The Supreme Court has agreed to review a Seventh Circuit decision upholding Indiana's voter ID law. In a piece published yesterday, Adam Liptak questioned whether Judge Posner's opinion for the Seventh Circuit represented a privileged view that is out of touch with the reality of low income life:
“It is exceedingly difficult to maneuver in today’s America without a photo ID,” Judge Posner wrote for a divided panel of the federal appeals court in Chicago in January, upholding an Indiana voter identification law enacted in 2005. “Try flying, or even entering a tall building such as the courthouse in which we sit.”
But somewhere between 13 million and 22 million Americans of voting age, most of them poor, get by without driver’s licenses, passports and other kinds of government documents bearing their pictures, perhaps because they do not have the money to drive, much less to fly.
Liptak also exposed the latest justification for passing laws that burden the right to vote in the name of preventing the virtually nonexistent problem of fraudulent voting. more ...
“Voters who fear their legitimate votes will be outweighed by fraudulent ones will feel disenfranchised,” the decision said.
Did you catch that? The reason to risk actual disenfranchisement is to combat the possibility that some voters may “feel” disenfranchised because they think their votes may count less thanks to unproven fraud. The recent Georgia decision cited that bit of legal logic.
Judge Evans, in his dissent, said it might be nice to have some facts before putting the right to vote at risk.
“Is it wise,” Judge Evans asked, “to use a sledgehammer to hit either a real or imaginary fly on a glass coffee table?”
United Autoworkers Pickets in Flint, Michigan
Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose,
Nothing don't mean nothing honey if it ain't free, now now.
And feeling good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues,
You know feeling good was good enough for me,
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.
Strike. It is a word that has almost become extinct in the American vocabulary. During the years of the Republican Counterrevolution, strikes have become only the last desperate actions of those who feel they have nothing else to lose. On Monday, September 24 the United Auto Workers sent the following message:
Unless UAW members hear otherwise between now and the deadline, we will be on a national strike against GM at 11 a.m. EDT on Monday, Sept. 24th.
Commenting on the walkout, UAW Vice President Cal Rapson, director of the union's GM Department said:
This is our reward: a complete failure by GM to address the reasonable needs and concerns of our members. Instead, in 2007 company executives continued to award themselves bonuses while demanding that our members accept a reduced standard of living.
The last time the UAW walked was in 1998 in Flint, Michigan, the hometown of Michael Moore, who first entered the national consciousness with his mocumentary Roger and Me, a 1989 indictment of GM.
Almost two decades later, union workers carrying picket signs are marching in thirty states. At stake is nothing less than the future of organized labor and with it the shape of American democracy, for make no mistake about it, the UAW strike represents one of those critical historical turning points, the outcome of which will reverberate for years to come.
It has not been that long since employers relied on hired guns to break up strikes, hired guns that were not bashful about pulling the trigger whenever they felt like it. The names of the most notorious of these struggles resound through American history like a roll call of great battles, the Iwos and Guadalcanals of organized labor: Homestead, Latimer, Ludlow and Matewan.
A stark chart kept by the Bureau of Labor Statistics records the number of "work stoppages" involving a thousand workers or more between 1947 and the present. Since George W. Bush became president the number has declined from 39 in the year 2000 to 20 in 2006.
But what really broke the back of using strikes as a tactic was Ronald Reagan's handling of the air traffic controllers' strike of 1981. In the process of breaking the Professional Air traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) Reagan fired over 11,000 workers, many of whom were never rehired after Reagan also moved to decertify the union. Where once corporate bosses enforced their will at the point of a gun with hired thugs posing as "detectives" and "security guards," the current method is to enforce their will with the point of a pen, using hired men in Italian suits carrying briefcases.
In yet another graph that shows the impact of Ronald Reagan and the Counterrevolution, we see how with the ascendancy of Reagan the use of the strike as a tactic essentially disappeared. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 1947-1980, the number of labor stoppages was always over 200 per year. Since the early 1980s it has been below 50.
The precipitous decline in the use of strikes as a labor tactic has also been aided by the Supreme Court. In a fascinating paper, "How American Workers Lost the Right to Strike, and Other Tales," Rutgers University professor James Gray Pope details how through a series of decisions, the Court essentially curtailed American workers' right to strike. Pope points out that one impact of these rulings is:
Employers fire or otherwise retaliate against 1 out of every 18 private-sector workers who support a union organizing campaign.
Pope argues that five critical Supreme Court cases:
Taken together... may account for a substantial proportion of the decline in the American labor movement. As in the pre-New Deal period...judges have deprived workers of the rights to organize and strike based on constitutional concerns.
Through misdirection, the Court has pulled off the perfect crime.
Essentially Pope argues that the UAW enters into this strike with its hands tied behind its back. Among the most important changes changes that Pope documents is the ability of employers to hire replacement workers. Pope notes:
The permanent replacement rule of Mackay, ignored at the time and rarely utilized until the 1980s [note date], now operates to prevent workers from exercising their right to strike for better conditions.
Ronald Reagan made this tactic the centerpiece of the PATCO strike, marking the first time in American history that a sitting president had hired scabs. Ever since, the threat of not merely facing the economic hardships that a strike entails, but the very real possibility of losing their jobs has served as a major deterrent to workers using strikes as a bargaining tactic. Northwest Airlines, for example, used replacement workers in a 2005 mechanics' strike. A CNN story noted:
The nation's No. 4 airline has used a combination of about 1,200 replacement workers, as well as 300 members of management and a number of outside contractors, to keep flying close to its normal schedule.
In the end the mechanics not only ended the strike, but faced the prospect of trying to get their old jobs back. The Northwest strike dealt yet another major blow to the American labor movement. University of Minnesota professor John Budd tallied up the results:
Northwest was able to fly through the strike with very little disruption and was able to achieve everything it was looking for. Probably more easily than it thought it would be able to. It's pretty clear the airline won and the union lost.
For those keeping score about the execrable presidency of George W. Bush, add to his already miserable list of actions the fact that he banned Northwest's mechanics from walking off the job. His precedent was not only Ronald Reagan's action against PATCO but one William Jefferson Clinton's action in the 1997 American Airlines pilots' strike where he issued an executive order demanding they return to work.
Since 1980 four American presidents have directly intervened in a labor dispute, essentially putting their thumbs on the scale of justice so that it tilted toward management and away from labor. All four have denied workers the one tool they have to compel employers to negotiate--the right to walk off the job. So not only has the judicial branch of government curtailed the right to strike, but so has the executive branch.
In this environment where organized labor has had to play against a stacked deck, it is not surprising that employers have pressed their advantage causing the number of unfair labor practice charges to grow alarmingly. In his 2005 book If the Workers Took a Notion: The Right to Strike and American Political Development Josiah Lambert includes a chart documenting this growth:
The parallel between this chart and the one above it is too striking to ignore: as the right to strike has been emasculated and as the Counterrevolution gathered steam, employers have unleashed a flurry of attacks on organized labor.
In a speech last year at Harvard University AFL-CIO Organizing Director Stewart Acuff outlined the consequences of this assault on organized labor:
There is a direct correlation between 25 years of stagnant, flat-lined wages and the assault on unions.
46 million of us are without health care and 40 million with inadequate health care, [and] 20 percent more of us (live) in poverty now than when this decade started.
The impact of Acuff's statistics is that the ability of workers to hold out in a protracted strike coupled with the prospect of replacement workers places a heavy strain on even the most committed union member. A University of Minnesota strike that ended last week with workers settling for the very contract they rejected illustrates this new reality. As many as two-thirds of union workers crossed the picket lines out of necessity, a necessity driven by the need to pay mortgages, loans and bills.
An AFSCME press release announcing the end of the strike stated:
We are forced back to work because we can no longer sustain the loss of salary and a looming end to our health care coverage. A typical striker earns $34,000 a year and qualifies for food stamps if supporting a family of four.
Barb Bezat, President of the Technical Local 3937 said:
The University should be ashamed that its workers can't afford to attend or send their kids to the University.
The UAW workers will face the same obstacles as their strike begins with questions whose answers will determine what kind of country America will be in this next millennium. The first question is how long can the workers hold out? According to the New York Times:
The union, which pays workers $200 a week in strike pay if they take shifts on the picket line, has nearly $900 million in its strike fund, enough to cover a two-month walkout.
Morgan Stanley analyst Jonathan Steinmetz told the Times he believed General Motors could endure a strike lasting several weeks, but not more.
The other question the media has shied away from is whether GM will hire scabs to replace the striking workers. Many GM workers are highly-skilled and specialized, but then so were Northwest Airline's mechanics. In this economy, it would not be hard to find people willing to cross the picket line.
The willingness to cross a picket line is aided by the fact that a generation of Americans has now come of age without really understanding the right to strike or the sacredness of a picket line. Given the BLS statistics, few Americans have seen a picket line, fewer have faced the decision of whether to cross one and fewer still have actually walked one.
Yet without the right to strike ALL Americans would be leading different lives today. Shortly before the UAW walkout, the union issued a one page fact sheet that dramatized what unions mean to American workers. The wages and fringe benefits of union workers averaged $35.69 while nonunion workers made only $24.79. It also noted:
The differences in insurance and retirement are especially striking: union members in the private sector get 2.4 times as much in employer-provided health insurance, and 3.3 times as much in retirement and savings plans, as the average nonunion worker.
These differences can be directly linked to the right to strike. But the right to strike has brought not merely economic benefits but changes in workplace safety, greater worker input in management decisions, improvements in job training and education, and, yes, improvement in the products that contain the label Made in America.
In 1969 no less than the National Council of Churches wrote:
The right to strike is ethically defensible as long as it is essential to the achievement of justice and freedom for workers...The only ethical way to eliminate strikes is to develop alternative strategies for the protection of economic freedom and justice which render strikes unnecessary. [Lambert, p. 6]
With the future of American labor literally on the line with the UAW strike the big question is: will the American people--and particularly those in the Democratic Party and on the left--come to the aid of American workers as forcefully as they have opposed the Iraq War? Will MoveOn and similar groups donate dollars and media time to the cause? Will big time liberal contributors like Hollywood celebrities and George Soros contribute to this cause? Will the blogs give this issue as much coverage as they devote to Iraq or will they be embarrassed by a replay of the Jena 6 case? Is the American left now controlled by "limousine liberals" who have lost touch with the average American and people of color?
The election of 2008 hangs in the balance. If the various liberal organizations desert labor in what is shaping up as its penultimate battle, it is safe to assume labor will desert them. For the candidates this may well be THE litmus test that determines who should be president.
Why? Because for most of the last century organized labor supplied the brakes the kept corporate excess in check. If the UAW loses this strike America will no longer be America any more.
Once Senator Pete Domenici got implicated in the prosecutor purge scandal at the beginning of the year, the New Mexico Republican saw his approval rating fall quite precipitously quite quickly, moving from 64 percent to 52 percent from February to May.[...]
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Most of the recent national polls have shown widespread discontent with politicians in Washington. Both the White House and Congress are wildly unpopular, leading a lot of conservatives to boast that the new Democratic congressional majority has already lost the electorate. After all, if Americans liked what they saw from the new Democratic Congress, the [...]
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An overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House voted 265-159 tonight to pass the popular and successful Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act. The support fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed to override Bush’s expected veto of the bill. Speaker Pelosi called on Bush to “dig deeply into his heart” before depriving millions of children of health insurance:
I’m reminded of the Bible tonight, and I speak with all of the sincerity and all of the hope to President Bush in the hope that he will change his mind. To dig deeply into his heart and think about the children in America who don’t have healthcare. Because if not, I think that the President is giving new meaning to the words, ’suffer, little children.’ Suffer, little children, if your parents can’t afford health insurance.
I am up way too late. Leaving for an MTV/MySpace presidential thing tomorrow in NH (the actual event is Thursday). Then heading to NYC for the weekend - no plans friday day if anyone wants to do the AMERICAblog coffee thing, though I suspect people have real jobs... Anyway, more on the presidential trip when the sun rises.
McClatchy takes a look at the freedom agenda.
Matt Zeitlin makes a good point:Atwater?s strategy can?t explain how Nixon won every state except[...]
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What's going on tonight?Tags: open thread (all tags) [...]
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Our next candidate on the Blue Majority page is someone many of you will recognize from last cycle, one of our near-misses who are back to close the deal this cycle. Bowers gives us the scoop:
Eric is a true netroots favorite, evidenced by the tags NY-29 and Eric Massa being the most common tags for a congressional race and congressional candidate respectively, on MyDD. Eric is extremely energetic and hard working, as I have seen upclose in my visits to the district on several occasions. His energy rubs off on his grassroots supporters, who were able to close off a corporate Democratic primary challenger this past summer through relentless blog pressure, securing the support of virtually every local precinct captain in the district (including two family members of mine who joined the silent revolution in Update New York), and lots of small-donor, in-district fundraising. Now, he is set to take on Randy Kuhl who, separate occasions, has threatened both his ex-wife and his constituents with firearms, even though he claims he was just joking about the later. But he seriously doesn't like his constituents:
That is, he doesn't like his constituents unless they are Republican donors trying to build new bowling alleys in the district.
This is the "reddest" district in New York, which Bush won with about 56% of the vote in 2004. However, is it turning blue, like the rest of New York state. But Eric Massa is not your typical red-district Democrat who will let you down. As a progressive, he will fight for you, pledging to oppose FISA and watered-down withdrawal from Iraq, something few Democrats from a district this "red" have done. After losing by only 4% in 2006 despite no help from national committees, Massa is well poised to take the seat in 2008.
Support Eric Massa for Congress on Blue Majority. He is another example of more and better Democrats.
One thing I'd like to note, since I keep forgetting to do it, this cycle, we actually have a litmus test to be on this list beyond "are you a Democrat?" We ask all potential candidates two questions: 1) Would you have voted for the spring Iraq supplemental bill? and 2) Would you have voted for the FISA bill.
We want more Democrats, absolutely. But we also want "better Democrats" as well, and these questions will hopefully weed out anyone who isn't committed to getting our troops out of Iraq and defending our Constitution.
So let's help make it happen.