Look for the Union Bunny

Bullied, harassed, and lied to, District 1 of the Amalgamated Association of Easter Bunnies, AFB-CIO (American Federation of Bunnies–Cottontails International Organization) went on strike, forcing a halt to this year’s Easter egg hunts. At Bunny Headquarters, Solomon P. Bunny, union executive secretary, and a militant corps of Easter bunnies were preparing picket signs. I walked in, notepad in hand. “Excuse me, Mr. Bunny, but why aren’t your members delivering eggs this week?” Bunny looked up from the papers on his desk, chomped harder on his cigar, looked at me, scowled, and answered harshly, “Don’t you know!?” “No, sir,” I replied apologetically. “I always thought you were happy and content passing out your Easter eggs.” “We love it,” growled Bunny, “but … Continue reading

You Can’t Wash Away Fracking’s Effects

José Lara just wanted a job. A company working in the natural gas fields needed a man to power wash wastewater tanks. Clean off the debris. Make them shining again. And so José Lara became a power washer for the Rain for Rent Co. “The chemicals, the smell was so bad. Once I got out, I couldn’t stop throwing up. I couldn’t even talk,” Lara said in his deposition, translated from Spanish. The company that had hired him didn’t provide him a respirator or protective clothing. That’s not unusual in the natural gas fields. José Lara did his job until he no longer could work. At the age of 42, he died from pancreatic and liver cancer. Accidents, injuries, and … Continue reading

University Governance Doesn’t Represent the People

  by Walter Brasch   About 800,000 Pennsylvanians are members of labor unions, and the state has a long history of union rights and activism, neither of the two largest university systems has a labor representative on its governing board. The only labor representative on the Board of Governors of the State System of Higher Education (SSHE) in its 29 year history was Julius Uehlein, who served 1988–1995 while Pennsylvania AFL–CIO president. The appointment was made by Gov. Robert P. Casey, a pro-worker Democrat. The SSHE, a state-owned system, has 120,000 students enrolled in 14 universities. Only three persons have ever represented labor on Penn State’s Board of Trustees. Gov. Milton Schapp, a Democrat, appointed Harry Boyer, the state AFL–CIO … Continue reading

Don’t Count Out the Labor Movement

  by Walter Brasch   Almost every conservative political columnist, pundit, commentator, blogger, and bloviator has written about the decline and forthcoming death of the labor movement. They happily point to Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker shortly after taking office in January 2011 took advantage of a Republican majority in the House and Senate to ram through legislation that stripped numerous collective bargaining rights for public employee unions. Among collective bargaining rights are those that assure decent working conditions and a fair grievance process to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory discipline. The Republicans point to Ohio, where Republican Gov. John Kasich, with similar legislative support, signed legislation in March 2011 that restricted collective bargaining rights for public sector employees. They … Continue reading

American Patriotism in Hyper-Drive

  by WALTER BRASCH  It’s midway between Flag Day and Independence Day. That means several million copies of full-page flags printed on cheap newsprint, June 14, have been burned, shredded, thrown away, or perhaps recycled. It’s an American tradition.  Flag Day was created by President Wilson in 1916 on the eve of the American entry into World War I. It has since been a day to allow Americans to show how patriotic we have become, and give a running start to celebrating the Revolution by buying banners, fireworks, and charcoal briquettes for the upcoming picnic.  Within American society is a large class of people who fly flags on 30-foot poles in front of their houses and adorn their cars with … Continue reading

Mission Impossible: Finding a Mini-Van Made in America by Union Workers

  by WALTER BRASCH   Last year, not one of the 491,687 new minivans sold in the United States was made in America by unionized workers. Some were manufactured overseas by companies owned by non-American manufacturers. The Kia Sedona, with 24,047 sales, was built in South Korea, Russia, and the Philippines. The MAZDA5, with 19,155 sales, was built in China, Japan, and Taiwan. Some minivans from Japanese companies were built in the U.S., but by non-unionized workers. Honda sold 107,068 Odysseys built in Alabama. Toyota Siennas, built in Indiana, went to 111,429 persons. The Nissan Quest, built in Ohio, had 12,199 sales. Only three minivans were built by unionized workers, but they were made in Canada by members of the … Continue reading

Labor Pains: A Fable for Our Times

Once, many years ago, in a land far away between two oceans, with fruited plains, amber waves of grain, and potholes on its highways, there lived a young man named Sam. Now, Sam was a bright young man who wanted to work and save money so he could go to school and become an electrician. But the only job open in his small community was at the gas station. So, for two years, Sam pumped gas, washed windshields, checked dipsticks and tire pressure, smiled and chatted with all the customers, gave them free drinking glasses when they ordered a fill-up, and was soon known as the best service station attendant in town. But then the Grand Caliphs of Oil said … Continue reading

Stories We Will Still Have to Write in 2012

  by WALTER and ROSEMARY BRASCH   In January 2009, with a new president about to be inaugurated, we wrote a column about the stories we preferred not having to write, but knew we would. Three years later, we are still writing about those problems; three years from now, we’ll still be writing about them. We had wanted the U.S. Department of the Interior to stop the government-approved slaughter of wild horses and burros in the southwest, but were disappointed that the cattle industry used its money and influence to shelter politicians from Americans who asked for compassion and understanding of  breeds that roamed freely long before the nation’s “Manifest Destiny.” We wanted to see the federal government protect wolves, … Continue reading