TrenchNews, Verse 8

I have a backlog of links stretching to the beginning of March because I haven’t had time to do a TrenchNews since Feb, so I thought I’d clean them up and post the ones still relevant. There are, surprisingly, quite a few.



Wal-Mart, of course, which seems never to run out of ways to embarrass itself by the way it treats its workers. How bad was it? Let’s let Barbara Ehrenreich tell it.

It reads like a cold war thriller: The spy follows the suspects through several countries, ending up in Guatemala City, where he takes a room across the hall from his quarry. Finally, after four days of surveillance, including some patient ear-to-the-keyhole work, he is able to report back to headquarters that he has the goods on them. They’re guilty!

But this isn’t a John Le Carré novel, and the powerful institution pulling the strings wasn’t the USSR or the CIA. It was Wal-Mart, and the two suspects weren’t carrying plans for a shoulder-launched H-bomb. Their crime was “fraternization.” One of them, James W. Lynn, a Wal-Mart factory inspection manager, was traveling with a female subordinate, with whom he allegedly enjoyed some intimate moments behind closed doors. At least the company spy reported hearing “moans and sighs” within the woman’s room.

Wal-Mart is like the neocon Bush Administration. Just when you think it can’t possibly get any sleazier or more unAmerican, it does something to prove how wrong you are.

[T]he cold war thriller analogy is not entirely fanciful. New York Times reporter Michael Barbaro, who related the story of Wal-Mart’s stalking of Lynn and his colleague, also reports that the company’s security department is staffed by former top officials of the CIA and the FBI. Along the same lines, Jeffrey Goldberg provides a chilling account of his visit to Wal-Mart’s Bentonville “war room” in the April 2nd New Yorker. Although instructed not to write down anything he saw, he found a “dark, threadbare room… its walls painted battleship gray,” where only two out of five of the occupants will even meet his eyes. In general, he found the Bentonville fortress “not unlike the headquarters of the National Security Agency.”

Well, Wal-Mart has the budget and population (workers) of a medium-sized country so I suppose it thinks it should have its own spooks. Barbara concludes:

This is the workplace dictatorship at its brass-knuckled best. When companies start imagining that they are nation-states, entitled to spy on, stalk, and imprison their own employees, then we are well down the road to an actual, full-scale dictatorship.As for those “moans and sighs” that issued from the hotel room in Guatemala City: Maybe Lynn and his companion were reflecting on the sweatshop conditions they encountered in a Wal-Mart subcontractor’s factory. Or maybe they were aware of the man spying on them, and were mourning the decline of democracy.

Unlike the MSM, which took this story as just another case of Wal-Mart’s obsessive attempt to control its employees, Barbara thinks there’s something deeper going on.

Now you may wonder why a company so famously cheap that it requires its same-sex teams to share hotel rooms while on the road would invest in international espionage to ferret out mixed-sex fraternizers. Unless, as Lynn argues, they were really after him for what is a far worse crime in Wal-Mart’s books: Openly criticizing the conditions he found in Central American factories supplying Wal-Mart stores.

That’s the real story, and it’s being ignored by the US press. They had a field-day slamming WM over this (and don’t get me wrong, WM certainly deserved to get slammed) but there was often a disturbing undertone which hinted that the MSM thought WM’s crime wasn’t spying on its employees so much as it was that it got caught spying on its employees. There was little real outrage in the coverage, more a kind of rueful disappointment, and no interest whatever in following up on Lynn’s charges.

That’s subjective, of course, but support for that conjecture can be found in the fact that the MSM almost never covers attempts by employees to unionize WM. Did you know, for example, that a couple in Paris, Texas is trying to get a union into the Wal-Mart store there? Not if you read the big papers, you don’t. The NYT, WaPO, Chi Trib, LAT – none of them have yet carried this Mother Jones story – and remember, I’ve had this link for two months.

Jennifer McLaughlin is 22, has a baby, drives a truck, wears wide-leg jeans and spiky plastic chokers, dyes her hair dark red, and works at Wal-Mart. The store in Paris, Texas — Wal-Mart Supercenter #148 — is just down the road from the modest apartment complex where McLaughlin lives with her boyfriend and her one-year-old son; five days a week she drives to the store, puts on a blue vest with “How May I Help You?” emblazoned across the back, and clocks in. Some days she works in the Garden Center and some days in the toy department. The pace is frenetic, even by the normally fast-paced standards of retailing; often, it seems, there simply aren’t enough people around to get the job done. On a given shift McLaughlin might man a register, hop on a mechanical lift to retrieve something from a high shelf, catch fish from a tank, run over to another department to help locate an item, restock the shelves, dust off the bike racks, or field questions about potting soil and lawn mowers. “It’s stressful,” she says. “They push you to the limit. They just want to see how much they can get away with without having to hire someone else.”

Then there’s the matter of her pay. After three years with the company, McLaughlin earns only $16,800 a year. “And I’m considered high-paid,” she says. “The way they pay you, you cannot make it by yourself without having a second job or someone to help you, unless you’ve been there for 20 years or you’re a manager.” Because health insurance on the Wal-Mart plan would deduct up to $85 from her biweekly paycheck of $550, she goes without, and relies on Medicaid to cover her son, Gage.

It was her boyfriend, Eric Jackson, who suggested unionizing.

Jackson started as an evening cashier earning $5.75 an hour, and it wasn’t long before he was regularly asked to perform the duties of a customer service manager, supervising the other cashiers and scheduling their breaks. He asked for a promotion, but three months later he was still doing the extra work for no extra pay. “I took it because I wanted more money, but I never got the raise,” Jackson says. “They knew they could do it to me.” He fought for the promotion and eventually won, but by then he had already contacted a local union office about organizing the store.

“When Eric first suggested it, I looked at him like he was on crack,” says McLaughlin. “I said, ‘You can’t take down a company like Wal-Mart with a union.'” Nevertheless, Jackson arranged for a UFCW organizer to come to Paris and meet with a small group of workers one June afternoon at the Pizza Inn. But the company soon caught wind of the organizing effort. As one worker left an early meeting of union supporters, he spotted a Wal-Mart manager in the parking lot. From then on, workers seen as pro-union were watched closely by management.

If you ask, “How did they know about the meeting?”, I suggest you go back and read Barbara’s post. How do you think they knew? And if you’re talking union, they don’t hide it. They want you to know you’re being spied on.

Before the onslaught by the company, says McLaughlin, she talked to more than 70 workers at the Paris store who were prepared to sign cards calling for a vote on union representation, but that number quickly dwindled. Those who’d signed cards felt they were being watched. “All of a sudden the cameras start going up,” says Chris Bills, who works in the receiving area. “Now there’s three in receiving. This one manager took up smoking so he could sit with us on our breaks.” Other hourly employees learned for the first time that they were actually counted as managers. “They said we were considered management, so we shouldn’t get involved with the union stuff,” says Dianne Smallwood, a former customer service manager who worked at the store seven years. Employees opposed to the union were given “pro-associate” buttons to wear, while managers amended the dress code to exclude T-shirts with any kind of writing on them, apparently to prevent workers from wearing union shirts.

(emphasis added)

The pressure tactics, the spying, the meetings where employees are forced to watch anti-union videos, the hassling by managers, the firings – all of these tactics are borderline illegal when they aren’t totally over the line, and together they have made unionizing Wal-Mart an exercise in futility. The only time a WM has been successfully organized – in Canada – Wal-Mart’s upper management closed the store, a lesson not lost on McLaughlin.

With the company so determined to ward off unions, the prospects of employees in towns like Paris, Texas, winning significant improvements in wages and working conditions seem awfully slim. “It’s a long process,” Jennifer McLaughlin concedes. “I wish it could be done in the next year, but people come and go, and for every one union card you get signed, two other ones who signed cards have gotten fired or left. It’s real frustrating, and a lot of times I don’t want to do it no more. But I’m not going to give up until I end up leaving the store.”

Or the store leaves her.

It may seem hopeless but Wal-Mart can be beat, and it’s starting to happen. First, a little horn-tooting.

Almost three years ago, I wrote a post on how WM paid so little in wages that many of its employees were on welfare so they could eat (“Taxpayers Paying for Wal-Mart’s Low Wages“). In a comment to that post, Fact-esque‘s eRobin argued for a boycott. I didn’t think a boycott by itself would work and in response, I offered what I thought might: a 3-pronged attack, one arm of which involved an alliance with community interests (“A Plan To Bring Wal-Mart To Heel“).

Prong One: A boycott that included (and might even be backed by) local businesses a) suffering because of Wal-Mart’s bargain-basement pricing structure and their tactic of taking losses to sell under cost until such time as they’ve wiped out the local competition, and b) struggling with their own labor force as they try to cut salaries in order to compete. Had the union in CA during their negotiations promised to mount an all-out effort to unionize WM or go under trying, the supermarket chains’ managements might very well have been more willing to bargain along sensible lines.

Cross-union organizing is a fundamental tactic and still crucial to success, but with WM, so is involving the community, especially community businesses. Viz:

The new Wal-Mart in Landover Hills doesn’t sell alcohol or guns. It does have skylights to cut down on energy use. It does not operate 24 hours.

Such concessions were unheard of at Wal-Mart’s cookie-cutter stores several years ago. But they are just a few of the compromises the world’s largest retailer reached with Prince George’s County residents and community leaders concerned about the store’s impact on the neighborhood.

It’s a new way of doing business for the company, whose hopes for domestic growth lie in conquering urban areas such as Landover Hills, where it has faced strong opposition from labor unions and small businesses. The store symbolizes how far Wal-Mart was willing to go to gain a foothold….

I knew this was coming, and I knew it would work. The only question was: would the community be willing to co-ordinate its opposition with unions? That question is still to be answered, but the Good News is that at least unions themselves are beginning to realize that they can’t beat Wal-Mart without it.

In the end, the success of the organizing drives may depend on labor’s ability to mobilize more than just store employees. “We’ll never bring Wal-Mart to the table store by store,” says Bernie Hesse, an organizer for UFCW Local 789 in Minneapolis. “I can get all the cards signed I want, and they’ll still crush us. They’ll close the frigging store, I’m convinced. We’ve got to do it in conjunction with the community.” That means going to small businesses and religious leaders and local officials, he says, and convincing them that it’s in their interest to stand up to Wal-Mart. “As a community we’ve got to say, ‘All right, if you want to come here and do business, here’s what you’ve got to do — you’ve got to pay a living wage, you’ve got to provide affordable health insurance.'”

That won’t be easy, as Hesse acknowledges, and I never said it would be. But it’s the only strategy that can work, particularly when you’ve got a pro-corporate Labor Dept that thinks its job is to help employers stave off unions. Why is it important? Hesse puts it as well as anyone.

Putting together such a broad initiative can be “like pulling teeth,” Hesse says, but the stakes are high. If employees succeed in improving wages and working conditions at the country’s largest employer, they could effectively set a new benchmark for service-sector jobs throughout the economy. Some 27 million Americans currently make $8.70 an hour or less — and by the end of the decade, Hesse notes, nearly 2 million people worldwide will work at Wal-Mart.

“These are the jobs our kids are going to have,” he says.

These are the jobs our kids do have. They may be the jobs our kids’ kids will have to rely on. If Wal-Mart keeps getting away with starving their workers, every other corporation in America will try to do the same. If they’re not stopped, in another 20 or 30 years – maybe sooner – we could all be on welfare.

I said it then, and I’ll say it again: This is worth a major national drive by unions, with major resources committed to its success. As Hesse says, absent those it just can’t be done.

I’m still waiting for the unions to step up to the plate.



Boston Globe: “Nurses settle with Quincy Medical

Registered nurses represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association voted to ratify a two-year contract with management at Quincy Medical Center, the union said today.

The new contract provides wage increases of 12 to 16 percent while calling for additional nursing positions to improve the quality of patient care, the union said.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that will provide a competitive pay scale with other area hospitals, while also recognizing the need to add nursing staff to ensure our patients get the care they expect and deserve,” Paula Ryan, a staff nurse at the hospital and the chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit, said in a statement.

Chronic under-staffing at for-profit hospitals is a real problem, not just for the nurses but for patients who don’t receive proper care because there aren’t enough people to supply it. N=1 explains:

Universal Health: “Watch Out For Nurse/Patient Ratios

Since the vast majority of nurses work as employees, instead of as independent practitioners, they are beholden to employers’ work rules, working conditions and policies and procedures, even when those conflict and interfere with professional nursing practice. Many times, the work assignments handed to nurses include too many patients, too many patients requiring high intensity (how much nursing care) of nursing care, and too many patients with high acuity (instability) needs. The nurse to patient ratios often become obscenely high, with some states not addressing the maximum number of patients a nurse can legally take care of.

The use of unlicensed staff, of nurse “extenders” and of untrained or cross-trained staff were introduced by employers as low cost, “cheap” ways to deliver patient care under the supervision of nurses.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Nurses not only provide direct care to their own patients, but they are also held accountable for the overall patient care of many more who are being attended to by unlicensed staff in various technician and assistant roles. Nurses have no control over the training of these attendants, nor do they have the ability to determine how best to care for patients on their units. In most hospitals and inpatient care institutions, this continues to be the case.

Read the rest. It will open your eyes.

Firedoglake, Tula Connell: “Billions Spent Attacking Unions Could Be Better Spent on Decent Wages

Not the first time this point has been made (I’ve made it several times) but always worth hearing again.

[T]he average back pay awarded by the NLRB to workers — usually after several years have gone by — is $3,800.

Former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski spent a lot more than that on a poodle umbrella stand for his corporate penthouse. In recent years, corporations have paid billions of dollars to stop workers from forming unions and getting better pay, affordable health care and secure pension—in many cases, spending more to stop unionization than they would if they actually just ensured their employees received family-supportive wages.

And companies that are unionized remain highly competitive: Costco spends 40 percent more on its unionized workforce than Wal-Mart does on its nonunion workforce, yet Costco generates nearly twice as much profit per employee than Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club. (Economic Policy Institute President Lawrence Mishel pointed out that comparison in today’s testimony.) So, if it’s not really about money, the other option is obvious: Power.

Bingo. That’s the name of the game, and not enough people realize it. It has never been about money, not really, not from the very beginning of the labor movement. It has been about corporations protecting their privileges and their power over workers. They hate unions – hate them – because they threaten that power.

Globe, Robert Kuttner: “Comeback attempt for the labor movement

Kuttner lays out the situation in no uncertain terms.

In truth, academic studies going back to the work of Richard Freeman and James Medoff document the principal reason unions have declined, from more than 30 percent after World War II to fewer than 8 percent of private sector workers today. It is mainly the result of business making clear that workers who support union drives risk losing their jobs.

Wal-Mart and other anti union companies take a more direct approach. In the rare case when local employees manage to organize a union, Wal-Mart simply closes the store. Fully 49 percent of employers threaten to move or close the worksite during the course of a union organizing campaign, according to a study by Chirag Mehta and Nik Theodore of the University of Illinois.

Punishing workers who opt for unions is illegal under the 1935 Wagner Act. But the federal government has stopped meaningfully enforcing the Wagner Act’s guarantee that employees may form unions free from harassment or retaliation. Generally, fired workers who do win reinstatement orders have to wait for years, and punishments against offending companies are minor slaps on the wrist.

Now the labor movement and its allies in Congress are making an all-out push to put some teeth back in the Wagner Act, with legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act. The main provision would allow a union to be certified once a majority of workers at the factory or office or store signed union cards. The bill also increases penalties for harassing pro-union workers, and makes it harder for employers to stall union recognition or contract negotiations.

(emphasis added)

We’re still waiting for this to change anything. There’s no sign yet that employers would obey this law, and I think we can guess that, for one, Wal-Mart won’t. We can probably also safely assume that the Bush Labor Dept won’t punish anybody who doesn’t. If they follow their past history, in fact, the LD will likely start printing booklets and holding seminars to explain to corporations how they can get around it.

We need a Labor Dept that protects the rights of laborers. Is that too much to ask?

WaPo, Stephen Barr: “GAO Analysts to Seek Union Representation

Comptroller General David Walker, a Clinton appointee, worked at Arthur Anderson, the accounting firm infamous for sheparding Ken Lay’s Enron stock frauds, before coming into govt. Apparently he brought some of the same skills with him that AA was so famous for.

A group of analysts at the Government Accountability Office — often dubbed the congressional watchdog agency because it ferrets out waste, fraud and mismanagement in the executive branch — plan to petition today for a union election.The call for a union vote, to a large degree, reflects unhappiness over changes in recent years to pay and personnel rules at the GAO that some analysts believe have eroded teamwork and increased workplace tension over assignments, responsibilities and promotions.

“We need a meaningful way to work with management,” Judy Knepper, a senior analyst and project manager who has been at the GAO for 21 years, said yesterday.

Walker, who was given a good deal of power to change working conditions when Bush came to office, responded by hiring a Republican consulting firm to do a study. Their conclusion, not surprisingly, was that GAO workers were overpaid.

The GAO, in the end, decided to not give pay raises to about 300 analysts and specialists in January 2006. The agency also split a “pay band,” or salary range, in two and restructured salary caps for many employees. Dozens of GAO employees complained that the new pay system had not been implemented fairly.

Although Walker posted information on the agency’s internal Web site and met with the agency’s Employee Advisory Council about the changes, some employees decided it was time to bring in a union to formally bargain on their behalf with GAO management.

I would think so. Stay tuned.

Editor & Publisher: “Paper Pulls Union Ads That Targeted Supermarket

An Arizona newspaper, the Yuma Daily Sun, censored ads placed by a local union, and then wouldn’t explain why.

The labor union UFCW Local 99, which represents union members of Food City grocery stores, arranged to take out a full-page black and white ad in The Yuma Daily Sun. The ads were scheduled to run three days, March 30, 31, and April 1 corresponding with the city’s celebration of the late labor leader Cesar Chavez.

The ad featured three Food City workers who wanted their grievances about the store to be heard. “They are really upset at the way they have been treated,” said Katy Giglio, a spokeswoman for UFCW Local 99. The union’s Web site on the matter, notes that workers are concerned about their wages.


The ad ran in the Daily Sun‘s March 31 edition. But late Friday evening, Giglio said the union received a call from the Daily Sun‘s advertising director who informed the union the ad had been pulled. When Giglio asked why, she was told the publisher had a right to decline ads.

Daily Sun Publisher Julie Moreno explained to E&P today that “concerns were raised” about the ad later in the day of March 31. She declined to comment on what those concerns were. She said the paper made a conservative decision and decided to pull the ads that were supposed to run in the Saturday and Sunday editions until further considerations were studied.

The obvious reason for declining to name their “concerns” or who raised them is that it was Food City threatening to pull their ads if the union ads ran. The paper then did what papers do these days: they caved.

Don’t you love that “further considerations” had to be “studied” bullshit? That’s a good one. It allowed them to stall long enough so that when they finally agreed to run the union ads, the union declined because “the events are already over with.”

At least they refunded the union’s money.

Cowards? Hacks? Corporate stooges? Take your pick. The MSM is usually all three.

Globe: “AFL-CIO targets Verizon chief’s pay

Unions are beginning to realize that investing their members’ dues – which they’ve been doing for decades – gives them some say in the way the companies they’ve invested in are run, and they’re starting to use that power.

The AFL-CIO, a major shareholder in public companies, is targeting Verizon Communications Inc. this year for a shakeup of its board as it accuses the company’s chief executive of collecting exorbitant pay for poor performance.

The labor federation scored successes last year with agitation at Home Depot Inc. and Pfizer Inc., whose CEOs departed in a storm of investor anger over executive pay. AFL-CIO officials today said they have chosen Verizon chief executive Ivan Seidenberg as their “poster boy” for 2007.

“I defy anybody to say this guy has earned the money,” said Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer.

Seidenberg received $109 million over the past five years — at the same time, Trumka said, that Verizon shareholders got a negative half-percent return on their investments.


“Verizon is among the most transparent companies regarding senior executive compensation, and in fact our CEO works without a severance agreement,” company spokesman Peter Thonis said. “Furthermore, approximately 89 percent of our CEO’s compensation is performance based and therefore at risk.”

Seidenberg received compensation valued at $20.2 million last year, including $2.1 million in salary, $13.1 million worth of stock awards, and perks worth $734,400.

Not bad for somebody whose performance, shall we say, stunk?

WaPo: “Autoworkers Ready for a Fight

United Auto Workers President Ronald A. Gettelfinger warned U.S. automakers Tuesday not to push too hard in contract talks this year or risk confronting a union prepared for a fight.

Gettelfinger spoke at the UAW’s collective-bargaining convention, where he presides over an angry and uneasy membership. Restructuring by Detroit automakers has meant the loss of 70,000 jobs, waves of retirements and the closing of dozens of assembly plants and facilities. The UAW convention is a prelude to contract negotiations with the automakers scheduled to begin in July.

“Collective bargaining is not collective begging,” Gettelfinger said. “It would be a grave mistake to equate our actions to capitulations.”

Gettelfinger’s rhetoric suggested that this year’s bargaining could be rancorous. Automakers have called the coming talks “watershed negotiations” that will determine their financial future.

Good for him. It’s about fucking time.

WaPo, Stephen Barr: “At Energy, Benefits Are a Growing Liability

The Cheney Energy Dept is led by Energy Sec Sam Bodman, a Pub contributor and the man who has championed the opening of the Alaskan Refuge to oil drilling and is currently under investigation for politicizing the Commerce Dept where he was Sec before moving to Energy. He fought against sharing revenues from offshore drilling in the Gulf with Louisiana even though the rigs are in state waters, and he “contributed more than $38,000 to Republican candidates and party committees since 1999, including $3,000 to President Bush and $35,000 to the Republican National Committee.” So this is not exactly a surprise.

In a notice that could have been written by a struggling corporation, the Energy Department yesterday lamented soaring pension and health-care costs and asked for recommendations on how to meet its financial challenge.

Costs and liabilities for pension and health-care benefits for contract employees are projected to grow at a rate “that significantly exceeds likely increases in the department’s budget,” the Energy Department reported in a Federal Register notice.

The department’s past, current and future debt for the benefits is estimated to be $15.8 billion, according to Energy’s Web site.

The “growing challenge” is how to balance the costs of department programs, such as nuclear weapons research and scientific discovery, against the needs of contractors who offer benefits designed to attract highly qualified workers, the notice said.

Right. The Bush Admin is expected to cut Energy’s funding – again – so Bodman’s answer is, naturally, to cut or kill the benefits, including their pensions, of Energy’s employees. This at a time when $$$Billions$$$ are being thrown away in corporate welfare and govt rip-offs by war profiteers.

You know, one of these days the Bushies are going to come up with a way to cut their swollen budget that doesn’t involving abandoning sick kids, the poor, or workers, and I’m going to keel over from the shock.


Globe: “Combatting violence with jobs for youths

DURING THE past few weeks, attention has been focused on the rise in fatal shootings and gang-related activities in Boston. Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino recently announced joint efforts to combat gang violence, including an expansion in youth summer jobs. Renewed public policy attention to youth labor market problems in Boston and the state is clearly warranted . While the overall number of jobs has increased over the past few years, the labor market for teenagers in both the nation and state has remained extraordinarily weak.

Employment rates for the nation’s and state’s teens (age 16-19) in 2005 and 2006 were the lowest in the past 50 years. Male high school students and dropouts across the state have found it particularly difficult to find work over the past six years, often increasing their involvement in gang and criminal activities.

To make matters worse, job opportunities for high school youths are distributed unevenly across key demographic and socioeconomic groups. In 2005, white high school youths were twice as likely to work as black youths and 40 percent more likely than Hispanic youths. The need for a concerted set of public policy responses both short-term and long-term is needed.

This isn’t just Boston, obviously. In part, the lack of jobs for teens is the result of their being taken by adults because better-paying jobs are gone – automated out of existence or moved offshore to low-wage countries. We’ve known since the 50’s that low-income adolescents who need to work and can’t find jobs will often turn to the streets to get what they can however they can, and that street gangs are there with open arms waiting for them.

But that doesn’t seem to cause us any distress until poverty escalates to violence. Then we pay attention and hope it isn’t too late.

I’m not going to go into a long rap about this here (though I could) but teenagers get a raw deal in this society. They’re almost totally ignored. If you look at the money appropriated for adolescent services, it’s one-tenth what goes to services for kids under 12 and a hundredth of what goes to kids under 6. In a nutshell, we’re reaping the whirlwind of our indifference and short-changing our kids’ futures because they’re not “cute” any more. It’s a social disgrace and it’s way past time we grew up and acknowledged it.

Globe: “Report: women don’t make it in Mass.

Again, this isn’t just local. Women are another group who, like teens, get it in the neck when the goodies get passed around.

[I]f the list compiled by the National Association for Female Executives is any guide, an observer might conclude that the glass ceiling is still a feature in local corporate board rooms.

The association, a women’s professional and business group based in New York, listed 35 big companies and nonprofits that it deemed as female-friendly, and nary a one calls Massachusetts home.


At least two buyers of local businesses rated mentions on the association’s list: Procter & Gamble Co. of Ohio, which bought Gillette Co., and The New York Times Co., which bought The Boston Globe.

Besides Aetna, companies in the top 10 included Allstate Insurance Co. in Illinois, Colgate-Palmolive Co. in New York, and Gannett Co. in Virginia, the association said.

There are several excuses offered for Mass’ low placement on the list, one of which is that a corporation has to apply to be on it and for some reason Mass companies didn’t bother. But the important part is that no matter where you go or how you count, female executives are a tiny minority, especially considering how many female employees grace most companies. Outside the executive level, female workers make up nearly half of all employees, more in some companies.

Racism isn’t dead in corporate America and neither is sexism.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “Job losses another slap at veterans

This may surprise you, given the emphasis most people put on “supporting our troops”, but our third group suffering discrimination is vets, especially Iraq vets. Like the Walter Reed mess, it would seem our “support” is all lip service.

Recently we learned that many of our disabled Iraq war veterans are being shafted by the military and medical bureaucracy. Now we find out that some reservists and members of the National Guard are returning home to find their jobs gone.

Although there is a 1994 law — the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act — requiring reservists to be fairly and quickly rehired after deployment, it is often not enforced. A military office called Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, whose local branches returning soldiers are to contact if they can’t get their jobs back, has just two news releases on its Web site for 2007.

One said: “The military is grateful to the civilian employers of National Guardsmen and reservists who support their employees when they’re called to duty, said Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” in a statement in Anchorage, Alaska, a few days ago.


An investigation of the military’s employer-support office last year for Denver magazine, by Maximillian Potter, argued that although it should be a “tremendous resource” for returning U.S. troops, it is “a bureaucratic mess, mired in incompetence, undermined by conflict of interest and accountable to no one.”

A new report in February by the Government Accountability Office found that the Pentagon does not even know the scope of the problems reservists face when they try to go back to work. In 2005, one of seven was thought to return jobless.


An Air Force nurse with 32 years in the military, seven in active duty, and nearly two dozen medals for valor and service was terminated from her civilian health care job of 10 years when she was sent to Iraq for four months last year.

She is not alone. Increasingly, as reservists and Guard members return home after service in Iraq, they are finding their jobs were eliminated or their pay checks were smaller or promised promotions disappeared.

They are also finding that because their deployment was extended way past its original length, sometimes by years, their jobs might still be there but their previous employers have hired someone else to fill them.

One can understand the dilemma faced by employers. They can’t always hire long-term temps, and they can’t dump the workload of the absent soldier forever on the employees left behind. At the same time (and I expect many employers recognize this) it isn’t fair to ask a reservist to go fight for their country, promise to keep their job waiting for them, and then have to give it to someone else because they’re gone so long. They come home from combat to – nothing.

This is just as unconscionable as Walter Reed but no one is talking about it. This article is from the beginning of March, more than two months ago, yet even though I usually go through 3-5 newspapers a day and several zines a week, as well as trolling numerous blogs, I haven’t so much as seen a reference to it since I bookmarked it. It’s so far under the radar that it might as well be happening on Atlantis.

The Bush Admin and the MSM have one more offense to answer for. So do we if more blogs don’t get on top of it.


5 Responses

  1. TrenchNews, Verse 8

  2. The only question was: would the community be willing to co-ordinate its opposition with unions?

    That’s a very big question. Skylights and a gun-free store are nice but they aren’t health insurance and a living wage. Chicago tried to do the right thing by passing a living wage ordinance and Lowe’s and Target backed out of a big deal. I don’t know what happened to that story.

    I still say that WalMart and the rest of the big boxers will only respond to the unique pressure that comes from falling sales figures. That’s why they push the press on their marketing of energy efficient lightbulbs and the “organic” food they sell. That’s why they do anything. The problem with the boycott idea is that we can’t get people to sign on to it.

  3. Did my comment disappear?? I’m going to boycott your site, sir!

  4. I had to turn my disappeared comments (more than one!) into a post b/c after midnight I get a little punchy. So tired …

  5. I still say that WalMart and the rest of the big boxers will only respond to the unique pressure that comes from falling sales figures.

    I absolutely agree. If you remember my little plan, hitting them in the pocketbook is key. The rest is support, stability, and removal of options – boxing in the boxers, so to speak. You can’t give them room to wriggle out and you want to make sure that once they agree to do something, they do it, even after the light’s not on them any more. You know as well as I do they can’t be trusted to keep their word.

    But I’m not talking about help from the big boxers. What you say about Lowe’s and Target doesn’t surprise me. The business help that’s required is from the people who will be hurt by Wal-Mart, and one big box rarely hurts another – they each tend to carve out their own territory. Maybe when they start to have to poach from each other but probably not until then.

    Dammit, madam!~You made me think again. There’s a lot more to say and now I suppose I’m going to have to write another post….

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