Dick Meister

Dick Meister: The minimum wage is a poverty wage

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Imagine trying to live on pay of $7.25 an hour. Even if you managed to work full eight-hour days, you'd be making only about  $58 a day, $290 a week, or a measly $15,000 a year.  And out of that would come taxes and other deductions.

According to the standards of the federal government, you'd be living in poverty. Yet $7.25 an hour is the federal minimum wage set by Congress. State legislatures can and do set state minimums higher than the federal rate, but never lower, much as some would like to. Read more »

Dick Meister: A Memorial Day Massacre

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It’s a dramatic, shocking and violent film. Some 200 uniformed policemen armed with billy clubs, revolvers and tear gas angrily charge an unarmed crowd of several hundred striking steelworkers and their wives and children who are desperately running away. The police club those they can reach, shoving them to the ground and ignoring their pleas as they batter them with further blows. They stand above the fallen to fire at the backs of those who’ve outraced them.

Police drag the injured along the ground and into patrol wagons, where they are jammed in with dozens of others who were also arrested. Four are already dead from police bullets, six others are to die shortly. Eighty are wounded, two-dozen others so badly beaten that they, too, must be hospitalized. Read more »

Dick Meister: Ronald Reagan's Law of the Jungle

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Dick Meister, formerly labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor, politics and other matters for a half-century.

The 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan' s birth is coming up in February, and before the inevitable gushing over what a wonderful leader he was begins, let me get in a few words about what sort of a leader he really was.

Ronald Reagan was, above all, one of the most viciously anti-labor presidents in American history, one of the worst enemies the country's working people ever faced.

Republican presidents never have had much regard for unions. But until Reagan, no Republican president had dared challenge labor's firm legal standing, gained through Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the mid-1930s. Read more »

Investing in the future

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Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom has covered labor and politics for a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 250 of his columns.

The nation's crumbling infrastructure is in very serious need of rebuilding. There's absolutely no doubt about that.

Miles and miles of roads, highways and airport runways need to be repaired or replaced, as do miles and miles of railroad track. Many bridges and other public structures need to be fixed. So do many streets and many street lights, many water and flood control systems, many park and recreation and port facilities' high speed train systems need developing and so does very much more that's vital to our daily lives. Read more »

Rebuilding the labor movement

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Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 250 of his columns.

Unions, as you might certainly expect, have been having a rough time during the current recession. How rough? Well, overall union membership declined by a whopping 771,000 over the past year.

The number of workers in unions is still large, around 15 million. But that's only a little more than 12 percent of the country's workforce. There is one bright spot: More than one-third of public employees are in unions.

The figures for workers in private employment, however, show that only about 7 percent of them are in unions, That's the lowest percentage of unionized workers in private employment since 1900. That's right - the lowest percentage in 110 years.

Unions are fighting hard to reverse the downward trend, and though many outside the labor movement openly doubt – or at least wishfully think - that it can't be done, I think they're wrong. The doubters are forgetting that it's been done before  - and done in the face of obstacles that were at least as great as those confronted by union adherents today. Read more »

Election over, what next?

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Dick Meister is a San Francisco-based columnist who has covered political and labor issues for a half-century as a reporter, editor , author and commentator. Visit him at his website, www.dickmeister.com.

OK, the election is over and labor, Democrats and the other good guys came up a bit short. But what now? What next for the good guys?

 Well, for starters, organized labor and its Democratic Party allies must be ready to block Republican plans to try to enact legislation that would cut taxes for the very wealthy, slash Medicare funding, and possibly even privatize Social Security. I know that may sound alarmist and far-fetched. But that's what Republican leaders are actually talking about.

After all, the GOP's anti-labor corporate allies spent nearly a billion dollars on the election and they damn well want their money's worth.  Larry Cohen, president of the communications workers union, thinks it's getting like the way elections were 100 years ago when the big trusts and robber barons made sure their voices were the only ones heard during election campaigns. Read more »

$100,000 -A-Year Women

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Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 250 of his columns.

Unfortunately, as we all know – or should know – working women generally make less than working men, currently 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. But now come new census figures showing that in at least one regard, women are forging ahead of their male counterparts. They're doing much better than men among higher paid workers.

It turns out that the number of women with six-figure incomes is rising at a much faster pace than is the number of men making six-figure incomes. Read more »

Your first world series is always the best

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Dick Meister. former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeistersf.com, which includes more than 250 of his columns.

Whoopie! Our valiant Giants are in the World Series again, for the fourth time since they moved to the city from New York in 1958. Pretty exciting, the first series for the Giants since the 2002 series that was won, alas, by the New York Yankees.

Pretty exciting stuff coming up in this year's series too, Giants vs. Texas  Rangers. But it was more than excitement that swept San Francisco during that first SF Giants World Series and the regular season leading up to the series.  It was near-hysteria. As a young reporter for the SF Chronicle in those days, I felt it up close and very personal. Read more »

Ignoring Cheney's real victims

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Dick Meister. former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeistersf.com, which includes more than 250 of his columns.

 

So, as the Washington Post 's Paul Farhi reported recently, hunter Harry Whittington is still suffering from the effects of  being shot accidentally by hunting partner Dick Cheney in Texas four years ago.

I'm sure we're all sorry about that, about how Whittington still has the lead pellet that pierced his larynx when the then-vice president swung around abruptly and fired away at a flight of quail. We're of course sorry, too, about the 30 or so other pieces of shot still inside Whittington out of some 200 that slammed him, and the scars he bears. Read more »

Labor's outreach

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Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 250 of his columns.

Never have the nation's younger workers been more in need of unionization. And never have the nation's unions been more in need of the membership growth that recruiting younger workers can bring them.

Here's how it looks, and it's not a pretty picture for labor: Last year, unions lost 10 percent of their members in private employment -  the biggest drop in more than 25 years.  That cut union membership by 834,000 workers, down to 15.7 million workers.

Which means that overall, counting public as well as private employment, unions now represent only a little more than 12 percent of the country's workers. Just 20 years ago, 20 percent of all workers were unionized.

So, how can organized labor add significantly to its numbers and thus add significantly to labor's political and economic strength. Read more »