Just How Much Do Republicans Hate Unions?

Just How Much Do Republicans Hate Unions?


If you ask Republicans about their antipathy toward unions, they’ll say that letting workers bargain collectively reduces a company’s ability to act efficiently in the marketplace. If you knew anything about business, the market advocates will patiently explain, you’d understand that unions, with all their rules and conditions and strike threats, only make it harder for the company to make its products. Let management make decisions about things like wages and working conditions, and the result will be higher profits and more jobs, which will benefit everyone. In almost all cases, the corporation agrees; after all, union workers always earn better wages than their non-union counterparts, and they give power to the employees, which no CEO wants.

What most people probably don’t realize is that this inherently hostile relationship between management and unions isn’t something that’s inherent in capitalism. In fact, in many places where there are capitalists making lots of money, corporations work—now hold on here while I blow your mind—cooperatively with unions. One of those places is Germany, and one of the biggest German companies, Volkswagen, is right now embroiled in a union election in Tennessee that has turned into a bizarre spectacle that is showing the true colors of American conservatism. If you thought conservative were just laissez faire capitalists, seeking freedom for businesses to create prosperity, you’re dead wrong. What they actually want is something much uglier.

On Monday, our own Harold Meyerson explained the context and history driving this election, but the short version is that in its Chattanooga plant, Volkswagen wants to create a “works council” of the kind that companies in Germany use, which is a system where management and workers come together to set policies, plan strategy, and solve problems. The details of U.S. labor law require a union if such a council is going to be created, which is one reason VW has seemed supportive of the United Auto Workers organizing the plant. Although VW hasn’t come out and said they support the union, the signals they’ve sent strongly suggest that they do. “Our works councils are key to our success and productivity,” said the VW executive who runs the Chattanooga plant.

So faced with a union-friendly corporation, what have Republicans in the state done? One might expect them to say, “Every company should have the freedom to decide how to deal with its own workers; we may not be big fans of unions, but that freedom is what capitalism is all about,” or something like that. But no. The Republican governor and state legislators have begun issuing threats that there won’t be any future tax incentives for the company if the union wins the election. In other words, tax incentives are vital to bring jobs to the state—but if they’re union jobs, we don’t want them. We’d rather see our constituents unemployed than see them get jobs with union representation. So what you now have is Republicans fighting against a corporation to try to impose their vision of management-labor relations, one the corporation doesn’t want.

Then yesterday, Republican Sen. Bob Corker claimed, “I’ve had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga.” There are two things to understand about Corker’s statement. First, it doesn’t pass the smell test: the Chattanooga plant is the only Volkswagen factory in the world that doesn’t have a union, and the company has already made its good relationship with unions in general, and its desire for a works council there in particular, quite clear. And second, that kind of blatant attempt to intimidate workers into voting against the union when the election is going on is probably illegal, and could result in the election being halted and rescheduled.

What this issue has revealed is that while one might have thought that as far as conservatives are concerned, the creation of workplaces in which employees are given low wages and few benefits, and generally treated like crap, was merely a means to an end, the end being corporate profits and maximum freedom for business owners. But what we’re now seeing is that a powerless and beaten-down workforce isn’t a means to a larger end, and it isn’t a byproduct. It is the end in itself. It’s the goal. Here you have a highly profitable company that wants to have a more cooperative relationship with its workers, and obviously sees a union as a path to that relationship, because they know that they can work that way with unions, since they do it already all over the world. But the Republican politicians don’t care about what the corporation wants. They are so venomously opposed to collective bargaining that they’ll toss aside all their supposed ideals about economic liberty in a heartbeat.

One of the absurd arguments they’ve made is that other companies, like suppliers, won’t want to come to Tennessee if there’s a unionized auto plant there, as though it were some kind of infection others would fear they might catch. That’s ridiculous, of course—if you have a company that makes car parts, and VW wants to buy thousands and thousands of your parts, you’re damn sure going to set up shop next to their factory if that’s the best way to make money. What Republicans are really afraid of is that the union will come in to the Chattanooga plant and things will work well. If that happened, the rationale for the race to the bottom would be severely undermined. And the idea that corporations can do well by treating their employees like partners and not like enemies might indeed spread.

Unemployment reality

Silent misery: Actual US unemployment 37.2%, record number of households on food stamps in 2013

Published time: January 22, 2014 12:04
Edited time: January 24, 2014 19:49

A girl pays for her mother's groceries using Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) tokens, more commonly known as Food Stamps, at the GrowNYC Greenmarket in Union Square on September 18, 2013 in New York City. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images/AFP)A girl pays for her mother’s groceries using Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) tokens, more commonly known as Food Stamps, at the GrowNYC Greenmarket in Union Square on September 18, 2013 in New York City. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images/AFP)

As the White House proclaims a recovery is occurring, and the stock market has a head of steam, millions of Americans and their dependents are being left out of the recovery, according to a set of economic indicators.

Perhaps the most worrying yet least reported aspect of the so-called US recovery involves the national labor picture. Although the official US unemployment rate is 6.7 percent, this figure obscures the reality, according to an influential Wall Street adviser.

In a leaked memo to clients, David John Marotta calculates the actual unemployment rate of Americans out of work at an astronomic 37.2 percent, as opposed to the 6.7 percent claimed by the Federal Reserve.

“The unemployment rate only describes people who are currently working or looking for work,” he said.

“Unemployment in its truest definition, meaning the portion of people who do not have any job, is 37.2 percent. This number obviously includes some people who are not or never plan to seek employment. But it does describe how many people are not able to, do not want to or cannot find a way to work,” he and colleague Megan Russell reveal in their client report, which was leaked to the Washington Examiner.

Contrary to expectations, a drop in the unemployment rate, Marotta argues, is presently a sign that the unemployed are simply dropping out of the job market.

The “officially-reported unemployment numbers decrease when enough time passes to discourage the unemployed from looking for work,” said Marotta andRussel. “A decrease is not necessarily beneficial; an increase is clearly detrimental.”

The authors then take aim at the so-called Misery Index, which provides something of a pulse rate of American prosperity, based on unemployment and inflation. The Wall Street adviser said the Index, which he maintains is actually over 14, as opposed to the 8 advertised by Washington, fails to address how the US economy is being hugely subsidized by various schemes, including monthly bond purchases by the Federal Reserve.

“Today, the Misery Index would be 7.54 using official numbers,” the two analysts wrote. However, taking into consideration the full unemployment picture, including workers who have given up the job search, which is 10.2 percent, together with the historical method of calculating inflation, which is now 4.5 percent, ‘the current misery index is closer to 14.7.”



Protesters hold replicas of food stamps during a rally in support of higher pay for low-wage earners outside the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, December 5, 2013. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)Protesters hold replicas of food stamps during a rally in support of higher pay for low-wage earners outside the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, December 5, 2013. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)


In food stamps we trust

Marotta’s findings, which put the actual US unemployment rate at over 37 percent, seem more credible when viewed alongside other indicators, including the number of Americans who now rely on government assistance to make ends meet.

It has just been reported that a record 20 percent of American households were receiving food stamps in 2013, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA data shows there were 23,052,388 households on food stamps in an average month of fiscal 2013, a jump of 722,675 from fiscal year 2012, when there were 22,329,713 households on food stamps per month on average.

Last year, according to data from the Census Bureau, there were 115,013,000 households. With 23,052,388 households – or 20 percent of the total number of households –now dependent on food stamps.

In just half a decade, the number of American households on food stamps has significantly increased. In fiscal year 2009, for example, the number of households receiving the government assistance program was 15,232,115. Five years later, in 2013, that number had surged by 51.3 percent to hit 23,052,388 households.

Meanwhile, the monthly average for individuals on food stamps hit an all-time-high of 47,636,084, according to the USDA. This is an increase of 1,027,012 over the 46,609,072 people who were getting food stamps in 2012.

In 2009, the number of individuals relying on the government program stood at 33,489,975. In 2013, the number was 47,636,084, an increase of 42.2 percent.

It should come as no surprise that spending on the US government’s food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has reached an all-time high.

Last year, SNAP cost $79,641,880,000 – a 164 percent increase over the past decade.

During the last five years, the SNAP program exploded by 36.8 percent, from $58,223,790,000 in 2009 to $79,641,880,000 in 2013.

Ex- Gov of VA facing corruption charges

Sympathy for Robert McDonnell not showing up in former Va. governor’s defense fund


RICHMOND — Former governor Robert F. McDonnell has the moral support of many Republicans and Democrats in the aftermath of his indictment. Their financial support is less certain.

One day after federal prosecutors charged the Republican and his wife, Maureen, in connection with more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman, some leading legislators stepped forward Wednesday to say that they think he did not break the law.

A simple allegation from a Virginia chef catalyzed a criminal investigation about former Gov. Robert McDonnell.

Charges cast a pall over Richmond

Charges cast a pall over Richmond


In a state that prides itself on clean government, the list of alleged felonies was hard to absorb.

The McDonnell indictment

The McDonnell indictment


The indictment charging the McDonnells with illegally accepting gifts.

34 things the feds could seize

34 things the feds could seize


From shoes to golf shirts, these items are subject to forfeiture in the McDonnell case.

Transcript: McDonnell says ‘I did nothing illegal’

Transcript: McDonnell says ‘I did nothing illegal’


FULL TEXT | In a statement, McDonnell says the case rests on a “misguided legal theory.”


McDonnell’s involvement with Star Scientific

Past coverage of the Va. gifts scandal

Past coverage of the Va. gifts scandal


ARCHIVES | See previous Washington Post stories on the Va. governor and Star Scientific.

Photos: McDonnell’s term in office

Photos: McDonnell’s term in office


Images of former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s time in office in Richmond.

Click here to subscribe.
But at least publicly, that support has not translated into donations to his legal defense fund.

The Restoration Fund, established in July to bankroll the governor’s legal team, had less than $2,000 in contributions, according to its Web site. Although it’s unclear how comprehensive the list is, the amount shown is not enough to pay a high-dollar lawyer for even a day’s work.

McDonnell may not have the personal resources to pay for his defense. After three highly leveraged and ill-timed real estate investments, the couple was “broke,” as Maureen McDonnell put it in an e-mail cited in the indictment.

“When the facts come out, I think he will prevail,” said Sen. Jeffrey L. McWaters (R-Virginia Beach), a longtime friend of the former governor’s. “He is going to fight this vigorously. And I hope he has the resources to do that. It’s an expensive process.”

It was not clear whether the Web site was up-to-date, but it listed two donations — totaling $300 — made Wednesday. A spokesman for the fund did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Without specifically asking for contributions, the fund broadcast an e-mail to supporters Tuesday night that included McDonnell’s remarks to the news media asserting his innocence.

“Earlier this evening Governor Bob McDonnell held an open press event to provide his first public remarks regarding today’s wrongful federal indictment against a man who has served his nation and the Commonwealth with distinction for his entire adult life,” the e-mail says.

The state Capitol, where McDonnell is regarded as a highly effective governor, remained abuzz Wednesday about the indictment handed up the day before.

Sen. Charles J. Colgan Sr. (D-Prince William) recalled the hearty applause that legislators gave McDonnell during his State of the Commonwealth address just two weeks earlier. “I hope he will be found innocent,” he said.

Colgan said that he had not contributed to McDonnell’s legal defense fund but that he had been meaning to. “I was going to give him something,” he said.

Even some Democrats who have been highly critical of the McDonnells’ relationship with the wealthy executive expressed sympathy for the couple as they face federal prosecution.

“I’ve been on the other side of that,” said Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax), a defense lawyer, “and it’s not fun.”

Some supporters said privately that the indictment had shored up their belief that Maureen McDonnell was to blame for most of the trouble. The charging document portrays her as repeatedly soliciting gifts from Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. and complaining to others about the couple’s tight finances and her need for designer clothes for the inauguration, a family wedding and other events.

“I need to talk to you about Inaugural clothing budget,” Maureen McDonnell wrote in an e-mail to a top McDonnell staff member who had advised her not to accept an Oscar de la Renta dress from Williams. “I need answers and Bob is screaming about the thousands I’m charging up in credit card debt. We are broke, have an unconscionable amount in credit card debt already, and this Inaugural is killing us. I need answers and I need help, and I need to get this done.”

Though unflattering to the first lady, the e-mail gave some legislators insight into the couple’s financial distress as well as her temperament.

“How many other indictments have you read that could be quickly turned into a one-act play?” said a Capitol insider, who like many others spoke on the condition of anonymity in order not to offend the McDonnells.

At the same time, some of the nitty-gritty of the 14-count indictment made supporters queasy, including allegations that Robert McDonnell had misled a federal credit union on a loan application by failing to disclose $120,000 owed to Williams.

But publicly at least, McDonnell’s supporters stood by him and his assertion that he never provided any state favors in exchange for Williams’s largesse.

Prosecutors contend that Williams, who is cooperating with authorities, was avidly seeking the couple’s help promoting a nutritional supplement. They describe both McDonnells as arranging for meetings that gave Williams the opportunity to try to sell state officials on his product. But those officials rebuffed his sales pitch. Maureen McDonnell is accused of pressing for action on state grants that could have benefited the company but were never, in fact, awarded.

McDonnell has asserted that he never did anything for Star Scientific that he wouldn’t do for any Virginia-based enterprise.

“I think it’s a little bit of an overreach by the federal government,” Del. Terry G. Kilgore (R-Scott) said. Kilgore’s twin brother, former attorney general Jerry Kilgore, represents Williams.

“I don’t see the criminal act at this point,” House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said Wednesday in a brief news conference to discuss the indictment.

Howell remarked that it was up to a jury to decide the case, but he added: “I’ve seen lots of governors who’ve received lots of contributions from donors who agreed with their policies or whatever. But I haven’t seen where they’ve necessarily done anything criminal in exchange for that.”


Rachel Weiner contributed to this report

The Chris Christie saga continues

Reblogged from The Secular Jurist http://thesecularjurist.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/hoboken-n-j-mayor-claims-chris-christie-camp-held-sandy-money-hostage/

Two senior members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration warned that Hoboken, N.J., would be starved of Hurricane Sandy relief funds unless the mayor approved a redevelopment project favored by the governor, according to the city official and emails and personal notes she shared with msnbc.

In an exclusive interview Saturday with “Up, with Steve Kornacki,” Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said the warning came from Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie’s community affairs commissioner.

Zimmer, a Democrat who hasn’t approved the project favored by Christie, said she requested $127 million in hurricane relief for her city, but has so far received only $142,000 to defray the cost of a single back-up generator, plus an additional $200,000 in recovery grants.

Continue reading:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/18/22351582-hoboken-nj-mayor-claims-chris-christie-camp-held-sandy-money-hostage

Related story:  Chris Christie’s Office Goes Off On MSNBC: ‘A Partisan Network That Has Been Openly Hostile’

The Day That TV News Died, Chris Hedges

The Day That TV News Died

Posted on Mar 24, 2013
Phil Donahue was fired from MSNBC for espousing anti-war views before the start of the conflict in March 2003.

By Chris Hedges

I am not sure exactly when the death of television news took place. The descent was gradual—a slide into the tawdry, the trivial and the inane, into the charade on cable news channels such as Fox and MSNBC in which hosts hold up corporate political puppets to laud or ridicule, and treat celebrity foibles as legitimate news. But if I had to pick a date when commercial television decided amassing corporate money and providing entertainment were its central mission, when it consciously chose to become a carnival act, it would probably be Feb. 25, 2003, when MSNBC took Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq.

Donahue and Bill Moyers, the last honest men on national television, were the only two major TV news personalities who presented the viewpoints of those of us who challenged the rush to war in Iraq. General Electric and Microsoft—MSNBC’s founders and defense contractors that went on to make tremendous profits from the war—were not about to tolerate a dissenting voice. Donahue was fired, and at PBS Moyers was subjected to tremendous pressure. An internal MSNBC memo leaked to the press stated that Donahue was hurting the image of the network. He would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” the memo read. Donahue never returned to the airwaves.

The celebrity trolls who currently reign on commercial television, who bill themselves as liberal or conservative, read from the same corporate script. They spin the same court gossip. They ignore what the corporate state wants ignored. They champion what the corporate state wants championed. They do not challenge or acknowledge the structures of corporate power. Their role is to funnel viewer energy back into our dead political system—to make us believe that Democrats or Republicans are not corporate pawns. The cable shows, whose hyperbolic hosts work to make us afraid of self-identified liberals or self-identified conservatives, are part of a rigged political system, one in which it is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, General Electric or ExxonMobil. These corporations, in return for the fear-based propaganda, pay the lavish salaries of celebrity news people, usually in the millions of dollars. They make their shows profitable. And when there is war these news personalities assume their “patriotic” roles as cheerleaders, as Chris Matthews—who makes an estimated $5 million a year—did, along with the other MSNBC and Fox hosts.

It does not matter that these celebrities and their guests, usually retired generals or government officials, got the war terribly wrong. Just as it does not matter that Francis Fukuyama and Thomas Friedman were wrong on the wonders of unfettered corporate capitalism and globalization. What mattered then and what matters now is likability—known in television and advertising as the Q score—not honesty and truth. Television news celebrities are in the business of sales, not journalism. They peddle the ideology of the corporate state. And too many of us are buying.

The lie of omission is still a lie. It is what these news celebrities do not mention that exposes their complicity with corporate power. They do not speak about Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, a provision that allows the government to use the military to hold U.S. citizens and strip them of due process. They do not decry the trashing of our most basic civil liberties, allowing acts such as warrantless wiretapping and executive orders for the assassination of U.S. citizens. They do not devote significant time to climate scientists to explain the crisis that is enveloping our planet. They do not confront the reckless assault of the fossil fuel industry on the ecosystem. They very rarely produce long-form documentaries or news reports on our urban and rural poor, who have been rendered invisible, or on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or on corporate corruption on Wall Street. That is not why they are paid. They are paid to stymie meaningful debate. They are paid to discredit or ignore the nation’s most astute critics of corporatism, among them Cornel West, Medea Benjamin, Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky. They are paid to chatter mindlessly, hour after hour, filling our heads with the theater of the absurd. They play clips of their television rivals ridiculing them and ridicule their rivals in return. Television news looks as if it was lifted from Rudyard Kipling’s portrait of the Bandar-log monkeys in “The Jungle Book.” The Bandar-log, considered insane by the other animals in the jungle because of their complete self-absorption, lack of discipline and outsized vanity, chant in unison: “We are great. We are free. We are wonderful. We are the most wonderful people in all the jungle! We all say so, and so it must be true.”

When I reached him by phone recently in New York, Donahue said of the pressure the network put on him near the end, “It evolved into an absurdity.” He continued: “We were told we had to have two conservatives for every liberal on the show. I was considered a liberal. I could have Richard Perle on alone but not Dennis Kucinich. You felt the tremendous fear corporate media had for being on an unpopular side during the ramp-up for a war. And let’s not forget that General Electric’s biggest customer at the time was Donald Rumsfeld [then the secretary of defense]. Elite media features elite power. No other voices are heard.”

Donahue spent four years after leaving MSNBC making the movie documentary “Body of War” with fellow director/producer Ellen Spiro, about the paralyzed Iraq War veteran Tomas Young. The film, which Donahue funded himself, began when he accompanied Nader to visit Young in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

“Here is this kid lying there whacked on morphine,” Donahue said. “His mother, as we are standing by the bed looking down, explained his injuries. ‘He is a T-4. The bullet came through the collarbone and exited between the shoulder blades. He is paralyzed from the nipples down.’ He was emaciated. His cheekbones were sticking out. He was as white as the sheets he was lying on. He was 24 years old. … I thought, ‘People should see this. This is awful.’ ”

Donahue noted that only a very small percentage of Americans have a close relative who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan and an even smaller number make the personal sacrifice of a Tomas Young. “Nobody sees the pain,” he said. “The war is sanitized.”


“I said, ‘Tomas, I want to make a movie that shows the pain, I want to make a movie that shows up close what war really means, but I can’t do it without your permission,’ ” Donahue remembered. “Tomas said, ‘I do too.’ ”


But once again Donahue ran into the corporate monolith: Commercial distributors proved reluctant to pick up the film. Donahue was told that the film, although it had received great critical acclaim, was too depressing and not uplifting. Distributors asked him who would go to see a film about someone in a wheelchair. Donahue managed to get openings in Chicago, Seattle, Palm Springs, New York, Washington and Boston, but the runs were painfully brief.

“I didn’t have the money to run full-page ads,” he said. “Hollywood often spends more on promotion than it does on the movie. And so we died. What happens now is that peace groups are showing it. We opened the Veterans for Peace convention in Miami. Failure is not unfamiliar to me. And yet, I am stunned at how many Americans stand mute.”

To read Chris Hedges’ interview with Tomas Young, click here. To read Young’s letter to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, click here. To read Truthdig’s salute to Young as Truthdigger of the Week, click here.