Saturday Report 9/16/23 - Is this a defining moment for unions?
The Best of the Rest of the News
— The UAW is on strike and it’s starting to feel like the pre-Reagan era! The union tweeted yesterday: “During the eight and a half minutes GM CEO Mary Barra appeared on CNN this morning, she ‘earned’ more money than any autoworker makes in a full work day.” In fact, while autoworkers wages have fallen by 19.6 percent since 2008, the salaries of the Big Three automakers’ CEOs have gone up over 40 percent. The three companies showed a $21 billion profit in the first six months of this year, and GM’s president Bera has taken over $200 million in pay just since 2014. During that same time, the companies have spent over $66 billion distributing dividends and buying back shares, which jack up stock prices, further enriching senior executives. As Shawn Fain, the CEO’s president, said: “The cost of labor for a vehicle is 5% of the vehicle. They could double our wages and not raise the prices of vehicles, and they would still make billions of dollars.” Ford’s Jim Farley made $21 million last year, Stellantis’ Carlos Tavares took home nearly $25 million, and General Motors’ Mary Barra cashed in to the tune of $29 million. And none of those numbers include the millions those CEOs made in dividends from the stock they own as part of their compensation. Ronald Reagan famously gutted organized labor in America, cutting union membership from about a third of us to around 6 percent in the private sector (it’s up to around 9 percent now). Every Red state in the country has now adopted “right to work for less” laws allowed under the 1947 Taft-Hartley law passed over Harry Truman’s veto, which is why the Japanese, German, and Korean automakers have set up shop in Red states so they can avoid unions and thus pay crap wages. When workers are unionized and their representatives are successful in negotiating fair wage and benefits packages, it makes their communities healthier as well-paid workers spend their money locally, stimulating the economy. Strikes and good pay are good for everybody!
— Republicans in Red states are stripping power from urban voters. Speaking of Republican-controlled Red states, all across the country they’re generally at war with their own cities, passing preemption laws forbidding them from regulating everything from workplace conditions to firearms to environmental and public health conditions. Cities are generally controlled by Democrats (only one of the 20 largest cities in America has a Republican mayor) and the Republicans who run Red states are doing everything they can to dis-empower and disenfranchise their city dwellers. This interference with how cities are run even extends to working conditions. As a 2018 Columbia Law School study noted, “Twenty-five states now ban local minimum wage requirements above the federal or state floor, and twenty preempt local paid sick leave rules. Between 2015 and 2017, nine states preempted local predictive scheduling laws, and local ban-the-box laws regulating employer inquiries into the criminal records of prospective employees are at risk as well.” Every Red state in America forbids city regulation of firearms. But that’s just the beginning. Again, from that study: “Environmental and public health preemption measures include bans on local nutrition regulations, such as calorie counts and other menu labeling rules; restrictions on promotional incentives (such as toys) with fast-food meals; and efforts to address ‘food deserts’ (poor neighborhoods with few stores selling fruits or vegetables). Mississippi, for example, prohibits any local regulation of ‘the provision or nonprovision of food nutrition information or consumer incentive items at food service operations’ or of the sale of food and beverages approved for sale by federal or state agencies. This is known colloquially as the ‘anti-Bloomberg bill’ in ironic recognition of the public health efforts of New York City’s former mayor. Other preempted public health subjects include pesticides, tobacco products, e-cigarettes, factory farms, and fire sprinkler installation in new homes.” In every case, these laws have come about to either reduce city’s political power (Texas has stripped Houston, for example, of the ability to run their own elections) or as favors to industry lobbyists who’ve bought off Republican-controlled state legislatures. Once again, the difference between Democratic and Republican governance is painfully obvious.
— The US economy is going strong under Biden, but Americans don’t believe it. More jobs have been created in Joe Biden’s first two years than in the entire first term of any other American president throughout history. Inflation is down: it’s about half of what it was when Reagan declared “Morning in America.” Wages are up. Unemployment is at 1960s levels. But people are telling pollsters they don’t believe the numbers. In part this is because our contemporary click-bait-driven media has done a terrible job of reporting on the good economic news, most likely because they get attacked by Republicans for “cheerleading for the administration” every time they do. But a larger part of the problem is probably that America’s middle class is still in the hole Reaganomics pushed them into. When Reagan came into office, two-thirds of Americans were solidly in the middle class with a single wage-earner; today, Reaganomics has cut the middle class
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