Sunday, March 22, 2009

Do You Recall The Story Of The Trojan Horse?


It was actually a big wooden Greek horse that the Greek army used to trick the Trojans into opening themselves up to a massive defeat. Corporate America, compliments of snazzy looking Costco, Starbucks and Whole Foods, is offering the Democrats a Trojan horse of its own, as reported by corporate America's very own Wall Street Journal yesterday.
Three big retailers are expected to back an alternative proposal next week on a hotly contested bill that would make it easier to unionize workplaces, a move some experts said would bolster the legislation's chance of passage.

Costco Wholesale Corp., Starbucks Corp. and Whole Foods Market Inc. are supporting the alternative proposal, according to someone familiar with the effort. Ray Krupin, a management labor lawyer in Washington said the most likely compromise would allow employees to unionize if 70% of them sign union-authorization cards, as opposed to 50% as currently proposed in the Employee Free Choice Act.
On Saturday, a person close to the discussions denied that the proposal backed by the three companies included a plan to let unions organize workers if 70% sign cards.

It's unclear whether the proposal addresses a thorny section of the bill that would have a government arbitrator draw up a contract if unions and companies can't agree to terms within 120 days.

Ah... the rub. While the Greeks hide in the high reeds, grumbling that they oppose leaving such a lovely, costly horse to the tenacious damn Trojans, the modern day Trojans-- or at least the labor unions (if not the Bayh Bloc weak-kneed Democrats) have already figured out the trick. Yesterday the AFL-CIO let the Chamber of Commerce type Dems know that they're not buy into any so-called "compromise" that still allows management to subvert the will of the majority and still allows them delay contract negotiations ad infinitum since without that first legally binding contract the union is still at their never-tender mercies. AFL-CIO's first response to the trial balloon:
The Employee Free Choice Act is about protecting the fundamental freedom of workers to bargain with their employers for a better life and to join a union without corporate interference and harassment.

The proposal being circulated by these companies falls short of meeting these standards.

We are open to discussing the legislation with parties who are legitimately concerned with protecting workers. However, a proposal coming from corporations, some of whom have their own history of
violating workers' rights, is simply not an alternative that lives up to giving workers back the freedom to form unions.

Of particular concern is the removal of majority sign up-- which exists under current law-- and the removal of the arbitration provisions. Removing the arbitration provisions will allow companies to continue to stall and delay and refuse to negotiate a contract in good faith.

"Their own history of violating workers' rights?" Surely they can't mean the hip and cool Starbucks, Costco, and Whole Foods, right? Wrong. The 3 companies have long and bitter histories of being basically as anti-union as the rest of them. After reading how much better Costco is towards unions than WalMart and other slave labor big box stores, I went over to the Costco in my neighborhood and talked to some of the workers. They laughed at my questions and said management is as anti-union as anywhere else. They get slightly better wages than in the other big box stores but collective bargaining is extremely discouraged.

As for Starbucks, they've been in a year-and-a-half brawl with the IWW and have fired pro-union employees. The National Labor Relations Board has already found them guilty on several charges of illegal union-busting. They were ordered to reinstate the 3 illegally fired employees-- and give them all their back wages-- and "to end discriminatory treatment of other pro-union workers at four Manhattan locations named in the case."

And Whole Foods is the worst of the lot. John Mackey, the reactionary/libertarian CEO-- and managers at every level-- are violently anti-union, as bad as any corporate criminal enterprise in the country... even if they do sell some organic produce sometimes. After being warned by Ken what a rip-off they are, I stopped shopping there long ago.

This morning's account of the Trojan horse strategy is pretty clear in this morning's Washington Post, especially when you see who's being paid to lead it: reviled Democratic Party Judas goat Lanny Davis, one of the most corrupt and untrustworthy characters Inside-the-Beltway.
[T]he companies' CEOs say that they also recognize that just opposing the legislation, dubbed "card-check," is not enough, because of the widespread perception in Democrat-dominated Washington that there is not a level playing field between labor and business. So the CEOs have come up with ideas they hope will form the basis of new legislation.

Their proposal would maintain management's right to demand a secret ballot election, and would leave out binding arbitration. The proposal would keep the third main element of the "card-check" bill-- toughening the penalties for companies that retaliate against workers before union elections or refuse to engage in collective bargaining. But it would also toughen penalties for union violations, and it would make it easier for businesses to call elections to try to decertify a union.

To address labor's concern that businesses intimidate workers before elections, it would set a fixed period in which an election must be held, limiting the delays that give employers time to exert pressure. The proposal does not specify what the time period should be.

The proposal would also provide unions equal access to workers before elections-- for instance, by allowing organizers to address workers on a lunch break in the company cafeteria just as management can.

"We wanted to see what we can do to come up with a compromise position that is going to address the concerns of labor and also protect the sanctity of the collective bargaining process and secret ballot," said Costco CEO Jim Sinegal.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz cast the proposal in more defensive terms. "The way the wind is blowing we're heading toward a bill that is not the right approach," he said. "My responsibility is to not be a bystander but to offer a voice of reason offers a more positive alternative that levels the playing field."

The effort is being led in Washington by Lanny Davis, a former special counsel to President Clinton. Davis said he has approached about 20 Senate offices and gotten an overwhelmingly encouraging response. The Employee Free Choice Act has majority support in both chambers, but there are signs it may have trouble getting a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate, where several centrist Democrats who previously supporting it are expressing reservations.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), a centrist ambivalent about card-check, praised the companies' proposal. "I appreciate good faith effort that could result in a reasonable compromise on what has become a highly polarizing matter," he said.

Davis said he thought that the proposal would intrigue Obama, who was a co-sponsor of the card-check bill in 2007 but signaled in an interview before his inauguration that he was also open to other proposals to help organized labor. "This is consistent with President Obama's overall approach of avoiding polarized positions and looking for third way ideas," Davis said.

And who better to go to than a senator who justifies telling his constituents he believes in a talking snake in the Garden of Eden by admitting-- or even bragging-- that "you don't have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate." Pity.


Working families' biggest champions in Congress didn't fall for the bullshit "compromise" offered by anti-worker CEOs.
“This proposal is unacceptable. It was written by CEOs for CEOs. It is not a serious attempt at labor law reform because it fails to fundamentally address key problems that currently prevent workers from being able to join together and bargain for a better life,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) in a joint statement.

Shameless corporate shill, Lanny Davis, a well-paid tool of WalMart, is still trying to appeal to the anti-Obama Democrats led by Indiana reactionary Evan Bayh to help undermine the right of working people to unionize. Using the obscene tactics he's learned for his pals at Fox, Davis oozed with dishonesty as he claimed “We believe our role is trigger the conversation between business and labor, to end this polarization and level the playing field;" kind of like Bush's definition of bipartisanship.

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At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to play Devil's Advocate for a bit, I want to point out a couple things.

First, Costco, Starbucks, and Whole Foods might be anti-union (and no surprise - what business wants to deal with that extra hassle and expense?), but they do treat their employees much better than most other companies do. Unionization is likely to lower them to the same level as their competitors in that regard. Homogenization across all competitors, with a corresponding decrease in service as a result. Yuck.

Second, I was a member of an AFL-CIO union. It did help; I was considerably better off because of it. But do not make the mistake of lionizing unions. I saw from the inside that they can be corrupt as hell. Union bosses are a no better class of people than corporate or political bosses. Worse in some ways, because they can be almost impossible to dislodge.

In general, I'm in favor of unions. They can really help to level the playing field between workers and management. But do not think that they are altruistic organizations, and DON'T give them too much power, or the entire country will come to regret it.

At 10:25 PM, Blogger dave™© said...

Just to play Devil's Advocate...

I didn't know "Devil's Advocate" meant "shameless anti-union shill".

The things you learn on the intertubes!

At 7:38 PM, Anonymous Marty Barron, proud officer of the American Postal Workers Union said...

Although I do not tend to agree that "Devil's Advocate" is nothing more than a corporate shill, he/she/it does appear to be 1) misinformed about unions; and 2) a person who has suffered employment in a bargaining unit that had a corrupt [actual or just perceptual] union organization.

It happens. That is not an expression of apology, or rationalization! It is inexcusable. It is also, though, correctable.

A union... well... I guess to preface this comment, I must review the definition. The word "Union" has a plethora of meanings. lists 14 different distinct categories of meaning. Two that resonate for the purpose of this reply are 1) an organization of workers; and 2) the process or result of merging or integration of disjoined, severed, or fractured elements, as the healing of a wound or broken bone, the growing together of the parts in a plant graft, the fusion of pieces in a welding process, or the like.

A UNION is a group of workers UNITING to face the boss as ONE - a UNIFIED voice. "Devil's Advocate" expresses him/her/it self as someone who at a past point in time was a member of a union - literally, one who pays money to a separate thing called a union and in exchange gets a modicum of benefits and maybe a few more pennies per work hour.

What Devil's Advocate is [or, WAS] NOT, though, is a "union member." A union exists to propel the component members of it to an ascending quality of life. In order to meet that goal, members must certainly pay dues; money is the currently recognized form of energy to make things happen in this country, after all! One other key item is desperately needed, and that is PARTICIPATION.

A person who pays their dues and does nothing more is, frankly, doing the absolute minimum possible. I honor that willingness, because at least that does allow the union organization to carry on. But, a union member who participates, well, that is the very thing that marks a union as being truly effective and that truly propels the union - the entire group of people in the bargaining unit - to a greater lot in life.

I acknowledge that DA had an adverse experience. Hell, my first experience with unions was less than stellar! A whole lot of dues being taken out of a pretty measley paycheck and the perception that it would have just as well have been better spent by setting it on fire is what I got from my initial experience.

But I got over it...

The corrupt organization that more resembles a mafia family is the exception, not the rule. It's that exception that big corporations want you to think about when you hear the word "union" or the other socialist/commie word "organize." They want you to promptly respond, in Pavlovian style, by dredging up that bitter taste in your mouth, like acid reflux. If your reaction to the WORDS is to feel nauseated, the less likely it is that you will be one of the folks that sign those little cards agreeing that you want to be a member of a union, and that you want a better life.

"What could be more commie or socialist than that?! We want a better life? O-MY-GAWD! We can't want THAT!"

So, if your experience is that of believing you are a member of a corrupt, or just stagnating, union, rather than just grumbling about how awful that entity called the union is [the one I pay dues to but that's about it], GET INVOLVED! When you get involved, you remember you also have a voice!

We, each and every one of us, have the ability to make great things happen, just by participating in the parts of life that we find ourselves in. Perhaps you should consider making better your work experience, too?


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