George Zornick

Op-Ed

For years, the American labor movement has been on the defensive as it has become harder and harder for workers to join or maintain a union. But some House Democrats are planning a dramatic counter-offensive: a bill that would make union organizing a civil right.

Representatives Keith Ellison and John Lewis plan to introduce a bill Wednesday that would make labor organizing a basic freedom no different than freedom from racial discrimination.

Representatives Keith Ellison and John Lewis plan to introduce a bill Wednesday that would make labor organizing a basic freedom no different than freedom from racial discrimination. That sounds like a nice talking point — but this isn’t just another messaging bill.

The Ellison-Lewis legislation would amend the National Labor Relations Act to include protections found under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to include labor organizing as a fundamental right. That would give workers a broader range of legal options if they feel discriminated against for trying to form a union.

Currently, their only redress is through a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board — an important process, but one that workers and labor analysts frequently criticize as both too slow and often too lenient on offending employers.

If the NLRA were amended, however, after 180 days a worker could take his or her labor complaint from the NLRB to a federal court. This is how the law works now for civil rights complaints, which gives workers the option, after 180 days, to step outside the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission process.

Then, workers would have sole discretion on whether to push a complaint, as opposed to relying on a decision by the NLRB on whether to forge ahead. Workers could also move the process along much faster than the NLRB handles complaints, which can often take years.

Is Labor a Lost Cause?

Ellison told The Nation that the legislation would also help workers recover more money — the NLRB will award back pay to a grieved worker minus whatever they earned while awaiting a decision, which can often amount to basically nothing. “[The NLRB] remedy, though useful and very important, and nothing in our legislation changes that, that remedy is considered slow and somewhat inadequate. For some of these union-busting law firms, [they] will say ‘so do it and we’ll just pay.’”

Ellison said he believes the labor movement needs to get back on the offensive. “With the Supreme Court in here, and what they just did in Harris v. Quinn and all the things they wrote about Abood, it’s insane to hope for the best,” he said, referring to the recent decision involving non-union public workers and their fee arrangements with unions. “I mean this Supreme Court is openly hostile to racial justice and worker justice simultaneously. So we better be moving out on both fronts.”

Ellison ...

Fast Food Workers Will Now Use Civil Disobedience in Their Fight For Higher Wages
Bryce Covert
News Report

At a convention of more than 1,300 fast food workers in Illinois this weekend, attendees voted to start including acts of civil disobedience, such as sit-down strikes and restaurant occupations, in their campaign for higher wages and the ability to form a union. Workers have gone on one-day strikes multiple times since late 2012 in hundreds of cities across the country, demanding at least $15 an hour and the ability to organize. The largest and most recent hit 150 cities in May. Workers have also taken protests to companies themselves, staging a protest outside McDonald’s corporate headquarters in May where more than 100 were arrested. One of the organizers of the convention told the Associated Press that workers will be asked to do “whatever it takes.” One worker, Cherri Delisline, a single mother who has worked at McDonald’s for 10 years and makes $7.35 an hour, also told the AP that “we need to get more workers involved and shut these businesses down until they listen to us,” including occupying the restaurants. The actions come at a time when job growth has been stronger in low-wage jobs like fast food but the pay is barely enough to live on. The average fast food employee who works full time, year round makes less than $19,000 before taxes. While executives in the industry claim that these jobs serve as entryways for teenagers to get into the job market, the largest share are held by people between the ages of 25 and 54, and more than a quarter have a child to support. The chances of moving up the ladder and making a career in fast food are much slimmer than in other industries. Executives, on the other hand, are doing well. Fast food CEOs earn about 1,200 times what they pay their workers. The ratio wasn’t always so high, but the industry’s executive pay increased by more than 300 percent since 2000 while pay for workers has only gone up by 0.3 percent. Beyond staging protests and strikes, fast food workers have taken legal action. Nine out of ten fast food workers report experiencing wage theft, being made to work off the clock or purchase uniforms with their wages, and workers filed seven class-action lawsuits against McDonalds in March alleging these kinds of actions.

Chip Ward
Op-Ed

The great novelist Wallace Stegner sorted the conflicting impulses in his beloved American West into two camps. There were the “boomers” who saw the frontier as an opportunity to get rich quick and move on: the conquistadors, the gold miners, the buffalo hunters, the land scalpers, and the dam-building good ol’ boys. They are still with us, trying to drill and frack their way to Easy Street across our public lands. Then there were those Stegner called the “nesters” or “stickers” who came to stay and struggled to understand the land and its needs. Their quest was to become native.

That division between boomers and nesters is, of course, too simple.  All of us have the urge to consume and move on, as well as the urge to nest, so our choices are rarely clear or final. Today, that old struggle in the American West is intensifying as heat-parched, beetle-gnawed forests ignite in annual epic firestorms, reservoirs dry up, and Rocky Mountain snow is ever more stainedwith blowing desert dust. 

The modern version of nesters are the conservationists who try to partner with the ecosystems where they live. Wounded landscapes, for example, can often be restored by unleashing nature’s own self-healing powers. The new nesters understand that you cannot steer and control an ecosystem but you might be able to dance with one.  Sage Sorensen dances with beavers.

Dances with Beavers

The dance floor is my Utah backyard, which, like most backyards out here, is a watershed.  At its top is the Aquarius Plateau, the horizon I see from my deck, a gracefully rolling forest of pines and aspens that stretches for 50 miles to the south, 20 miles wide at its midpoint, and reaches 11,300 feet at its highest ridge.

The forest on top of the plateau is unique, as trees rarely grow almost two miles above sea level.  That high forest is heated by the deserts that fall away around the plateau’s shoulders, culminating in the amber, bone, and honey-toned canyons of Capitol Reef National Park on its eastern flank and on the west by Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

During a long career with the Bureau of Land Management, Sage Sorenson saw firsthand how beavers created rich green habitat out of overgrazed and burned-over land.  Now retired, he calls himself a “beaver believer” and devotes his days to monitoring and protecting scattered “remnant” beaver colonies in our region. Quietly but persistently, he advocates for their reintroduction onto stressed landscapes that need their services. 

Beavers are the original geo-engineers.  It’s no exaggeration to credit them for their major role in building the North American landscape.  In pre-colonial ...

10 Biggest Threats to Human Existence
Larry Schwartz
News Analysis

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is at the top of the cultural zeitgeist these days, one of the most popular television series on the air. In the show, a virus has ravaged the Earth, killing most of humanity, with the dead corpses rising to terrorize the few remaining living souls. While enormously entertaining, it is not a likely scenario for the end of the human race. Dick Cheney notwithstanding, zombies aren’t real. The end of humanity, however, could be. While it is difficult to envision a world without “us,” there are multiple scenarios staring at us, right here, right now, not far-fetched, that could wipe out all or most of humanity, leaving a wasteland for Mother Nature to reclaim. Here are some of the possible ways the reign of man- and womankind might end, no zombies needed. 1. Global Climate Change Climate change is the Big Kahuna of all scenarios in which our presence on Earth is ended. Despite what the climate change deniers would have you believe, climate change is real. It is being caused by human beings, with a little help from lots of farting cows emitting methane, plus that giant well of methane lurking under the Arctic ice. As we burn carbon and increase our meat-eating ways, more and more greenhouse gases are building up in the atmosphere. It is pretty easy to see the end game of this scenario. Grab a telescope and look at Venus, a planet with a thick, heat-trapping atmosphere and a surface temperature high enough to, well, melt lead. A few decades ago, climate scientist James Hanson studied Venus, and saw some parallels with what was happening on Earth. What he saw alarmed him, and he testified in Congress in 1988, warning our government that unless we changed our carbon-burning ways, we were on a course for disaster. Hanson got through to a single senator: Al Gore. Meanwhile, the carbon keeps burning, the CO2 keeps rising, resulting in a slowly rising average Earth temperature despite the occasional freezing cold winter. On average, Earth’s temperature has been rising steadily since the Industrial Revolution unleashed our carbon-burning frenzy, resulting in a slow-moving train wreck. The hottest years in recorded history have occurred in the last decade. Author and environmental activist Bill McKibben outlines the situation: “The Arctic ice cap is melting [releasing more greenhouse gases], the great glacier above Greenland is thinning, both with disconcerting and unexpected speed. The oceans are distinctly more acid and their level is rising…The greatest storms on our planet, hurricanes and cyclones, have become more powerful… The great rain forest of the Amazon is drying on its margins… The great boreal forest of North America is dying in a matter of years… [This] new planet looks more or less like our own but clearly isn’t.” Many environmentalists think we have already passed the point of no return. Once we pass a certain threshold, Earth ...

Emily Atkin
Interview

Scientists at Penn State University have discovered two new coral reefs near the site of BP’s historic 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the impacts to those reefs from the spill have been greater than expected, according to researchreleased Monday.

The two additional reefs found by the PSU team were both farther away and deeper than the one coral reef that had previously been found to have been impacted by the spill. That indicates not only that marine ecosystems may be more greatly affected, but that some of the 210 million gallons of oil that BP spilled into the Gulf is making its mark in the deep sea.

“The footprint of the impact of the spill on coral communities is both deeper and wider than previous data indicated,” PSU biology professor Charles Fisher, who led the study, said.

ThinkProgress spoke with Fisher to find out more about what the study says, what it means, and whether or not the findings spell trouble for the future of the Gulf.

TP: Your research noted that not all coral reefs surrounding the Macondo well were impacted by the spill. Can you explain, in your own words, what you found with regard to the corals that were actually impacted?

CF: The corals we found that were impacted were all within about 22 km of the spill site, and we could tell they were impacted by the appearance. Partially dead colonies were covered with growths of things that don’t normally grow on coral.

We know this impact was linked to the Macondo well, and that has to do with another study that we did in 2010. We found one [coral] site in 2010, and when we found it, the corals still had brown goo on it. The oil on those matched the chemical fingerprint of the oil from BP’s spill. We returned to that site and have followed the progress. So we know what a coral looks like that was impacted in 2010 looks like in 2011, and so on.

You don’t see this anywhere else, so all the rest of the corals that we found had the exact same characteristics. Things happened in a very predictable way.

How does your research compare to what we already knew about the BP spill’s impact on coral in the Gulf?

Before this study, we had only found one impacted site that was 14 km southwest of the spill. Now we’ve found two more, one of which is 22 km to the east. So this defines a larger circle of impact.

The ocean is under a lot of pressure, and the shallows have already felt it very seriously …And the deep sea is starting to feel it as well.

There was an oil plume from the spill detected at the time that modelers said predominantly moved away to the southwest at depths of like 1000 to 1400 meters. To find another impact to the east, and much deeper than that suggested means one of two things. Either the plume went further afield in different directions than some models suggested and deeper, or that there was a second mechanism that might have impacted the corals.

That second mechanism could be from sinking oil that was on a slick on the surface that either naturally emulsified and started to sink, or it could be that there was dispersant applied, and the dispersant started to sink. That’s nicknamed “toxic marine snow,” and that is a possibility. Sinking marine snow with these toxins in it could have reached the deep sea and impacted the corals.

How big were these reefs? How ecologically important are they?

Now, those are two different questions.

As for size, they’re mostly kind of tennis-court size. One of the two new communities we found has two areas, and each one is the size of a tennis court, and they’re a couple football fields apart.

As for whether ...

VOICES FOR CHANGE

Carl Gibson
"

orget about the guy at the grocery store using food stamps to buy lobster. Walmart, the world’s largest retail company, is even more dependent on government welfare so it can make jaw-droppingly ...

" ::
Win: EPA Denies Texas’ Farmers Request to Use Dangerous Herbicide on Fields
Christina Sarich
"

Natural Society reported just weeks ago that Texas farmers wanted to pour an unlicensed herbicide all over 3 million acres of genetically modified cotton in 

" ::
Win! U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to Ban Use of Bee, Bird and Butterfly-Killing Neonicotinoids
Christina Sarich
"

Due in part to a petition submitted by the Center for Food Safety (CFS), one government agency has come to its senses, agreeing to eliminate bee and butterfly-toxic neonicotinoids in the Pacific Region of the NW Wildlife Refuges. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) very quietly announced that it will phase out neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics) in wildlife refuges in the Pacific Region, including Hawaii and other Pacific Islands, Idaho, Oregon, and ...

" ::
The Increasing Irrelevance of Corporate Nationality
Robert Reich
"

“You shouldn’t get to call yourself an American company only when you want a handout from the American taxpayers,” President Obama said Thursday. He was referring to American corporations now busily acquiring foreign companies in order to become non-American, thereby reducing their U.S. tax bill. But the President might as well have been talking about all large American multinationals. 

" ::
Astoundingly Legal Corporate Tax Thievery
Jim Hightower
"

Did you scramble to get your taxes done this year at the last minute? Yeah, me too. I really didn’t mind paying what I owe — but I hate having to pay the taxes owed by the likes of JPMorgan Chase, ExxonMobil, and Amazon. They’re just a few of the astonishingly profitable corporations adept at minimizing their tax tabs. That shifts more of the cost of everything from the military to national parks onto our shoulders.

" ::
Apple to Build 100-Acre Solar Farm in North Carolina
Christina Sarich
"

The city of Claremont, North Carolina has just signed an agreement with Apple, which will allow a 100-scre solar farm to be built, providing 17.5 megawatts of energy annually at the development cost of $55 million. This will be Apple’s third large solar farm in the United States. Of the ...

" ::
Kansas Experiment Blows Up Laboratory of Democracy
Joe Conason
"

When Louis Brandeis wrote in 1932 that a "single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country," he was suggesting that state innovations might advance reform on the federal level. The progressive ...

" ::
How Capitalism is Cheating Young Americans
Paul Buchheit
"

Our country's wealthy white once-idealistic baby boomer generation has cheated those of you entering the working world. A small percentage of us have taken almost all the new wealth since the recession. Our Silicon Valley CEOs have placated you with overpriced technological toys that are the ...

" ::
Did Israel Go Too Far? The Massacre at the UN School and Refugee Center
Juan Cole
"

Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports for The Nation from Gaza on the Israeli shelling of a U.N. school that killed 16 and wounded 200, even though the school’s coordinates had been given to the Israeli military. Despite Israeli water-muddying, there isn’t any doubt that the Israelis struck the school, nor is there any ...

" ::
Do-Nothing Congress Does Something to Hide Its Debt to Lobbyists
Jim Hightower
"

When I heard our Congress critters are taking an extended vacation for all of August and part of September, I had two incongruous reactions: gratitude and anger.

" ::

NOC BULLHORN

Internet

Protect the Internet...don't Kill it.

Segregation

Politicians and military leaders continue to promote violence...while a simple dance teacher brings communities together.

Environment

NHL leading the way to promote green business practices...Will other sports teams join in?

Monsanto Greed

Stand up to Monsanto and tell the Obama Administration to support mandatory GMO labeling.

Agriculture

El Salvador famers are fighting back against the Monsta.

Fracking

Fracking is nowhere to be seen in Germany’s future.

Food Health

A settlement by West Virginia Supreme Court ordered Monsanto to start paying victims of dioxin exposure.

Fracking

Fracking is nowhere to be seen in Germany's near future.

Tar Sands

The measure is intended to stop ExxonMobil and partner companies from bringing Albertan tar-sands oil east through an aging pipeline network to the city’s waterfront.

Agriculture

Could small, biodiverse farms help the Aloha State transition to growing enough food to feed itself?

Climate Change

This is an invitation to change everything.

Genetically Modified Foods

According to the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, marketing of cereals to children has increased significantly over the years.

Animals

We shall not be troubled by the inherent unknowns in quantifying poaching and exact numbers of elephants killed.

Fracking

Lots of people warned the citizens of Dryden not to do it, pointing out that a local ban on fracking would only invite ruinous lawsuits by armies of industry lawyers.

Monsanto Greed

Residents of the town filed a class action lawsuit against Monsanto in 2004 after ongoing health conditions were linked to the production of Agent Orange.

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