World Wide Work - Nov.2007
|This edition of the free bulletin, World Wide Work, is published by the American Labor Education Center, an independent nonprofit founded in 1979.
WORLD WIDE WORK
A controversy about media ethics that’s brewing in Colorado reminds a lot of people of the old days of company towns where Hearst-style newspaper owners openly and directly attacked workers who tried to form unions, along with anyone who supported them.
Ever since Gov. Bill Ritter (D) was elected last year, state employee associations have been working with him on a partnership ( www.statepartnership.org) that focuses on improving service quality and accountability as well as giving employees a voice on pay and benefits. But instead of applauding this approach, Republicans and corporate lobbies have been playing politics with it.
When Ritter issued an executive order last week to allow state employees to form unions, even though they still would lack collective bargaining or the right to strike, Denver Post owner Dean Singleton took the extremely rare step of publishing an editorial on the front page ( http://www.denverpost.com/editorials/ci_7354651), vowing that Ritter would be a one-term governor and indicating that the paper would oppose all of Ritter’s future initiatives on other major issues such as health care. Singleton, who according to the Columbia Journalism Review lives in a Denver mansion with 11 bathrooms ( http://cjrarchives.org/issues/2003/2/dean-sherman.asp), has a record of breaking employees’ unions at newspapers he’s acquired ( http://americanrightsatwork.org/antiunionnetwork/dean_singleton.cfm.)
Immediately making good on his threat to destroy Ritter and the new partnership, the “independent” news side of the paper just happened to come out of the box with such balanced headlines as…“Ritter Sidesteps Statehouse in Union Deal.” “State Workers’ Wages High.” “Business Leaders Cry Foul…”
Fortunately, the rise of the Internet means that other voices can be heard. A blog entry by Jim Spencer, former Denver Post columnist (www.spencerspeaks.com ), is likely to be just the beginning of a larger debate about Singleton’s actions.
The paper’s editor, Gregory Moore, can be reached at email@example.com.
New and worth noting…
*Death at the Old Hotel by Con Lehane (St. Martin’s Minotaur). A contemporary murder mystery whose heroes are Irish reformers fighting union and Mob corruption in New York hotels. The author draws on his experience both as a union staffer and as a bartender in New York.
*The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor by Les Leopold (Chelsea Green). A detailed biography of Tony Mazzocchi, a longtime leader of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers, tells how he inspired a generation of occupational health and safety activists, pioneered labor-environmental alliances, pushed for a renewed focus on helping nonunion workers organize, and fought for fundamental health care reform.
*Strange as This Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake (Shoemaker & Hoard). An engrossing novel that tells the story of a family whose lives, like the West Virginia mountains they love, are torn up by strip mining. It’s a book that could only be written so well by someone who grew up in Appalachia and spent many hours interviewing local people before writing.
*Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Paterson (Clarion). A well crafted, 270-page historical novel for junior high and high school readers that focuses on two children in their early teens who are caught up in the great textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912. The author makes the characters real by giving them faults and dilemmas instead of turning them into one-dimensional heroes.
*Highway 99 edited by Stan Yogi, Gayle Mak, and Patricia Wakida (Heyday). An outstanding 500-page, multicultural collection of poems, stories, and excerpts from longer works about life in California’s Central Valley.
*Deer Hunting With Jesus by Joe Bageant (Crown ). This book about the white, nonunion working poor in the author’s hometown of Winchester, Virginia has plenty to offend everyone. He argues that instead of alienating these natural allies by pushing issues like gun control, middle-class urban liberals should become “leftneck” organizers who reach out to “educate” working class whites about how they are being exploited by big corporations and Republican politicians.
*Pay-for-Performance Teacher Compensation by Phil Gonring, Paul Teske, and Brad Jupp (Harvard Education Press). Unions in many service fields are struggling with how to maintain essential workers’ rights while at the same time meeting the desire of both the public and workers themselves to improve the quality of services the community receives. This book describes how progressive leaders of the Denver teachers’ union grappled with proposals to tie salaries to evaluated performance, professional development efforts, willingness to work with at-risk populations, and student achievement.
*The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs (Simon & Schuster). An editor for Esquire reads that between one-third and one-half of Americans believe that every word in the Bible is literally true – and decides to spend a year following the Good Book’s dictates to the letter. Below the surface of his quirky, irreverent humor, Jacobs begins to actually learn something about religious history and explores how the same holy book is a reference for both conservative and progressive activists.
*Disability and Business by Charles A. Riley II (University Press of New England). Setting aside issues of ethics and morality, this professor of business journalism argues that corporations should employ and market to people with disabilities as a way to increase profits.
*U.S. Labor in Trouble and Transition by Kim Moody (Verso). One of the founders of the publication, Labor Notes, argues that the decline in living standards and rights for working people will be reversed not by projects such as Change to Win that are led by national organizations but instead by local rank-and-file union reform movements and worker centers that support immigrant organizing.
*My Daughter’s Eyes by Annecy Baez (Curbstone). 14 interrelated stories about young Dominican women in the Bronx. One in particular stands out: a simple story about two little girls who report sexual abuse to their mother only to have her protect the abuser.
*Redress for Historical Injustices in the United States edited by Michael T. Martin and Marilyn Yaquinto (Duke University). A comprehensive reader with 26 essays that examine in more than 670 pages the issue of reparations to African Americans for slavery and segregation, from the reasoning behind it to possible ways to implement it to ideas for building a movement to achieve it.
*Crowd Favorites by Claire Lynch (Rounder). An impressive set of songs that are mostly in the bluegrass genre but draw on country, Cajun, and swing styles as well.
*Beautiful by Women on the Move (Red Coyote). 17 songs by 14 women in a wide variety of styles. Subjects range from relationships to abuse to chocolate to cosmetic surgery.
*Down at the Sea Hotel (Secret Mountain). A collection that both young children and their parents can listen to, featuring lullaby-like songs written by Neil Young, Tom Waits, Nanci Griffith, Don Henley, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Billy Joel and performed by others.
*Thirst (bullfrogfilms.com ). As the world moves toward a day when wars will be fought over water as well as oil, this hour-long film focuses on three communities – in the U.S., Bolivia, and India – facing the drive by global corporations to turn water into a profit-making commodity.
*Supreme Injustices ( www.allianceforjustice.org). This free 14-minute film focuses on two of the many backward steps taken by the Bush Supreme Court. One involves a woman from Alabama who was paid less than her male counterparts but denied a remedy by a convoluted Bush Court decision. The second was the overturning of a voluntary school integration plan in Louisville.
*Indigenous, Immigrant, Migrant Labour & Globalization is the timely theme of the annual conference of the Pacific Northwest Labour History Association in Vancouver BC June 6-8, 2008. Proposal deadline is January 14, 2008. See www.pnlha.org.
*True Spin is a national conference in Denver from Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2008 for progressive PR practitioners to exchange ideas and tactics. See www.truespinconference.com.
Free tools for effective grassroots organizing and communication, as well as back issues of World Wide Work, are available at www.TheWorkSite.org.
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