Happy Labor Day

Here’s a nice story about workers coming together to create a non-state collective alternative to state actions (worker-friendly laws and regulation) for worker protection and negotiation.

Those non-state entities are called labor unions, and no one has come up with anything to replace them yet which is probably why they keep rising from the dead every time they’re declared O.V.E.R (!) and annoying both politicians and private sector CEO’s with their olde timey, noisy and unfashionable demands. Obviously, both political leaders and private sector CEO’s would find this whole “worker” thing a lot easier to deal with if politicians and the private sector were the only game in town for worker protections and negotiating clout and we all had to go thru them, but thankfully this “union” idea will not die because we need a third avenue, an outside force to push back and watch the other two, and a lot of us know it.

On a drizzly afternoon in mid-June, about 1,000 low-wage workers and their supporters marched down Boylston Street, trombones and drums creating a jubilant soundtrack. Adjunct professors walked alongside fast-food workers, religious leaders with retail staffers, construction union officials with waiters.
Home health aides waved signs that read, “Hold the burgers, hold the fries, make our wages supersize.”
The march was part of “Fight for $15,” a campaign to lift up low-wage workers that has spread across the country, spurring unprecedented collaboration between unions, worker centers, community organizations, and faith-based groups.
Propelled by public outrage over corporate greed and income inequality, the effort to improve the lives of the working poor is reshaping and reinvigorating the labor movement, cutting across lines of geography and self-interest that have divided these groups.

As the movement gains momentum, workers from different industries are becoming more united and vocal. Maureen Sullivan, once a full-time faculty member at Boston University, became an adjunct sociology professor at the school after she was laid off in 2012. With no benefits, and only one BU class to teach, Sullivan joined the Fight for $15 effort, helping to lead protesters down Boylston Street in June.
“Why am I identifying with fast-food workers?” she said. “We are the same.”

But some in the business community say the movement is just a ploy by the Service Employees International Union to collect more dues.
“It would be wrong to allow the SEIU and its affiliates to hide behind an altruistic plea for higher wages when what they really want is a shortcut to refill their steadily dwindling membership ranks and coffers,” said Steve Caldeira, president of the International Franchise Association, a trade group in Washington

I love this argument, I must say. Unions are self-interested. They want members, union dues AND higher wages for members. Let me pick myself up off the floor because all this time I thought they were like Worker Fairy Angels with no expenses or costs and no goal of expanding membership or “playing politics”. Heaven forbid.

They are “self interested”, it is true, unlike our altruistic and completely self-sacrificing political and business leader sector, who operate from the purest possible motives and are never captured or corrupt or getting paid. If you believe in self-interest as the only motivating force possible in all human activity, don’t you have to apply that analysis across the board to labor unions AND politicians AND lobbying groups for business interests? Funny how that works, huh?

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29 replies
  1. 1
    rikyrah says:

    As always, thanks Kay.

  2. 2
    KG says:

    unlike our altruistic and completely self-sacrificing political and business leader sector, who operate from the purest possible motives

    Greed is one of the purest possible motives. Especially how it is practiced in 21st century capitalism

  3. 3
    scav says:

    How dare mere workers behave like the economically rational actors they are modeled to be when in their own interest. Heresy!

  4. 4
    Kay says:


    The lobbyist accuses the labor unions of self-interest and playing politics! I’m outraged. How dare they cut into his turf!

    He’ll be meeting alone with politicians, thank you very much.

  5. 5
    Josie says:

    Bless you, Kay, for writing about this. Keep up the good work on this and on the education front. We need smart, well-informed people like you to help the rest of us stay active on these issues. These are the issues that make a huge difference in people’s lives.

  6. 6
    rikyrah says:

    Christopher Carbone ‏@christocarbone

    Share widely: This is #DanielHoltzclaw, a cop who stalked, raped & sexually assaulted 8 Black women. pic.twitter.com/PG7b06HKit

  7. 7
    Baud says:

    Kay, NYT did a story about wage theft which made it to the front page of Reddit. Some folks there are sharing stories of their crappy employers. I already know about all that, thanks to you. ;-)

  8. 8
    Starfish says:

    Here is the news story to go with rikyrah’s link.

  9. 9
    sharl says:

    In April, St. Louis journalist and anthropologist Sarah Kendzior (twitter; blog) published an extensively researched article on a similar movement by fast food workers in her own back yard.

    FYI it is a rather long read. I thought it was worth the time, but as always, YMMV.

  10. 10
    Ruckus says:

    ….unlike our altruistic and completely self-sacrificing political and business leader sector, who operate from the purest possible motives and are never captured or corrupt or getting paid.

    So, you’ve read their bios. I know that self interest and way beyond that, greed is a trait of, well all animals. But among the uber wealthy it is rare that greed is not the overriding trait. What is it that makes people want/demand 10-20-100 lifetimes of wealth that they couldn’t spend if they tried? And are willing to screw anyone/everyone to get there. Where is the satisfaction of rewarding yourself at the expense of everyone else? Maybe I just don’t understand egos the size of a small moon or being happy at the thought of others suffering. Must be a failure on my part.

  11. 11
    Kathleen says:

    Yes, thank you Kay. Your analysis and insights are unique and fresh, in large part due to your engagement with “real people” trying to accomplish meaningful change. The education thread (a couple doors down) was eye opening.

    OT – Do you think we’ll be stuck with Kasich for 4 more years? Fitzgerald turned out to be a disaster from what I’ve observed.

  12. 12
    Kay says:


    I do think we’ll be stuck with Kasich. I went to the Democratic county meeting last Tuesday solely because I had talked this really great younger woman into heading up our anti-Kasich effort and I wanted to see if I had to apologize or whatever :)

    I love her. She may be too good for the Ohio Democrats. Anyway, she was completely pragmatic about it. She moved right on. “Is there one we can win?” She means one of the other state races. I think they can beat Mandel, so that’s where she’s going. She hadn’t been engaged prior to 2012 and she did the whole volunteer organizing end of Obama/Sherrod. We won. Then she helped me with a school bond issue. We won again.

    Now she’s stuck with Mr. “I don’t have a driver’s license”.

    What is wrong with him? I figured he had an OVI or something, that the Second Shoe would drop, but he just doesn’t want to go to the license bureau for a decade? It’s mystifying. You read about spectacular collapses like this in other states but then it happens to you :)

    Anyway, we’re screwed and we may as well admit it.

  13. 13
    Kay says:


    In six months they’ll be talking about employers misclassifying employees as NOT employees to get around labor law. That’s the new thing. Our people don’t know who they work for, or indeed whether they are “employees” at all!

    It’s already come up in the law practice. I don’t think I can get any more outraged in that office, I’m telling you. I listen to these people and I’m just freaking appalled. I go home and read frivolous, shallow fiction for book club because it’s too horrible to dwell on. The book club women like happy endings, and can you blame us?

  14. 14
    Baud says:


    I’ve also seeing that issue come up in court opinions.

  15. 15
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:


    In six months they’ll be talking about employers misclassifying employees as NOT employees to get around labor law. That’s the new thing. Our people don’t know who they work for, or indeed whether they are “employees” at all!

    The fake independent contractor scam or the hire through a temp agency dodge?

  16. 16
    rikyrah says:


    what about Husted?

    can we get rid of him?

  17. 17
    debbie says:


    If we can’t get rid of Mandel, then we are more than screwed.

    I’m ashamed for Ohio, that not having a driver’s license is the scandal it’s turned out to be. I have yet to read one Ohio reporter who isn’t writing about this as if it’s the biggest scandal since Teapot Dome.

    ETA: A bigger scandal, even, than the graft at Jobs Ohio!

    Well, I’m still voting for Fitzgerald. I hope everyone who was going to vote for him still will, and that Kasich’s margin over “nothing” is as small as possible. I’d hate to see his head swell even more.

  18. 18
    debbie says:


    I have to say, Husted’s the slickest Republican I’ve ever seen in Ohio. He’s like a Superfood of Evil.

  19. 19
    Kay says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name):

    Both, and they have a new one. They contract out the whole staff so they don’t even know if they’re temps. I don’t know if they’re temps. I’m not sure what they are. Employees of the contractor? Maybe! I’m sitting there squinting at their pay stub, thinking who is “Omni International” and what happened to Titan Tire?

    Titan Tire were United Steelworkers so I’m getting the picture! I read on the DOL site how we have to “update” labor laws, so they’re aware of it but that will be horrible with our Congress. We’ll have to trade them child labor or something to get the all-important bipartisan support.

  20. 20
    Kay says:


    I think it’s hard for even Democrats, though. We have a local lawyer, she’s a great lawyer and she used to be one of those “I vote but I vote for the PERSON” people and since ’06 she’s a rabid Democrat. She’s even perplexed by it. I think it’s hard for people like her who do everything they’re supposed to do and are organized. They simply don’t get it. It was obviously a set-up, the Irish woman part, but the license part he did to himself. The following Monday of the day the scandal broke was the deadline to replace him on the ballot. They waited.

  21. 21
    J R in WV says:

    Well, it sounds like this bastard is going up for a long count, too many complainants/witnesses, too believable and sympathetic.

    That’s a good thing. He couldn’t hold back, shield his badge ID, his cruiser ID, his license plate number. He will never be free to do this again, so we don’t really have to memorize his photo and details. Which is good.

  22. 22
    Kay says:


    They’re really targeting Turner. They have ads up where she won’t be “fair” (to white people) is the subtext. You know, shred the white people votes in our giant ACORN shredder.

    Husted wants to be governor. They have plans for him. I think they’ll put energy there.

  23. 23
    rikyrah says:


    not shocked. Turner is serious about voting rights. She’d fight to expand voting rights…of that I’m sure.

  24. 24
    rikyrah says:



    hard for me to have sympathy.

    never give someone the rope with which to hang you.


    make them build it from scratch.

  25. 25
    Linnaeus says:

    Keep it up, Kay. Even when you’re not doing it explicitly, you’re doing some of the labor stories I read anywhere in Blogovia*.

    *”Blogovia” is Max Sawicky’s (of the recently revived MaxSpeak blog) term for the left & liberal blogosphere, in contrast with right-wing Blogistan.

  26. 26
    Kathleen says:

    @Kay: Sigh. I figured as much but I guess I just didn’t want to admit it. At least Dems here have a very capable and talented person that may help salvage some other races according to your report. .

  27. 27
    Barbara says:

    @Kathleen: Sighing here in SW OH too.

  28. 28
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    What never ceases to amaze me, and it is the same here, is that all these ‘business industry associations’ ARE unions. Chambers of Commerce, AMA’s all unions. This of course will not be emphasised for the same reasons that anything that might be helpful to the 99% is of the devil. Sigh!

  29. 29
    moderateindy says:

    Whenever I hear the……..but unions are corrupt argument, I simply concede the point that some union leaders probably are corrupt, and so f’in what. Are the workers better off than they would be if there was no union? Do they have better wages, a higher net income after paying dues, and better working conditions because they are in a union? Then the union is doing exactly what they are there for. If someone could get me an 11 dollar an hour raise, in return for them taking 10 of it, I’ll take that deal over having no one represent me, and getting no raise at all. In the end I get an extra buck an hour. How is that not an improvement?
    I liken it to the idea that I think people that are religous, and give cash to their church are suckers, but if it means they are happier, because they find comfort, and such, from being part of that church, then they aren’t really suckers, because they are getting an improved quality of life, and basically they’re gettin their money’s worth.

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