Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

51st anniversary of the largest wildcat strike in U.S. labor history

Steve Hutkins: This week marks the 51st anniversary of the largest wildcat strike in U.S. labor history: The Great Postal Strike of 1970

March 18th marks the day fifty-one years ago when postal workers walked off the job in New York City in what soon became the largest wildcat strike in U.S. labor history. Last March we posted this article by postal historian Phil Rubio, author of Undelivered: From the Great Postal Strike of 1970 to the Manufactured Crisis of the U.S. Postal Service.

The article is as good as ever, so Save the Post Office is posting it again this year.


For eight days in March 1970, over 200,000 postal workers staged an illegal “wildcat” strike — the largest in United States history — for better wages and working conditions. Picket lines started in New York and spread across the country like wildfire. Strikers defied court injunctions, threats of termination, and their own union leaders.

In the negotiated aftermath, the U.S. Post Office became the U.S. Postal Service, and postal workers received full collective bargaining rights and wage increases, all the while continuing to fight for greater democracy within their unions. Using archives, periodicals, and oral histories, Philip Rubio shows how this strike, born of frustration and rising expectations and emerging as part of a larger 1960s – 1970s global rank-and-file labor upsurge, transformed the post office and postal union.

In this post, Dr. Rubio writes about the importance of commemorating the nationwide postal wildcat strike on the day of its fiftieth anniversary. You can also read his 2015 blog post, which includes a more detailed account of the strike, here.

Biden’s One Chance to Stop Republican Voter Suppression – Updated

A Bit of History

Senator’s being gentlemen as thought by Aaron Burr led to the removal of the Previous Question Motion.

The House and Senate rulebooks in 1789 were nearly identical with each having a rule book including what is known as the “Previous Question” motion. The House kept their motion and the Senate eliminated it. The Motion empowers a simple majority to cut off debate. The Senate has no such rule in its books to do so.

What happened to the Senate’s rule?

In 1805, Vice President Aaron Burr was presiding over the Senate after being indicted for the murder of Alexander Hamilton. He offered this advice saying something like this:

You are a great deliberative body and a truly great Senate would have a cleaner rule book. The Senate’s is a mess. You have lots of rules doing the same thing.

Burr singled out the Previous Question Motion as an example. Today, we know that a simple majority in the House can use the rule to cut off debate. The Senate in 1806 dropped the motion from the Senate rule book.

Which brings us to where we are today, one party led by one man is abusing the power it has in the Senate and blocking its function. McConnell has threated the Senate.

Biden Has One Shot to Stop Republicans’ Voter Suppression Crusade; Vanity Fair Hive, Eric Lutz, March 16, 2021

Earlier this month, Joe Biden signed an executive order to ensure that Americans’ right to vote is “protected and defended”—a move that came as Republicans across the country intensify their attacks on the voting rights of Black Americans and other marginalized groups, who already face systemic barriers.

Interesting Commentary on a Wednesday

Letters from an American” Professor Heather Cox Richardson’s column today I find interesting and hopefully AB readers do also.

Professor Cox Richardson’s first topic of the day discusses the Justice system and how it is being influenced by political moneyed interests.

Her second topic touches on McConnell warning Democrats not to change the filibuster. McConnell’s warning comes across as a threat not just to Democrats but to all Americans.

I have added a Medscape topic discussing vaccinations and requiring people to be vaccinated.

The last topic is Republicans whining about the military defending women soldier’s capabilities from Tucker Carlson’s prejudice.

The Role of Big Money in Our Justice System

First, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has asked the Justice Department, now overseen by Attorney General Merrick Garland, to look into the unusual circumstances through which Brett Kavanaugh’s large debts disappeared before his nomination to the Supreme Court. While this question is important to understanding Kavanaugh’s position on our Supreme Court, it is more than that:

it is part of a larger investigation into the role of big money in our justice system.

Last May, Whitehouse, along with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), released a report titled

“Captured Courts: The GOP’s Big Money Assault On The Constitution, Our Independent Judiciary, And The Rule of Law.”

It outlined how the “Conservative Legal Movement has rewritten federal law to favor the rich and powerful,” how the Federalist Society and special-interest money control our courts, and how the system benefits the big-money donors behind the Republicans.

On March 10, Whitehouse began hearings to investigate the role of big money in Supreme Court nominations and decisions. Aside from Chief Justice John Roberts, every Supreme Court justice named by a Republican president has ties to the Federalist Society, a group that advocates an originalist interpretation of the Constitution, which prohibits the use of the courts to regulate business or to defend civil rights.

While the Kavanaugh story that is getting media attention, the longer story is whether our courts have been bought.

McConnell Threatening America Over the Filibuster

Kids Used To Sell Old Newspapers for Pennies

I was told this by someone years ago. We tried to do this and were not to successful in the fifties. March Madness comment below.

Sen. Whitehouse: Dark Money Behind GOP Judges Is Now Behind Voter Suppression | Crooks and Liars, Aliza Worthington, March 13, 2021

“Sen. Whitehouse chairs a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee that deals with oversight of the federal courts, and now that the Democrats are in charge, he is taking full advantage of it. He held a hearing on Thursday aimed at pulling back the curtain on the role dark money has played in the placement of judges at all levels.

‘Whitehouse: Courtrooms ought to be open places where you know who is present, not a place where powerful players can come masked behind front groups hiding both their own identity and their interconnections. The Supreme Court should not be a place that has a special interest-controlled fast lane bringing certain special interest-chosen cases before the court at high-speed, without the trappings of a real case or controversy.”

The politicization of SCOTUS makes for a good read.

Two Documentaries That Help Explain What’s Happening Today, Horizons, Nancy LeTourneau’s big picture look at politics and life, March 7, 2013

We are Better

There are 24 Senate Committees (listed here: https://www.senate.gov/committees/). Clicking on anyone of the committees yields the Committee’s Web Page from which one can choose Members and get a photo listing of the members by party. This allows for a side by side comparison of the membership by party. Do this for any committee, for each committee. Based on these comparison, which party has the better Senators? Do the same for the House Committees.

Sure, there are cases where there is little difference between a given pair of republican and democratic counterparts on a committee; where there are glaringly weak members on both sides, but, en balance, being objective as possible, there is no getting around the fact that democratic membership is head and shoulders above the republican. Perhaps more importantly, the democratic membership is many times more representative of the population.

In the House, the lack of diversity in representation by republican membership is in large part due to gerrymandering in states where the state legislature is controlled by the republican party. As an example: North Carolina’s current Governor, Roy Cooper, D, won the statewide popular vote by about 2.5%. North Carolina’s US Congressional delegation has 8 R, 5 D (a 60% difference). Its State Assembly is 69 R, 51 D (a 35% difference). The State Senate, also elected by districts, current make up is 28 R, 22 D (a 27% difference). Each of these imbalances in representation are in part, or totally, a consequence of gerrymandering. The 2020 presidential election was within 1.5%. Pew lists the political makeup of the state as 43% D, 41% R; North Carolina has more democrats than republicans.

First

Back in 1919, in the Schenck v. United States decision, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes reasoned that Schenck’s right to speech was not protected under the First Amendment because:

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. […] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.

In 1969, the decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio limited the scope of banned speech to that which would be directed to and likely to incite imminent lawless action.

Today, in March 2021, we are hearing a lot about the right of free speech in re the January 6 insurrectionists and their supporters, and the right of certain persons of a certain political bent to express their uncensored views on social media.

Justice Holmes’ use of the word falsely was not an accident. It spoke to the heart of the issue. In the lead up to, and on the day of, the January 6th insurrection, Trump used claims of voter fraud that he knew to be false to incite an insurrection. The First Amendment, under neither of the two decisions, Schenck nor Brandenburg, protected him. What Trump did was every bit as dangerous as falsely yelling fire in a crowded theatre.

Alabama? A Potential Shift in the Contours of Political Parties

Another big event is on the United States horizon, in Alabama, and its occurrence portends a potential seismic shift in the contours of our political parties.

Amazon workers at an in Bessemer, Alabama facility are going to vote on unionization. And of course, Amazon opposes unionization. Amazon has a lot at stake if the Bessemer facility unionizes as it employs more than 400,000 warehouse and delivery workers. It is shaping up to be the biggest fight over unionization in American history.

Unionization of workers at an Amazon plant “may” (and I say may) be the beginnings of a political party shift in Alabama favoring Democrats. Democratic President Biden is messaging his support of unionization.

Amazon warns the unionization of its workers may increase costs and slow growth. To counter the effort, it has staged mandatory company meetings flooding workers with anti-union messaging and literature and gone as far as to post signs in bathroom stalls. Workers have complained about working conditions and mandatory overtime and in response, Amazon points out Bessemer workers benefits are good and the starting pay of $15.30/hour and exceeds the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour.

As Heather Cox discusses in her March 5th “Letters from An American;”

GOP Voting Rights Act Position Falls Apart

Tuesday brief update on Arizona and GOP oral arguments in SCOTUS.

Hardcore GOP Position For Defanging VRA Falls Apart Under SCOTUS Questioning,” Tierney Sneed, TPM

The Arizona case before the Supreme Court involves two restrictive voting practices in the state which invalidates a vote:

– Arizona’s 2016 ban on most third-party mail-ballot collection, and

– its longstanding policy of discarding a voter’s entire ballot if she casts it at the wrong precinct.

Many states have a similar rule, while in other places, an out-of-precinct voter’s ballot counts for non-local races.

Beyond the question of whether those specific policies — which the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals struck down — should be reinstated, the bigger potential consequence of the case is whether the Supreme Court uses it as a vehicle to further narrow the scope of the Voting Rights Act.

Canceling Outstanding Student Loans in Default

Some State AGs Take Action

Seventeen State Attorney Generals signed and sent a letter to Congressional leadership (Schumer, Pelosi, McConnell, McCarthy) calling on Congress (Friday February 19) to pressure President Joe Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student load debt for borrowers as a part of pandemic relief. The AGs write:

“As the Attorneys General of Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, we write to express our strongest support for Senate Resolution 46 and House Resolution 100 calling on President Biden to use executive authority under the Higher Education Act to cancel up to $50,000 in Federal student loan debt for all Federal student loan borrowers.

Because we are responsible for enforcing our consumer protection laws, we are keenly aware of the substantial burden Federal student loan debt places on the residents of our states.”

Broad cancellation of Federal student loan debt will provide immediate relief to millions who are struggling during this pandemic and recession, and give a much-needed boost to families and our economy.

The current options for borrowers have proved to be inadequate and illusionary. For example, 2% of the borrowers applying for loan discharges under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program have been granted a discharge. In addition, efforts by our Offices to obtain student loan discharges for defrauded students – to which students are entitled under existing law – have been stymied by the U.S. Department of Education for years.”

The Postal Service wants to slow down the mail, Congress says not so fast

Steve Hutkins at Save The Post Office continues his dialogue on planned changes to USPS operations with one change amongst the others resulting in later deliveries of first class mail. The Washington Post was the first to report on this change as well as other changes. You may be able to catch portions of Louis DeJoy’s planned changes at other sources as well.

The Postal Service wants to slow down the mail, Congress says not so fast

Congressional Action:

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has just posted a discussion draft of postal reform legislation in advance of Wednesday’s hearing with Postmaster General DeJoy and the Chairman of the Board of Governors, Ron Bloom. The draft has three main sections — one about creating a Postal Service health benefits program that includes Medicare, one on reforming the Retiree Health Benefit Fund obligation, and a third on service standards for on-time delivery.

The section on service standards comes first, and it is obviously a response to all the problems with poor service over the past seven months. It includes more stringent service performance reporting than currently shared with the Postal Regulatory Commission and the public, a tougher line on what happens when the Postal Service fails to meet the standards, and changes to the PRC’s advisory opinion process for reviewing a change in standards (including a report to Congress). The draft legislation concludes this section as follows:

“The United States Postal Service may not revise the service standards for market-dominant products in effect on the day before the date of enactment of this Act in a manner that lengthens delivery times before the date on which the report required by subsection (c) is submitted to Congress.”

The Committee’s meeting on Wednesday (24th) is clearly going to address the past problems with service performance and what to do about them moving forward. (There’s more about the delays here.) It’s also clear that the Committee is aware of the Postmaster General’s plans to change service standards, as was reported recently in a great scoop by the Washington Post, and the Committee wants to head the PMG off at the pass.