Bob Simpson

Bob Simpson
Location
Oak Park, Illinois, United States
Birthday
August 05
Title
Retired history teacher and former web production guy
Company
Webtrax Studio
Bio
So who is this guy? Well, my name is Bob “Bobbo” Simpson.I am a retired teacher and former web production guy. I am also 1/2 of the Carol Simpson labor cartoon team.

Bob Simpson's Links

Salon.com
Editor’s Pick
MARCH 12, 2012 12:15AM

The War Against Economic Recovery

Rate: 11 Flag
Phillip WilsonPhillip Wilson is a foot soldier in the war against our economy recovery. It’s not a one man war, Wilson has help from politicians like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker(Republican) and Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel(Democrat), from powerful corporate leaders like the Koch Brothers and the Pritzker family, plus organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

His weapons are not guns or remotely piloted drones, but his laptop, his books and his videos. He is also a seasoned warrior, one with many years of experience. He’s even testified in Congress. Phillip Wilson (photo on upper left) runs the Labor Relations Institute. Its innocuous sounding name conceals its actual purpose. It is a “union avoidance consulting firm”. Labor activists use the term “unionbuster”, usually with several NSFW epithets attached to it.

Breaking unions or smashing organizing campaigns pushes down wages and reduces pensions, making it more difficult for people to buy products and services. This lack of spending holds back an already weak economic recovery and threatens to unleash what financial writers like to call a double dip recession. Even certified OnePercenter Fed Chair Ben Bernanke says this:

“The fundamentals that support spending continue to be weak: real household income and wealth were flat in 2011, and access to credit remained restricted for many potential borrowers. The job market remains far from normal.” from the Financial Times 2-29-12

Strong healthy unions raise wages and preserve pensions so that people buy the goods and services crucial to a sustained economy recovery.

Union Jobs by Carol Simpson

Phillip Wilson’s firm and others like it provide advice and propaganda for employers to defeat union organizing drives, weaken existing union contracts and decertify unions when possible. He freely admits that his most powerful weapon is the “captive audience” meeting. He advises his clients to hold multiple mandatory meetings where employees must endure Wilson’s videos and his anti-union pitch. It’s not just the content that makes an impression.These forced attendance gatherings are a direct expression of the dictatorships that exist in most American workplaces.

Even the jargon employers use, like “my employees” or “our company family”, betray the language of servitude. Words like “my” and “our” are possessive pronouns, as if employers “own” workers. It is the language of totalitarian, not democratic values. And what about the term “captive audience”? Are workers prisoners of war? Caged people? Caged animals?

Because our professed values of freedom and democracy barely exist within the American workplace, Wilson’s 1984ish psychological warfare can be very effective. But don’t give Wilson too much credit. In the atmosphere of fear brought on by high unemployment, employers can threaten mass firings, move jobs elsewhere or stay put and bring in cheaper more desperate temps or contract employees. Employers can also illegally fire pro-union workers with relative impunity because our weak labor laws are only barely enforced.

Tashawna GreenTake the case of Tashawna Green  for example (photo on left with daughter).  She was fired from a Valley Stream, NY Target store for leading a union organizing drive to affiliate with United Food and Commercial Workers(UFCW) Local 1500. Green, a Jamaican born single mom was making $8 an hour with a work week under 20 hours. Green said that many of her co-workers were on food stamps.

Workers at Target reported that when they would ask for more hours, Target would ask them if they had friends who needed jobs.  Longtime Target workers also reported that supervisors have increased pressure to work faster with no corresponding raise in pay, resulting in unreasonable stress and exhaustion. Workplace stress is directly linked to many medical ailments, some of them fatal.

After the union drive began in 2011 the company resorted to intimidation tactics that the National Labor Relations Board(NLRB) later charged are illegal, including threatening to close the store if the workers voted for the union. According to Alvin Blyer of the NLRB:

“One rule prohibits off-duty employees from returning to non-work areas, such as store parking lots; another bans employees from wearing union paraphernalia; a third restricts employees from talking about working conditions on breaks or before or after work; and a final one prohibits workers from passing out literature to colleagues.” from Crain’s New York

When a powerful retail corporation dictates terms like this, you have to ask, what kind of freedom and democracy do we really have? What kind of “free market” is this anyway?

Target Workers

In this atmosphere of fear and intimidation workers finally decided to vote against unionization. Phillip Wilson and his colleagues in the union busting business would hail this as a great victory. A great victory over struggling working class people, many of them single moms with kids? A great victory over our struggling economic recovery because low pay means lower economy activity? Just how many more “great victories” like that can this nation afford?

Genuine economy recovery demands an extension of democracy into the workplace. Unions themselves need to embrace a more democratic culture if they are to reverse their downward spiral in membership. This is not an easy transition as most unions are organized in a top-down manner and many union leaders do not welcome rank and file activism they don’t control.

But change is happening. The Wisconsin Uprising and Occupy Wall Street have awoken a spirit of labor movement activism that is sweeping through America’s unions. But it goes beyond that. Although unions are the beating heart of the labor movement, the movement also includes immigrant rights organizations, feminist organizations, anti-racist organizations, human rights organizations, community organizations, global solidarity organizations, peace organizations, student organizations, eviro-organizations, religious organizations, business organizations, and a lot of individuals who simply want to do what is right.

This New American Labor Movement is still in its infancy but it has forged alliances the likes of which have not been seen in decades. An old union principle guides this new movement. Solidarity. Solidarity is not uniformity. Solidarity means finding common ground despite differences. Solidarity requires a deep commitment to stick together for social justice---come hell or high water.

In addition to raising working class incomes, a sustainable economic recovery will require massive changes in our tax policy and massive public investment in our aging physical infrastructure. It will require improving our public schools and investing in new cleaner, greener technology. It will mean dismantling our global military empire and moving into a peacetime economy. All of this will require far-reaching progressive legislation.

Despite the corporate attacks on unions, there are still nearly 15 million union members in the USA. They represent the true diversity of our nation in a way that the OnePercenters cannot. They can still bring considerable organized political power to lobby for progressive legislation and elect progressive candidates.

Unions also have considerable resources for organizing and supporting public demonstrations. This includes civil disobedience, a tactic that unions are slowly beginning to embrace again, largely because of the Occupy movement.

Chicago Federation of Labor Sit-in Fall 2011

Unions also have the power to strike. We live in a brutally competitive market economy and The OnePercenters are largely immune from appeals to the heart. If you want to teach them some manners, they have to be hit in their wallets. Hard. Strikes can do that, but only if they have a chance of success. This requires that unions not only grow in membership but in active membership. The time when union members could treat their unions as a kind of insurance policy requiring nothing more than regular dues payments is over.

National Nurses United strike

The AFL-CIO has a new campaign called “Work Connects Us All”. Through a broad labor movement activists can meet people from the diversity of working class America to discuss and  plan a better future for us all. The labor movement is also global. The labor movement of one country cannot work in isolation, we have to form solidarity connections and steer the global economy into a more decent and humane future. It’s not just the USA that needs a sustainable economy, it’s the entire planet.


The stakes are high. Income inequality in the USA is the worst since the 1920’s. The income inequality of the 1920‘s grew partly because of the  savage union busting campaign that followed World War I. Phillip Wilson and his union-hating pals might regard this as a great victory. But what did this great union busting victory help bring on? How about the 1929 stock market crash, the collapse of the world economy, & the political chaos that fed nazism, fascism, militarism, & stalinism. The grand finale was World War II.

I'm a baby boomer. My parents lived through the horrors of depression and global war.  From them I learned an important lesson. Never again.

Sources Consulted

The Labor Relations Institute Inc.

Union Avoidance: 5 Keys To Winning Your Union Election by Phillip Wilson

Do We Still Need Unions? Yes by Ezra Klein

Beyond the Weekend by American Rights at Work

Union-Busting Is Theft -- a Weapon of Class Warfare from Above by Joshua Holland

Seeking living wages, benefits, Target workers weigh union by Steven Greenhouse

Target fires pro-union employee by Daniel Massey

A Former Target Team Leader Explains Hiring, Firing, and Staying Union-Free by Hamilton Nolan

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Maybe handing out free copies of Norma Rae (I can still hear Sallie Fields starting the chant, "Union, union, union) as workers leave those mandatory meetings would help.

I remember stopping at the district office to sign the teachers' contract as local union president with all my worldly possessions packed in a horse trailer. I was headed back to college for a year with my youngest in tow. We had gone to strike to get that contract. A few nights I went straight from the bargaining table to the picket line. But, I was almost as pissed at the Oregon Education Association as I was at the school district. I had realized that, as you put it, "most unions are organized in a top-down manner and many union leaders do not welcome rank and file activism they don’t control." Our local's needs were on the bottom of the OEA's list. On the top was their need flex their muscles and show the district who was boss. The OEA pushed aside classroom issues and focused on salary and benefits only. They didn't want to sound too much like the American Federation of Teachers. When unions begin to meld professional issues with monetary, they will find many more union supporters. I still support unions, big time, and I did even when I was on the management side, but they must clean up their own act if they hope to improve viability.

Great job on this post. I'm retired, but this stuff still stirs my blood.
One of their favorite tactics is that they attack the union bureaucracy for requiring union fees that can be spent for political purposes; however in some cases when the bureaucracy has made a deal with the corporations that gets people back to work without giving the workers as much as they deserve they have often supported it.

furthermore if it makse sense to forbid u7nions from using union due for political purposes then it should also make sense to ban corporations from passing the expenses of their campaign contributions on to their customer as a cost of doing business or allow the public equal access to their own politicians. the only way to do this would be to reform the system so that bribes thinly disguised as campaign contributions are no longer allowed; instead we should have an interview process for the politicians controlled by the public.

Also the more they spend on propaganda, advertising, lobbying etc. and the more they keep for profits the less they have for manufacturing or legitimate expenses.

This means the consumers get the shaft too.

The corporate bureaucracy is as bad as the Soviet bureaucracy.

Another thing, if the union workers agree perhaps they should rely, when possible, more on grass roots organizing than on campaign contributions that go to politicians who don't use the money in the best manner possible for the workers.

This way the political activity is controlled by the worker not the political operatives and the politician will have a harder time taking the money then breaking their promises.
"a sustainable economic recovery will require massive changes in our tax policy and massive public investment in our aging physical infrastructure. It will require improving our public schools and investing in new cleaner, greener technology."

We know who we need to elect for this to happen. Hoping he can keep us out of Iran, too.

Going to go check out your link to Work Connects Us All. I like the name.
“Despite the corporate attacks on unions, there are still nearly 15 million union members in the USA. They represent the true diversity of our nation in a way that the OnePercenters cannot.”

If you want to see diversity of our nation’s employment you will see it in the non-union faction of the workforce. At 140 million people they are far more diverse than the 15 million union employees.

“Unions themselves need to embrace a more democratic culture if they are to reverse their downward spiral in membership.”

That would be quite a trick…increasing support for Democrats from 100% to a higher percentage.

“Unions also have considerable resources for organizing and supporting public demonstrations. This includes civil disobedience, a tactic that unions are slowly beginning to embrace again, largely because of the Occupy movement.”

Unions have actively been engaged in civil disobedience way before the OWS Movement. Ever hear of the Flint Sit-Down Strike or the Port of Longview Longshoreman?

“Breaking unions or smashing organizing campaigns pushes down wages and reduces pensions, making it more difficult for people to buy products and services.”

It’s even more difficult for people to buy products and services when employers go out of business or locate to more labor friendly locales.
Johnny, that was democratic with a small 'd', not the Democratic Party.
Sitdown strikes and workplace occupations were once a common and very effective tactic used by workers at GM in Flint , by Woolworth's saleswomen in Detroit and in many other places. These were made illegal in the 1940's. There were a few attempts at sitdowns in the 1960's and there was an occupation during the Pittston coal strike of the late 1980's.

The workers at Republic Windows and Doors did a full fledged plant occupation in 2008 which helped keep the factory open and the longshore workers at Longview blocked trains more recently.

It was however the Occupy Movement which caused the mainstream of the labor movement to seriously re-examine use of direct action civil disobedience.

Of the 140 million non-union workers, polls consistently show that 30%-40% of them would like to join a union. But the odds are stacked against them by our corporate rulers, the primitive labor laws they insist upon and the slowness of the union movement to adopt more effective organizing strategies.

Unions are the only real counter-balance to corporate domination in a market economy. If you love living in a low wage economy with a racial and gender caste system and as a safety net that only works for Wall Street banks, by all means support the union busters.
If Wal-Mart and Target unionized its salaried employees, the CEOs would have to part with a percentage of their profits and I highly doubt anybody that greedy would willingly give over a penn without passing on the costs to the consumers.
The Longshoremen's Union just awarded the President of China the "Friend of the American Worker" award.

Hooray, hooray for Unions!

.
Yes Jane, I'm sorry to say it's true.

Link: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2012-03/06/content_14762293.htm

People are in love with the idea of Unions, but the reality is that big unions are more like self-serving corporations than representatives of the workers.

In some ways they are like pyramid schemes, in that those with seniority benefit the most and the younger workers endure job-bumping, and layoffs.

Good Unions assure that their members are trained, skilled and in many cases, such as Electricians, licensed.

But too often Unions protect bad workers and resist new technology that will create more jobs.
Unions are like any other American institution. They are quite capable of making bad decisions and in many cases are in need of modernization. We need a better labor movement than we have now. We won't get that by standing aside passively.
I just learned that Target is closing the store detailed in the article for "renovations". The closing will supposedly last 6 months. I don't think I am being paranoid when I think that this about retaliation.

http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20120320/RETAIL_APPAREL/120329982
Any updates on this?