Steven Hill: Fixing the American Workforce (Seattle, Dec 7, 2015)

Uber, TaskRabbit, Airbnb, and other companies are putting capitalist ventures in the hands of the consumer–but how much do these companies really benefit American workers? According to veteran journalist Steven Hill (Europe’s Promise), the answer is not at all. Hill argues that, more than anything, these new tech-based, easy-money, sharing enterprises are doing great harm. Raw Deal outlines the “runaway capitalism” behind these programs and the disastrous results that could occur if they’re allowed to continue unchecked. He’ll share his solutions–both for public policy and our broken economic structure–and what it will take to shift away from the sharing economy.

WA State Rep. Gael Tarleton at Take Back Your Time Day!

Washington State Representative Gael Tarleton speaks the Seattle TAKE BACK YOUR TIME DAY picnic about why she introduced a paid vacation bill in the Washington legislature and the need to protect the rights of working Americans and the middle class.

CELEBRATION Picnic at Gasworks Park, for Take Back Your Time Day! –and the 75th Anniversary of the 40-hour week October 24, 2015

Making Bread While Baking Bread — A Celebration of Labor Day

One of my great-grandfathers, Rudolf Leo Schirra Sr., was born in Rammstein (no joke), Germany in 1876.  He emigrated to the US in 1889 and for the rest of his life lied about being born in Chicago, apparently to avoid immigration questions.

Okay, so why care?  Well, Rudolf Senior was a labor organizer from about the time he got off the boat.  His family were traditionally bakers, and he worked in bakeries in Philadelphia.  Conditions were great.  So awesome were the owners of the bakeries that they hired thugs with whips, ostensibly to keep the rats in check.  I am not joking.  When you see the sign, “The beatings will continue until morale improves” remember that in the 1890s and 1900s, that wasn’t actually a joke.

Prior to the Wagner Act being passed in 1935, trade unions in the United States weren’t illegal per se, but neither was it illegal for factory owners to hire thugs to ‘break unions’.  Whenever I see Westerns or old movies lionizing the Pinkertons as some sort of proto-detective agency, I want to scream.  The Pinkerton Agency was originally a corporation made up of thugs, literally.  By 1890, the Pinkerton Agency had more armed men than the United States Army.  You can look that up.  The entire reason for the existence of the Pinkerton Agency was to infiltrate unions, break skulls of strikers, and generally be a private army for millionaires like Andrew Carnegie.  And until the practice was outlawed in 1893, there was quite a bit of overlap between the Pinkerton Agency and the federal government, which contracted with the Pinkertons to “detect and prosecute those suspected of violating federal law”.

The Pinkertons were merely the best organized of the thugs hired by factory owners to literally beat and kill strikers.  There were many, many others.

I mention this because Rudolf Senior was the General Organizer of the International Baker and Confectioners Union in Philadelphia.  He gave speeches across the country and was instrumental in the investigation of child labor violations in Indianapolis in 1903. He was one of three delegates to the American Federation of Labor conference from at least 1905 to 1917.  Rudolf is recorded as comparing union shop conditions in Philadelphia to non-union shops.  Union shop workers were getting $3 a day for 10 hour days and non-union shop workers were getting $2 a day for 14 hour days in 1905.  In 1924, he was trying to get a Mexican union off the ground. By 1925, he had moved to California and was a supervisor of the California State Federation of Labor.  He was instrumental in securing decent labor conditions in the Stockton factory of the Gravem Inglis Baking Company, later renamed Sunbeam Bread.

Child Labor


He was therefore not popular with corporate CEOs and factory owners, considering he organized multiple strikes and boycotts against National Biscuit Company (use the first few letters of each word to find out what they are called now), McKinney Breads (bought out by the General Baking Company which later became General Foods) who were using child labor, among other nasty practices. In fact on multiple occasions they took contracts out on him.  I don’t mean, “hey, lawyer dude, let’s draw up a contract with Rudi Schirra”, I mean “here’s $5000 to bring me the head of Rudi Schirra”.  He slept with dual revolvers and was shot at quite a few times.  Labor organizing didn’t just involve guys with placards, it involved guys with baseball bats, knives, and guns.

Rudi was a tough guy.  He married Barbara Bildner, who had a club foot.  One day, an asshat walked into the bakery and asked “hey, Rudi, how come you married a cripple?”  Rudi was slicing bread with a bread knife and my grandfather had to prevent him from using the bread knife on the asshat.  He later became a police officer and was shot by an overzealous bank guard during a robbery.  Rudi not only didn’t die, he beat up the bank guard for wounding him.

So, Happy Labor Day, all.  Remember all those that fought for decent working conditions, eight hour days, and 40 hour weeks.  It wasn’t easy and unions were absolutely necessary then, and continue to be!

Massachusetts militiamen with fixed bayonets surround a group of strikers during the Lawrence, Massachusetts Textile Strike of 1912

Massachusetts militiamen with fixed bayonets surround a group of strikers during the Lawrence, Massachusetts Textile Strike of 1912. Source: Wikipedia.

Boeing loyal to its Russian investments

Boeing is at it again, eating its own in Puget Sound. The company will be laying off engineers in Washington and building a new model with dispersed “centers of excellence” around the country and the world, which is corporate-speak for hiring workers at lower salaries, no union protection, and less understanding of the intricacies of building airplanes.

That makes me worried. Things can go wrong in cars, but you are still on the road. Things going wrong in airplanes when they are 30,000 feet in the air, flying at 500 miles per hour with 300 passengers on board are a much bigger problem. That’s why we need the best engineers and machinists, with the highest worker morale possible, building planes. Our lives literally depend on them.

But there is a bit more to this as well, because when Boeing lays off engineers here, it hires them in South Carolina, Alabama, and Moscow…. Moscow, the capital of Russia, the big bear that is threatening the Ukraine and other nations that won their independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union. So now when our government is imposing business sanctions against Russia, where do you think Boeing will stand? Backing up those sanctions and closing down its work in Moscow? Or counseling the administration to “go slow” and in the meantime build up its Russian workforce.

Boeing is taking the “go slow” route. It has too much to lose withdrawing from Russia. One of Boeing’s buddies in Russia is Sergey Chemezov. He was just placed on the sanctions list as a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. This guy has a “strategic partnership” with Boeing to build titanium parts. His company supplies about a third of the titanium used in Boeing’s jets. Last November Boeing committed to a joint venture in the Ural Mountains to produce titanium, reduce machining costs, and establish more than 100 new jobs … there.

According to its own publications, “Boeing is one of Russia’s largest partners in the areas of innovation and high technology.” Boeing intends to invest $27 billion in Russia. The Moscow Boeing design center has participated in hundreds of projects for the 747, 737, 777, 767 and 787 family of planes. Don’t believe me, read this for yourself.

The company is explicit about “work-arounds” to take away work from Puget Sound-based engineers. In late 2008, a Boeing engineering partner in Russia began 787 work to “reduce Boeing research and development expenditures.” So far the company has moved 2,000 high tech jobs to Moscow. Most likely some of the 1,100 jobs it plans to move out of Puget Sound will end up in Moscow as well.

We’re not talking just about engineers and machinists. Boeing’s job shifts will hurt you. If the total compensation package for an engineer is $125,000, as Boeing claims, and it wants to shift 1,100 engineer jobs elsewhere, that means a hit on the economy in Puget Sound of $137 million a year. That means fewer consumer purchases, less taxes paid, less funding for schools. It hurts us all.

Boeing is the second largest federal contractor. Over a third of its sales in 2013 came from the federal government. Over the last six years, Boeing has gained $26.4 billion in pre-tax profits, while claiming $105 million in refunds from the IRS, an effective tax rate of -0.4 percent. The Chicago-based company just takes and takes and takes from Americans.

So why should Boeing care about Russian interference in the Ukraine, Moldova, or elsewhere? When it comes to human rights and footsteps toward democracy, corporate priorities tend to dull advocacy for actual people. You won’t see any statements from Boeing about Ukrainian independence from Russia.

Boeing’s history in the last decade has been to put corporate profits and CEO prerogatives ahead of respect for workers, ahead of the communities in which Boeing is situated, and far in front of democracy.

As to Russia and the Ukraine, the company states, ““We are watching developments closely to determine what impact, if any, there may be to our ongoing business and partnerships in the region. We won’t speculate on the potential impact of sanctions or any other potential government actions.” Enough said.

Originally published in the Everett Herald 

May Day March and Rally for Workers and Immigrant Rights

Rally with thousands of workers and immigrant rights supporters. The event will focus on standing together with all workers regardless of race, class, gender, sexual identity and documentation status.
Join with Radical Women participants who will be marching with the Libertad para Nestora/Freedom for Nestora Committee. Look for our signs and banner!

Thursday May 1st, 2014. 3:00pm 
The march will begin at St. Mary’s Church, 611 20th Ave South, Seattle.
It will end with a rally at Westlake Park.

For more information on the event, go to:
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Tennessee Republicans are Anti-Business and Anti-Union

The VW worker unionization vote was the dirtiest union election of the 21st Century and all the dirty tactics were coming from outside anti-union political forces. Without the intimidation and lies of elected Tennessee Republicans along with billionaire financed national Right Wing groups, the union would have won the union representation vote.
Outside groups financed by extremist Right Wing billionaires put up emotionally charged smear campaign billboards blaming the United Auto Workers (UAW) for the decline of the automobile industry in Detroit. These are false charges. Labor costs in total are a very tiny portion of the cost of cars and trucks.

The truth is that trade policy and poor management decisions concerning the types of vehicles built are mostly responsible for the long-term problems and the decline of Detroit.

The most recent crisis that required the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler was the direct result of the collapse of Wall Street and the biggest banks. Sales collapsed because the financing of new car purchases collapsed. Unions certainly played no role in the creation of this crisis. Unions did play a huge role in saving both companies. If either failed, it would have taken Ford down with it since the auto parts suppliers to all companies would have gone out of business. The entire American economy would have gone into another Great Depression. The Wall Street/banking crisis was caused by poor regulation of that industry and abuses by Wall Street/banking insiders. Who pushed thru the deregulation of Wall Street and the banking industry? The answer is mostly Republican politicians and Right Wing billionaire financed organizations like those putting up the anti-union, smear billboards in Chattanooga to defeat the VW unionization vote.

The same Right Wing billionaire groups and Republican politicians (along with some corporatist elected Democrats) largely pushed thru the bad trade policy that created the serious decline of Detroit and the relative decline of the Big Three American automakers.

The irony that those forces who ideas and actions who undermined the American auto industry were blaming the industry’s unionized workers was completely lost on the Tennessee and national media. Nobody seemed to be covering this situation at all. They still are not discussing it.

Another barely covered aspect of the situation is that Republican officeholders used the power of their offices to interfere in this election. The only parties who should have been involved were the workers and the company. VW actually seemed to want the workers to join the UAW. VW has very good relationships with their workers all over the world. They wanted to bring their Worker Council model to the United States to help all American companies and workers establish better cooperation in all workplaces. The UAW was very supportive. The Worker Council model is a huge success and has VW become the international success story that it is.

The Worker Council models, like traditional unions, bring an element of democracy into the workplace. Those forces opposing it are also behind voter suppression laws and actions all over America in our elections to government offices. Their efforts and tactics mirror their actions in these other arenas. They are not friends of democracy in America in government or the economy.

Elected Republicans in Tennessee wanted this model defeated because they profit in terms of campaign donations by the bad worker-employer labor relations situation in the United States. These Republican politicians saw that good labor relations might be good for the nation but would be very bad for them. They went to war with both VW and the UAW just to retain their political power in Tennessee and nationally.

They threatened to pull tax breaks to the manufacturing plant if the workers voted in the union. This was extremely anti-business! The Tennessee politicians and the state government had no business getting involved in this unionization vote. Their actions were completely corrupt and should have been illegal. Governor Haslam and Senator Corker would be facing jail time in a more just society. Their actions are certainly abuses of power not unlike those of the Governor Christie political machine in New Jersey in my opinion. Of course, we are not seeing the media make the same kind of comparison. Threatening tax breaks already granted for blatantly politically partisan reasons certainly seems to need federal investigation by the US Department of Justice.

Statements by Senator Corker about the future product lines from VW seem to be outright lies. They were directly denied by company spokespersons. He claimed that a vote for the union would result in new models going to other plants and seemingly that his information came from top VW management sources. He has not said who those sources are.

It appears those lies and the threats worked on just enough workers to defeat the unionization vote this time. If the media had fully explored the situation and explained the tactics, the outcome would have been very different in my opinion. I hope they will at least get it right after the fact but I believe their class based bias against unions makes that less than certain.

I do hope the federal governments does investigate and prosecute the Republican officeholders who abused their offices to thwart a free and fair unionization vote at the VW plant in Chattanooga.


Stephen Scott Crockett is a business owner (College, talk show host (Democratic Talk Radio) and union activist. He can be reached by cell phone at 443-907-2367 or email at

Watch: Lawmakers rally in support of paid sick days

This week, lawmakers in the state House stood with Washington’s working families and passed the legislature’s first paid sick days bill. The bill’s prime sponsor, Representative Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), along with her colleagues shared rousing testimony in support of paid sick and safe days. Check out video of their floor speeches below.

Representative Laurie Jinkins

“The Centers for Disease Control have told us that upwards of 80 percent of norovirus that’s transmitted across the nation is from sick food service workers. Now a lot of people don’t know what norovirus is Mr. Speaker but just let me tell you, it’s a gift you don’t want to be given. The thing about it is, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can do something about it.”

Representative Tana Senn

“I rise in support of sick and safe leave. Sometimes we get so focused on the nuts and bolts of the legislation that we forget about the real people that it’s impacting so let’s put a face to the people that’ were talking about right now. I want to tell you about a woman named Jennifer, a restaurant worker in east King County, who went home one night and was almost beaten to death.”

Representative Roger Freeman

“I rise in support of this bill, this very personal bill to me. When I got my diagnosis last February, one of the first things that ran through my mind was with cancer how many days I was going to have to be off of work. My wife is a homemaker and if I don’t work no one gets paid, the family has no income.”

Representative Cyrus Habib

“This bill reminds me less of those other bills whether it’s minimum wage or other things then it does a bill that’s very near and dear to my heart, that’s now the law of the land, and…went into effect 20 years ago and that’s the Americans with Disabilities Act. You know when the ADA was being debated in Congress over 20 some years ago you heard a lot of the same arguments from business. You may have even heard a line like a job with no wheelchair ramp is better than no job at all. But we know that’s not true.”


Originally published at EOI Online

Time to take care of our own: Let’s pull ourselves into the 21st century, America

The United States is one of four countries in the world that doesn’t offer new moms paid maternity leave. Pakistan has better maternity leave policies than us.  Now, I can be an American exceptionalist as good as the next girl, but are you kidding me?

Just two months ago, the FAMILY Act was introduced to Congress for the first time. The bill would create a family and medical leave insurance program to be used for parental leave, a serious medical emergency or to take care of an ill parent, spouse or child. The proposal is modeled after successful social insurance programs in California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Hawaii.

What would paid leave mean for you? Well, if you have a family or plan to start one someday, it might be nice to take time off to care for your child or – you know – heal from delivering a baby.  In 1993, 21 years ago today, Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow new parents to take job-protected, but unpaid, parental leave. But over 80 percent of expecting moms don’t even qualify for the FMLA. Employees aren’t getting much relief from their bosses either – only 12 percent of workers have access to paid family leave through their workplace, yet 81 percent of U.S. women will have children by the time they’re 40.

But paid family leave isn’t just about our kids – it’s about our parents too. The first Baby Boomers turned 65 in 2011. Between now and 2030 the population of those over the age of 65 will grow to 72 million, up from 35 million in 2010. Today, 43.5 million adults – mostly grown kids and aging spouses – are providing unpaid care for someone over the age of 50, costing the U.S. trillions of dollars each year in lost wages, absenteeism and productivity. Two-thirds of all caregivers are women, complicating women’s ability to thrive in workplaces that don’t accommodate the demands of family.

The Washington legislature has considered, but not passed, bills for statewide paid sick days and state-based family and medical leave insurance. Passage of paid leave bills in either “Washington” would mean every worker could earn a few days of sick leave each year for doctor’s visits or when the flu strikes. Every baby born in our state would have the benefit of the best possible start, with loving care by parents no longer forced to rush back to work too soon. Working people could spend time with a dying parent or critically ill spouse, without risking a financial disaster. An economically secure workforce means lower costs for the state and taxpayers, too.

Paid family and medical leave is a common sense solution to the predictable booms and busts of work and family. It’s a popular idea too – 72% of U.S. voters support expanded paid family and sick leave policies.

It’s time to update policies to match the reality of today’s working families. It’s time to take care of our own.

Originally published at EOIOnline