Gone Fishing with Rod, Reel, and Books

Rock Creek   No newspapers, no cell service, no internet, no television, no plumbing, and only power from a car battery and some solar cells we brought along:  sweet!  Almost two days of chores, which we actually enjoyed, before we could wet a line.  Third cast, I caught a beautiful, good size brown trout.  Lucky days! Life is good!  Am I on vacation or what?

Reading has been interesting and besides catching up on sleep, boy we needed it, that’s what we’re doing.

Little Bets:  How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims was loaned to me on the West Coast recently by a friend.  It’s one of those kind of Malcolm Gladwell books that are so popular these days that draw large conclusions from small evidence.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t all that great either.  In terms of organizing, Sims borrowed a definition from psychologist Karl Weick to define “small wins,” which was interesting:  “…a concrete, complete implemented outcome of moderate importance.”  Another psychologist said these were “landmarks” indicating whether we are on the right direction or not.  Interesting.  Some right on points about the importance of “really listening,” which I wholeheartedly endorse.  A fascinating story about Procter & Gamble’s efforts to expand in lower income communities around the world was fascinating to me.  P&G hires ethnographers to “actually live with representative users” in a program they call “Living it.”  Along with senior managers they “spend time in low-income homes around the world to better understand what matters in their lives, including their desires, aspirations, and needs.”  Scary smart.  None of this was probably worth the $25.00 for the book, and if any of us have to read one more story about how they operate at Steve Jobs Nexus and animation outfit, we’ll all shoot ourselves, but not bad either for plane rides and the like.

One I’m really liking is a book by Keith Heyer Meldahl called, Hard Road West:  History and  Geology along the Gold Rush Trial.  I’m going to leave this one in the Silver Bullet on Rock Creek.  He weaves the rough road for the 49ers and farmers with the geology they are passing.  Having driven most of these trails on earlier trips West, it is riveting, and manages to make geology interesting.  Maybe not John McPhee interesting, but darned good!

The one that is closer to work, but very well written and actually a brilliant history that I’m enjoying is Victory:  The Triumphant Gay Revolution by Linda Hirshman.   Her understanding of social movements and how they develop is spot on, and the history and the players are not as well known to me, so she’s teaching me things that are critical.  Got a ways to go, but I’d recommend this history with four stars!

Plowed into two recent novels yesterday as well to good effect.  One is Richard Ford ‘s new work, Canada.  I like Richard for his work with ACORN in New Orleans after Katrina, and  a book called Canada  has to have value.  Couple that with the setting in Montana, and I was halfway through before I realized.   Finally I started True Believers: A Novel by Kurt Andersen.  The review had caught my eye as a different tale of the 60’s with reference points many of us who remember them would enjoy.  Add some politics to that, and who knows, it might be interesting.  I’m not hating it so far!

 


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Little Hope for New NLRB Rules, SEIU Convention, & Canadian Initiatives

New Orleans  It is time to examine the results of all of the sound and fury of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decisions that conservatives claimed would bring the end of world as they knew it.  The conclusion to date is that there is no change whatsoever!

Step back for a minute and remember that on the eve of Obama’s election many unions thought that changes in federal labor law were imminent.  Some pushed for this to be Job #1 for the new administration.  Obama, Biden, and others had committed to the passage of much needed amendments to the labor law.  Organizing unions like SEIU had task forces, staff assigned, and organizing plans developed.  Top staffers can remember the discussions with the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel finally signing off on the potential legislation.  Then there was the deluge with the 2010 midterm elections debacle and any remaining hope for legislative relief was long gone.

The strategy morphed into the distant second best of regulatory changes issued by the NLRB on rule making procedures.  The right demonized Craig Becker, a labor leaning board member with ties to SEIU and the AFL-CIO.  Out of these elephantine labors came two major initiatives the NLRB trumpeted.

The first, a much ballyhooed minor posting of workers’ rights that the NLRB had ordered to be posted on the bulletin boards of employers throughout the country has still not occurred and is lost in the courts.  The second, a much diluted but more rapid election schedule which largely benefited the more infrequently organized large bargaining units where hearing and unit appeals can postpone elections for years, is now also held up by court orders questioning the quorum and majority on the NLRB that made the final decisions.  Truthfully, business protests too much.  Neither of these changes were game changers, though they were nice enough and certainly better than nothing by many miles.

It is time for those of us in labor to come to some hard conclusions.  The rules are NOT likely to change.  The game has to change and by that I mean the fundamental labor organizing model, as I’ve argued frequently.

SEIU the premier organizing union of recent decades is now meeting in its quadrennial convention and for the first time in over 30 years they will be “celebrating” a declining membership.  This should never have happened!

Unions in Canada may be acting faster and smarter than their US counterparts and learning some lessons from the US experience that down south we are still trying to deny.  Interestingly in the merger discussions between the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers (CEP) which would create a Canadian super-union,  the key incentive for the merger seems to be a recognition that the organizing model has to change.

Millions of Canadian workers, like part-time workers and contract workers, have no effective possibility of forming a traditional union,” said CAW economist Jim Stanford. “These unorganized workers should not be cannon fodder for unethical employers. We can find other ways for them to use the power of numbers.

They are still a good distance from figuring it out, but at least they are singing the right tune, while I can hear a funeral dirge in the background in union halls throughout America.

SEIU rally in LA
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