Friday, December 09, 2016

Labor Secretary-designate Putz-der signals grim future for unions

Washington Post header: "Trump era confronts organized labor with gravest crisis in decades".  That is not an understatement.

President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter attack this week on a union official, followed by his choice of a labor secretary who has criticized new worker protections, has rattled leaders of the American labor movement, who fear unions may be facing their gravest crisis in decades.

On Thursday, Trump announced that he would nominate as his labor secretary Andrew Puzder, a fast-food executive who has opposed additional overtime pay for workers and expressed skepticism about increasing the minimum wage. That followed a pair of Twitter messages Wednesday evening in which Trump attacked an Indiana union leader who had criticized him, saying the official had done a “terrible job representing workers.”

The actions, coming just four weeks after Trump won the presidency in part by wooing union voters with promises of better trade deals and a manufacturing revival, fed fears among national labor leaders that Trump was now planning a broad assault on unions.

“The president-elect campaigned on reaching out to working people, and this is one of a string of nominations that run counter to that,” said Eric Hauser, the AFL-CIO’s strategic adviser and communications director.

Indeed, it was labor's rank-and file in the Upper Midwest states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania -- Hillary Clinton's so-called firewall -- who defied their bosses (and their union's PACs) and swallowed Trump's line about "bringing jobs back".  They appear to be the ones most severely duped.  But we're just to the holiday season's halfway point and there's a lot of duping yet to be revealed.

The crisis for unions is a combination of direct threats from Trump’s agenda and the knowledge that many rank-and-file workers are sympathetic to his populist message. Exit poll data from the Nov. 8 election shows that Hillary Clinton’s smaller margin of victory among union members, along with Trump’s unusually strong performance, helped him win the White House.

The last time unions faced such an environment was when President Ronald Reagan slashed regulations, named a con­­struction company exec­utive as labor secretary and took on the air traffic controllers union. But, even during that onslaught, unions were in a much stronger position than today — representing 20 percent of private-sector workers compared with 7 percent today.

The list of potential setbacks for the labor movement is daunting. Some union leaders are worried that a Trump administration would attempt to introduce a national right-to-work law — allowing any employee anywhere to exempt themselves from participating in a union — and block unions from deducting dues from paychecks.

Trump also will be able to fill two of the five spots on the National Labor Relations Board, which adjudicates disputes between unions and corporate management.

Some union leaders, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for the unions, said that labor leaders also fear that a Republican Congress and Trump White House would launch investigations of union finances­ while failing to enforce labor laws when employers underpay workers or violate occupational safety rules.

“The assault on unions, as institutions, is indeed unprecedented in scale,” Georgetown University historian Michael Kazin said in an email. “Even in the 1920s, conservative Republicans did not argue against their very legitimacy.”

This comes on the heels of the Obama administration's setback in a Texas court last month regarding the expansion of overtime rules for non-salaried employees, many of whom happen to be single mothers.  A few businesses had already rolled out the changes, including raises for some and converting others to hourly, in anticipation of the law's implementation on December 1.  A number of employers cheered the ruling striking the order down.

Which brings us to the soon-to-be Labor Secretary, fast-food magnate Andrew Putz-der.

Puzder, who is chief executive of CKE Restaurants, which includes fast-food chains such as Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., has sharply criticized Obama’s efforts. The overtime rule would affect many low-paying transient jobs such as those in retailing or the fast-food business.

Putz-der has a lot less going for him as well.  As you might have guessed, he thinks raising the minimum wage is a bad idea.  As he does the previously-referenced overtime rule and also the Affordable Care Act.  But he's a big fan of women in bikinis selling his hamburgers.

Commercials for Carl’s Jr. feature scantily clad women, which has drawn criticism, the New York Times pointed out, from women’s groups and religious activists. The aim of these ads, according to Entrepreneur magazine, is to attract “hungry young guys.” And it’s an approach that Puzder enthusiastically endorses.

"If you don't complain, I go to the head of marketing and say, 'What's wrong with our ads?'" He told Entrepreneur in 2015. "Those complaints aren't necessarily bad for us. What you look at is, you look at sales. And, our sales go up."

In his career before fast food, he helped write a landmark anti-abortion bill that became law.

Puzder was an attorney in St. Louis in the '80s and '90s, when he helped draft a law that placed strict restrictions on abortion access in Missouri, according to the biography on his blog. The law banned the use of public employees and public facilities in performing abortions. The executive director of an abortion clinic in St. Louis sued to overturn the law, according to the New York Times. The suit ultimately went to the Supreme Court, which upheld the restrictions, marking it the first time the court allowed states to enact restrictions on abortion, the Times reported.

He does seem to want to work toward solutions, for what that's worth.

Puzder later teamed up with the very man who sued to overturn the law he wrote. Together, Puzder and B. J. Isaacson-Jones, then executive director of Reproductive Health Services, established the Common Ground Network. The organization, which is now nationwide, seeks to find ways for pro-choice and pro-life advocates to work together, including promoting adoption and limiting unwanted teen pregnancies, according to the Chicago Tribune.

But his reputation as a wife-beater, taken together with the reports above, IMO cements him firmly as a misogynist.  The local newspaper had the story ...

Andrew Puzder, the St. Louis attorney who rose to become CEO of Carl's Jr. and now stands as Donald Trump's pick to be Secretary of Labor, was accused of abuse by his first wife in the 1980s — with police twice summoned to the couple's home.

The allegations were first aired in the couple's 1989 divorce. The abuse allegations in the divorce filings then became the subject of a July 26, 1989, Riverfront Times cover story.

Again FWIW, he denied the allegations and his ex-wife has recently walked them back, claiming they have resolved their differences and have a convivial relationship today.

Of all of Trump's shitty Cabinet selections to date, this one might be the worst.  Working men and women are quite likely to suffer the most over the next four years.  I wonder if they will wake up and smell the coffee.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Trump's cabinet: breaking all the rules

Including some rules of Trump's.

This morning's Vox Sentences saves me a lot of linkage work.
  • The most orthodox, from a Republican standpoint, is Trump's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who hates pretty much everything the EPA has done for the past eight years. [Vox / Brad Plumer]
  • Trump's pick for the Small Business Administration, likewise, is a big GOP donor and former Senate candidate. Of course, she's also the co-founder and former CEO of the pro wrestling association WWE, which Trump was affiliated with for a long time, so it seems a little weird. [Reuters / Steve Holland]
  • Conversely, it seems totally reasonable that Trump would nominate Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to serve as his ambassador to China ... until you realize Branstad wants closer ties with China and Trump has all but promised them a trade war. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • (The conflict will presumably be up to Trump's as-yet-unnamed secretary of state to resolve — and, yeah, naming ambassadors before a secretary of state is kind of weird in its own right.) [Politico / Louis Nelson]
  • And then there's retired Gen. John F. Kelly, former head of US Southern Command, who has not officially been confirmed as Trump's secretary of the Department of Homeland Security but has been reported as the pick so widely that it's basically official. [Military Times / Andrew deGrandpre]
  • Kelly, like the other ex-generals in Trump's Cabinet, has a reputation as a tough talker. But he doesn't appear to see the problems facing the US as the sort of thing that can be, ahem, walled off — which could create conflicts within Trumpworld. [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • (Trump's rumored deputy homeland security secretary, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is a much more orthodox immigration hawk.) [Washington Examiner / Gabby Morrongiello]
  • And in case you're wondering, picking three ex-generals for Cabinet-levels positions where they're supposed to represent the civilian face of national security is definitely not normal. [TPM / Josh Marshall]

They didn't mention Tom Price for HHS or Ben Carson for HUD, but hey, it's been a busy week for all of us.  These new picks are almost capable of eclipsing his first ones, detailed last week here.

In another indication that Trump really does not care who he pisses off, Mitt Romney has indeed moved to the top of the pile for secretary of state.  Which beats the hell out of Rudy Guiliani and David Petreaus, I guess.

Just documenting the atrocities is hard work.

Update: Let's add fast-food magnate and now Labor Secretary-designate Andrew Puzder, who wants to replace all his workers with robots. And via Public Citizen...

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The December 7th anniversary nobody celebrates

It's pretty horrible.

The last reported instance of white Texans burning an African American at the stake occurred eighty-three years ago today, December 7, 1933, near a black neighborhood in Kountze, Texas.

On Saturday, December 2, a 30-year-old white woman named Nellie Williams Brockman left her and her husband’s farm and headed to a department store in Kountze by truck. Somewhere along the way she ran into trouble and was apparently shot. They found her body next to the truck and both the vehicle and her corpse were partially burned.

After Brockman’s body was discovered, a few folks claimed they had seen a shotgun-carrying black man head into the woods not far from where the crime was committed. Local law enforcement officials mounted an intensive search for the suspect, utilizing platoons of armed volunteers and keen bloodhounds, but turned up nothing.

A few days into the manhunt, the Kountze Police Department became interested in an African American man named David Gregory. According to the San Antonio Express, Gregory, a preacher’s son, only became a suspect after a anonymous “tip”: “Cloaking their investigation in secrecy, officers said the tip was of such nature that to divulge it would greatly jeopardize chances of apprehending the fugitive.”

The Galveston Daily News indicated that the tip came after Gregory was suspected and that its source was one of the suspect’s aunts. Whatever the case, when Gregory learned that he was a suspect, he disappeared and at least six African American men (including Gregory’s brother) were arrested in an attempt to determine his location. The News suggested that the informer placed Gregory at an African American church in the small community of Voth (now part of the northwest section of Beaumont, just east of U.S. Hwy 96 and the Pine Island Bayou).

On December 7, Hardin County Sheriff Miles D. Jordan, Sr., Deputy Sheriff Ralph B. Chance, Jefferson County Sheriff W.W. “Bill” Richardson and Deputy Sheriff Homer French headed to Voth and discovered Gregory at the described church, apparently concealed in the belfry. When they asked him to come down he refused and “flourished” a pistol (not a shotgun, the weapon the black suspect was reported carrying near the crime scene). Deputy Chance subsequently felled Gregory with a shotgun blast, the buckshot tearing into Gregory’s face and neck and rendering him unconscious.

Sheriff Jordan et al took custody of Gregory and immediately transported him to a Beaumont hospital. He was in critical condition and received emergency treatment, but the doctors indicated that he probably wouldn’t survive until morning. 

The story gets even worse from there, and I'll leave it to you to finish.  Here's the author's last few paragraphs, which are worth considering in this new era we're heading into.

It is important to recall this history because folks that look like me—white folks—got away with it. Folks who burned dozens of black men at the stake. Folks who committed racial expulsions and perpetrated wholesale massacres.

Today, we approve of voter suppression and summary execution and elect governors who hunt at places with names like Niggerhead Ranch. We have the upper hand and we maintain it assiduously. We feel it’s our birthright. And as our privilege and pseudo-superiority are increasingly questioned and challenged, we claim we’re being put upon, or wrongfully vilified. We consider criticism of our entitlement an act of subversion and sedition.

White fragility has its roots in white monstrosity. And since we white folks have never had to acknowledge much less atone for our catalogue of inhumanities here in Texas—particularly involving persons of color—ignorance must prevail. We feel our entire way of life depends on it.

E.R. Bills isn't talking about himself or even me, but really ... he is.