Posted by Thomas Nephew on July 14th, 2007
…an occasional review of further developments in issues, news, or other items I’ve written about before.
Re Jackson Diehl’s “The House’s Ottoman Agenda”, 03/05/07; 90 years ago: Armenian genocide begins, 04/25/05 — Back in March, the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl wrote an exceptionally snotty op-ed deriding the value and wisdom of H.Res. 106, the Armenian Genocide Resolution, saying it em>”pandered” to Armenian Americans and was “almost comically heavy handed.” Rubbish; see for yourself, and ask yourself what you would write if the murder of 1.5 million countrymen went unacknowledged for 90 years. Now the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) reports Majority of US House Members support Armenian Genocide Resolution (link added):
In gaining 218 cosponsors, we have demonstrated that a majority of the House strongly supports recognizing the facts of the Armenian Genocide,” said lead sponsor, Congressman Adam Schiff. “While there are still survivors left, we feel a great sense of urgency in calling attention to the attempted murder of an entire people. Our failure to acknowledge these dark chapters of history prevents us from taking more effective action against ongoing genocides, like Darfur.”
Bravo to Congressman Schiff and his 217 cosponsors, including Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) who, in an e-mailed response to my support of H.Res. 106, noted that he sponsored a similar measure in the Maryland legislature before coming to Congress. Meanwhile: House 218, Diehl 0.
Support the Employee Free Choice Act, 06/20/07 — As is well known, the Employee Free Choice Act was defeated when Senate failed by 9 votes (51-48) to reach the 60 needed to end debate on the measure. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t thank the representatives and senators who supported it. Locally, it was a clean sweep: Representative Chris Van Hollen and Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin all voted for the bill. At “Free State Politics,” Isaac Smith provides a video clip of Senator Cardin’s floor speech, in which Cardin rebutted the canard that the Act prohibited secret ballot elections. From the official transcript of Cardin’s remarks:
“I listened again to what the Republican leader said about secret ballots, and I know there is a disconnect here, because, again, this legislation doesn’t get rid of that. What this legislation tries to say is we want workers rights to be adhered to. If the majority wants to have a union, they should be able to have a union without intimidation from the employer. And if the majority does not want to have a union, they should be able to do that without intimidation from the union.”
Earlier in his remarks, Cardin was also very good at spelling out what the stakes were for the country as a whole — union and non-union:
Real wages for U.S. workers are lower today than they were in 1973, even though productivity has increased by 80 percent. We do pride ourselves that each generation of Americans will live a more prosperous life than in previous generations. That will not be true for a large number of Americans. Today, wages are not keeping up with productivity. There is a problem in the workforce, and it affects all of us in this country. We need to do something about it.
Real median household income in my own State of Maryland has declined by 2.1 percent from 2000 to 2005. We find a widening of the income gap in America, a widening of the wealth gap in America. We should be moving to narrow that gap, not to see it continue to increase. We have a problem we need to deal with, and this legislation, H.R. 800, gives us an opportunity to debate these issues and determine whether the decline of unionization is one of the factors in contributing to these difficult economic trends.
CEOs are now paid 411 times what workers are paid in America–411 times. In 1990, it was bad enough at 107 times–once again, a widening of the gap. I remember when I was in college talking about the strength of America. The strength of America was that in all the western economic powers we had the narrowest gap between wealth and income. Now we have the widest. We need to do something about it. Unionization helps bridge that gap.
What has happened to unionization? In 1973, 24 percent of Maryland workers worked in a company that offered union representation. In 2006, that number dropped to 13 percent.
Pay attention to the Smithfield Tar Heel walk-out, 11/17/2006; New ICE age for labor?, 02/02/2007 — The Smithfield Tar Heel meat packing plant in North Carolina has been the scene of repeated walkouts and labor strife; the conflict has turned even uglier with Smithfield’s apparent reliance on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to pressure immigrant workers in the midst of a labor dispute.* But what Smithfield, other employers, and their misguided Republican allies in Congress and the White House are likely to find out is that if you stonewall, punish, and harass your workers for trying to improve their appalling working conditions (according to a Human Rights Watch report), those workers just going to have to up the ante.
To wit, Justice at Smithfield and the Union of Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) are now calling for a kind of surgical boycott of Smithfield Tar Heel products. Consumers are urged to take a close look at Smithfield products, and if they’re from the Tar Heel plant, contact the store manager and urge those products to be withdrawn. How can you tell it’s a Smithfield Tar Heel product? Except for a “Queenella” brand, all carry the Smithfield label — and all have a particular identification code. Justice at Smithfield:
You can identify the Tar Heel plant products with these codes:
EST 79C on bacon and EST 18079 on all other pork products.
(Red added to make you look.) The codes are part of the “use by” information and/or USDA inspection information on the meat packaging; see J-at-S’s “Find the Meat” document for examples.
* ICE guidelines supposedly preclude raids on workplaces in the midst of a labor dispute. That’s sensible, since otherwise they’d be essentially encouraging employers to hire illegal workers, only to have ICE be their company cops once a strike is looming. But a recent study shows ICE’s real attitude is “guidelines, shmidelines”: fully 54% of ICE workplace raids take place at workplaces with active labor disputes.
EDIT, UPDATE, 3/10/08: 51-48 vote link added. Worth noting — Obama and Clinton both voted to end debate on the bill, McCain did not.