Friday, August 04, 2006

Put Your Hands Together for Senate Dems

I have to applaud Senate Democrats for blocking the minimum wage double-cross legislation last night; legislation that would have raised the minimum wage, but only by also providing estate tax reform benefiting the ultra-rich. Frist and friends used every trick in the book trying to gain enough votes, but in the end it went down 56-42. Sen. Durbin of Illinois said, "this trifecta is a high-stakes gamble with America'’s future...the worst special-interest bill I have seen in my time in Congress."” Republicans accused Democrats of choosing partisanship over policy and said they were stalling the measure to allow them to attack the record of the Republican-led Congress.
"It is an excuse to make it a do-nothing Congress," Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, said. "“And we are turning our back on the middle-class and poor people in this country who depend on the minimum wage and death-tax relief."
Sorry, Senator, but this IS a do-nothing Congress, and the Republicans turned their backs on the middle-class and poor people shortly after Bush took office and started stacking the National Labor Relations Board with anti-union board members. The same board responsible for eliminating or curtailing worker's rights to join a union.

So, what's the big deal? How does that affect average working class Americans? Ron Gettelfinger (president of the UAW) has an eye-opening editorial in the Detroit News that spells it out. [All emphasis added.]
What if they held an election -- and nobody counted the votes?

When you hear about powerful officials who impound ballots and refuse to count votes to avoid losing an election, it brings to mind autocratic, one-party regimes like Myanmar, Belarus or China.

But workers right here in Michigan are being stripped of their democratic rights by autocratic executives -- with a helping hand from political appointees of the Bush administration.

In 2002, a group of nurses at Oakwood Heritage Hospital in Taylor decided they wanted to join the United Auto Workers. They followed all the rules, and gathered petition signatures from their co-workers. The pro-union nurses got enough signatures to schedule an election, which took place on March 8 and 9, 2002.

Since then, the nurses' votes have never been counted. Soon after the election, hospital executives filed "objections." They claim every nurse at Heritage -- every single one! -- is a supervisor and therefore ineligible to vote and ineligible to form a union.

If every nurse at Heritage is a supervisor, then who's taking care of the patients? Only a satirist can make sense of this absurd idea -- and Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert recently did exactly that. [Check it out here.]

Hospitals are trying to save nurses the "hassle" of collective bargaining, Colbert explains. As "supervisors," they can get all kinds of perks -- like new name badges and business cards (but no pensions or health insurance.)

Heritage executives claim that all nurses are supervisors because they exercise "independent judgment" when they take turns serving as charge nurse, serving as lead nurse on the ward for a particular shift. That standard could affect millions of workers in hundreds of occupations, including team leaders in manufacturing, skilled trades workers, newspaper reporters, port workers and many others.

The result would be to drastically reduce the number of Americans who have the right to free collective bargaining.

The case of the never-counted ballots at Heritage Hospital has been joined with two similar cases, involving nurses in Minnesota and team leaders at a door and window manufacturing plant in Mississippi. The National Labor Relations Board has determined that these cases will set policy for more than 60 cases where the status of "supervisory" employees is in dispute.

This is the same labor board, unfortunately, that has overturned precedents to take away bargaining rights from disabled workers, temp workers and teaching assistants. Board members are supposed to protect workers' rights and ensure a level playing field between labor and management. Instead, the Bush appointees seem to think "workplace rights" means management has the right to do whatever it wants in the workplace. [...]

Anybody who goes to work every day and earns a paycheck should have the right to join with his or her co-workers to form a union. And nobody should have to wait more than four years to find out the result of a free election.
This is YOUR Republican Party in action, Senator Hutchison, and they were turning their backs on the middle-class and poor people in this country long before the phony minimum wage bill came up for a vote. (Not to mention playing fast and loose with elections.)


abi said...

I'd like to have whatever Hutchinson was smoking when she said that. Since when do the poor and middle classes need "death tax relief"? And suddenly she's concerned about the poor getting a fair minimum wage? Please...

Kathy said...

Abi, the fact that the minimum wage and estate tax were linked together makes it easy for someone like Hutchinson to feign concern. What hypocrites.

Libby said...

I'm more amazed at the union bashing. I hadn't heard anything about this before. What a dirty trick. Change the title, not the pay scale.