Bruce Blog

Dick Meister: Good news--and bad--about jobs

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By Dick Meister

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com

It's of course good news that unemployment among workers in private industry has been steadily declining. But that comes along with the bad news that unemployment among public employees has been growing – and with it a decline in vital government services.

A recent  report in the New York Times has made that very clear.  Reporters Shaila Dewan and Motoko Rich noted that government payrolls grew in the early part of the recovery from the Great Recession in 2009, mainly because of federal stimulus measures. But they said that since then, "the public sector has shrunk by 706,000 jobs.  The losses appeared to be tapering off earlier this year, but have accelerated for the last three months, creating the single biggest drag on the recovery in many areas." Read more »

The British press: "Nowhere Man" and "Mitt the Twit"

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I like one liners that make the point.

As Maureen Dowd put it in her Sunday (7/29/2012)  column in the New York Times  on "Mitt's Olympic Meddle,"

"The alarming thing about Romney is that he has been running for president for  years, but he still doesn't know how to read a room."

Dick Meister: A sure path to economic health

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By Dick Meister 

Guardian columnist Dick Meister is former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom. He has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

It's way past time to raise the pitifully low federal minimum wage. That would provide badly needed help to the millions who are living in poverty or near-poverty at the current rate of $7.25 an hour, and would help all Americans by stimulating the sagging economy.

Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois are carrying bills that would set a new minimum of $10 an hour. They're pressing hard – as they very well should – to get the general public and their allies in Congress to fully appreciate the widespread good that would come from helping some of the country's neediest workers. Read more »

Callvin Trillin: Sheldon Adelson's Free Speech

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"Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is on the brink of reaching $71 million in contributions thus far in this election cycle."

--Roll Call

Yes, money is speech, so the court has decreed.

While Adelson thinks this is splendid,

The rest of us wonder, as cash calls the tune,

Is this what the Framers intended?

Calvin Trillin: Deadline Poet (The Nation, 7/23/2012)

 

Dick Meister: Labor and the media

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By Dick Meister

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www,dickmeister,com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

The coming of the Internet has had a profound impact on media coverage of working people and their unions. No, the mainstream media have not expanded their generally limited and shallow labor reporting or their generally anti-labor editorial positions. But there now are dozens of non-mainstream websites and blogs, such as the Bay Guardian's, that provide in-depth labor coverage. The print versions of union newspapers and newsletters could never reach the very much larger audience that's now available via the Internet.

There are even pro-labor broadcast outlets, such as Pacifica Radio's KPFT in Houston, that cover labor issues in depth. The broadcasts and labor websites and blogs expose many people to labor activities and issues they may not otherwise have heard of, or understand – including pro-labor views, Read more »

Dick Meister: "We want bread and roses, too"

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By Dick Meister

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

 "Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;

Hearts starve as well as bodies, give us bread, but give us roses!"

–From a poem by James Oppenheim

Bread and roses. It was the battle cry of the thousands of striking women and their supporters who marched through the streets of Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912, in the heart of the textile industry. Although it's been 100 years since they marched, their militancy and bravery remain among the brightest highlights in the long history of the American labor movement.

The three-months long strike in Lawrence, led by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) pitted the 25,000 workers – half of them women under 20, many as young as 14 – against the violently anti-labor textile mill owners, who were strongly backed by the press, politicians , school officials, and clergy.

Striking was difficult for the workers, who had only their poverty-level wages to live on. They had barely enough to pay the rent for the run-down, disease-ridden shacks and tenement flats where most of them lived. Many were constantly in debt, having to borrow money to meet their bare necessities. Health care and other fringe benefits were virtually unheard of, and more than one-third of the workers died in their mid-twenties. Read more »

The good old days in Rock Rapids, Iowa, the Fourth of July, 1940-1953

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(Note: In July of 1972, when the Guardian was short a Fourth of July story, I sat down and cranked out this one for the front page on my trusty Royal Typewriter. I now reprint it each year on the Bruce blog, with some San Francisco updates and postscripts.)

Back where I come from, a small town beneath a tall standpipe in northwestern Iowa, the Fourth of July was the best day of a long, hot summer.

The Fourth came after YMCA camp and Scout camp and church camp, but before the older boys had to worry about getting into shape for football. It was welcome relief from the scalding, 100-degree heat in a town without a swimming pool and whose swimming holes at Scout Island were usually dried up by early July. But best of all, it had the kind of excitement that began building weeks in advance. Read more »

Eat your veggies and join a union

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Mom and the AFL-CIO have an intriguing new message for America's working people: "Eat Your Veggies  – and Join a Union."

Many moms know, of course, that unionized workers are paid better than their non-union counterparts, have better benefits, better working conditions and stronger voices in what goes on at their workplaces, as well as in off-the-job political activities. Read more »

Calvin Trillin: The Bain of Mitt Romney's Existence

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He's running on all of his triumphs at Bain,

But some say the Democrats refrain

From saying Bain's gain was at times inhumane

(Because of its strategy aiming to drain

A company's treasure, no matter what pain

Is caused to the workers whom it won't retain).

Yes, Bain did some good, its defenders explain:

Some pension funds shared in its capital gain.

So vulture's a label for Mitt they disdain--

Though buzzard's OK, and is just as germane.

Calvin Trillin, Deadline Poet, The Nation June 18, 2012

 

 

Dick Meister: Dolores Huerta merits our highest honor

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By Dick Meister

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, is co-author of "A Long Time Coming: The Struggle To Unionize America's Farm Workers" (Macmillan). Contact him through his website, www.dickmeiste.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

How fitting it is that Dolores Huerta has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Her many years of hard and invaluable work for union rights and civil rights generally deserve no less than the country's highest civilian honor, bestowed on her May 30 by President Obama.

Huerta, now a vibrant 80 years old, has had a remarkable career spanning more than a half-century. She's probably best known for her work with Cesar Chavez in the founding and operations of the United Farm Workers union. But that's been just part of her lifelong and extraordinarily successful and courageous fight for economic and social justice. Read more »