Friday, March 31, 2006

First Amendment RIghts

It's been an interesting week in very many ways, and not a very good Friday I might add. Hopefully the weekend will make things a bit better. Anyhow....

The good people of the City of Oshkosh are getting some interesting Civics lessons lately. How else will our First Amendment Rights be tested and debated? First there are the religious issues with the "Christmas Box Angel" in Menominee Park. Now we've got freedom of speech being tested in the blogging issue. It will be interesting to watch this roll out......

Lots of other things to talk about, maybe more this weekend


Freedom of speech on blogs

The Oshkosh blog scene is all atwitter today about a lawsuit filed in Winnebago County (and now transferred to Fond du Lac) concerning naughty things a poster put on someone's blog. As a staunch supporter of first amendment rights, this is worrying to me. Would it not have been better to simply ask for the offending posts to be removed? Certainly the person named in the posts has a right to be upset--what woman wouldn't be? However, censorship is not the answer. My goodness, if we took the approach that every time something uncomplimentary or usavory is published in the paper and the offended party filed a lawsuit to have the paper shut down, we wouldn't have any newspapers in the country publishing any more. Particularly in the case of our Dear Leader, Bush, who would have them all toe the line and only print cheery articles that only give good news and ignore what's really going on in the world. But I digress.

Certainly the posts are libelous to the woman named in them, but, I hardly think that shutting down one blogger's site is going to cure the problem. Someone else will undoubtedly take up the shut down blogger's cause and well, there you go.


Union busting at it's finest

The following article from the New York Times of March 31, 2006, details the dirty deal that Delphi wants to pull on it's workers in it's impending bankruptcy hearings. They are grossly misusing the bankruptcy laws to try and get out of their negotiated contracts with the UAW. Our hope is the court tells them to stick this where the sun don't shine. If this is allowed to get through the courts, are any union contracts safe?

Read on....sorry for the length.


Delphi to Ask Court to Void Union Deals

Published: March 31, 2006
Filed at 10:04 a.m. ET

DETROIT (AP) -- Auto parts supplier Delphi Corp. said it will ask a federal bankruptcy court on Friday to void its labor contracts as part of a controversial restructuring that calls for layoffs of up to 8,500 salaried workers and the sale or closure of 21 of its 29 U.S. plants.
The moves carry huge risks: It may lead to a strike by unionized workers at Delphi that could cripple the U.S. auto industry and push General Motors Corp., its former parent and largest customer, closer to Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
GM accounted for around half of Delphi's $29 billion in revenues in 2004. The world's largest automaker already is struggling with declining U.S. market share and spiraling costs and is in the midst of its own restructuring. But a strike would hurt other companies and smaller suppliers as well, since Delphi supplies every major automaker, including Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co.
Delphi, the largest U.S. auto supplier, is filing a separate motion asking the court to reject some unprofitable contracts with GM. Delphi also said it will freeze its hourly and salaried pension programs later this year and move employees into a defined-contribution plan.
''We are clearly focused on Delphi's future,'' Delphi Chairman and CEO Robert S. ''Steve'' Miller said in a statement. ''Emergence from the Chapter 11 process in the U.S. requires that we make difficult, yet necessary, decisions.
The United Auto Workers responded by saying Delphi was misusing the bankruptcy procedure in a way that should be ''a concern for every American'' and had never been serious about negotiating with its unions.
Troy-based Delphi filed for bankruptcy in October. The company said it intends to emerge from bankruptcy during the first half of 2007. Delphi said it wants to exit certain product lines and sell or close noncore plants by 2008.
Delphi's motion to void its labor contracts was widely expected; the company had delayed similar motions three times before. The company says it was saddled with uncompetitive labor agreements when it was spun off from GM in 1999 and wants to cut the wages of its 34,000 U.S. hourly workers as part of its restructuring.
Delphi, GM and its unions spent months negotiating but were unable to reach a wage agreement. Under its most recent proposal, which was rejected by the UAW and other unions, Delphi proposed dropping pay for current hourly workers to $22 per hour from $27 per hour through September 2007, then to $16.50 an hour, but that would include a one-time payment of $50,000.
The UAW criticized Delphi's filing on Friday.
''Delphi's misuse of the bankruptcy procedure to circumvent the collective bargaining process and slash jobs and wages and drastically reduce health care, retirement and other hard-won benefits or eliminate them altogether is a travesty and a concern for every American,'' the union said in a statement.
GM said Delphi's motion to reject its GM contracts was a common practice for companies in Chapter 11.
''We disagree with Delphi's approach but we anticipated that this step might be taken,'' Rick Wagoner, GM's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. ''GM expects Delphi to honor its public commitments to avoid any disruption to GM operations.''
Delphi said it plans to keep negotiating with GM and its unions even though the motion has been filed, and some analysts have said the added urgency could help the parties reach a deal.
Judge Robert Drain has scheduled a hearing on Delphi's request for May 9-10 and won't decide whether to void Delphi's contracts until after that hearing. If Drain does decide to allow Delphi to void its contracts and Delphi takes that step, the UAW and other unions have threatened to strike.
Delphi said it also plans to cut 25 percent of its salaried work force, or around 8,500 workers, including up to 40 percent of its corporate officers. Delphi said that measure should save $450 million per year.
The company has identified eight U.S. plants that are considered critical to its U.S. operations. They are located in Brookhaven, Miss; Clinton, Miss.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Kokomo, Ind.; Lockport, N.Y.; Rochester, N.Y.; Warren, Ohio; and Vandalia, Ohio. Delphi said those plants will focus on product lines such as safety features, electronics, diesel and gas powertrains and climate control products.
Twenty-one other plants that do not make core products -- including those that make brakes and chassis, instrument panels, door modules and steering components -- will be sold or closed. Delphi said it will provide further details on those plants in its filing, but they include plants in Dayton, Ohio, Saginaw and Flint.
''We believe many of these product lines have the potential to compete successfully under new ownership that has the resources and capital to invest in them,'' Delphi President and Chief Operating Officer Rodney O'Neal said in a statement.
Delphi said it will ask the court to reject unprofitable contracts with GM. The initial motion covers around half of Delphi's annual volume with GM. Delphi said the judge is expected to consider the motion on May 12, which gives both companies time to continue negotiating prices.
''We simply cannot continue to sell products at a loss,'' Miller said.
In addition, Delphi sent a letter to GM Friday that will begin the process of resetting terms for more than 425 commercial agreements that have expired since Delphi filed for bankruptcy. Those terms will be negotiated outside of bankruptcy court.
Delphi also said it will freeze pension benefits for hourly workers on Oct. 1 and for salaried workers on Jan. 1 and will replace them with plans that require employee contributions with company matches. Workers will still have access to any accrued benefits.
The company may ask for relief from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the Internal Revenue Service and possibly Congress so that when it emerges from bankruptcy protection it won't immediately owe billions of dollars to its underfunded pension plan. The company expects it will take at least six years to fully fund its pension plan.
Despite unions' fury at Delphi's wage proposals, Delphi said it is encouraged by its progress in negotiations so far and hopes to reach an agreement outside of court. GM's cooperation in a settlement is key, since Delphi would depend on GM, its largest customer, to supplement its wage offer or provide benefits. For example, in Delphi's latest proposal, wages would fall to $12.50 an hour if they weren't supplemented by GM, the UAW said. GM has said a Delphi settlement could cost it between $5.5 billion and $12 billion.
Delphi, GM and the UAW did agree last week to a buyout offer for approximately 17,000 U.S. hourly workers. Under that agreement, workers will be eligible for a lump sum payment of $35,000 to retire. Also, up to 5,000 Delphi workers will be eligible to return to GM.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Russ Feingold, hero of the Republic

I know this has nothing to do with labor unions, but I just liked this story from the March 14th edition of "The Nation" online.


A Peculiar Politician
William Greider

Senator Russ Feingold is an embarrassment to the US Senate, which makes him an authentic hero of the Republic. The Wisconsin senator gets up and says out loud what half of the country is thinking and talks about every day. This President broke the law and lied about it; he trashed the Constitution and hides himself in the flag. Feingold asks: Shouldn't the Senate say something about this, at least express our disapproval? He introduces a resolution of censure and calls for debate.

Well, that tore it in the august chamber of lawmakers. Democrats scurried away like scared rats. And Republicans chortled at the thought. You want to censure our warrior President, the guy who defends us every day against terrorist attacks? Let's have a vote right now, the Republican leader demanded. Yuk, yuk.

The joke is obvious to everyone in the Washington club--politics trumps principle, especially when it is about something as esoteric as the Constitution. It's a nonstory, the club agrees, not a constitutional crisis.

The Washington Post runs an obligatory account on page 8, quoting Mr. Anonymous Democrat Strategist on the unwisdom of Feingold's gesture. The New York Times story on page 24 quotes the esteemed constitutional authority Dick Cheney. The House Republican leader (who replaced the corrupt House leader who resigned) denounces Feingold's resolution as "political grandstanding of the very worst kind." Like the Republican impeachment of Bill Clinton for fellatio in the White House? Go away, Feingold, let us get back to the people's business.

The real story--naturally overlooked by cynical editors--is that an honest truth-teller is loose in the fun house and disturbing the clowns. Man bites dog, senator defends Constitution.

Feingold has a reputation for such quaint deviations--a naïf who voted against the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act. On principle! How naïve is that? He talks like he might run for President, yet he seems tone-deaf to the artful resonances of power politics--the cutesy games insiders play and the press cherishes. Hey, what is this Constitution thing anyway?

The senator is peculiar in this era of decaying democracy. There was a time, believe it or not, when his type was a familiar presence in the Senate. I think of Sam Ervin of North Carolina, a conservative Democrat on most matters but always a lion on the Constitution. Ervin is remembered for his heroic role in the investigation of Watergate. Old-timers remember that before Watergate, Senator Sam led courageous hearings on the illegal spying on civilians by the Army and FBI (Democratic scandals predating Nixon).

When liberalism was in flower, the Senate always included a good mix of such maverick voices. They were party loyalists but departed on principle in ways that sometimes kept the majority honest. Voted against the President's war in Vietnam and never let up. Ernest Gruening of Alaska, Wayne Morse of Oregon, Albert Gore Sr. of Tennessee. Phil Hart of Michigan was his own one-man reform party. George McGovern of South Dakota was another.

We might ask why the Republican Party has not produced a similar collection of independent thinkers. We might mourn the fact that pursuing a career in the Senate no longer seems compatible with stubborn self-directed character. The media, instead of kissing off Feingold as a dumb politician, might do a little honest reporting on the substance of what he is saying.

For the moment, however, let us celebrate the man. The club will try to shove him in a closet and forget his little unpleasantness ever happened. I hope they fail and other Dems are properly embarrassed. Amid scandals in high places, Senator Feingold is fresh air. The country should rise up and sing.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Colorado's politics aren't looking to bad these days!

Besides the obvious relationship with Colorado's TABOR experience and the attempts to pass TABOR/TPA in Wisconsin, the Laborchicks watch Colorado politics because of friends out there. One of them was pretty involved with the Dem. Campaigns out there in Fall '04, going so far as to get kicked out of a Bush event for sneaking in wearing a Kerry t-shirt. Gotta keep your eye on those retired librarians, you never know what they're going to do!

Anyhow, this is an interesting article from the Christian Science Monitor....

Once-Republican Rockies now a battleground

By Josh Burek | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

DENVER – Streaks of blue are turning red-state Colorado as purple as its mountain majesties.
Liberal hues began to multiply in 2004, when Democrats seized control of the general assembly for the first time in 30 years. They intensified last fall, when voters loosened TABOR, a government- spending chastity belt long extolled by fiscal conservatives. This year, Colorado's color wheel is downright dizzying, as a bill to ban public smoking heats up the legislature.

This is Marlboro country?

The state's transformation from Rocky Mountain redoubt for conservative values to a proving ground for progressive policies is yielding more competitive elections here - and offering Demo- crats across the country a model for resurgence.

"We're probably the No. 1 battleground in the country," says pollster Floyd Ciruli, based in Denver. Democrats nationwide, he says, "are anxious to replicate what's going on out here."

What's going on is a flurry of victories for Democratic forces.

In 2004, despite a major voter- registration advantage for Republicans, and the popularity of President Bush, voters added two Democrats - brothers John and Ken Salazar - to its congressional delegation. That same fall, voters famous, or infamous, for parsimony approved $4.7 billion in transit funding, siding with Denver's Democratic mayor instead of the state's Republican governor. Democrats have been piling on victories ever since. Just last week, Senate Democrats passed a bill that would make driving without a seat belt a more serious crime. And this fall, Democrats have strong prospects to win back the governor's chair.

"The left has made substantial strategic strides," says John Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden, Colo. But "that doesn't mean Colorado's voter base has changed."

To stage a comeback, he says, the state's fractured Republicans must decide whether to act more like Democrats, or less like them. "It's make-it-or-break-it time for the right here," he adds.

Elsewhere in the West, a swaying

It's a tipping point that spans the Continental Divide. In 1999, every state in the region - Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona - had a Republican governor. By the end of 2006, only Utah and Idaho may have one.

But the Democratic gains don't necessarily reflect broad conversion to liberal ideology. Instead, analysts see a backlash to years of GOP dominance. "It's not something fundamental that's changing so much as the far-right agenda that has pushed too far, and people in the West ... are pushing back," says Mark Cavanaugh, an analyst at Denver's Bighorn Center, a centrist policy group. "In the short term, we'll switch back and forth in this state."

The state's leftward lurch was immediately apparent to Denver native Ian Siparsky when hurricane Katrina blew him back home after five years in Louisiana. Taking time out from his job as a barista at "ink! Coffee" in Denver's Tech Center, he explains the changes he's seen. "It's become more liberal in aspects of health," he says, citing the antismoking bill - which he opposes. The state is still fiscally conservative, he adds, but the growing number of young people in Denver is helping progressive politics blossom.

Analysts credit an influx of independent voters with helping the state's political pendulum swing so freely. One-third of the electorate is new since TABOR was enacted in 1992, notes Mr. Ciruli.

"The state is full of informed, unaffiliated voters," says Mr. Cavanaugh. Colorado voters, he says, are "not driven by bumper-sticker-like messages."

Ciruli points out other factors. The 2001 recession, he says, hit Colorado particularly hard and pulled the political center of gravity away from issues like tax cuts and spending limits, and toward funding gaps and government services. The growing clout of a quartet of liberal financiers has also been instrumental in pushing a liberal agenda.

Those developments have favored Democrats. But that doesn't mean Colorado voters are fickle - just pragmatic, Ciruli says. "They'll ignore party labels if an individual is moderate and offering something intriguing."

Image often trumps party loyalty

Sen. Ken Salazar (D) is a case in point. President Bush beat Sen. John Kerry (D) here by 5 percentage points in 2004, but Senator Salazar picked up enough Republican votes to win.

His triumph, though, may say less about partisan trends than about the primacy of image. "It's not always political policy that drives who's in office" in Western states, says Mr. Caldara. "It's often likability, personality, and imagery.

"Ken Salazar never wore a cowboy hat until he ran for Senate. Today, it's stapled onto his head," he adds.

He and others point out that Colorado and neighboring states retain their bedrock conservative values even as they embrace Democratic issues and leaders.

"Colorado's political identity is increasingly independent," says Colorado's poet laureate Mary Crow. "Independent with a strong conservative streak."

A state where the biggest issue is often access to water may be easily dismissed as having a bit part on the national political stage. But observers here insist that Colorado should command the spotlight.

"Colorado is a bellwether state - the bellwether state," says Caldara. "Every year, Colorado becomes more important to the national scene.

Indeed, this fall, Colorado is set to become the first state to offer citizens two ballot questions about gay marriage - on opposing sides of the debate.

Monday, March 13, 2006


(from the AFL_CIO NOW email update)

Wal-Mart’s ‘Everyday Low Vices’
It hurts the economy and the national quality of life if a company treats its employees badly. But when the largest retailer in the world does that, the consequences could be enormous. So it is with Wal-Mart, says T.A. Frank in “Everyday Low Vices,” an article in Washington Monthly, which is posted on the Alternet website.

Frank says the current generation of Wal-Mart bosses seems to have forgotten founder Sam Walton’s second tenet of doing business—make your employees feel like they’re part of the company. The first, of course, is to make as much money as you can.

As a testament to their loyalty to that tenet, five Walton family members are listed in the top 21 of Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s richest people.

It is Wal-Mart’s size, however, that makes it different from other bad employers, Frank says:

Wal-Mart really is different. In terms of annual revenue, Wal-Mart is nearly four times the size of The Home Depot, the country’s second-largest retailer, and almost twice the size of Target, Costco, and Sears (which includes Kmart) combined. That means the company exerts pressure on the entire sector to imitate its methods–including its treatment of workers. That would be less worrisome if Wal-Mart’s record didn’t stand out within the sector. But there are strong indications that, when it comes to how it treats its employees, Wal-Mart really is worse than the rest. The company finds itself in trouble because, since the death of Sam Walton 14 years ago, something ugly has happened to the way it does business.

It won’t be easy for Wal-Mart to change its ways, Frank says. But the post-Sam Walton generation may be forced to because of increased scrutiny and pressure from government, media and unions. We hope he’s right.

by James Parks

Friday, March 03, 2006

TABOR/TPA video online and Wisconsin Labor Today

Here's a link to a video online about the problems TABOR has caused in Colorado, put out by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. It's 13 minutes and may take a while to load on dial in accounts. It's worth it!

And speaking of TABOR, please tune into a new episode of "Wisconsin Labor Today", which begins next week on Oshkosh cable channel 2. The first airing is on Monday night at I believe, 8PM. The above TABOR video will be shown and Steve Dedow, president of the Winnebago County Labor Council and Sarah Rogers of the AFL-CIO will discuss TABOR.


Just thought this was interesting.....

From Hotline On Call---the National Journal's Daily Briefing on Politics

February 28, 2006
Mea Culpa: Unions And Turnout
Appearing at an AFL-CIO press conference to unveil its '06 political gameplan, AFSCME President and longtime Dem political strategist Gerald McEntee admitted yesterday afternoon that "progressives learned a hard lesson" in the '04 cycle: relying on paid turnout efforts is a recipe for failure.

Without being asked, McEntee, who also chairs the AFL's political cmte, stated bluntly that the millions of dollars Dems and liberals put into the 527s for GOTV in '04 were ineffective in the face of the GOP's volunteer effort. Or, as McEntee put it, the Dems' "stranger-to-stranger" ground game was "trounced" by the GOP's "neighbor-to-neighbor strategy."

McEntee is one of the brightest political minds in the labor movement and is credited with delivering Bill Clinton his first nat'l labor endorsement in '92. McEntee also engineered an early AFSCME endorsement for Howard Dean in '04. But he also was deeply engaged in the collective union/527 GOTV effort for John Kerry and the Dems in '04.

That he would, at the outset of the '06 cycle, so publicly and candidly admit their '04 grass-roots and strategic failure is striking. It is especially so in light of the post-election comments made by many involved with the 527s in '04. We're thinking of folks like ACT's Steve Rosenthal, himself an ex-AFL political director, who spent so much time praising their ground game as super-but-just-short-in-Ohio.

The AFL, which is holding its winter executive meeting at the luxurious Hotel Del Coronado just outside San Diego, also said it is committed to spending $40M on "education and mobilization" of its members this cycle, the most it has ever spent on a mid-term election. These funds will target GOV and SEN races in 21 states, keying particularly on those states that have both competitive races and significant union membership -- CA, FL, IA, MI, MN, NY, OH and PA. AFL political director Karen Ackerman said also that they will play in as many as 40 different House races across the country. Ackerman added that the unions which withdrew from the nat'l AFL will be allowed to join their effort at the state and local level.

Although AFL-CIO president John Sweeney made clear in his statement that they would aid "pro-worker" candidates and not just Dems, he admitted that he hoped the vast majority of the endorsements would be for Dems. And when asked which pro-worker GOPers they may back, Ackerman deflected the decision as being made at the local level. Similarly, she also made clear that the nat'l AFL had little interest in getting involved in primary contests -- with one exception.

All of organized labor, Ackerman said, was behind ex-Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) in his bid to reclaim TX 28 from Rep. Henry Cuellar (D). Cuellar has raised the ire of labor and liberals for his vote in support of CAFTA and backing of other business-friendly measures. Asked about payback for the other so-called "CAFTA 15," Sweeney noted that while the nat'l AFL would not directly weigh in, that did not necessarily mean that these wayward Dems would not "be punished." [JONATHAN MARTIN]

Posted at 10:34 AM

From the UW Oshkosh Announcements list-Thanking Gregg

Please join us for an event with Representative Gregg Underheim...

UW Oshkosh's Coalition Against the Amendment is honored to recognize Representative Gregg Underheim for his bold stance against the proposed amendment that would ban civil unions and same-sex marriage. Representative Underheim was the only Republican to vote against the amendment in the state Assembly.

Rep. Gregg Underheim Thank You Event...

What: An opportunity for the Oshkosh campus and community to thank Rep. Underheim for voting against the proposed amendment. There will be a presentation of a large "Thank You" card signed by UWO students and faculty.

When: Wednesday, March 8, 2006 at 6:30 PM

Where: Reeve 201

Questions: Contact Coalition Against the Amendment,


The Coalition Against the Amendment is a non-partisan organization formed to fight the proposed constitutional amendment. The group consists of students from a variety of different student organizations on campus and is continuing to grow as people become more aware of this issue. They focus on education and outreach to the UW Oshkosh campus and community

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Duck just became more lame.....

Well, after my last posting about Rep. Underheim, I feel like I have to at least acknowlege that he did the right thing yesterday in voting against the civil unions and marriage ban.

It's interesting that his comment on Channel 2 was that something like this didn't belong in the State Consitution. I'll remind him of that when the vote for TABOR comes up, because that doesn't belong there either.