GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY NOTES
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Net Briefs 03-09
ON SECOND STREET
Obama on Israel
SNATCH & GRAB
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Anti-Union Campaigns and The Big Three Bullies
Corporate America and a well-funded network of ultraconservative think tanks and policy centers are raising tens of millions of dollars to fight pending legislation allowing union card check campaigns. These campaigns collect a majority of worker signatures to qualify for their recognition as a union bargaining unit. The official title of the legislation is the "Employee Free Choice Act."
The right-wing campaign is built around slogans claiming supervised "secret ballots" are a better "more American" system. What they don't say is that corporate America has an arsenal of strategies and tactics to delay elections and intimidate and fire pro-union employees, rendering the current ballot system unfair and unworkable.
The long history of ultraconservative anti-union employer group activities makes clear why supporting something like the union card check legislation should be a high priority for activists on the left.
Up until the 1930s the two main employer organizations actively mounting campaigns to block union organizing were the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In the mid-1930s the newly created United States Business and Industry Council joined them. The three groups became the backbone of the early anti-union "Right to Work Network."
National Association of Manufacturers
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1895. NAM "tended to represent small businessmen, was fiercely anti-union and strongly endorsed the 'open shop' crusade to ban union influence in industrial plants," according to historian M.J. Heale in her book American Anticommunism.
The organization's position on labor unions was clear from the beginning, as it explains in its own history: "The genesis of the NAM's commitment to sound employee relations policies was the anthracite coal strike of 1902. The following year, the NAM established an internal department to advocate open shop labor policies."
The term "open shop" was coined at a NAM meeting in 1903. This was a way to stir up anti-union sentiment by reframing the debate as between an "open shop" versus what employers call a "closed shop," shifting the focus from a group effort for economic fairness through union security to a claim of individual rights and liberties, observes pro-union journalist Karin Chenoweth.
This type of reframing of public perceptions has been of special interest to NAM. In 1934, concern over many of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal proposals and key labor issues prompted NAM to launch a public relations campaign "for the dissemination of sound American doctrines to the public." During the next 13 years, NAM's National Industrial Information Committee spent more than $15 million on leaflets, radio speeches, films for schools, reprints of articles by economists, and other public relations efforts. A daily NAM column appeared in 260 newspapers with a circulation of more than 4.5 million in 1936. NAM's movie shorts were seen by six million in 1937.
NAM also directly attacked unions such as the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. "Red scare tactics were frequently employed in attempts to halt the surge of unionization," writes Heale, with NAM issuing one pamphlet titled "Join the CIO and Help Build a Soviet America." After the AFL and CIO unions merged, one NAM leader suggested businesses needed to help NAM "organize for solidarity or face a powerful attack on the free enterprise system" by unions in the 1950s, according to Gilbert J. Gall, author of The Politics of Right to Work.
Along the way, NAM claims credit for having "helped launch the National Council of Commerce in 1907." This was a predecessor group to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber of Commerce
In 1912 the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was established at the suggestion of President Taft. A popular image of the Chamber of Commerce is a group of smiling business-owners shaking hands with the town mayor at the opening of a new hardware store. That's one accurate snapshot—but there are other pictures worth examining. The national organization has a long history of promoting anti-union activism and legislation.
The Chamber was active in various "open shop" campaigns. Around World War I it helped formulate what was called the "American Plan." The theme of this campaign was that "voluntary unionism" was one thing, but the union shop was "un-American," wrote Chenoweth.
Local union #38 of the plumbers and pipefitters teaches its members about its roots battling the anti-union American Plan in the 1920s: "In San Francisco, the Industrial Relations Committee of the Chamber of Commerce established the Industrial Association, which, working with the Builders Exchange, an employers' organization, set out to break the back of the city's unions. In January 1922 the city's Building Trades Council refused to submit to an across-the-board wage cut, and the employers responded with a citywide lockout. When the unions agreed to accept the new rates, the employers offered to rehire only those men who agreed to work in open shops."
Chamber rhetoric about labor unions in the 1930s presaged the later McCarthy period reliance on red-baiting—the use of dubious or invented claims of communist allegiances to unfairly tar a target in the public mind. This was not entirely a marginal view at the time.
According to Heale: "The United States Chamber of Commerce represented the views of many small businessmen and some big ones in its periodic imprecations against the New Deal, labor unions, and anything resembling socialism…." The Chamber also set up a Voluntary Unionism committee to spread the "open shop" message.
U.S. Business and Industry Council
Even further to the right of NAM and the Chamber is the United States Business and Industry Council (USBIC). John E. Edgerton was the first president of the Council after serving as president of NAM. Formed in 1933 as the Southern States Industrial Council, the organizing conference was attended by "presidents and secretaries of Southern state manufacturers' associations." The roots of USBIC tap directly into the backlash against Roosevelt. According to the official USBIC history: "The United States Business and Industry Council (USBIC) was established in 1933 in the midst of the Great Depression. Its founders intended it to respond to the economic challenges of that time, as well as to the political challenges posed to business by the Roosevelt Administration."
President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt the government should play a constructive role in promoting economic fairness and social justice. "A huge proportion of all those who became unionists during the 1930s and 1940s were African Americans, Mexican Americans, or European immigrants. For them the New Deal and the new unionism represented not just a higher standard of living," explains Heale, "but a doorway that opened onto the democratic promise of American life."
When anti-union forces mobilized to block Roosevelt's agenda, they were eventually able to build an ad-hoc, but powerful coalition of conservative and libertarian business leaders, right-wing Christians, anti-Communists, anti-Semites, and white supremacists seeking the "rollback" of Roosevelt's programs.
Chip Berlet is senior analyst at Political Research Associates. This article and others in this series are available at: http://www.publiceye.org/jump/zmag.html.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.