Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama Closing Gitmo

This morning, new President Barack Obama called for a suspension of trials at Gitmo.

To be honest, I was a Michigan voter, I didn't get the chance to vote for Obama in the primaries. My vote went to Dodd. I worked for a labor union that endorsed Senator Clinton during the primaries, and, as part of my professional obligations, I worked in Indiana on her campaign. This is a wholly separate story, but rural Indiana was going for Hillary anyway.

But then I saw the Yes We Can video for the first time, and I understood the movement of the Obama Nation. I did not work on his campaign, except for occassionally helping my office put together a few yard signs, and post a few blogs and articles. I did not stomp for him, and I did not put my whole life aside for his campaign. I could have done more, and many have and will continue to argue that I should have.

My response has and will continue to be that I am a young, white liberal. I came to DC as an idealist. This was never my campaign. I cannot and will not claim it as my own. There are millions of people who worked harder, risked more and struggled longer than I can even know, who deserved to be out there at the inaugural speech, and at the inaugural balls. I was in DC, and I watched it on the Internet, drank a bottle of wine and jumped up with joy when he mentioned "non-believers" in his speech. And I was optimistic, too.

Cautiously optimistic, like so many have described themselves. Then, this morning, as I drank my coffee and checked my news alerts, I remembered Obama's pledge to close Gitmo. Here, now, a politician keeping his word. In an era of Blagojevich, Cheney, Rumsfield and our beloved finally ex-president George W. Bush, how refreshing to have someone keep a promise.

Congratulations to the Obama campaigners, stompers and movers, and congratulations to the new Obama administration. With so much work ahead, this is an encouraging first step.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Profanity & Child Prostitution in South Carolina

An amendment proposal, sponsored by Senator Robert Ford (D), was introduced to the South Carolina State Senate this week.

The amendment would ban oral and written profanity basically everywhere outside the home, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 or 5 years in jail, or both.

I could make some comment here about their legal system, and that if they really wanted to fill up some vacant cells, they should take out ads in a local apartment magazine, or

But I think my favorite part of this amendment is that it would be included in an already existing bill that outlaws the following:

1. disseminating or exhibiting to minors harmful material or performances
2. employing a person under the age of eighteen years to appear in a state of sexually explicit nudity in a public place
3. first degree sexual exploitation of a minor
4. second degree sexual exploitation of a minor
5. third degree sexual exploitation of a minor
6. promoting prostitution of a minor

No, really. Run a highly profitable and sleezy child prostitution ring? Just as bad as swearing in front of my 17 year old brother. Really.

Not to mention, profanity is not defined in the amendment, so the traditional 7 words would probably be included, but what about taking the Lord's Name in Vain? If my brother hears me yell "OH MY GOD" in a public place, will I go to jail? And holy sh** (sorry, Senator Ford), Jon Stewart would have to cancel his show there.

Oh, and by the way, Senator Ford has also written bills to get sex offenders on a global positioning satellite (a GPS, except for everything, and unhelpful in areas of construction) and to extend the smoking ban in South Carolina.

This amendment probably will not go through, but it is South Carolina. You never know.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My EFCA Opinion

There has been a lot of one-sided talk about EFCA. Maybe that's because my research is primarily on the very organizations that see it as a challenge or a threat.

On Friday, the American Meat Institute (AMI, and don't be fooled, they represent the companies, not the people who work on the floor) along with Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW, an anti-union organization) sent a letter to Congress urging them to stamp out the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). With selected soundbytes from Republicans (why are we trusting them, again?) it could almost, maybe, make sense. According to CEOs and rich old white men who live in DC, EFCA will most certainly:

*Allow unions to sweep in and organize whoever they please, with or without workers' consent.
*Greatly reduce productivity, profits, margins, etc.
*Undercut the incredibly friendly efforts to reform labor law.
*Bring world demise.

Let's discuss, keeping in mind a few things. One, I have been a union organizer and researcher, which makes me part of the frontline, which makes me emotionally attached to the people that this bill would benefit. Two, that I no longer work in the labor movement, and that there are plenty of things wrong with it, things that I could not personally overcome, but that regardless of my workplace experience, unions are still statistically and anecdotally better for the worker than standing alone and unprotected.

*Allow unions to sweep in and organize whoever they please, with or without workers' consent.*The wording of the first argument exemplifies all that is wrong with the perception of unions in this country. Unions don't sweep in. Workers express concern. Workers and union organizers work together so that workers organize. In fact, the job of the union organizer is to be a resource for workers to use, the liaison between the information and history of the organization and the poultry worker who can't keep up with the line.
Secondly, EFCA would allow less time between workers organizing and employers intimidating them to vote no on the union for which they already signed a card authorizing representation.

Make no mistake. THIS HAPPENS. Employers have one-on-ones with union-friendly employees, they have mandatory meetings about all of the terrible things about unions, and they use personal relationships to manipulate employees into voting no. One of the great things about EFCA, and one of the most important things, is that it greatly reduces the employers ability to harass, manipulate and fire its workers over the union.

*Greatly reduce productivity, profits, margins, etc. * Union shops are statistically more productive than non-union shops. As far as profits and margins, since when did the worker benefit from those? Not in my lifetime. Next time you feel like doing some economic research, compare a worker's salary with that of a CEO. Maybe if rich old white men didn't bail with those golden parachutes, there would be more money for, you know, workers to have health insurance.

*Undercut the incredibly friendly efforts to reform labor law.* Oh, give me a break. With perhaps the exception of home healthcare workers, who are independently contracted with state governments, I have never, ever seen a "friendly" interaction between employers and unions. You mean rich old white men (seeing a pattern yet?) are trying to make it so that their incredibly diverse, nonwealthy men and women workers can get a leg up and get fair treatment? No, I don't think so. (This whole blog is making me want to write a rant on the contradictions of being a Republican... like pro-business and anti-universal health care which would dramatically cut the cost of hiring full-time staff. Alas, another day.)

*Bring world demise.* Really? Because I was pretty sure that the food crisis (see Cargill, Monsanto, ADM on that one), the economic crisis (Lehman Brothers, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae), the political corruption (Blagojevich, Ted Stevens, even Sarah Palin can be counted here) and the world errupting into war zones (Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America) were all adding to the eventual irrevocable end. Right?

So my next question I pose to the communications, organizing and strategic research departments of labor unions: WHAT ARE YOU SAYING ABOUT EFCA? Whatever it is, it needs to be clearer, more widespread, and louder.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Blagojevich Impeached

The House voted overwhelmingly (114-1) today to impeach Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. It was clear to most (evidently not to 1, see above) after Blagojevich was caught on tape soliciting bribes to candidates for Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

This makes Blagojevich the fourth of the last eight Illinois governors to be arrested.

1. Otto Kerner
Arrested for, surprise surprise, accepting bribes.

2. Daniel Walker
Received over $1 million from fraudulent loans.

3. George Ryan
Charges included: racketeering, bribery, extortion, money laundering and tax fraud.

At least this allows us, as voters, to realize that all politicians, Democrats and Republicans, have corruption in the blood. Pretty good job, Illinois.