Browsing the blog archives for February, 2011.


The Last Triangle Waist Factory Victims Identified

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Labor

Nearly one hundred years ago, on March 25, 1911, a fire broke out in the Triangle Waist Factory near Washington Square, in Manhattan, killing 146 workers. Some of the workers leapt to their deaths from the 9th-floor sweatshop rather than be burned. The workers could not escape the fire because management had locked the doors to keep them from leaving early.

Six of the victims were so badly burned they could not be identified, and the six bodies were buried together in a cemetery on the border of Brooklyn and Queens. The New York Times reports today that a determined researcher has identified the six unknown victims — Max Florin, Fannie Rosen, Dora Evans, Josephine Cammarata, Maria Lauletti, and Concetta Prestifilippo. All six were immigrants in their teens or early 20s except for Maria Lauletti, who was 33.

“Waist,” by the way, refers to “shirtwaist,” the name of a popular style of ladies’ fashion at the time.

Many Americans have heard of this fire; what is less well known is that a couple of years before the fire, in 1909, a walkout by Triangle employees sparked a mass strike of New York’s garment workers that lasted for six weeks. As many as 32,000 striking workers, mostly women, took to the streets and adopted the slogan “We’d rather starve quick than starve slow.”

The power establishment was of course opposed to the strike. Police arrested strikers on any pretext; employers hired thugs to beat them. Eventually some employers conceded some improvements in wages and working conditions, although the Triangle Factory management made no concessions. They simply locked out the strikers and hired new immigrant workers, who would work as much as 12 hours a day for as little as $1.50 a week.

The fire shocked America, and it also shocked the New York legislature into passing some of the first workplace safety regulations in the country. Among the reformers pushing for protection for workers was Frances Perkins, who had watched the fire from the street. Perkins would be the Secretary of Labor in the Franklin Roosevelt Administration.

The fire also became a catalyst for union organizing, especially for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. It was only after the fire that garment workers in New York won the right to unionize.

Today, as the political Right in America is gripped with an insane compulsion to return the United States to the 19th century, we seem to be re-fighting issues thought to be settled many decades ago. The fight of the vilified public workers of Wisconsin is not not so much about wages and benefits, because the workers have offered to make concessions on wages and benefits. The fight ultimately is about the collective bargaining rights of all American workers, public and private.

Those rights were paid for with the lives of Max Florin, Fannie Rosen, Dora Evans, Josephine Cammarata, Maria Lauletti, Concetta Prestifilippo, and 140 other Triangle employees, plus the thousands of lives of miners, factory workers, and other laborers that were so easily thrown away for the sake of a profit margin.

I realize there’s an argument that public employees aren’t like private employees, and that public employees should not be allowed to unionize, never mind strike. Make no mistake, the real point of these arguments is that nobody should unionize, period. I have yet to see an argument against public employee unionization that hasn’t been used against private employee unions as well.

Former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold nailed it when he said the Right is using “divide and conquer” tactics against all American workers. “The idea here on the right and the corporate side is to divide working people against each other, to turn private employees against public employees out of some kind of resentment,” he said.

Paul Krugman said today,

… what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker’s pretense that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that’s why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side.

See also Andy Stern.

Steve Benen says that Gov. Walker will make no compromises. The blinking will be done in the Wisconsin legislature, however. If three Republican senators switch sides, the Dems could block the bill. Pressure from constituents will be critical now.

When I saw the article about the Triangle Factory workers today, it felt as if they were calling to us to stand strong and not go back. I know some of you have been active in Wisconsin these past few days, and I thank you. Don’t let the oligarchs win.

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More Private Sector Failures

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Obama Administration

While public workers are fighting to keep their right to negotiate benefits and pensions, private sector workers are … screwed.

The 401(k) generation is beginning to retire, and it isn’t a pretty sight.

The retirement savings plans that many baby boomers thought would see them through old age are falling short in many cases.

The median household headed by a person aged 60 to 62 with a 401(k) account has less than one-quarter of what is needed in that account to maintain its standard of living in retirement, according to data compiled by the Federal Reserve and analyzed by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College for The Wall Street Journal. Even counting Social Security and any pensions or other savings, most 401(k) participants appear to have insufficient savings. Data from other sources also show big gaps between savings and what people need, and the financial crisis has made things worse.

Corporate profits are up! Also, executive pay is up! There is no economic reason why workers are less compensated than they used to be.

Obviously, the public workers’ unions have to be brought down. They might give the sheep the crazy idea that we all need pensions.

Also: Here’s the Republican jobs program — they’ll be hiring uterus police.

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What the Right-wing Assault on Women, Unions, the Environment, Health Care and PBS Is All About

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Obama Administration

George Lakoff explains it.

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So Much for Freedom

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Obama Administration

Anyone who works for a living in the United States and who doesn’t support the public service workers union in Wisconsin is an idiot. A brainwashed, drooling idiot.

The puppet masters want you to hate unions, especially pubic workers’ unions. They want you to resent public employees, because (if you’re employed in the private sector) they get pensions, and you don’t. They spread disinformation about what public employees are paid because they want you to believe that public employees get outrageously padded salaries.

They want you to hate unions, because they want to distract you from what they’re doing to you. Instead of resenting the chains that bind you, you resent those with fewer chains.

Via the BooMan, here’s the plan, according to Georgetown professor Joseph McCartin —

But an even more important factor is basically a 20- or 30-year period of failure in the private sector. What we are really looking at here is a private sector that for quite a long time now has not generated a lot of rising income for the great majority. It has not generated stable benefits for its workers, it has not generated increasing retirement security — in fact we’ve had income stagnation or decline, we’ve had rising indebtedness, we’ve had growing insecurity for retirement. The private sector has failed on a massive level. And the tenuous position that so many American workers find themselves in as a result of that now makes it suddenly appear that public sector workers are just living off the fatted calf. I think some of it has to do quite simply with the way in which so many nongovernment workers have been suffering, and legitimately so. You can go to those folks and say: Why are you paying for the pension of the guy down the street? You don’t have one!

Here’s the bottom line:

It is a real liability, but it is liability that is not the result of union munificence, or that came from squeezing the taxpayers; it is a liability that basically flows from the fact that the private sector has done so poorly at creating a really broad growing thriving middle class in the past 20 years. And without a broad growing, thriving middle class, government workers are increasingly isolated and increasingly under threat and it is easy to play the dynamic this way, unfortunately for them.

I say again, anyone who works for a living in the United States and who doesn’t support the public service workers union in Wisconsin is an idiot. Instead of railing against “greedy” public employees, which should be shaking our fists at private sector employers who are padding their profits on the backs of employees.

Here’s how backward it is — Flaming Idiot Tool Him Hoft is promoting a WISCONSIN FREEDOM RALLY to support the effort of the governor to bust public employee unions. Orwell himself would struggle to come up with this. The serfs are being rallied to support serfdom.

Freedom is the right to say two plus two make four. If granted, all else follows.- George Orwell

Well, folks, giving up bargaining rights ain’t “freedom.”

At WaPo, E.J. Dionne writes that it’s reasonable to ask public employees to make some sacrifices during tough times. However,

But this isn’t just about budgets — or even primarily about budgets. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is drumming up a crisis to change the very nature of the relationship between public workers and the government. He would strip their unions of their bargaining rights on everything except wages. And, as The New York Times has noted, “any pay increase they win would be limited by the consumer price index.” Whether you think the second is good policy or not, it essentially renders collective bargaining meaningless. Why shouldn’t this be seen as a Republican governor and a Republican legislature looking for a way to strike a political blow against allies of the other party — and using budget issues as an excuse?

In response, Charles Kane sniffs, “what we have here, apparently, is a clash between two very different concepts of American democracy.” Ya think?

Kane’s argument is that the voters elected Gov. Scott Walker to do a job, and he’s doing it. But did Wisconsin voters specifically agree to union busting? Or just to some general idea that maybe the budget ought to be trimmed?

In another remarkable example of Orwellian doublespeak, Gov. Walker says he won’t be “bullied” by the unions. Wow. That’s like the wolf declaring he’s not going to let those thug chickens push him around.

Again, the issue here is not just whether public employees might be expected to make some sacrifices during an economic downturn, even if the downturn wasn’t their fault. This is about union busting; this is about taking away workers’ rights in perpetuity. And as the unions crumble, private sector employees will have even less incentive to do anything but ruthlessly exploit their non-union workers.

And if the financial sector were a farm, we’d all be the sharecroppers.

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Stuff to Read

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Obama Administration

Sorry I’ve been scarce — here’s some stuff to read —

Eugene Robinson, “The GOP Loves Freedom, but Not for Egypt

In prison interview, Madoff says banks had to know of fraud.

What not to say about Laura Logan.

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So Much for a Right to Life

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Obama Administration

South Dakota Moves To Legalize Killing Abortion Providers.” Words fail.

In other news — Mike Huckabee says abortion is a more pressing issue than the economy; the Office of Congressional Ethics is investigating my former neighbor Rep. “Mean Jean” Schmidt; Representative from Kansas state legislature says she can tell who’s illegal from “the olive complexion“; “Curveball” speaks.

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Not Enough Tinfoil

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Frank Gaffney

Neoconservative Frank Gaffney (in photo) had planned to boycott CPAC because, he says, it has been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. However, he showed up anyway, to warn his fellow wingnuts that Suhail A. Khan, a Muslim American who is on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union, is an operative for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Gaffney has also warned that Grover Norquist is somehow trying to promote the Muslim Brotherhood agenda within conservatism. Think Progress:

“I belive the conservative movement is being subjected to a concerted Muslim Brotherhood infiltration effort,” Gaffney told us, adding that Norquist began his insidious effort in the 1980s. Norquist’s wife is Muslim.

Poor Suhail Khan, who’s been a loyal waterboy for conservatism for several years, faced hostile questioning from attendees who were certain he had to have ties to radicalism because, well, he’s Muslim. The take-away from the conference is that Khan is covering for the Muslim Brotherhood, at least.

And all Muslims are radical according to the conventioneers

At a well-attended Friday event paid for and sponsored by Geller and Spencer, accusations that the conservative conference has been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood were tossed around with abandon — and concerns about Islam itself as a faith were openly voiced by both audience members and panelists.

“For 10 years, people have been asking for moderate Muslims to speak up,” said Spencer. “We’re going to be waiting for those guys until doomsday.”

“Moderate Muslims don’t exist,” said one audience member at the Geller and Spencer event. “Muslims are not able to be moderate — or they are speaking against what is written in the Koran.”

Geller herself attacked CPAC and its organizers — the American Conservative Union, calling for the ouster of several ACU executives.

“This is the problem with CPAC. It’s corrupted and compromised by the Muslim Brotherhood,” Geller told the audience at her panel, saying CPAC’s leaders were either “clueless or complicit” to the threat posed by Islamists.

This is alarming —

“One of the things we have to do is not let sharia creep into our own legal system,” said Jim Woolsey, former CIA director under President Bill Clinton.

He was CIA director under Clinton?

Word is that Ron Paul was a big hit with most of the crowd, but the Young Americans for Freedom voted him off their advisory panel, anyway, saying that Paul is “off his meds.” Paul countered that he is now associated with Young Americans for Liberty. Seriously. See also Steve M.

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What Happened to Freedom? or, Going With the Flow

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Obama Administration

If you watched Rachel Maddow last night, you saw a montage of righties on Fox News pooh-poohing the idea that Middle Easterners (outside of Israel, of course) could manage democratic government. Democracy is just not in their DNA, or culture, or something.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

And as I watched this, I thought, what the bleep — aren’t these some of the same people who pimped the war in Iraq as a campaign for freedom? For democracy? They sure weren’t pooh-poohing democracy in a Muslim country back when Dubya was president.

Well, folks, so much for freedom.

Pretty much in isolation on the Right, the crew at National Review Online still seems to think it was good that Mubarak resigned. However, they are now hedging their bets. Andrew McCarthy is warning us that the Muslim Brotherhood could screw it all up. In fact, he already is blaming the Obama Administration for losing democracy is Egypt, because the Obama Administration obviously doesn’t understand how awful the Muslim Brotherhood is. And we know what a reliable expert Andrew McCarthy is when it comes to, you know, Muslim stuff.

There is some talk in leftie media about how the GOP has lost control of the message machine, because Glenn Beck et al. are calling the Egyptian uprising the beginning of the end of the world. But as usual I agree with Steve M. on this — ultimately, what matters to the GOP is keeping the rubes in a state of fear and outrage so they’ll reliably march to the polls and vote to screw themselves. And scary Muslims trying to take over the world work just as well as scary Communists trying to take over the world. (In fact, Beck seems to think the Communists and the Muslims are in cahoots, even though that makes no sense at all. But of course, it hardly matters that it makes no sense, does it?)

Elsewhere — aspiring Republican presidential nominee Tim Pawlenty shows us where the rightie wind is blowing by doing the ol’ flipflop. A few days ago, Pawlenty firmly was declaring it was time for Mubarak to step down. Now, he’s calling Mubarak “our friend” and criticizing the Obama Administration for siding with the uprising.

Most of the other hopefuls either sided with Mubarak all along (i.e., Huckabee) or were critical of whatever the Obama Administration was doing without clearly saying what they would do (i.e., Palin and Gringrich), or have avoided the issue altogether (i.e., Barbour). I believe the only “hopeful” still in the “Mubarak must go” column is Mitt Romney, who carefully avoided the subject of Egypt at CPAC. Michael Scherer writes,

Mitt Romney made no mention of the historic events in Cairo, even as his speech roughly coincided with news that Mubarak had resigned. John Thune, who is speaking as I write, seems to be speaking in a vacuum, with lots of talk about Ronald Reagan but no mention of the international events that Ronald Reagan would be focusing on were he still alive. Newt Gingrich barely glossed on Obama’s foriegn policy, but focused on Iran and Hezbollah. Santorum talked about Egypt, but was nearly unintelligible. He accused Obama of siding with the Iranian regime after protests erupted there–a claim that is, it must be said, factually shaky–and siding with the protesters in Egypt even though the regime was “a friend.” The implication was that Santorum supported the Mubarak regime, but then he added, “Now I am not saying we should not side with protesters.”

CPAC — Clowns Passing as Conservatives

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Mubarak Resigns

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Obama Administration

This time it’s for real. And the Wall Street Journal is flummoxed.

Update: Inspired by c u n d gulag —

You can see an extended clip here.

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Mubarak Resigning?

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Obama Administration

This is as much as I know.

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