Worker Notes

Worker Notes: It’s Time For Unions To Assert A New Role For Leadership In The Economy

  By Tom Crofton The Commoner Call (10/30/17) A recent statement from the AFL-CIO regarding a rejection of NAFTA and other corporate/globalist trade agreements unfortunately only skims the surface of the issues working people face. As the dominate union leadership in America, the AFL-CIO and its member unions need to take a deeper look at their historical behavior, and their role in enabling the evolution of the corporate state with its current right wing, anti-labor stance. American unions never were interested in taking responsibility for production. American unions developed to confront management but not to replace it. The International Workers…

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Dems Are Well On The Way To Blowing It, Again

  By Tom Crofton The Commoner Call (10/23/17) The recent purge of progressive dems from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) would be shocking if the DNC and Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) were truly parties of the people; forces building a better world and safe harbors for those working in the name of basic common sense, humanity, or sustainability. But forgetaboutit. The DNC has a long, sordid history of selling out the base it pretends it has, but the statements of then DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wassermann-Schultz during the last presidential race were a transparent indictment of duplicity of a party…


Worker Notes: Unions, American Exceptionalism, White Supremacy, And The Well-Trod Road To Hell

  By Tom Crofton CounterPunch (9/13/17) A case can be made that the most direct path to prosperity for working families as a whole is one that has a collective basis creating benchmark standards for wages, conditions, and benefits; where energy otherwise spent on infighting and backstabbing among workers over compensation is harnessed into a common effort. The concept of creating a floor beneath which no one can go is at the heart of union organizing. The energy released from successful agreement to cooperate can go beyond worker compensation and build emotional solidarity among workers.  It can be used to…


Labor News: Frontier Pilots Ready To Ground Airline If New Labor Agreement Can’t Be Reached

  By Joe Rubino Denver Post (9/11/17) Frontier Airlines pilots are ready to strike if contract talks with the Denver-based carrier fall apart. One hundred percent of eligible pilots recently voted in favor of walking off Frontier jets if the airline and pilots can’t reach a new collective bargaining agreement, according to the Air Line Pilots Association union. The two sides began negotiations in March 2016, the union said.  A neutral mediator has been involved since October. Tensions were heightened last week when an arbiter in a different negotiation between the two sides ruled the airline was acting in bad faith…


Worker Notes: ‘Commoner Call’ Labor Writer Sends Out A Note Of Thanks To Health Care Workers

  (Editor’s Note: Commoner Call labor columnist Tom Crofton has been dealing with some serious structural re-engineering lately. He sends out a note of thanks to all the wonderful health care workers at the Richland Hospital who made his recent stay as comfortable as possible. While the two major parties don’t do their job of providing affordable health care to all, America’s health care workers act with the compassion and care far too few of our nominal ‘leaders’ display. Time for universal health care for all! – Mark L. Taylor)   By Tom Crofton The Commoner Call (1/4/17) I’d like…


Worker Notes: American Workers Don’t Need Trump To Give Them A Voice. They Need Unions.

  By David Madland Talk Poverty (11/18/16) As this election made clear, a lot of Americans are angry. They feel left behind by the economy, and isolated and unheard in our democracy.  Some of this frustration is understandable—wages have hardly budged in decades, inequality is near record levels, and money dominates our political system (and those who don’t have much of it are usually ignored by politicians).  That’s a recipe for frustration and alienation, and President-elect Donald Trump seized on it. Trump promised economic security in part by scapegoating people of color and immigrants, and his supporters took the bait….


Worker Wages Flat, But Since 1978 CEO Pay Has Soared By ‘Outrageous’ 937%

  By Jake Johnson Common Dreams (7/20/17) Wages for most American workers have remained basically stagnant for decades, but a new report published on Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that the CEOs of America’s largest firms have seen their pay soar at a consistent and “outrageous” clip. Between 1978 and 2016, CEO pay rose by 937 percent, EPI’s Lawrence Mishel and Jessica Schieder found. By contrast, the typical worker saw “painfully slow” compensation growth—11.2 percent over the same period. “We could curtail the explosive growth in CEO pay without doing any harm to the economy.” Mishel and Schieder also note…


Worker Notes: Bringing Democratic Representation & Independence To Unions

By Tom Crofton The Commoner Call (7/3/17) For all of the positives in joining with peers to develop solidarity there are areas where unions fail to realize their potential. The bargaining table at times has three sides, where the institution of the union creates a place separate from the workers. This reality has led to the creation of an organization to support union members in making their unions better. The Association for Union Democracy  (AUD) was created to be a pro-labor, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the principles and practices of democratic trade unionism in the North American labor movement. AUD…


Worker Notes: These Brave Workers Really Need(ed) A Union

By Tom Crofton The Commoner Call (6/26/17) In 2010 attention of the world was riveted when 33 miners were trapped 2,300 feet underground in the Copiapó Chilean mining accident. The miners were trapped underground for 69 days and were only freed after an international rescue effort. The 2015 movie entitled “The 33”, available on DVD in local libraries, tells the story of what happened and how the incident impacted the miners, their families and communities. . A great deal has been written on this event and some may tell a slightly different story, but the movie depicts the site as a worn…


Worker Notes: The VW Emissions Scandal Is A Powerful Lesson For Management & Labor Reps

  By Tom Crofton The Commoner Call (6/19/17) Further information on the unique design of the German labor movement is provided in the investigative work “Faster, Higher, Farther: The Volkswagen Scandal” by Jack Ewing. The irony that a management scandal occurred under the highly regarded German combined labor/management system will be discussed at the end of this piece, but the precedent for labor taking more than an adversarial role is worth investigating more deeply. Ewing writes: “When the British gave up administrative control of Volkswagen in 1949, they passed ownership to the German Federal government, which delegated control to the…


Worker Notes: The Benefits Of European Unions Have A Seat In Corporate Board Rooms Are Many

  A different type of union. A different kind of life. By Tom Crofton The Commoner Call (6/12/17) Many of the chronic problems we now see with the American union movement can be tracked back to the history of European craft guilds and the relationships of masters to apprentices. The constricting effect of one–to–one instruction, portioned out slowly over time to fit market demand and prevent competition between master and apprentice was one cause for the fractured condition of Labor today. The transition to modern American trade unions followed the idea of organizing around skills instead of by entire industries,…


Worker Notes: It’s Not Just About Wages & Benefits – Working Conditions Are A Matter Of Life Or Death

By Tom Crofton The Commoner Call (6/8/17) While wages are clearly a top reason to organize a union, and benefits are life-changing, struggles over working conditions may be the most important fights working people can take on and often are the catalyst for union organizing. From grape pickers and tomato harvesters, to nurses and corrections officers, the hours and conditions of work are often the last breaking straw that leads to organizing for change. While technology has changed dramatically, the drive to save money, and to use human capital to save on investing monetary capital, is as old as the…


Worker Notes: Prevailing Wage Is One More Thread Of The American Dream Being Unraveled By The Right.

By Tom Crofton The Commoner Call (5/30/17) A critical piece of labor protection under assault in Republican rule is the idea of Prevailing Wages, known nationally as Davis-Bacon legislation, and creating what are described as “White Sheet” jobs. This legislation applies to construction work on public projects. During the era of an expanding economy and strong union lobbying, congress and state legislatures believed work done on public infrastructure should pay a living wage. The concept of prevailiing wages was introduced in the 1930’s when an Alabama construction firm transported workers to New York to work on a hospital project and…


Worker Notes: Cushy Corporate ‘Right To Mooch’ Deals Leave All Of Us Poorer & Less Secure

By Tom Crofton The Commoner Call (5/22/17) Wisconsin has joined the ranks of states whose legislatures are deciding that state statutes protecting the well being of blue collar people are terrible cases of the government picking winners and losers. Our elected officials are ignoring a “Business 101” principle that a well educated and fully employed working/middle class actually drives a more productive economy than one based on trickle-down-from-the-billionaires. The need for a vibrant consumer base has been lost behind rhetoric that papers over the hidden rip-offs of dodgy private sector benefits – like 401(k)’s, Health Savings Accounts, etc – while championing…


Worker Notes: American Big Bucks Health Care System One Sick Puppy

  By Tom Crofton The Commoner Call (5/15/17) A great irony of the employer–based health insurance system is that employers originally created it to save money on wages. Their complaints now would be funny if the consequences were not so dire. Their unwillingness to use simple Business 101 concepts like “ the best value wins”, “competition brings down costs”, “demand pushes supply”, and “government should not pick winners and losers” is part of the inherent contradictions of an undemocratic, capital–controlled economic system that uses the political system as its straw man. All recent options leading up to a true single-payer…


Worker Notes: Standing Together & Organizing For Deserved Wages

By Tom Crofton The Commoner Call (5/8/17) The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about unions is wages. The non-union, merit-based system says that each deserves wages based on some type of objective metric. This system requires confidentiality (you do not want employees comparing their individual deals) and rewards those who find ways to play the system, though not necessarily fairly. A major flaw in this system is that most jobs do not have a clear metric for comparison. Teachers for example have been singled out for some type of merit pay. How do you rate the work…


Worker Notes: Rural America Needs The Support And Organizing Skills Of Labor Unions

Learning and Fighting For Your Rights By Tom Crofton The Commoner Call (5/1/17) Collective bargaining is the device that allows workers to join together to improve the return from the investment of their labor. Most anti-union efforts are intentional attempts to splinter worker solidarity to allow a stratification of wages and benefits for the benefit of the employer. By paying off a few lead workers well and treating the rest as replaceable commodities allows employers to set up hierarchies and create systems of secrecy and top-down authority that discourages worker innovation in exchange for short-term paper profits.  As a 40+ year…


A May Day Call: When Corporations Don’t Take Precautions To Avert Workplace Deaths Executives Must Go To Prison

  By Leo Gerard, President of United Steel Workers AlterNet (4/24/17) Every 12 days, a member of my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), or one of their non-union co-workers, is killed on the job. Every 12 days. And it’s been that way for years. These are horrible deaths. Workers are crushed by massive machinery. They drown in vats of chemicals. They’re poisoned by toxic gas, burned by molten metal. The company pays a meaningless fine. Nothing changes. And another worker is killed 11 days later. Of course, it’s not just members of the USW. Nationally, at all workplaces, one employee…


Worker Notes: The Mass Strike Is Calling Us

TheCommonerCall.org   By Tom Crofton The Commoner Call (4/24/17) In the spirit of non-violent change, workers of all-colored-collars are remembering they have the power to make statements by denying their services for a day. May 1st has always been a day to remember the sacrifices of those who went before us to fight for better working conditions, pay, and benefits. Events are being planned to go beyond immediate worker issues to confront the anti-labor, anti-woman, anti-immigrant policies of the Trump/Pence regime. The labor movement in America has its dark and light sides, both of which will explored in the Commoner…