Millions of families around the world, including my own, will sit down together this weekend for Passover Seder to read and celebrate the story of the Jews freeing themselves from enslavement. Independence is an important and powerful part of the story. But I think we’re also celebrating something else: the first great moment in labor history.
The parallels come easily. The workers (Israelites) asked their union rep (Moses) to stand up to the boss (Pharaoh) about their terrible working conditions. . . .
The workers’ only recourse was to leave. This was a really strike, but on a biblical scale. It was one of the first times that workers stood up for their collective power. Moses was a gifted organizer, and you can see the lessons of the Israelite revolt resonating throughout labor history — in labor guilds, mutual aid societies, and modern collective bargaining units.
The other day, Kentucky’s cutest Senator and my personal friend and fave, Mr. Rand Paul, attempted a joke:
It was funny.
Today the US House passed a bill related to this case that would stop the National Labor Relations Board from investigating Boeing’s decision to move its plant from Washington state — where unionized employees sometimes ask for slightly increased benefits from the billion-dollar mega-militaryindustrialcorporation — to a new plant in South Carolina where pesky unionized labor would no longer be a problem.
(And by the way… don’t all you Rand and Ron Paul supporters just adore seeing Rand shilling for Boeing?)
While 8 Democrats did vote with Republicans for this ridiculous bill, both Congressmen Yarmuth and Chandler erred on the side of sanity and voted “No.”
If you’d like to know more about the case against Boeing, you can start here, but it’s fair to say Rand’s performance art up top simply buys into a false choice and hides the fact that he, too, is owned by the corporate-statism his supporters so trenchantly rail against. (Which is fine… they’re not necessarily wrong… but why not rail on Rand, kiddies?)
Last July, labor unions seemed like they might not be willing to lift a finger for Steve Beshear this year. After furloughing state workers and explicitly ignoring the KY AFL-CIO’s warning not to choose Jerry Abramson as his running mate (whom labor is not fond of at all), many wondered if they would just sit out 2011 and teach Beshear a lesson.
Then in February, Wisconsin happened. And Ohio. And Michigan. And Indiana. And Florida…
By this Spring, the thought of Labor sitting out and allowing another Scott Walker, Rick Scott, John Kasich or Rick Snyder to take over the Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort seemed much less likely.
I’ll go ahead and take a guess that this was the last straw. Despite the furloughs, and despite AFL-CIO’s disgust toward Abramson, there’s no way that labor unions are going to sit back and let Kentucky become another piece in the puzzle for the national GOP’s strategy to destroy labor unions in America.
I called the KY AFL-CIO today, who told me that they have endorsed Beshear/Abramson, though they didn’t expand on it and have no statement out on the internet tubes. And judging from the Kentucky/Indiana chapter of AFSCME’s twitterfeed, they have no intention of sitting this one out:
But will the furloughs still have a lingering effect with the support of state workers? I can’t rule it out, but I doubt it. First of all, as Joe Gerth pointed out in his column on this matter two weeks ago, the furloughs were implemented in the first place by David Williams in the 2010 budget. And while Beshear held onto furloughs longer than Williams, he also announced recently that due to an increase in state funds, he doesn’t expect to implement them anymore. Additionally, we are talking about 30-34,000 state workers who were actually furloughed. Put those three factors together and it doesn’t seem likely that Beshear will face a huge backlash that hurts him badly.
Well, those factors plus a man named Scott Walker and the national GOP quest to bust every union from here to eternity.
So this Fall you should expect labor unions, both statewide and national, to be here in Kentucky supporting Steve Beshear all out, along with plenty of state workers. And I wouldn’t rule out Scott Walker getting some form of thank you card in the mail from Steve Beshear.
David Williams gave the following radio interview yesterday, where he decried his own Steve Beshear’s budgets and said the stimulus money the he spent didn’t help. Oh, and he also gave Labor, who are not fans of Steve Beshear and Jerry Abramson, a reason to support the Democratic ticket and not feel filthy about doing so. Here’s David Williams getting his “Right to Work” on:
Expect Beshear’s people to be privately spreading this while publicly continuing to sound as conservative as possible.
As we mentioned yesterday, Rand Paul repeatedly accused President Obama of having an “enemies list”. And here’s the video (the audio delay is awful on the second part, apologies):
OK, several things about this video are priceless. First of all, the look on Haley, DeMint and Graham’s face when Paul starts going Woodward and Bernstein. Secondly, after saying enemies list 48 times, Paul closes with:
“I respectfully ask the President to immediately rescind this assault on business”
This is what happens when mess with labor. An unknown Democrat comes out of nowhere to beat* a Republican incumbent with 30 years of public service, flipping 19 counties that went to Scott Walker just 5 months earlier.
Don’t let it get you down, GOP. Keep trying, and things should look up for you in Wisconsin and Ohio by 2012!
The problem with Paul’s assault on public employee unions is that it’s based on a false premise. Public workers at all level of government have to contribute to their pension and health care plans. Federal employees contribute to the Federal Employment Retirement System (FERS), which requires them to contribute to the fund at a rate equivalent to one percent of their yearly salary. Meanwhile, their health care, just like Paul’s, is covered by the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program, which also requires employees to share the cost with their employer, usually 25 percent of premiums according to the Office of Personnel Management.
State workers like those Paul and his right-wing colleagues have been scolding often have far less generous plans than federal legislators. Lawmakers only contribute “1.3 percent of their salaries” into their defined benefit plan, while “the midpoint for defined-benefit pension contributions from state workers” is actually almost 4 times higher, at 5 percent. In Wisconsin, state employees actually pay the entirety of their pension plans via contributions from their salaries. Health care plans vary by state, but in Wisconsin public employees generally pay 6 percent of their premiums.