« The apocalyptics | Main | Arizona's mysterious jobless rate »

March 25, 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Specter is right to oppose the Orwellian named "employee free choice act". Call it what it is, Card Check, which even George McGovern has spoken out against loudly.

I have a friend (hey, Doug!) who disagrees with me about what constitutes America's failing social compact. Obviously it is more complicated than any one theory but I think you can see the broad outlines of this decline starting in the early Culture War (late 60s) and gaining steam through the Reagan Apotheosis, before settling into the trench warfare of the Clinton-Bush Era of Bad Feelings. It's the idea that there are real Americans and not-so real Americans (minorities, specifically). The "real" Americans saw themselves not in any class alliance but in a racial and cultural union with the upper-middle class. Hence, it was very easy to manipulate them with emotional rhetoric. Identification with the economic interests of their bosses became, paradoxically, their way of politically protesting the very anxieties created by the economic and fiscal policies of their fantasy protectorate. It's the Stockholm Syndrome by way of Dogpatch.

The reason America has such a weak Left is this disunion between cultural and political identity. Even today, the most vocal defenders of the rights of plutocracy come from the lumpenproletariat of talk radio.

Given the economic meltdown we're facing, populism has two likely ways to express itself. One would be, in a post-Weimar way, manifesting the overarching ideal of country, race and religion. The other would be in terms of economic interests. My suspicion is that in times of stress, there's a strong reversion to primordial tribal identity. In this vein, it would be very tempting for a White Knight to promise a restoration of the dominant tribe's privileges and well-being.

The problem with this scenario is America's rapidly shifting demographics. The white/Christian identity movement is facing raw numerical decline. So, does that mean "we" win? Don't be so sure. In a worsening economic situation, the very social fabric that allows political alliances might be frayed beyond repair. If that's the case, the right will win not by argument but by economic muscle. Or you could look at it this way: we're all Scottsdalians, now. So to speak, of course.

Majority sign-up (card check) has been legal since the National Labor Relations Act was passed in 1935. The problem is that recognition of majority card-check votes by employers is currently voluntary; furthermore, unlike a real secret ballot, the phony variety forced upon workers by employers permits all manner of intimidation -- by employers -- to influence the outcome of the vote.

The AFL-CIO notes that "People call the current National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election system a secret ballot election—but in fact it's not like any democratic election held anywhere else in our society. It's really a management-controlled election process because corporations have all the power. They control the information workers can receive and routinely poison the process by intimidating, harassing, coercing and even firing people who try to organize unions. No employee has free choice after being browbeaten by a supervisor to oppose the union or being told they may lose their job and livelihood if workers vote for the union."

Representative George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, stated:

"The current process for forming unions is badly broken and so skewed in favor of those who oppose unions, that workers must literally risk their jobs in order to form a union. Although it is illegal, one quarter of employers facing an organizing drive have been found to fire at least one worker who supports a union. In fact, employees who are active union supporters have a one-in-five chance of being fired for legal union activities. Sadly, many employers resort to spying, threats, intimidation, harassment and other illegal activity in their campaigns to oppose unions. The penalty for illegal activity, including firing workers for engaging in protected activity, is so weak that it does little to deter law breakers.

"Even when employers don't break the law, the process itself stacks the deck against union supporters. The employer has all the power; they control the information workers can receive, can force workers to attend anti-union meetings during work hours, can force workers to meet with supervisors who deliver anti-union messages, and can even imply that the business will close if the union wins. Union supporters' access to employees, on the other hand, is heavily restricted."

The U.S. House Committee on Education & Labor reported that the overall purpose of the Employee Free Choice Act is "allowing employees to make their own decision about whether they want to bargain together—to advocate for fairer wages, benefits and working conditions—without the threat or fear of harassment and retribution and fear of losing their livelihood."

Human Rights Watch has reported that, at present, "a culture of near-impunity has taken shape in much of U.S. labor law and practice. Any employer intent on resisting workers' self-organization can drag out legal proceedings for years, fearing little more than an order to post a written notice in the workplace promising not to repeat unlawful conduct. Many employers have come to view remedies like back pay for workers fired because of union activity as routine costs of doing business, well worth it to get rid of organizing leaders and derail workers' organizing efforts."

In a recent investigation by the U.S. General Accounting Office, GAO investigators posed as workers complaining that their employer cheated them of overtime pay or committed other labor law violations, in submitting complaints to the U.S. Department of Labor for investigation.

The results: 9 out of 10 complaints were "bungled" by the Labor Department.

"Half the complaints [including one involving children operating heavy machinery at a meat packing plant] were never even recorded in a database, as required, and two of the 10 were marked as successfully paid even though the fictitious workers reported they had not been paid..."


Sorry, that should have read "Government Accountability Office" not "General Accounting Office".

The stock market is a coincident indicator, of systematic liquidity. That being the amount of money available to speculate in stocks. The stock market does not 'discount' the future or anything. It has no mystical ability to see the future or grok the zeitgeist.

Many trillions of dollars have been injected into the financial sphere worldwide by Treasuries and central banks. US and Euro stocks have risen as a result.

The post WWII history of stocks being ahead of the business cycle to the down and upside is explained by the credit cycle.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

My Photo

Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz