Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

Feb 18, 2000

A PROVISION in the United Auto Workers (UAW) contracts with major car manufacturers that gives the union's members Election Day as a paid day off has upset the Republican Party.

The contract clause was brought to public attention by New York Times reporter Keith Bradsher, who wrote:

"Republican leaders fear that more union workers, who tend to vote Democratic, will go to the polls and that activists from the United Auto Workers Union will use their day off to urge non-union Democrats to vote. Republicans are particularly concerned because the bulk of the workers are in Michigan and Ohio, two big states that have played pivotal roles in recent presidential elections.

"REPUBLICAN PARTY OFFICIALS are angered at their traditional corporate allies at General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler, the companies that agreed to the contracts." Michigan's governor, Republican John Engler, griped to The Times: "That will be the biggest corporate contribution in American political history because the corporations will be paying the wages and the UAW will be using the manpower to attempt to defeat Republican candidates."

"The combined daily payroll of GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler is about $100 million," The Times said.

THE NEWSPAPER went on to report: "Stephen P. Yokich, the union's president, said that the union's goal was not to elect more Democrats, but rather to elect more candidates who advocated issues important to workers." The paper also quoted Yokich as saying, "If I were a candidate, I'd be talking not about free trade, but about fair trade."

Harking back to the recent Seattle demonstrations against the World Trade Organization, the NYT noted that the UAW was a leader in organized labor's peaceful protesting and was opposed to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The UAW president said of the paid day off on Election Day that "it's not a holiday, it's a day to show you're a good American citizen."

THE NEW YORK TIMES further reported: "A 1995 study by the Bureau of National Affairs, a research and publishing group in Washington, found that only 6 percent of the nation's unionized workers had half or all of the day off on Election Day. Lane Windham, a spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO, said it was still rare for workers to get part of the day off on Election Day and even rarer to have the entire day off."

Steve Lanning, political director of the Oregon AFL-CIO, told the Northwest Labor Press that he knows of no other union that has Election Day as a paid day off.


ONE OF THE MYTHS about Democratic presidential aspirant Bill Bradley credits him with being a closer of corporate tax loopholes in his days as a United States senator from New Jersey. Bradley, son of a Missouri banker, played his college basketball at Princeton in New Jersey, and played professionally for the New York Knickerbockers. Now and then the truth about his Senate record seeps out.

For example, the New York Times has said of him: "Mr. Bradley, a defender of the drug industry in Congress, fought against eliminating a large tax break for pharmaceutical companies in Puerto Rico ..." The newspaper said that an aide in Democratic Vice President Al Gore's campaign recalled that Bradley carried water for the drug corporations. The Times quoted Gore campaign spokesman Chris Lehane as saying: "Let's remember that in 1992 and 1993, Bill Bradley supported a special-interest tax loophole that was a boondoggle for the pharmaceutical industry and then-Senator Gore voted against that in 1992.

BUT THE HIGHTOWER LOWDOWN newsletter gave a more explicit lowdown on Bradley. Published by populist commentator Jim Hightower, a former elected Texas office-holder, the newsletter had this to say:

"... In his excellent book, 'The Buying of the President,' Charles Lewis writes that in Bradley's last Senate campaign he took more money from drug companies than any other candidate in the country.

"These pharmaceutical giants were not giving to Bill because they were old Knicks fans. They were avid fans of a loophole in the tax code called Section 936, and Senator Bradley, who sat on the tax-writing committee, was their chief defender to keep the loophole in play. Section 936 had been passed years ago as an economic development boost for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, allowing companies that created jobs there to avoid paying taxes on profits they made from their Puerto Rican operations. Fine, but in the 1980s, legal beagles for the drug makers twisted this good intention into a billion-dollar-a-year boondoggle for themselves.

"HERE'S THE TRICK: Profits from drug making come from the marketing, development, and research stages, with the actual manufacturing of a pill being an almost inconsequential part of the process. The corporations, however, saw Section 936 as a bird nest on the ground, for it allows them to shift good-paying medicine-manufacturing jobs from workers here in the states to low-wage Puerto Rican workers - not only pocketing a cheap-labor windfall, but also claiming that every dime of the profits they make on the drugs are tax-free, since they are 'Made in Puerto Rico.'

"The bottom line on this bookkeeping maneuver is that we taxpayers dole out a subsidy of some $70,000 a year to these giants for each and every pill-making job that they move to the island, even though the workers themselves are paid only around $12,000 a year ..." Hightower said that when reform-minded senators "tried to stop this rip-off, Bradley defended it with more frenetic energy and sprightly moves than he ever used in guarding Jerry West, and he saved Section 936 for his drug-company contributors ..."

Hightower also noted that Bradley as a senator was a tireless advocate for the congressional interests of Wall Street firms and that when he left the Senate an investment firm gave him a six-figure job.


JOSEPH PULITZER, who started his newspaper publishing career in the 19th century, would be appalled at how the 21st century operators of the newspaper chain bearing his name are blemishing it with their union-busting tactics at Coos Bay on Oregon's South Coast.

Don McIntosh of the Northwest Labor Press staff reported on the situation at the Pulitzer-owned Coos Bay World last month. To get rid of the Communications Workers of America-Newspaper Guild unit in the World's newsroom and front office, McIntosh reported that the Pulitzer chain brought in the expensive King Ballow union-busting law firm from Nashville, Tenn., to conduct the World's contract negotiations with the CWA-Guild unit. The result was that the union was voted out in a decertification election.

High turnover in the CWA-Guild unit led to the decertification just 14 months after workers voted in the union. Although there is less turnover in the CWA's Printing and Publishing Sector (comprised of former Typographical Union members), which represents production workers at the World, the Pulitzer people can be expected to also try to bust that bargaining unit.

The Pulitzer chain's anti-worker policies further tarnish the founder's name as contained in the Pulitzer Prizes, which already have lost some of their prestige due to the mediocrity of the judging panels and their lackluster choices as winners of what should henceforth be called "pullet surprises."


TENS OF THOUSANDS of working-class Americans who were wrongfully denied Social Security disability benefits in the 1980s because of the Republican Reagan Administration's mean-spirited policies are still waiting for economic justice. Eight years ago the Social Security Administration agreed to review thousands of cases but it still has a long, long way to go.


THE REVEREND Martin Luther King Jr. was the man who did the most to stress the shared goals and the commonality of interests between the civil rights movement and the labor movement. Here's what Dr. King said in 1968 shortly before his gunshot assassination in Memphis, Tenn.: "Negroes are almost entirely a working people. Our needs are identical with labor's needs-decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, and conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community. That is why Negroes support labor's demands and flight laws which curb labor...The two most dynamic and cohesive liberal forces in the country are the labor movement and the Negro freedom movement."


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