Why Workers Everywhere Should Be
Scared by Kentucky's Assault on Unions
By John Nichols Twitter thenation.com
“A lot of working people voted for change in this election,” argued Bill Finn, the director of the Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council, as Kentucky legislators were shredding labor rights in the Bluegrass State. “They didn’t vote for this. They didn’t vote for a pay cut.”
Finn got that right. Kentucky Republicans launched the new year with a race to enact sweeping anti-labor legislation, and they weren’t concerning themselves with the question of whether they had a mandate to assault labor unions and undermine wages and workplace protections. They are moving immediately, aggressively, and thoroughly to implement an across-the-board assault on workers and the unions that represent them.
And with just two weeks to go before Donald Trump is inaugurated as president, Kentucky Republicans were doing something else. They were providing a powerful reminder of the threat to working families that arises when Republicans gain “trifecta control” (taking charge of the executive branch and both legislative chambers) of the governing process. Until this year, Democrats controlled the Kentucky House of Representatives and were able to block anti-labor legislation that was advanced by Republican Governor Matt Bevin and his allies in the Republican-controlled state Senate—with strong backing from national anti-union groups financed by the Koch brothers and other billionaire donors. But in November Republicans won a majority in the Kentucky House. That gave them complete control of the process, and they made it their first priority to approve anti-labor measures.
Union busting moved onto a fast track in Kentucky, where Republican legislators refused to even consider the arguments of workers, community leaders, responsible business owners, and academics who explained that assaults of worker rights do little or nothing to promote economic development—and much to harm working families. Among those expressing thoughtful opposition to the anti-union measures that were approved by Kentucky legislators was Bishop John Stowe of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington, who wrote in an open letter that “The weakening of unions by so-called ‘right to work’ laws, has been shown to reduce wages and benefits overall in the states where such laws have been enacted. This cannot be seen as contributing to the common good.”
When Republicans take full control of the executive and legislative branches of government, workers are threatened.
Unfortunately, there was no stopping Kentucky’s newly empowered Republicans. They were on a deliberate and determined mission that was not going to be delayed by economic, social, or moral arguments. “The chants of union workers were little deterrent to Gov. Matt Bevin and his GOP colleagues in the Kentucky House and Senate, who have made approving the bills their top priority of the 2017 General Assembly,” the Lexington Herald-Leader reported Wednesday. “Shouts and banging could be heard from the hallway, but the meeting room itself was packed with supporters as the House Committee on Economic Development and Workforce Investment passed House Bill 1, which would allow workers to avoid paying union dues even if they work under a union-negotiated contract, and House Bill 3, which would repeal the prevailing wage law.”
By the weekend, the anti-labor initiatives had been approved.
“Trump’s true priority [is] assaulting the rights of working people and helping corporate CEOs line their pockets.”
Kentucky is just one state. But this is not a one-state phenomenon. Kentucky Republicans followed a playbook written by Republican governors such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. That playbook suggests that, upon grabbing the reins of power, Republicans should move immediately to undermine unions that might support Democrats and that argue for maintaining public services and public education. Former Indiana governor Mike Pence, the incoming vice president, is a Walker-allied anti-labor zealot. And he is already working closely with House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Walker ally from Wisconsin, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who praised the anti-labor push in his homestate of Kentucky, on the new administration’s agenda. Trump has already sent a strong anti-labor signal with the nomination of corporate CEO Andrew Puzder, a harsh critic of proposals to raise the federal minimum wage, to serve as secretary of labor.
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No one should be fooled by this president-elect’s attempts to portray himself as a friend of workers. Trump and Pence were elected on a militantly anti-labor Republican platform that is dismissive of the federal minimum wage, declaring (in a stance similar to the one Trump appears to have evolved toward) that decisions about base hourly wages “should be handled at the state and local level.” That platform endorsed the anti-union “right-to-work” laws enacted by Republican governors such as Walker, and calls for taking the anti-union crusade national with a proposal “for a national law” along “right-to-work” lines. The 2016 GOP platform also attacked the use of the Fair Labor Standard Act to protect workers; ripped the use of Project Labor Agreements to raise wages and improve working conditions; and proposed to gut the 85-year-old Davis-Bacon Act, which guarantees “prevailing wage” pay for workers on federal projects.
There may still be a few Republicans who recognize the historic GOP position, as stated by President Abraham Lincoln, that “Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” But they are few and far between. And the evidence from Kentucky suggests that the combination of a Republican executive with Republican-controlled legislative chambers — which the United States will see on January 20 — must be recognized as a threat to workers.
Last July, after Trump selected Pence as his running mate, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said,
Everything Donald Trump says shows he is desperate to be working people’s friend, but everything Donald Trump does proves he is our enemy. This decision proves that he does not stand with working families. Mike Pence might be the right choice for Donald Trump, but he’s the wrong choice for America… Mike Pence once again proves Donald Trump’s true priority of assaulting the rights of working people and helping corporate CEO’s line their pockets.
Trumka was right to be wary. Workers should be preparing, with a sense of urgency, to push back as the Republicans who control the White House and the Congress bring their anti-union agenda to Washington.
Janice Fine contributes to a forum on "After Trump." She argues that many people care about inequality, but not all like unions. Some think unions are too conflictual, but Fine argues this is necessary to win the kinds of demands we need to win.
You wouldn’t know it by the scant media coverage, but construction of the state’s bullet train is in full swing around Fresno and the Central Valley. The California High-Speed Rail Authority will likely next build out the northern stretch—to Silicon Valley and San Francisco—but its narrowing in on how to get to Los Angeles and what that route will look like.
The board recently announced a redesign to the future stations, including the stop that will be built at our very own Union Station. Trains will be shorter than anticipated and platforms will be proportionately reduced, from 1,410 feet to 800 feet. The shorter trains—which will consist of about 10 train cars hitched together, instead of the previously proposed 20—will also mean shorter “refuge” tracks that are required for emergencies. With the refuge tracks will be cut by 600 feet, meaning the stations will be about 1,200 feet shorter than before.
The design change has both pluses and negatives. Financially, smaller stations mean cheaper stations and less real estate purchasing. A negative could be packed platforms should the train exceed ridership expectations when it opens in the next decade.
How this will affect Union Station is still unclear. While Metro has released plenty of information on their ambitious plans to redesign the rail hub and its surrounding parcels with a mix of developments, retail, and pedestrian-friendly amenities, the agency’s been coy about the bullet train stop. Metro is likely waiting for more guidance from the CHSRA, but a video on the Union Station Master Plan shows the platform going in on the east end of the station, close to Metro’s headquarters.
The Taylor Yard complications and the issue of how to enter Union Station are minor compared to getting the trains through the San Gabriel Mountains, where 24 miles of tunnels may need to be dug. Sounds like an impossible feat, but remember how we built a trans-continental railroad and a freeway system stretching through 50 states? This is nothing.
To constrain rising shipping costs, the online giant is building its own delivery operation, setting up a clash with its shipping partners
By Greg Bensinger and Laura Stevens - September 27, 2016 1:45 P.M. ET
Sansone, former head of St. Louis Teamsters, dies y - Associated Press
Sunday, August 21, 2016
ST. LOUIS (AP) - A former longtime head of St. Louis’ Teamsters union during the 1980s has died.
Robert “Bobby” Sansone’s family tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2bHfO66 ) that Sansone died Friday of respiratory failure. He was 78.
Sansone served for a dozen years as president of the Teamsters’ Joint Council 13, which represented St. Louis’ 35,000 members. He retired in 1998.
Sansone got a Teamsters union card at 16 to drive a dump truck at a St. Louis concrete plant.
Sansone lost a bid in 1991 for vice president of the 1.4-million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Two years later, Sansone was banned from the organization for failing to look into an aide’s alleged mob ties.
Sansone’s funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Anselm Catholic Parish in Creve Coeur.
By JONATHAN MARTIN, JIM RUTENBERG AND MAGGIE HABERMAN
Good Thursday morning.
Donald J. Trump named as his new campaign chief on Wednesday a conservative media provocateur whose news organization regularly attacks the Republican Party establishment, savages Hillary Clinton and encourages Mr. Trump’s most pugilistic instincts.
Mr. Trump’s decision to make Stephen K. Bannon, chairman of the Breitbart News website, his campaign’s chief executive was a defiant rejection of efforts by longtime Republican hands to wean him from the bombast and racially charged speech that helped propel him to the nomination but that now threaten his candidacy by alienating the moderate voters who typically decide the presidency.
It also formally completed a merger between the most strident elements of the conservative news media and Mr. Trump’s campaign, which was incubated and fostered in their boisterous coverage of his rise.
Mr. Bannon was appointed a day after the recently ousted Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes, emerged in an advisory role with Mr. Trump. It was not lost on Republicans in Washington that two news executives whose outlets had fueled the anti-establishment rebellion that bedeviled congressional leaders and set the stage for Mr. Trump’s nomination were now directly guiding the party’s presidential message and strategy.
Mr. Bannon’s most recent crusade was his failed attempt to oust the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, in this month’s primary, making his new role atop the Trump campaign particularly provocative toward Republican leaders in Washington.
Party veterans responded on Wednesday with a mix of anger about the damage they saw Mr. Trump doing to their party’s reputation and with gallows humor about his apparent inability, or unwillingness, to run a credible presidential campaign in a year that once appeared promising.
For Mr. Trump, though, bringing in Mr. Bannon was the political equivalent of ordering comfort food. Only last week, Mr. Trump publicly expressed ambivalence about modifying his style. “I think I may do better the other way,” he told Time magazine. “They would like to see it be a little bit different, a little more modified. I don’t like to modify.”
James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, explained his decision Tuesday not to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton.
CLIFF OWEN / ASSOCIATED PRESS
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and ERIC LICHTBLAU
JULY 5, 2016
WASHINGTON — Shortly after Hillary Clinton was interviewed on Saturday by agents at the F.B.I.’s headquarters, its director, James B. Comey, heard from his deputies that Mrs. Clinton had been truthful and forthcoming in the three-and-a-half-hour meeting.
Mr. Comey, who had been regularly briefed on the progress of the yearlong investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email account as secretary of state, had known for some time that his agents had not uncovered enough evidence to charge her or anyone else with a crime. Now, with the interview done, he told his deputies, according to F.B.I. officials, that he wanted to move forward with a plan he had been working on for months to explain the findings from such a politically contentious investigation to the public. And he did not wait to do it.
At 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Mr. Comey walked into a conference room on the first floor of the F.B.I.’s headquarters, where he stood behind a lectern for 15 minutes and laid out in clinical detail how Mrs. Clinton’s use of the account was “extremely careless.” But, he said, the bureau would recommend to the Justice Department that she not be charged with a crime because his investigators had found no clear evidence that Mrs. Clinton had intentionally broken the law.
The careful approach to publicly explaining his thinking fit a pattern for Mr. Comey, who, throughout his three decades as a law enforcement official, has refused to shy away from politically fraught issues. While he was immediately praised by some for his candor and transparency, it did not insulate him from criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, as well as some legal experts.
Republicans contended that Mr. Comey had rushed the decision to clear Mrs. Clinton before the bureau had time to digest what she had said in the interview, and that his decision came suspiciously close to Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s impromptu meeting with former President Bill Clinton only a week before. They said Mr. Comey’s own description of the F.B.I.’s findings on Tuesday was enough evidence to file criminal charges.
“This defies logic,” said Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, the Virginia Republican who leads the House Judiciary Committee. Mr. Goodlatte said he had spoken with Mr. Comey immediately after his announcement to express his concerns. Later Tuesday, Mr. Goodlatte sent Mr. Comey a letter demanding answers to eight pointed questions about the handling of the investigation and the implication for future inquiries.
Robert Cattanach, a former Justice Department lawyer who now works in private practice in Chicago on cybersecurity and other issues, said it was puzzling for Mr. Comey not to seek criminal charges after laying out significant evidence of serious security breaches.
“This decision will not enhance the credibility of the F.B.I. or the director,” he said, given the amount of evidence the agency uncovered about mishandled, classified information.
Mrs. Clinton’s supporters and other Democrats contended that Mr. Comey had talked too much, saying it was not fair for him to have laid out the details in a case in which she will not be charged.
“He has essentially put himself in the place of judge,” Matthew Miller, a former senior official in the Obama Justice Department who supports Mrs. Clinton, said in a telephone interview. He added, “He’s clearing her, but he’s smearing her at the same time, and the department’s rules prevent that kind of thing from happening.”
“What Director Comey did today was appalling,” Mr. Miller said. He added that the F.B.I. should be laying out its investigative findings in court when prosecutors actually bring a case, not at a televised news conference where charges are not being sought.
But Thomas DiBiagio, a Washington lawyer who worked closely with Mr. Comey when both were federal prosecutors at the Justice Department in the Bush administration, said the unusual public nature of the announcement showed Mr. Comey’s willingness to “take the hit” on a controversial decision.
“This was a no-win for him,” Mr. DiBiagio said. “There’s no way he was going to please everyone on this one. Had he decided to recommend charging her, he would have been heavily criticized and scrutinized, and in the decision today, he’s clearly being heavily criticized and scrutinized, too. So he stood up there and said, ‘I’m going to take the criticism.’ That’s what an F.B.I. director does.”
Mr. Comey’s announcement also served to take the spotlight off Ms. Lynch, who was widely criticized after she met Mr. Clinton on her plane in Arizona last week and after she said on Friday that she would defer to the F.B.I. and to prosecutors about whether to bring charges.
As deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, Mr. Comey was at the center of a dramatic dispute with administration officials in 2004, when he refused to reauthorize a secret National Security Agency wiretapping program put into place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Mr. Comey believed parts of the warrantless wiretapping program might have been illegal. That led to a showdown in a Washington hospital room, where Attorney General John Ashcroft was ill. Two of Mr. Bush’s top aides, Andrew H. Card Jr. and Alberto R. Gonzales, were trying to pressure Mr. Ashcroft to sign the order.
Mr. Comey met with Mr. Bush the next day about the episode, and he and more than a dozen other officials threatened to resign over what they saw as a usurpation of power by White House officials.
Mr. Comey’s testimony about the episode before a Senate committee three years later was the stuff of a Hollywood film, as he described racing to the hospital in an F.B.I. car with sirens blaring to try to get to the attorney general’s room before Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales.
In his congressional testimony, Mr. Comey described the events as “the most difficult of my professional career.”
“I was angry,” Mr. Comey told the committee. “I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me. I thought he had conducted himself in a way that demonstrated a strength I had never seen before, but still I thought it was improper.”
President Obama appointed Mr. Comey in 2013 to head the F.B.I., but Mr. Comey has not shied away from clashing with the administration. Last October, Mr. Comey gave a speech in which he said that additional scrutiny and criticism of police officers after several highly publicized episodes of police brutality might have led to an increase in violent crime in some cities because officers had become less aggressive.
“I’ve been told by a senior police leader who urged his force to remember that their political leadership has no tolerance for a viral video,” Mr. Comey said in his speech, adding that many leaders and police officers to whom he had spoken said they were afraid to address the issue publicly.
The speech angered senior White House officials, who contended that Mr. Comey had no evidence to back up his claims and that he was undermining their efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system. Just days after the speech, Mr. Comey met with Mr. Obama in the Oval Office to discuss their views, but he has continued to voice his opinion on the topic — even as White House officials have maintained there is little evidence to support his views.
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