Transcript #137-1

The Right's Big Lie About Upcoming Labor Legislation


Partially hyperlinked to sources.  For all sources, see the data resources page.



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,, 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 Act.


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.


Under current law, if 30% of workers petition for a secret ballot unionization vote, they'll get it.


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 organizing process.


Under current law, there already is a provision for union certification through card check. 


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 union.


But --


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 the answer:


From a progressive viewpoint, having a large, healthy union movement is critically important for economic justice.


Unions fight for, and have achieved, higher wages; increased pension, health care and other benefits; and improved working conditions for Americans across the nation.


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 labor unions.


There's now a $4 billion union-busting industry.


The result?


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 direction.


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 workplace.

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 one priority.


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 a massive 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 nicely put it:


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 wholeheartedly support.




Transcript #137-2

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 resources page.



Sources you'll hear in this segment include: the New York Times, the Brookings Institution,, 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 resources

2 - unfair conditions of international trade

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.


This brings in tens of billions of additional dollars.  That money rightly belongs to hungry, poorly housed, sick without medical care Venezuelans.


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 life.


Podcasts 49 and 88 have much more on Venezuela and Bolivia.



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 poor nations. 


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 fight against 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 for you:


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 -- $100-$500 million.


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 shareholders.


It's progressives worldwide who fight for Third World debt relief.  You can check out podcasts 90 and 121 about that.


Pretty gruesome so far, huh?


The worst is yet to come.  Stay tuned.






The fourth pillar of oppression is the imposition of what you really have to call misery-and-death-inducing conditions upon Third World nations as a prerequisite to assistance. 


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 theory behind 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.


What are some of the elements of a SAP?


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 workers.


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.


A right-winger's economic fantasy.  In fact, such an extreme right-wing economic regime was what the US tried to impose on Iraq shortly after Saddam Hussein was overthrown.  See podcast 59 on that.


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 has concluded 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.


Kennan wrote in 1948:


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.


And the richest 20% of the world's population monopolizes 86 per cent of global wealth.


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.


Obama did oppose the free trade deal with Colombia, saying we shouldn't give deals to a nation whose military kills union leaders.


On the other hand, he's made disparaging remarks about Hugo Chavez that could have come from a right-winger.


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, Jr.

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.



Podcast Home Page