Monday, September 03, 2018

The Labor Day Wrangle

To honor the struggle of the American (and global) worker, this week's aggregation of blog posts and left-leaning political news is interspersed with a few collections of the history of and forecasts for labor in our late (end?) - stage capitalist system.

The Wrangle opens with the latest tropical storm developments in the Gulf of Mexico.

So what does this mean for Texas? Unless Gordon unexpectedly tracks more westward toward the Texas coast, the biggest question for our region is the extent of rainfall. If the storm holds to the forecast track, Houston is probably looking at something on the order of 1 to 4 inches of rain from this coming Thursday through next weekend. If the storm moves a bit more westward, and then slows down over Texas, we could see quite a bit more than that. But for now, most available forecast modeling indicates rain totals toward the lower end.

As the president likes to say: "we'll see what happens".


US Senate race developments included Ted Cruz finally getting worried about Beto O'Rourke's challenge, so much so that he got down on his hands and knees and asked Trump for help.  And Trump obliged, which prompted an immediate response from both Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg and Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti.

I am excited to announce that I will be leading a large resistance rally in Texas at the exact same time of Trump’s, details tba,” (Avenatti) tweeted. “All groups are welcome to join. We must fight fire with fire and we must send a message that we will fight to make America America again.”

Beto's appearance on Ellen DeGeneres' teevee talk show is scheduled this weekThe Texas Observer's Justin Miller followed O'Rourke and some of his volunteers down at the border as he worked to shore up his weakest flank, Latin@s.  There was a disturbing reveal among the mostly positive spin and news.

It’s hard to convince unlikely voters to vote when they don’t answer the door. For the 45 minutes I tagged along, (TX-16 Democratic nominee and presumptive successor to O'Rourke in Congress Veronica) knocked on about a dozen doors and got answers at only one or two. She’d leave a handwritten note, hoping that might help.

Tagging along with Escobar is Sergio Mora, a former Webb County Democratic Party chair. The enthusiastic crowd at last night’s event makes him think change just might be afoot in Laredo. But is there any other evidence that voters are unusually fired up. He shrugs. “That’s the big experiment this cycle.”

One El Paso volunteer tells me that most people who answered their doors in Laredo had never heard of O’Rourke and many had no intention of voting.

This sounds unfortunately familiar; in TX-07, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher apparently has the same problem, as told by The Atlantic's Elaina Plott.

Leoneo Torres is 20 years old, Hispanic, and a registered Democrat. Born and raised in Gulfton, he now works at Galaxy Auto Insurance. The stores lining the Orchard Green strip mall are advertised almost entirely in Spanish, save for an African deli. Torres told me he’s one of the few fluent English speakers in the area.

He voted for the first time in 2016, casting his ballot at the community center nearby for Hillary Clinton and every other Democrat down ticket. He’s active on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and said he and his friends talk often about Cruz challenger Beto O’Rourke. Most recently, they shared with each other a video of O’Rourke skateboarding in a Whataburger parking lot. He’s excited to vote in November, he said: “This is about the next six years for our state, you know? It’s a big deal.”
So he was surprised when I mentioned Fletcher’s name. “Who did you say? Elizabeth?” he asked. He turned to his computer and began Googling. He clicked on her campaign page. “Oh, cool,” he said. “She’s a Democrat.”

“I mean, yeah, I’ll look into her, but this is the first I’ve heard of her. Kind of weird, right? I wonder if she’s planning on coming around here,” he said, and shrugged. “I guess we’ll see.”

The Pullman Strike of 1894 (via Dandelion Salad)


SocraticGadfly de-hagiographied -- de-hagiographed? -- the appalling spectacle that was the state funeral of John McCain.

A federal judge gave Ken Paxton and a handful of other extremist state attorneys general a legal victory over Obamacare.

The Internal Revenue Service could hand Texas more than $300 million after a federal court in North Texas ruled that the federal government improperly charged a handful of states millions in state Medicaid program fees that help fund the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.


States shouldn’t count on a victory just yet, said William Sage, the James R. Dougherty Chair for Faculty Excellence at the University of Texas School of Law and professor of surgery and perioperative care at Dell Medical School.

“It’s really important to point out the irony of winning $300 million back from the federal government for Medicaid, when Texas turned down $100 billion from the federal government for Medicaid,” he said.

Meanwhile, Texas and Wisconsin lawyers are set to argue in court Wednesday that Obamacare should be declared unconstitutional, according to Paxton’s office.

And a year after Harvey, the Houston Chronicle reports that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is finally starting to do its job.

Two petroleum tanks located in a sprawling terminal along Buffalo Bayou in Galena Park, 8 miles (13 kilometers) southeast of downtown Houston, first sprung leaks on Aug. 31 of last year when the tanks shifted on their foundations during days of heavy rainfall during Harvey, according to documents and a statement from Magellan.

Those broken-down tanks spilled gasoline and ultimately spawned a leak that lasted for more than 12 days and created more than 2 million pounds (0.91 million kilograms) of air pollution — the storm's largest pollution incident, the Houston Chronicle reported.

But it took another 295 days before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality sent its first notice of enforcement to that company — Magellan Terminal Holdings LP's Galena Park Terminal — on July 6, state records show.

The Houston Chronicle and The Associated Press teamed up in March to describe the impact of 100 major releases and hazardous waste spills that socked Houston alone — most of which were under-reported and went without investigation for months as state and federal agencies scrambled to react to the environmental damage that accompanied Harvey's floods.

Harris County pollution control officials so far have cited eight of the biggest Harvey-related polluters, including the Magellan terminal. They sent out most notices only days after the series was published, records show.

State environmental proceeded more slowly. This week, TCEQ spokesman Brian McGovern said the agency has issued notices of enforcement to 68 Harvey polluters.

About 14 of those notices went to refineries and chemical plants, according to a list provided by McGovern. At least five of those industrial polluters were specifically cited for Harvey-related violations, but others received notices for pollution problems that predated or followed the storm, records show.

Most of the state's Harvey-related enforcement actions came after April 6, when Gov. Greg Abbott lifted a 7-month-long emergency order that had suspended most of the state's environmental reporting rules, according to lists provided by the state.


The WSWS gives an update on the progress -- and regress -- of unions, particularly striking teachers, on this holiday.

Labor Day 2018 is being celebrated today in the United States and Canada. As is the case every year, the day will be marked in the US with a few demonstrations organized by the AFL-CIO, where union officials and Democratic Party politicians deliver empty and hypocritical speeches. This year, however, Labor Day takes place amidst a resurgence of class struggle that is bringing workers into ever more direct conflict with the corporatist and anti-working class trade unions.

With public schools reopening, teachers are renewing their fight for substantial wage improvements and increased funding for public education. In the state of Washington, where in 2013 Democratic Governor Jay Inslee oversaw the largest corporate tax cut in US history—$8.7 billion for aircraft and defense giant Boeing—teachers have walked out in several districts. Despite efforts by the unions to shut down the struggles, there are increasing demands from rank-and-file educators for a statewide strike.

Last week, teachers in Los Angeles voted by 98 percent to authorize a strike in the nation’s second-largest school district, with 640,000 students and over 33,000 teachers. In Detroit, teachers and parents are livid over high levels of lead and copper in drinking water, just two years after Detroit teachers waged a series of wildcat sickouts over decaying schools and underfunded classrooms. The school district has been forced to shut off water to all the city’s schools.

In the states where teachers waged statewide walkouts earlier this year, none of the issues motivating the strikes have been resolved. In Arizona, the state Supreme Court just threw off the ballot a tax initiative, called Invest in Education, which would have raised income taxes by a meager 3 to 4 percentage points on individuals and households earning more than $250,000. The unions, the Democrats and their affiliated organizations promoted the initiative as the solution to the funding crisis when they conspired to shut down the six-day strike by 60,000 Arizona teachers last May. In the end, however, the ruling class would not countenance the slightest incursion on its moneymaking operations.


The trade unions have worked systematically to prevent strikes and, if unable, to quickly isolate these struggles and sell them out.

• The teacher unions have rushed to settle a dispute in Seattle, the largest school district in the state of Washington, in an effort to prevent a statewide walkout. The teacher strikes in the spring were not initiated by the unions but emerged through a rebellion of rank-and-file educators against them.

• After the labor agreement covering 31,000 workers at US Steel and ArcelorMittal expired Saturday, the United Steelworkers union has forced workers to remain on the job despite the demand for historic rollbacks by the highly profitable companies.

• A month after the July 31 expiration of the contracts covering 230,000 workers at United Parcel Service, the Teamsters has defied the overwhelming strike mandate by workers and is trying to push through a contract introducing lower wages and part-time conditions for package delivery drivers, along with poverty-level wages for warehouse workers.

• The Communications Workers of America has kept 7,000 AT&T workers on the job months after the expiration of their contracts.

• After Fiat Chrysler workers voted overwhelmingly to strike the company’s transmission operations in Kokomo, Indiana, the United Auto Workers has kept them on the job. The UAW has been exposed as a direct arm of corporate management, accepting millions of dollars in exchange for its role in pushing though historic concessions on auto workers.

The actions of the trade unions are the expression of what they are. Over the past four decades, the unions, based on their defense of capitalism and the nation-state system, have been transformed into cheap labor contractors and police agencies over the working class. They exist not to organize opposition to the dictates of the ruling class, but to prevent this opposition.

During the Janus v. AFSCME case, attorneys for the public sector unions repeatedly told the Supreme Court justices that agency fees—the equivalent of union dues for public sector workers who opt out of union membership—was the “tradeoff for no strikes.” That is, the state-sponsored, automatic deduction of a portion of workers wages was the payment for ensuring that workers do not rebel against the conditions imposed on them.

More recently, a spokesman for the New York State United Teachers told the Albany Times Union that the Taylor Law, which bars strikes by public sector employees, “has worked effectively for more than 40 years” in “keeping the peace” and should not be overturned.

Bonddad writes about Trump's base of white evangelicals, and how they rationalize against all hypocrisy that the ends justify the means.

It's fairly clear that the justification that evangelicals have for supporting Trump is that no matter how vile he is personally, no matter how many laws and norms he flouts, he is being used by God to do God's work.

This is the same rationalization used by conservatives like Mitch McConnell, who only care about a conservative judiciary: a Supreme Court Justice such as Brett Kavanaugh, who would overturn Roe v. Wade, prevaricating about doing so in order to be confirmed, is just doing God's work ... by saving the lives of aborted babies.

Off the Kuff notes the motion by the plaintiffs in the Texas redistricting lawsuit to bring the state back under preclearance for its discrimination in map-drawing.

David Collins' two Twit bits spurred commentary about ranked choice voting and another progressive gone neoliberal.

And Harry Hamid writes something sublime about her new favorite musicians.


Worker self-determination is more common in countries with lower income inequality. In other words, when workers have more of a say, the profits their hands and minds produce are better apportioned. Germany and Scandinavian countries like Finland and Norway are examples. But it’s also true next door in Canada. There, legislation provides more protections for unions, enlarging numbers and giving labor organizations more impact. Nearly 30 percent of Canadian workers belong to unions. In Denmark, Sweden and Finland, it’s more than 60 percent.

In the United States, it’s 10.7 percent, near the bottom among developed nations, despite a survey released last week that found 62 percent of Americans approve of unions. The difference between those two numbers shows how much U.S. legislation obstructs unionization.

Germany, one of the world’s most successful capitalist nations, and some other European countries have embraced a democratized corporate model in which workers are routinely and systematically engaged in governance through works councils and membership on corporate boards of directors. Germany has required since 1976 that workers elect half of the members of the boards of directors of corporations with more than 2,000 employees. In this model of corporate co-determination, workers are partners, not inputs.

Works councils are employee-elected boards that consult with management on workplace issues. German companies began establishing them in the late 1800s. The government mandated them for all medium and large companies during World War I. The Nazis, of course, shut them down, but corporations restored them after the war.

This system works well for German workers. They make about $10 an hour more than their U.S. counterparts. Government debt and income inequality both are lower there than in the United States. Manufacturing has thrived in Germany while it has waned in the United States. And German workers don’t have to worry about health insurance because they were the first to launch what would become universal health care. Life expectancy is longer in Germany.

As might be expected with corporate boards populated by workers, German CEOs are paid less than American CEOs, and German companies place less weight on short-term profits and more on worker concerns like job security.

Putting labor back in Labor Day Weekend

Definitions: The Proletariat (Gaither Stewart)

The antiwar speech that jailed Eugene V. Debs for 10+ years (video and transcript)

Plutocracy I: Political Repression in the U.S.A.
Plutocracy II: Solidarity Forever
Plutocracy III: Class War

Democracy Against Capitalism: Markets

The separation of the political and economic spheres has given private interests the dominant position in the lives of workers. They control the hours worked, the nature of the work, the kinds of things that are produced. This control arises through the property relations established and enforced by the state. With the sanction of the state, these private interests have the power to decide people’s income and whether they are allowed to earn an income at all. We even see private interests setting limits on the speech and assembly rights of individuals. Private interests have the power to limit health care benefits, vacations, and childbirth leave, just to name a few. Legislation to assert the interests of workers is routinely defeated, and when not defeated, is always watered down, in the name of efficiency or of profit, or of the absolute rights of people/corporate entities to the property they control.

Why Unions Still Matter, on Labor Day and Always


Gadfly said...

Stealing that Beto in the Valley piece and adding it to the blog post I did about 10 days ago about his campaign gambles.

Oh, she may be out of pocket for Labor Day, but Sema hasn't responded to my invitation to undervote tweet.

Unknown said...

"Leoneo Torres is 20 years old, Hispanic, and a registered Democrat." Huh? Sorry to be pedantic, I'm not sorry at all:

Before anyone from outside Texas covers electoral politics in Texas, he/she/they should at least know that we don't register by party here. Ms. Plott may have taken Mr. Torres's word for it that he is "a registered Democrat," because a lot of Texas residents don't know that fact either.

If Mr. Torres voted in the primary, he is affiliated with the Democratic Party for this calendar year, but is not registered as a Democrat. If he voted in the primary, he might also remember seeing LPF's name on the ballot (among the seven Democratic candidates in District 7).

Anyone know whether LPF has been campaigning in Gulfton/Sharpstown?