Jim Hightower

Labor Day is over — but Labor's Day is just starting

Last week, I wrote about how Labor Day was created in the 1880s by rebellious workers, but I'm celebrating the spirit again this week because a momentous new energy has been building in today's union movement. Indeed, renewed union rebelliousness has put labor back in Labor Day!

Previously cast as "a day off," it's now a day "on," rallying working class activism and celebrating nationwide strikes by such disparate groups as Teamsters and Hollywood actors. This is making the corporate bosses very antsy, for it's the harbinger of a new order that is undermining absolutist Boss Rule.

Particularly alarming to the plutocratic establishment is the new aggressiveness of the United Auto Workers union under their recently elected grassroots president Shawn Fain. Tossing aside the old willingness to accept incremental changes in contract negotiations, Fain began the current bargaining round by literally throwing the industry's proposal in the wastebasket, bluntly declaring that's "where it belongs."

Such honesty has spooked Detroit's auto barons, who're wailing that the workers' demands are "excessive." This from pampered CEOs each pocketing between $20 and $34 million a year in personal pay! Pathetically, the corporate establishment has had no better retort to Fain than to try its tired old Red Scare bugaboo: "This man studied Trotsky," squealed one squeamish corporatist on TV.

No. Instead, Shawn Fain has clearly studied Walter Reuther, Mother Jones, Fighting Bob La Follette, Frederick Douglas, Cesar Chavez and other American champions of economic fairness and social justice.

An important thing to know about Fain is that he was directly elected by UAW's rank and file members on a platform of in-your-face activism against top-down inequality. The big story is not that a president of one workers' organization is shaking things up, but that organized workers themselves are on the move, demanding economic democracy.

How the GOP is becoming a clique of rabid political veterinarians

Ohio voters scored a big election victory for women's rights last week! It was a tricky vote, too -- deceptively couched as a statewide referendum to approve a little technical change in the procedure for approving statewide referendums. How boring.

But Ohioans figured out that it really was a BIG vote on an underhanded ploy by right-wing Republicans to block the right of women to make their own reproductive decisions. Not boring. So, in a huge turnout, a whopping 57% of voters said "yes" to women and "NO!" to the tricksters.

Yet the referendum actually did encompass a procedural issue that's an even bigger political story than the election results -- namely the GOP's ongoing attempts to rig election rules so its extremist minority can "win" without getting a majority of the votes.

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to hold office again?

Background: A state constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to abortion is already set to be voted on this November in Ohio. Right-wing Republican leaders fear that more than half of Ohioans will support that amendment. Thus, last week's referendum was their desperate attempt to win by losing, specifically by decreeing that -- hocus-pocus! -- constitutional initiatives must get 60% approval to become law. Yes, a 40% minority of voters could nullify the majority will of the people.

This gaming of the system by devious Republican officials and far-right extremists has become their core political strategy across the country. It's actually a deeply embarrassing admission by them: They are conceding that they are now captives of ideological extremism and outright nutballism, making their party so completely out of touch with the American majority that they can't win honestly. So, they've become the Anti-Democracy Party, acting as rabid political veterinarians out to "fix" democracy by neutering the power of the people.

When your political opponents push extremist public policies that would be disastrous for America, should you wring your hands in dread... or applaud?

Consider "Project 2025," put together by former Trump administration officials and the Koch brothers' network of billionaire plutocrats. Their strategy is to win the presidency next year by demonizing all environmental protections and promising to halt all national efforts to cope with the obvious crises of climate change. Their proposals include repealing regulations that curb fossil fuel pollution, terminating our nation's transition to renewable energy, shutting down all environmental protection agencies, encouraging more oil and gas drilling and use, and promoting the deadly delusion that global warming is not a real problem.

Moreover, they intend to implement Project 2025 in the first 180 days of a right-wing Republican's presidential term -- obviously anticipating that former President Donald Trump will be that president. "We are not tinkering at the edges," brags a far-out right-wing group that instigated the scheme. "We are writing a battle plan and we are marshalling our forces." They've already drawn up a list of agencies and policies they'll begin eliminating on Day One, and they've readied a list of some 20,000 right-wing henchmen to put on the federal payroll immediately to enforce their plan.

If this sounds ludicrous, it is. But it's actually happening, for the Republican Party has decided to be ludicrous. As the director of Project 2025 told The New York Times, "(This is) where the conservative movement sits at this time."

Maybe, but it damn sure won't sit well with the American people, who're presently suffering the hellish ravages of our rapidly overheating climate. Indeed, here's a great chance for Democrats to demonstrate their bipartisan spirit by doing all they can to publicize the Republicans' let-it-burn global warming policy.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Hightower: This holiday season, think about the Amazon workers

During the hectic holiday shopping season, Jeff Bezos' Amazon may seem like a great option, especially for us procrastinators. Anything you want can be shipped directly to your doorstep. All it takes is a few clicks on the Amazon website — and, of course, some of your hard-earned money.

The media sings the praises of Bezos' concept and business. But what you may not know is that, as head of the Amazon beast, Bezos is hard on his labor force. In fact, he was awarded a less-coveted prize by the International Trade Union Confederation in 2014: "World's Worst Boss."

Consider one of the most difficult of Amazon jobs: the "pickers." In each warehouse, hundreds of them are simultaneously scrambling throughout a maze of shelves to grab products. This is hard, physically painful labor for two reasons. First, pickers reportedly must speed-walk on concrete an average of a dozen miles a day, for an Amazon warehouse is shockingly big — more than 16 football fields big, or eight city blocks. Then, there are miles of 7-foot-high shelves running along the narrow aisles on each floor of the three-story buildings, requiring the swarm of pickers to stoop continuously. They are directed to each target by handheld computers. For example, "Electric Flour Sifters: Dallas sector, section yellow, row H34, bin 22, level D." Then, they scan the pick and put it on the right track of the seven miles of conveyor belts running through the facility, immediately after which they're dispatched by the computer to find the next product.

Second, the pace is hellish. The pickers' computers don't just dictate where they're to go next but how many seconds Amazon's time-motion experts have calculated it should take them to get there. The scanners also record the time each worker actually takes — information that is fed directly into a central, all-knowing computer. The times of every picker are reviewed and scored by managers who apparently have an unmerciful mandate to fire those exceeding their allotted seconds.

All this for $15 to $17 an hour. But few make even that much, for they don't get year-round work. Rather, Amazon's warehouse employees are "contingent" hires, meaning they are temporary, seasonal, part-time laborers entirely subject to the employer's whim. Worker advocates refer to these jobs as "precarious." On the one hand, when sales slack off, you're let go; on the other hand, when sales perk up and managers demand you do a 12-hour shift with no notice, you must do it or be fired. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Election Day, July 4 or (for God's sake) Labor Day — don't even think of taking those days off.

Also, technically, you don't actually work for Bezos. You're hired by temp agencies with Orwellian names like Integrity Staffing Solutions, or by such warehouse operators as Amalgamated Product Giant Shipping Worldwide Inc. that do the retailer's dirty work. This gives Amazon plausible deniability about your treatment — and it means you have no labor rights, for you are an independent contractor. No health care, no vacation time, no scheduled raises, no promotion track, no route to a full-time or permanent job, no regular schedule, no job protection and — of course — no union. Bezos would rather get COVID-19 than be infected with a union in his realm, and he has gone all out with intimidation tactics, plus hiring a notorious union-busting firm to crush any whisper of worker organization.

Jeff Bezos is no Santa. His treatment of workers is downright disgusting. We can let him know there are alternatives to his Amazon by doing our holiday shopping at locally owned, independent businesses. Visit the American Independent Business Alliance website to get started.

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

The Trump campaign is planning for no-holds-barred voter intimidation

Is it really so hard? Voting, I mean -- smooth democratic elections with all citizens able to easily cast their ballots and with every ballot fairly counted. Is that too much for people to ask?

Keep reading...Show less

The embarrassing disaster of the Republican Party in 2020

Wow, what a surprise! Have you seen the Republican Party's official platform?

Keep reading...Show less

Trump has turned the purpose of government on its head

Gosh, President Donald Trump has really been busy lately: busy assailing Sen. Kamala Harris as "nasty;" busy choosing a new pandemic adviser, whose only qualification is that he praises Trump on Fox News; and busy dissing and dismantling our post offices.

Keep reading...Show less

Trump is willing to destroy a prized national asset to cling to power

Every now and then, an enormously beneficial soul comes along -- someone whose work is so productive, honest and inspirational that he or she ought not be allowed to die. That's how I felt last month when I heard that John Lewis had slipped away from us.

Keep reading...Show less

The sickening greed of health care corporations rages while a pandemic spreads

Sometimes I don't know whether to weep uncontrollably, laugh hysterically or just throw up.

Keep reading...Show less

Meet the true Trump loyalists: Influence peddlers practicing the dark art of bending government power

The Donald is in a funk. He's been outsmarted by an inert virus. His poll numbers are tanking, and even his demagogic pep rallies are falling flat.

Keep reading...Show less

The GOP's grotesque plan to cope with COVID-19

Harking back to the embarrassing days of Gov. Rick "Oops" Perry, my state of Texas is once again saddled with a Republican gubernatorial goober. Greg Abbott is this guy's name, and he's another incompetent right-wing ideologue whose botched handling of our state's COVID-19 crisis makes President Donald Trump look like a master administrator of public health.

Keep reading...Show less

The GOP is enacting a plot of blunt-force plutocratic thuggery — but progressives have the wind at their backs

In February and March primary elections, a cabal of backroom political geniuses rushed out a coordinated campaign, screeching that impending doom would await the Democratic Party if it were to actually run on democratic ideas like Medicare for All, paid sick leave, universal basic income and expanded unemployment aid. Too bold, they wailed, too socialistic-y-sounding ... too scary! Clueless billionaire Mike Bloomberg actually hurled the "communism" smear at Sen. Bernie Sanders' policy ideas. Better to go slow with Joe, they warbled, for he's the safe choice -- a trusted lifelong insider who'll excite voters with his unexciting, steady-as-she-goes conventionally.

Keep reading...Show less

The mask comes off: How generosity, greed and goofiness are all exposed in a pandemic

For future historians and artists who'll chronicle today's health and economic crisis, one humble item will stand out as the chief cultural emblem of the times: wearing a mask. Or not.

Keep reading...Show less

The perversion of coronavirus relief funds is coming straight from the top

Charles Dickens, writing about the inequality and social turmoil leading to the French Revolution, noted, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Keep reading...Show less

America's snappy new extraterrestrial warfaring department boasts 2 achievements — and they both serve Trump's political needs

Bring on Captain Kirk, Spock and the whole intrepid "Star Trek" cast. And while you're at it, toss in some "Dr. Strangelove," for President Donald Trump is on a mission to turn science fiction into official military policy. Or is it the reverse? Either way, he's casting himself as a cosmic warrior with a heroic vision to turn the spectacular majesty of space into, as he put it, "the world's new war-fighting domain." How fantastic is that?

Keep reading...Show less

Here's the dark truth about Trump's broken pledge to stop endless wars

Our nation is suffering a decadeslong compulsion to wage war. It's not that the American people are crazed for constant and senseless military conflict; the hierarchy has so rigged our war machine that it now operates on autopilot, perpetually dispatching our combat forces into hostilities with little reason, public awareness or national consensus.

Keep reading...Show less

The pandemic profiteers swarm Washington as Trump goes off the deep end

Wartime profiteering is an especially vile form of corporate greed, yet it has been as common in our country as war itself.

Keep reading...Show less

Why Joe Biden is uniquely vulnerable to Trump

Just when you thought this political year couldn't get any weirder, along comes the entire Democratic Party establishment rushing en masse to the cliff's edge, hurling itself headfirst into the presidential contest. What has spurred this gaggle of political operatives, fat-cat donors and former presidential hopefuls is a collective impulse to unite behind the very worst candidate the party could possibly put up against President Donald Trump in November's election: Joe Biden.

Keep reading...Show less

Trump flees Afghanistan — but the US is still there

It's over. Donald the Dealmaker says that he has ended America's long nightmare in Afghanistan, finally terminating 18-plus years of grinding war (the longest in U.S. history). After more than 2,400 Americans killed (another 20,000 wounded), more than 100,000 Afghan citizens killed (countless more maimed) and roughly $2 trillion wasted, Trump is crowing that he's negotiated an end to the ridiculously expensive and pointless military adventure.

Keep reading...Show less

Trump's wall is an embarrassing disaster — exposing him as a flimflamming snake-oil peddler

Big, high walls can be troublesome. Ask Humpty Dumpty. Or consider the Canaanite city of Jericho: According to a Biblical tale, its walls came tumbling down when Joshua and the Israelites encircled it and blew their horns.

Keep reading...Show less

Health care for corporate profits — not people

When grassroots groups rise up against the corporate establishment trying to win some specific progressive change for the common good, the odds against them can seem daunting. As an old saying puts it: Where there's a will ... there are 1,000 won'ts.

Keep reading...Show less

Here are the dirty secrets of how the rich become the uber-rich

As Ray Charles wailed in a song of true-life blues, "(T)hem that's got are them that gets/ And I ain't got nothin' yet."

Keep reading...Show less

The dark underbelly of philanthropy reveals the reality of criminal exploitation in our society

Our society has coined expressions like "philanthropist" and "season of giving" to encourage and hail people's charitable spirit.

Keep reading...Show less

What if you were to own your own power company?

About 40 years ago, a right-wing codger named Eddie Chiles became a momentary political celebrity in my state by buying airtime on hundreds of radio stations to broadcast his daily political rants. Having made a fortune in the Texas oil fields, he pitched himself as a rags-to-riches, self-made success story. "I'm Mad Eddie," as he was known, repeatedly proclaimed that he was "mad" about big government -- particularly federal programs that taxed him to help poor people, who should help themselves by becoming oil entrepreneurs like him. It's simple, he instructed in the tagline to his tirades: "If you don't own an oil well, get one."

Keep reading...Show less

Taking back democratic power: Why utilities should be owned by us all

About 40 years ago, a right-wing codger named Eddie Chiles became a momentary political celebrity in my state by buying airtime on hundreds of radio stations to broadcast his daily political rants. Having made a fortune in the Texas oil fields, he pitched himself as a rags-to-riches, self-made success story. "I'm Mad Eddie," as he was known, repeatedly proclaimed that he was "mad" about big government -- particularly federal programs that taxed him to help poor people, who should help themselves by becoming oil entrepreneurs like him. It's simple, he instructed in the tagline to his tirades: "If you don't own an oil well, get one."

Keep reading...Show less

Jim Hightower: Can 'powerless nobodies' fight the corporate powers?

The many sparkling bays along the Texas coastline of the Gulf of Mexico have long provided both a working-class living and a valued lifestyle for generations of shrimpers, oysterers and other fishing families. People and seafood, however, are not the only creatures here, for such wildlife as alligators and snakes also call many of these interconnected waterways home. Yet, by necessity and experience, the hardy people of the water have figured out how to share the bays so all creatures can get along.

Keep reading...Show less

'Tax the Rich' is no longer just a political slogan

There's nothing inevitable about inequality. It's an injustice that the moneyed powers and their political hirelings have chosen. We the People can choose a brighter path, one that bends toward justice, starting with a wealth tax such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren's plan to apply a 2% per annum wealth tax only to net worth over $50 million and another 1% to households worth more than a billion bucks.

Keep reading...Show less

What is 'scaring the bejeezus' out of billionaires?

There's a new political army on the march in America, moving forcibly into the 2020 presidential campaign. Tromp, tromp, tromp they come -- it's the Billionaire Brigade!

Keep reading...Show less

Jim Hightower explains how Trump's poverty subsidy enriches the rich

Years ago, a Texas legislator who was occasionally known to take lobbyists' cash in exchange for a vote, explained his ethical framework as opportunistic: "I seen my chances, and I took 'em."

Keep reading...Show less

The plutocrats' most effective secret weapon is the U.S. tax code

I should start this homily on inequality by distinguishing income from wealth. Income is your annual wages or salary, as well as your earnings from a business, pension or government benefits such as Social Security, etc.

Keep reading...Show less
@2023 - AlterNet Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. - "Poynter" fonts provided by fontsempire.com.