Unions Recognized in US Outsourcing Plants in Bangladesh

In one of the principle countries of the world where low, low, low wages improve the bottom line for first world companies, finally a small counter-balance to autocratic corporate rule gets a foot hold.

VF, which makes North Face and Nautica, and PVH, the parent of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as Gap, El Corte Ingles and other companies, had cut off or threatened to cut off orders from the company, the Azim Group, last year over the incidents at two of its factories in Chittagong.

But now, after weeks of negotiations, these companies have agreed to resume business with Azim because it has promised to recognize and bargain with the unions at the two factories where the violence occurred.

Azim, industry and labor officials said, has also agreed to stop efforts to oust a labor union, to pay the medical bills of a badly beaten union leader ]Mira Boashak] and to allow several union officials to return to work with full back pay.

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And speaking of unions, Lawrence Mishel argues that lowering taxes on the working poor is not the solution to the problem of working and being poor: raising wages is, and encouraging the organizations that can bring that about – unions.

“What has hurt workers’ paychecks is not what the government takes out, but what their employers no longer put in — a dynamic that tax cuts cannot eliminate.

Between 1979 and 2014, while the gross domestic product grew 150 percent and productivity grew 75 percent, the inflation-adjusted hourly wage of the median worker rose just 5.6 percent — less than 0.2 percent a year. And since 2002, the bottom 80 percent of wage earners, including both male and female college graduates, have actually seen their wages stagnate or fall.

Protecting and expanding workers’ right to unionize and bargain collectively is also essential; the erosion of collective bargaining is the single largest factor suppressing wage growth for middle-wage workers over the last few decades. And we need to modernize our New Deal-era labor standards to include earned sick leave and paid family leave so workers can balance work and family.

Finally, stronger laws and enforcement to deter and remedy wage theft and the illegal treatment of employees as independent contractors could put tens of billions of dollars into workers’ pockets.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, wage stagnation is not a result of forces beyond our control. It is a result of a policy regime that has undercut the individual and collective bargaining power of most workers. Because wage stagnation was caused by policy, it can be reversed by policy, too.

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Thinking About Good-bye

It’s been a week of saying good-by, to those I’ve admired for work done and lives lived, most ofwhom never knew me, one slightly and another dearly.

This morning, after a week of sitting with and walking silently around, a family member, meditating on breath and body and earth and beyond, news comes of the death of Philip Levine, the American poet whose work has most moved me of that generation coming from the second world war.  I knew him and his wife briefly when I worked in Fresno, CA in the mid 1970s. It was their home.  He was an honored and famed professor at Fresno State.  She helped me do land research to track large agricultural holdings in order find migrant farm workers and organize union elections.

Books Phil LevineHis poetic interests, coming from a hard scrabble life in Detroit, were of working men and women, grinding labor, bitter cold.  I had been in migrant shanty camps and border slums and could not stand the poems, when I found time to read, about autumn leaves, love in meadows, fleecy clouds.  He paid attention to what held my deepest attention — the lives of others, in extremis. He also wrote of the Spanish Civil war. Though too young to participate in it, as some of his older friends and neighbors did, he felt it deeply, as had I.  Though committed to a Gandhian nonviolence, I was pulled to the courage of those who fought, and lost, against the Mussolini and Hitler supplied forces of fascism. I read histories, memoirs, stories of the war. I was inspired by the self-organizing anarchists, took warning from George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. My contempt for standing by while others suffered was sealed in me forever. After knowing Levine and finishing my work in the Central Valley I went to Spain where one Spanish friend joked that I knew more about that war than her own generation.

It’s too bad we wait for a person’s death to return us to their work.  I’ll be re-opening my volumes of Philip Levine and thanking him for attention passed to others.  Here are two I like, and here a collection of many others.

 

For more, by Margalit Fox at the NY Times, read here.

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On The Murder Of Lieutenant Jose Del Castillo By The Falangist Bravo Martinez, July 12, 1936
by Philip Levine
When the Lieutenant of the Guardia de Asalto
heard the automatic go off, he turned
and took the second shot just above
the sternum, the third tore away
the right shoulder of his uniform,
the fourth perforated his cheek. As he
slid out of his comrade’s hold
toward the gray cement of the Ramblas
he lost count and knew only
that he would not die and that the blue sky
smudged with clouds was not heaven
for heaven was nowhere and in his eyes
slowly filling with their own light.
The pigeons that spotted the cold floor
of Barcelona rose as he sank below
the waves of silence crashing
on the far shores of his legs, growing
faint and watery. His hands opened
a last time to receive the benedictions
of automobile exhaust and rain
and the rain of soot. His mouth,
that would never again say “I am afraid,”
closed on nothing. The old grandfather
hawking daisies at his stand pressed
a handkerchief against his lips
and turned his eyes away before they held
the eyes of a gunman. The shepherd dogs
on sale howled in their cages
and turned in circles. There is more
to be said, but by someone who has suffered
and died for his sister the earth
and his brothers the beasts and the trees.
The Lieutenant can hear it, the prayer
that comes on the voices of water, today
or yesterday, form Chicago or Valladolid,
and hands like smoke above this street
he won’t walk as a man ever again.
Ω
Gin
by Philip Levine
The first time I drank gin
I thought it must be hair tonic.
My brother swiped the bottle
from a guy whose father owned
a drug store that sold booze
in those ancient, honorable days
when we acknowledged the stuff
was a drug. Three of us passed
the bottle around, each tasting
with disbelief. People paid
for this? People had to have
it, the way we had to have
the women we never got near.
(Actually they were girls, but
never mind, the important fact
was their impenetrability. )
Leo, the third foolish partner,
suggested my brother should have
swiped Canadian whiskey or brandy,
but Eddie defended his choice
on the grounds of the expressions
“gin house” and “gin lane,” both
of which indicated the preeminence
of gin in the world of drinking,
a world we were entering without
understanding how difficult
exit might be. Maybe the bliss
that came with drinking came
only after a certain period
of apprenticeship. Eddie likened
it to the holy man’s self-flagellation
to experience the fullness of faith.
(He was very well read for a kid
of fourteen in the public schools. )
So we dug in and passed the bottle
around a second time and then a third,
in the silence each of us expecting
some transformation. “You get used
to it,” Leo said. “You don’t
like it but you get used to it.”
I know now that brain cells
were dying for no earthly purpose,
that three boys were becoming
increasingly despiritualized
even as they took into themselves
these spirits, but I thought then
I was at last sharing the world
with the movie stars, that before
long I would be shaving because
I needed to, that hair would
sprout across the flat prairie
of my chest and plunge even
to my groin, that first girls
and then women would be drawn
to my qualities. Amazingly, later
some of this took place, but
first the bottle had to be
emptied, and then the three boys
had to empty themselves of all
they had so painfully taken in
and by means even more painful
as they bowed by turns over
the eye of the toilet bowl
to discharge their shame. Ahead
lay cigarettes, the futility
of guaranteed programs of
exercise, the elaborate lies
of conquest no one believed,
forms of sexual torture and
rejection undreamed of. Ahead
lay our fifteenth birthdays,
acne, deodorants, crabs, salves,
butch haircuts, draft registration,
the military and political victories
of Dwight Eisenhower, who brought us
Richard Nixon with wife and dog.
Any wonder we tried gin.

Bob Simon: A Good One Gone

A nice, and appropriate, remembrance of 60 Minutes news man, Bob Simon, who was killed in a traffic accident in New York City on Friday,

 

PBS a clip from a speech Simon gave at a 2010 Emmy awards ceremony where he offered advice to news reporters:

There are not two sides to every story. There were not two sides to the stories in Sarajevo or Rwanda.

Whenever someone calls you by your first name when you’re interviewing them, as in “let me tell you what really happened Morley,” chances are he’s lying. Honest subjects addressed him as “Mr. Safer.” If you want to make sure you’re not being lied to, do what I’ve done over the last two and a half years, do animal stories.”

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For more notices of his life and work, NY Times, CBS News, LA Times.

Old Bob talks about the Young Bob

Grammy night and Bob Dylan reveals more in 30 minutes than in 30 interviews.

“I  sang  a  lot  of  “come  all  you”  songs.  There’s  plenty  of  them.  There’s  way  too  many  to  be  counted.  “Come  along  boys  and  listen  to  my  tale  /  Tell  you  of  my  troubles on  the  old  Chisholm  Trail.”  Or,  “Come  all  ye  good  people,  listen  while  I  tell  /  the  fate  of  Floyd  Collins,  a  lad  we  all  know  well.”

“Come  all  ye  fair  and  tender  ladies  /  Take  warning  how  you  court  your  men  /  They’re  like  a  star  on  a  summer  morning  /  They  first  appear  and  then  they’re  gone  again.”  And  then  there’s  this  one,  “Gather ’round,  people  /  A  story  I  will  tell  /  ‘Bout  Pretty  Boy  Floyd,  the outlaw  /  Oklahoma  knew  him well”

If  you  sung  all these  “come  all  ye”  songs  all  the  time like  I  did,  you’d  be  writing,  “Come gather  ’round  people  where  ever  you  roam,  admit  that  the  waters  around  you  have  grown  /  Accept  that  soon  you’ll  be  drenched  to  the  bone  /  If  your  time  to  you  is  worth  saving  /  And  you  better  start  swimming  or  you’ll  sink  like  a  stone  /  The times  they  are  a changing.”

You’d  have  written that too.  There’s  nothing  secret  about  it.  You  just  do  it  subliminally  and  unconsciously,  because  that’s  all  enough,  and  that’s  all you  know.  That  was  all  that  was  dear  to  me.  They  were  the  only  kinds  of  songs  that made sense.

The entire speech linked above.  An article about it here.

“Natural” Means What, Exactly?

Timothy Eagan brings a valuable addition to the rising discussion about vaccinations. The doubts raised about them come from a perplexing behavior in this land of boasted individualism: we often don’t think through and evaluate as best we can. We do what those around us do. In a herd mentality, the glue of which is narcissism, the first line of defense against a threatening world is people like ourselves. If people like us tell us something, with energy and certainty,  it must be true.  Those who sow doubt will lose the protection of the believers. The belief against vaccines is the flip side of the coin of belief in all manner of untested, unproven and unknown “natural” cures.  Those who entirely distrust big pharma and big government swallow claims and “dietary supplements” of equally big industries with equally big war chests and armies of lobbyists.

“If you want to know how we came to be a nation where everyone is a doctor, sound science is vilified and seemingly smart people distrust vaccinations, come to Utah — whose state flower should be St. John’s wort. Here, the nexus of quack pharma and industry-owned politicians has produced quite a windfall: nearly one in four dollars in the supplement market passes though this state.

We’re not talking drugs, or even, in many cases, food here. Drugs have to undergo rigorous testing and review by the federal government. Dietary supplements do not. Drugs have to prove to be effective. Dietary supplements do not.

These are the Frankenstein remedies — botanicals, herbs, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, dried stuff. They’re “natural.” They’re not cheap. And Americans pop them like Skittles, despite recent studies showing that nearly a third of all herbal supplements on the market may be outright frauds.”

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m4s0n501

Marin County Makes the Daily Show!

Courage: Not Just a Game

Two stories today about shameful history and courageous men.

Charlie Sifford, the first black player allowed on a PGA tour, has passed at age 92. Breaking par, as a caddy at age 13, he was not allowed to play in the PGA until it dropped its white’s only rule in 1961.

“In 1952, he was allowed to play in the Phoenix Open in an all-black foursome that included the former heavyweight champion Joe Louis. When the golfers arrived at the first hole, they found that someone had put excrement into it.”

NYTimes

Tiger Woods has called Sifford “one of the bravest men ever to play this sport.”

Yep.

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Val James, alive and writing his autobiography, Black Ice, helped break the color barrier in another very white sport – professional hockey.  He was the first American born black player in the NHL and endured abuse from Americans and Canadians for years.

Warren Skorodenski, a former Springfield, Mass., Indians goalie who spent parts of five seasons in the N.H.L., recalled Springfield fans yelling racial slurs at James and throwing so many bananas on the ice that linesmen collected them during stoppages of play. A few fans, he said, dressed in Ku Klux Klan-style hoods.

“It was disgusting,” said Skorodenski, who is not mentioned in the book. “To be in his shoes, I just couldn’t imagine.”

In Salem, Va., in 1981, a CBS News crew filming a report on James recorded fans chanting a racial epithet at him. A producer interviewed a proud teenager who brought a watermelon to the game for James. Gallagher shared a copy of the report with The New York Times.

“There is the only way I can explain it for people who don’t understand that feeling,” James said. “Let’s start with women. What’s the worst thing you can call a woman? Imagine having one of those words thrown at you every three seconds for 60 minutes. Now multiply that 40 road games a year.”

NY Times

Earth: Crossing Into Danger

From the always worrisome Earthweek: January 23

An international team of 18 researchers warns that a potent combination of human activities has pushed four of the planet’s nine ecological boundaries into “danger zones,” threatening life on Earth.

The four boundaries that have been crossed are climate change, loss of biodiversity, improvident land use and an altered nitrogen cycle due in part to fertilizer use.

“For the first time in human history, we need to relate to the risk of destabilizing the entire planet,” study author Johan Rockström of Stockholm University told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

America: Suspicion, Paranoia and Violence

Must read Mark Danner’s review of Guantanamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi

On or about Sept. 11, 2001, American character changed. What Americans had proudly flaunted as “our highest values” were now judged to be luxuries that in a new time of peril the country could ill afford. Justice, and its cardinal principle of innocent until proven guilty, became a risk, its indulgence a weakness. Asked recently about an innocent man who had been tortured to death in an American “black site” in Afghanistan, former Vice President Dick Cheney did not hesitate. “I’m more concerned,” he said, “with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent.” In this new era in which all would be sacrificed to protect the country, torture and even murder of the innocent must be counted simply “collateral damage.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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A very nice, short compilation of King’s speeches….