Freedom Foundation protest coverage by the Bellevue Reporter

On September 28, hundreds of people protested the annual dinner of the Freedom Foundation in Bellevue, where the guest speaker was renowned racist Dinesh D’Souza. The Bellevue Reporter print edition had an excellent piece about the protest, including content critical of D’Souza and Trump.

Freedom Foundation protest coverage by Bellevue Reporter

Oddly, though, the Bellevue Reporter website doesn’t, as of the time of this writing, have a link to the article, and an Internet search doesn’t reveal it.

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.

This Land's Run for the Wealthy Few

This land is Koch land, this land is Fox land
From Silicon Valley to  New York's Wall Street
From Texas oil rigs to northern tar fields
This land's run for the wealthy few.

They wasted trillions on wars unneeded.
They tortured people and made new enemies.
They overthrew leaders democratically elected.
They were working for the wealthy few.

Offshore tax havens,  loopholes so brazen,
Tax cuts for rich folk, wealth concentration.
Capital gains taxed   less than earned income,
This land's run for the wealthy few.

Deregulation crashed the economy
So they gave bailouts to corporations
They still give subsidies to oil companies
They care only for the wealthy few.

Gerrymandered districts,  Diebold voting machines, 
Voter suppression,  Citizens United,
Attacks on unions and public teachers.
This land's run for the wealthy few.

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 

Fact-checking a claim about Koch versus union spending

I signed a petition from Credo Action “urging PBS affiliate WGBH to remove David Koch from the Board of Trustees and Science Visiting Council because of his anti-science positions.”  After I signed the petition, it through up a fund-raising appeal from ActBlue containing the following claim:

The Koch brothers spent over $400 million in 2012—more than twice as much as the 10 largest unions combined.

Their network of shadow groups are pushing a radical right-wing agenda that is anti-healthcare, anti-climate science, and anti-worker—An agenda is designed to prop up big corporations and keep working people down.

I certainly oppose the Koch brothers and their toxic ideology but I’m curious about the highlighted claim, and I think that ActBlue should document such claims on their webpages.

In a HuffPost article Unions Gearing Up To Spend Big In 2012 Elections, it says ” Unions are gearing up to spend more than $400 million to help re-elect President Barack Obama and lift Democrats this election year in a fight for labor’s survival.” That article may in fact be consistent with Act Blue’s claim that the 10 largest unions spent less than $200 million: it’s possible that hundreds of unions contributed to the total near $400 million. Or it’s possible that the HuffPost article is wrong, and the total was less than $400 million.

But an article in The Nation, The Koch Brothers Spent Twice as Much on the 2012 Election as the Top Ten Unions Combined, gives more insight and substantiates Act Blue’s claim. Specifically,

For the last election, Koch PACs spent $4.9 million in disclosed contributions (figures that appear on the chart referenced by Strassel). But they also spent over $407 million on undisclosed campaign entities, which does not show up in the CRP chart.

All NRLB-regulated unions, on the other hand, disclose every outside payment…. The money Koch spends as a corporate entity, as it has in the past, may have gone unreported.