Thursday, February 20, 2020
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Ikea and the Right to Work

It's not that stories about labor issues at the Ikea plant remind readers Tim Kaine supported Virginia's right to work laws while in office that caught my attention. It is that there are issues at the plant concerning overtime. Overtime is the last drop of squeezable turnip blood in production.

There is something amiss with plant management that cannot avoid unplanned overtime. There is something wrong with management that can't find the new labor currency of part-timers; particularly in this economy, particularly in the Danville area. There is something deficient with management that cannot make the issues plaguing this plant go away.

Those are some of the better reasons for a union at that plant. Swedwood Danville management can use a helping hand. Instead of OSHA finding the safety violations, and handing out citations, a more professional workforce with a vested interest in worker safety would find, correct, and prevent them. Maybe the union could provide its records of injured temporary workers when management forgets to record them. And maybe the trade skills of the Building and Wood Workers' International could be brought to bear, solving the safety issues and bringing productivity to levels that reduce overtime requirements.  

Brian Moran’s Counterproductive Criticism and Hypocrisy

Pointing out Governor McDonnell has created jobs and wondering aloud whether making moves Tim Kaine and he himself took constitute dereliction isn't going to persuade independent voters to back Democrats this fall or help Kaine defeat Felix or whomever in 2012. But that is Moran's chosen strategy for the DPVA.

There's just no sense in pretending that the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA) is on its game. A meager chain of mealy mouthed releases that misstate ground truth and criticize the Governor for actions he may take in the future, but which Moran and Kaine themselves already demonstrated are appropriate, are laying the groundwork for the Republican's defense.

Take this from a recent DPVA Morangram:

"...Despite his repeated previous claims that he's "thrilled to be governor of Virginia," McDonnell flip-flopped yesterday and opened the door to jump ship if Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney come calling next year.

Let's remind Governor McDonnell that Virginians elected him to lead, not to run for Vice President..."

This from the skilled strategist who abandoned his office in the House of Delegates to run for Governor almost handing that safe Democratic seat to the Republicans. And what if McDonnell is picked (heaven forbid and quite the pipe dream) to run and doesn't give up his office? Is Moran going to criticize him for being outside of the state ala Tim Kaine following the DNC appointment? Doesn't the DPVA have any shame at all?

In that same ineffective call for cash, he says:  

The Right to Your Labor

Some argue: you have no claim to the product of your labor; it's the property of your employer. After all, the employer owns the job. And without the job, labor has no value. So follows the views of Governor McDonnell and apparently Senator Warner and DPVA Chairman Moran. Slavery redux.

All of them support the oxymoronic "Right to Work" lobby; a movement rearward to the age of fiefdoms. This is a Virginia issue for any of a number of reasons. Some:

  • Our Right to Work Laws foster a hostile environment for labor
  • Unions protect a very small portion of the labor force
  • Wages for skilled labor are lower than in states without the "Right to Work"
  • Skilled labor migrates to higher wages and out of Virginia
  • Democratic leadership kowtows to Republican interests above labor's interests

A Daily Kos post this past Sunday laid out an argument that the mega-have's are mounting a final assault on the middle-have's. It wipes away the misconception that the "business-friendly" right-to-work states receive economic benefit in employment growth and economic gains.

But though the middle class will likely diminish as a result of this consolidation of wealth, the attack is not only against it but also against anything of value they can attach; even that of the little-haves. The Republicans have grown as ignorant about production and business as the anti-capitalists they so deride. Two sides of the same coin. They are fostering a soviet style business climate that sees wealth as a zero sum game; the only way to increase it is by taking someone else's. Redistribution of wealth private sector style; today characterized by glossy grift.

The For-Profit Education Cesspool

Harris Miller's handy-work is churning away under the surface. Thousands and thousands of Americans who will never benefit from their matriculation at for-profit colleges are receiving their Form 1098-Ts unaware of the long-term damage to their futures. They've been sold a pig-in-a-poke; financially shackled for the remainders of their lives.

It is disheartening that so many can be led to the slaughter so unawares. The purveyors of illusion didn't learn their grift attending classes at the "colleges" they are selling and those "colleges" won't provide the skills necessary to recognize the fraud being perpetrated on them. On the other hand, the victims never learned to be critical thinkers in their more traditional K through X experiences either.  

Recently I crossed paths with a police Captain whose subordinate in the force had been teaching criminal justice courses in a Virginia Beach "for-profit" institution. On occasion, the moonlighting officer asked him to guest lecture. When he wasn't invited for a period, he sought out the officer to find out why. Turned out that the officer had realized an ethical quandary concerning the additional income. The majority of the students in the classes were felons or otherwise disqualified for police service; many would never ever be allowed past the front desk of a station except for booking. The officer could not go on playing a role in this tragedy.  

Wake Up, Virginia Democrats

Brian Moran denies the reality he represents an industry that preys on the unfortunate. He defends businesses promising outcomes that are highly improbable; betraying the goodwill and trust of the American people. As their agent, he facilitates what is de facto fraud. Where's the outrage from Virginia Democrats? Here's mine.

Benson Rollins wants a college degree. The unemployed high school dropout who attends Alcoholics Anonymous and has been homeless for 10 months is being courted by the University of Phoenix. Two of its recruiters got themselves invited to a Cleveland shelter last October and pitched the advantages of going to the country's largest for-profit college to 70 destitute men. - Business Week

What we have here, is a state party chairman who shamelessly defends an industry that dredges federal funds by trolling for the homeless and despairing in an effort to siphon entitlements and grants you and I provide in the belief they may rehabilitate fellow citizens. What is more worrisome than Moran's (and, thus, the DPVA's) vulnerability to criticism for hypocrisy (because it will be hard to find a Democratic candidate who will defend these thugs) in the next cycle, is that Moran may lead the Party lurching backwards. Recall: Brian Moran unabashedly supports Virginia's "Right-to-Work" laws. It all fits nicely: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  

What You Expect From the DPVA

In the lead-up to the selection of a new Party Chair, the new Executive Director of the DPVA rolled out an initiative to provide a weekly update. A new chair was selected who emphasized "communications" to the Central Committee. Brian Moran said "We must communicate with our grassroots activists..."

That was three weeks ago. That first update was featured on the grassroots blogs. It garnered 623 views as of today. Two weeks ago we got our second weekly update. Actually, we didn't get it, we had to look for it. Message to DPVA, your site is not compelling enough (actually not compelling at all) to get traffic and to use as a primary communications tool. As of this morning it had 140 views. After this, a few more will have been added; maybe. Want a reason to watch? How about this highlight:

"As a former member...well actually I still am a current member...I hope soon...of the Alexandria Democratic Committee..." - Brian Moran, DPVA Chair

There's some communicating. Oh, and the third installment is overdue. But from the beginning, the concept was awkward. What does the DPVA think the audience for these "updates" is? If it is the Central Committee, fine. If it is Democrats, not so fine. If it is the grassroots, fail. Mr. Mills as a narrator, fine. Mr. Mills on the front line going after the other guys, not fine at all. Where are the members of the legislature going after all this budget craziness from Bob McDonnell? On the blogs, like this one. Where are the grassroots staying informed? Not here.

Communications. Blah. Grassroots. Blah, blah.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

As a voting member of the DPVA central committee (no, I do not feel I am part of a commie "politburo") and a strong supporter of Peter Russelot for the next chair of the party, I was quite surprised by the virulence of some of the comments made on the live feed of the committee that Blue Virginia provided. Look, I knew when I got into a car at 4:30 a.m. for a four+ hour drive to get from southwest Virginia to Newport News that our efforts for Peter were going to fail. I am sure that Peter knew that as well. However, I don't believe in quitting before a game is played out. Nor do I believe in quitting now because I didn't get my way yesterday. I'd rather stand my ground, knowing that there will be another chance to win on another day, that some day I will prevail.

The fact that we had vigorous, contested elections at the last two state central committee meetings - one for first vice chair and then for chair of the party - is a giant step forward for the DPVA, which, like every other political group I have ever been involved with, is an "insider's game." Both of the "outsider" candidates in those contests can be proud of forcing new ideas to the forefront of party deliberations, of proving to the insiders that there are other ways to do political business, that those of us who believe that aren't going to go away.

Proof? Peter Rousselot insisted that state Democrats needed to have candidates to contest every seat in the 2011 legislative elections. That forced Brian Moran to go on record, saying in a letter to all committee members, "We need to recruit and support candidates in every jurisdiction and district. No Republican goes unchallenged and every open seat has a Democratic candidate running." Would he have put a commitment like that in writing without a strong challenge from Peter? Of course not.

The support for Brian Moran was not centered in just one area of the state. I had felt all along that the more rural parts of Virginia would be fertile ground to garner votes for Peter, especially since both candidates were from NOVA and would split those votes. I was dead wrong. It was obvious to me long before I went to the meeting that the fact that Mark Warner had suggested Brian Moran for chair carried enormous, insurmountable weight with most committee members.

Blog4reform Day: Education for Profit and Its Nexus with the DPVA...

Today is national #blog4reform day, a day for real reform, that is. Today is personal.  Lowell has written with passion about Brian Moran's "day job." I write with equal passion.  With our anger over Wall Street's undoing of the US economy; two unending needless wars; and the assault on the New Deal, it is sometimes hard to find a place for the outrage we would appropriately feel.  So, privatization and profiteering from education is one of those issues which flies under the radar for many.  However, education is not only a right.  It is a public trust.  

Let us not mince words.  To sell off our educational resources (including federal taxpayer dollars) to privateers is betrayal of America's citizens. But there is nothing sacred anymore.  Our children and our youth are now seen by Brian Moran and Harris Miller as fodder for diploma mills.  It is bad enough that K-12 educational systems are under attack by faux reformers under the guise of "Waiting for Superman."  (Notice the insurmountably false standard.  No real world teacher, a mere mortal, can measure up.)  But that doesn't matter for opportunists searching to profit from education.  Their sights are set even beyond that.  And so I weigh in, on DPVA's controversy: Should it be "led" by someone who so clearly works against our values?  

Education is the linchpin of a democratic society.  Demolish it and there is nothing left, only a an empty shell of a democracy (or republic); a corporate state; a generally unenlightened populace, forced into glaringly impoverished subservience; and 1-2% of our country laughing all the way to the bank.  Into such a tragi-comedy of national errors, comes these predators some once thought would care enough about people and their circumstances to look out for the little guy.  

Two of them ran for statewide office: Harris Miller and Brian Moran.  Now they work against democratic institutions. Moran now works with a man who helped sell our jobs overseas and now diverts federal education monies into the hands of corporations and hedge fund managers.  And now he also works to reduce schools to online courses with those privateer hedge fund managers and corporations collecting the salaries teachers once did. This movement seeks to give nothing, or little, back --only a shell of an educational infrastructure.  

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot?

I don't intend to sit in judgment here on Brian Moran's behavior during last year's gubernatorial primary or in his dubious choice of a new career. I simply want to pose one question for those who will choose the next chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia: Why would we Democrats put ourselves in a position of never being able to raise questions about lobbying and its influence on contemporary politics by selecting a lobbyist to chair the party?

Let's be realistic about the role of lobbyists in our political system and the reason that they are paid lucrative salaries for what they do. Their job is NOT to provide vital information to legislators. Their job is to influence those legislators any way they can. What's the very best way to gain influence with a politician? Hold a fundraiser for him or her, the bigger the contributions the better. Lobbyists and the money they bundle for office holders are part of the cancer that is eating at the heart of our democracy.

Let's take one simple example from Virginia's recent past. Ken Cuccinelli received $55,000 from the bogus leader of a bogus charity purported to help navy veterans. What did swindler Bobby Thompson get for his money? Well, as luck would have it, after his election as attorney general, Cuccinelli met with Thompson's lawyer and did his best to protect Thompson from any oversight. We were able to point out the sleazy nature of that transaction. How much more difficult would that be with a lobbyist at the head of the state party?

We have an alternative. There is another candidate for chair of the DPVA. Peter Rousselot won't come into office carrying the baggage Brian Moran has. Not only that but Rousselot has made it clear that he considers all parts of Virginia as important. That's a far cry from the recent past when candidates willing to run have been forced to pay for a poll to convince the DPVA that they should have party support, when Sen. Dick Saslaw can write off any Democrat vying for Robert Hurt's seat before a Democrat has a chance to even seek it.

I don't know about you, but I want a party chair willing to change the "politics as usual" in the DPVA that has done little but give the GOPers a far weaker adversary than they should have. I don't want a lobbyist for an industry under investigation as the next party chair. I want my party back. I want Peter Rousselot to be party chair.  

Why I support Peter Rousselot for DPVA Chair

has nothing whatsoever to do with Brian Moran's current business activities.  I also think it is irrelevant and irresponsible to discuss Brian's financial situation.

My support for Peter is simple.  The job of a party chair is to build the party apparatus.  Peter did so magnificently in Arlington.   He has presented to the state party what he did, but there are unfortunately some leaders around the state who have yet to listen to what they need to do to make their party organizations effective and - to put it mildly - relevant.

Brian has demonstrated a good ability to recruit candidates for office when he was caucus chair in the House of Delegates. But that is something very different that the skill set necessary to have a functioning statewide party apparatus, as well as functional local party structures.

There may be others who have demonstrated they have the necessary skill set and requisite experience.  So far none has stepped up. Peter has.

I hope those supporting Peter can do so positively and avoid unnecessary attacks on Brian or on any other possible candidates.  It does not serve the Democrats in the state to have this kind of public bickering and slash and burn attacks.

It is unnecessary.  It is unhelpful.  It should be unwelcome.

Support your candidate for positive reasons.  Advocate for him or her.

I advocate for Peter.