Saturday, November 30, 2013
"As part of our mission to supply far-reaching coverage of state house and government news, Watchdog.org encourages all news broadcasters, media organizations and citizen journalists to steal our work." This originally appeared here.
Shoppers on Black Friday are probably more interested in finding the best deals on the hottest holiday toys than getting a crash course in progressive politics, but groups targeting Walmart and other major retailers have other plans.
Protests being organized by a group known as OUR Walmart are planned at locations in all 50 states and have the backing of prominent labor unions like the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Service Employees International Union, and the AFL-CIO, an umbrella group for dozens of labor unions.
The protests are intended to call attention to what OUR Walmart says are the low wages and poor working conditions at the massive American retail chain, but some see the efforts as thinly-veiled union activism that would be illegal if carried out by the unions directly.
So, let’s pull back that veil.
OUR Walmart is part of a new breed of labor organizations known as “workers’ centers,” which mix progressive politics with union organizing and a pinch of radical tactics borrowed from groups like Occupy Wall Street. The groups have sprung up in major cities across the country and prefer large, loud protests instead of the traditional collective bargaining process.
And they are backed, vocally and financially, by big unions.
“All over America, workers are organizing in all kinds of ways, and they call their unity by all kinds of names — workers’ unions, associations, centers, networks,” said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka at the union’s annual conference earlier this year.
Workers centers with ties to SEIU were behind the Labor Day fast food protests that took place in many cities. They’ve also been behind a series of disruptive protests at American restaurant chains over low pay for restaurant workers.
“Contrary to their public façade, union front groups are well-financed, highly sophisticated labor organizations,” said Glenn Spencer, vice president of the Workforce Freedom Initiative, an anti-union group. “When you pull back the curtain, one finds a river of financial support flowing to these groups from activist foundations.’”
OUR Walmart can trace its origins to UFCW, a national union that represents mostly retail employees.
In its 2011 filing with the U.S. Labor Department, UFCW announced it was forming a subsidiary organization known as “Organization United for Respect at Walmart,” later shortened to OUR Walmart.
According to UFCW, the purpose of the subsidiary group is to make “Walmart a better corporate citizen.”
Publicly, UFCW distances itself from OUR Walmart and acts as if the two are separate entities — a posture that everyone from CBS News to The Daily Show has exposed as being fake.
That’s not unusual.
Though they are not required to file the same public reporting documents as unions, the beginnings of most “workers centers” can be connected to the labor movement — literally, in many cases, since SEIU, UFCW and other politically-powerful unions gave much of the initial support and seed money to get those operations off the ground.
Read the fine print at the bottom of the OUR Walmart website, and the connection is even clearer.
“UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Walmart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Walmart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Walmart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards,” reads the legal disclaimer. “UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.”
The group doesn’t want to bargain on behalf of Walmart employees. Instead, it wants to use a mix of negative public relations and loud protests to bend Walmart to its will.
On its face, the entire effort requires convincing the public of two incongruous ideas.
First, the supposedly grassroots groups want Black Friday shoppers to believe the average Walmart wage of $12.83 per hour isn’t enough to raise a family. But secondly, the groups want shoppers to believe those same low-wage workers have enough time and money to organize and fund a multi-city campaign of public relations efforts and protests (not to mention all the protest guides and materials offered through their websites.)
Recently, unions have begun to embrace the workers centers they helped found.
Last week, Trumka and Joseph Hansen, international president of UFCW, were the lead speakers on a conference call announcing the Black Friday protests. Representatives from progressive groups like MoveOn.org joined them.
State level unions have joined the effort too.
“Walmart is the symbol of rising economic inequality in America. The large corporation made $17 billion in profits this year, but pays its employees poverty wages: 825,000 of their employees make less than $25,000 a year, trapping them and their families in a state of economic insecurity,” Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale said in a statement this week.
In Florida, members of SEIU will protest alongside OUR Walmart at several locations.
If labor unions are funding workers centers, and are increasingly vocal in their support of the organizations’ tactics and policies, why continue to pretend they’re separate?
One answer, perhaps, is that workers centers can get away with things that would be illegal for labor unions to do, such as the protests planned at Walmart stores Friday.
A variety of federal laws limit the activities of labor unions. Importantly, they are not allowed to engage in activities that directly interfere with commerce — picket lines are legal, of course, but the large, loud and disruptive protests carried out by groups like OUR Walmart, the Restaurant Opportunity Center and other workers centers are not subject to those labor laws, because the groups are registered as nonprofits.
“Workers centers give unions a way to play in the legal shadows while skirting accountability and oversight,” said Jim Plunkett, director of labor law policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “By avoiding being labeled as labor organizations, they’re able to play fast and loose with labor requirements.”
Will Patrick contributed to this report. He can be reached at WPatrick@Watchdog.org
Boehm is a reporter for Watchdog.org and can be reached at EBoehm@Watchdog.org. Follow him on Twitter @EricBoehm87.
Friday, November 29, 2013
What a publishing coup for the editors at Breitbart News when Vladimir Bukovsky chose to offer them the first chapter of his 1993 book, Judgment in Moscow, for publication for the first time in English. Published in other languages including French (Judgment a Moscou,1995), Random House acquired the book in the 1990s, but, as Bukovsky lays out below, the deal became contingent on deep, transformative revisions he simply refused to make. As Bukovsky explains, Random House honcho Jason Epstein was determined to shape Bukovsky's remarkable manuscript based on a trove of ultra-secret Soviet documents to fit the conventional wisdom ... the consensus ... the court history of the Cold War -- never mind the evidence as laid out in these stunning documents themselves. Something else... Read More »
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Once in Hawaii, I was taken to see a Buddhist temple. In the temple, a man said, "I am going to tell you something that you will never forget." And then he said "To every man is given the key to Heaven. The same key opens the gates of Hell." And so it is with science. --Richard Feynman
Ross Pomeroy November 26, 2013
My Take – I know I’m treading on sacred ground when it comes to Feynman, but I have to tell you I don’t have a lot of sympathy for these Manhattan Project people who later lamented and vented their deepest emotions to the world for the part they played in the production of the atom bomb, later acting as if they felt this was just some exciting and grand experiment with no practical application, and were shocked when all those people were killed. What did they think they were going to do with it? Bombs are meant to kill people and destroy a lot of real estate, and they do a cracker jack job of it.
Many years ago a friend of mine, Dr. Bill Goffman, a mathematician at Case Western Reserve University, said something about atomic energy I never forgot. “Atomic energy was designed to kill people, and it does a cracker jack job of it.” So when these guys start venting their alleged regrets - I really don’t want to hear it - especially since those two bombs – as horrible as they were – saved millions of civilian lives by ending the war. I also find it interesting when atheists start spouting off about 'evil'. How can anything be evil if there is no ultimate moral arbiter? If there is no ultimate arbiter of good and evil, then nothing is good and nothing is evil except how we view reality in our own eyes, making all values arbitrary, and potentially temporary!
Can it be that these atheists are having conscience problems? Nah….that would imply values that would be natural to all humans….like stealing, rape, murder, etc Ooops….it just dawned on me. Those are universal moral values shared by every race and every society, advanced and primitive, in the world all through human history. Can it be – is it possible – dare I say it – is there really is an ultimate moral arbiter?
Well, Feynman’s third value is; ""The scientist has a lot of experience with ignorance and doubt and uncertainty, and this experience is of very great importance, I think." So, we can assume a real scientist bashing believers is doubtful about all these absolute statements about atheism? Sure doesn’t sound like it to me, but what do I know….since my personal motto is De Omnibus Dubitandum – question everything! And I must tell you I have questioned the character of professional scientists for many years.
By Dan Nosowitz 11.27.2013
From Breitbart News: "West's American Betrayal Will Make History" by Vladimir Bukovsky... Read More »
Put bluntly, they want to get us back on that same track, and as soon as possible. The reason? Because every major power center, be that in D.C. or on Wall Street, tuned their thinking, systems, and sense of entitlement, during that period. And, frankly, a huge number of financial firms and political careers will melt away if and when that credit expansion finally stops. And stop it will; that’s just a mathematical certainty.......To Read More.....
To a liberal, the worst two words in the English language are “Christian Right.” For left-wing secular humanists, these two words conjure up images of Old Testament Pharisees who want to establish a theocracy on earth and stone to death all those who fall short of its tenets. Some humanists even consider the Christian Right to be one giant hate group. Apparently there are a lot of Americans who agree. In recent years there have been numerous books published proclaiming the Christian Right to be a dangerous group of theological fanatics determined to force all Americans to live by their values. Several of these books became bestsellers. One that springs immediately to mind is God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by the late Christopher
That's the question Micah Zenko poses at Foreign Policy. It's partly a rhetorical question meant to highlight a perceived double standard in how Israel's nuclear program is treated differently from Iran's--a double standard that isn't really one at all, since Israel is a democratic country and not a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty in any case. But it's also a practical question, because of the low probability that normal air strikes would be enough to destroy Iran's dispersed, secretive, and largely buried nuclear facilities.