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Union Roundup

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Some thoughts, views, news on the election, the first, from an article in The New York Times by Sairitha Rai:“India’s outsourcing companies were jubilant that the elections in the United States will return President Bush to office.“‘This is great news for the offshoring industry,’ said Nandan Nilekani, chief executive of Infosys Technologies, a software services company. The trend toward outsourcing will now become even more inexorable, Nilekani said.“Offshore outsourcing, or the moving of work from the United States to low-cost centers like India, was an issue in the presidential election… Bush, in contrast, was largely silent on the issue. But members of his team, among them N. Gregory Mankiw, the chief economic adviser, and treasury secretary John Snow, have both defended outsourcing as another form of free trade.”Next is an exchange from a political chat board frequented by Democratic activists, the first poster—who was unknown to me—talking about using economic pressure (read: boycotts) to try and slow the extremist right-wing agenda the Bush administration has in store for the country:“All the managers at Wal Mart are voting Republican anyway, nothing is going to change that. The ones we need to boycott are the ones who SHOULD be with us, but chose to side with the Republicans for tax cuts. I saw today that only 66 percent of union voters voted for Kerry.“Now, coming from a union family, that is not how it is supposed to work. When one union needed help, they ALL pitched in, and EVERYONE in the union helped out. Maybe one or two guys sat out, but they were called RATS and their lives made miserable.“We have a bunch of soft pansy union-members who want to ride the coattails of men and women who put their necks out there so these people have the benefits that they do. THESE are the places we need to boycott. We need to remind THESE people what life can be like.”“I guarantee you, quit shopping Safeway and a few guys have to be let go, or their hours reduced, or demoted—they will get the damned message in a hurry, then they will come back to us. Right now, they let us do their dirty work then vote Republican to get slimy little tax credits. It’s time for the Democrats to tell the unions either you support us completely or not at all; we don’t put our asses in a sling for 66 percent of the vote.”The caps belong to the original poster. The response comes from a political fund-raiser I know, active in Southern California:“We only lost by two percent of the people. We can swing this stuff in our favor, but we cannot continue to do it by being nice.“Besides, I’d like to see a greater breakdown than ‘union members.’ Technically, Mel Gibson and Robert Duvall are union members.”And therein lies the rub for most readers of this column.The online commentator fulminating about the third of union households who went to Bush was borne out by the AFL-CIO’s own facts, which also noted that that same percentage essentially torched their economic interests in order to vote for Bush and his corporate agenda.The outsourcing will increase, the National Labor Relations Board will make it even harder to unionize in workplaces, and while this won’t directly affect the specialized workforces of Hollywood—yet—the toll is coming.Corporations will be emboldened to keep rolling back benefits and pay increases (meaning you’ll be paying more for PH&W benefits whether your job is outsourced or not). And while there is speculation that an ever-weakening dollar may drive production back Stateside, it remains to be seen whether this means a return of “good paying” work, or whether the entertainment corporations will simply move domestic production to “right to work” states in the U.S.This brings us to my acquaintance’s observation about Mel Gibson and Robert Duvall being “union members.” Hollywood has always talked—and played—a good game about unions. In part, this was because, as with professional athletes, the required skill sets to work here were in short enough supply that unions could actually have clout—and a strike could have meaning.But as the stakes get higher, the economy ever more intertwined, and Hollywood’s own workers ever more vulnerable to the global “free trade” agenda, some of our own union members may need to wonder whether IATSE’s AFL-CIO affiliation, for example, is just a bunch of alphabet letters, or whether there might be some point when joining a wider strike is necessary not merely from a Hollywood standpoint, but from the more basic vantage of being an American worker.We already know they’ll be coming after Hollywood in a big way on the “culture war” front. Whether the once-specialized knowledge of film workers—in an increasingly digital age—will be enough to immunize them from the depredations felt by other workers with the onset of unchecked corporate feudalism remains to be seen.Though it is highly doubtful.The words of Benjamin Franklin—spoken way back before the word “patriot” had been hijacked—remain clear: “We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”Write Union Roundup: [email protected]

Written by Mark London Williams

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