The Widdershins

Archive for the ‘unions’ Category

Good Sunday and weekend Widdershins!

There you have it, right there in the photo.  The word we need to keep shouting to the vulgar yam, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republican oligarchy.  Just one…big…NO!

NO, you won’t take away our healthcare.  NO, you won’t take away our voting rights.  NO, you won’t take away our equality.  NO you won’t steal our elections. Just one big freaking NO! 

And what is one of the best ways to signal our protest, outrage and solidarity to those who would take these things away from us?  Through music of course!

Below are some of my choices for songs dealing with protest and solidarity.  Please add some of your own choices in the comments.

(1) Factory 1978~ Bruce Springsteen

(2) Solidarity Forever~Pete Seeger

(3) Tiny Hands~Fiona Apple (DJ Matt Bailer Remix)

(4) I Give You Power~Mavis Staple & Arcade Fire

(5) Revolution~Nina Simone

(6) Guns of Brixton~The Clash

(7) Alright~Kendrick Lamar

(8) Ohio~Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young


So there you go Widdershins, eight…count’em eight songs of protest, outrage and solidarity.  Please add your choices in the comments below.

Open thread of course.


A good Friday to you Widdershins!

With Prolix’s laptop giving up the ghost on him and tin cans and string not working well for internet connectivity, Fredster here is going to do a post in his absence.  Prolix has been kind enough to take a post or two for me, so reciprocating is fine with me.  But as one of the tags to the post says, “Not Prolix”, so don’t hold me to that standard…puhleeze!

In some of my readings around the internet I found articles that I thought were interesting and so I bookmarked them for future reference.  I think that will work out just fine today.  This isn’t exactly current events, nor earth shattering, but something I found interesting and perhaps you will also.

* * * *

The topic I want to cover is from Bloomberg Busisnessweek and concerns the auto manufacturing  and auto parts manufacturing companies that have come to some of the southern states and in this case to Alabama.  The piece is subtitled “Cheap Wages, Little Training, Crushed Limbs“.  And that is about right.

Bama’s experiences with the auto manufacturing business began when the state was able to entice Mercedes Benz to build an assembly plant near Tuscaloosa Alabama.  “In 1997…That gleaming M-Class SUV was historic. Alabama, the nation’s fifth-poorest state, had wagered a quarter-billion dollars in tax breaks and other public giveaways to land the first major Mercedes factory outside Germany.”  I don’t know this personally but I’m sure the employees at that plant have decent wages and working conditions because: German company.  And after that initial company, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai opened their own assembly plants in Bama.  The car assembly plants opened in other southern states too; Tennessee and Georgia as examples.  And one reason the plants came was because most of these states are right-to-work states.  U.A.W. ?  Nah, we don’t need no stinkin’ unions here.  And after the car assembly plants, the parts suppliers started opening up in the state.

The parts supplier companies are usually foreign-owned and supply the parts for the assembly plants.  And though the companies may both be from South Korea, there’s no love lost between them.  The assembly plants have contracts with the parts plants and have very fixed quotas on how many widgets for a car those plants must make or they’ll be penalized.  So those suppliers take chances and cut corners, and the corners usually involve worker safety.

Take the case of Regina Elsea.  She had great plans, was going to attend Auburn University with desires to be a pediatrician.  But love called in the form of her kindergarten sweetheart who was a stocker at a local Walmart.  Regina dropped out of school so they both could work to get a place of their own.  She got a job at the Ajin plant which made parts for Hyundai and Kia cars.  Regina was working 12-hour shifts 7 days a week in an effort to go from temporary paying $8.75/hr. to full time permanent with a raise to $10.50/hr.   Here’s what happened to Regina one day:

On June 18, Elsea was working the day shift when a computer flashed “Stud Fault” on Robot 23. Bolts often got stuck in that machine, which mounted pillars for sideview mirrors onto dashboard frames. Elsea was at the adjacent workstation when the assembly line stopped. Her team called maintenance to clear the fault, but no one showed up.


After several minutes, Elsea grabbed a tool—on the video it looks like a screwdriver—and entered the screened-off area around the robot to clear the fault herself. Whatever she did to Robot 23, it surged back to life, crushing Elsea against a steel dashboard frame and impaling her upper body with a pair of welding tips. A co-worker hit the line’s emergency shut-off. Elsea was trapped in the machine—hunched over, eyes open, conscious but speechless.

(No one knew how to release the robot)

A team leader raced to get a maintenance worker in the break room.  But the maintenance worker worked in a different part of the plant and wasn’t familiar with this equipment.

When emergency crews arrived several minutes later, Elsea was still stuck. The rescue workers finally did what Elsea had failed to do: locked out the machine’s emergency power switch so it couldn’t reenergize again—a basic precaution that all factory workers are supposed to take before troubleshooting any industrial robot. Ajin, according to OSHA, had never given the workers their own safety locks and training on how to use them, as required by federal law. Ajin is contesting that finding.

An ambulance took Regina to a local hospital and then to a trauma center in Birmingham where she died the next day.  Regina’s mom says she still hasn’t heard a word from Ajin’s owners or senior executives. They sent a single artificial flower to her funeral.

Regina’s isn’t the only horror story involving these supplier companies where the goal is “meet the quota or we lose money or we’ll be penalized”.  Some more examples:

  • A man had worked a 12 hour shift but was summoned to work on a metal press  The press had not been working well all day.  A hole puncher didn’t deploy and then it did…at the wrong time – on his finger. “I saw my meat sticking out of the bottom of my glove,” he says.
  • In 2015, a 33-year-old maintenance worker was engulfed in flames at Nakanishi Manufacturing Corp.’s bearing plant in Winterville, Ga.—after four previous fires in the factory’s dust-collection system.
  • A man working at a plant supplying parts for Mercedes Benz was working cleaning ventilation ducts over dipping pools of acid used to anodize the parts. There were no handrails, gangways or cables. He was working one day cleaning the ducts and “His hands slipped, and he tumbled backward into a vat of sulfuric and phosphoric acid 4 feet deep.”

OSHA (under Obama) began noticing this and cracking down:

The agency cited one year, 2010, when workers in Alabama parts plants had a 50 percent higher rate of illness and injury than the U.S. auto parts industry as a whole. That gap has narrowed, but the incidence of traumatic injuries in Alabama’s auto parts plants remains 9 percent higher than in Michigan’s and 8 percent higher than in Ohio’s. In 2015 the chances of losing a finger or limb in an Alabama parts factory was double the amputation risk nationally for the industry, 65 percent higher than in Michigan and 33 percent above the rate in Ohio.

From David Michaels who headed OSHA under President Obama:

“The supply chain isn’t going just to Bangladesh. It’s going to Alabama and Georgia,” says David Michaels, who ran OSHA for the last seven years of the Obama administration. Safety at the Southern car factories themselves is generally good, he says. The situation is much worse at parts suppliers, where workers earn about 70¢ for every dollar earned by auto parts workers in Michigan, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Many plants in the North are unionized; only a few are in the South.)

Michaels in a meeting with the car companies themselves said to them:

“I gave them a very strong message: ‘This brings shame on your reputation. American consumers are not going to want to buy cars stained with the blood of American workers,’ ”

Summing all of this up:

When Trump suits and ties are made in Mexico and when Ivanka’s clothes are made in sweat shops in Asia, do we really believe that any of these situations are going to improve?  MAGA indeed.

* * * *

Okay Widdershins I hope this wasn’t too boring or snooze-worthy.  And also I violated Prolix’s 800 word rule by about 400 extra words.  Yikes!  Please take the conservation in any direction you wish.


Good Monday, all! The Republicans likely to run for President were in rare form this weekend. The American election cycle is clearly too long for them; it allows their limited brainpower and unlimited egos multiple opportunities to open mouths, insert feet.

Witness what happens when unpopular union-busting Governor Scott Walker attempts to make an argument for why Americans should elect him President of the United States.

After noting that Walker had recently visited Israel, a trip partially paid for by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, Schieffer wondered what made the Wisconsin governor qualified to lead the county’s foreign policy.

“As a governor, I’ve been, just recently in Germany, in Spain and France,” Walker explained. “Earlier in the year, it was the United Kingdom on trade related missions. A few years back in China and Japan. So, that’s probably the most of any governor of either party has is that experience in terms of trade relations.”

Well, uh….I do appreciate the weasel words about “governors” of either Party, but…does Scott Walker really think that people are going to forget Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, and be impressed by his measly six trips on “trade-related missions,” whatever those were? (Another notable set of weasel-words, Scottie boy).

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We’ve somehow managed to make it to the weekend.  Not only is it Labor Day weekend, but also it’s the official kickoff of the college football season.  Yessir, the Dark Times have ended.

At any rate, work is a cherished American value.  From the earliest days of Jamestown, “if you don’t work, you don’t eat” has woven itself into the thread of American life.  In fact, our work ethic is so renown that we take less vacation time than any other developed nation, and our productivity is off the charts.  Maybe, just maybe, this weekend will make Americans remember that most of the good things that our workers enjoy, such as vacations, sick time, worker’s compensation, etc., came to be because of unions.  The decline of American unions correlates directly toward wage and benefit stagnation.

Whether we are to celebrate labor or decry our jobs, let this be a good and safe weekend for all. And for those of us that dearly love football, settle down.  It’s gonna be great.

This is an open thread.

(1) The Is Power In A Union – Billy Bragg

(2) 40 Hour Week – Alabama

(3) Allentown – Billy Joel

(4) Working In The Coal Mine – Lee Dorsey

(5) Take This Job and Shove It – Johnny Paycheck

(6) We Are Coming to Your City  (College Game Day Version) – Big and Rich





Sorry this is a pic of just men

You would think that of any workplace in America, that MSNBC would be a bastion of liberal enlightenment when it came to workers being able to organize.  With the likes of Rachel Maddow, Al Sharpton, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes and others, that being able to organize into a bargaining unit would be a piece of cake.  Eh, not so much.  Things are not all hunky-dory at MSNBC, NBC-Universal and Peacock Productions, which apparently is the company under which writers and producers produce a lot of the shows we see on MSNBC.

It seems that last year, nonfiction writers and producers decided to try to organize a union with P.P. and were trying to affiliate with the Writers Guild of America-East and that didn’t sit very well with the honchos at P.P. and NBC-Universal  (NBC-Universal is owned by Comcast).  After the writers and producers decided to try to organize, according to organizing director Justin Melito of the WGA-E, Peacock Productions  “responded with mandatory group meetings and one-on-one conversations in which managers pushed an anti-union line, and a spurious legal case that got the votes from a union election impounded (and thus left uncounted to date) by arguing many workers seeking union recognition were in fact supervisors and thus ineligible.”  Peacock’s view was that  producers were not eligible to join the union saying “We believe that Peacock’s producers hold meaningful supervisory authority, which, according to Federal Labor Law, excludes them from voting.”  With that line of argument, Peacock got the votes for unionization uncounted.  Producer/writer Steve Rizo was working for Peacock at the time and said that meetings with managers could get very intimidating.  Rivo said:

… that in meetings managers “specifically referred to possible outcomes of a pro-union vote, one of which included the possibility that Comcast … might just simply dissolve Peacock … It was made very clear to the whole company that the group of people who were interested in joining the Writers Guild could actually bring down the whole company.”

Peacock employee David Van Taylor said that “Some of it could be very intimidating,” and he told Salon that managers “said that they were worried – both in public meetings and in private meetings – that they would be shut down if a union passed here.”  Rivo also said that once his support for the WGA-E was known that “my assignments were not as forthcoming as they were before.”.  Van Taylor agreed with that:

“A pattern seemed to be developing where the people who had spoken up on behalf of the WGA-E were being last to be assigned to jobs or to have jobs.” Van Taylor said he and other openly pro-union workers heard that their co-workers were being criticized by management “just for like being friendly to us,” rather than shunning them for supporting the union.

Now you may be asking why workers like writers and producers might want to affiliate with a union and especially a wild, out-of-control group like the Writers Guild of America and Rivo (who has worked in the industry for 20 years) explained why:

“many formerly independent documentary producers are now working as weekly wage workers in the nonfiction TV industry,” and thus seeking contracts that guarantee pay, health coverage and residuals.

And Van Taylor explained his interest in the union:

he’d been spurred to get involved with the union by comparing the “sense of insecurity and lack of control” where he worked to the conditions for union members employed on fiction shows: “You can see that, you know, it’s possible to have a career as a freelance writer that’s not completely insecure and uncertain at all times.”

Now you may be asking what the hell all of this has to do with the “personalities” at MSNBC, the faces you see on the teevee, that have covered the workers’ protests in Wisconsin and other places where collective bargaining has been attacked.  Well you see, the behind-the-scenes workers asked some of their more well known coworkers to meet with them:  and they either declined (sometimes rather nastily) or said nothing.  All of them save for Chris Hayes.  Now you have to understand dear Widdershins…Chris Hayes is the one personality on MSNBC that gets under my skin at times and will make me grind my teeth!  He just, at times, works on my last nerve.  But now, I’ll have to change my opinion of him.

Salon contacted Ed Shultz about the workers’ attempts at organizing and apparently Schultz was irked because the AFL-CIO and Writers Guild used Move on to start a petition which you can see here.  The group wanted the signed petitions to be delivered to: Chris Hayes, Host of “All In with Chris Hayes”, Ed Schultz, Host of “The Ed Show”, Rachel Maddow, Host of “The Rachel Maddow Show”, Al Sharpton, Host of “PoliticsNation”, and Lawrence O’Donnell, Host of “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” and it asked that:

As an MSNBC host and a strong voice for labor and progressive causes, I’m calling on you to show your support for producers and associate producers at NBC-owned Peacock Productions who are being denied their right to organize. Please meet with these workers and take a public stand to support their right to organize.

When Shutlz was asked by Salon about the petition his reply was:

“ has never been an ally of Ed Schultz, why should I help you with a story? Give me a reason.”

Well…okie dokie then.  So the only one who would meet with the employees was Chris Hayes.

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October 2018
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