by Lindsay Beyerstein
How our blog got its name
Sidney Hillman was a powerful national figure during the Great Depression, a key supporter of the New Deal, and a close ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When the rumor spread that President Roosevelt ordered his party leaders to “clear it with Sidney” before announcing Harry S. Truman as his 1944 running mate, conservative critics turned on the phrase, trumpeting it as proof that the president was under the thumb of “Big Labor.”
Over the years, the phrase lost its sting and became a testament to Hillman's influence.
It's hard to imagine a labor leader wielding that kind clout today, but we like the idea—and we hope Sidney would give thumbs up to our blog.
Clear It With Sidney
- Labor leaders are debating whether to take their protest over Indiana's proposed "right to work law" to the biggest stage in the country, Indianapolis during the Super Bowl, the Associated Press reports.
- With over one million signatures submitted a recall election for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is all but assured. However, as Roger Bybee reports at Working In These Times, a strict state voter ID law passed in 2011 may disenfranchise many Wisconsin voters on election day. A lawsuit to seeking to overturn the law gets underway this week.
- GOP candidates in South Carolina are fulminating about the National Labor Relations Board, Josh Eidelson of AlterNet reports. Mitt Romney assailed the NLRB as an “unaccountable and out-of-control agency" and Newt Gingrich promised the Chamber of Commerce that he'd look into eliminating the board if he became president.
- Amanda Marcotte of Slate explains why the Obama administration's decision to stand up to the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops and refuse to expand religious exemptions for birth control coverage is a big deal for women's health.
[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]
Sidney-winner John Nichols of The Nation went on Democracy Now! yesterday to talk about the ongoing campaign to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker for stripping public employees of their collective bargaining rights. The pro-recall contingent needed 540,000 signatures, and they obtained over a million, making the campaign to unseat Walker the largest recall effort in U.S. history.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And John, most people don’t realize that those million signatures represent about almost a half of the electorate in Wisconsin. Could you—when you say the proportion that the signatures represent.
JOHN NICHOLS: Well—yes, they represent almost half of the electorate in the last election, in 2010, and what you might reasonably presume to be the electorate that would participate in a recall election. It’s not all the electorate. There—Wisconsin, up until very recently, didn’t require you to be registered to vote before you went to vote. So, you know, we don’t know. A recall election could actually pull in hundreds of thousands of additional voters. This is a very exciting and very charged thing. But what is important to remember is that the size of that proportion of the existing electorate has never been achieved before.
A state board must now review the signatures to ensure that they are valid. If the pro-recall faction has gathered enough signatures, Walker will face a new election, and possibly a primary challenge within his own party.
Walker didn't campaign on an anti-collective bargaining platform, instead he foisted the controversial and unpopular law on the electorate as one of his first acts of office. The voters of Wisconsin may finally have their say on collective bargaining rights.
Nichols' forthcoming book is entitled, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street.
Read Carmon's review of "Girl Land" in Salon.
[Photo credit: mag3737, Creative Commons.]
Democratic members of the Indiana State House caucused in the rotunda on Wednesday morning to demand a referendum on proposed "right to work" legislation that would cripple organized labor:
The Indiana House remained at a standstill this morning, with most Democrats refusing to come to the floor as they protest the controversial “right to work” bill and demand to offer an amendment seeking a public referendum on it.
Democrats met in the Statehouse Rotunda, with labor protesters surrounding them and more watching from the balconies above, cheering as Democrats promised to fight this issue.
As their chants of “Power to the People” rang in the Statehouse, Republicans attempted to come into session on the 3rd floor, but again did not have the necessary quorum of 67 legislators to do business. There are 60 Republicans, and this morning four Democrats joined them on the floor while the remainder of the Democrats were in the Rotunda.
The Democrats are staying off the State House floor to postpone a vote on the bill, which would otherwise pass the GOP-controlled body. The Dems say they can't vote because they're busy working on an amendment to hold a right-to-work referendum.
Proponents of the bill say that "right to work" legislation would create jobs by attracting manufacturers from non right-to-work states. However, as Prof. Gordon Lafer argues in The Nation, right-to-work legislation is an outdated tactic for attracting manufacturing jobs. These days, companies looking for cheap labor aren't shopping between states, they're taking their work overseas.
[Photo credit: The Indiana State House Rotunda, by Jim Bowen, Creative Commons.]
Media critic Jim Romenesko's list of Pulitzer Prize contenders is out, just ahead of next week's application deadline.
Romenesko checked in with Spencer Soper to make sure he'd submitted his exposé of brutal working conditions of Amazon.com's warehouse in Lehigh Valley, PA. That outstanding story won Soper the October Sidney Award.
Romenesko also asked his friends and colleagues to submit their picks for this year's Pulitzers. The first name on the list was none other than Sidney Award Winner Sara Ganim for her agenda-setting coverage of the Jerry Sandusky rape scandal at Penn State.
[Photo credit: Chris Drumm, Creative Commons.]
New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse tweeted, "Jon Stewart is doing devastating takedown of FoxConn factory giant w/horrid conditons that produces for Apple & Microsoft." Indeed, the Daily Show host pulls no punches.
Stewart satirizes the notion that the U.S. factories should emulate the Chinese electronics giant FoxConn, which employs 800,000 workers assembling everything from iPhones to Xboxes. FoxConn has found ingenious ways to save money. Workers live in the FoxConn compound, housed eight to a room in dormitories where roommates may not know each other's names. They are paid 31 cents an hour, and work up to 35 hours per shift.
Workers who try to unionize will be imprioned. Stewart wonders if incarceration might be more pleasant than life on the FoxConn line.
After a spate of suicides, FoxConn installed nets to catch would-be jumpers.
"In Western medicine, we call that 'treating the symptom,'" Stewart quips.
In honor or the holiday, video artist Jay Smooth presents ten less-quoted passages from Martin Luther King, Jr.
Over the weekend, thousands of Sanyo employees protested over wages and job security at a speaker plant in the manufacturing hub of Shenzhen:
(Reuters) - Thousands of Chinese workers protesting over compensation and job security at a Sanyo Electric Co Ltd plant clashed with police in southern Shenzhen, media said on Monday, the latest outbreak of labor unrest in China's manufacturing hub.
About 4,000 workers protested over the weekend at the Sino-Japanese joint venture, the Chinese-language Oriental Daily reported. Sing Tao Daily and the People.com.cn website put the number at over 3,000.
The People.com.cn website said police arrested four people after clashes with police in Shenzhen, next to Hong Kong.
Sing Tao Daily quoted an employee as saying that workers feared they would not receive any compensation after Sanyo and Panasonic Corp (6752.T) integrated their businesses this month.
Thousands of workers at foreign-owned companies in China have launched labor actions over the past year.
[Photo credit: A Sanyo blimp, stateside. Inky, Creative Commons.]
- "Power lists" glorifying the rich, successful, and influential are all the rage these days. Meanwhile, The Village Voice comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable with its list of the 100 Most Powerless New Yorkers by Steven Thrasher.
- Tobin van Ostern of Campus Progress on how right wing performance artist James O'Keefe inadvertently proved the impossibility of large-scale voter fraud with an elaborate and well-financed bid to show how easy it is.
- New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane took the extraordinary step of asking his own readers whether the paper should get into the "truth vigilante" business, i.e., calling out falsehoods from public figures in news stories instead of relegating the debunking to a special truthiness sidebar, as the paper currently does. This kind of bold questioning inspired Juli Weiner of Vanity Fair to ask: "Should Vanity Fair be a Spelling Vigilante" and get all uptight about the correct spellings of "words," or should the magazine just go with the orthographical flow?
[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]
The Sidney Hillman Foundation invites you to an exclusive preview screening and discussion of PBS's new documentary, Slavery By Another Name, on Thursday, Feb 2 at 6:00pm at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism (219 W. 40th St, New York, NY).
Based on the award-winning book by Wall Street Journal reporter Douglas A. Blackmon, the film challenges the cherished assumption that slavery in the United States ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. Join Blackmon and the film's Hillman-award winning producer/director Sam Pollard for a panel discussion moderated by Gerry Hudson, executive vice president of SEIU.
Click here to view the full-sized event flier.
Space is limited, please RSVP by January 30. Phone: 646-448-6413; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those of you who can't join us in person, I'll be blogging about the screening here at Clear it With Sidney.