Archive for December, 2022

Why antisemitism is worse now – posted 12/31/2022

December 31, 2022 Leave a comment

Most stories about the increase in antisemitism now focus on events like Donald Trump’s infamous Mar-a-Lago dinner with Kanye West and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes. I certainly would not underestimate Ye’s influence but I would look to other places in explaining why antisemitism is worse now.

The writer Yair Rosenberg is onto something when he writes that antisemitism isn’t just anti-Jewish bigotry. It is a conspiracy theory about how the world works. We live in a time when conspiracy theories are running wild. From QAnon to 5G causing COVID-19, there is no shortage of such theories. They replace genuine critical thinking.

When ruling classes fail to address critical economic needs and leave masses of working people feeling bypassed and grossly dissatisfied with their lot in life, one technique that has been frequently resorted to by rulers is blaming ‘the Other”. Since the presidency of Donald Trump, a part of the MAGA movement has been pointing their finger at Jews as “the Other” to blame. Of course, Jews are not the only group villainized. LGBTQ people, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, immigrants, Asian-Americans and Muslims also get their share of blame.

Still, the sheer amount of blame currently directed at Jews through conspiracy theories on social media is unprecedented. There was a reason far right demonstrators at Charlottesville were chanting “Jews will not replace us”. The Great Replacement theory touted by the far right and white supremacists like Tucker Carlson places Jews centrally in their mythology. Allegedly behind minority groups are the Jewish puppet masters, promoting mass immigration, intermarriage and the extinction of white people.

Far right shooters in their manifestos invariably invoke the Great Replacement. The 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooter who killed 11 people had posted that George Soros, a liberal Jewish billionaire, was secretly controlling a Honduran migrant caravan headed for the U.S.-Mexico border.

This is anything but a new story. Antisemitism is the granddaddy of all conspiracy theories. August Bebel called it “the socialism of fools”. To grasp the depth of antisemitism as a conspiracy theory, a deeper appreciation of history is required. Jews being blamed as “the Other” has a very long history.

By the fourth century, once the church assumed state power, the intensification of the persecution of the Jews picked up steam. Jewish proselytism was outlawed in 329 by the Roman Empire. An early Church Father, St. John Chrysostom, denounced Jews as “inveterate murderers, destroyers” and “lustful, rapacious, greedy perfidious bandits” whose synagogues were “the house of the devil”.

The popular hatred toward Jews in the Christian world has had an over 1,500 year run. No doubt Jews’ alleged role in the death of Jesus played an important role even though Jesus was a Jew and it was the Romans who actually killed Jesus. The Jews were tagged with responsibility for the deicide. A stiff-necked people, Jews largely refused to convert to Christianity.

Jew-hating led to many legal restrictions on the Jews in Christian Europe during the Middle Ages. Rabbi Michael Lerner writes:

“Stories of Jews killing Christian children and using their blood to make matzoh, Jews poisoning wells or Jews engaging in rapacious sexual behavior were all part of of the attempts of the Christian laity to explain to themselves why they were justified in holding these culturally sanctioned and inherited antisemitic angers.”

These stories are like early day QAnon blood libel conspiracy theories. There is a sameness to the mythology even hundreds of years later.

In 1492, the Jews in Spain were given a choice: expulsion or conversion. This followed the Massacre of 1391 which was one of the worst pogroms in the Middle Ages.

European overlords carefully circumscribed what occupations Jews could enter. The Shylock image was a reflection of economic relations where Jews were excluded from many occupations but were allowed into trade and moneylending. That way Jews were often used by rulers to appear as the public face of the oppressor.

Over the last 200 years, antisemitism has, with some interludes of peace, been a constant. Pogroms in Eastern Europe and Russia, the Dreyfuss affair in France and ultimately the Holocaust all testify to that.

How this European history affects antisemitism in America is a complicated question. Just as America’s treatment of Jews presents a mixed bag. America was both savior and gate-closer. America opened its doors to many but it could have done far more to save the millions of Jews who were mercilessly exterminated by the Nazis. Knowledge of the Holocaust existed in America but political will to act was lacking.

In the early 20th century, virulent antisemitism was widespread across America. Prominent elite intellectuals like Madison Grant promoted eugenics and ideas of racial purity and white nationalism. Grant had particular animosity toward Jews. Grant argued Nordic racial and male superiority and he saw Jews as racially inferior. Hitler considered Grant’s book The Passing of the Great Race his “bible’. Other famous Americans like Henry Ford and Father Charles Coughlin further entrenched American antisemitism.

I look at the historic antisemitism as like a nest upon which newer manifestations of the same rot rest. All the antisemitic conspiracy theories are rooted in an anti-intellectual, blame-the-other mentality. The combination of MAGA fascism and social media disinformation has propelled the antisemitism forward in our era. A dark side of social media has been its ability to connect haters and to help their organization.

Because of the well-off economic circumstances of many American Jews, antisemitism has been seen as a less serious problem. A not insignificant percentage of German Jews were economically secure before the Holocaust. The danger of antisemitism must be understood and not minimized. Antisemitic hate crimes have trended higher in several major cities with higher concentrations of Jews in 2021-2022, not to mention a jump in racist and antisemitic social media posts.

Whether it is racism or antisemitism, America has not exactly embraced any Truth and Reconciliation Commission about our history. Too many remain caught in a web of denial. Conspiracy theories that blame Jews for every problem under the sun reek of what the Nazis did. That page of history must get turned.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Roberts court is an ethical embarrassment – posted 12/24/2022

December 24, 2022 4 comments

As a court watcher, I have long thought the U.S. Supreme Court has escaped the type of critical scrutiny it deserves. Most media coverage focuses on wins and losses without going too under the surface. But maybe that has begun to change.

2022 turned out to be the Court’s perfect storm. The Dobbs decision destroying abortion rights played a key role because of its massive unpopularity but other darker dimensions were also at play.

The Supreme Court has no written code of ethics. This glaring weakness has been repeatedly on display. The spectacle of Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni is Exhibit A. Justice Thomas has refused to recuse himself from January 6-related cases.

At first he said he had no knowledge of his wife’s insurrectionary activities. Thomas ruled on quite a few January 6 cases. He was the sole dissenter in an unsigned opinion in January that required the Trump administration to release documents related to the attack on the Capitol to a congressional committee. He also dissented in Texas and Pennsylvania challenges to election results.

More recently, he participated in Moore v Harper, the North Carolina case that raises the independent state legislative theory argued by John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark and other Trump lawyers. However preposterous the idea that Thomas was unaware of his wife’s activities, that assertion is no longer operative. All of America knew about her texts to Mark Meadows as well as her calling state legislative officials to try and change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Yet, Thomas refuses to recuse in Moore v Harper even though the appearance of impropriety could not be more blatant and in your face. Unlike the Dobbs leak, Chief Justice Roberts conducted no investigation into the factual accuracy of whether Justice Thomas had knowledge of his wife’s political activities. Roberts certainly could have investigated but he gave Thomas a pass. Hofstra Law School Professor James Sample commented:

“Never in a zillion years did I imagine a scenario where a Supreme Court justice would be ruling in a situation that could shield his or her spouse from criminal liability. And the particular crime here isn’t your minor offense – not shoplifting or jaywalking. It’s potentially a conspiracy to overturn an election for the first time in American history.”

Supposedly Supreme Court justices are self-policing. They each decide for themselves the propriety of their own ethics violations. Written codes of conduct only govern judges in the lower federal district courts and the federal appeals courts.

The Thomas debacle was complemented by the story of the former anti-abortion leader, Rev. Rob Schenck, who claimed he was told the outcome of the 2014 Hobby Lobby case weeks before it was announced publicly. The New York Times reported this story. Rev. Schenck broke with the religious right in 2018.

Rev. Schenck founded the Christian evangelical organization Faith and Action (later Faith and Liberty) in 1995. They set up their headquarters across the street from the Supreme Court. Rev. Schenck ran a covert operation called Operation Higher Court. He recruited right wing Christian millionaires to try and influence the Court. Over the years, he arranged for about 20 couples to fly to Washington DC to wine and dine justices.

The millionaires used generous gifts to the Supreme Court Historical Society, private dinners and vacations as their vehicles for access to the justices. Schenck described much success in connecting with Justices Thomas, Alito and the now-deceased Scalia. The three justices were in close touch with Donald and Gayle Wright, real estate millionaires who made big contributions to the Supreme Court Historical Society.

Steve Green, the President of Hobby Lobby, attended the Court’s holiday party in 2011. He was later a lead plaintiff in the Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores case. Schenck told the Times he received advance word of the result on June 4, 2014 and his personal emails support that. The opinion was released on June 30 with Justice Alito’s sympathy for the Green family’s religious convictions shining through. Alito has since denied providing any advance notice of the Hobby Lobby decision.

Rev. Schenck’’s agents gained special seats at oral arguments, participated in prayer sessions at the Court, and had private dinners with justices. Schenck describes rehearsing lines with the agents to make the judges feel more comfortable. They used prayer sessions with the most conservative justices in the judges’ chambers as a way to build rapport. Some of the “prayers” filed amicus briefs in cases being litigated before the Court.

There is a big “personal hospitality” exemption in Supreme Court gift reporting. It has given the justices a way around reporting luxuries they have received. Before he died in 2016, over a period of many years, Justice Scalia took 80 expensive hunting vacations where he seldom paid. He was often accompanied by Republican Party officials and individuals with interests before the Court. These trips were not reported under Supreme Court disclosure rules.

In his new book, The Scheme, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D.-R.I.) details the way it has worked. He wrote:

“..big donors could go to the owners of the fanciest resorts in the world – private islands in the Caribbean, charter yachts in the Med, ski chalets in the Rockies – and ask the owner to invite a friendly justice and give him a wonderful free undisclosed vacation.”

The donors picked up the tab. They also arranged for the justice to give a speech before an audience of his admirers like the local Federalist Society chapter. The speech could typically cover any transportation costs.

Sen. Whitehouse says that before he rewrote the Second Amendment in the case of District of Columbia v Heller, Justice Scalia was entertained at the most luxurious hunting resorts in the company of senior NRA leaders and wealthy conservative donors, including those who funded briefs in the Heller case.

The ethics issues are only one aspect of what has gone wrong with the Court. Sen. Whitehouse says the Court has been captured. He says it is captured in the same way Railroad Commissions in the 19th century were captured by railroad barons. The Court’s overwhelmingly consistent record of siding with big corporations and against workers is powerful evidence of that proposition.

Our Supreme Court is the best court dark money could engineer and buy. Never before have judicial selections been turned over to a partisan private organization like the Federalist Society. Special interests have spent more than a half billion dollars to get control over the Supreme Court.

Earlier this year, Sen. Whitehouse and Congressman Hank Johnson (D.-Ga.) introduced the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act. The bill would enact stronger recusal standards, would require the Court to adopt a binding code of conduct and it would mandate that the Court adopt tougher rules about disclosure of gifts and travel paid for by outside parties. It would require disclosure of the identity of funders of amicus briefs and it would block amicus filers from making gifts or providing travel to federal court of appeals judges or Supreme Court justices.

It should be clear by now that the lack of any written code of ethics for the Supreme Court is a huge embarrassment for that institution. Lawyers and judges are about process and procedure. Whatever Chief Justice Roberts might say, there is now no process for even filing an ethics complaint. Fundamental accountability is at stake. Everyday that goes by with no written code of ethics is a dagger blow to the public’s confidence in the judiciary.

Categories: Uncategorized

The amazing heroism of Leon Lewis – posted 12/18/2022

December 18, 2022 3 comments

While the great battle against fascism in World War 2 was fought in Europe, there was also a fight against fascism inside the United States in the 1930’s-1940’s. There is little recollection now that there was a burgeoning movement inside America that was sympathetic to the German Nazis.

The Jewish response to our American fascism during this period has been little explored. One stereotype that exists is the idea that Jews did not fight back. The stereotype is related to the European theater and the false notion that Jews went passively to their deaths in the Nazi gas chambers.

However, contrary to the stereotype, there is an amazing story of Jewish fight back against American Nazis and their sympathizers here in America. The story is wonderfully told in Steven J. Ross’s book, Hitler in Los Angeles. Ross centers the story around the anti-fascist efforts of Leon Lewis, a little-known Jewish attorney who lived in Los Angeles.

Lewis grew up in Milwaukee and graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1913. He got an early job as the Executive Director of the newly-formed Anti-Defamation League. Lewis was a veteran and he served in army intelligence in England, France and Germany during World War 1.

After the war, Lewis moved to Los Angeles. With a background in intelligence, he started tracking the growth of anti-semitism on the west coast. As the Nazi movement advanced, the Jewish community was divided about how to respond. Some Jews favored quiet diplomacy, worrying that direct action would stir up more anti-semitism. Others pursued a much more activist path.

Lewis was in the activist camp. With close ties to the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans, he tried to interest federal and local government officials in countering the Nazi threat but, to his dismay, he found much sympathy for the Nazis within the government and law enforcement. Law enforcement, both the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department, were much more focused on the communists than the fascists.

From 1933 until the end of World War 2, Lewis independently initiated and ran a spy ring where he organized operatives he recruited to disrupt and counter the Nazi movement. Lewis found Aryan types with blond hair and blue eyes to be his agents. Most were German-Americans who were either anti-Nazi or financially needy. Lewis had a budget and he paid his agents.

The Nazis had a variety of front groups and Lewis’s spies were successful in penetrating inside the groups. Some of the spies rose into leadership positions in the pro-Nazi front groups. They accelerated splits and discord where they could inside the Nazi ranks.

Lewis gathered a wealth of information about what the Nazis and their front groups were up to. American intelligence agencies had no comparable operation. They came to rely on the information Lewis provided.

Money was always an issue for Lewis because he never had enough to expand as he might have liked. Later he was able to get financial support from Hollywood moguls. The Nazis had plans to assassinate Jews who were connected to the motion picture industry. They planned to kidnap and hang twenty prominent Angelenos. Among others, they wanted to murder Louis Mayer, Jack Benny, James Cagney, Eddie Cantor, Charlie Chaplin and Al Jolson.

With his able associate Joseph Roos, Lewis disrupted this plot and others. Lewis learned early that the Nazis planned to sabotage the American defense industry on the west coast. His spies fed the Nazis bad information about the defense installations. Lewis tried to warn the U.S. government about this threat but he was not taken seriously.

The Nazis did shockingly blow up the Hercules powder plant, an armaments factory, in Kenvil, New Jersey. No explosion happened on the west coast largely because Lewis and his agents were monitoring defense industries for saboteurs.

The Nazis saw Los Angeles as a great place to develop a beachhead for their assault on America. In 1937 Hitler sent his personal deputy, Captain Fritz Wiedeman, to Los Angeles to assess the level of pro-Nazi sympathy on the west coast.

Wiedeman found strong sympathy for the Nazis among leading businessmen and in the west coast financial elite. The American Nazis were trying to recreate the success their German compatriots had in places in Europe. They were forming hundreds of “Hitler cells” in the Los Angeles area as a prelude to their conquest of power.

At the same time, after a six month underground investigation, a former FBI agent, James Metcalfe, reported in the Chicago Times that “an army of 20,000 American Nazis is preparing to seize control of the United States”. Ross quotes Hitler:

“ We will undermine the morale of the people of America…Once there is confusion and after we have succeeded in undermining the faith of the American people in their own government, a new group will take over. This will be the German-American group and we will help them assume power.”

It is hard to recreate how desperate and scary a time the 1930’s were in America. The depression fed hunger, mass poverty and a complete loss of faith in capitalism. It also led many to be attracted to demagogues and there was no shortage of those.

Far right extremists like Father Charles Coughlin, Gerald Winrod and William Dudley Pelley emerged. Pelley’s Silver Shirts and the German-American Bund aimed to create a fascist alternative in America. In this period, anti-semitism was almost normal and was widely accepted. Tens of millions listened to Father Coughlin’s radio broadcasts where he preached virulent anti-semitism. Coughlin was one of the most influential public figures in the United States.

Lewis and Roos gathered the information that ultimately put many American Nazi leaders behind bars. The Nazis were well aware of Lewis’s activities and for years, Lewis and his family lived under great stress. The Nazis constantly threatened his life and that of his family. Lewis died at age 65 in 1954 after suffering a fatal heart attack.

For those concerned about the spread of fascism now, Lewis provides an important positive example and lesson. He got almost no help from any official source. He relied on himself and his closest colleagues. Independently, he figured his own creative strategy of self-reliance for intervening to stop the fascists.

His accomplishments were remarkable and courageous. He showed it was a mistake to rely on governments for help that never came. His story should be far better known.

The Nazis called Lewis “the most dangerous Jew in Los Angeles”. I expect he would have liked that.

Categories: Uncategorized

January 6 has historical precedent – posted 12/11/2022

December 11, 2022 5 comments

The sedition convictions of Oathkeepers’ leaders, Elmer Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs, returned focus to the events of January 6. While the January 6 Committee has done an excellent job ferreting out facts, there remain unexplored areas of inquiry.

One area of possible inquiry is the role of Congress members in the planning of the January 6 insurrection and the effort to object to Biden’s electoral cerification. Rolling Stone has reported that multiple members of Congress participated in “dozens” of planning meetings ahead of the Capitol insurrection. Based on reports by two people who organized “Stop the Steal” rallies, Rolling Stone identified Republican Reps. Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Lauren Boebert (Colo), Mo Brooks (Ala), Madison Cawthorne (N.C.)Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Louie Gohmert (Tx) as activists in these events.

Rep. Gosar dangled “blanket pardons” to participants, implying he had spoken to Trump. He left the impression that Trump was on board with granting a wide range of pardons. That ultimately did not happen. On the morning of January 6, Rep. Gosar tweeted:
“Biden should concede. I want his concession on my desk tomorrow morning. Don’t make me come over there.#Stop the Steal 2021@ali.”

Many Democrats raised concerns about reconnaissance tours of congressional offices led by Republican Congress members before January 6. Republicans deny the tours. Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the January 6 Committee sent Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk a letter requesting information and cooperation. Thompson’s letter said that Loudermilk gave a tour on January 5. Loudermilk denied the tour and refused to advance the discussion.

Congress members have commented on how January 6 rioters appeared to know the layout of the Capitol complex in advance. The Capitol is a maze to the uninitiated. Rioters knew the location of both hideaway offices and the underground tunnel network beneath the Capitol. The question of how the rioters knew so much remains open. As does the question of whether Congress people who aided the insurrectionists should face some discipline or criminal charges.

Of course, so much remains murky. Republicans have maintained a veil of silence. Possibly the January 6 Committee’s final report will reveal more or possibly there was a decision made not to stir up a hornet’s nest about Congress members’ January 6 participation.

Readers might think January 6 was unprecedented historically but that is not true. American history is a vast tableau and historical episodes have been excised from popular memory. Such is the case with the American fascist movement from the 1930’s-1940’s. Truly shocking parallels and stories have been forgotten.

Members of Congress who hated President Franklin Roosevelt and far right wingers were connected to a Nazi plot to overthrow the U.S. Government. The plot involved killing prominent political leaders and influential Jews. A mass movement of far right Catholics, the Christian Front, who were sympathetic to Nazism, and the Silver Shirts, homegrown fascists, spread virulent antisemitism across America. The government responded with sedition trials against many of the far right leaders.

This story is told in Rachel Maddow’s new podcast, Ultra. The podcast shows how the American fascists of the New Deal era were predecessors of our modern-day Trump-led MAGA movement. They laid the groundwork for the current incarnation of Christian nationalism and right wing extremism.

In the late 1930’s many Americans opposed any involvement in the war that was shaping up in Europe. Fascism was advancing in Germany and Italy but the America First movement and the Christian Front opposed American engagement on the side of Britain. They wanted to keep the U.S. out of the war and they also sought to soften up Americans toward Nazi Germany.

Maddow shows how an agent of Hitler’s government, George Sylvester Viereck, paid many Congressmen to distribute Nazi propaganda. The German Nazis saw Viereck as a key operative in America and they gave him a big bankroll.

The scheme Viereck devised was quite ingenious. He began by compromising Sen. Ernest Lundeen (R.-Minn), who was an isolationist. Viereck became Lundeen’s ghostwriter. In exchange for cash (Lundeen was financially strapped and desperate for money), Sen. Lundeen allowed Viereck to write his speeches and articles. Although crafted by Viereck, both speeches (including national radio addresses) and articles appeared under Lundeen’s name.

When Sen. Lundeen gave speeches on the floor of Congress, he had them inserted into the Congressional Record. Then Sen. Lundeen ordered his staff to print off millions of copies to be paid for by the U.S. government under Congressional franking privileges. Viereck literally set up shop in Lundeen’s office. He had the U.S. government covering the cost of spreading Nazi propaganda to millions of American citizens.

Sen. Lundeen died in a mysterious plane crash in 1940 but Viereck expanded his operation to include many other members of Congress including Rep. Hamilton Fish (R.-NY) and Sen. Burton K. Wheeler (R.-Mont). Viereck expanded his franking scam with them and others.

PM, a New York newspaper published an expose of Viereck two weeks before Lundeen died. Drew Pearson, a prominent reporter, also helped expose the Nazi congressional scam. Viereck was later indicted and convicted for failing to register as a foreign agent.

Federal prosecutors in the early 1940’s brought two major sedition cases against the far right extremists. Both ended unsuccessfully. The Great Sedition trial of 1944 was a circus with 29 pro-Nazi defendants. The judge totally lost control of the proceedings. The case ended in a mistrial when the trial judge died.

The federal prosecutor who tried that case, O. John Rogge, was quite an interesting figure. He came into possession of important evidence from Germany that corroborated his case and showed the extent of the Nazi penetration of Congress. Rogge wanted to publicize his findings after the mistrial but he was blocked by both the Attorney General and President Truman. Rogge had to struggle mightily to share what he had learned about the American fascists because of American government opposition.

Maddow shows how it was ordinary citizens who played the central role in advancing the fight against fascism in the 1930’s and 1940’s in America. Activist citizens, lawyers and writers did more to oppose the fascists than officials in the government. In comparing then to now, that lesson still resonates. January 6 was not the first insurrection and history demands continued vigilance about the ongoing fascist threat.

Categories: Uncategorized

In the rail strike, both political parties failed the workers – posted 12/4/2022

December 4, 2022 2 comments

When Congress passed a bill to pre-empt a national railroad strike by imposing an agreement 55% of national railroad workers voted to reject, it was a sad object lesson. Ultimately, neither political party, Democrats or Republicans, represented or cared about worker interests.

At issue in the dispute was scheduling and guaranteed paid sick leave. The railroad workers have zero paid sick leave now. The expectation is apparently that workers should work when sick or use vacation leave if they get sick or if they have a medical appointment. If workers get sick unexpectedly they can face disciplinary action for taking time off. Scheduling pressures have been brutal and have led to many workers quitting.

President Biden, who has touted himself as a pro-labor President, failed workers here. He is forcing an agreement down workers’ throats when the majority voted “no”. Under the 1926 Railway Labor Act, the federal government has the authority to impose labor settlements on the rail industry. That industry is outside the National Labor Relations Board. Biden had campaigned in 2020 on the promise to guarantee at least 7 paid sick days.

Paid sick leave is a matter of great consequence to workers. It is a benefit 33 million American workers don’t have. About one in five civilian sector workers don’t have it. Who gets the benefit is an interesting story, CNN reports:

“Public sector workers, management and professional employees and higher-earning staffers are more likely to have access to paid sick days.”

Low-wage and part-time workers are often the ones who have no paid sick leave. Also, roughly one-third of workers in service, construction and farming occupations don’t have paid sick leave.

Congress members get unlimited sick days. They are not using vacation time when they get sick.

Having just lived through a pandemic, you might think railroad owners would reconsider paid sick leave but they hate the idea. To understand why the railroad barons are unwilling to negotiate around paid sick leave, the recent history of that industry is relevant. The writer Eric Levitz provides the best explanation I have seen. He says the bosses are fine with giving generous raises (24% over 5 years and $1000 bonuses) but paid sick leave runs afoul of P.S.R. or precision scheduled railroading. Levitz says:

“P.S.R. is an operational strategy that aims to minimize the ratio between railroad’s operating costs and their revenues through various cost-cutting and (ostensibly) efficiency-increasing measures. The basic idea is to transport more freight using fewer workers and railcars.”

Over the last six years America’s freight carriers have gotten rid of 30% of their employees. So the railroads compensate for the lost staffing by forcing workers into irregular schedules with little time off. The railroads don’t want to pay for more workers. The result is a short staffing that makes for more dangerous working conditions.

Levitz says the owners are making trains longer. Instead of two 50-car trains, they are more likely to use one 100-car train since one very long train will necessitate fewer crew members.

The railroad industry has become remarkably profitable. Last year, the seven dominant North American railway companies had a combined net income of $27 billion. This margin is double what it was 10 years earlier.

The railroad barons are treating workers like they are machines. P.S.R. has worked so well for the bosses that they want to keep it going as is even though the unions had reduced their paid sick day request from 14 days to 7 days. In this day and age, it should be clear that life can throw curve balls. Like everybody, workers may need a day off for things like a sick kid or a parent who is hospitalized or dying.

It is wrong to impose a rejected contract. Willie Adam, President of the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union tweeted:

“Congress talks about saving democracy at the ballot box but they just totally undermined workplace democracy by imposing a contract that workers voted to reject.”

President Biden was obviously concerned about the cost of a potential strike and what it would mean for the economy but his actions are taking away workers’ collective bargaining rights. Only workers should be able to decide when and under what conditions they withhold their labor. Also the actions show that Democrats’ alleged concern and support for labor is mostly lip service. At a crunch time, the Democrats side with the railroad bosses and acted as strikebusters.

It must be remembered that back in 2020 Democrats also promised to pass a law that would strengthen collective bargaining, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. What exactly have the Democrats delivered for labor? Around paid sick leave, they folded, demonstrating loyalty to their rail industry donors – not workers.

As for the Republicans, their claim about being a working class party could not be more laughable. The overwhelming majority of Republicans in the House and Senate voted against labor on paid sick leave. It is not clear how you represent the working class when you oppose organized labor at every turn. The Republicans are about creating a fake pro-labor facade. They remain the big tent for MAGA fascists, QAnon believers, Christian evangelicals, libertarians and the 1%.

You have to ask: why is it that the workers are always the ones who have to sacrifice? How come workers’ sick leave is so much less important than the owners’ profits? In this era of massive income inequality, where billionaires make out like bandits, railroad workers get zero sick days.

The United States is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t offer any guaranteed paid sick leave.

The Republicans may have become a horror show but the Democrats often sell out too. There is no pro-labor party in America. When he was running for president Biden rightly called the lack of paid sick leave “a national disgrace”. It is a national disgrace corporate Democrats can apparently abide.

Categories: Uncategorized