Grand Rapids Press: Waterboarding is Illegal, but dont bother Prosecuting Anyone for It

Water Boarding Torture

Last week, The Grand Rapids Press gave space to Representative Pete Hoekstra to attempt to justify the United States use of torture.

Now, The Grand Rapids Press has weighed in with an editorial published Wednesday. In the editorial, The Grand Rapids Press acknowledges that the United States should not have used torture and that it was a “mistake” to have done so, even in light of the threat posed by al-Qaida:

Despite that compelling context, the decision to use water boarding and other “enhanced interrogation” was a mistake.

The harsh, sometimes brutal tactics lowered the nation’s moral standing, damaged international relations and likely put U.S. prisoners at risk for tougher treatment at the hands of enemies. Water boarding, in particular, is illegal under U.S. and international law.

However, while acknowledging that the conduct was illegal, The Grand Rapids Press simply doesn’t want to see anyone prosecuted for those crimes.

Although they acknowledge the use of torture was criminal, The Press says that “Authorizing torture as an officially sanctioned practice was a moral failure”–and ultimately one that should have no consequences.

For The Press, it would be too divisive to hold investigations:

Criminal investigations, professional censure or congressional hearings will only distract from the business of continued threats at home and abroad. Such action would send a chilling message to future government leaders and intelligence operatives seeking to protect the nation in moments of grave national threat.

However, if we don’t send a clear message that the use of torture will be prosecuted, we’re simply sending the message that torture is permissible. Agents can engage in those acts, they’ll just have to deal with a few strongly worded newspaper articles and some after-the-fact criticisms, but for the most part, they won’t face any consequences.

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Headlines: Britain Ends “Combat Operations” in Iraq; Group: Don’t Scapegoat Mexicans in Swine Flu Coverage

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Justice Souter to Retire from Supreme Court

Justice David Souter is reportedly planning on retiring at the end of the Supreme Court’s term in June. Souter’s departure would grant President Obama his first opportunity to appoint a new Justice to the Supreme Court bench. Souter was appointed by President George H.W. Bush but ended up regularly voting with the court’s liberal members.

3 U.S. Troops Killed in Iraq

In Iraq, three U.S. troops have been killed in clashes near Baghdad. At least eighteen U.S. soldiers died in April, making it the deadliest month for the U.S. military this year.

Britain Ends Combat Operations in Iraq

In other Iraq news, British troops have formally ended combat operations after a more than six-year occupation. On Thursday, British forces handed control of Basra province to the U.S. military. Britain says it will withdraw most of its 3,700 troops by July, leaving about 400 behind to train Iraqi forces.

Marri Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy Charge

The only so-called “enemy combatant” jailed in the U.S. has pleaded guilty to conspiring with al-Qaeda. Ali al-Marri has been held in isolation without trial at a naval brig in South Carolina for more than five years. The Obama administration charged him in February to avoid a Supreme Court hearing challenging his indefinite jailing. On Thursday, al-Marri pleaded guilty to a single conspiracy charge carrying a maximum fifteen-year sentence. He could serve half that if he’s given credit for his seven and a half year imprisonment. As part of the agreement, al-Marri admitted to attending militant training camps and traveling to the U.S. under the direction of Al-Qaeda leader Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

Gates Hints at Continued Indefinite Jailing of Gitmo Prisoners

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has indicated up to 100 foreign prisoners could end up jailed without trial in the U.S. once the Guantanamo Bay prison is closed. Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Gates: “What do we do with the 50 to 100 — probably in that ballpark — who we cannot release and cannot try?” Gates said he’s requested some $50 million in supplemental funding in case the Obama administration decides to quickly build a new jail.

61 Arrested Protesting Torture Outside White House

Gates’ comments came as sixty-one protesters were arrested outside the White House Thursday to call for the closure of Guantanamo and the prosecution of Bush administration officials who authorized torture there. The arrests followed a march of more than 150 people. Dozens wore black hoods and orange jumpsuits similar to those worn by Guantanamo prisoners. The protest was organized by Witness Against Torture and Amnesty International.

Chrysler Files for Bankruptcy Protection

The auto giant Chrysler has filed for federal bankruptcy protection under a government-brokered deal. Chrysler hopes to form a new company that would be owned by the US government, the Italian auto giant Fiat, and the company’s workers. On Thursday, President Obama said the bankruptcy filing would ensure Chrysler’s continued operation.

President Obama: “No one should be confused about what a bankruptcy process means. This is not a sign of weakness, but rather one more step on a clearly charted path to Chrysler’s revival. Because of the fact that the UAW and many of the banks, the biggest stakeholders in this whole process have already aligned, have already agreed, this process will be quick.”

Obama also criticized the role of some hedge funds who he said pushed Chrysler into bankruptcy.

Senate Defeats Measure to Aid Homeowners

On Capital Hill, the Senate has defeated a proposal that would have rescued hundreds of thousands of homeowners from foreclosure. A dozen Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the measure, which would have allowed bankruptcy judges to reduce mortgage payments for debt-strapped homeowners. President Obama had publicly supported the proposal but refused to actively lobby for its approval.

House Backs Credit Card Regulation

Meanwhile the House has approved a measure that would impose tighter regulation on the credit card industry. The Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights would limit practices including arbitrary interest rate hikes, premature late fees, and charging interest on paid-off debt.

House Broadens Hate Crime Laws

The House has also passed a measure expanding the scope of federal hate crime laws. The bill would broaden the definition of a hate crime to include attacks based on sexual orientation, gender identity and mental or physical disability. It now goes to the Senate.

Maine, New Hampshire Senates Vote to Legalize Gay Marriage

In Maine, the state Senate has voted to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill now goes to the Maine House, where it’s expected to pass next week. Democratic Governor John Baldacci formerly opposed gay marriage but isn’t expected to issue a veto. Meanwhile New Hampshire’s state Senate has also voted to legalize gay marriage. The measure now returns to the House, which has already approved a slightly different bill. New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, has opposed same-sex marriage but hasn’t indicated whether he’ll veto the measure.

U.S. Rules Out Closing Border With Mexico in Flu Crisis

Mexican health officials have raised their count of confirmed swine flu cases but say the number appears to be stabilizing. Three-hundred people have contracted swine flu in Mexico while another twelve people have died. The Obama administration is meanwhile rejecting calls to close the U.S. border with Mexico. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano addressed the issue Thursday in Washington.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano: “Closing the entire borders would have no benefit at this point because the virus is already present in the United States. The comparison is clear- it’s like closing the barn door well after the horse has left.”

There are more than 100 confirmed swine flu cases in the U.S., with one death so far. The White House has also announced a federal agent who recently traveled with President Obama contracted swine flu last month. The agent has since recovered and is back at work. The White House says he did not come within sufficient range of President Obama to expose him to possible infection.

Group: Don’t Scapegoat Mexicans in Swine Flu Coverage

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists meanwhile is urging media outlets not to scapegoat Mexican immigrants in coverage of the swine flu crisis. In a statement, the group said: “The temptation… will be to link Mexican immigrants with the spread of the disease to the United States. The consequence… will be even more anger – and perhaps even more violence – against a community no more responsible for the spread of this ailment than U.S. tourists returning from vacations.”

Iraq War Resister Jailed for 1 Year

A U.S. army soldier has been sentenced to a year in prison for fleeing to Canada to avoid serving in Iraq. Cliff Cornell spent four years living on a British Columbia island before the Canadian government denied his asylum request. He was jailed after re-entering the U.S. in February despite announcing plans to voluntarily return to his unit.

Informant: FBI Spied on Muslim Gym Members

In California, a former informant has revealed FBI agents routinely monitored local Orange County gyms to gather intelligence on members of local mosques. Craig Monteilh said he posed as a Muslim convert to lure mosque members to work out with him at the gyms. FBI agents would then press him to obtain information on his workout partners in the hopes of one day pressuring them to become informants. The disclosure is the latest in a series of exposed government surveillance efforts on California’s Muslim communities.

UN: International Pledges Yet to Reach Gaza

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, a top UN relief official says the Gaza Strip has yet to receive any of the $4.5 billion dollars in reconstruction aid pledged by international donors. John Ging, the head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, says Israeli restrictions on goods and the U.S.-led boycott of Hamas have prevented basic goods from reaching Gaza. Ging said: “Today the money is out there in pledges and the people of Gaza continue to subsist in the rubble of their former lives and the attention of the world has sadly moved on, which compounds the despair that people feel.”

Report Finds Scores of Abuses by Mexican Military

In Mexico, the Mexican military is being accused of enjoying virtual impunity to commit human rights abuses in the fight against the country’s drug cartels. In a new report, Human Rights Watch says the Mexican armed forces have committed rape, murder, torture, and other abuses against indigenous women, environmentalists, and other victims with no link to the drug war. Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said the crimes have routinely gone unpunished.

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth: “The legal door is open, it is now import for the politicians to walk trough and to end impunity that has been so disastrous for efforts to prevent the military from committing abuse. And the rise in abuses, the rise in complaints of abuse, that we’ve seen over last two years is in part a function of military involvement in law enforcement.”

May Day Protests Held Worldwide

And today is May Day, the annual celebration of workers’ rights. Rallies are being held across the United States and around the world. As in years past, dozens of U.S. demonstrations will also focus on immigration rights. At least seven marches have been organized in Los Angeles, while thousands are expected to converge on New York’s Union Square.

Another WOOD TV 8 Meterologist Promoting Global Warming “Skepticism”

Bill Steffen

WOOD TV 8 meteorologist Bill Steffen is picking up where Craig James left off in hyping flawed science on global warming. Before he retired, James never turned down the chance to either argue against global warming on his blog or in presentations to the community).

Now Bill Steffen appears to be filling the void that was left when James quit and when his blog posts were erased from WOOD TV 8’s website. Like Craig James, Steffen is using his status as a meteorologist–and a trusted member of the community for some–to argue against the scientific consensus on global warming.

Steffen’s latest effort is blog post titled “MSNBC Needs to read Bill’s Blog” in which Steffen rails against MSNBC for their four-part series “Future Earth.” In the post, Steffen says that the show’s science is flawed. He argues that arctic ice is not decreasing and points to numbers from 2007 that show an increase in arctic ice. However, scientists have suggested that this is likely a temporary phenomenon and that ice will continue to melt if greenhouse gasses continue to rise.

Beyond that, Steffen argues that there is nothing we could do about it anyway, as “YOU can’t stop it’s decline (assuming it’s declining)! Nature is big – you personally are insignificant compared to nature.” He also advocates a rather bizarre position that so-called global warming skeptics like to argue: people who warn about global warming just want to make money. In this case, Steffen says that NBC has a vested interest in promoting global warming because they are making money off of it. Steffen argues that General Electric stands to profit from proposed cap-and-trade legislation because it produces some energy efficient appliances. It’s an argument that might have an ounce of validity in the case of GE (we should always be suspicious of the motives of corporations, especially those that control the media), but when they use it to dismiss scientists–who describe dire environmental problems and peril–it’s hard to believe that they are hyping up the situation just to sell a few more copies of their academic tomes.

For this, Steffen’s post spread rapidly across the global warming denier/delayer blogosphere, as well as getting attention via conservative commentator Michelle Malkin’s blog–since that crowd is always trying to find someone “credible” to argue against global warming. However, what’s interesting is that there has been a fairly strong counter voice to Steffen’s arguments in the comments section of his post, with a few voices strongly arguing the validity of the science and how Steffen draws his conclusion. Most often, Steffen has shied away from making detailed responses to those comments.

Hoekstra Still Supporting Torture

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Unfortunately, it isn’t exactly news that Representative–and candidate for governor–Pete Hoekstra supports torture. He’s been a strong proponent of the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation” program and has said it was successful in preventing terrorist attacks.

However, Hoekstra has recently backed off a bit, still arguing that the interrogations produced useful intelligence, but speaking very carefully about his own support for the program.

In the Wall Street Journal, Hoekstra criticized President Obama’s release of government memos on torture and said their release makes it harder for intelligence agencies to function. He also said that their release was unnecessary, as Congressional support for the tactics was well known:

It was not necessary to release details of the enhanced interrogation techniques, because members of Congress from both parties have been fully aware of them since the program began in 2002. We believed it was something that had to be done in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to keep our nation safe. After many long and contentious debates, Congress repeatedly approved and funded this program on a bipartisan basis in both Republican and Democratic Congresses.

Of Hoekstra’s current view on torture, The Grand Rapids Press reported:

In an interview Friday, Hoekstra stopped short of endorsing the interrogation technique, in which a person is made to experience the sensation of drowning.

“I didn’t go through the decision-making process back in 2003 when the president and the leadership decided it was an appropriate way to go,” Hoekstra said.

“I don’t know whether I would reach the same decision today.”

However, he added, “I think in total the process we used — enhanced interrogation techniques — kept America safer, prevented attacks and there are Americans alive today because of it.”

Clearly, Hoekstra believes the program worked–he’s just hoping to minimize it as an issue for both himself and Republicans. Hoekstra says he wasn’t aware of waterboarding being used when it happened, but he has supported its use. In the past, Hoekstra has voted against banning tactics including waterboarding, electric shock, beatings and mock executions and has said that those do not constitute torture because they do not inflict physical injury.

Press Runs Guest Column in Support of Employee Free Choice Act

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After publishing yet another editorial against the Employee Free Choice Act earlier this month, the Grand Rapids Press published a guest column on Friday by Buckley Geno of West Michigan’s Friends of Labor and West Michigan Plumbers, Fitters, and Service Trades Local Union No. 174.

The column calls out the lie that the Employee Free Choice Act eliminates secret ball elections:

The Employee Free Choice Act does not eliminate elections. It gives working people the freedom to make their own decision about forming a union and how to accomplish that task without the fear of retribution. Currently, working people are struggling to make ends meet. The Employee Free Choice Act will allow more people to bargain for better wages and working conditions, which will help rebuild our middle class and create an economy that will benefit everyone.

Today big business dominates our economy, which enables corporations to insist that employees organize unions through so-called elections on their terms, even when a majority of employees have stated they want a union. The result is intimidation and coercion, which leads to “elections” that are more like fake elections in dictatorships.

However, while it is nice to see the Grand Rapids Press finally publishing something in support of the Act, it doesn’t make up for the fact that its coverage of the issue has been very one-sided and anti-union. It has editorialized against the Employee Free Choice Act four times and run columns from conservative commentators against the Act. Similarly, in its news coverage, it has spoken primarily to critics–business owners and Republican politicians–rather than supporters.

Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11

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Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11

Activists and scholars have been arguing for years that negative representations of minorities in US-based commercial media has contributed to how the public perceives any group. The first feature film in the US, The Birth of A Nation, is a good example of the role that racist depictions of Blacks contributed to public lynching in the early part of the 20th century.

This is the fundamental argument that author Jack Shaheen has been making for years as it relates to media depictions of Arabs with his groundbreaking book Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, which documents how Hollywood has portrayed Arabs. Years later the book was made into a documentary and now Shaheen has written a sequel, Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs After 9/11.

Guilty is important on two levels. First, it tracks Arab depiction in Hollywood films and US entertainment TV shows since 9/11. These depictions since 9/11 have continued to disproportionately represent Arabs in a negative light, quite often as terrorists. Some examples that Shaheen looks at are the movies Click (2006), Final Destination 3 (2006), The Kingdom (2007), Team America (2004), and Transformers (2007).

Each of these films has stereotypical representation of Arabs, most often as terrorists with overt depictions of bearded sultans who are driven by lust and greed. In the movie Click there is a brief encounter with a wealthy Arab with the main characters in the film. An Arab actor does not play the Arab businessman and his White counterparts cannot pronounce his name. At one point the main character in the film says are you asking me to design an “Arabian hoochie house?” This brief exchange suggests that Arab men have no respect for women. In the movie Transformers, Arabs are helpless in the face of an alien invasion and must rely on the US military to protect them.

Shaheen also includes US television programming in his analysis of popular media depictions of Arabs since 9/11, since a similar pattern exists. In a chapter entitled “TV’s Arab-American Bogeyman,” the author demonstrates that Arab characters are depicted in very negative ways. The popular FOX network show 24 uses Arabs as terror suspects repeatedly and the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) has White wrestlers always beating an Arab wrestler named Hasan. One reason why these depictions contribute negative public perceptions of Arabs is because they never show “Arab American women and men doing what normal Americans do in their daily lives.”

The second reason why Guilty is an important book is because of how the author makes the link between these media stereotypes and the treatment of Arabs and Arab Americans in the real world. Shaheen always comes back to what these racist depictions of Arabs mean to everyday Arabs and Arab Americans, which is to say that hate crimes and discrimination have been on the rise since 9/11.

Guilty does an excellent job of weaving the actual treatment of Arab Americans in the US since 9/11 and how media depictions create a climate for this negative treatment. Anyone who wants to understand the relationship between media and racism would find this book valuable. Those who care about the civil rights of Arab Americans would do well to read this important and timely book.

Jack Shaheen, Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs After 9/11, (Olive Branch Press, 2008).

NBC’s Today Show Repeats Anti-EFCA Falsehoods, Relies on Anti-Union Wal-Mart CEO for Analysis

Wal-Mart Opposes the EFCA

NBC’s Today show is the latest media outlet to include reporting that distorts the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) by relying on falsehoods touted by the bill’s opponents.

The media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) issued a media alert on Tuesday about a segment in which Today show host Matt Lauer repeated falsehoods about the EFCA:

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would make it easier for workers to form unions by increasing penalties for employers who violate workers’ right to organize, and by giving workers the right to form a union if a majority signs cards declaring they want one–the so-called “card check” provision.

NBC’s Lauer declared that EFCA “would do away with secret ballots.” This is inaccurate; under the proposed law, workers would still have the right to vote in a National Labor Review Board (NLRB) “secret ballot” election if 30 percent of the workforce signs cards, just as they do now. Under current law, employers rather than workers get to decide whether unionization requires a card check or a vote. The false claim that EFCA would eliminate secret ballots has been a major talking point of anti-EFCA campaigners.

After this, Lauer asked the Wal-Mart CEO what he thought about the EFCA. Not surprisingly, the Wal-Mart CEO said it is “really one of those bills that would be damaging to the American economy long-term.”

Back in 2008, Wal-Mart–anticipating the likely election of a Democratic president–began forcing its employees to attend meetings that argued against the EFCA

Wal-Mart acknowledges that it summoned employees around the country to warn them about the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow unions to organize companies if more than half the workers signed cards agreeing to join, dispensing with the need for a secret ballot.

Wal-Mart is an incredibly anti-union company and has violated labor laws numerous times in recent years. Wal-Mart has even gone so far as to close stores rather than see them unionized. It’s no surprise that they would actively campaign against the act. Nor is it a surprise that NBC–which is owned by General Electric–would give them a platform to promote these views, as media coverage of the Employee Free Choice Act has repeatedly emphasized business voices over labor voices.

Grand Rapids Press Publisher Discusses State of The Press

Dan Gaydou of the Grand Rapids Press

Last week, Grand Rapids Press publisher Dan Gaydou delivered a speech to the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids on the state of his newspaper. As the we’ve reported in recent months, The Grand Rapids Press’ parent company has made a number of cuts in recent months, as has The Grand Rapids Press.

However, The Grand Rapids Press reported on Gaydou’s talk and that The Press is in a solid position:

Acknowledging the newspaper business is changing dramatically, Gaydou said The Press — along with parent company Advance Publications Inc. — is poised to make the transition.

A string of major daily papers have filed bankruptcy or stopped publishing, but it’s inaccurate to assume that all newspapers are close to demise, he said, speaking at Kent Country Club. Many of the papers that have folded are in large metropolitan markets and have lost readership over time.

That isn’t the case with The Press, which is read by 56 percent of the community on a daily basis and 65 percent on Sunday, Gaydou said.

Gaydou said that the biggest challenge facing The Grand Rapids Press is the economy, but that it has recently cut costs through pay cuts and buyouts.

Gaydou went on to say that The Press is committed to maintaining its “reporting franchise” saying that it is necessary to “preserve a valuable component of the community and democracy.”

And as is always the case today, Gaydou hyped The Grand Rapids Press’ website saying that it “appeals to younger readers.”

Trashing capitalism now in vogue, but its generation of misery is nothing new

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As the economic crisis has worsened, confidence in capitalism seems to be sinkin’ like a stone.

I wrote about a month ago that The Nation–widely considered the most influential progressive publication in the country–started a series of stories in print and online on socialism and its relevance in the midst of havoc the unfettered free market has wreaked on the country and the planet. Others have followed suit: the cover of this month’s issue of In These Times magazine features the headline “The Meltdown Goes Global: It is time to rethink capitalism.” Hell, even the New York Times–certainly no bastion of anti-capitalist thought–ran a piece at the end of February whose tone mocked conservatives’ obsession with using “socialist” and “socialism” as dirty words, entitled Socialism! Boo, Hiss, Repeat.” And shockingly, some of their coverage of the G-20 actually treated protestors who identified as anti-capitalist, with anti-capitalist demands, as legitimate!

And the shift isn’t just in the media. A recent Rasmussen Reports poll indicates that barely more than half–53%–of American adults think capitalism is a better economic system than socialism. And Republicans thought big government bailouts and stimulus packages were scary! It can’t be long before conservative pundits look at those numbers and start calling for that 53% to start arming themselves for a fight against the impending tide of Communists coming to take away their guns and plasma screen TVs in service of The Party.

Yes, all signs seem to be pointing towards a growing number of Americans realizing that maybe the free market isn’t the same as freedom, and that capitalism might actually be causing all kinds of global misery rather than economic prosperity. And that’s certainly a very good thing.

But the framing of this discussion has really been irking me lately. The recession is being called a meltdown, a catastrophe, a disaster. And it is all those things, to be sure: working- and middle-class folks’ retirements have evaporated into thin air, unemployment is at astronomical levels, foreclosures are happening left and right. And this is all quite tragic.

But the misery bred by capitalism is no new development. I was thinking about this as I read that In These Times cover: “It is time to rethink capitalism.” Now is the time, now that “average folks” are being hit by the free market’s latest temper tantrum? Everything was cool before, but now we’ve gotta rethink this capitalism business?

News flash: the majority of the world has been getting screwed by global capitalism since its inception. Pick your poison: Columbus’ landing in Americas and the subsequent slaughter of millions of indigenous peoples, slavery and present), the fact that the average CEO in this country makes 344 times that of the average worker, the fact that half of the world lives on $2 or less a day, the incredible amount of violence and environmental destruction required to keep the system a-churnin’. The list goes on and on. These things have been happening for hundreds of years but few in the mainstream media and general populace in this country have batted an eye–quite the contrary, they’ve been ardent defenders of what is supposedly the greatest and most free economic system in the world. Once folks start losing their jobs, houses, and retirement, though, they begin rethinking capitalism.

I suppose this is the way things work in this country. The Vietnam War was rotten from the get-go, but it was poor and working-class folks who were the ones fighting and dying at the outset. It wasn’t until years into the slaughter, when bright-eyed middle-class kids–you know, the ones who were supposed to become doctors and lawyers and upstanding, all-American citizens–started coming home in flag-draped coffins that popular opinion turned against the war.

The same is true of our current economic collapse: it has taken a society-wide bludgeoning for folks to rethink a fundamentally unjust economic system. It’s just a shame there had to be so much suffering before we got here.

Another Michigan Publication Comes Out Against the Employee Free Choice Act

Pass the Employee Free Choice Act

We’ve recently reported on The Grand Rapids Press’ numerous editorials opposing the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as other right-wing efforts to oppose the law here in West Michigan.

Now, the publication MiBiz–which focuses on business news–has published an editorial against the Employee Free Choice Act.

Like the editorials in The Grand Rapids Press and those being written by business groups across the country, the MiBiz editorial repeats many common falsehoods myths and distortions about the EFCA. The editorial was written by Chuck Hadden of the Michigan Manufacturers Association. Given his position as a leader of an organization representing business owners, it’s really no surprise that he is speaking out against the legislation–they clearly have a vested interest in keeping labor laws as they are: favoring employers.

Hadden argues that, “One of the most compelling arguments against the EFCA is that employees would, for all intents and purposes, lose their right to a secret ballot for union representation.” Of course, this argument has been shown to be false time and time again, as Hadden admits one sentence later when he says that workers could still use the so-called “secret ballot” for elections if they want. So, what’s the big deal? It would give workers the choice and take away the current pro-employer bias in labor law.

He further argues that workers would lose their privacy when he says that:

“It is important to remember that privacy in the election process provides important protections for both employers and employees and those protections would be stripped away under the EFCA if unions get their way. Those signed cards would be viewed by both employers and union representatives. Under the guise of “freedom” and “choice,” employees would be forced to openly declare their affiliations or intentions with regard to unionization efforts which is an open invitation for harassment, intimidation and coercion.”

However, like most critics of the EFCA, Hadden completely ignores the frequency with which employers intimidate and harass workers trying to form unions. They can do it because penalties are so low, the Employee Free Choice Act would help reverse that.

Hadden also argues that other changes including arbitration and timelines for elections, would hurt employers and employees:

“the National Labor Relations Board already has strict procedures to ensure fair private ballot elections, free of employer or union coercion. These existing procedures are no threat to unions; they lead to swift and fair elections.”

Again, he ignores criticism of the NLRB process which University of Oregon political scientist Gordon Lafer, Ph.D argues has little resemblance to democratic process.

It’s important to keep the spotlight on the Employee Free Choice Act–union membership should be a basic right and its historically been responsible for many gains in wages and the expansion of the middle class, both here in the United States and globally. It’s essential that union organizers, progressives, radicals, and workers work together to promote the act because we’re up against quite an array of forces, namely corporations and their allies in the government and the media.