Trying new ways is a must for labor

A strong, vibrant labor movement is a must if our nation and its citizens are to thrive.  As the percentage of workers in unions has fallen from a high nearly 60 years ago of 34% to the current 11%, so has the typical income of working families.  The growing gap between the wealthy and all others has grown to unconscionable levels, already damaging the vitality of our economy so needed to keep the economic engine running smoothly.

No one should rejoice in the increasing weakness in the labor movement; traditionally its strength is necessary for everyone to prosper, including the wealthy corporate bigwigs who seek to weaken – or even eradicate – all unions.

That’s why we herald the new weapons that unions have been using to fight back to strengthen their influence and build strength.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union took a big gamble when it sought to stage a nationwide picketing of Walmart on the day after Thanksgiving.  Some observers think the OUR Walmart effort may have failed, and perhaps the numbers of participants were not as much as the supporters wanted, but it did bring national attention to Walmart’s antiunion practices.  See link.

The chances of a massive demonstration, to be sure, were not high, since in these times when jobs are hard to come it’s apparent the vast numbers of dissatisfied Walmart workers were justifiably scared to publicly show their prounion feelings since they may face retaliation.

Taking on the nation’s largest employer is a Herculean task, but it’s imperative to start somewhere, and the Black Friday effort is a beginning.

Then there is the worker center movement that involves partnering with community organizations to set up sites where nonunion workers may go to resolve disputes with their employers or to gain assistance with personal issues involving basic needs.  In Milwaukee, the United Steelworkers teamed up with Voces de la Frontera, a community organization, in seeking union representation for workers at Palermo Pizza.  Some 350 workers are involved in a strike that began July 1st.

This may be a difficult strategy, too, since the organizing effort faces many odds, particularly due to the fact that many of the workers who are Hispanic have been targeted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service enforcement.  Yet, the strategy shows that labor is building credibility within the Hispanic community and is recognizing that a union needs community support to organize.

Traditional organizing is nearly impossible these days, due to the drop in manufacturing employment, unfair foreign imports and growing unfavorable labor laws.

Regardless of how successful the new strategies will be in the short run, they point to a positive trend among our unions to look for new ways to become strong again.  All of America needs stronger unions and everyone should herald this development. – Kenneth A. Germanson, Nov. 24,  2012. 

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Thanks for the Memory

To Parody “Thanks for the Memory,” a popular song introduced in 1938 and made popular as the signature tune for Comedian Bob Hope:

Thanks for the Memory

Of gorging and puffing

From turkey and stuffing

Filled with sweet potato

And lettuce with tomato.

 

Of family and friends

And talk that never ends

Of hoping that no feuds

Grow out of ancient moods.

 

Of crucial third downs

That draw the frowns

Of mom who’s unable

To bring men to the table.

 

Of the many boasts

That come with the toasts

As dad reaches poetic heights

While the kids sneak bites.

 

Thanks for the memory

Of the warm and tasty repast

Of many Thanksgiving Days past,

While thinking often about

Those who are left out.

After thoughts on post-election morning

My sleep-deprived brain is just racing with thoughts on this cloudy November morning in Milwaukee.

Most Promising Moment for the Future:  The rights of women were advanced, as they now will hold nearly 20 seats in the 100-seat U.S. Senate.  Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin became the first female U. S. Senator from our state and Claire McGaskill came from behind to win.

Two Republicans who originally had large margins in their campaigns were up-ended mainly because of insensitive remarks they made about rape during their campaign:  Todd Akin in Missouri and Mourdock in Indiana.

Notice to politicians:  Remember women make up 52% of the voting population.  Women didn’t win the right to vote until 1920, but now they’re  making their voices heard.

Funniest Moment on TV News Casts Tuesday night: Karl Rove, GOP premier strategist and the wunderkind of the George W. Bush, era tried to regain credibility as he continued to say Mitt Romney was going to not only win Ohio, but the election, even as all the Networks, including his own at Fox News, were projecting President Obama the winner in Ohio, thus putting the President over the magical 270 vote total and reassuring his election.

While the Fox News anchors stoically announced the result, Rove continued to theorize how Romney’s vote still would climb due to missing precincts in the rural areas of Ohio.  To convince him, Fox News put on an elaborate charade with the camera’s following Megyn Kelly, the anchor, announcer down several hallways to the Fox decision room where dozens of analysts were pouring over computers.  There the lead analysts plainly said they stood comfortably behind their projection of an Obama victory in Ohio and the nation.  View the video clip.

The decision room people were clearly pros at their work, something all decision-makers need.  Rove, however, continued to be clouded by his own dreamy reality and in spite of their reassurance plodded onward for a while with his cockamamie theorizing.  For complete report on this incident, click here.

Most Sobering Realization:  The Republicans maintained control of the House of Representatives and the Democrats still don’t have enough votes in the Senate to overturn GOP filibustering, an art their party leaders have mastered over the last four years.  President Obama may have won a convincing victory – and the GOP lost several Senate races they once considered to be theirs – but their leaders remained adamant in Congress.

Senate Leader Mitch McConnell flat out said the President must show bi-partisanship by accepting the Republican positions on key items like taxes, cuts to entitlements and defense spending.  The GOP continues to peddle the fiction that they have been open to compromise, while the record of the past four years documents that President Obama made plenty of overtures across the aisle, even adopting many Republican ideas – like the mandates in Obamacare which come out of an earlier playbook of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation and from Romney’s own Massachusetts health care plan.   President Obama will have a difficult four years ahead.

Most Joyful Development:  The election of the first openly gay U.S. Senator (Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin) and the passage of four statewide referenda supporting gay marriages in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.  How far the nation has come in accepting gay rights in some 20 years is astounding.  Remember the heat President Clinton got when “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” went into effect, and that measure was totally flawed!

Sadly, the country is split on this issue, with the four states passing it all being in the North.  But gay rights have moved forward in this nation.

Most Disappointing Result:  Republicans regained control of the Wisconsin State Senate, giving them carte blanche to do what ever they want.  If they maintain the strict party discipline they exhibited in Gov. Walker’s first two years, they will be unstoppable.  In early morning interviews, Republican leaders seemed bound and determined to pass legislation assisting business in doing away with regulations that protect the public and employees, trimming business taxes even further and cutting back on state aid to municipalities.  In addition, Republicans are set to pass mining legislation that would begin the denuding of the forestlands and vacation spots in the North.  The 18-15 GOP margin in the Senate would mean Sen. Dale Schultz of Richland Center would need to find at least one other GOPer to join with him in seeking balanced mining legislation.

The Republicans legislated their way to victory by redistricting seats for the Legislature in such a way that makes it difficult for Democrats to seize control in the immediate future.  Dark times may be ahead for Wisconsin’s working people if they succeed in their pro-business, anti-consumer and anti-worker agenda.

Most Welcome Realization: No more robo calls.

By Ken Germanson, Milwaukee, Nov. 7, 2012