Tag Archive: Labor

Oh, Magoo. You’re doing it again.

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Mr. MagooCan Rutgers crap on any more of its own heroes? At  their own graduation? Now that the Eric LeGrand embarassment is over with, another Rutgers grad gets a backhanded slap.

Christine O’Connell and her son John will march tomorrow in the SEBS (was Cook College, for oldesters) (that’s the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences for you non-Rutgers grads – ed.) graduation.  Rutgers was happy to make the Hong Kong immigrant and her family their heroes.

Christine had been on a short-term leave from her job.  She’s a teacher in a nutrition program for low-income families. Her union, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, took her on as an organizer… and then her job just went away.  

Maybe the famously nearsighted Quincy Magoo, a Rutgers alumnus, can help the powers that be find the job.

Supporters have started an online petition. Let’s help the Magoos who run our state U. see the light.

Today is Workers Memorial Day

Pray [mourn] for the dead and fight like hell for the living.

                                            – Mother Jones

Today is Workers Memorial Day. In ciities around the country, and in workplaces, workers killed or injured on the job are remembered. On Tuesday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (3pm, public invited), people will gather to remember co-workers, friends, and neighbors. Here’s how a union friend talks about this annual event:

This memorial service has never differentiated between the union and non-union sector, and this year is unprecedented in that the unionized sector of the work force has reached the long sought after goal of zero fatalities.

Yet, that will not deter the NYC Building and Construction Trades from appearing in full force and recognizing the tragedy of these workers’ deaths, and mourning their brothers and sisters among the unorganized.

There is no event for Workers Memorial Day in New Jersey (at least that I could find). I hope that next year, there will be. We live in a state where unions have taken a deep hits – from elected people in both parties. And our governor fully allies himself with the “conservative” movement to destroy unions. Safe jobs are something unions have historically pushed forward; something to remember as we rebuild after Sandy, and try to get New Jersey back on its feet.

Below the fold, a statement on Workers Memorial Day from New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charlie Wowkanech.  

CWA endorses Ras Baraka for Mayor, “for a better, more progressive Newark”

Ras Baraka, who counts himself as both community organizer and politician, today picked up the endorsement for mayor of Newark from CWA New Jersey, the union standing behind 70,000 working families, including 55,000 who work in NJ government. Almost 2,000 of those families live in Newark; thousands more work there. It’s a huge leap forward for Baraka, South Ward councilman and principal for 6 years at Newark Central High School.

Anibal Ramos, his colleague on Newark City Council, and one of his opponents in the race also picked up an endorsement; IBEW Local 1158, which reps about 3,700 white collar and blue collar employees around NJ. They endorsed Chris Christie in the November election, as did another endorsing Ramos, International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 825. Ramos also has Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters (NRCC)’s nod.

But CWA is the bigger enchilada, capable of generating organized ground action, as they did helping to drive the campaign to raise NJ’s minimum wage in November, and powering behind Orange mayor Dwayne Warren’s defeat of incumbent Eldridge Hawkins. A few days ago, CWA announced the launch of an effort to organize taxi drivers in Newark. CWA tweets today that Baraka’s race is more movement than campaign and CWA supports that movement.

“Ras Baraka understands this isn’t just about an election, it’s about building a movement to revitalize urban areas and make our communities stronger. The thousands of CWA members who live and work in Newark are ready to roll up our sleeves to get things done. And we look forward to working with Ras Baraka for a better, more progressive Newark.”

                                – Hetty Rosenstein, CWA NJ State Director

Ras Baraka website. Twitter:@rasjbaraka. Election is May 13th, 2014.  

Labor Day – It’s All About Me

Assemblyman Jay Webber just doesn’t understand (or doesn’t acknowledge) the true meaning of Labor Day. In his Facebook message, he acknowledges his staff, forgetting the fact that organized labor is the honoree of the day. His vaunted staff gets weekends off because of organized labor. They probably get sick pay – because of organized labor. It’s odd that an elected official from a party that constantly harps about government is praising those aides whose salaries come from taxpayers. I don’t know Tom and Sue, but I’ll bet they are hard workers. Working for the public is a thankless task. But today’s the day to thank organized labor.

AFT President: “Barbara Buono is us.”

From a membership meeting of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) at Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, with guests senators Shirley Turner, Linda Greenstein and Democratic nominee for governor Sen. Barbara Buono. This is AFT president Donna M. Chiera on how to win New Jersey back from Chris Christie:

“This election is about us. This election is about our students and our communities.”


“They’re going to be throwing money at this man [Christie]. And we can’t match the money, but we have something money can’t buy. We have people power. We have boots on the ground.”

The Rising: World Trade Center’s glittery spire

The sky was falling and streaked with blood

I heard you calling me then you disappeared into the dust

Up the stairs, into the fire …

                                     – Bruce Springsteen, Into the Fire

That warm clear morning of September 11, 2001, it was public workers who rushed into the the twin towers to save lives. Union people, most of them, running up the stairs. The roll call of our lost first responders was awful: 343 NYC Fire Department firefighters, 23 NYPD officers, 37 Port Authority PD officers. More than 2,000 first responders injured.

Today, a 408-ft glittery spire was lifted high and bolted to One World Trade Center. Now 1,776 feet tall, the WTC was built with union labor. Union members rushed in on 9/11, and the rescue operation. Today’s a bittersweet full-cycle moment for the labor movement, and an achievement for the Port Authority of NY/NJ and all kinds of people whose lives are bound up in those building in some way. What must it have been like today for all the families, many in NJ, who lost people that day, or in two questionable wars after those towers?

What I remember from 2001 is the sense of unity and gratitude for the people who work in service for the public. Marie Corfield, a teacher running for Assembly in LD-16 – I contribute my time to this race – talks about this. About her first day as a teacher; it was 9/11, a day of chaos. And the investment we all felt we should make, in the lives of those who serve the public. That’s what I’m remembering today as that tower rises. Back before Chris Christie and his war on public employees. His union thug talk. His cheerleading of Gov. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin union busting. Before the Christiecrats who ruptured their party from the inside to service him, to cover him, and to grow his power.

Left the house this morning

Bells ringing filled the air

Wearin’ the cross of my calling

On wheels of fire I come rollin’ down here

Come on up for the rising …

                              – Bruce Springsteen, The Rising

Dear Christie-Endorsing Unions: You Can Still Change Your Mind

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Dear Christie-Endorsing Unions,

Since you backed the Governor he declared “unions are the problem” and vetoed a bill allowing towns — if they choose to — to require union labor on public projects and Sandy recovery efforts.  And unemployment is far more stubborn here than in our neighboring states, now at 9.2%.

There’s still time to change you mind and back a candidate who actually supports labor and the goals of unions.  



Sunday: Joe Gutenkauf Memorial

Joe GutenkaufI am a lucky duck. One of the great advantages of blogging here is endless work alongside people younger than me – swifter, smarter, more feminist to the bone even than I am. But the flip side of that is the people older than I am that I’ve met in the political swim that is New Jersey. From them, particularly the activists, there is an irreplaceable bedrock progressivism that survives awful party politics, boneheaded presidential administrations, and new crops of people with power who make decisions they’d be too smart to make. Readers, scholars, community people. Salt of the earth.

Two of those people, for me, were and are Joe and Dottie Gutenkauf. They have no idea whatsoever how many events where I conspired to sit next to them, because they were both so cool. In December, Joe died at 87 years old. This Sunday, there’s a memorial for him in the kind of church that finds itself on lists of welcoming gay-friendly churches, where diversity is right in the mission statement, and a discussion group of PBS’ The Abolitionists is an ongoing thing Monday nights.

Joe Gutenkauf – Celebration of a life well-lived, a person well-loved

Sunday, March 17, 2013 – 1pm

Grace Episcopal Church – Knickle Hall, 600 Cleveland Ave. Plainfield 07060

RSVP to Dottie Gutenkauf or call 908-668-1149.

Joe was a World War II Army vet in the part of the world where my father served. He knew Bayard Rustin, Michael Harrington. Helped run the Chicago branch of CORE. Was right there when Democratic Socialists of America was founded. Taught at Rowan University when it was still Glassboro. He was both a guy who’d been everywhere, and was deeply meshed into his beloved Plainfield, NJ. Conversations with him were revelations for me – though he was pretty humble about how smart he was. I’ll miss him. Joe’s amazing obit, is on the flip. This is my RSVP to Dottie – I’ll be there Sunday.  

ICYMI: You’re going to throw the American union worker under the bus … for a Twinkie?

No, that’s not the Governor saying that. It’s me. This post is for some of my friends so freaked at the loss of their favorite sweet treat that they’re buying Hostess Brands’ standard corpo scapegoating of its own workers.

Mashable informs us some enterprising soul has listed a single Twinkie on eBay with a starting bid of $5,000. Almost surely somebody with more whimsy and more money than sense will pay that.

Get a grip, America.

For those so threatened by the loss of their favorite fatty simple carbohydrate that they forget their bedrock political values, a few facts:

  • This is Hostess Brands second bankruptcy in 8 years.

  • Since the 2004 bankruptcy, workers made big wage/benefit concessions, told those concessions would strengthen Hostess.

  • Even with those, Hostess shut down 21 plants; thousands lost their jobs.

  • Management promised workers their 2004 bankruptcy concessions would be invested in capital improvements, plant equipment upgrades, and product development. But a lot of that money went to executive bonuses & high-priced attorneys and consultants.

  • Hostess CEO got a 300% raise this year: $750,000 to $2,550,000.

  • Other Hostess execs also got windfall races, doubling salaries.

  • Over the last year-plus, Hostess ended contractual pension payments to employees. Unilaterally.

    Yeah, my source is Labor. But it isn’t just the union saying Hostess is responsible for its own troubles. The National Consumer League says the same thing:

    “It is years of poor management – not the reasonable demands to improve working conditions of the BCTGM – that led to the company’s demise. What a terrible time of year to take away the livelihood of 18,500 workers and the dozens of communities with factories that will be shuttered. Today’s announcement is a sad commentary on corporate America. The Hostess Brand’s executives put profits before people, paying large bonuses to executives while forcing the workers to give up benefits and pensions, once again putting Wall Street investors and themselves before the interests of the workers who build the brand.”

    The death of a company is a complicated matter. I don’t claim to have the autopsy results. My Facebook friends span the spectrum. I’m not surprised the right-wingers jump to the union-as-villain scenario. But I’m amazed some other friends haven’t bothered to look up and consider what the people who made their favorite treats for years, who built that company, have to say for themselves.

    /end rant