Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why EFCA is Necessary

There's been much talk about the Employee Free Choice Act which was recently reported out of Committee in the House. Among other things the bill would allow the formation of a union if a majority of workers sign union cards rather than requiring a secret vote after workers sign union cards. I find the arguments that opponents are using very amusing.
"What you are seeing is an unprecedented effort by organized labor to overturn years of labor law," said Ringwood, a lobbyist for Associated Builders and Contractors. Like most business officials, she argued that removing the secret ballot would diminish workers' rights.

"This is moving very quickly and people are concerned that the rights of employees would be taken away."

By signing a union card workers are already expressing their support for a union, one must wonder at this point why a secret ballot election should be required after a majority of employees have already shown their support for a union. The answer of course is that oftentimes unions fail upon a secret ballot election. But this isnt because desire for a union is any less strong, but rather because employers threaten workers and run dishonest campaigns against the union. Further, as I pointed out a year ago, NLRB regulations against campaigns that intimidate workers are inneffective.
In 1997, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union lost a unionization election at the sprawling plant, built in this rural town 75 miles south of Raleigh. But it was not until 2004 that the National Labor Relations Board upheld an administrative law judge's decision that threw out the election results.

Seven years that workers in the North Carolina Factory I referred to in that post were without a union while waiting for the NLRB to rule on what was obvious. In that case workers were getting paid a full $3 an hour less than their unionized counterparts, the company may well be saving more than enough in reduced labor costs without a union to afford NLRB punishments after a 7 year wait. As I said at the time:
Seven years to finaly rule that the company violated the workers rights to a fair vote for a union. Seven years that the company was allowed to continue abusing its workers and for which the workers had no recourse of a union. Even after the ruling, organizers fear that the company would continue to act in the same way, intimidating workers so that they still would be unable to get a fair vote. If a new vote were held today and the company engaged in the same tactics and the vote had the same result, it would take another seven years to get the same ruling from the NLRB. Another 7 years for which employees would have no way to defend themselves against company abuses.

Go back and read that original post in which I quoted a fair share of a New York Times article on the subject, it was very disturbing. Its cases like these that show why we absolutely need EFCA, because these "confidential votes" are oftentimes anything but fair and are merely a means for employers who want to prevent a union to intimidate their employees to prevent them from voting for one. As to questions of whether its going to pass, I think it will, the bill is almost certainly going to pass the House as it has 230 cosponsors, both Democrats and Republicans. It has such broad support in the Democratic caucus, and has support of some of the most conservative Democrats out there that I see no possible way that it doesnt have the votes to pass the Senate, I would expect Collins, Snowe, and Specter to support it as well. Given the fact that it seems to have some reasonable Republican support and even has several Republican cosponsors, there might be enough votes there for an override if Bush vetos this. In short, I'm very optimistic about this bill. I guess the question on a veto override is whether there is any support from faux moderates like Gordo for the bill, if there is then any Bush veto will be overridden.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Uninspired Blogging

Since the start of the new year I've felt very uninspired as I write this blog. My posts have recently been written most often because I feel like I should post something rather than any sense that I want to talk about a given issue. That all culminated almost two weeks (12 days to be exact) ago when following a post on Lt Watada I proceeded to go on a long hiatus without a single post. What all this tells me is that it is clear that this blog must change its course (much like the US in Iraq only without the bloodshed). It has been my observation that far too little attention is payed by the mainstream press and by major blogs to labor/union issues. I now hope to stake myself out against that trend dedicating the bulk of this blog to precisely those issues. I have set up google and yahoo news alerts for labor and union relevent articles and will try to extensively cover everything union to the best of my ability. If I feel compelled to write about another issue I will, but the bulk of this blog will henceforth be dedicated to labor and unions. Expect this to start sometime today.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Watada Trial and Personal Responsibility

I was struck by this collumn in the Seattle Post Intelligencer today regarding the actions of Lt. Ehren Watada. The author Robert Jamieson explores the difference between Lt. Watada and Sgt. Mickel David Garrigus who recently died in Iraq, asking which one should be treated as a hero. Before I get deeper into this I believe that Mr. Jamieson forces a false choice upon his readers, playing on every emotional connection that one can to portray Sgt. Garrigus well and Lt. Watada poorly. Undoubtedly we should mourn for Sgt. Garrigus just as we should morn for every one of the more than 3,000 American soldiers and countless Iraqis who have died in this terrible war. Jamieson acts as though one cant think highly of both at the same time, as though respecting the fight that Mr. Watada is putting up somehow diminishes the life of Sgt. Garrigus, it doesnt. The crux of Jamieson's argument however lies below.
They've talked about values they hold dear: patriotism and honor and duty.

Both have anguished over the implosion of Iraq.

But as soldiers they've long known -- or damn well should have known -- that an imperfect military machine works because men and women sign up to follow orders. They are contracted to abide by the rules. You break these rules -- even if you question, as I do, those at the top who are now enforcing them -- and you face the consequences. Period.

This is a deeply flawed moral philosophy that Jamieson presents his readers with, and one that needs to be examined. Jamieson even quotes the right source but fails to engage with the weight of its words, I refer to Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham City Jail."
"One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law."

This is not about whether Lt. Watada will face consequences (though I was sure he would until today) this is about the responsibility that an individual holds to others. Watata feels that the war is unjust and has made the determination that if one feels the war is unjust one should not participate in it. Jamieson's argument is precisely the one that was rightly rejected at Nuremburg, that individual's following orders bears no responsibility for what he has done. The Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann merely decided to do his job rather than to stop and question the fact that he was playing an active part in the slaughter of millions of innocent people. Watada has broken the law and should be confined to prison, but that misses the point, the point is that Watada has acted in good faith with his conscious, he has made the determination that he cannot bear to live knowing that he played a part in this war. Those who say that soldiers should not question the conflicts for which they fight merely return to the nuremburg defense. Watada is as King put it "showing the highest respect for law" but refusing to participate in this war and willingly accepting the penalty for it. But recent events undermine this.
The Army court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, which ended in a mistrial Wednesday, may have stranger turns ahead: Prohibitions against double jeopardy may keep prosecutors from having a second trial, his lawyer and another legal expert say.

The opposition of Watada and his defense team to the mistrial, declared by the military judge and eventually endorsed by prosecutors after their case fell apart, opens the door for a double-jeopardy defense, said John Junker, a University of Washington law professor.
...
The dramatic turn of events hinged on a stipulation of fact that Watada signed in a plea agreement more than a week ago. Under the plea deal, prosecutors dropped two charges of conduct unbecoming an officer against Watada. He was being tried this week on two other charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and one count of missing movement when his Stryker Brigade deployed to Iraq in June.

Head questioned Watada while the jury was out of the courtroom, which Seitz objected to but allowed, and legal experts such as Junker said they would consider that questioning "very unusual" in a civilian trial.

Head concluded that he could not accept Watada's statement. Although Watada had admitted to failing to deploy with his unit, it was not the same as admitting guilt, which prosecutors considered it to be, Head said.

Watada should in fact have admitted guilt, he should have said "yes! I refused to get on that plane, if that is a crime than I guess I'm guilty!" But he didnt, If Watada truly wants to take the moral high ground he should not be pleading his innocence but rather admitting his guilt. I have a deep respect for Watada's refusal to participate in more killing, he can not participate in this war if he truly believes that it is wrong. However, he should plead guilty and accept the consequences of doing so. The moral high ground rarely comes without consequences, and it seems as though Lt. Watada is trying to have it both ways, which is a shame.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Coolest Picture Ever

Literally.

That looks like it should be painful but he doesnt look like he's in pain. Thank you CNN.com

Friday, February 02, 2007

Diplomatic Operations

Josh Marshall asks:
Can we assume the number of billions of dollars for "diplomatic operations" is a pretty small part of the pie? And what "diplomatic operations" are they talking about exactly?

My guess is aggressive negotiations.
Anakin: When I got to them we got into aggressive negotiations.
Padme: Aggressive negotiations? What's that?
Anakin: Ah, well, it's negotiations with a lightsaber.

I've got to work Star Wars into this blog every once in a while.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

My Thoughts on the New Tax Proposal

I'm not a big fan of the bipartison tax reform bill that the Oregonian discussed this morning.
A bipartisan plan to remake Oregon's tax system -- add a 5 cent sales tax, cut income taxes by one-third, add tax credits for the poor, slash the tax on capital gains -- was formally put before the Legislature on Wednesday.

If enacted, it would represent the biggest change in state tax policy since 1929, when Oregon began a state income tax.

But the odds are steep: The plan would have to be approved by two-thirds of the House and Senate, and it would have to overcome the deep aversion of Oregon voters and politicians to a sales tax.

I guess I'm one of those with a deep aversion to a sales tax. Sales taxes are regressive, and the sponsors of the bill realized that. They were wise to attempt to balance it out for poor Oregonians by making income taxes for those very people lower.
Taxpayers in every income range could expect to pay less in taxes, except some taxpayers who earn too little to owe income taxes. For most Oregonians, sales tax payments would be more than offset by reductions in income and property taxes, Westlund says.

But Westlund acknowledges that some people will slip through the cracks in this bill paying more in sales taxes but not having enough income to get an income tax cut to balance it out. So the poorest Oregonians end up paying a disproportionate high percentage of their income to the sales tax. Aside from that practical argument, I think sales taxes are also a pain, in Oregon now when you see a price on something you know thats the price, something reassuring, when there's a sales tax you dont really know what you're paying in the end unless you're a math wizz. There is something that can be done to this bill that I believe would make it acceptable. Washington probably has the right model here, Washington has a sales tax but it exempts food, so that the basic necessities that everyone must have and cause the sales tax to burn the poor are not taxed. If the legislature wants to enact a sales tax they should exempt food so that the poorest Oregonians dont get burned as they would without such an exemption.