Saturday, August 6, 2011

Delta's role in the FAA shutdown, IKEA's Virginia workers vote union, and the Southern heart of the Tea Party Movement

Here's the latest Labor South round-up, and once again much of it shows the South's profound influence on national politics today--whether it's Atlanta-based Delta Airlines conspiring with House Republicans in the shutdown of the FAA, or the Southern domination of the Tea Party movement.

FAA gets temporary retrieve but labor union issue remains

President Obama signed a bill Friday ending the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, but the central issue that made House Republicans willing to render 4,000 agency employees and thousands of airport construction project workers jobless--labor union rules--remains unresolved.

"The House Republicans freely admit that this is simply an effort to leverage one issue to hijack the legislative process and gain the upper hand on negotiating an anti-labor provision," U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., of the Senate Commerce Committee said on the Senate floor last week.

Indeed, the ongoing assault on both public and private labor unions waged by Republicans across the country continues, and it was at the heart of the two-week FAA shutdown, which cost the deficit-strapped federal government $350 million in revenues as a result of uncollected taxes on airline tickets. Congress went on vacation without authorizing the FAA.

Although some Republicans claimed the main issue was their opposition to the funding of rural air service that was included in the FAA budget, their desire to destroy unions was the primary mission.

At issue was a National Mediation Board ruling that non-votes will no longer count as "no" votes in union elections in the airline industry. As in practically every other kind of election, only those votes cast in a union election will now count as either "yes" or "no". The NMB oversees the airline industry.

Backing the Republicans in their anti-union mission is Delta Airlines, which actually benefited from the shutdown by pocketing the portion of ticket prices that would have gone to the federal government as taxes. Delta CEO Richard Anderson, whose salary is $9 million, has strongly criticized the NMB ruling.

Rockefeller specifically pointed to Delta as a culprit in the shutdown. "I wish I understood why the policy objections of one company--Delta Airlines--mattered more than the livelihood of thousands of people," the senator said.

The authorization signed by Obama Friday leaves the issue unresolved but one that Congress will have to face when its five-week vacation comes to an end.

Ikea workers vote union

In a 221-69 vote in late July, workers at Ikea's Danville, Va. plant chose the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to represent them in future contract negotiations with the Swedish furniture maker.

The vote came after a tough campaign that included the company's hiring of the union-busting Jackson Lewis law firm. The workers' issues included "stretch-out"-like conditions at the work site, required overtime, eliminated raises, and low pay.

The campaign was marked by irony. Ikea had long enjoyed a stellar reputation as a good corporate friend to its workers in Europe, and it had cooperated with unions there. Its European workers also enjoyed wages that started at $19 an hour, compared to the $8 an hour its beginning Virginia workers earned.

The Southern heart of the Tea Party movement writer Michael Lind's August 2 and linked here story on the Tea Party movement exposes the Southern extremists who are its base.

"It should be called the Fort Sumter movement," Lind writes. "Today's Tea Party movement is merely the latest of a series of attacks on American democracy by the white Southern minority, which for more than two centuries has not hesitated to paralyze, sabotage or, in the case of the Civil War, destroy American democracy in order to get their way."

Despite the movement's Boston-evoking name and the media's association of it with the Midwest, the Tea Party is at its core the white Southern conservative elite, Lind writes, and he notes that the four states with the most Tea Party representatives in the U.S. House are: Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and Georgia.

"The fact that Tea Party conservatism speaks with a pronounced Southern drawl may have escaped the attention of the mainstream media, but it is obvious to members of Congress who have to try to work with these disproportionately-Southern fanatics," Lind writes.

So much for the much-ballyhooed New South. As the author of this blog has written before, today's South in some key ways isn't really so new after all, certainly when it comes to who rules and who serves.

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