Listen now (101 mins) | 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 great resource and fountain of knowledge on the labor movment from a first-person perspective. A truthful assessment of where the labor movment has been and where it is now. With the abandonment of the US by masses of corporations for faraway lands with no labor standards, it’s not hard to see how, beginning with the decade of the 1960s, corporations began the move offshore and the gutting of the US began. I grew up in a factory town in Rhode Island in the 1950s and 1960s and worked in two mills there while going to college. The move of textile mills to the US South and then to Southeast Asia and Asia was well underway by then. A family, with two adults working in the mills of my hometown, could put their kids through college, own a car and a house and live decent lives. With the abandonment of the US by corporations and income inequality, the working class and middle class experience of my town no long exists.
From another perspective as lifelong union member, I experienced how unions buckled under the power of Wall Street and gutted our cost-of-living adjiustments, which we had agreed to when we retired. Some call that pension guaranteed a Ponzi scheme, but it was a contract and the unholy unity of government at the state level and Wall Street interests made sure that our pensions would not be what had been promised. As an aside, the architect of that pension debacle now serves as a department secretary in the Biden administration.
Many thanks to the Radio Hour for a magnificent and timely program!
Autocracy vs. fascism relating to Democrats vs. Republicans can best be described as choosing between being burned at the stake vs. drawn and quartered. The result is the same but one takes a little longer.
While it makes a great academic discussion of which would you choose if you had to choose between the two, it does not yield positive results when applied to our political process where other choices are available.
Rather then accept the choice between the two halves of the one big money party citizens could organize and form a Union for Politics.
Just as workers can go on strike by withholding their labor to get better pay, working conditions, etc. citizens can demand small donor candidates and enforce that demand by withholding their votes from candidates that take big money.
If we keep voting for big money candidates we will keep getting big money legislators as the politicians have no incentive to stop taking big money if they take big money and we vote for them anyway.
We are not going be fix the problems caused by big money legislators until we replace the big money legislators that are the cause or at least the facilitators of the problems.
While it may make a difference in swing states for the electoral college if citizens vote for the assumed nominees Trump or Biden it won't matter in most states.
But 90% of congressional districts are gerrymandered for either Democrats or Republicans in 2024.
This means that around 40% of citizens in those districts will be voting for a candidate that cannot win.
What will be accomplished by voting for a big money Democrat in a district gerrymandered for Republicans other than to ensure that you will have the same non-choice in 2026?
Getting just one in eight of that 40% would be 5% of the vote in that district. As 80% of citizens want the big money out of politics there may even be some that would have voted for the gerrymandered winner that might participate for another 2 or 3% and even another 2 or 3% from the 40% of citizens that do not vote which could bring the total up to 10% of the vote in that district in 2024.
This could inspire more citizens to participate in 2026 and inspire some candidates to run as small donor candidates in 2026. Just a few successes in 2026 by small donor candidates in the 2026 primaries and/or general election could inspire more citizens and candidates to participate in 2028.
We can wait for big money politicians to take the first step toward solving our problems by passing legislation to get the big money out of politics that they will not pass because they work for the big money interests or we can take action now to force them to choose between taking big money or getting our votes.
It is an act of prevention as described in your recent blog.
500 Shows EVERY ONE GREAT!
Thank you SO MUCH
First, congratulations to the RNRH staff for reaching episode no. 500. This is the only podcast I listen to with any regularity so hopefully that communicates what I think about the program. I especially like episodes like this where Mr. Nader is given an ample amount of time to freely talk about what’s on his mind. A long Wrap-Up segment is beneficial in this regard.
I’ll use bullet points to help keep things moving along:
- Speaking of the Wrap-Up, I don’t recognize the users Mr. Nader was mentioning when he was ranting about the anonymous comments during the Wrap-Up segment. I assume then he’s referring to people listening to the show and commenting on YouTube rather than this site. The YouTube users won’t hear the Wrap-Up so I’m not sure if that complaint will reach the intended audience.
- Klassik does post anonymously, but I sent an e-mail to the show staff many months ago with my name so I don’t believe my posts are truly anonymous. Either way, I don’t believe my comments are of the flippant, overly-short variety which Mr. Nader mentioned in the Wrap-Up. I post anonymously for various reasons, including reasons mentioned by Mr. Townsend on this show.
Don’t confuse this for me being timid in speaking about political matters at work where people do know my name. I do talk about issues, but at least when I speak to people face-to-face, I can gauge the conversation and speak accordingly to make things work. With the comments here on an asynchronous computer-mediated form of communication, there really isn’t nearly as much nuance and things must be rather direct even if the context of comments are hard to establish. Thus, there is some comfort in speaking anonymously. Hopefully the staff has the ability to tell the difference between flippant comments and ones where there is some attempt to use reason.
Even still, I’ve been communicating online for decades. I’ve certainly seen many bad comments online from both anonymous and named users, especially on platforms such as YouTube, but some of the most insightful comments I’ve read about governance matters, music, athletics, and any other number of topics have come from discussions I’ve had with people where I don’t know who they are and they don’t know who I am. Even without that knowledge, we’re able to gauge whether each of us is speaking logically or illogically. Isn’t that what really matters?
- I’m shocked to hear Russell Mokibher cite ‘The Daily Mail’ as a source for his segment as that would be like citing the ‘New York Post’! Of course, the UK policy issue about banning phones in schools is being driven by the UK Conservative Party.
This does not mean that I disagree with the policy to ban phones in schools though. I think there is a lot of merit to the idea. In fact, I’ve mentioned this before in the RNRH comments, but the Netherlands recently passed similar legislation. It was driven by another right-wing party, the Christian Democratic Appeal. Granted, the CDA is not exactly right-wing in the way we expect the US Republicans or UK Conservative Party to be, but they are still a right-wing party. As I said when I mentioned this previously, this is one area where right-wingers and progressives can be united in pushing for policy. Link: https://nltimes.nl/2023/07/04/dutch-rules-will-soon-prevent-schoolchildren-phone-classroom
- I do have good news to report. Mr. Nader mentioned on the show that the current FTC leadership is solid. On that front, there was a report in ‘Supermarket News’ this past week that the FTC is taking a very skeptical view of the proposed Kroger-Albertsons grocery merger and their plan to divest stores to C&S. Public Citizen, the Teamsters, and many UFCW chapters have spoken against the merger. I wish the RNRH would speak about this, but even without that, perhaps there is hope for the general public and union employees to score a win against neoliberalism thanks to the current FTC. We’ll see, but I still think the RNRH should speak about the importance of this issue for a large part of the country. Link: https://www.supermarketnews.com/retail-financial/former-ftc-policy-director-kroger-albertsons-merger-facing-hurricane-storm
- Related to the above point, I take it that Steve is from Cleveland and so perhaps he remembers Kroger leaving Cleveland, and some other Midwest cities, in the 1980s and how that was related to union matters. That is certainly interesting given the merger and what was discussed by Mr. Townsend since Kroger still uses the threat of store closures when dealing with unions in places such as here in Houston in the 2020s.
- Finally, and this is also for Steve and David, do you remember Vicki Lawrence’s commercials for the United Food and Commercial Workers in the 1980s where Lawrence used her ‘Mama’ character to promote the union in the south? The main target at the time were staunchly anti-union European-owned grocers such as Food Lion. I think these TV commercials had an impact. When Food Lion came to Houston some years later in 1992, the newspapers did cover Food Lion’s poor history of labor relations and the company failed quickly here. Granted, there were other factors at play as well.
Unfortunately, targeting foreign-owned grocers didn’t really help in the 1990s as the biggest threat then were domestic companies who were/are staunchly anti-union such as Walmart, Publix, and HEB. But, anyway, I’ll link to a YouTube video with some of Vicki’s ‘Mama’ UFCW commercials, but do you think that an actor or a TV sitcom could make very strongly pro-union commercials like this today and still be commercially viable with the networks/syndication companies the way ‘Mama’s Family’ was in the 1980s? It seems unlikely to me, but you two are the experts on this so it would be interesting to hear your takes on the matter especially since I don’t know if sitcoms with blue-collar appeal like ‘Mama’s Family’ exists on TV/streaming platforms today. Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRAevFnCFcs
Labor, BIPOC, and LGBT v. Administrative Attitudes
Part of the problem is indeed the top down centralized management mentality of some unions and of the Dem party. I was a blue collar union worker and labor activist for over 25 years as well as being a local political campaign manager in the days when the Ds still had a rank and file party.
I objected when unions went for hiring organizers and agents. To me, it implied that union leadership believed its own membership incapable and that those who'd never held a tool in their lives were so superior they knew more about our jobs than we workers did. I thought it better to train the rank and file. A couple of the elected union leaders of the time pointed out that it took many years, decades even, for them to build the type of political connections to be locally effective. They were of course right, but that's not enough. If rank and file members don't understand the how and why of building labor alliances then eventually, as Yeats put it, things fall apart, the center cannot hold.
I also fought the usurpation of the Dem party in the late 70s by centrists, actually center/right neolibs. Who ditched the New Deal and abandoned labor; thereby the entire majority working class. Who did for the Rust Belt what they did to the Wall St. vultures who caused the '08 crash--NOTHING! Then had the gall to denigrate desperate people as that "basket of deplorables." These Ivy Ds of course know ever so much more than we lessers. Memorably characterized as The Best and The Brightest by David Halberstam. Did this class learn from their profound errors? Oh my no. We now have B&B 2.0, made even worse by their alliance with neocons.
As I said, part of the problem. I subscribe to several left alt news services. Judging by the many repeated comments, it is de rigueur for leftists to characterize what they dismiss as "identity groups" as divisive. Usually in the name of speaking for the working class. Aggravating to me since so very few of them have ever been union members let alone blue collar. Yet by their armchair ruminations they know what's best--usually some highly centralized econ alternative which they will run of course. Leftists who have failed for over 150 years to come with something workable and to learn how to communicate with us respectfully. Why would we trust people who are both arrogant and ineffective?
These same leftists never seem to question their own assumptions, never notice how their denial of "identity" is itself divisive. As if subscribing to the same illogic of denial as the right wing. I dare every left theorist to go to BIPOC people and explain to them they're wrong. As if by a wave of a well manicured hand old irrelevant issues like genocide and slavery will just disappear. Forcing us to choose between our hard won identities and some vague theory dictated by people who have yet to prove themselves trustworthy is an obvious NO.
Same for LGBT people; it's hardly reassuring that in the name of some greater good somewhere some day these same people who know what's best theoretically are willing to throw us trans/two spirits under the bus. Or at least won't object if said bus just happens to run us over.
Coalition building and organizing, which I have actually done, cannot be achieved by expecting potential allies to conform to the demands of some group that assumes it already knows everything relevant. As my Wobbly grandfather said: An Injury To One Is An Injury To All.
Dear Mr. Nader,
Thank you, your crew and Mr. Townsend for this interesting discussion concerning the struggle between American labor and corporations. As an American trial lawyer, who has represented railroad workers for the better part of half a century, I found it to be spot on.
I have a few comments, about the after-show:
First, I agree with commenter Don Harris: It seems like you are splitting hairs about the differences between the two political parties. Neither offer much hope these days.
I am uncertain about your position on the Goetz led rebellion that unseated Speaker McCarthy. It seems to me internal rebellions, like this one, may be our best hope to regain a responsive Congress. Nothing else has worked.
As you point out, the financial reasons for the rebellion don’t make much sense, but there’s a chance this could evolve into a left-right movement. Specifically, in responding to his colleagues’ condemnation, Representative Goetz told them he was fed up with their “grovel[ing] and bend[ing the] knee [to] lobbyists and special interests who own our leadership.” He endorsed Representative Ro Khanna’s five-point program which would term limit members of Congress and the Supreme Court and would ban congressional candidates from receiving lobbyist and PAC money, from trading stocks and from becoming lobbyists.
Mr. Goetz said he would agree to changing the rules regarding a motion to vacate the Speaker if Congress would “enact the reforms Representative Ro Khanna lays out.” So, I say, let’s see where this goes.
Finally, I probably misunderstood you, but maybe others did too. It sounded like you were saying “Trumpters” are a bunch of fascists. I assume you meant some in Republican leadership, but not the voters. We all know friends and family who voted against Clinton and Biden for a variety of reasons, who are definitely not fascists or racist. To paraphrase you: “The Democratic Party is so bankrupt, it could not come up with an honest platform that could defeat the likes of Trump.”
Thanks, as always, for allowing me to participate through these comments.
Erik B. Thueson
All the folks you listed have proven to be useless. Congress is a corrupt mess. It’s been redesigned to facilitate corporate cash flow. I support the Labor, environment, and Local. The US Congress is hopeless. Direct Action.
The cable company Spectrum, which has a monopoly in our neighborhood, has unfairly increase monthly charges to it's customers without previous notification. Is this legal? What is our recourse?
Thank you. Steev Beeson (213) 924-9091
You guys are Trump addicts.
We’re an oligarchy. The major parties are playing a good cop/bad cop game. Your comparison is based on a fantasy of a somewhat functional Congress. Which currently doesn’t exist. Oligarchic states require a different strategy.