Franklin County Democrats

The official site of the Democratic Party of Franklin County, Missouri

Browsing Posts published in February, 2013

February is Black History Month.  While there are many African-Americans that have made great contributions to this country this post will focus on the African aspect, particularly South Aftica.

Yes, the same nation now embroiled in the Oscar Pistorious love/murder scandal.  The same nation that was the subject of  a disvestment campaign to break the practice of apartheid and launch their most famours citizen, Nelson Mandela, into the presidency.

Before all this was Steven Biko. Biko was a man that lost his life fighting for civil rights in South Africa.  I became aware of his story when rocker Peter Gabriel memorialized Steven with his song Biko. This is one of the most powerful, hypnotic songs I know, especially with the speakers cranked up!

So enjoy a few minutes of Black History Month and learn about the life of Steven Biko through song.  I prefer the studio version but the music video is also a great way to hear the story and has some great bagpipes..

You are gonna love this video of a couple WWE Wrestlers intellectual takedown of Glenn Beck.

This week’s audio netcast features an interview with Steven Coll discussing how Exxon and the major oil companies have achieved their energy objectives as the Unites States has come up short.  There is also an interview with Dan McWhorter on how China’s cyber stealing is hurting America.

The United Mine Workers were in St. Louis again today protesting Peabody Coal and their spinoff of Patriot Coal along with the pensions of 22,000 coal miners as a way to declare bankruptcy and clean their balance sheet.

I can’t remember the last time I saw Channel 5 KSDK do a story on a labor dispute that was even close to being more than talking points from the company involved.  I will remember this one, as they actually did interviews with both sides,  You be the judge which is telling the truth.

The CEO of Peabody Coal was paid over $10 million last year.

The current edition of PublicCitizennews features an eye-opening article, Better for Shareholders, that contends disclosure of corporate political spending would help curb Big Business’ influence over lawmakers.  Consider this from the opening paragraph…

In one of the last actions of departing Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Mary Schapiro’s term, the agency puton its agenda that it will consider requiring public companies to disclose to shareholders the use of corporate resources for political activities.

Did you catch that?  Currently public companies don’t even have to tell shareholders about how much money they are spending on politics.

To put this in context. let’s examine the Paycheck Deception bills being sponsored by Republicans in the Missouri legislature.  These paycheck deception bills would require unions to seek yearly authorization from members for voluntary donations to the unions political programs.  This is after union members have given their permission and signed a card authorizing their donations.

In a recent poll 77% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats believe corporations should spend money on political campaigns only if they disclose their political spending immediately84% of Americans agreed that corporate political spending drowns out the voices of average Americans.

Of course, Missouri Republicans can’t wait to “represent” their constituents and introduce a bill that at least requires corporate disclosure of political spending. Not.

If they wanted to be fair, legislation could be introduced requiring shareholders to authorize all political spending at least once, like unions are currently doing.  After all, this is the shareholders dividends being spent.

Unfortunately, the will of the people, the concept of fairness, or equivalent weights on the scales of justice don’t play a role in the politics of Missouri Republicans.  Instead, they prefer to persecute individual Missourians trying to be heard through voluntary political donations. Because if over 80% of Americans believe corporate spending is drowning out the average American, the GOP will offer a solution looking for a problem.

 

This week’s episode of Moyers and Company was a fascinating one.  From discussions about the pay of those in the food industry to a conversation with Richard Wolff about politics and protests.  Grab a cup of coffee and be prepared to be stimulated by more than caffeine.

Craig Harrington from Economy In Crisis compares our minimum wage with those in other countries.  A quick and enjoyable read.

During last week’s State of the Union, President Obama called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 per hour. This is the kind of low-hanging fruit that political careers used to be built upon, but in Washington today every issue is a struggle of titanic proportions. President Obama’s commonsense proposal was met with raucous applause in Congress, before being summarily and roundly chastised by the Republican Party and its media affiliates.

Fighting back against increasing the minimum wage is political suicide for the Republican Party. Their claim that raising wages would cost jobs is not only unsupported by the evidence it also completely misses the point.

The large majority of minimum wage employees work for big companies with sunk employment requirements. McDonald’s, for example, requires X amount of cooks and cashiers. Federally mandating that those workers may earn no less than $9 per hour is not going to cause mass layoffs. McDonald’s needs those employees. McDonald’s also does just fine, profit-wise, in the rest of the developed world where minimum wages are much higher than the United States.

Last week’s Nation magazine features How Two Tier Contracts Became Labor’s Undoing by Louis Uchitelle, one of the best economics and labor writers in the country.  Mr. Uchitelle is a regular contributor to the New York Times in addition to his work at The Nation.

I love ths opening paragraph…

Two-tier wage systems go way back. The Roman Emperor Marcus Opellius Macrinus, in need of a larger army but short on cash, cut the pay for new recruits, forcing them to endure the same battlefield risks as veterans, but at a lower wage. That annoyed the new warriors, and their resentment ignited an army revolt that in 218 ad cost the emperor his life.

Louis then tells the real-life tale of my friend Karl at the GM Wentzville Assembly plant.  While two-tier contracts are present in many industries the feelings of the workers involved are similar.

That’s Karl Hoeltge’s attitude. The 22-year-old earns $15.78 an hour on the assembly line of a General Motors factory near St. Louis, under a union contract that will cap his pay at $19.28 an hour five to six years from now. That is, if he hasn’t left by then to pursue his dream, which is to commercialize one or two of the children’s toys he designs in his off hours. Karl’s father, Gary, has worked for years on the same assembly line, and the son says he might be more reconciled to a career at the plant if he could work up to the $28 an hour his father earns. But, he says, “I’ll never catch up to my father’s pay—not if the union allows the present setup to continue.”

It took a combination of the threat of bankruptcy, misguided trade policies, rising health care costs, and other factors outlined in my 2008 op/ed  Did The Four Horsemen Destroy The Auto Industry for this concession to be made.  For the new hires at Wentzville wages were not the only concession as they will not receive a defined benefit pension or retiree healthcare.  These were the legacy costs so discussed during the bankruptcy hearings in Washington D.C.  Without these legacy costs full wages for all hourly employees would only total less than 3% of sales.  In fact, Wentzville Assembly seniority employees voted against the creation of this second tier of lower wages but the national vote went the other way.  To their credit, the majority of these seniority employees still oppose this second tier.

Under the prior agreement, new hires started at 70% of full pay and increased five percent every six months allowing full pay to be achieved in three years.  It is the lack of a definite date of wage progression that generates the animosity if not hostility expressed by Karl.

 “I’m not a hateful person,” Karl said, “but I’m fairly disturbed by what is happening to me.”

Second tier employees are not the only ones harboring some resentment as many perma-temps described in the article are also disturbed by what is happening to them.

Employers with two-tier wage programs may not meet the fate of Marcus Opellius Macrinus but should be aware that pep talks about how the company is one big family and other such metaphors are perceived as empty words when so many ”family members” are treated like black sheep

 

 

 

 

Gotta love Jon Stewart expose John MeCain as the hypocrite he is on the subject of dead Americans. It would be a lot funnier if it wasn’t so sad.

Alternet’s Work Is Becoming More Like Prison As Some Workers Forced To Wear Electronic Bands, paints a distrubing picture of working conditions now and in the future.

But increased surveillance not only creates a more stressful workplace for workers, it also effects the product, Gilliom points out. For example, nurses are no longer taking the time to get to know their patients because hospitals make more money when more people are hustled through. In the past, nurses had ways to circumvent hospital pressure. Now, electronic tracking of patient movement means that medical profressionals will spend far less time with you when you are sick.

Sure sounds like workers are running roughshod over employers.  I’m sure Tim “tickets” Jones  and Missouri Republicans view this as proof that society would be better off if workers had an even weaker voice so full steam ahead with Right-to-Work for less and Paycheck Deception!

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