Posts Tagged ‘Labor Day’

Happy Labor Day: Meyer, Krusty & the Unions

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

Asked once what he wanted for trade unionists, Samuel Gompers, the founder and first president of the American Labor Federation, is said to have replied: “More.”

His terse answer serves as a one-word Rorschach test for sorting out the conflicting perspectives about unions held by the political forces now arrayed in California’s campaign for governor.

For billionaire Republican nominee Meg Whitman and her corporate allies in the California Chamber of Commerce, it is the insatiable greed for taxpayer dollars by public employee unions that is the fundamental cause of most of the dysfunction and financial distress that afflicts California and its government.

For the members and leaders of those unions, however, Gompers’  pronouncement is simply a guideline for social justice and equality, an effective way to ensure that working people get a fair share of wealth in a world where, as Gompers put it, “the man who has his millions will want everything he can lay his hands on and then raise his voice against the poor devil who wants ten cents more a day.”

And for Democratic candidate Jerry Brown, “more” no doubt describes his hope of what will be forthcoming for him from labor in the final two months of the campaign. As wunderkind Calbuzzer cartoonist Tom Meyer observes today, the union salad bowl (and its $10 million in lettuce) that sustained Brown’s candidacy through the summer, as Whitman bashed him with $24 million of TV ads is unfortunately empty, at least for now.

As Brown prepares to launch his campaign (finally!) with a tour of big Labor Day events around the state, however, he’s no doubt mindful that eMeg has many mega-bucks more to drop on his head before Nov. 2. So he must fervently wish there’ll be lots more green union salad coming his way before long.

This week’s Calbuzz Little Pulitzers:

The Francis Pharcellus Church Award  for Editorial Writing to the Fresno Bee for its sharp-eyed attack on Senator Dianne Feinstein’s below-the-radar  effort to stop Calbuzz redefine the First Amendment.

The Grantland Rice Award for Profound Sports Writing to law student Josh Fisher, whose Dodger Divorce blog is by far the most comprehensive, timely and intelligent reporting and commentary on the big league divorce trial of Frank and Jamie McCourt, the shameless social climbing owners of the Dodgers who have spent far more money on lawyers than on players, the outcome of which will determine the future of the franchise. Giants fans say: Go Frank!

The Walter Lippmann Award for Elite Opinion Mongering to the Washpost’s E.J. Dionne for his latest analysis of how Obama screwed the pooch through his disdain for politicking.

The Truman Capote Award for Fiction/Nonfiction – What’s the Big Difference? — Reporting to Michael Joseph Gross for his Sarah Palin profile in Vanity Fair,  which triggered a frightful journalistic row about accuracy and sourcing and led herself to accuse him of being “limp” and “impotent,” which next resulted in Palin being accused of being a gay-baiting homophobe.

The Nellie Bly Award for Investigative Blogging to Torey “Don’t Call Me Dutch” Van Oot for reporting out the efforts of legislative Democrats to throw big bucks behind their cynical and sneaky effort to take back control of reapportionment from the citizen’s commission approved by voters just two years ago.

Final word for Labor Day

The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.

Dustbin of History: When Labor Day Mattered to Pols

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

happy-labor-dayBack when dinosaurs roamed the earth, trade unionists in the state celebrated Labor Day in a big way, and the biggest bash was always the Central Labor Council picnic at the Alameda County Fair Grounds.

At a time when trade unions represented more than 50 percent of the nation’s workforce, and before “the labor beat” at newspapers became a quaint relic, like manual typewriters and hot lead type, politicians would flock to the picnic to court the favor of the rank and file and union leaders alike.

Thirty years before Democratic senior statesman Bill Cavala nostalgically recalled that annual scene, in this 2007 essay, a 39-year old Gov. Jerry Brown made the rounds of the picnic on Labor Day, along with a host of other pols, including a young and lean assemblyman named Bill Lockyer.

jerry brown 1977Amid signs of the times displayed by workers, carrying such messages as “Boycott Coors Beer,” “Don’t Buy Salem-Vantage non-union cigarettes” and “Union carpenters make better studs,” Brown thundered an anti-free trade message to a crowd of about 3,000 on Sept. 5, 1977.

“We take capital accumulated by the sweat of American labor and export it to foreign sweatshops and then import it to compete with our own goods,” he said. “For those multinational corporations that don’t want economic justice for workers, let’s tell them to keep their products out of California and out of the United States.”

Brown’s dare-to-struggle-dare-to-win protectionist views, which reached full flower in his 1992 “We the People” campaign for president, have evolved and grown murkier since then. What’s more intriguing to recall about that long-ago holiday celebrating American workers, however, is how many of the issues of the day remain salient in 2009.

For example, Brown told a future Calbuzzer following him around that day that he favored labor’s top priority — national legislation to speed up the process of union representation elections — a precursor of the “card check” measure now stalled in Congress that is a primary goal for labor three decades later.

Then, as now, Brown trumpeted his creation of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board as a signal event proving his support for unions; in 1977, just as in 2009, the Bay Area Transit District was beset by labor problems that had moved to the brink of a strike (the governor declined to comment, calling it a “a local problem”); Brown back then forecast that solar power would become not only an important source of energy, but also of jobs, a position that draws fewer smirks and eye-rolling from reporters today than back in the day.

In the years since, organized labor’s influence in the economy has steadily declined, with less than 20 percent of the workforce now represented by unions. One big caveat:  two unions in particular, the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) continue to exert outsized influence in California through their strangle-hold on legislative Democrats.

Still, this year’s Labor Day message in California, by labor federation chief Art Pulaski is a sober one:Pulaski4

“This Labor Day one in three workers will be stuck on the job, many toiling for too little pay and fewer benefits like health care and retirement benefits. The irony of workers having to go to work on a day that honors them is symptomatic of the overarching problems facing our state.”

Happy Labor Day, even if you’re stuck at work.

For the record: None of the candidates for governor* had a Labor Day public  appearance.

*Does not include Meg Whitman, whose secretive, paranoid campaign did not respond to inquiries about her schedule.