Our five hundredth episode features long time labor organizer, Chris Townsend, who talks to Ralph about labor law reform, the Biden administration’s attitude toward the labor movement, the UAW strike, the threat of automation, and much more. Plus, Ralph clarifies his position re the Washington Post article where he said he preferred “autocracy over fascism,” and we briefly discuss the chaos in the Republican caucus.
Chris Townsend is a 44-year trade union worker and organizer. He is the retired Political Action Director for the United Electrical Workers Union and was the International Union organizing and field director for the Amalgamated Transit Union.
The workplace in the United States is a dictatorship. And if you're willing to challenge that dictatorship— create a rebellion against it—you might be able to build a union. If you look at the statistics, the number of elections— the number of those campaigns that actually get that far, which is only a small number, most of them are incinerated, liquidated, poison gassed, fired, terminated out of existence before you ever get that election— but if you get that election, the labor movement is winning.
When you have a labor leadership that is lazy, unimaginative, unimaginative, rarely challenged, has a very timid view, a very limited worldview, and they see their role more as administrator as opposed to leaders— this is the modern situation that we face. We don't have much of a leadership, sadly. We have an administrator group, and they have administered the decline.
Let's be very, very realistic here. I don't think there can be a labor union movement in the United States under present federal laws. There are just too many hurdles, too many delays, too many licenses for these corporations to bust up the situation… And I'm amazed that you can listen to what the AFL puts out, what labor union leaders put out—they almost never mention card checks, they never mention repealing Taft -Hartley. They don't force the Democrats— who get elected in no small part because of union support— to put these labor law reforms in place.
In Case You Haven’t Heard with Francesco DeSantis
1. October 1st marked the first day of Fiscal Year 2024 in Washington DC, and with it, DC’s Cashless Ban finally goes into effect, per Axios. Now, district residents will be able to report businesses that do not accept cash and/or those who post signage saying they will not accept cash. If any listeners out there are based in Washington and wish to report any such businesses, feel free to submit them to me at email@example.com. And remember, if you see something, say something.
2. Democracy Now! reports that Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel has gone on record saying she plans to restore Net Neutrality rules – which would “bar internet providers from blocking access or throttling customers’ connections based on how much they pay or which websites they visit” – which were repealed under the Trump administration. This follows Democrats finally taking majority control of the commission. Common Cause remarked, “To allow a handful of monopoly-aspiring gate-keepers to control access to the internet is a direct threat to our democracy.”
3. Brazilian President Lula has issued a statement in support of the United Auto Workers strike. Lula, who himself worked as a union organizer at the Brazilian automobile manufacturing facilities of auto giants like Ford, Volkwagon, and Toyota, made this statement after meeting with President Biden and seeing him take to the picketline in support of the striking workers. Lula added “It is crucial that presidents all around the world show concern for labor." More about Lula’s history with automobile labor unions is available at the Multinational Monitor.
4. Despite concerns raised by high-ranking Democrats in Congress, the Biden administration has approved Israel’s entry into the visa waiver program, meaning Israelis can now visit the US for up to 90 days without a visa, and Americans can do the same. However, the Middle East Eye reports that Arab-American Nondiscrimination Committee plans to challenge this decision in court, as Israel may not meet the legal criteria for the program due to their discrimination against Palestinian Americans. Huwaida Arraf, a lawyer representing the ADC, added “This is all so unnecessary, all the US government had to do was maintain the standard it has with every other country in the Visa Waiver Programme. This lawsuit could have been avoided, but the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department resurrected the debunked notion that separate is somehow equal. As these plaintiffs show, that notion is a farce.”
5. The Sacramento Bee reports California Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed two major pro-labor bills that emerged late in this session of the state legislature. One would have granted unemployment insurance to striking workers, a push which emerged in the face of the extended entertainment industry strikes. The other would have brought domestic workers under “the umbrella of OSHA protections.” These vetoes were handed down along with Newsom’s decision to appoint LaPhonza Butler, head of EMILY’s List and a Maryland resident, to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Dianne Feinstein’s passing.
6. On October 1st, The State Department issued a statement decrying “Anti-Democratic Actions in Guatemala,” directed at President-elect Bernardo Arevalo and his Semilla Party. The statement expresses that “The United States is gravely concerned with continued efforts to undermine Guatemala’s peaceful transition of power…Most recently, the Guatemalan Public Ministry seiz[ing] electoral materials under the custody of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal,” and goes on to add that “The United States…[is] actively taking steps to impose visa restrictions on individuals who continue to undermine Guatemala’s democracy, including current and former members of Congress, judicial actors, and any others engaging in such behavior…The Guatemalan people have spoken. Their voice must be respected.”
7. PBS reports that during a recent meeting between American officials and Mexican President AMLO, the latter levied scathing criticisms of US foreign policy, including the mammoth aid packages for Ukraine and economic sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela, and other Latin American nations. President López Obrador said the United States “should spend some of the money sent to Ukraine on economic development in Latin America…[and]…called for a U.S. program “to remove blockades and stop harassing independent and free countries, an integrated plan for cooperation so the Venezuelans, Cubans, Nicaraguans and Ecuadorans, Guatemalans and Hondurans wouldn’t be forced to emigrate.”
8. The Japan Times reports that “The Japanese government plans to seek a court order to disband the Unification Church…after a monthslong probe into the religious group over allegations of soliciting financially ruinous donations from members and other questionable practices.” The report goes on to say “Scrutiny of the group intensified after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was fatally shot during an election campaign speech last year over his perceived links to the entity, an incident which also brought to light its connections with many ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers.”
9. Finally, Disney World is being hit with a substantial tort lawsuit. A woman visiting the park for her 30th birthday suffered “serious ‘gynecologic injuries’” while on the “Humunga Kowabunga” ride. I will spare listeners the grisly details, but suffice it to say she experienced “severe and permanent bodily injury,” which required surgery, per Law & Crime. Yet, in typical fashion of corporate media reportage on tortious injury, this story is being presented primarily as nothing more than a “wedgie,” just as the McDonald’s lawsuit was reported as merely being about hot coffee. A deep dive into that case is available at the Tort Museum website.