off this month from cities across the country in a rolling rally for undocumented immigrant workers' rights.

"In this new century, the need to adopt enlightened United States immigration policies that guarantee working immigrant families clear and irrevocable rights will be what our elected officials, and our country, will be judged on," said Hector Figueroa, secretary treasurer of service workers union Local 32BJ.

...The Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride will culminate in Flushing MeadowsCorona Park in Queens on Oct. 4, where there will be a massive rally calling for better treatment of immigrant workers.

Last week, Hispanic advocacy groups, community activists and immigrant labor organizations, including the Hispanic Federation and UNITE!, gathered to launch a month of events in New York City leading up to the rally.

...The riders will set out from Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and six other major cities across the country, making stops for rallies and events in cities and towns along their routes.

latinos in the labor movement 


Sept. 10—As the nations’ largest minority and the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, Latinos are preparing to increase their political strength over the next decade. In 2000, some 5.9 million Latinos or 78 percent of registered Latino voters went to the polls, and 62 percent cast their ballots in the presidential election for Al Gore. In the 2002 election, the turnout was even higher, with 6.2 million voting. Today, there are 185 congressional districts that include at least 50,000 Latino voters, and Latinos are the majority in 20 districts, according to the nonpartisan U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute.

“We have the potential to impact policy in the United States, but we have to exercise our vote,” says Rose Quintana, a member of UAW Local 6000 in Detroit.

...To mobilize Latino voters and to build their political strength, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) is focusing its 2004 Trabajando [Working] conference on political empowerment. The Sept. 10–13 conference in Washington, D.C., coincides with LCLAA’s 30th anniversary as an AFL-CIO constituency group. The LCLAA conference includes training in conducting a voter registration drive and building political coalitions. Delegates also are showing their support for immigration reform by holding a town hall meeting highlighting the union movement’s upcoming Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride.

LCLAA delegates are marching today in solidarity with Latino workers seeking to gain a voice at work with UNITE at Sterling Laundry, an anti-immigrant sweatshop. They will also join the Laborers Sept. 11 to support workers who have been denied their pay by Basic Industries, a building contractor at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

dk ot 

From the New York Post:

September 9, 2003 -- Donna Karan International will pay more than $500,000 to settle a three-year-old lawsuit brought by garment workers in several of its Manhattan factories, a person familiar with the situation told The Post.
Zeng Liu, a 50-year-old garment worker, and 24 of his colleagues accused Donna Karan and at least one of the factories it was using - Jen Chu Fashion Corp. - of failing to pay minimum wages and withholding more than $1 million in overtime pay.

The lawsuit was filed by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund in Manhattan's Federal District Court, and was quietly settled last month.

boston's newly green electricians 

From the Boston Globe:

Supporters of solar power are often imagined as more likely to own Birkenstock sandals than a union card, but a big Dorchester-based electricians' union will launch a major effort next week to bring rooftop solar panel installations into the mainstream of the trade. Local 103 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers will begin offering a 35-hour class in photovoltaic panel installation to 150 or more apprentices in its standard five-year training program. The 6,000-member local's class, one of the first of its kind in the country, is expected to rapidly increase the number of people in eastern Massachusetts qualified to install solar electric power systems and boost solar installation expertise and interest among conventional electrical contractors.

Caterpiller Vs. UAW redux? 

From the Chicago Tribune:

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Even as it appears poised to enjoy a long-awaited upturn in its business, Caterpillar Inc. is bracing for a possible renewal of the bitter labor strife the company endured in the 1990s.

At a daylong presentation last week to Wall Street analysts and fund managers at a company-owned site in the desert outside this Arizona city, one Cat official after another stepped forward to outline how cost-cutting and efficiency measures have helped fatten the Peoria manufacturing giant's profit margins, how a diversification effort has lessened the heavy equipment-maker's vulnerability to the economy's cyclical swings, and how the rapidly growing infrastructure needs of developing nations around the world promise "fantastic" future growth opportunities.

In a closing address, Chairman and Chief Executive Glen Barton sounded the same upbeat themes but then went out of his way to send a carefully worded warning shot across the bow of the United Auto Workers union, whose contract with Cat expires March 31.

"While we hope to avoid any work stoppage," Barton said, "we have tangible and realistic plans in place to ensure continued success" in the event of a strike.

Barton's pointed commentary "sounds very similar to what Cat said in 1991," when the company was preparing for a groundbreaking, and ultimately successful, face-off with the union, said Bill Scott, head of negotiations for UAW Local 974 in Peoria. Scott declined to comment further, saying a formal response should come from officials at the UAW national office in Detroit. Officials there couldn't be reached Tuesday.

There is further evidence Caterpillar is preparing for a possible fight. The company, which successfully thwarted a previous UAW strike by hiring replacement workers, has launched a court challenge of a recently passed Illinois law that restricts the ability of companies to hire temporary replacement workers during strike.

I hope United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger is up to this. He has used a less confrontational strategy with the Big Three (see below) to pretty good effect. Let's see how he does when the gloves come off. Cat kicked the UAW's ass last time.

OT rollback blocked (?) 

From Newsday:

The Senate voted Wednesday to bar the Bush administration from issuing new overtime pay rules that Democrats and organized labor said would take money from the pockets of millions of workers.

The vote was 54-45, and left the fate of the controversial new regulations uncertain. The House blessed the administration's proposal earlier this year, and congressional negotiators will have to untangle the disagreement In addition, the White House has raised the possibility of a veto if Congress tries to block the rules.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who led the effort to block the proposed rules, said the Department of Labor had acted in a "very heavy-handed manner" in crafting a proposal that would "wipe away the overtime protections" enjoyed by millions.

AFGE charges Bush in the ILO 

From the LRA:

Seeking to stunt President Bush's egregious anti-worker policies, the nation's largest government employees' union has formally charged the administration with violating international labor standards.

The 600,000-member American Federation of Government Employees last month filed a precedent-setting complaint with the United Nations' International Labor Organization, charging the Bush White House with denying eligible workers the right to freedom of association, a principle with which all member states must comply. "AFGE has opened a new front, taking its cause to the global community," said Bobby Harnage, Sr., AFGE's president at the time complaint was filed, in mid-August. The ILO will hear the complaint in November. If the international body's Committee on Freedom of Association finds in favor of AFGE, the U.S. government may be asked to correct the violations. AFGE's complaint centers on a new post-9/11 U.S. law that allows the head of any governmental agency to suspend or terminate any federal worker if found to pose a national security risk.

This administration's policy has undermined collective bargaining at a variety of government agencies, including the new Transportation Safety Administration, and has stripped those federal workers of protection under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, according to AFGE. The law can be manipulated to prevent public employees from organizing and collectively bargaining, according Public Services International, a federation of 600 unions in 140 countries that, along with the AFL-CIO, supported the complaint.

"This administration is just at war with federal employees," said new AFGE President John Gage, who in August replaced Harnage in the union's top slot. "Within our agencies, we are just being dismantled. Government jobs are just being given away to contractors ... . And we have to publicize it," Gage said.

Gage has pledged an aggressive campaign against Bush's blueprints for public employees.


From the New Haven Register:

NEW HAVEN - A group of ministers accused Yale University on Tuesday of bringing Latino workers to the campus as strikebreakers to cause racial dissension among picketing maintenance workers. Two area cleaning firms delivered 40 to 50 Latinos to the Old Campus on Monday, and "paraded" them through a picket line of mainly African-American strikers in Local 35, according to the Rev. Emilio Hernandez.

Hernandez said less than 5 percent of Yale's workers are Latino, even though they make up 20 percent of the New Haven population. He said the ministers want to increase the presence of Latinos at Yale, but not as strikebreakers, and he accused Yale of trying to arouse racial confrontation.

From Newsday:

The AP
September 4, 2003

New Haven, Conn. - The first day of classes at Yale University was a lesson in frustration for Erica Newbury. She searched building after building yesterday for a public health class moved off campus by the instructor, who did not want to cross the picket lines of striking clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers. "There were tons of picketing employees, and I couldn't find the right building, and then I found it only to find out the location was changed again," said Newbury, a graduate student in biostatistics. "It was just ridiculous."

Most classes were held in their assigned classrooms yesterday, and Yale asked professors and teaching assistants not to move them. Some instructors said they would give students a chance to orient themselves, then would move classes off campus next week. "I felt a little bad about it, but I have to go to class," said Sherrise Pond, a sophomore from New York who crossed the picket line.

The Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, which represents the 4,000 striking workers, is helping set up alternate classrooms in churches, theaters, restaurants and municipal buildings near campus.


Thousands of union members and leaders from throughout the Northeast, including AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney, plan to rally at the campus in support of the (Yale) workers in a massive Sept. 13 mobilization.

negotions, strikes and settlements 

From the Honolulu Star Bulletin:

The islandwide bus strike entered its third week today after contract talks ended late last night with the two sides still apart on wages.
Officials from Teamsters Local 996, the union representing 1,336 striking bus workers, gave a proposal to Oahu Transit Services Inc., the company that runs TheBus for the city.

Perry Confalone, chief negotiator for OTS, said the company will make a counteroffer today and if the two sides want to discuss the proposals, they will schedule a meeting for today. Yesterday’s negotiations were the first since Thursday night.

From YahooNews:

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Union workers at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s plant in Union City, Tennessee have rejected a tentative three-year contract being offered to workers at 14 plants, the unit's president said on Tuesday.

The proposed contract, reached Aug. 20 after five months of negotiations, includes a wage freeze, higher health-care costs for workers and the closing of one plant. In return, workers would get a board seat and additional job protection at the remaining unionized plants. Local 878 of the United Steelworkers of America turned down the proposal by a vote of 52 percent to 48 percent, according to president Kevin Terrett. The unit, with 3,500 members, is the largest USWA organization at a Goodyear plant. It is the only one of the 10 plants that has voted so far to reject the contract. Its vote is important because the contract must be approved by a majority of the individual votes cast as well as by a majority of the 14 plants.

From the Seatle Post Intelligencer:

Union-represented Bon-Macy's workers at eight Western Washington stores have approved the company's latest contract offer, averting a possible strike. Roughly 72 percent of Seattle-area members who voted accepted the offer, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which represents about 1,800 Bon employees in these stores.

From KAAL 6 in Austin,MN:

Hundreds of union members looked at Hormel’s final proposal yesterday. Today word is out that they didn't like what they saw. Both sides of the issue have spoken and each hopes to have a resolution in the coming weeks. This was the site at the Austin Labor Center yesterday; today it's business as usual at Hormel Foods in Austin.

But workers at Hormel plants in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Minnesota have rejected a contract outlined in this proposal obtained by Six News. After union members read the offer, some for the first time, wages, benefits, and pension plans concerned many voters.

From the Daily Californian, Berkeley:

Unionized AC Transit bus drivers will not be striking this week, after transit officials agreed to temporarily return $2.5 million to their operating budget, delaying route cuts. The Amalgamated Transit Union bus drivers had planned to stage a one-day walkout this month protesting slashes to the operating budget, until the AC Transit's Board of Directors voted 4-3 Wednesday to delay the cuts.


Teamsters in Knoxville, Tennessee know that solidarity with other unions is a key component of the labor movement. That's why a dozen members of Local 519 are honoring picket lines after a lockout at the White Lily Foods Company. Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 165 represents the majority of workers at the facility where flour products are made including Hardee's biscuits, McDonald's McGriddle cakes and Waffle House waffles. The Teamsters at the facility are shipping and receiving workers, who are in contract negotiations of their own.

From the Courier - Cedar Valley, Indiana:

WATERLOO --- "First 'no' vote here!" striking Eagle Ottawa tannery worker Jake Jacobs proclaimed to all within earshot as he walked out of the Black Hawk Labor Temple. He wasn't the last either. The 204 unionized tannery workers Friday overwhelmingly rejected company officials' "last, final and best offer" on a new labor contract. The company has not ruled out hiring replacement workers. "Eagle Ottawa continues to encourage its striking employees to return to work and will begin hiring replacements as necessary in order to fully staff the plant," company officials said in a prepared statement released late Friday.

gang of five 

From Business Week:

by Aaron Berstein

Earlier this year, a group of union leaders eager to reverse labor's long-term decline goaded AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney into setting up a streamlined new governance structure for the federation. Their goal: a complete overhaul of the AFL-CIO to focus it like a laser on getting labor's ranks growing again. Sweeney broadly agrees with them, but he bristled at the activists' moves and has essentially sidetracked the new executive committee instituted last February.

Now, BusinessWeek has learned, these rebellious labor chieftains have decided to take matters a step further by creating their own mini labor federation. Since early July, the head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and four other labor presidents have met several times to map out what they're informally calling the New Unity Partnership.

On Sept. 2, they gathered again in Washington to discuss hiring staff and formalizing an agenda. The idea is to find new ways to stimulate growth in union rolls -- for example, by mounting joint recruitment campaigns against large national companies or across geographic regions. "The question is: Can we create something to help us all grow faster?" says SEIU President Andrew L. Stern, whose union, the AFL-CIO's largest, is one of the few that has been gaining members in the private sector.

...At this point, they're not talking about quitting the AFL-CIO -- unlike the course one of them, Carpenters President Douglas J. McCarron, took two years ago after his frustration over the federation's inaction boiled over. Nevertheless, "that could happen if things don't change," says one of the other four.

The gang of five are part of a new generation of labor leaders, mostly in their early 50s, who want to see more militant action to stem labor's decline. All five have put their own unions through often painful transformations, slashing bureaucracy and focusing dwindling resources on recruitment. Now, they want to make bold moves across the federation, such as throwing hundreds of recruiters and other resources into major organizing campaigns. "We all believe this is a critical time for labor, and we're not prepared to let it disappear on our watch -- not without an effort by us," says Bruce Raynor, president of UNITE, the needle trades union.

...If the partnership gets off the ground, employers could see some stronger organizing drives. One example: UNITE and the Teamsters have already joined forces to target 17,000 workers at Cintas Corp. (CTAS ), a leading commercial launderer. UNITE has successfully unionized smaller rivals in the industry and may be able to put up a real fight with the clout of the much larger Teamsters, which also represents laundry workers.

The group is also talking about targeting industries by region. Florida and Arizona are two states they're eyeing. The SEIU has contracts with real estate and management companies for building workers, while the Laborers and Carpenters deal with the construction companies that build the properties. The idea is to push unionized employers in one industry to allow unimpeded organizing in the others. They want to target hotel chains, too, where the hotel employees union has members. "Far too many hotels are built by members of my union but run nonunion, or vice versa," says Laborers Union President Terence M. O'Sullivan.

Many of these ideas are already being tried by some unions, including most of the five. Still, this would be the first organization dedicated to helping unions grow again. If it works, other unions are likely to sign on -- and one of the five would likely take over the AFL-CIO and try them on an even broader scale.

Exerpts from Berstein's interview with Andy Stern from LaborNet:

Q: Early this year you and several of your colleagues pushing the New Unity Partnership were determined to change the AFL-CIO, to focus it more on organizing. What happened to that effort?
A: We've decided that there's nothing we can do about the AFL-CIO until 2005, when there's a convention [and AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney's term is up]. Right now the AFL-CIO is going to be focused, appropriately, on the 2004 elections. It's going to be consumed by beating [President] Bush. That's its main role ight now, and it should be.
We shouldn't be having a big fight about what should happen in the AFL-CIO until after that's over. Meanwhile, those of us who want to work together on a growth strategy should do so.

Q: But haven't you all have drawn up a list of which AFL-CIO departments and functions you'd cut or refocus in order to home in on organizing and politics?
A: Yes, we're still talking about an AFL-CIO program agenda. It's something we're still working on, an early version of getting off people's chests what they'd like to see changed at the AFL-CIO. All of us, especially people like Doug [McCarron, president of the Carpenters, which quit the AFL-CIO in 2001], whine about the federation. So rather than always whining, we said, "Let's at least make a list of what we'd like to do."

Q: Why not do that on the new Executive Committee [which his group prodded the AFL-CIO to create last February]?
A: Without constitutional changes, the AFL-CIO is going to do what it's doing. We've decided since February that trying change the AFL-CIO while we're fighting Bush is a bad strategic decision, whether Sweeney is for or against it. Those days should come, and we should have that discussion about should we reform the AFL-CIO, but not until after the Presidential elections.
We need to talk about should the AFL-CIO be revolutionized, should its role be drastically increased or decreased? You could say, for example, that the federation has to review all union mergers, and run more things in the labor movement. Or you might say it should be much smaller, and let other labor groups do more.
We've decided to postpone the discussion. You can't just have the five of us talking about this, because we're not a majority [of the labor movement].

Q: Have you discussed the New Unity Partnership with Sweeney?
A: No, we haven't been talking to him about it, but we haven't gotten far enough to talk to anyone about it. It's nothing we're going to hide, and it's not exclusive, but we need more definition ourselves about what we're trying to do.

unite and cintas 

Cintas workers picket a Starbucks shop in Detroit. Starbucks recently signed a nationwide contract with Cintas for apron and linen services. Photo: Jim West

From Labor Notes:

It's a hot day in Detroit, and Cintas laundry worker Susan Amos is mad. Not about the heat, though. Amos shouts into a bullhorn, addressing her fellow workers at a rally in front of their plant. "I've been here 15 years and I still won't be making ten," she spits out. "They live off us."

Last February, UNITE kicked off a campaign to organize workers at Cintas shops nationwide. The Cincinnati-based company is the largest provider of work uniforms and industrial laundry services in North America, employing approximately 17,000 workers at over 350 locations. While Cintas makes considerable annual profits ($232 million in 2002), UNITE spokesperson Katie Shaller says that the company "pays poverty wages. They're the biggest and the worst in the industry-[Cintas is] definitely dragging down wages on a national scale."

...One of the largest union drives in recent years, the campaign is notable not only for its scope and ambition, but also for its method of organizing unorganized workers. UNITE has chosen to avoid the traditional NLRB union-election route, trying instead for a card-check neutrality agreement. Under card-check, management agrees to remain neutral during the organizing drive-no anti-union campaigns, no money spent on anti-union attorneys-while workers decide whether or not they want the union to represent

...Jobs with Justice activists and union supporters have organized rallies at Starbucks across the country in sympathy with the organizing campaign. Starbucks recently signed a nationwide contract with Cintas for apron and linen services.

UNITE insists the campaign is not a boycott, but simply a way of making Starbucks, which has a code of conduct they hold their vendors to, aware of the fact that Cintas is not upholding their end of the deal. In addition, an alliance has been forged with the Teamsters, who have committed to organizing Cintas' drivers. In July, over 90 Congressional leaders, led by Representatives DeLauro and Miller, sent a letter to Cintas CEO Scott D. Farmer urging the company to remain neutral and agree to card-check neutrality. The fact that there has never been a successful organizing drive at Cintas is a major reason for UNITE to favor the card-check method. Says Shaller, "Cintas has a long history of thwarting every organizing drive there has been with NLRB elections. Cintas has spent up to $3,400 per worker to bust the union during an NLRB election."

...Cintas has already stated that they are opposed to a card-check agreement and want a traditional election instead.

However, it is possible that the unionized shops could be used as an organizing tool. The contract for a Detroit Cintas shop organized under UNITE expired August 1, and workers are poised to strike.

Neutrality agreements are hard to enforce on companies that aren't neutral, but sidestepping the oversight of a government that is against you is big step in the right direction. Organizers just get schizophrenic assuring workers that what the company is doing is illegal and they are going to go to the NLRB to enforce the law and at the same time talking shit about the NLRB because it acts mostly as a stall for the company. William Gould's NLRB during the Clinton years was a vast improvement, but the nature of the NLRA and the bureaucratic culture of the Board severely limited how much they could help. It great to see unions organizing for check check recognitions even as they have all the Democratic presidential candidates insisting that it become the law of the land.

uaw bargaining 

From the Lansing State Journal:


DETROIT - If the United Auto Workers union reaches a breakthrough agreement with all three Detroit automakers this week, it could go a long way toward changing the UAW's adversarial image. But in bucking tradition and pushing for a settlement before a Sunday deadline, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger could face a backlash from his own members, especially if it appears he didn't drive a hard enough bargain. UAW leaders have traditionally pushed contract talks to the deadline and beyond, reserving the right to strike and ensure the best possible package covering wages, benefits and work rules.

Gettelfinger is pushing bargainers to wrap up negotiations early with all three companies, according to people on both sides of the table. As of Monday evening, there was no word of an agreement.

..."It may be difficult for them to get the deal ratified," said Temperance Perkins, president of UAW Local 227, which represents workers at Daimler hrysler AG's McGraw Glass plant in Detroit. "It looks like there are going to be a lot of things that will be very distasteful to our members." McGraw Glass is one of five parts plants that Chrysler hopes to divest or close.

During the 1999 contract talks, Detroit's automakers were making record profits. Today, they face slumping industry sales, surging sales of imports and the prospect of more downsizing moves. Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. are on track to earn modest profits this year. Chrysler is struggling to break even this year after losing $1.2 billion in the second quarter. The union has signaled in recent months that it recognizes the Big Three's operating challenges and is open to working out an agreement that is fair to its 305,000 workers and helps the automakers improve profitability. A swift, rancor-free completion of the deal could further help the UAW's efforts to recruit nonunion workers at U.S. plants owned by foreign automakers.

From Newsday:

Last month, General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group saw their combined U.S. market share fall to an all-time monthly low of 57.9 percent. On top of that, Toyota Motor Corp. outsold Chrysler, one of the traditional Big Three, for the first time in a single month.

Meanwhile, the UAW has watched its ranks dwindle in recent years, and one of its goals is to protect as many jobs as possible for the 300,000 workers it represents. Even with job-protection measures negotiated by the union during better times for the industry in 1999, Detroit's automakers have been able to trim roughly 30,000 hourly jobs since that time.

From Labor Notes:by Jane Slaughter

On September 15 United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger will announce victory in contract talks with automakers. The UAW will hold the line on health care cost-shifting, Gettelfinger’s only clearly announced goal. And the Big Three will agree to pressure non-union parts supplier companies to allow the UAW into those plants. Contracts expire September 14 at Ford, GM, DaimlerChrysler, Visteon, and Delphi, covering 291,510 active workers, 369,810 retirees, and 105,420 surviving spouses. (Visteon and Delphi were created in 2000 and 1999 when Ford and GM spun off parts plants into separate companies.)

The labor press will hail Gettelfinger’s victory, in particular on “bargaining to organize” the parts companies. The mainstream media-subjected to a relentless barrage from company PR departments about the backbreaking cost of health care--will wonder how the companies can afford to pay. They’ll attribute the settlement to Gettelfinger’s negotiating skills.

UAW skeptics, though, say that the union will pay for health care simply by taking cuts somewhere else. What matters to the companies is the overall size of the package, after all.

...The UAW Solidarity Coalition, a small reform group ... put out a series of leaflets warning fellow members what they’re likely to forfeit in order to retain their current benefits. Calling for “No Concessions on Health Care, No Concessions Nowhere,” the group will also urge members to “Vote No Until You Know.” ...they want the contract on line. “If it’s going to be such a good contract,” said George Windau, a millwright at the Toledo Jeep plant, “why can’t we see it?”

Members planned to scan the agreement and put it on the the Coalition’s website, along with an analysis of losses and gains.

...On the companies’ side, one of their main goals is shrinking their union workforces even further. For several contracts the union has negotiated language to put a brake on attrition, but that language has gone unenforced. Last year, for example, 7,500 hourly workers left GM, but only 800 new workers were hired. The Oakland (Michigan) Press reported that Ford and Visteon plan to cut their union workforces 5% per year, from 94,000 to 73,000 over four years. At the beginning of the last contract, in 1999, Ford, which still included Visteon, had 102,000 workers. The companies have also announced about a dozen plants they plan to close or sell.

... the union has not mobilized its members for a contract fight. Members are engaged in no discussions of the issues, no strike preparations, no community outreach. Most locals cancelled meetings for the summer.

And Gettelfinger made clear in advance that he had no intention of striking. It’s customary for the UAW to choose one of the Big Three as the target and to negotiate a pattern there that the other two companies then follow (GM is likely this year). The UAW Local 6000 newspaper wrote, “Gettelfinger has referred to the pattern company as a ‘lead company,’ rather than a ‘strike target,’ the traditional term.”

UAW leaders...have a master plan for organizing the auto parts industry, but they have accepted the idea that parts workers should make substantially less money than assembly workers. The reality of competition has made this necessary, says UAW Vice-president in charge of organizing Bob King. Therefore the union is seeking neutrality pacts with supplier companies, to make it easier to organize their workers. To get the pacts, the union agrees in advance to keep wages in those plants at a level acceptable to the supplier companies and to the Big Three.

Since last year the union has signed three such agreements, with Johnson Controls, Metaldyne, and Dana. (See July Labor Notes, “UAW Trades Pay Cut for Neutrality,”) Around $16 appears to be the union’s target ceiling wage for workers in those factories. In a teleconference with Wall Street investors, King said, "Ron Gettelfinger, when he gave me the assignment of working with suppliers, said my number-one charge was to make certain we were a value-add [that is, that unionization made the plants more profitable]. “If we want to keep manufacturing jobs in the United States, which is a major objective of the UAW, then we can't be fighting management where we represent members. If we have an adversarial relationship, then we'll see more work go overseas.”

cwa verizon reach deal 

From Newsday:

By Mark Harrington
September 6, 2003

The memory of being laid off from Verizon Communications Inc. last December is never far from his memory, but Friday, Jim Finnigan and thousands of other local telephone repair workers and operators seemed to be setting their sights ahead, not behind.

"Everybody's happy they got some sort of stability," said Finnigan, a Verizon repair technician from Selden, a day after the company and its two labor unions reached an unprecedented five-year labor contract. Along with thousands of co-workers, he was recalled in July after an arbitrator's ruling.

The tentative contract includes a 3 percent lump-sum payment this year and raises in the future. It also maintains existing protections against layoffs for current workers, and keeps limits on Verizon's ability to shift work out of New York State. The tentative contract still must be approved by more than the 60,000 members of the Communications Workers of America and the 18,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

...Verizon president and vice chairman Lawrence T. Babbio told Wall Street analysts Friday the company expects 20,000 union members to retire or leave voluntarily over the next five years, and "any replacement will come without the job security language," he said. Thomas Germano, director of Dowling College's Center For Labor-Management Relations and Dispute Resolution, said lack of equivalent layoff protections for future workers could pose problems. "Over time it leads to conflicts within the union when you have different classes of employees," he said. But Jim LaCarrubba, business agent with CWA Local 1108 in Patchogue, wasn't concerned."We would obviously fight against any layoff."

SEIU and Dean 


WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 - Wait just a little bit longer - or jump on the Howard Dean bandwagon? That's the decision now facing the nation's two biggest unions, the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union. AFSCME is holding off an endorsement decision until November while SEIU could reveal its choice as early as Wednesday. But more likely, SEIU, too, will bide its time at least few weeks longer.

...Since SEIU has many black, Latino and immigrant members, if it backed Dean it would help diversify his campaign beyond the affluent, white college graduates who form the base of his support.

...SEIU President Andrew Stern indicated the union would likely delay an endorsement decision since "a lot of our local unions have not gone through the same kind of process" of listening to the Democratic contenders and weighing a decision. "This is very early to capture the attention of people who work very hard sweeping floors," he said. Most SEIU members in California, he added, are preoccupied with fighting the recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

... "What about the schools and the hospitals and the health care... Our budget deficit is going be more than a half a trillion dollars and we could insure easily every man woman and child in the United States of America for that amount of money. Where are your priorities, Mr. President, are they here with our people or are they somewhere else? Thus Dean appealed directly to the interests of SEIU members who work as nurses, home health care workers, nursing home attendants, and janitors. Every dollar spent in Iraq is a dollar that can't be spent on Medicaid, the program for low-income people, or on other federal health care programs. Dean portrayed himself to the SEIU as an unapologetic liberal candidate. "So many Democrats in the past few years have said, we'll go the middle, we'll go to the right; make sure the swing voters are happy, but I think we ought to start with the trade union movement, with African-Americans, with Latinos.

He said Democrats would win the White House and regain control of Congress by "being proud of who we are as Democrats" and pledged to "take this party back" - from whom he didn't say - and "stand up for what we believe as Democrats."

Dean even vowed to defeat House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who represents a 60 percent GOP district in Texas. "He's going back to Houston to exterminate cockroaches," Dean scoffed, a reference to DeLay's former job as head of a pest control firm.

Dean and the other Democratic presidential contenders went through a kind of audition Monday, when SEIU asked them to take the "hang test," a 25-minute closed-door meeting between each contender and a group of 25 rank-and-file SEIU members. No SEIU leaders attended those sessions. The purpose, said Stern was to see if the candidate was one a working-class person would want to "go bowling with or have a beer with."

From YahooNews:

Democrats Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt and John Kerry were the top contenders Monday for a crucial presidential endorsement from the largest union in the AFL-CIO, a decision that could come as early as Wednesday. Although Andy Stern, president of the 1.6 million-member Service Employees International Union, named those three as likely to capture the union's backing at this week's political conference, Dean was the clear crowd favorite Monday. The former Vermont governor was greeted with earsplitting cheers and numerous, lengthy standing ovations from the nearly 1,500 rank-and-file. The audience several times clapped and chanted in unison. "This time the person with the most votes is going to be the president of the United States," Dean roared. Afterward, he was mobbed by union members seeking autographs and pictures as well as the media.

"He's got more passion than anyone else," said Carol Bragg, a nurse from Prince George's County in Maryland. Said Gerard Williams, a home health care worker from Fresno, Calif.: "He's coming from the heart _ telling it like it is."

All the candidates were received enthusiastically, but Dean got an overwhelming response. Even Stern couldn't hide that he was intrigued by the candidate who has risen in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.

"People who have dismissed Howard Dean so far certainly have done it at their peril," said Stern, who admittedly was one of those several months ago. "He's touched a nerve with how frustrated people are with what's happening in their lives in the past three years," Stern told The Associated Press.

But the Democrat who has the most at stake is Gephardt, who covets a laborwide endorsement from the AFL-CIO next month. The Missouri congressman has 12 union endorsements so far, the only candidate to get backing from an international union. But he needs support from a few more large unions, such as SEIU, to win over the AFL-CIO.

From the Daily Kos:

...SEIU is a different story than AFSCME--Despite what I said last week, I now think there's a slightly better than even chance that it endorses Dean this week.

Keep this in mind, as we look to the possible SEIU endorsement decision this week--SEIU's two largest and most powerful locals are, of course 1199 in NYC, headed by Dennis Rivera, and, less known to some, local 250, in the SF bay area--between them, they represent about 20% of SEIU's total membership--300,000 or so--and while Rivera is nationally known inside and outside the labor movement as a political and union heavyweight, Roselli is a major player both inside the SEIU power structure, and within California democratic politics.

Both of these large locals, independent of the parent national union, and reflecting their membership and communties, came out early against the Iraqi war--Dean's position on this, as opposed to labor issues, of course, distinguishes him from Gephardt and Kerry--I'm not saying that these tough, pragmatic leaders would base their entire endorsement decision on the war, but it obviously gave Dean a leg up--once he showed he was conversant on health care, of course, had good labor bona fides, in general, and now has shown he's the front runner, everything began to fall into place--but, like so much else, it probably started for them with his anti-war position. ABC's The Note reported on Wednesday that Rivera will be holding a "personal" fundraiser for Dean on September 23rd (although Rivera denies that means he is endorsing Dean or that SEIU is necessarily endorsing Dean). With Dean strategically campaigning at local 250 over the weekend--and holding a press conference with Roselli--indicating a level of coordination and support beyond merely providing a platform to speak to the membership--the coveted SEIU endorsement may not be far behind. At very least, local 250 may well independently endorse Dean which, given the size of that local and its influence in California politics, itself would be significant.

In summary, Dean's apparent cultivation of Rivera and Roselli is a brilliant move--in that union, they have independent powerbases, separate from Andy Stern, yet they would also have to agree with any decision to endorse a particular candidate--at worst, it seems that Dean may have the big bookend SEIU health care locals working for him in the NY and California primaries--at best, those local leaders are coordinating with President Stern to deliver a stunning, perhaps nomination delivering endorsement to him--if, in fact, Stern sees this as an opportunity to crown a winner, and thus ratify his status as the most powerful figure in the American labor movement (and an increasing powerful figure in the Democratic party) -- a description that McEntee would contest -- or whether he prefers a more cautious, political approach, at this point, and, like McEntee, merely wants to hold the line against a Federation endorsement of Gephardt.

And then there's this update I received last night:
Sal Rosselli, SEIU Local 250 president, called Dean "our kind of presidential candidate" -- who, as a physician, understood the needs of health care workers and patients alike.

"We need to bring Dr. Dean's expertise and compassion to the White House," the union leader said. "Dr. Dean has the fire and the knowhow to turn this country around."

Sounds like an endorsement to me--may be a preview of what the national does later this week. Rosselli has the clout to issue his own endorsements, but he wouldn't do it in a vacuum--DC SEIU headquarters would know what he's doing. Again, local 250 is probably the second most largest and most influential local union in SEIU--85,000 strong, a powerhouse in Northern California politics.

afscme and clark 

From Newsday:

WASHINGTON -- One of the nation's politically powerful labor unions is willing to delay its endorsement process as it awaits word from Wesley Clark on whether he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination.

"I think we would owe it to our members and to the country really, to at least let him be in it for a time to see whether he gets some traction," Gerald McEntee, president of the 1.5 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said Tuesday. "I don't see how our union would be prepared to do anything until he has some time."

...Some Democratic Party leaders, including McEntee, have been urging Clark, an Arkansas native, Rhodes scholar and NATO commander during the 1999 Kosovo campaign, to seek the nomination, figuring that his military credentials would counter President Bush's national security record. The clock is not on Clark's side. Should he decide to enter the race, he must catch up to nine candidates who have been raising money and campaigning for months. However, a recent CBS News poll found that two-thirds of those surveyed couldn't name one of the nine aspirants seeking the party's nomination, suggesting the race is wide open.

AFSCME, which provided crucial, early support to Bill Clinton in 1991, probably won't endorse until November, McEntee said

This Clark thing is driving me crazy. Hurry up motherfucker.


From Newsday:

WASHINGTON -- Teamsters chief James P. Hoffa says President Bush doesn't understand the economy or the problems of working families, and despite overtures from the White House, it "would be difficult to imagine" the union endorsing him for president next year.

The union, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this weekend, has announced it is backing Rep. Dick Gephardt in the Democratic primaries to challenge Bush next year. But some Republicans had hoped that, should Gephardt fail to win the Democratic nomination, the Teamsters might back Bush in the general election. The Teamsters have a history of playing both sides of the political fence, going back to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and the Bush administration has tried to woo Hoffa since taking office. But Hoffa, in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, made clear that the White House overtures, which included a special seat at Bush's first State of the Union speech, would not pay off in next year's election.

"I don't think he understands the economy," Hoffa said. "He doesn't understand the problems working families are having -- losing their jobs, plants are closing. He doesn't feel their pain, and I think that's unfortunate." A Bush endorsement "would be difficult to imagine," Hoffa said. "The administration would have to change its ways."

At the same time, however, the union isn't enthralled with the other Democrats running for president, leaving open the possibility that it could remain neutral in the general election if Gephardt isn't on the Democratic ticket.

Neutral? Neutral? NEUTRAL!!!!! You have got to be kidding me. With that kind of leadership, it's no wonder that they've shrunk by over 200,000 members in recent years.

From The Hill:

President Bush declined to deliver a promised video greeting to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters this weekend, signaling a near total breakdown of relations between the union and the White House.

The administation’s decision to go back on an earlier commitment came a week after James P. Hoffa, president of the 1.4 million-member Teamsters suggested his union would not support Bush’s re-election bid.


Tuesday, September 09, 2003


From the Cavalier Daily from Charlottesville, VA:

Bush promised an Americorps force of 75,000; currently Americorps is talking of cutting down from 50,000. Granted, part of the mess is due to accounting snafus at the Corporation for National and Community Service, a subsidiary of Americorps, but Americorps deserves the $100 million bail out they are asking for.

Congress has responded half way. This Saturday, The Washington Post revealed the likelihood of an increase in spending for the 2004 fiscal year, but the fate of the much-needed and more-publicized $100 million emergency appropriations still remains in limbo. Considering the way Congress and the President have been throwing money around, the federal government should pick up the $100 million tab for the benefit of all Americans.

How much is $100 million in relative terms? In 2004, Congress plans to allocate about $340 million for the entire budget of the Americorps program. The Americorps emergency infusion ($100 million) would cost the government about .03 percent of Bush's new tax cut ($32 billion for 2003), or about 1.4 percent of the cost of Iraq this year ("Reconstruction of Iraq to cost $7.3 billion this year, The Washington Times, July 30, 2003).

The Senate passed a bill in July giving Americorps the money they requested, but the House believed it would be a bad investment. Bush refused to step in and throw his clout around -- despite promises in his 2002 State of the Union address to man a force of 75,000 in Americorps. Bush likes to keep his distance from the issue and blame the radical Republicans in the House, but he could easily push the bill through by a snap of the fingers. Bush owns the GOP -- if he believed in the program, he would not allow the Republican House to stunt Americorps' growth. To Bush, government-sponsored service only deserves lip service.

This something the Dem candidates need to take and run with. It combines a popular Dem program with Bush's broken promises and class allegiance. This is a handy little stick. They should be smacking him with it. Instead I'm reading about it in a poorly written editorial from a small city in Virginia that I keep forgetting is even there. Americorp accomlishes Democratic aims at a small price tag. It also socializes wave after wave of young people to the value of activist government

this sucks 

This blow chunks. I feel so sorry for this guy.

draw blood 

Finally, an obit worthy of the rotten sonovabitch who inspired it. Joshua Clover in the Village Voice writes the first good memorial of Warren Zevon. The morning after he died, I linked to because they were the best that day, but I wasn't happy about it. To my own obit I would add:

I remember Werewolves of London as a novelty song from when I was a kid. But, I rediscovered it as an adult and that's what led me to Excitable Boy and Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School. The song is no Dr. Demento curiousity. It's a cinematic post modern masterpiece. It's the craziest thing; that everyone that summer connected with it as some sort of summer fun "aaawwwhoooo! werewolves of london!" yeahaw. Try: 'Well, I saw Lon Chaney walking with the Queen, doing the Werewolves of London. I saw Lon Chaney, Jr. walking with the Queen, doing the Werewolves of london. I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's... and his hair was PERFECT.'

And I love that when he was on his way to do the hour long special that Letterman, a long time fan and supporter, dedicated to him, the New Yorker called his agent wanting to do a feature on him as he was dying. His agent asked, what do you say?

"Too late."

You can stream his last album the Wind.

Vanity Fair drops bombshell...or do they? 

Press release from Vanity Fair:


NEW YORK, N.Y. - Former White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke tells Vanity Fair that the Bush administration decided to allow a group of Saudis to fly out of the U.S. just after September 11 - at a time when access to U.S. airspace was still restricted and required special government approval. According to other sources, at least four flights with about 140 Saudis, including roughly two dozen members of the bin Laden family, flew to Saudi Arabia that week - without even being interviewed or interrogated by the F.B.I.

Officially, the White House has declined to comment. But a source inside the White House says that the administration is confident that no secret flights took place and that there is no evidence to suggest that the White House ever authorized such flights. An F.A.A. spokesman, Chris White, told the Tampa Tribune that a flight on September 13 did not even take place. It's not in our logs. It didn't occur. In addition, the F.B.I. denies that it played any role in the repatriation.

But Vanity Fair writer Craig Unger interviewed Dan Grossi, a private eye and former Tampa Police Department officer who received a call two days after 9/11 asking him to escort Saudi students on a flight from Tampa to Lexington, Kentucky, even though private planes were still grounded nationwide. "I was told it would take White House approval," Grossi tells Unger. But when the plane's pilot showed up, they took off.

...After the September 11 attacks, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, was in Washington orchestrating the exodus of about 140 Saudis scattered throughout the country who were members of, or close to, the House of Saud, which rules Saudi Arabia, and the bin Laden family. By coincidence, even before the attacks, Bandar had been scheduled to meet President Bush in the White House on September 13, 2001, to discuss the Middle East peace process. The meeting took place as planned. Nail al-Jubeir tells Unger that he does not know if Bandar and the president discussed getting the bin Ladens and other Saudis back to Saudi Arabia.

Some Saudis tried to get their planes to leave before the F.B.I. had even identified who was on them, Unger reports. "I recall getting into a big flap with Bandar's office about whether they would leave without us knowing who was on the plane," an F.B.I. agent says. "Bandar wanted the plane to take off, and we were stressing that the plane was not leaving until we knew exactly who was on it." Dale Watson, the F.B.I.'s former head of counterterrorism, tells Unger that while the Saudis were identified, "they were not subject to serious interviews or interrogations." The bureau has declined to release the Saudis' identities.

According to documents obtained by the Public Education Center in Washington, the file on Abdullah and Omar (Bin Laben) was reopened on September 19, 2001, while the Saudi repatriation was under way. A security official who served under George W. Bush tells Unger, "WAMY was involved in terrorist-support activity. There's no doubt about it."

The Saudis' planes took off from or landed in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Houston, Cleveland, Orlando, Tampa, Lexington, Kentucky and Newark and Boston, both of which had been points of origin for the September 11 attacks. "We were in the midst of the worst terrorist act in history," Tom Kinton, director of aviation at Boston's Logan airport, tells Unger, "and here we were seeing an evacuation of the bin Ladens! . . . I wanted to go to the highest authorities in Washington. This was a call for them. But this was not just some mystery flight dropping into Logan. It had been to three major airports already, and we were the last stop. It was known. The federal authorities knew what it was doing. And we were told to let it come."

This strikes me as grist for the conspiracy theory mill. I'm not convinced that there wasn't a conspiracy, but this seems really soft. It ties in with other dots that people are connecting. British Labour MP Michael Meacher connected a few dots in the Guardian last week. He cites the document 'Rebuilding America's Defenses' written by the folks running our foreign policy. The document argued in the 90's that we needed to project US military power into the Middle East and a conflict with Iraq would be just the thing to justify it. He links this to a report that two senior Mossad experts were sent to Washington in August 2001 to alert the CIA and FBI to a cell of 200 terrorists said to be preparing a big operation. The list they provided included the names of four of the 9/11 hijackers, none of whom where arrested. He then points out that not a single fighter plane was scrambled to intercept the planes hijacked on 9/11 despite the fact that there was ample time. And on and on.

This all may add up. Somehow though conspiracies at the highest levels of government never catch the public's attention (unless it's a Jerry Bruckheimer production) and I'm not going to get my panties in a twist getting all worked up about it. There are plenty of things that we can successfully hold the government accountable for.

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