They could “challenge the social justice narrative” by treating their employees better, and they wouldn’t even have to hire a consultant

Low wage employers don’t have enough money to pay their employees more but they have plenty of money to launch smear campaigns and hire “crisis management” consultants:

Worker Center Watch has no information its website about its sponsors. Yet the group attacks labor activists and community labor groups for lacking transparency. “Hiding behind these non-profits, unions mask their true motivations, circumvent operational requirements and skirt reporting and disclosure obligations,” says Worker Center Watch, referring to labor-supported worker centers like OUR Walmart.
TheNation.com has discovered that Worker Center Watch was registered by the former head lobbyist for Walmart. Parquet Public Affairs, a Florida-based government relations and crisis management firm for retailers and fast food companies, registered the Worker Center Watch website.
The firm is led by Joseph Kefauver, formerly the president of public affairs for Walmart and government relations director for Darden Restaurants. Throughout the year, Parquet executives have toured the country, giving lectures to business groups on how to combat the rise of what has been called “alt-labor.” At a presentation in October for the National Retail Federation, a trade group for companies like Nordstrom and Nike, Kefauver’s presentation listed protections against wage theft, a good minimum wage and mandated paid time off as the type of legislative demands influenced by the worker center protesters The presentation offered questions for the group, including: “How Aggressive Can We Be?” and “How do We Challenge the Social Justice Narrative?”

The alarm at how quickly the new organizing model has taken off has sparked anxiety among business executives. Littler Mendelson, a law firm that helps companies defeat labor unions, released a report outlining the challenge for corporate executives.
In a webinar hosted this month for business executives seeking a “union-free workplace,” Nancy Jowske explained that the alt-labor model could heavily influence millennials and their perceptions of labor unions. “One of the things to consider about what’s going there with SEIU’s Fight for 15 and all of this is the millennial generation,” said Jowske, a former SEIU organizer turned union-buster, “they are getting a steady diet of pro-union from every possible direction.” She added, “this is also a generation that is very class-conscious” and explained that the current alt-labor protests could incite future organizing drives.

I am always surprised at the ferocious response to ANY show of worker solidarity or pushback. These huge companies are really terrified of non-union workers who have absolutely no leverage or clout finally getting a little media attention? Thirty years of completely dominating the dialogue on wages and work has made them believe that they are entitled to complete deference, I guess. They must act aggressively and shut it down before “the millennial generation” hear anything positive about unions, because God forbid we should have an actual debate.

FYI, this is a explanation of “alt-labor” and this is an example of a worker center:

The Garment Worker Center (GWC) is a worker rights organization whose mission is to organize low-wage garment workers in Los Angeles in the fight for social and economic justice.
GWC addresses the systemic problems of wage theft, unhealthy and unsafe working conditions, and the abusive and inhumane treatment faced by workers on-the-job.

Also, can we get more of this? The low wage workers shouldn’t be out there all alone.

On Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days on the year, a group of seven Democratic lawmakers came out in support of Wal-Mart employees who are protesting the company to improve labor standards.
“Across the country, there are countless Wal-Mart workers who are paid poverty wages, cannot get enough hours, and have erratic work schedules that make it difficult to survive,” said the statement, issued by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.).

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97 replies
  1. 1
    Peter says:

    Littler Mendelson, a law firm that helps companies defeat labor unions

    I’ve always wondered how you turn ‘soulless waste of perfectly good hydrocarbons’ into a job description.

  2. 2
    maurinsky says:

    I am always surprised at the ferocious response to ANY show of worker solidarity or pushback.

    LePage in Maine wants to lower the working age to 12, with a “training wage” which is under the state’s minimum wage level. What do we think that downward drive on wages will do to the job market in Maine? They don’t want workers talking to each other or thinking that “hey, maybe the problem is not that someone has it better, but that everyone else has it so bad”.

  3. 3
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    Shorter Worker Center Watch: Freedom of association for me but not for thee.

  4. 4
    Mnemosyne says:

    @maurinsky:

    WTF? I remember back in Illinois the minimum working age was 16, but 15-year-olds could get a special permit that had all kinds of restrictions about hours, days they could work, etc. And they got paid regular minimum wage like everyone else.

    Sixteen makes sense as a minimum age since that’s usually the age where mandatory schooling stops, but 12? That’s fifth grade!

  5. 5
    Tommy says:

    I live in a part of the country where Unions still matter. Heck BP bought a local gas station and tried to use non-Union labor to put in a new parking lot and there was a picket line. Nobody crossed that line and funny thing, almost overnight, they hired Union labor.

    Heck most folks I know are nothing close to liberals and THEY are pro-Union. Heck my dad jokes that if you tried to build a house or a business and used non-Union labor when he was a kid there was a chance said building might burn down.

    Now clearly I am not suggesting that. But I was raised in a very Republican family and was taught Unions are good. They rock. You don’t mess with Unions. So posts like this are just confusing to me.

  6. 6
    john b says:

    @Mnemosyne: I guess it’s fifth grade if you failed twice. but typically that’s seventh grade, perhaps the latter half of sixth. Perfectly acceptable age to be making slave wages at the mine. better than selling skittles out of your locker.

  7. 7
    Kay says:

    @maurinsky:

    I feel as if it was inevitable. The Sainted Ronald Reagan has been gone for a long time, and the concept behind labor unions is an old, old idea. In that thirty year period, no one on the Right came up with any alternative. At some point, people were going to notice their wages were stagnant and the middle class was disappearing. It became obvious.

  8. 8
    Tommy says:

    @Mnemosyne: Well Illinois guy here and the age is 16 for most jobs. Much younger if you work on a “family” farm. In fact I think (I could be wrong) it is Federal labor law that allows people as young as 12 to work on a “family” farm. I am not sure I am a huge fan of this, I mean working the kid 12+ hours a day. But some work here or there, I honestly don’t have much of a problem with it.

  9. 9
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Mnemosyne: I delivered papers at age 11. I had to get a special permit from the school. I wasn’t responsible for fee collection, but the kid delivery crew before me was. Spooky.

    LePage is an animal.

  10. 10
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Tommy: The problem is that enforcement sucks and there are young kids out there in the fields picking crops. Since they don’t pay the parents enough.

    http://www.thenation.com/artic.....cco-fields

    (Part of the whole Rubashkin cruel kosher scandal was 14 year old Honduran girls working in the Iowa meat packing plant; most places ban anyone younger than 16 doing meat packing or butchering for obvious reasons.)

  11. 11
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Tommy:

    I used to work for my dad in the summer at his office (he was one of the co-owners) when I was about 12 or 13. Delivering packages, typing envelopes, that kind of thing. I probably didn’t work more than 4 hours a day, 2 or 3 days a week — it was mostly to supplement my allowance. But I do have Social Security contributions going back to that age because I was actually on the payroll, not being paid under the table.

  12. 12
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @Tommy: Republicans weren’t always the party of oligarchy. That came about with Reagan.

  13. 13
    Another Holocene Human says:

    Btw, Darden up there is no accident. They are terrible. They want to lower minimum wage for food workers.

  14. 14

    If your motivation is profit above everything else, and minimizing labor costs, child labor and slavery are what follow. I want to see an economist defend that in the name of efficiency.

    ETA: Conservatives want to turn back the clock, on everything.

  15. 15
    MikeJ says:

    They could “challenge the social justice narrative” by treating their employees better, and they wouldn’t even have to hire a consultant

    If you give in the proles start thinking they deserve to be treated like humans and will just demand more. Cheaper in the long run to crush them now.

  16. 16
    ruemara says:

    @Mnemosyne: I got my first job as part of an afterschool program at 12. I also got my social security number at that time, by myself. You can do a lot as a motivated preteen. However, I do not support this. I made the same money as anyone else working an entry level job.

  17. 17
    NCSteve says:

    No one familiar with the social and political history of pre-Civil War America should be surprised at the ferocity of the reaction by these companies.

  18. 18
    Tommy says:

    @Another Holocene Human: By me there are still a lot of family farms, but farming is a huge mechanical thing now. I mean folks are not using horses and a plow to plant stuff. But as a kid in the 70s and 80s (I assume the same today) a lot of kids I went to school with worked. More feeding animals and stuff.

    Again I don’t have much of a problem with this, within reason. Working at a meat packing place, NO WAY. Working for a company not owned by your parents, NO WAY. No 12 year old should be helping another company make money. Never, never, never.

  19. 19
    Mnemosyne says:

    @ruemara:

    It is different working for a family business than other jobs at that age — at least in theory, your family has your best interests at heart. I think it was more a way to get me out of the house during the summer than sitting around saying, “I’m booooorrrreeeddd.” IMO, it’s totally different than working for non-family — it’s more like getting paid to mow the front lawn than a “real” job.

    (Though, obviously, family jobs can get exploited, too. But in theory they should be different.)

  20. 20
    Kay says:

    @NCSteve:

    I’m pleased they’re threatened by it, but at the same time I’m thinking, “God, what whiny babies they are!”

    It’s maybe 2000 people picketing on any given day. Call out the guards! CRUSH this insurrection!

    I don’t know what they’d do with real labor unrest.

  21. 21
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @Tommy: I’m pretty sure that’s not what they’re talking about. I’m figuring it’s more likely to be something like this: http://civilrightsandwrongs.fi.....97cc51.jpg

  22. 22
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @ruemara: I was paid piecework but also had the promise of a scholarship if I worked for three years. Which I did, and they paid. That made my wages much better!

    They were still running some sort of “points for toys” scam when I started working for the paper… what a bunch of scumbuckets.

    I liked the job. My mom got me big old tire-kicking, wool felt lined boots for winter delivery. Those boots were awesome. Hated the dogs, though. I was really terrorized.

  23. 23
    J.D. Rhoades says:

    People are beginning to push back against being treated like shit for shit money, and Obamacare is going to eventually decouple health insurance from employment, taking away their major tool for keeping the workers in line. And that’s why the bosses are so terrified and angry.

  24. 24
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @Kay: Hire Erik Prince to deal with it. I figure he’s most likely to be the contemporary Pinkerton.

  25. 25
    Karen in GA says:

    @Mnemosyne: My mother started yelling at me to get a job when I was about 13. Of course, I couldn’t legally work, but that just meant that I was lazy and didn’t want to pay room and board.

    That’s the mindset of these people — they won’t be happy until everyone is toiling away miserably.

    I’m old enough to work now, and one of the jobs I’ve had was supporting the employment lawyer of a big corporation. Some of the service tech guys wanted to unionize — this was something like their second or third attempt in the past few years. I can tell you, the corporate higher-ups were terrified of this. They pulled out all the stops — all the bullshit promises the company made to the employees to keep them from unionizing were particularly offensive. Like an abusive husband trying to lure back the wife he battered. “I didn’t listen to you! I’m sorry! I promise to be more attentive to your needs!”

    I really thought they’d unionize, because each vote over the past few years was closer and closer — but it was a tie, and evidently a tie vote goes to the employer.

    The higher-ups were furious with the HR and law people who fought off the unionization attempt, because the victory wasn’t decisive enough. They never once said, “Wow, that was close — we’d better start treating these people better.”

    But yeah, unions scare the hell out of execs, because so many unions are effective. I wish more people understood this.

  26. 26
    Pincher says:

    @Mnemosyne: When I got my first job at age 17, there was a special lower minimum for minors, which was $2.50/hr. It was pathetic but not bad for a kid. Plug that number into a CPI calculator and I see it’s worth $8.06 today, or basically the current minimum wage for adults.

  27. 27
    Tommy says:

    @polyorchnid octopunch: Oh I know. I fear there are more than a few folks that want exactly that. I mean when I hear clips from like Fox Business and they say we don’t need a minium wage I am no longer stunned. If they could folks would pay people with “company money” they could only spend at Wal-mart if they could get away with it.

  28. 28
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Mnemosyne: My sister had a friend who had to work in the family restaurant for free, probably an arrangement of dubious legality; however, the parents spent big bucks to send her to school in a really good district and then pay for college. They were East Asian so this is pretty typical. Amaeru, Taiwanese style.

    But then you hear about Haitian families “taking in” cousins and forcing them to work as domestic servants, never going to school.

    THIS is why we need truancy officers.

  29. 29
    rikyrah says:

    Judge rules Detroit eligible for historic Chapter 9 bankruptcy, says pensions can be cut
    2:22 PM, December 3, 2013

    The city of Detroit today officially became the largest municipality in U.S. history to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes declared it met the specific legal criteria required to receive protection from its creditors.

    The landmark ruling ends more than four months of uncertainty over the fate of the case and sets the stage for a fierce clash over how to slash an estimated $18 billion in debt and long-term liabilities that have hampered Detroit from attacking pervasive blight and violent crime.

    http://www.freep.com/article/2.....s-can-cut#

  30. 30
    Yatsuno says:

    FYWP. No really. I fucking mean it this time.

  31. 31
    Chris says:

    @Karen in GA:

    But yeah, unions scare the hell out of execs, because so many unions are effective. I wish more people understood this.

    Which also pretty well goes with my theory of “it’s not about money, it’s about power.” Looking at much more heavily unionized workforces like Germany or Scandinavia, no one could creditably claim that unions are preventing their industries from being efficient, or that the CEOs of these companies are underpaid or otherwise not well rewarded for being the front man of the whole operation. Ditto the America of the fifties and sixties. The only reason they’re so terrified of unions is that it drastically reduces their power over their employees’ lives.

  32. 32
    shelly says:

    Conservatives want to turn back the clock, on everything.

    The 1% wants to ensure that the rest of us remain as just the ‘Help’ And we should be darn grateful for it.

  33. 33
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Tommy: Federal law allows a child of any age to work on a farm that is owned or operated by the child’s parent/s. State laws could put limits on this, but that will obviously vary.

  34. 34
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    I’ve asked this before, and I’ll ask it again: Do these assholes WANT to take tumbrel rides? Because they sure as hell act like they do.

  35. 35
    Tommy says:

    @rikyrah: My gosh don’t get me started on this topic. I don’t see how as an American more folks are not yelling we need to help the city via the Federal government. How we can let a major city file for bankruptcy is beyond me.

    Heck I grew up and now live near St. Louis. We don’t have Detroit problems, but getting close (it is a very complex problem). Used to have more than one million residents, now down to like 590,000. So much industry gone and never coming back.

    A few years ago the city was so poor they went as far to take the lightbulbs out of every third street light to save money.

  36. 36

    @shelly: They have help from many who will never make it to the 1%.

  37. 37
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    The commoditization of American labor began again in the Reagan years. It was no accident that Reagan broke the back of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization. That sent a clear message that no worker was important enough to not be fucked with.

  38. 38
    Shakezula says:

    I’m not surprised. These are the same grifters and parasites who have helped turn the GOP into the party that is completely and openly hostile to everyone except conservative multi-millionaires.

    The idea that you should be paid for your work is obscene to them and they’re so deranged they haven’t figured out that if we don’t get paid, there will be no one to buy the shit they sell.

  39. 39
    Shakezula says:

    p.s. But knowing these geniuses have a plan to make sure the yout hate the idea of being paid when they work is great news.

  40. 40
    Kay says:

    @Karen in GA:

    They pulled out all the stops — all the bullshit promises the company made to the employees to keep them from unionizing were particularly offensive.

    My 20 year old is working for a manufacturer that is actually a decent employer. They approached it head on, gave them a power point presentation on why they didn’t need a union. He was laughing about it, but I think that’s fair and at least dignified. They are trying to persuade them instead of threatening them or going behind their backs. They have a kind of union-like bidding structure for moving up that does give them some of the benefits of a union, so that was the big sales pitch, but what is probably most persuasive is they pay them decently and they have health insurance and a retirement plan. Anyway, it seems like “dealing with complex human beings, 101” to bring them in and talk to them. No consultants needed!

  41. 41
    low-tech cyclist says:

    Geez, these alt-labor folks want “protections against wage theft.” Clearly a bunch of moochers and takers.

    The employers who have a problem with that, I mean. Because, you know, wage theft IS mooching and taking, and if you aren’t doing it, then protections against it shouldn’t be a problem, you know?

  42. 42
    Amir Khalid says:

    I think I’ve seen some posts here that were shorter than this post headline.

  43. 43
    Jay B. says:

    “One of the things to consider about what’s going there with SEIU’s Fight for 15 and all of this is the millennial generation,” said Jowske, a former SEIU organizer turned union-buster, “they are getting a steady diet of pro-union from every possible direction.”

    First of all, without knowing literally anything else about her, Nancy Jowske is a fucking rat of the top order. It boggles my mind that even if she had a bad experience with a union, she would side with management to drive down wages. Scum-sucking horror show. And she’s full of shit too — “pro-union from every direction” is the hight of mendacious twaddle. You can’t go on to most lefty sites and see a whole lot of unconditional liberal support for unions and you certainly don’t see it or hear it from the national Democratic Party. It’s a billion times worse in the media and with the moneyed interests who run everything else. God, I WISH the kids were hearing pro-union messages all the time and not wanting to join our national race to turn everything into Mississippi.

  44. 44
    NotMax says:

    @Tommy

    Working for a company not owned by your parents, NO WAY. No 12 year old should be helping another company make money. Never, never, never.

    Get where you’re coming from, but never is pretty absolute.

    Refuse to be shamed by or apologetic about the paper route I had at 12. Nor for any of the other jobs (most part-time or seasonal; all voluntarily sought out by me rather than being forced by dire necessity) I held beginning at 8. The income was mine, and most welcome.

  45. 45
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Jay B.: Yep. The High Hair Liberals love “Unions” in general, but striking workers, not so much. It may inconvenience people. It may require paying more to eat out. One might need to pay someone more to mow the lawn. It may be that working class people need to be put in charge of movements and that would diminish the weight of the HHLs in determining the direction of the party and the issues.

  46. 46
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @Jay B.:
    The “steady diet of pro-union” is being served up by many employers who, not satisfied with paying shit wages, are going out of their way to fuck with their workers just because they can. We are approaching the kind of conditions that engendered the Pullman Strike of 1894.

  47. 47
    redoubt says:

    @polyorchnid octopunch: I can see this, since Prinz Erik von Schwarzwasser zu Abu Dhabi (where his company is based now) would be more than happy to bring in appropriate staff.

  48. 48
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @NotMax:

    One of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition is (paraphrasing here) “Treat your family as you would your employees or customers. Exploit them!”

  49. 49
    Hungry Joe says:

    @Jay B.: I can’t (don’t WANT to) imagine what it’s like in the putrescent sewage dump of Jowske’s (“A former SEIU organizer turned union-buster”) mind. Must be way beyond creepy in there.

  50. 50
    aimai says:

    @maurinsky: So: he wants a repeat of the horrendous family and economy that birthed him? As I recall he was one of 11 children in an impoverished french-maine family which could not afford to support all those children and he was kicked out or fled to the streets at a very young age.

  51. 51
    NotMax says:

    @Villago Delenda Est

    Liberté, égalité, exploiter!

  52. 52
    aimai says:

    @Kay: You don’t know what they’d do with real labor unrest? Pinkertons!

  53. 53
    Redshift says:

    @Kay: Ms. Redshift worked on the (successful) organizing drive for adjunct faculty at the community college where she works. They were helped tremendously by a campus-wide email from the administration (which had pledged to remain neutral before hiring a union-busting law firm) that said, essentially, “yes, the full-time faculty have a union, and the groundskeepers have a union, and the maintenance workers have a union, but you don’t need a union; we’ll take care of you.”

    Lots of the adjuncts had no idea that nearly everyone else on campus was unionized. The ballot passed with plenty of room to spare.

  54. 54
    Redshift says:

    @Hungry Joe: Or, more than likely, the claim to being a “former union organizer” is just a lie to puff up her credentials.

  55. 55
    KS in MA says:

    For what it’s worth, 150 people turned out on Black Friday to support the workers’ protest at one of my local Walmarts…

    http://www.gazettenet.com/sear.....y-wal-mart

  56. 56
    Kay says:

    @aimai:

    I was wondering if it’s the incredibly boring whine of “kids are too soft today!” I get that feeling from a lot of the child labor enthusiasts. It’s of a piece with “I got a good education but kids are so dumb today!” It isn’t true at all. It isn’t even slightly true. We weren’t smarter and we aren’t better educated, on the whole, than “kids today”.
    One of the things I like about my father is, he’s ancient, but he has NONE of that. He tells me many, many people were always really dumb (even The Greatest Generation!) and he was a lazy, unserious and near-degenerate teen.

  57. 57
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    @rikyrah: It boggles my mind that in just 12 short years Firefighters and Cops have gone from heroes to bloodsucking moochers who are bankrupting cities and municipalities.

    So when their pensions are cut what are these people supposed to do? They were promised retirement and benefits for working (and managing to stay alive) for 20 odd years, are they supposed to go back to work (if they can find a job) or just starve to death?

  58. 58
    Kay says:

    @Redshift:

    That’s a great story. We had a good organizing effort here that I was following. Social workers. I work with them a lot, so I know they’re fierce and determined (mostly) young women, but I rode up in an elevator after they voted to unionize with a county commissioner and he was just so saddened and shocked. He thought they were nice girls, was his general theme.

    Their jobs are just brutal, and they make next to nothing. I’m glad they did it. I was cheering them on.

  59. 59
    Hungry Joe says:

    @Redshift: From the Positive Management Leadership website:

    “Nancy offers an uncommon mix of union campaign experiences and insights, having won numerous campaigns from both sides as a consultant to management since 2010 and as a lead organizer and organizing director for the AFT, SEIU and Unite HERE. She is a graduate of SEIU’s “Senior in Training” program and has served on a number of SEIU International committees. Nancy was also an active member during organizing drives with the CWA, the Steelworkers and the UFCW, including the 54- day strike against Borders Books in 2003. During her career in organized labor, Nancy developed organizer training materials and held leadership positions on corporate and political leverage campaigns.

    “As a Field Coordinator with Unite HERE, Nancy was part of the strategic team that shaped and drove a multi-million dollar national leverage campaign against a pharmacy retail giant. Nancy also led decertification petition drives on HERE shops during the contentious Unite HERE internal strife in 2009.”

  60. 60
    Tommy says:

    @NotMax: No never is strong. I had a paper route back in like 1981 when I was 12 or so. I actually liked it. Totally my choice. Let me buy a lot of Star Wars figures and baseball cards :).

  61. 61
    Tone in DC says:

    @rikyrah:

    I had hoped that a judge would put a stop to that ridiculous, undemocratic bullshit up there. I see that I was wrong.

    Hope the pensioners have money for an appeal.

  62. 62
    Yatsuno says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    are they supposed to go back to work (if they can find a job) or just starve to death?

    Starving to death would be good for most Republicans. Saves them a mint on Medicare too.

    What’s worse is a lot of these pensioners never paid into Social Security. So they can’t even draw on that.

  63. 63
    Tommy says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: How about it. Where I have lived the police rock. The handful of times I had to call them, I was happy with their services in ways I can’t put to words. Rock stars IMHO. I often wish I could pay more in taxes to pay them more. Heck in my little rural town I think they know the names of all 8,700 residents. If I needed help I am 110% secure in the fact they would give their life for me if needed (lets hope it never is).

  64. 64
    Neldob says:

    Corporate cruelty and short sighted selfishness, treating workers badly, not paying them enough, making them work on holidays like Thanksgiving when they should be with their families is unAmerican. It’s what they do in backward countries. It’s anti-family. Somebody should rip those flag pins off their lapels.

  65. 65
    Tommy says:

    @Yatsuno: I can’t find the darn article from a few months ago. On one of the longform journalism sites. About 20,000 words on what happened in Detroit. Why everything that happened is complex, how it happened is actual far more simple then I could have thought.

    This is dumbing it down somewhat but around the 50s there was “white flight.” Mayor after mayor saw that to balance the budget with lower tax revenue, they could basically not pay into the city’s pension plans. You know they just needed to balance the budget, the next mayor would pick up the slack. Well the next one and the next one didn’t.

    At the same time all the “smart” people in the room said that they should lower taxes to stop losing residents and to maybe bring more citizens back. They kept doing this, but alas it never worked. So you get the double whammy.

    Again I dumbed this down somewhat and of course there were other factors, but these seem to be the main reasons Detroit is where they are.

    BTW: Some mayor back in the late 80s ran on cutting taxes. Then he got into office and saw the “books” and freaked out. Cut benefits. Raised taxes. He said he saw the writing on the wall. He was as you might guess not popular.

  66. 66
    MGB says:

    @Tommy: That “some” mayor was Coleman A Young, the first black mayor of Detroit. He was actually really fiscally conservative (in the old sense) and tried to balance the books. He was mayor from 1974-1994.

  67. 67
    negative 1 says:

    @Kay: Which is kind of the problem. If there’s a contract, than the wages are payment for the work, and the work is defined. If not, then it’s kind of ‘here’s your money, be grateful’. For those who think that’s a little bit of hyperbole, notice that the man in that story likes the social workers, but apparently doesn’t think that they are capable of speaking for their own interests.

  68. 68
    boatboy_srq says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: In just 12 short years the generation that revered them has moved that much closer to a fixed-income retirement, and for at least half that time they’ve been bombarded with “we’re broke” from one half the political structure. Not to mention that 2007-9 came along and shredded whatever investments they could stash away in their “better-than-a-pension” 401Ks so their soon-to-be-fixed-incomes are looking even worse.

    This is not a new phenomenon. Take a good look at FL politics over the last 50 years. The state is bound and determined to be the 48th best for education because all those old folks can’t be arsed with paying for other people’s kids’ schooling. Ditto for OBGYN, pediatrics etc in the health plan and wages for police/fire/EMT/etc. The single largest difference in 2013 is that FL has become less affordable as retirement real estate and the auld volk are spreading to other, cheaper environs or just staying put.

  69. 69
    PIGL says:

    @Kay: I know what they’d do. The El Salvador option, extra death-squady.

    The police are ready and willing, and the media narrative writes itself.

  70. 70
    PIGL says:

    @polyorchnid octopunch: No ^h^h^h^h kidding.

  71. 71
    Tommy says:

    @MGB: Thanks. Been looking for the article for the last 20 minutes. Not sure why I can’t find it. But the paper went in and looked at the paper archives of the city from the 50s until now. They noted that the lady that showed them where they were, well they were the first people that wanted to look at them.

    That freaked me out. Cause they then hired CPAs and other folks to look over the books, and it got really in the weeds, but from 10,000 feet what happened was pretty straightforward IMHO.

    Oh I should note one other problem I didn’t mention was, to some extent, as they city population kept decreasing, they didn’t reduce the government workers. Now I am super pro-Union and pro-government workers, but when you have less need for government services, well you need less workers.

  72. 72
    Jennifer says:

    Businesses love “at will” employment mostly because it’s the closest thing to slavery most of them can get (these days). But they’re trying to change that.

  73. 73
    MGB says:

    @Tommy: I grew up in the city of Detroit in the 80’s and 90’s. SO I’ve seen a few things in regards to Detroit, but yes, lots of issues in what happened in Detroit. As pro-union as I am, the city unions really screwed up in not letting the city reduce the ranks of workers as the city got smaller. It was political suicide to lay off city workers then. But as you mentioned, the reasons for the issues in Detroit are giant and various, with no one factor being the primary.

  74. 74
    Gene108 says:

    @Jay B.:

    Actually it is the race to become Vietnam, rather than Mississippi. I would say China but wages there have gone up a lot, so people are looking for cheaper labor.

  75. 75
    Tommy says:

    @boatboy_srq: There is a story I love to tell.

    My grandfather after serving in WWII came home and took a union job at a tool and die company (Snap-On). Worked there for 40 years, until he was a manager.

    Now he saved. He was somewhat frugal. But he bought a nice house. Sent this three kids to college, which he paid for. And made I think most folks would tell you the best tools known to man (he was very proud of this).

    When he passed away a few years ago at 93 we were kind of stunned. He was close to a millionaire. Seems his stock options were worth a ton. He invested. And his retirement plan was something of dreams.

    I think of the book, The Millionaire Next Door. Willing to bet that book now doesn’t work, cause I wonder if there are folks like my grandfather today. Always felt it was kind of written about him.

  76. 76
    Waspuppet says:

    They must act aggressively and shut it down before “the millennial generation” hear anything positive about unions …

    The reason they’re going to fail is that today’s young people don’t have to hear anything positive about unions. They just have to take the hourly wage they’re being offered, multiply that by 40, maybe multiply THAT by 52 and they’re gonna say “Oh fuck no.” And the fact that the bosses’ response to a polite request to review salary and working conditions is always “You’re already getting more than you deserve, you pathetic worm,” the remedy is clear.

    In other words, if collective action for workers didn’t already exist, they’d invent it. It’s a good idea an not a terribly complicated one.

  77. 77
    Tommy says:

    @MGB: I’ve never been to Detroit but the videos and pics I see are horrifying. I am outside of St. Louis and not great, but nothing like Detroit. I went to see a client in Cleveland and the guy, a total liberal, drove me around the town. I felt like it might be a mini-Detroit. Blocks after blocks after blocks of abandoned factories. It seemed downtown square miles of abandoned factories.

    As we drove he said he wanted me to see this. We seemed to drive for miles and there was nothing in the city but abandoned buildings. It was hard to see on so many levels. Places that used to make and sell things. No more!

  78. 78
    p.a. says:

    @maurinsky: that really is the issue. (Generalization alert!): The Reagan generation and ‘family values’ folk have a real ‘crabs in a bucket’ thing going; they see someone with a better deal than them and instead of thinking “hey I want that too. How do I go about getting it?” they think “why should they have something I dont!”

  79. 79
    fuckwit says:

    @Waspuppet: Ding!! Exactly!! The reason kids today realize how fucked they are, is that they realize how fucked they are. No amount of propaganda is going to change that reality. They have no jobs, the jobs available suck, their friends are all either unemployed or in jobs that suck, and they look around and they’d be ready to reinvent unions from first principles if they didn’t exist already or if all historical record of them had been blotted out– as corporations like WalMart have tried with their propaganda to accomplish.

    Sorry, “business leaders”, you fucked yourselves by fucking over your workers, and the only solution is to start paying better and offer better working conditions. Your day is done.

  80. 80
    fuckwit says:

    @Jennifer: “At will” employment in a company town with a single employer IS slavery, no ifs ands or buts about it. And many small towns or rural counties with only a WalMart around are exactly that.

  81. 81
    fuckwit says:

    @Yatsuno: OK I have to end my participation in this thread. Because it makes me too angry whenever I really think about what Rethugs and the “business leaders” want to do: to line us all up against the wall and shoot us, if we’re not sufficiently useful to them in making them richer, or have otherwise outlived our usefulness to them for that purpose. It makes me very angry and makes me want to just give up, to know that there’s a whole system specifically designed to kill me off. I don’t like feeling that way.

  82. 82
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @p.a.:

    instead of thinking “hey I want that too. How do I go about getting it?” they think “why should they have something I dont!”

    I just cannot understand that thought process. They must (unqualified amateur psychologist alert) have abysmal self esteem to think that they don’t deserve a decent life. They must also be assholes for wanting everyone else to suffer as well.

  83. 83
    Kay says:

    @negative 1:

    For those who think that’s a little bit of hyperbole, notice that the man in that story likes the social workers, but apparently doesn’t think that they are capable of speaking for their own interests.

    Oh, he’s horrible, the man in the story. He ran as a “conservative” in a bad year for Republicans then got elected and immediately became a big shot in the county GOP. So much for “I’m not a Republican, really”.

    He’s dumb as a rock, and often in over his head because county commissioner is an actual job. It’s not easy. They have to understand fairly complex issues (local, state and federal intersections of regulations and funding, etc) and make decisions.

    It’s a conservative county. His point was why didn’t they come to him if they were “unhappy”, which is patronizing as hell. I think he was shocked and hurt that they would team up with the union thugs :)

  84. 84
    Anoniminous says:

    @fuckwit:

    Sorry, “business leaders”, you fucked yourselves by fucking over your workers, and the only solution is to start paying better and offer better working conditions. Your day is done.

    Seeing and hearing this a lot. My question is, “when?”

  85. 85
    Scotius says:

    @Waspuppet:

    They just have to take the hourly wage they’re being offered, multiply that by 40, maybe multiply THAT by 52 and they’re gonna say “Oh fuck no.”

    And that’s if they’re lucky enough to get 40 hours a week.

  86. 86
    MomSense says:

    This graph was circulating about a year ago or so. It shows the correlation between the strength/weakness of unions and distribution of wealth to the top 10%.

    I believe with all my heart that if we can beat Walmart (and I really think this is our time!) we will make tremendous strides in both living wages and helping US manufacturers and smaller manufacturers. Walmart is the key.

    http://www.paaflcio.org/?p=115

  87. 87
    wenchacha says:

    @Hungry Joe: I don’t understand her conversion to the Dark Side.

    My spouse is a UAW retiree. I guess I can blame the great wages and benefit package for keeping him tethered to a job he truly loathed. Without landing that job 35 yrs ago, we might have chosen another place to start our married life together. He did feel thwarted in his attempts to advance to a salaried position; the company was determined from letting “guys from the floor” take on a white-collar job. It was not a perfect situation, but it would have been untenable without the UAW having some clout.

  88. 88
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @Tommy: The piece you’re looking for is here.

  89. 89
    Mnemosyne says:

    @wenchacha:

    Ronald Reagan was president of the Screen Actor’s Guild. It happens.

  90. 90
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @aimai: I’m pretty sure black is the new pink, aimai.

  91. 91
    Lurking Canadian says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: all you have to do to find somebody defending child labour is timidly suggest that maybe Western countries should not buy from sweatshops that employ twelve year olds to sew garments. The free traders will come out of the woodwork to say how dare you take away jobs from those poor people.

    By contrast, you have to find a libertarian to find somebody who thinks slavery is OK. Usually it’s just “people should be able to sell themselves”, though.

  92. 92
    RaflW says:

    She added, “this is also a generation that is very class-conscious.”

    Golly gee, why might that be, miss unionbuster lady?

    The lack of sense among these folks is alarming. They clearly don’t actually spend any time with hour-wage people so they’re utterly fking clueless as to needs, wants, worries and even pleasures.

    We really are nearing the cake-eating … and guillotines.

  93. 93
    Renie says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):

    Thank you for posting link; excellent article. Sad to see this happen to Detroit when it could have been prevented.

  94. 94
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @boatboy_srq: I thought it was just that the GOP caught on that education was a Democrat (sic) plot. And they were right.

    Anyway, baby needs a new set of yachts. That intangible property tax had to go!

  95. 95

    […] has prompted many to ask how companies that need currently stagnant wages to make their bottom line can afford to hire a […]

  96. 96
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Tommy:

    Oh I should note one other problem I didn’t mention was, to some extent, as they city population kept decreasing, they didn’t reduce the government workers. Now I am super pro-Union and pro-government workers, but when you have less need for government services, well you need less workers.

    This can be dealt with by attrition but, likely, the need for workers didn’t drop precipitously. Detroit became less dense, and less dense means more expense per income received. So they were in the same spiral as many suburbs today. It just hasn’t happened as quickly in other places because they either found new employers, or they were a lot smaller when they collapsed, or they had enough income –for now– to hang on. But when you hear the rage of the exurbanite, it’s because when the maintenance bills start to come due for the new infrastructure they bought into, they will slum it up or have their taxes jump and they just can’t afford that! Social climbing is hard!

  97. 97
    Crouchback says:

    @wenchacha: I suspect her conversion is very simple. She had been a labor activist for years and was getting old without getting rich. Going over to the dark side probably paid very well. The late Steve Gilliard noted that he could make a good living any time he wanted by becoming a black conservative – the right had a lot of demand and very little supply. Of course that would have cost him his self respect and honor. I suspect something similar here – she had useful skills plus the PR value of being a labor union Maria Monk. The first question I would ask her if she ever gave a presentation would be how much is she making now compared to when she worked for labor unions. Hope the coconut tasted good.

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