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American Manufacturing Is Coming Back… So Are Strikes

American Manufacturing Is Coming Back… So Are Strikes

By Rachel Premack of FreightWaves

President Joe Biden’s $9.2 billion electric vehicle…



American Manufacturing Is Coming Back... So Are Strikes

By Rachel Premack of FreightWaves

President Joe Biden’s $9.2 billion electric vehicle manufacturing loan to Ford seems like a perfect meld of American interests. Announced in June, the loan to the Michigan automaker and a South Korean battery manufacturer will spur the building of three EV battery plants in the U.S. That cheerfully means eco-friendly cars and blue-collar jobs — environmentalism with a side of America First.

There’s just one problem: It’s infuriated the United Auto Workers, which represents some 400,000 Americans employed in automotive manufacturing and other trades. The historically Democratic union has, in turn, refused to endorse Biden ahead of a contentious general election.

Two of Ford’s new plants will be in Kentucky and the third in Tennessee; facilities in these three states are notoriously challenging to organize thanks in part to anti-union state laws. To workers like Dan Vicente, a UAW regional director and machine operator in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, it’s a way that Ford can have its cake and eat it too. The auto giant can explore EV manufacturing without much risk to its bottom line, and save massively by avoiding union labor.

“[T]he Biden administration didn’t require any sort of guarantees of those jobs being UAW jobs or being any union jobs at all,” Vicente said on an Aug. 7 episode of Bloomberg’s Odd Lots podcast. “They basically just said, ‘Hey Ford, please be nice to these workers and let them have a vote if you feel like it.’ And so we don’t find that acceptable.”

American businesses and their employees are in an unusual position. Partially thanks to new policy efforts, companies are expanding domestic manufacturing. But they’re finding an American worker who isn’t willing to work for cut-rate pay. Employees are increasingly fighting back on low wages, working hours and mediocre benefits — and are set to walk away from jobs entirely if the terms aren’t right.

An excitable soul might declare we’re in the midst of an American labor comeback after decades of neoliberal policies encouraged crony capitalism, union busting and general skulduggery. According to federal data, nearly 13 million Americans are employed in manufacturing work — the highest number we’ve seen since the Great Recession. The nearly 2 million Americans – ranging from university graduate students to UPS drivers to rail track maintenance workers — represented by Teamsters and the United Auto Workers unions are seeing more militant leadership than ever. And even anti-establishment publications like The Intercept are admitting that the center-left Biden administration has appointed “aggressive” pro-union leaders to the National Labor Relations Board, making organizing easier.

The majority of Americans said in a 2019 Pew survey that there’s “too much economic inequality,” and around 42% believed reducing it should be a “top priority.” Now, after the coronavirus pandemic brought about discourse about essential workers and stock buybacks, one could assume those percentages are even higher.

It seems like reality is reflecting those pro-union sentiments. Automotive workers began an unprecedented strike on Friday, stopping work at all three Detroit automakers for the first time in history. UPS workers got a major win this summer. And nearly 200,000 actors and screenwriters are on strike. American approval of labor unions just hit its highest point since 1965, according to a Gallup poll. For the first time ever, a sitting president is even supporting strikes.

Steven Greenhouse, a former longtime labor reporter at The New York Times, hesitated to say that we’re in a major uprising for American workers. However, he said conditions increasingly favor them.

It’s a bullish sign for the US economy — and freight volumes

During the Great Recession, the UAW was forced to make a slew of concessions to prevent the Big Three automakers from shuttering completely.

In the 2000s, American consumers were increasingly buying vehicles from European and Asian manufacturers as fuel prices soared. Ford and GM posted a combined loss of more than $30 billion in 2008. That trend has reversed entirely; Americans are eagerly buying up pricey pickup trucks and SUVs from domestic manufacturers, even as inflation slams household budgets. Those hefty vehicles have in turn boosted profits at Ford and GM; they made a combined $40 billion-plus last year alone. 

As a result, UAW workers are now seeking out a payday that reflects their employers’ windfalls. The UAW is calling for the reinstatement of pensions, retiree health care, cost-of-living adjustments to wages, along with a 40% raise spread over the next four years and the elimination of the two-tiered employment model. These demands aren’t necessarily autoworkers seeking to overturn the system; rather, they’re changes that would restore compensation to pre-2008 standards.

Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, has studied labor relations since the 1970s. He said aims at the UAW and Teamsters alike have become “more socialistic in orientation.” He hasn’t seen leadership like the UAW’s Shawn Fain or the Teamsters’ Sean O’Brien in decades.

“[I]t has a different view of the role of profits and business and believes that labor has a rightful claim to a bigger piece of the pie,” Masters told FreightWaves. I think that both union leaders want the companies to do well so that they can help members. I would think that they would set that as a first priority, in terms of how they want to claim the profits for workers’ increased pay and other benefits.”

Business magnates may groan, but there’s a silver lining: A fired-up labor pool means American businesses are healthy. 

“[T]he pendulum has swung back from the 2008 recession, when companies could make a good case that they needed concessions, to a post-pandemic time when automakers’ profits are good and UPS profits are great,” Greenhouse told FreightWaves. “Workers can now say the time for concessions is over. It’s now the time for advances, the time for betterment, the time to make up for what [they] gave up in previous contracts.”

Growth in domestic manufacturing and infrastructure spending is a bullish indicator for freight volumes — even though the industry is presently in a decline. For example, FreightWaves data suggests that the increase in construction spurred by the Biden administration buoyed freight volumes in July 2023, a month that was expected to be weak for truckers amid a weakened consumer economy. If America is making more stuff in America, that means there’s more for truck drivers to haul.

Vicente of the UAW told Bloomberg in August that his colleagues are quitting their jobs to work at Dollar General or Walmart. Vicente’s employer manufactures plumbing, air-conditioning, steering systems and other equipment for boats, 18-wheelers and food trucks. Now, his former co-workers are finding themselves stocking shelves or scanning products — most likely mass-produced plastic stuff made overseas, clothing that will likely end up in a landfill in several months or processed food with little nutritional value.

Of course, one can’t discuss unionized work and the trucking industry without mentioning Yellow, which was the third-largest less-than-truckload company, employing some 22,000 Teamsters workers, until it closed operations in August. Yellow pinned the blame for its shutdown on the Teamsters. For months, the union refused to negotiate on a proposed change of operations. The Teamsters said unionized Yellow employees had given away some $5 billion in concessions to the company since 2008 and refused to cut further. Amid the fracas, the trucking giant eventually lost enough inbound freight volumes that it was unable to pay into a major Teamsters pension fund, triggering a strike authorization. That gutted Yellow’s freight volumes further.

J. Bruce Chan, a transportation analyst at the investment bank Stifel, previously said Teamsters may have been the “trigger” for Yellow’s bankruptcy, but the company had been troubled for about two decades. Yellow took on more than $1 billion in debt in the 2000s as it acquired more and more companies. It was never able to recover from those foolhardy purchases, gutted further by the Great Recession and other poorly timed business decisions.

While the Teamsters may evade some blame, former Yellow employees are baffled as to why the union allowed the company to shutter. Labor expert Michael Duff, a law professor at Saint Louis University, doesn’t believe Teamsters boss O’Brien risked those 22,000 jobs forever.

Rather, Duff said Teamsters likely anticipates increased manufacturing activity in the U.S. — particularly at unionized shops that will only work with organized trucking companies. That means more trucking companies organized with the Teamsters, whether existing unionized fleets grow or new ones join the union.

“I don’t think the union believes we’re going to lose those jobs and they’re never coming back,” Duff said. “Whatever else the Teamsters will be, they’re not stupid.”

Scheduling chaos

Many experts believe a key reason why striking and organizing activity is reaching a historic fervor is the renewed interest by Americans age 40 or younger. They’re old enough to see the issues resulting from rampant globalization and financialization but young enough to not recall, say, Jimmy Hoffa’s Mafia ties. Cornell University’s Kate Bronfenbrenner, who is the institution’s director of labor education research, said this change of opinion among millennials and Gen Zers is a key “turning point” for the labor movement.

“I do think we’re in a moment with public support, with this energy among young people and increased interest in organizing,” Bronfenbrenner told FreightWaves.

One shared demand among union organizers isn’t just around increased pay but more control over work rules. A 2008 New York Times article pointed out that a veteran UAW member made about $28 an hour at an American auto plant, compared to a well-paid Toyota worker in Kentucky earning around $25 an hour. But those workers have vastly different control over their schedules. And rail workers were set to strike in 2022 over having more predictable hours and flexible time off; they received zero days of paid sick leave until this year.

But firms say they need flexibility in scheduling, work rules and positions in order to remain competitive — especially when it comes to competing with nonunion shops. That tension was core to the Yellow-Teamsters dispute that eventually shuttered the company.

Yellow wanted to convert nearly 1,000 linehaul trucking jobs to so-called “utility driver” roles, where they would be expected to do more dock work and the pay was often less. The Teamsters union opposed that. The company fired back with a memo to disgruntled workers: “Let’s be clear: If you were at a non-union company — a very realistic possibility for MOST of you if Yellow does not survive — ALL of you would be subject to potential dock work regardless of your time in the industry.”

Feeling out of control over one’s schedule (and ultimately, one’s life) is what drives many workers to organize, said Bronfenbrenner.

“If they were organizing over money and the employer could just throw a couple of pennies their way, they could get rid of the union campaign,” Bronfenbrenner said. “But the primary reason workers organize tends to be arbitrary supervisor power and respect on the job — things like scheduling, where they can never know when they’re coming to work, which could make it impossible to deal with your children’s day care or do medical appointments.

“Money matters,” Bronfenbrenner added. “But, money is something that the employer can afford to pay if the union pushes them enough. Employers, particularly U.S. employers, don’t like to give up control. They like that they have this God-given right to manage free of any interference from government or unions or anybody else. Those are the things that affect the day-to-day life of workers.”

Regular scheduling was a game changer for Duff of Saint Louis University. During the 1980s and early 1990s, Duff was a claims prevention supervisor at Flying Tiger and then a fleet service agent at U.S. Airways.

In the mornings, every day from 8 a.m. to noon, he attended West Chester University. It took him a decade of blue-collar work, but Duff was able to secure his college degree. Four years after, he got his law degree from Harvard.

Tyler Durden Sun, 09/17/2023 - 21:45

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Saudi Arabia Sentences Schoolgirl To 18 Years In Prison Over Tweets

Saudi Arabia Sentences Schoolgirl To 18 Years In Prison Over Tweets

Via Middle East Eye,

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a secondary schoolgirl…



Saudi Arabia Sentences Schoolgirl To 18 Years In Prison Over Tweets

Via Middle East Eye,

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a secondary schoolgirl to 18 years in jail and a travel ban for posting tweets in support of political prisoners, according to a rights group.

On Friday, ALQST rights group, which documents human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, revealed that the Saudi Specialised Criminal Court handed out the sentence in August to 18-year-old Manal al-Gafiri, who was only 17 at the time of her arrest.

Via Reuters

The Saudi judiciary, under the de facto rule of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has issued several extreme prison sentences over cyber activism and the use of social media for criticising the government.

They include the recent death penalty against Mohammed al-Ghamdi, a retired teacher, for comments made on Twitter and YouTube, and the 34-year sentence of Leeds University doctoral candidate Salma al-Shehab over tweets last year.

The crown prince confirmed Ghamdi's sentence during a wide-ranging interview with Fox News on Wednesday. He blamed it on "bad laws" that he cannot change

"We are not happy with that. We are ashamed of that. But [under] the jury system, you have to follow the laws, and I cannot tell a judge [to] do that and ignore the law, because... that's against the rule of law," he said.

Saudi human rights defenders and lawyers, however, disputed Mohammed bin Salman's allegations and said the crackdown on social media users is correlated with his ascent to power and the introduction of new judicial bodies that have since overseen a crackdown on his critics. 

"He is able, with one word or the stroke of a pen, in seconds, to change the laws if he wants," Taha al-Hajji, a Saudi lawyer and legal consultant with the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights, told Middle East Eye this week.

According to Joey Shea, Saudi Arabia researcher at Human Rights Watch, Ghamdi was sentenced under a counterterrorism law passed in 2017, shortly after Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince. The law has been criticised for its broad definition of terrorism.

Similarly, two new bodies - the Presidency of State Security and the Public Prosecution Office - were established by royal decrees in the same year.

Rights groups have said that the 2017 overhaul of the kingdom's security apparatus has significantly enabled the repression of Saudi opposition voices, including those of women rights defenders and opposition activists. 

"These violations are new under MBS, and it's ridiculous that he is blaming this on the prosecution when he and senior Saudi authorities wield so much power over the prosecution services and the political apparatus more broadly," Shea said, using a common term for the prince.

Tyler Durden Sun, 09/24/2023 - 11:30

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Biden To Join UAW Picket Line As Strike Expands, Good Luck Getting Repairs

Biden To Join UAW Picket Line As Strike Expands, Good Luck Getting Repairs

Authored by Mike Shedlock via,

In a symbolic, photo-op…



Biden To Join UAW Picket Line As Strike Expands, Good Luck Getting Repairs

Authored by Mike Shedlock via,

In a symbolic, photo-op gesture to win union votes, Biden will head to Michigan for a token visit.

Biden to Walk the Picket Line

Taking Sides

CNN had some Interesting comments on Biden Talking Sides.

Jeremi Suri, a presidential historian and professor at University of Texas at Austin, said he doesn’t believe any president has ever visited a picket line during a strike.

Presidents, including Biden, have previously declined to wade into union disputes to avoid the perception of taking sides on issues where the negotiating parties are often engaged in litigation.

On September 15, the day the strike started, Biden said that the automakers “should go further to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW.”

Some Democratic politicians have been urging Biden to do more. California Rep. Ro Khanna on Monday told CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich that Biden and other Democrats should join him on the picket line.

“I’d love to see the president out here,” he said, arguing the Democratic Party needs to demonstrate it’s “the party of the working class.”

UAW Announces New Strike Locations

As the strike enters a second week, UAW Announces New Strike Locations

UAW President Shawn Fain called for union members to strike at noon ET Friday at 38 General Motors and Stellantis facilities across 20 states. He said the strike call covers all of GM and Stellantis’ parts distribution facilities.

The strike call notably excludes Ford, the third member of Detroit’s Big Three, suggesting the UAW is more satisfied with the progress it has made on a new contract with that company.

General Motors plants being told to strike are in Pontiac, Belleville, Ypsilanti, Burton, Swartz Creek and Lansing, Michigan; West Chester, Ohio; Aurora, Colorado; Hudson, Wisconsin; Bolingbrook, Illinois; Reno, Nevada; Rancho Cucamonga, California; Roanoke, Texas; Martinsburg, West Virginia; Brandon, Mississippi; Charlotte, North Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee; and Lang Horne, Pennsylvania.

The Stellantis facilities going on strike are in Marysville, Center Line, Warren, Auburn Hills, Romulus and Streetsboro, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Plymouth, Minnesota; Commerce City, Colorado; Naperville, Illinois; Ontario, California; Beaverton, Oregon; Morrow, Georgia; Winchester, Virginia; Carrollton, Texas; Tappan, New York; and Mansfield, Massachusetts.

Contract Negotiations Are Not Close

Good Luck Getting Repairs

Party of the Working Cass, Really?

Let’s discuss the nonsensical notion that Democrats are the party of the “working class”.

Unnecessary stimulus, reckless expansion of social services, student debt cancellation, eviction moratoriums, earned income credits, immigration policy, and forcing higher prices for all, to benefit the few, are geared towards the “unworking class”.

On top of it, Biden wants to take away your gas stove, end charter schools to protect incompetent union teachers, and force you into an EV that you do not want and for which infrastructure is not in place.

All of this increases inflation across the board as do sanctions and clean energy madness.

Exploring the Working Class Idea

If you don’t work and have no income, Biden may make your healthcare cheaper. If you do work, he seeks to take your healthcare options away.

If you want to pay higher prices for cars, give up your gas stove, be forced into an EV, subsidize wind energy then pay more for electricity on top of it, you have a clear choice. If you support those efforts, by all means, please join him on the picket line for a token photo-op (not that you will be able to get within miles for the staged charade).

But if you can think at all, you understand Biden does not support the working class, he supports the unworking class.

Tyler Durden Sun, 09/24/2023 - 10:30

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UK Quietly Passes “Online Safety Bill” Into Law

UK Quietly Passes "Online Safety Bill" Into Law

Authored by Kit Knightly via,

Buried behind the Brand-related headlines…



UK Quietly Passes "Online Safety Bill" Into Law

Authored by Kit Knightly via,

Buried behind the Brand-related headlines yesterday, the British House of Lords voted to pass the controversial “Online Safety Bill” into law. All that’s needed now is Royal assent, which Charles will obviously provide.

The bill’s (very catchy) long-form title is…

A Bill to make provision for and in connection with the regulation by OFCOM of certain internet services; for and in connection with communications offences; and for connected purposes.

…and that’s essentially it, it hands the duty of “regulating” certain online content to the UK’s Office of Communications (OfCom).

Ofcom Chief Executive Dame Melanie Dawes could barely contain her excitement in a statement to the press:

“Today is a major milestone in the mission to create a safer life online for children and adults in the UK. Everyone at Ofcom feels privileged to be entrusted with this important role, and we’re ready to start implementing these new laws.”

As always with these things, the bill’s text is a challenging and rather dull read, deliberately obscure in its language and difficult to navigate.

Of some note is the “information offenses” clause, which empowers OfCom to demand “information” from users, companies and employees, and makes it a crime to withhold it. The nature of this “information” is never specified, nor does it appear to be qualified. Meaning it could be anything, and will most likely be used to get private account information about users from social media platforms.

In one of the more worrying clauses, the Bill outlines what they call “communications offenses”. Section 10 details crimes of transmitting “Harmful, false and threatening communications”.

It should be noted that sending threats is already illegal in the UK, so the only new ground covered here is “harmful” and/or “false” information, and the fact they feel the need to differentiate between those two things should worry you.

After all, the truth can definitely be “harmful”…Especially to a power-hungry elite barely controlling an angry populace through dishonest propaganda.

Rather amusingly, the bill makes it a crime to “send a message” containing false information in clause 156…then immediately grants immunity to every newspaper, television channel and streaming service in clause 157.

Apparently it’s OK for the mainstream media to be harmful and dishonest.

But the primary purpose of the new law is a transfer of responsibility to enable and incentivize censorship.

Search engines (“regulated search services”, to quote the bill) and social media companies (“regulated user-to-user services”) will now be held accountable for how people use their platform.

For example: If I were to google “Is it safe to drink bleach?”, find some website that says yes, and then drink bleach, OfCom would not hold me responsible. They would hold Google responsible for letting me read that website. Likewise, if someone tweets @ me telling me to drink bleach, and I do so, Twitter would be held responsible for permitting that communication to take place.

This could result in hefty fines, or even potentially criminal charges, to companies and/or executives of those companies. It could even open them up to massively expensive civil suits (don’t be surprised if such a legal drama hits the headlines soon).

Unsurprisingly the mainstream coverage of the new laws barely mentions any of these concerns, instead opting to put child pornography front and centre. Because the Mrs Lovejoy argument always works.

That’s all window dressing, of course, what this is really about is “misinformation” and “hate speech”. Which is to say, fact-checking mainstream lies and calling out mainstream liars.

Section 7(135) is entirely dedicated to the creation of a new “Advisory committee on disinformation and misinformation”, which will be expected to submit regular reports to OfCom and the Secretary of State on how best to “counter misinformation on regulated services“.

This is clearly a response to Covid, or rather the failure of Covid.

Essentially, the pandemic narrative broke because the current mechanisms of censorship didn’t work well enough. In response, the government has just legalised and out-sourced their silencing of dissent.

See, the government isn’t going to actually censor anyone themselves, protecting it from pro-free speech criticism. Rather, huge financial pressure will be applied on tech giants to be “responsible” and “protect the vulnerable”. Meaning de-platforming and cancelling independent media via increasingly opaque “terms of service violations”

These companies will be cheered on by the vast crowd of jabbed-and-masked NPCs who have been so successfully brainwashed into believing the “they are a private company and can do that they want” argument.

This has been going on for years already, of course, but that was covert stuff. Now it’s legal in the UK, and is about to get a lot worse.

It won’t be just the UK either, considering the messaging on “misinformation” being seen at the UN in the last few days, we should expect something similar on a global scale.

You can read the full text of the Online Safety Bill here.

Tyler Durden Sun, 09/24/2023 - 08:10

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