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The ultimate example of what can happen when wealthy owners and managers ignore the human condition and exploit their workers to the maximum happened in many venues, but one of the worst was the fire at Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City 100 years ago this month, trapping garment workers, mostly young immigrant women, many of them Jewish, needing to escape and killing 146 of the 500 who worked there. Managers had locked the exits to prevent theft by employees, who worked six days a week, weekdays for nine hours a day. The foreman who held the key escaped another way. This week’s show honors this anniversary even as public employees across the country are fighting to save their bargaining rights – even after agreeing to share in the pains of cuts to benefits and pensions Republicans claim are necessary to balance state budgets.
So. Now it’s done – by a contrivance of excising the provisions requiring Democratic participation in the legislation, Wisconsin’s senatorial Republicans have passed their long-held-up bill essentially dumping collective bargaining for public employees. The state’s Democratic senators had skipped for weeks to prevent this very vote and it worked as long as it was tied to the budget bill. They've gone home now.
This week's guests:
PETER RACHLEFF - Labor Historian and Professor of History, Macalester College
GLADYS MCKENZIE – Business Representative, AFSCME Council 5 and affiliates
BARB KUCERA – Editor Workday Minnesota; Director, Labor Information Office, UofM
MARY CATHRYN RICKER – President, St. Paul Federation of Teachers
The astounding thing about all this is the entrenched arrogance behind this nationwide rightwing effort to kill unions. Wisconsin is but one of the more volatile battlefields in this war on unions (and I hate military metaphor). Fifteen other states are out to do the same thing. This is what raw nerves in a declining economy hath wrought – and the wealthy backers of this tsunami of cultural division between middle-class working groups – pitting public workers – including teachers, police officer, firefighters and any number of those who serve us – against each other in a scramble for equity know all to well how easy this has been. Setting one worker against another is a long-time practice by corporate managers and powerful politicians who know that dividing and conquering is the way to hold onto the levers of power and the money that goes with it.
Contempt for public employees among unemployed and private sector workers whose pensions and health care have disappeared in the phony shortages created by the same rightwing giving tax breaks to the wealthy is now running rampant through the culture. The wealthy right is surely rubbing its hands with glee as Fox News and other right wing talk shows serve as the megaphone for assertions that all public workers are leeches on society, unwilling to work or given benefits and perks no one else receives.
Public educators have long been under assault from a public told to be suspicious that these union workers work just nine months of the year and earn amazing sums when their salaries are combined with their benefits.
The facts bespeak the lies perpetrated by these forces whose divisive rhetoric successfully placed them in office by the frustrations of a public needing scapegoats for their economic hardship. Public employees, including teachers, even after figuring in benefits have total compensation levels falling far short of comparable private sector jobs. But, of course, not many comparable private sector jobs even exist anymore – not to mention the fallout of 50 years of corporations and politicians convincing the middle class that these workers, along with immigrants and people of color, are out to kill them and their kin, denying them the jobs that have actually been shipped overseas or replaced by technology.
The uprisings in all of the states out to scuttle their public employee unions and to discredit public education even further are testament to the power of people who have finally had it with all of this. It may not unite them with their private sector brethren right away, but the underlying power of showing people that their neighbors are part of this may turn the political games to their advantage.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL talks with a labor scholar, reporter/analyst and those on the front lines of public employment about why this has come to a head. Did we actually need the arrogance of a Scott Walker and a John Kasich (Ohio) to bring this seedy business out in the open? How might public sector advocates link with Tea Party activists and others who rail against them to come to a meeting of the minds? What role has mainstream media – and that includes the networks as well as Fox News – added to the plight unions and public workers face these days?
Race and gender play a critical role in this, as well, women and people of color, not surprisingly, making up more a percentage of public employees than they do the private sector.
First Person Radio March 9: GEOFFREY BLACKWELL, FCC - Audio is UP - HERE
First Person Radio hosts Laura Waterman Wittstock and Richard LaFortune with Andy Driscoll talk with Geoffrey Blackwell, a recognized expert in Tribal economic and critical infrastructure development.
Geoffrey Blackwell is the Chief of the Office of Native Affairs and Policy (ONAP) at the Federal Communications Commission. On June 22, 2010, Mr. Blackwell was appointed by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to lead the Commission's efforts to work with Tribal Nations and Native communities. One of Mr. Blackwell’s first duties was to lead the FCC’s effort to establish ONAP, which was officially established by the Commission on August 12. Mr. Blackwell directs efforts to develop and drive a FCC-wide agenda to bring the benefits of modern communications technologies to Indian Country, including telecom, broadcast, and broadband internet services. The Office works with the FCC Commissioners, bureaus, and offices, as well as with other government agencies, private organizations, and the communications industries, to develop and implement FCC policies regarding Tribal Nations and Native communities, and ensure that Native concerns and voices are considered in all relevant Commission proceedings.
Mr. Blackwell previously worked as the Senior Attorney/Liaison to Tribal Governments at the FCC from 2000 to 2005, where he played a central role working throughout the agency in the FCC’s development of its 2000 Statement of Policy on Establishing a Government-to-Government Relationship with Indian Tribes, adoption of the Enhanced Lifeline and Link-Up support for residents of Tribal lands, and creation a new programmatic agreement rules for cultural preservation review and protection of Tribal sacred sites in the siting of communications towers.
Mr. Blackwell is an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and is also of Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Omaha heritage.
LAURA WATERMAN WITTSTOCK RECEIVES THE FARR AWARD
MINNEAPOLIS (March 5, 2011) — The winners of the 2010 Frank Premack Public Affairs Journalism Awards include the Star Tribune, Twin Cities Daily Planet, St. Cloud Times and the Bemidji Pioneer. Winners will be honored at the Frank Premack Public Affairs Journalism Awards program at 5 p.m. April 18 in the A.I. Johnson Room at McNamara Alumni Center, located on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus.
The 34th annual awards program will celebrate the winning works and best practices of public affairs journalism, and also will feature the presentation of the Graven Award to Gary Eichten of Minnesota Public Radio and the Farr Award to Laura Waterman Wittstock of Wittstock and Associates, a media and education consulting firm. The winning journalists and award winners will have the opportunity to speak about their work.