Tag Archives: unions


19 Oct



Contests leave a lot to be desired. “No purchase necessary.” Hah! Who believes that? Buy the wrong size drink or fries? No prize piece; no chance to win. Yet, we expect our candidate to win the presidency; “no purchase necessary.” CITIZENS UNITED shocks our sensibilities. But, it is only unique in its scale. This is not the first breath of life into corporations. That was done long ago.


Early Rome recognized a group as a single fictional person. As early as 1444, the Rolls of Parliament stated “they [the Master and Brethren of the Hospital] by that same name mowe be persones able to purchase Londez and Tenementz of all manere persones.” Blackstone defines legal persons: “Natural persons are such as the God of nature formed us; artificial are such as are created and devised by human laws for the purposes of society and government, which are called corporations or bodies politic.” Why create such a legal fiction? To allow corporations to do their business: lease, buy or sell property, hire and fire employees, enter into contracts of all sorts. As England moved from a cottage industry into guilds, and then into the industrial age entrepreneurs created new ownership groups to organize workers and manage production. They needed the legal fiction of personhood to conduct business.


Some of these management groups were benevolent bosses;many were not. Nevertheless, workers found it ever more difficult to assure safe workplaces, reasonable hours and wages, and fair treatment. Child labor was rampant, seven day/18 hour workdays were not uncommon. Tenements were built alongside work sites for ease of access and assurance of a constantly available workforce. Workers were locked in to work sites. We no longer remember this in the West, but we can see it happening even today elsewhere in developing industrial economies. We see the abuse of corporations from Shell Oil in East Africa to FoxConn (Apple supplier) in China. In the West workers united amidst bloody attacks to form labor unions, opposed at every step by corporations. Unions remain under attack in Ohio, Wisconsin, and in any state where there is a Republican governor, or Republican-controlled state legislature.


Corporations, like real persons, do not like ANY regulation or control of their behavior, especially while trying to make money off someone else’s labor. Their lobbyists assure politicians protect their interests and assure their unbridled freedom. In return, through campaign contributions, ALEC and SuperPacs they assure politicians re-election, a high-paying job after they leave public-service, and life-long connections to fictional persons of wealth and power. This, too, is not new.


Queen Elizabeth was a somewhat secret partner with English Seadogs, or pirates; overlooking their attacks on Spanish and French fleets, and taking a share of the loot. The difference between a pirate and a privateer depended on whom was being robbed and who helped do the looting. To the gentry of England, who along with their Queen loaned and outfitted ships hoping for a share of Spanish gold they were privateers; to the French and Spanish, pirates. Practiced in maritime attack, Elizabeth mobilized them to help defeat the Spanish armada and destroy Spanish dominance of the seas, and of the newly-discovered Americas. This opened an era of English exploration and colony development, including Jamestown, Virginia (named after the Virgin Queen Elizabeth).


So protected were these Captains of (Industry) the Seas that they were knighted by their Queen: Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir John Hawkins, Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Richard Grenville were all first and foremost pirates. She bridled their freedom only to the extent she was permitted to share in their loot, enrich her coffers and assure her continued rule. Otherwise she assisted them in their piracy. Congress  limits today’s “Great Pirates”, corporations, only to the extent it is permitted to share in their loot. CITIZENS UNITED was inevitable. Any one of you have a game piece? Or only our politicians?


Labor unions, teachers unions, environmental groups, civil rights groups (African-American,Latino,GLBT,veterans,immigrants etc) don’t begin to have the power assured to corporations. There is no comparison. They are not given game pieces; they have to buy the right person to get a game piece! They have to elect a politician who will put them in the game. They have to elect a politician who will appoint judges and Supreme Court justices who will understand how the game is played and make it more fair to everyone; and, assure that everyone has an equal chance to win, assure that everyone has a piece of the game.


The person willing to do so, President Barack Obama, is the greatest threat to the Great Pirates… ever. The great pirates will do all they can to attack and defeat him; with the full support of those in Congress they control (with whom they share their loot), blocking his every move of the Ship of State. We cannot let them win. It will not be easy. We have little time left. We must support President Barack Obama for president. We must throw out those in Congress who help the great pirates. We must support labor unions, civil rights groups, environmentalists.

“We are in this game together” means nothing to the great pirates  because they hold all the game pieces. This must end if we Americans are to truly win; not just a second term for Barack Obama, but a chance for the 98% to play the game.



GAMING AMERICA: CASINO POLITICS,By Louise Annarino,September 26,2012

26 Sep

GAMING AMERICA:CASINO POLITICS, By Louise Annarino,September 26,2012


The economic hardships Americans are experiencing have been a long time coming. There have been numerous signs along the path to our economic bust;most of them ushered through our consciousness by snake oil salesmen with booming voices,explaining away our intuitive discomforts as a housing market boom, and investment boom, an hedge fund boom, a stock-market boom, and a commodities boom. BOOM, BOOM,BOOM! Such charlatans blew up our manufacturing base, our banks, our mortgage companies, our insurance industry, and our personal economic lives.


“Put your money down,folks!” You, too, can make millions. These salesmen, for that is what they are, started small scale selling pyramid schemes. Americans who got into the game late moved on from home-based sales of baskets, bowls and toilet-bowl cleaners to become dealers themselves,selling others the right to sell and keeping real profits at the top of the pyramid. There was something wrong with this picture but it changed so rapidly, and the booming voices were so distracting that many simply moved from one scheme to the next.


Pyramid sales schemes attracted lower income wage earners who could see no way ahead to break out of their economic class to reach all that America seemed to promise. They watched the investment class drive the cars they could not afford to buy, build McMansions they could not afford to heat and looked for a way out.


Those born into the investment class who lived on the returns from investment portfolios their parents had created for them were satisfied for awhile.They, too, looked for a way to become wealthier. They would make that wealth work for them. They became skilled in moving around investments like pieces on a chess board, increasing wealth as they won the games they joined. They bet their winnings on bigger games for larger stakes.


But, rich or poor, enough is never enough for most of us. Like children, we always want more and don’t always know what is good for us. We don’t mind hedging our bets. Low earners hedged their bets on pyramid schemes; high earners hedged their bets on hedge funds, created by the snake oil salesmen of Wall Street.


Those playing chess with American corporations as pawns saw another avenue for wealth creation. Instead of merely playing the game, they bought the board and all the pieces on it,after talking other investors into buying a potential share of the profits from the game. “Put your money down,friends!” The only risk was losing the game, but this could be ameliorated by selling off the poor-performing pieces;and, sometimes the better-performing pieces, to keep the game competitive. THe trick was to keep the game going until enough investors paid back the new owners’ costs, plus massive profits. The game itself, and the pieces on the board, had become meaningless.


Those running the game soon realized that the pieces on the chess board did not always cooperate. These game pieces had formed unions in order to make sure the game was played by the rules. But playing by the rules was getting in the way of profits for those betting on the game. No longer did the chess pieces have value other than a means of greater profit.Safety,reasonable hours,equitable pay,moderate health care coverage, and secure retirement benefits interrupted the unbridled movement of the chess pieces. “What if,” the private equity company who bought the board asked, “we could get rid of unions?” “What if we simply move the game” to a different city, county, state, and eventually country where such rules don’t apply? And take our profits offshore as well to avoid taxes?” “What if we sell off the tables,chairs,benches,game board and pieces;then,declare bankruptcy because we can no longer play the game without a board and equipment,avoid any debts we owe and pay off the investors whose money we used to make our own profits?”


We know what happened. How did we allow it? How do we find ourselves with one of the best snake oil salesman as a presidential candidate? How do we stop this from happening again?


It was when a friend with no finance or business training or experience tried to sell me an investment portfolio after becoming a part-time employee of an insurance company that I first realized how far we were into the game. As mortgages changed hands several times a year, from bank to bank, and between investment groups it occurred to me that not only had I no idea who held my mortgage;but, the company holding my mortgage had no idea of its worth. The walls raised by Glass-Steagall had been removed. Security and Exchange Commission/SEC and Commodity Futures Trading Commission/CFTC oversight had been limited by staff cuts meant to down-size “Big Government” and de-regulation. Snake Oil salesmen moved between both worlds, as traders and as regulators. The rules were gone, the walls were gone; and, the fox was guarding the henhouse.


President Obama did bring change to Washington. He also brought change to the snake oil salesmen who are furious that their “game is now up”. They attack Obama for the failures wrought by their own failed gamesmanship. They insist he hates capitalism and doesn’t understand how the game is played. Oh, he understands alright! He simply insists that we regulate the game; protect the game board, pieces and assets; and, assure a fair game. America is ours to protect. The game belongs to all Americans. Only Obama has America’s best interest at heart; not the snake oil salesman who wants to get back to his rigged game.


Is it mere coincidence that states are turning to casinos to generate wealth? Isn’t it all of a piece? Isn’t the game the same as that being played by the Republican party? Isn’t that what “Citizens United” is all about? Isn’t that what voter I.D. laws are all about? We won’t be fooled this election. The “Booms” we heard crash did not fall on deaf ears. We know a rigged game when we see it. We want no part of it. Vote for President Obama. Vote for those Democrats who refused to become snake oil salesmen running rigged games.

ROMNEY SPEAKS HIS MASTERFUL TRUTH,By Louise Annarino,September,18,2012

18 Sep

ROMNEY SPEAKS HIS MASTERFUL TRUTH, By Louise Annarino, September 18,2012


One’s first thought when hearing of candidate Romney’s disparaging remarks about 47% of Americans, recently caught on tape, is “another politician caught in private conversation.” I’ll leave to others the discussion of the political fall-out, the ineptness of a candidate and his campaign staff, and how this impacts the Romney campaign overall. Something more profound than a single election struck me as I watched the tape and listened to Romney’s words.


This was a relaxed Romney, not the robot-Romney of the campaign trail mouthing meaningless, convoluted sentences meant to reveal nothing of his true intentions; nor the hesitant Romney reluctant to provide income tax returns, specify policy points, or detail cuts he would make to balance a budget and reduce the deficit. This was a self-assured man, comfortable in his own skin because he was saying exactly what he believes. This is what bothers me.


Racism is so ingrained in our thought processes that it flies right past us. A notion that the  47% to whom Romney referred to as his lost votes would not vote for him because he would cut taxes is silly. He is speaking to wealthy donors, the country-club set who do all they can to avoid paying taxes, people just like Romney. His comments had nothing to do with his tax policy. He felt comfortable and safe within this setting because it is his domain,too. These masters of American wealth live in the big house, surrounded by invisible people who take care of their every need. Romney was assuring them he understands the wealthy are superior to those who serve them.


Like the master of the big house during slavery, they talk in front of the “help” as if the help are not listening; or if they are listening, cannot understand what is being said; or  if they do understand, have no power to do anything about it. What did the person who cleaned the room and arranged the seating think of Romney’s comments? What about the chauffeurs who drove the guests to the event? What about the cook who prepared the food, or the bartender who served the drinks? What about the staff who cleaned up afterwards? What did these persons think when they heard Romney show such disdain for them, their parents, their sons and daughters, and their grandparents? After all, these are workers in the service industry, many of whom do not even earn minimum wage which would likely put them among the 47% Romney disparaged.


As abolitionists campaigned to abolish slavery, they made every effort to paint the real horrors of slavery in newspapers, by writing books, and by creating an extensive lecture circuit. The most effective speakers were those who had escaped slavery. The slaveholders countered the abolitionists by describing slavery much differently. They used the same altered reality within which they could justify their ownership of another human being, by which they could profit from the sale of their slaves, by which they could justify protecting their assets, by which they could justify destroying slave families to pass on all their wealth after death by splitting up slave families among the children of the deceased. The master of slaves protected his investment in his business, and sold off human beings without remorse to elevate his bottom line. How is this different form what men like Romney, the big donors in that room, are trying to do?


I am not comparing a political campaign to slavery. I am demonstrating the historical trend of the wealthy class in America to do whatever it takes to maintain its hold on wealth and power, even if that means creating an altered reality. I am not describing everyone who has made money; only those who sense their wealth is unmerited.


How did slave masters justify their actions? By describing slaves as not interested in nor able to care for themselves, lazy and shiftless, as happy to be cared for by their benevolent master, as willing to do whatever the master asked of them, as too stupid to be taught to read and write-educating them would be a waste, as naturally docile and subservient, as overly emotional; and they wanted  the master to take care of them.


We know none of this is true; but, we see Romney describing Obama supporters with a similar altering of reality. He has done so throughout the campaign. This latest video simply affirms what we have understood all along. He is not just out-of-touch; he lives in an altered reality. The altered reality used to hang on to his wealth is nothing new; it is Romney’s and many of his big-donor supporters’ reality.



Actually, as an Obama supporter I can attest that disdain for Obama supporters started when Obama first rose to prominence. Obama supporters are described as obsessed, think Obama can do-no-wrong, support him no matter what, are naive or too stupid to understand how America works, and too stupid to realize he is not even an American. They are overly emotional, don’t listen to reason (of their betters), cannot be taught, are lazy and shiftless,want the government to take care of them.


The interesting thing is that President Obama is cast as both master and slave; subject to the deceptive descriptions of his followers, and described as the master of the big house/government. This racist theme is clear and overt in Teapublican circles. To see the Republican candidate meeting with masters with the money and using the racist rhetoric of the past in the current political contest makes me cringe for the GOP.


We cannot blame the wealthy for this behavior. Those with unmerited wealth must alter their reality. How else can they justify American veterans living on the streets, American children living in homeless shelters, those Americans chronically ill unable to get health insurance, the elderly and retired barely able to make ends meet, the very existence of a class of Americans called the “working poor”. How else can they justify their secretaries paying a higher share of their income than they do? How else can they justify hiding wealth in off-shore tax-shelters to avoid paying taxes?


Human beings cannot mistreat those whom they love and respect, nor a country they love and respect. They justify their mistreatment by disdaining them.They create an altered reality to cover a resentment of sharing their wealth. They use their labor to make wealth for themselves and call unionists thugs, African-Americans gangsters, women-sluts, and the middle-class and working poor unwilling to care for themselves.


Candidate Romney is not inept; nor is he stupid. He knows those he disdains will not vote for him. But his altered reality tells him he is the master of the big house and he can say what he wants and do what he likes.He believes he rules the media and the polls. He really does expect that the rest of us will go along with him; not because we want to but because we must do so to survive. Let’s prove him wrong. The master may still feel he is in charge. He may try to suppress our vote. He may dissemble in public discourse while he shares truths in private. But we are not fooled. And, we are fired up and ready to go care for our country, our fellow Americans, and ourselves.



IS IT REAL OR FICTION? By Louise Annarino

26 Jun


Louise Annarino

June 26,2012

When presidential candidate Mitt Romney declared “Corporations are people, my friend… of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets. Human beings my friend” 1, he was combining two fictions: political argument and legal principle. He made the statement to explain why he would not reduce the deficit or protect social security and medicare by raising taxes on corporations. His economic policy has always been based on a long-ago disproven “trickle down” theory, and is consistent with the above comment. Theoretically, if one becomes rich off corporate success one does not need social security nor medicare.

But a theoretically consistent analysis does not mean the premise of the theory is correct. One must ask, how many Americans will achieve such success? How many Americans are given “golden parachutes”2 when they are fired or severance packages designed to maintain their employed-level lifestyle when they retire?3  Not public employees! Yet, Romney sided with Wisconsin Governor Walker and Ohio Governor Kasich in decrying the excessive retirement benefits available to public workers.4 Governor Kasich and candidate Romney share another commonality; their pursuit of personal wealth resulted in reduction or loss of pension and retirement benefits for hundreds of thousands of workers: In Kasich’s case, Ohio public employees including state workers,teachers,law enforcement and fire personnel; and, in Romney’s case workers in companies his equity firm salvaged or savaged.

Courts have used the concept of legal fiction since ancient Rome. “This jargon refers to the law’s ability to decree that something that’s not necessarily true is true. It’s somewhat like a person in a discussion agreeing to accept an opinion as fact for the sake of argument in order to move the discussion along. Legal fiction helps to move proceedings along.”7 Corporate personhood is one such legal fiction.It is employed simply to determine the legality of corporate agreements (contracts) and business proceedings. However, we all understand that this is FICTION and not REALITY. Therefore, it is incumbent that such a discussion tool be used judiciously by our courts. Corporations have super-human qualities which must be constrained when using the legal fiction of personhood.

How do courts use legal fiction? Not always with judicial restraint. For example,In CITIZENS UNITED the U.S. Supreme Court recognized corporations as “persons” entitled to the 1st. Amendment political speech protections of human beings, opening a floodgate for unchecked billions of dollars of corporate donations. Last week in KNOX v SEIU “The five conservative justices, led by Justice Samuel Alito, and two concurring liberals,…held that, from now on, non-members have to specifically tell the union to take money out of their paychecks for political purposes; that is, they have to opt in.6,8 It makes sense that an individual worker cannot be forced to donate to a political effort he does not support. Unions allow workers to opt out of such political funds. Now, workers must opt in. This change restrains union efforts to effect political change on behalf of its members. Must corporations likewise now seek approval of each investor before donating to political candidates, campaigns, PACS, and SUPERPACS? Or, does corporate personhood override the 1st. Amendment rights of investors? Why are unions treated less like persons than corporations? Whether one agrees or not that the Supreme Court used this fiction judiciously in CITIZENS UNITED, courts ought to at least use it consistently. Stare Decisis, another legal term, requires such consistency. If such a shareholder challenge should come before the court it would help answer any question one has regarding the politicization of our highest court. Can you imagine a campaign finance system where investors must opt in before corporations can make political donations?

As politicians move to raise money and seal the deal with voters, one can merely hope the misleading conflation of legal fiction with political fiction will stop.Mr. Romney’s corporations are people comment sounded a false note; and, it may be why his comment was greeted with such disdain. Despite his intentions, It just sounded wrong to average citizens who could care less about legal fiction while dealing with real life. Most of us would agree with Elizabeth Warren’s political commentary, that corporations are not human beings, despite a legal fiction used solely for judicial argument.7 Mothers don’t tuck-in corporations. Fathers don’t shoot hoops with them. Voters don’t vote for corporations; they vote for a man or woman who understands their reality and will not harm them. The rest is fiction.

  1. .http://technorati.com/politics/article/video-mitt-romney-says-corporations-are/  Romney made these remarks at the Iowa State Fair in August, 2011.
  2. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2012/01/golden-parachutes-21-ceos-landed-100m-plus/ So-called golden parachutes are contractual provisions that compensate executives, if they are terminated without cause.
  3. http://money.cnn.com/2012/02/09/news/economy/romney_taxes/index.htm  Romney “is still pulling in millions from Bain Capital, a private equity firm he founded in the mid-1980s and retired from in 1999.Of course, it’s common for retiring executives to walk away with big retirement packages. But Romney pays only a 15% tax rate on his take, unlike executives at corporations, who typically pay 35%.Why? Because Romney was a partner in a private equity firm and some of the money he still receives from Bain — $13 million over the past two years — is “carried interest.”
  4. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Political-Action-Legislation/Romney-Finds-Soul-Mate-in-Walker-s-Assault-on-Workers-Retirement-Security “Romney’s focus on pension cuts isn’t surprising. After all, in his role as corporate raider and takeover king at Bain Capital, workers’ pensions were often the first thing to go.”
  5. http://www.examiner.com/article/huge-lehman-brother-payouts-report-recalls-ohio-gov-kasich-s-time-at-the-firm “Former Congressman John Kasich clearly was not a banker, but he found a home at Lehman nonetheless. As a one-time Ohio State Senator and then as a Congressman for 18 years, Kasich had easy access to many doors. Among them were doors to Ohio pension funds.According to published reports at the time, Kasich opened doors for Lehman Brother’s private equity department and investment officials at the Ohio Police & Fire Pension and the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System in 2002. Kasich made the case that Lehman would be a good broker for real estate and other investments.Lehman Brothers losses at Ohio pension funds.When all was said and done, after the nation went spinning into what is now called the Great Recession, the Ohio Treasurers office, which acts as custodian but does not invest pension monies, calculated that the funds had a combined $480 million loss in market value solely from Lehman investments. Other sources, using different calculations, said the direct losses were closer to $220 million.”
  6.  http://mnlabor.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/how-the-supreme-courts-knox-v-seiu-decision-could-dismantle-union-security-around-the-country-news-politics-alternet/ “The public sector union contract has to cover all the workers in the agency, not just card-carrying members– and  all the workers benefit from the resultant pay raises, health benefits, pensions and other goodies. So non-members are expected to contribute something to the direct cost of negotiations. (Workers who don’t support the union shouldn’t get to enjoy the better pay and working conditions that their union colleagues fought for, but employers haven’t historically been willing to pay people less for NOT being union members. They much prefer to bribe, cajole and threaten workers to reject the union.).Public sector unions have been major political players, too (see: Scott Walker’s targeting of Wisconsin’s public employee unions).This is partly because fundraising for politics has been relatively simple: with everyone’s full knowledge and ample notice given (called “Hudson notices”), a percentage of both members’ and non-members’ funds could go toward political work. Anyone could opt out of this political fund, and their money would be reimbursed.”
  7. http://www.examiner.com/article/elizabeth-warren-educates-mitt-romney-explaining-why-corporations-are-not-people “Mitt Romney tells us in his own words, ‘I think corporations are people.’ No, Mitt, corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs,” Ms. Warren said. “Learn the difference…And Mitt, learn this,” she continued as she strongly delivered the night’s best line, “We don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.”
  8. http://www.afj.org/connect-with-the-issues/the-corporate-court/knox-v-seiu.html Service Employees International Union (SEIU) represents 1.8 million people in health care and public service. Non-member public employees are required by California state law to pay SEIU a “fair share fee” to defray the costs of union representation on their behalf. To that end, each year SEIU sends its non-members a notice, as required by the Supreme Court, which informs non-members of their fair share fee and of their right to object to paying non-chargeable expenditures including money spent for political advocacy. Those fees are calculated based upon expenses during the previous year and do not take into account unforeseen expenses.In 2005, SEIU issued a valid annual notice informing non-members of the percentage of their dues which would be allocated to union representation and gave them 30 days to opt-out of paying amounts associated with non-representation functions. The notice stated that dues were subject to change based on actual costs. A month later, SEIU imposed an emergency temporary assessment fee to defend against attacks on union plans and charged non-members who objected to the increase the percentage set forth in the initial notice as the amount associated with union representation. A group of nonmember state employees in California challenged this practice in a class action suit against SEIU.Employees claim that SEIU’s failure to send out a supplemental notice when the union imposed a special assessment violated employees First and Fourteenth Amendments rights by forcing non-union employees to subsidize union political activities. SEIU counters that its notice was constitutionally and legally sufficient because the Supreme Court has recognized that the notice did not require an exact determination of the yearly expenditures, but merely a good prediction based upon the previous year’s audits. The Court previously recognized the impossibility of anticipating expenditures at the outset of the fee year and that once the union sent the original notice it need not send a second notice speculating how a fee increase might be spent. The district court found for the employees, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, finding that a temporary fee increase did not require an additional notice.