Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Continuing Power of Our Charming Corporatist State

Months and months ago, I had occasion to talk to an IA Vice President who is a hell of a lot more politically active (and engaged) than I am. I asked him what he thought the odds were of getting the union-backed card check legislation through Congress and onto President Obama's desk.

He thought the percentages were pretty good. I didn't. But I deferred to his opinion based on his political activism (he's a player in local L.A. politics). Now it looks like maybe I'm more right than I wanted to be:

The nation's labor unions, which organized so effectively last year to help elect President Obama, have been outmaneuvered so far on their top priority by their opponents in the business community.

"We were outspent, outhustled and outorganized," said one chagrined union advisor who was not authorized to speak by name ...

The Times' piece is all right as far as it goes, but it tiptoes around a central problem of today's America:

Despite a Democratic President and Democratic Congress that (supposedly) back organized labor, we live in a Corporatist state. And even though automobile companies are bankrupt and giant banks teeter on the edge of financial ruin, the big conglomerates still own the playlist and control the volume of the tunes to which we dance.

Republicans might live inside companies' large intestines, but Democrats sit on corporate laps, nuzzling close. If you don't believe this, consider that many of the Democratic sponsors of card check legislation when Bush was in the White House are now opposing the prospective law. What's changed? Only that there is now no President at the far end of Pennsylvania Avenue who will veto the bill. If Card Check clears House and Senate, it's law. This concentrates legislative minds, especially when they depend on corporate donations for a sizable part of their re-election funds.

Now. We are certainly going to get a larger Federal government (although Washington's power was growing briskly under Mr. Bush), and more liberal-leaning laws over the next few years will certainly come into existence. The political sons and daughters of Ronald Reagan have failed resoundingly, so the electorate has sent them to the political wood shed and turned to the party of Kennedy, Clinton and Johnson.

But card check legislation? That trims back some of the power of companies? Not a flipping chance.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

What do you expect the Los Angeles Times to say? It's one of the most obstinately anti-union companies in U.S. history.

Anonymous said...

What is the reason that the current secret ballot election system is ineffective for establishing a union?

I know unions keep losing them, but unless the assertion is that the elections are fraudulent, it appears that the workers REALLY don't want a union.

Card Check seems to be contrary to that basic fundamental of modern democracy and seems to be easy red meat for conservatives to bad mouth unions.

Steve Hulett said...

What is the reason that the current secret ballot election system is ineffective for establishing a union? ...

Multiple reasons, actually.

First thing that happens, after a company knows there is an organizing campaign, is a fairly explicit threat to shut the doors or close the division if the workers "vote union."

That usually chills things out real good. (And just because there are explicit prohibitions against it in the Wagner/ Fair Labor Standards Act doesn't mean it doesn't happen with regularity. It does.)

Then there is the routine firing of "union troublemakers", also prohibited ... but done routinely anyway.

And don't forget a company's capacity to stall by filing appeals, putting in poison pill provisions in first-contract negotiations, etc.

See, I've lived the life. I've experienced all this crap first hand. And all any sane person needs to know is that the middle class's share of national wealth and real earnings has tracked labor's decline over the past thirty-five years.

But you are no doubt one of those who believe that our corporate overlords just don't have enough, and if we can just engineer things so they have ... oh .... that last 30% of the nation's goods and services, everything will be truly great again. Like it was in 1982 and 1929.

Steve Hulett said...

Uh ... make that 1892.

Anonymous said...

No, it's because, with ballot elections, the employers always have an inherent advantage, for the following reason:

The reason is that, during the run-ups to the secret-ballot election, which can take months, the companies hire teams of union-busting lawyers to intimidate workers. First, they target employees who are doing the organizing, and invent any reason to fire them. They force all workers to attend mandatory anti-union meetings. They call individual workers into their manager's office and berate and intimidate them. They use the run-up time to an election to instill as much fear, intimidation, and threats of firings and layoffs as possible.

Meanwhile, union organizers are at a distinct disadvantage. While companies can force their employees to listen to their anti-union meetings (often replete with gross distortions misinformation), union organizers can only communicate off-premises. While anti-union memos and billboards can be freely posted throughout the workplace, pro-union literature cannot. So the company always has an inherent advantage up to the time of the election.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, you beat me to it, Steve

Anonymous said...

Actually, it is rampant, under-reported inflation that has exaggerated the average baby-boomer's nostalgia for their daddy's Union Label America.

Labor's pathetic impotence in the face of global economic reality is evidence enough for most rational thinking human beings to eliminate collective bargaining as any path at all. No union has been able to stop the continuing slide of jobs overseas. Perhaps we're using the incorrect remedy, no? About time we placed our faith in something, anything, besides work stoppages? IATSE's silence on this issue speaks volumes.

You screwed the pooch with Woodstock and LSD, hippies. And you wonder why your retirement is worth zero now? And us kids have to take care of your infirmed masses now?

It's the banks, stupid. Clinton couldn't very well say that, could he? Obama now looks like he can't either.

Labor. Bah!

Anonymous said...

I love some of the blow-hard nut-jobs that frequent this blog. Somebody should animate George Liquor to the self righteous rants like the one above. It'd be some funny shite.

John Locke said...

Yeah, maybe we can do the same when we vote for President. I don't think you should have the right to keep your vote private when you vote for the highest office in the land. I want to know who you're going to vote for so I know if I have to send some guys over to make you understand how you "should" vote.

That's the American way, right Steve?

I'm sure those wanting to vote for a union would in no way try and "influence" how employees vote. If someone's going to vote for or against becoming part of a union I like the fact that it's private. You may have co-workers there that you are friends with but may not agree with how they're voting. I wouldn't want to tear up or divide the relationships I've built up there. And I certainly wouldn't want some people coming in from the company or union to tell me how to vote.

Keep it private. It's someone's right to keep it that way no matter if it's a presidential election or a union one. No matter if it's pro or con for a union it's wrong to make a vote public.

Anonymous said...

You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

Seriously.

None.

The EFCA bill had nothing to do with keeping your vote private.

Anonymous said...

You may have co-workers there that you are friends with but may not agree with how they're voting. I wouldn't want to tear up or divide the relationships I've built up there.Huh???

What the hell are you talking about?

By the way, I was at Imageworks when they voted not to go union. There were lots of people, especially supervisors, who were happy to tell their friends and coworkers exactly how to vote. Jobs and relationships were on the line. It was extremely ugly, intimidation and misinformation was rampant, and the 'vote' was as far from fair as it could have been.

The way companies conduct union votes now is often a disgrace. But keep listening to Rush Limbaugh for what the EFCA was about.

Sheriff Woody said...

Actually, I agree with Locke. If it doesn't require a secret vote and all you essentially have to do is get people to sign up then it is a form of intimidation.

If I don't want to go union and people ask me to sign something that says I support doing so it's an awkward situation. One that you shouldn't be put in. Let everyone vote and have there shot but keep it private. I don't want to get into arguments with people I may agree with on other things and fracture relationships. Keep it private just like when you vote for politicians. I don't see why that's such a controversial thing. If you want to vote union then fine, but I believe in a private vote on the matter.

Anonymous said...

Sherriff-

I'm sorry that you didn't read some of the posts above. In the so-called "secret ballot" that you support, your employer will call you into your manager's office, and demand that you tell them which way you're voting, upon threat of being fired. How is that secret? How is that less awkward?

Anyway, EFCA wouldn't have gotten rid of secret ballot elections. It simply gave employees the option of whether they wanted a secret ballot election or not, rather than the company having the sole decision (as it is now).

Obviously, the labor movement did a poor job of explaining EFCA, given that there are so many people who are either misinformed or confused about it. Oh well, too late.

Anonymous said...

Who decides whether or not employees opt for the secret ballot?

Anonymous said...

I believe your vote should be your business and no one else's. Especially when you are an independent and don't cow tail to one of the two big parties.

secondly, whether its democrat or republican on this issue they are the same. the only difference is one of the parties uses the unions for what they need then disregard them when they get what they wanted.

I stopped voting party lines long ago, dig deeper.

Steve Hulett said...

About time we placed our faith in something, anything, besides work stoppages? IATSE's silence on this issue speaks volumes.....

The IATSE uses work stoppages for organizing purposes. Over the last fifteen years, the tactic has worked well.

They aren't silent on the subject.

Anonymous said...

The sons and daughters of Reagan have failed??? Excuse me? Which party was in charge of the banking committee that failed (via incompetence, greed and romantic entanglements) to oversee Freddie and Fannie and thus destroyed the housing and credit markets? Which party slapped so many restrictions and requirements on our U.S. auto companies and helped the UAW gain so much power that ALL of our auto companies are now in near-or-total bankruptcy? And which party, BTW, are EVEN NOW slapping even more on them and making the situation even worse?

To those of you who voted for the Boy Wonder and gave him and his socialist comrades carte blanche...SUCKS TO BE YOU.

robiscus said...

There are far more examples of labor unions sapping the infrastructure and proving themselves totally incompetent and shiftless then there are examples of them helping move this country forward.

You live in California Steve and you don't recognize why labor unions get a bad rap? Check the contracts of the government workers and teachers unions and then see how much it eats away at the state budget for all California residents. Check the abysmal record of the teacher's union covering for their members who have had downright criminal behavior.

Now that the outlandish initiative to tax us more (for them) has failed I wonder if you will post a screed in a few months when the state forces them to renegotiate their golden exorbitant pension plans.

I'll be cheering as they go down because they look out for ONLY themselves. The same way the "corporatists" do and with the same effects on all of us.

Its their doing and theirs alone.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, the sweet felicitations of a Ditto-Head. Always quick to take responsibility, always ready to spread good cheer.

Anonymous said...

And then there's Robiscus, always eager to add more hot air and useless bluster to this board. Where, oh where, would our industry be without his wisdom and guidance?

Robiscus, King of the Trolls. Long may he reign.

Anonymous said...

"Steve Hulett said...
What is the reason that the current secret ballot election system is ineffective for establishing a union? ...

Multiple reasons, actually.

First thing that happens, after a company knows there is an organizing campaign, is a fairly explicit threat to shut the doors or close the division if the workers "vote union."

Etc, etc, etc...

What makes the Union supporters think that the same type of intimidation stated in every point Steve made does not occur from the other side of the political spectrum, too? What manner of Noble Enlightened Modern Super Man are we supposed to believe in here? Are we supposed to believe that labor reps are more ethical because they've had more time complaining about being victims? Anyone who has lived a full life knows that 'People is People' no matter what their political stripe. Power corrupts no matter what side the pendulum is swinging to. The sanctity of a private vote has always been for the benefit of all and is a large part of what makes this country exceptional.

If the unions have something of value to offer it will be voted for in a private ballot. End of story. Don't change the rules, don't change one of the most obvious, important principles this society was based upon, change what you have to offer, IATSE.

signed,

Jesus of Cool

Anonymous said...

And again. Who decides whether or not employees are going to opt for or against a the secret ballot, if that is indeed employee option?

Is this voted on, too?

Anonymous said...

For a bunch of anti-union folks, they sure spend a lot of time on union blogs. Out of work much?

Anonymous said...

"You screwed the pooch with Woodstock and LSD, hippies. And you wonder why your retirement is worth zero now? And us kids have to take care of your infirmed masses now?"

WTF?! This has got to be a parody! How old are you?

I was actually alive and a little kid in the 60s, and my parents were, well, parents. They weren't "hippies" and neither were 99.999% of parents, you fool. FWIW, one parent was a conservative republican, the other was a diehard democrat. Both were college educated and worked, too(mom less so after kids). Stereotypes...and I guess ALL the 1929 era parents were flappers and bootleggers, yes?
Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about it--the anti-union folks got their uninformed talking points from Rush, and he told them that hippies were to blame. Next week it'll be the blacks.

Anonymous said...

"the sons and daughters of Reagan have failed??? Excuse me?"

*sigh*

Don't you realize that both the democrats and republicans have caused this?

Whether we march toward fascism under republicans or communism under democrats...the end result is totalitarianism...100% government/bank/corporation controlled.

The banks and corporations own the politicians, which in turn own us.

Both parties want the same exact thing.

Please, idiots...wake up!

robiscus said...

"Don't worry about it--the anti-union folks got their uninformed talking points from Rush"Maybe if you keep posting this fallacy over and over and over again, then someone might invest in it. Otherwise you are just towing the line that easiest for you to comprehend.

The California budget is in the shitter. One of the main reasons is the MASSIVE benefits and pension plans that the labor unions of this state strongarmed Sacramento into accepting by threatening work stoppages around every corner.

Now... those contracts are going to be renegotiated because yesterday the polls have spoke and we're not going to put any more money into the deals in place.

Unions and corporations(or states) work best when both sides work together. The majority of the unions here in California(not TAG) forgot that long ago.

Thats not a "talking point from Rush". That man is as big an idiot as you are.

Anonymous said...

And now the boy wonder and his comrades have fixed it so that *responsible* credit-card holders have to pay for the errors, greed and stupidity of *irresponsible* credit card holders. That's O'Balmy's idea of "spreading the wealth" and "fairness", apparently. Hell, sucks to be me, too.

Anonymous said...

California is just slipping deeper into the muck. Its sad to see over the past 15 years where it has gone with taxes and out of control costs. How can it possibly be turned around and people agree on it? No wonder the state is at the top of the list for record numbers of people moving out.

Anonymous said...

this is all ronald reagun's mess, and America is ashamed of having put him in a position of any power beyond changing the diaper of a chimp.

he's rotting in hell now. Saving a seat for bush, dick, rummy, wolfowitz, limbo, savage, and steele.

handel said...

john locke:"And I certainly wouldn't want some people coming in from the company or union to tell me how to vote."

John locke is absolutely correct.
Card check. Feh! Be honest about it. You want to put pressure on people to vote the way THE UNION wants them to vote. All this nonsense about the studios forcing you to listen to their non union propaganda..PLEASE!

Tell me sumpin. How come the states with some of the largest and most terrible unemployment problems are those that are under a UNION?
I state this question on my blog. Please answer it here.
Why is CARD CHECK needed when the union pretty much has rule of the roost already and there is so much unemployment ?

HULETT:
""Then there is the routine firing of "union troublemakers", also prohibited ... but done routinely anyway.""

Sooo..again, what do we have YOU guys around for? IF you can't stop any sort of wrong doing, OR keep the studios from ordering free OT...what is the reason for having a union? Seriously?

Ahhh..of course. The free (UNION MEMBER PAID) pizza and beer.

HULETT::
""
The IATSE uses work stoppages for organizing purposes. Over the last fifteen years, the tactic has worked well.""

When was the last time a 'work stoppage' was called by the union?
I'm just wondering. If its such a good tactic, why hasn't it been used recently? Why not USE THAT instead of a silly (bully'esque) tactic of card check.
I wonder how many people you'd get behind you on that one.

Huh! what do ya know? I'm just as peeved at the union as I was some 10 years ago when I spoke to you.
>:)

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when you open the gate with the "Corporatist State" verse from the Labor Bible.

Here's the thing. Everything single thing that went into making this discussion possible, from the coal that powers your internet, the oil that went into the plastic on your keyboard, the processed food that went into your stomach that gave you the energy to type, and most importantly - the jobs that you all go to that are negotiated by labor FROM COMPANIES THAT DEPEND UPON YOU CONSUMING ALL OF THIS CRAP - all of it collectively represents an unsustainable standard of living that no simple card check is ever going to protect from collapsing. It just isn't going to happen. To believe otherwise is to ignore the underlying fundamentals of what is currently going on with the world economy. To believe otherwise is just dumb, and labor throwing it up to DC in the midst of this 200 year flood makes labor look more out of touch than it already is.

Anonymous said...

Oh, God, the right-wing nut-job known as Handel as finally made an appearance. Excuse me while I go vomit.

A more bitter, talentless hack one cannot find.

handel said...

"anonymous"..

YAY! A FAN!! I knew sooner or later one would crawl to the surface. And just for the record, I'm more of a "moderate progressive independent".
:)
We're just having a nice lil fireside chat amongst union peeps. The union always says to feel free to pipe in with ones two bits..'let your voice be heard' type of rhetoric. So that's what I'm doin'.
I mean you wouldn't wanna stifle that would you? That wouldn't be very 'progressive' at all, now would it?

As for being bitter? Non-sense my angry lil sister. I'm as happy as a clam. Never been better actually.

"Talentless Hack"...Well I'm afraid you have me on THAT one.
Can't fool you, genius!
But my hope is, that my clients that I've done work for in film, television, books, magazine, Games,web.. for the last 20 years will REMAIN fooled.
After all, its enabled me to be able to start my own company.

Non union. Sorry.
:)

Thanks for your input. Now off to bed with you. And don't be so angry next time, ok?

Anonymous said...

The more insecure and talentless one is, the louder and more desperately one must proclaim their talent.

Anonymous said...

Yes, he's a "moderate progressive independent."

Uh huh.

Just like all the other "independents" who don't want to admit they're conservative Republicans right now, after soiling and defiling this nation with their filth for the previous eight years. Weakening America with their sad, putrid, irresponsible economic policies, and backward, immoral social values.

What a surprise that now that Handel runs his own business, he's not interested in providing the kinds of wages or benefits to his (potential) employees that a union would offer. Because Handel is not interested in that, he's interested in squeezing them for all he can.

Il Duce said...

I rather like the term "Corporatist State". I used to like "Corporate Fascism" better, but, the new term sounds more modern.

r.

Steve Hulett said...

If its [strike/work stoppage] such a good tactic, why hasn't it been used recently? ....

Uh, it's used all the time. IA has a work stoppage going on against a non-union production company (live-action) right now.

The WGA had a work stoppage in '07-'08, and I picketed with them multiple times.

It's difficult to respond to ignorant rhetorical questions, but I do my best.

Anonymous said...

Stop buying mountains of useless garbage and America's phantom fascists evaporate instantly. It's not like you've got Hitler screaming epithets from on high. (Correction, you've got Rush and Hannity.)

Regardless, the card check issue is irrelevant. Stop buying crap you don't need and the jobs instantly disappear. Quite a pickle, no?

This isn't just a pro-labor Democrat/anti-labor Republican thing. It's a stupid, lazy, and fat beer-and-hamburger I-want-it-and-I-want-it-now American thing. It's sad.

Walk the line all you want with Verrone to protest corporate abuse of separated rights or whatever the hell they were talking about. As long as the big bad media sells enough Homer Simpson lifestyles in between beer commercials, we're all cool with it. Just keep the checks coming, Corporatist State.

handel said...

Hulett:"t's difficult to respond to ignorant rhetorical questions, but I do my best."

Your losing your touch mr hulett. You were much better at the double talk back when we spoke some years back. DIdn't buy it then, don't buy it now. As for the 'work stoppages'you mention for examples...I was talking about work stoppages in A.N.I.M.A.T.I.O.N.
But I think you knew that though.
(who's feigning ignorance now?)
So! Let me ask again..if its so good a tactic. Call one for the industry. (oh..the ANIMATION INDUSTRY lest there be confusion). And lets see who lines up to raise the union colors.
As for the WGA Strike..yeah. What you fail to talk about in all of the romantic union speak of that strike is how many people got hurt.. REALLY hurt from that strike. What were the ripple effect of that strike for the other people that weren't even involved in the pissing war?
Good people. People with families.

Yeah. A small little item conveniently left out of discussion.

Anyway. I look forward to the 'Work Stoppage' strike to be called by the union for the industry.
(the ANIMATION industry).
:)

handel said...

Anonymous:
""What a surprise that now that Handel runs his own business, he's not interested in providing the kinds of wages or benefits to his (potential) employees that a union would offer. Because Handel is not interested in that, he's interested in squeezing them for all he can.""

Anonymous..Your first paragraph is just too silly and inane to even bother with. But your second is better.
My business is ME. I am my own business. As could any other person in the arts be his OWN BUSINESS. If they weren't so lazy and did some research in marketing and starting a business rather than depending on others, OR so fooled into believing that they NEED an industry/ corporation AND a union in order to survive.
BUT..there is a possibility that I would need to grow, and need help. If that happens I would want the best people, and FOR the best people I would have to make them an offer. The best people aren't going to come work for me for peanuts.
That's where the bargaining comes in.
I mean jeez! I had to make my own deals in animation. I had to work out my own contracts with the studios. Why in the heck are YOU not doing it?
Oh that's right. You have convinced yourself (with help from others) that you NEED others. (corporation and unions)...to succeed.

Ok. Good luck with that.

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