The Right's Big Lie About Upcoming Labor
Partially hyperlinked to sources.
For all sources, see the data
Sources you'll hear in this segment
include: the New York Times, the websites of the AFL-CIO and the United
Steelworkers union, the Washington Times, the UK newspaper the Guardian,
americanrightsatwork.org, YouTube for the audio, and private correspondence with
Columbia Law School Professor Mark Barenberg.
There's a piece of legislation that
the Democrats, with strong progressive support, have been trying to get through
Congress for years.
It's called the Employee Free Choice
This will be a major issue in 2009.
I'm going to give you a brief head's up about it now.
When the actual vote nears, I'll get into it with you in more depth.
If you listen to the right-wing hyperventilating
about it, this bill would eliminate secret ballots in elections where workers
decide whether they want a union or not. And,
it would substitute something new and horrible called card check.
A union could be certified if more than half of the workers simply sign a
card saying they want that union to represent them.
In a prior
go round on this, here's Senator John Ensign, Republican of Nevada:
audio: Sen. John Ensign
You know, it's just pure
intimidation, this issue of eliminating secret ballots from the union organizing
process…So why are the Democrats trying to drive a law through Congress to
eliminate the secret ballot?
Ensign and all the other
right-wingers are lying.
law, if 30% of workers petition for a secret ballot unionization vote, they'll
Under the Employee
Free Choice Act, if 30% of the workers petition for a secret ballot
unionization vote, they'll get it.
Did I just repeat myself?
Yes I did.
Because the Employee Free Choice Act
doesn't change a thing here. The
workers have the same right to get a secret ballot unionization vote as before.
The right-wing is massively lying
about card check as well. The
Employee Free Choice Act does not add something called card check to the union
Under current law, a majority of
workers can sign cards requesting they be represented by a given union.
Under the Employee Free Choice Act, a
majority of workers can sign cards requesting they be represented by a given
Under current law, if the workers
come to the employer with a majority's worth of signed cards saying they want a
certain union to represent them, for some strange reason, the employer has veto
power over that.
The employer can say, I don't accept
these cards, and I demand that we start all over and have a secret ballot
election about this issue.
Under the Employee Free Choice Act,
that management veto power is taken away. Under
the Employee Free Choice Act, the right to choose the certification method is
placed back where it belongs, with the employees.
If the workers at a given company
choose to certify their desire for a union through the card check process, the
employer must accept their decision.
So, as with most things, whatever a
right-winger says, the exact opposite is true.
The Employee Free Choice Act doesn't limit the rights of employees in any
way. In fact, it expands, it
strengthens their rights.
The Employee Free Choice Act gives
back to the workers the right to choose the process by which they decide whether
or not to have a union represent them.
It's beyond the scope of the
discussion today, but I'll just briefly mention to you that the Employee Free
Choice Act also strengthens
worker's rights in two other important ways:
It requires mediation and arbitration
for first-time contract disputes.
And it ups the penalties for
interference with the workers' rights to organize a union.
So why is the right, why are the
corporations so intent on being able to
veto card check certifications?
A little bit of background provides
From a progressive viewpoint, having
a large, healthy union movement is critically important for economic justice.
Unfortunately, the right, since the
beginning of the labor movement, has been a bitter and deadly enemy of unions.
Twenty-seven years ago, the Reagan
Revolution set off the latest and unfortunately successful campaign against
There's now a $4
billion union-busting industry.
Private sector union membership is
1/3 the rate it was in 1983, down to 7.5%.
Only seven and a half percent of the private work force is now unionized.
The right wants to keep it that way,
and then some.
With card check, the workers present
the union certification as a fait accompli.
If the employers can veto that, they
then will have a month or longer during the election period to browbeat the
workers to change their minds.
And during that period of time,
employers know the playing field is totally un-level, tilted massively in their
I'll get into this in more detail
when the bill is closer to a vote next year.
Suffice it to say,
Management is allowed to
bombard employees with anti-union messages anywhere, anytime in the workplace.
Workers can only talk about the union while they’re on breaks in the break
room or before or after work. Union organizers have no right to set foot in the
Union supporters are often fired.
The companies want a second bite at
the apple, the ability to negate the card check, bring in the $4 billion
union-busting industry, and then engage in a month or longer process of
pressuring employees to change their preferences to no union.
Passing this bill is labor's number
And the right has declared war:
“This will be
Armageddon,” said Randel Johnson, vice president for labor policy at the
United States Chamber of Commerce.
Obama was a sponsor
of the Employee Free Choice Act when he was in the Senate.
That's why organized labor made such
effort for him, and AFL-CIO workers voted for him over two to one.
Organized labor is now confident
of passage of this measure in Congress.
Let me give you the bottom line:
whenever the right starts allegedly championing worker rights, watch out!
Here's a how pro-union advocate
While opponents of card
check…present themselves as defenders of democracy and American workers, their
true motivations are more aligned with a right-wing ideological objective to
eradicate labor unions…
[W]hen conservative strategist Grover Norquist publicly supports plans to “crush labor unions as a political entity” and ultimately “break the unions,” one might question the sincerity of stated concerns about workers’ rights.
In other words, whenever a
right-winger starts expressing concern for a worker, my advice to that worker is
to hold onto your wallet real tight, and keep checking behind you for the
butcher knife the right-wing is scheming to plunge into your back
Put less flamboyantly, John J.
Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, recently stated:
We really need fundamental
change to counterbalance corporate power and reverse the decline of the middle
class, and that’s why we support the Employee Free Choice Act.
That's something I can most
A Primer On How The West Uses Right-Wing
Ideology To Economically Exploit The Third World
Partially hyperlinked to sources.
For all sources, see the data
Sources you'll hear in this segment
include: the New York Times, the Brookings Institution, commondreams.org, the
United Nations Development Program, the British newspaper the Guardian, an
interview in the New Internationalist Magazine, and the website of Harvard's
Kennedy School of Government.
As you may well know, one of my
mantras on Blast The Right is:
Everything the right-wing does is
designed to accomplish one of two things: either (a) transfer wealth from
everyone else to the rich, or (b) distract everyone else from the fact that (a),
that wealth transfer, is occurring.
Well, this rule applies not just
domestically, but internationally as well.
There are four main methods the right
utilizes to transfer wealth from the Third World to the wealthy Western
industrialized world. I go over
these in detail in podcast
56. That's a seminal podcast
that I urge you to listen to if you haven't.
Here I'm going to present a much
shorter version, a primer on them.
In the several weeks leading up to
the presidential election, I neglected the area of Third World oppression.
This is actually the realm that's dearest to my heart, the one I feel
most passionately about.
This primer will provide a foundation
as I tell you in shows to come about efforts by specific Third World nations to
throw off the yoke of Western oppression.
The four pillars are:
1 - sweetheart contracts for natural
2 - unfair conditions of
3 - dubious loans, and
4 - imposition of so-called
"structural adjustment programs."
Here's something that's critical for
you to keep in mind throughout this podcast: when I speak of the Third World
poor, I'm not talking about people whose poverty requires them to drive a 10
year old car, or who can't afford a big-screen TV.
I'm talking about people who are malnourished, without proper medical
care, or even any medical care at all, often without even potable water.
Their children die because they don't have enough money to buy adequate
food supplies, or pay for necessary medical care.
So the poverty we're discussing here is life-and-death level.
Ok, first, sweetheart contracts.
These are contracts between
multinational corporations and Third World governments that aren't ruling in the
interests of their own people.
The multinationals pay an obscenely
low royalty rate to the local government for natural resources.
The ratios can be as lopsided
as 18% for the nation, 82% for the multinationals.
No individual in their right mind
would make a deal like that, and neither would any government ruling in the best
interests of its people.
Because of the lack of funds, the
people of that nation are shortchanged in all the types of government services
they are entitled to.
When a Third World government is
ruling in the interest of the majority of its citizens, well then things are
different. That can be illustrated
by what anti-right-wing elected officials like Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales are
doing in Venezuela and Bolivia.
In Venezuela, the government is requiring
that a majority stake be owned by the government in its oil operations.
It's raising the royalty rates. It's
collecting back taxes owed.
In Bolivia, as well, contracts with
multinationals are being renegotiated,
with the government acquiring a majority stake. And royalty rates are being
raised. In fact, flipped.
Instead of 82-18 in favor of the multinationals, it's going to be 82-18
in favor of Bolivia.
The extra revenue here too will be
used to help those who have the right to it, impoverished Bolivians without
adequate food, water, shelter, medical care or any of the other necessities of
The next pillar
of exploitation is unfair conditions of international trade.
Rich nations hold a huge comparative
advantage on items like industrial goods and services.
Poor countries, all other things being equal, would hold a comparative
advantage in agricultural goods and textiles.
So what's happened since World War
II? International trade agreements
have removed barriers against trade in industrialized goods and services.
This means that the rich nations can freely market these items to the
But, global trade agreements have not
done anywhere near as much to dismantle trade barriers on agricultural goods and
textiles. So the poor nations can not
easily market these items of theirs in rich countries.
Even worse: the wealthy nations of
the world spend nearly one billion dollars a day subsidizing their farmers.
The result? Overproduction
which drives down prices. Cheap
agricultural products flood the Third World nation's markets at prices below the
local farmers production costs.
Under the North American Free Trade
Agreement, for example, heavily subsidized US corn flooded the Mexican market.
A million or more Mexican corn farmers were driven
out of business.
This created a massive pool of
unemployed which has increased the flow of desperate undocumented workers
entering the United States.
It's progressives here and abroad who
these one-sided trade agreements and call for Fair Trade.
The third method
of ripping off the Third World is the making of dubious loans by wealthy nations
and institutions to corrupt right-wing Third World governments.
These nations are then entrapped
on a downward-spiraling debt treadmill.
This practice really exploded in the
latter half of the twentieth century. First
World banks, and multilateral lending institutions like the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund, went on a spree.
They willy-nilly lent huge sums of money to corrupt right-wing dictators
and military juntas.
Now, whatever the ostensible purpose
for the loan, the banks and other institutions knew that that the loaned funds
wouldn't be used to benefit the people of those nations.
Quite the opposite. In fact, a good portion of the funds were used to
finance repression of the majority, or stolen for private gain by those
dictators and military leaders.
And when it came time to repay the
loans, who had to bear the burden? Not
the dictators. The principal and
interest -- and boy does that interest add up over the years, in many cases
eclipsing by many multiples the actual loan itself -- the principal and interest
had to be repaid by the already impoverished citizens of those countries,
through their taxes.
Many of these indebted nations are
forced to spend far more on repaying these loans, than on health care and
education and other needs of their people.
Here are some examples
South Africa: during the 1980's
private bank loans were used by the apartheid regime to finance the military and
police apparatus keeping the black majority in subjugation.
Nicaragua: Anastasio Somoza was a
favorite US dictator, and stole -- depending on which source you trust --
Congo: that nation racked up $12
billion dollars in debt, while the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko diverted up to $4
billion of that to his personal accounts.
The Philippines: dictator Ferdinand
Marcos, another great US ally, put his country $28 billion dollars in debt to
foreign creditors, while himself stealing $10 billion of that.
This is no different than
racketeering. It's like if a
bank kept making huge loans to a corporation when it knew
that the CEO was stealing the money, not using it for the benefit of the
Pretty gruesome so far, huh?
The worst is yet to come.
The World Bank and IMF are controlled
by the US and our junior partners in crime.
In simplest terms, the World Bank
makes loans for development projects. These
projects are supposedly designed to reduce poverty, but often -- surprise,
surprise -- have the opposite effect.
The IMF then makes loans to help the
countries pay back the prior loans.
What's important here, is that in
order to get these loans, the IMF and World Bank impose severe economic policy
programs on the subject nations. The
these policy programs is called neo-liberalism.
There's nothing liberal about this doctrine.
It's pure right-wing, kill-the-poor, enrich-the-rich economics.
Reverse Robin hood writ large around the world.
These neo-liberal programs are
commonly known as Structural Adjustment Programs, or SAPS.
Essentially, SAPS require massive deregulation and the end of any
governmental role in assuring the public welfare.
Cut subsidies for basic goods: many
citizens of Third World countries depend on these reduced price goods for
survival. Too bad.
Cut social spending: for example,
health care will become unavailable. So
poor people will die. No big deal.
Shrink government: less monitoring of
labor and environmental laws, and massive unemployment among former government
Privatization: in other words,
transferring national assets to private control. More reduction in public
services and windfall profit opportunities for government cronies.
Elimination of tariffs: domestic
producers will no longer be able to compete with multinationals.
Most of the First World nations used tariffs during their own formative
years to build themselves up economically. But
that tool must be denied to the Third World.
And let's not forget to add:
Eliminate restrictions on foreign
ownership of businesses and even natural resources:
in other words, put the entire country up for sale.
Joseph Stiglitz was the World Bank's
chief economist from 1997-2000. He
won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001. So
don't just take Jack Clark's word on what you've just heard about SAP's.
Listen to a guy with credentials even a crazed right-winger couldn't deny
-- and who's now come to his senses. Stiglitz
about the entire World Bank-IMF-structural adjustment program paradigm:
[T]heir hospital is one
where people get sicker. We saw in East Asia, Latin America, Russia and Africa
how they made things worse. Unequivocally.
A hospital where people get sicker.
In other words, a right-wing hospital.
Any right-wing proposal that purports to solve a social justice problem,
will inevitably make the problem worse.
So there you have it!
Sweetheart, exploitative natural
resource deals with multinationals, together with unfair international trade
rules, ensure that Third World nations make very little money.
Fraudulent loans are made to right-wing dictators who use the money for
political and personal financial gain, but which the poor majority must repay.
The need to repay these loans makes these nations even more desperate for
additional funding. The structural
adjustment programs that are imposed by the IMF and World Bank as a condition
for additional loans, increase human misery, suffering, pain and death.
Do you know who George Kennan was?
He was one of the foremost designers of US foreign policy in the post
World War II period.
We have about 60 per cent
of the world's wealth but only 6.3 per cent of its population. Our real task in
the coming period [will be] to maintain this position of disparity…
The four pillars I've described to
you are simply the means the right-wingers in the West use to "maintain
this position of disparity."
And succeeding they are.
All this pillage of the Third World
-- which of course dates back to colonial times -- means that today, a mere 25%
of the earth's population receives
75% of the income.
As if matters weren't bad enough, the
situation is getting worse and worse: the income gap between the richest people
in the world and the poorest massively increased
in the last decades of the 20th Century.
So what about Barack Obama?
Where does he fit in here?
He's probably nowhere near where a
true progressive in the foreign policy field would be.
He's a mixed bag.
Many so-called liberals are too
comfortable with the exploit-the-Third World economic paradigm.
Admittedly, though, nowhere near as
bad as neocons and other right-wingers.
But still, appropriate pressure will
need to be applied to Obama and his
foreign policy team.
Obama would do well to heed -- in
fact, you and I and everyone would do well to heed -- these words of Martin
Luther King, Jr. He spoke them in
his famous Beyond
Vietnam speech on April 4, 1967. That
was precisely one year to the day before he was assassinated:
audio: Martin Luther King,
In 1957 a sensitive
American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the
wrong side of a world revolution…
Increasingly, by choice or
by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make
peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the
pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments…
These are revolutionary
times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation
and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice
and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are
rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great
light. We in the West must support these revolutions.
I definitely support them. Do you?
If so, you and I can work together to
pressure Obama to do the right thing in this arena.