Unbelievable: Right-to-Work in Michigan

New Orleans   Virtually in the blink of an eye, despite huge divisions on the street and throughout the state, somehow, unbelievably, Michigan is now, like the solid south and some of the West, the 24th state with a so-called “right-to-work” law.  The law, signed yesterday, takes effect in the spring of 2013.

In fact for many workers under collective bargaining contracts I suspect, without knowing for certain, that the full impact will not take hold until existing agreements expire and new contracts bar inclusion in the language.  In Louisiana despite passage of the law in 1976 some contracts allowed union-shop provisions into 1978 and 1979, until renegotiated.  In Michigan with some long term contracts in auto and heavy industry for up to 5 years, the full impact of this devastating political attack on labor may not be realized for several years.

I could also be wrong since I haven’t seen any discussion of how the new legislation affects existing collective bargaining agreements.  I also may have been wrong in applauding labor’s efforts to push back at the Wisconsin-style efforts in that state and by their governor during the last election.   I had argued early this fall that this was a good strategy for labor under fierce attack to establish that it still had majority support.  Unfortunately in big fights where the fruits of victory may be larger, so also are the risks of defeat.  Many now believe that labor overreached in trying to establish some additional protections in the Michigan constitution for collective bargaining, and labor was defeated soundly.  I had dismissed this as the difficulty of winning constitutional changes as opposed to standard electoral initiatives.  Unfortunately the loss at the ballot box on restoring bargaining rights for low wage home health care workers was also emphatic.  The old advice that when you “slap the bear,” you better bring the bear down seems to prevail here.  The business and right elite within the significant Republican base in Michigan saw this as weakness and made the political decision to call in their chits and deliver a blow to the longstanding political clout of labor by ripping the wallet right out of our workpants and making dues collection infinitely harder.

Unfortunately too many people without union experience don’t get our case.  The right’s argument that letting membership dues be an individual decision seems reasonable to too many of the public and even some number of workers who are more ambivalent in understanding the push-and-shove of collective bargaining between unions and management.  This is the same problem faced by our support of card check recognition systems as opposed to union elections.  Despite the fact that unions are philosophically committed and legally tied to internal democracy, the seemingly undemocratic procedures around our positions about dues and elections are confusing.

Craig Becker, now the AFL-CIO’s general counsel, is right in the Times:

“We’re going to have to do a better job in Michigan and other states where ‘right to work’ is being discussed — that you can’t be in favor of collective bargaining and what collective bargaining represents for ordinary people in terms of some counterweight to growing income inequality and still support right-to-work legislation.”

Many are swearing that the elections in Michigan in 2014 will overturn this.  Having watched and listened to the late Victor Bussie, longtime president of the Louisiana AFL-CIO commit many times during his career after 1976 that he would not retire and not rest until right-to-work was repealed in Louisiana, I can tell you it is best not to wait, but to go to work immediately.  The longer r-t-w, the harder it is to get rid to the damned thing.  A generation of workers in Louisiana has now lived under right-to-work and no one sees a different future now.

Michigan has proven that this can happen anywhere now in these polarized times of political class war.  No one is safe.  Everyone had best be ready.  This seems a fight to the death for traditional worker organizations.

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Middle Class, Walmart Lies, Too Big to Indict or Fail, Altruism, and Stress

unions rally in Michigan

New Orleans    You wouldn’t believe it, if it weren’t true!

Second Walmart Supplier Found in Bangladesh Fire Tragedy:  Steven Greenhouse, NYT

Scott Nova, executive director, of the Worker Rights Consortium, said the new documents raised additional questions about Walmart’s role at the factor.  ‘If Walmart’s claim that they were the victim of one rouge supplier had any shred of credibility, it’s gone now.  Walmart is limited to one of two options – to say, yes, we know these suppliers were using the factory or, two, we have no control over the supply chain that we’ve been building in Bangladesh for more than 20 years.”

Attack on Union Security in Michigan, Home of UAW and Middle Class:  Monic Davey, NYT

“We’re hearing from people around the country asking what in the world is happening in Michigan,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat.  “The governor had said he didn’t want to become Wisconsin.  Well, this is Wisconsin – and worse, because we’re the place, frankly, where the middle class began.”

HSBC Agrees to Pay Almost $2 Billion for Money Laundering, But…

HSBC announced on Tuesday that it had agreed to a record $1.92 billion settlement with authorities. The bank, which is based in Britain, faces accusations that it transferred billions of dollars for nations like Iran and enabled Mexican drug cartels to move money illegally through its American subsidiaries.While the settlement with HSBC is a major victory for the government, the case raises questions about whether certain financial institutions, having grown so large and interconnected, are too big to indict.   (Ben Protess & Jessica Silver-Greenberg, NYT)

But, None of them Know What to Do With “Banks Too Big To Fail” Still!

The paper from the Bank of England and the F.D.I.C. focused on one way to accomplish this. The relevant regulator would take control of the bank’s parent company, then embark on a restructuring. By saying they are focusing on the parent company, regulators hope to shape expectations in the market and minimize destabilizing uncertainty when a bank implodes. This approach, “will give greater predictability for market participants about how resolution authorities may approach a resolution,” the regulators wrote.  The strategy then aims to put a seized bank back on its feet. In most cases, the bank would be insolvent, meaning that losses had eaten all its equity. To right the bank, the regulator would take the parent company’s debt and turn it into enough equity to support the bank’s operations in the future.   But questions surround the strategy. The paper is little more than a commitment to cooperate. In other words, it does not give either regulator the power to reach into a foreign jurisdiction to restructure a bank.   [Peter Eaves NYT]

Can’t Inhert Altruism, but at Least it Feels Good to Give:  Perri Klass, NYT

“There is some degree of heritability,” said Carolyn Zahn-Waxler, a senior research scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has done some of these twin studies. But she notes that the effect is small: “There is no gene for empathy, there is no gene for altruism. What’s heritable may be some personality characteristics.”   Scott Huettel, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke, described two broad theories to explain prosocial behavior. One, he said, was essentially motivational: It feels good to help other people. Economists have also looked at the question of altruism, and have hypothesized about a “warm glow effect” to account for charitable giving.

Don’t Worry about All of This Though, Chill Out! – Jane Brody, NYT, Personal Health Column

In an interview, Dr. Chansky said that when real calamities occur, “you will be in much better shape to cope with them if you don’t entertain extraneous catastrophes.”  By “extraneous,” she means the many stresses that pile up in the course of daily living that don’t really deserve so much of our emotional capital — the worrying and fretting we spend on things that won’t change or simply don’t matter much.  “If you worry about everything, it will get in the way of what you really need to address,” she explained. “The best decisions are not made when your mind is spinning out of control, racing ahead with predictions about how things are never going to get any better. Precious energy is wasted when you’re always thinking about the worst-case scenarios.”  When faced with serious challenges, it helps to narrow them down to specific things you can do now. To my mind, Dr. Chansky’s most valuable suggestion for emerging from paralyzing anxiety when faced with a monumental task is to “stay in the present — it doesn’t help to be in the future.  “Take some small step today, and value each step you take. You never know which step will make a difference. This is much better than not trying to do anything.” Dr. Chansky told me, “If you’re worrying about your work all the time, you won’t get your work done.” She suggested instead that people “compartmentalize.”

There you are, ready for another day!

 

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