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Latest Featured Reports | Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Guest: Labor journalist, author Steven Greenhouse; Also: Putin steals another election; Trump tries to avoid coughing up $450M in NY...
By Brad Friedman on 3/18/2024 6:10pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Given all of the ongoing madness, this story has not yet broken through all of the noise. But there is a concerted effort by several large corporations underway right now to undermine nearly 100 years of labor law in these United States. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

After some news headlines from today and the past several, we're joined by longtime, award-winning labor journalist STEVEN GREENHOUSE, formerly of the New York Times, now at The Guardian, and author of the new book, Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present and Future of American Labor.

At The Guardian last week, Greenhouse reported on the disturbing effort now under way by a number of major corporations, including Amazon, Starbucks, Trader Joe's and Elon Musk's SpaceX, to have the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) --- established as part of the 89-yeard old National Labor Relations Act --- declared unconstitutional by the federal courts.

The NLRB is critical to the survival of workers' rights and the unionization of workplaces. "The NLRB functions, essentially, as a referee, as an umpire, when workers seek to unionize. It tries to get workers, unions and companies to follow certain rules," Greenhouse explains today. "It's illegal, for instance, for companies to fire workers for supporting a union. Starbucks is accused of this. Companies fire the leaders of unionization efforts to decapitate, to kill the effort. The NLRB comes in as the empire and blows the whistle, saying, 'You can't do that. You can't fire people for supporting a union.'"

That said, the Board and its team of Administrative Judges who make determinations about violations of labor law, don't have the power to do much more than make findings. "It doesn't have the power to fine companies one penny for firing ten or twenty or thirty workers for supporting a union." Thus, companies like Starbucks have been in violation of the law more than a hundreds times over the past year, but clearly see the largely non-existent "penalties" for doing so, worth the crime.

The NLRB tends to side with management when Republicans are in the White House and control the Board, and with labor when a Democrat occupies the Oval Office. Greenhouse explains that Democrats have made efforts over the years to give more muscle to the NLRB, but have been blocked, for decades, by Republicans.

Still, as weak as the NLRB is, it plays a vital role in American labor law and workers right to collectively bargain for better pay and working conditions. "Corporations have long gloated at how weak the NRLB is. But what's really different now is that corporations, instead of just shrugging when they're slapped on the wrist, they're really taking a bazooka and going to court trying to have the NLRB declared unconstitutional," Greenhouse tells me.

Even though the NLRB has "been found constitutional time and again" over the past century, now that the federal court system --- including the Supreme Court --- has been so thoroughly captured by rightwing judges, these companies appear to be trying to gut the entire apparatus. And they may get away with it. Unions "fear that the Supreme Court and many judges have moved so far to the right that they are ready to blow up the system of federal agencies that generally has worked very well, over the past 90 years, protecting workers, protecting consumers, protecting investors."

But, Greenhouse warns, these companies "should be careful what they wish for." Finding the NLRB or the Act itself unconstitutional could return labor law to "the law of the jungle", as one labor expert cited in Greenhouse's report suggests. It could also work out much worse for the companies themselves than they may be realizing.

Tune in today for much more on all of the above.

Then, we dive into a bit more detail on some of the news of note since last week, including dictator Vladimir Putin's illegitimate reelection over the weekend to a third term --- and third decade --- of rule in Russia, and Donald Trump's claim that he is unable to come up with a bond to cover the $464 million fine he, his company, and his top execs (including his two eldest sons) now owe in New York after being found liable for years of massive bank, tax and insurance fraud...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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By Desi Doyen on 1/9/2024 10:31am PT  


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Guest: Dr. Nelson Lichtenstein, UCSB labor historian; Also: Landmark U.N. deal to protect world oceans; Fighting (again) for permanent DST...
By Brad Friedman on 3/6/2023 6:12pm PT  

As discussed on today's BradCast, support for labor unions in the U.S. is now near all-time highs. At the same time, the lawlessness by major companies willingly and repeatedly violating labor law is through the roof. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

Last week, by way of just one example, a federal Administrative law judge found Starbucks had committed "egregious" violations of labor law in just one case that combined unfair labor practices charges at 21 union stores in the Buffalo, New York area alone. In fact, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has brought some 75 complaints against the coffee company accusing them of more than 1,000 illegal actions over just the past year or two.

Despite a newly aggressive, pro-labor, pro-union NLRB under President Biden and an explosion of unionization efforts over the past two years at hundreds of shops and facilities owned by firms like Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, REI and Chipotle, those companies have spent tens of millions on attorneys specializing in breaking unions, according to our guest today.

DR. NELSON LICHTENSTEIN, author and longtime professor of labor history at Univ. of California, Santa Barbara, joins us today to discuss both the successes and obstacles faced by the new union movement rising in the U.S. since he was here in 2021. While the companies mentioned have long attempted to project a friendly, progressive image to the public, they have been very aggressive in attempting, frequently unlawfully, to block unionization of stores and facilities around the country. Firing workers who support unions; shutting down shops where union votes have been requested and/or have succeeded; and, where union votes have succeeded, companies have simply refused to negotiate union contracts. That "is par for the course," Lichtenstein argues.

He cites "almost fifty years of specialized anti-labor law firms" now being employed by those companies. "And it works! Why change it?," he quips. "Despite the public relations hit that it has had for Starbucks and the other companies, the managers had their meetings, they've run the numbers, they've decided they'll take a small reduction in their growth and it's worth it."

"The tremendous push-back is really a tribute to the importance of unionism," says Lichtenstein. "The official line of these companies is '[unionization is] not going to change anything!'...While they are moving heaven and earth to stop the union."

Lichtenstein describes "the most aggressively pro-labor" NLRB in decades, noting "they don't have much money and they're putting together real indictments of these companies. The problem is that the NLRB doesn't really have any disciplinary tools at its command. The penalties for breaking the law are really minuscule." And, with those small penalties, these anti-union companies have simply decided that repeatedly and "egregiously" violating the law is merely the cost of doing business.

Republicans in the last Congress blocked passage of the federal Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act which would make many of these violations much more painful for company management. But, Lichtenstein explains, there are already laws on the books --- both anti-trust and RICO statutes --- that could be used by the federal government to bring anti-union companies to heal by making them feel real pain for violating the law.

We discuss all of that and much more today, including what Lichtenstein attributes to the recent rise in support for unions and unionization, and whether he is optimistic or pessimistic about the current state of labor and the new unionization movement.

Also today
, Desi Doyen joins us to explain some very big news from over the weekend on protecting the planet's oceans, after the U.N. sealed a landmark deal in overtime on Saturday, following a nearly 20-year effort for the framework of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. The breakthrough agreement, as she details, will help protect about 50% of the world's "high seas" which are currently outside national boundary waters or otherwise protected only by a patchwork of regional agreements.

And finally, with the clocks mercifully changing once again to Daylight Saving Time this coming weekend, it's time for our annual call to make it permanent. Once again this year, we are backed by a bipartisan effort in both the House and Senate to do just that...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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