Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Privatizing pols, union-busting companies, and protesting workers

As election day looms, here are a few of the stories percolating in the South that affect the region's working folks:

In West Virginia, Republican Senate candidate John Raese has called for the elimination of the federal minimum wage, which he calls an "archaic system" even though some 60,000 West Virginians got a pay raise when the federal minimum wage was last increased. As reported recently by Nation magazine, Raese is not the only right-wing Republican Senatorial candidate taking aim what remains of the nation's social safety net.

Rand Paul in Kentucky has caused a stir by criticizing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Ken Buck in Colorado wants to privatize Veterans Administration hospitals, and Joe Miller in Alaska wants to eliminate unemployment compensation, Nation reports.

What these politicians really want is a return to the late-19th century era when robber barons like John D. Rockefeller organized trusts to control entire industries and wielded more power than the president himself. It took "muckraking" journalists like Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens to expose the depths of economic and political corruption in the country. Where are the muckrakers today? Hard to find in a world in which the media are corporate-owned and bound to a corporate view of the world that looks at government as an inconvenience when it's not serving corporate interests.

Close to home here in Oxford, Mississippi, a recent newspaper story headlined "Union vote could send jobs to Oxford" detailed how the Olin Corporation's Winchester operations in East Alton, Ill., may relocate to Oxford now that union workers rejected by a 2-1 margin concessions in a new proposed contract. Olin is now threatening to move the plant to Oxford.

If so, it would just be another example in the long parade of companies that have headed South to avoid unions. If only a workforce with a strong working-class consciousness were here waiting for them.

Approximately 900 workers are at the East Alton ammunition plant. Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 9 union felt the ammunition plant shouldn't be seeking concessions at a time when its net income totaled $21.1 million at last report, the second-best in the division's history.

Oxford is already the location of a Winchester ammunition and military packing plant.

And finally in the border city of Baltimore, Md., workers are protesting their recent firing by the ESPN Zone restaurant in the city's Inner Harbor area. They said they were only given a week's notice in violation of legal requirements that 60-days notice be given in cases of mass layoffs.

As reported by In These Times magazine, about 150 workers lost their job at the restaurant, which is owned by the Disney corporation. Some 50 workers and their supporters marched recently in protest. Supporters include the United Workers labor group.

Five workers have filed a class-action lawsuit against Disney.

1 comment:

  1. Please send me a list of people who are willing to work for whatever minimum wage is now.

    You can't get anybody but Mexicans to do ordinary work that used to be done eagerly by ordinary white/black people, of which I am one.

    Safety net: a very black gentleman was hired as a temp to ready an annual event here. He said, "I appreciate this work because it'll tide me over until my commercial license comes through." He then told of his college educated sister who quit her job as secretary when she learned she could live as good or better on the dole. "De guhmunt's ruint lotta people 'round heah."