“We’re out here because the company didn’t want to pay us. They want to cut medical, they want to cut our pension, they want to cut our wages,” Spadafora said. “But they have a CEO who makes $4,800 per hour!”
One of the films we mentioned in this week’s PBS post, As Goes Janesvilleis premiering tonight, watch director Brad Lichtenstein & producer Nicole Docta talk about making the film & what it takes to get your film on PBS. Via @vimeo.
That story of men who lost their jobs — while I’m certainly not diminishing their experiences, I felt like we’d seen that a lot. I don’t want to stereotype, but a lot of men struggle with loss of status, while women more often focus on how to maintain their status as primary caregiver to their family.
Brad Lichtenstein, Director and Producer of As Goes Janesvilleon his decision to concentrate in particular on women facing unemployment in the Wisconsin town of Janesville
So when I watch Paul Ryan distort the facts about President Obama and the closing of Janesville’s plant, and I think of the plight of the people in our film — the deep pain and anguish of laid-off workers and the huge investment town leaders made to get their economy going again — I feel demoralized, and a little surprised, frankly.
Brad’s spent the past three years making As Goes Janesville, a film about the shuttering of Janesville’s GM plant and the town’s struggle to recover. Read his response to Ryan’s distortions in last night’s speech to the RNC and stay tuned for more on where and when to catch the film this fall.
Europe’s auto manufacturers could be going the way of their U.S. counterparts- with an awful year of car sales driving plant closures. Greater protection for unions in Europe, however, will mean workers get more of a say:
Closing a plant typically requires a long and costly battle with unions, which have more legal rights than in the United States. German law, for example, requires companies to negotiate job cuts with worker representatives, who can demand large severance payments or pensions.
In an effort avoid a confrontation with labor, Peugeot has promised to convert its plant in Aulnay, which employs 3,000 people, to other, unspecified manufacturing. The company also promised to help employees find new jobs after car production ends in 2014.
As unions declined, so have wages for most people. The Center for American Progress found in a study that as union membership decreases, so does the so-called middle class’s share of national income. The middle class has long served as a buffer between those at the top and those at the bottom. As long as the majority of Americans were comfortable, had decent jobs and pensions, and could send their kids to school, the wealthy could stay wealthy and the poor were pretty much just ignored. And that middle class was built through decades of union agitation, not just for higher wages and health care benefits, but for the eight-hour day, for the weekend, and for safety in the workplace and some job security.
Unions, particularly public-sector unions, are not universally Democratic in their political engagements. But they do play politics with an eye toward assuring that public institutions are strong and functional—and this usually inclines them toward more progressive Democratic contenders. Strengthening the hand of unions maintains the commons. And it maintains democratic control over decisions made in our name as citizens.
John Nichols, for The Nation, writing on Thursday’s Supreme Court decision, which requires that public-employee unions get specific permission from employees to advance political agendas. Nichols sees thursday’s ruling as part of a wider pattern by the current court of advancing corporate interests at the expense of labor.