danny.jpgYou know the labor movement is in real trouble when one of the only major media outlets that seriously covers a big union protest where bigwigs get arrested is “E!”

Yes E!, the entertainment channel.

We should all give them props for caring about working conditions for the down trodden. (Tone of sarcasm here.)

Well, the main focus of the story was the arrest of one of my favorite actors, Danny Glover. He was protesting outside the headquarters of food-service company Sodexo in Maryland. The demonstration was part of a series of national protests organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) at 10 Sodexo locations to fight what they say are poor working conditions and union busting.glover.jpg

It makes you wonder how much hope those workers have if Glover, a Hollywood movie star and long-time worker advocate, is put behind bars and few take notice. Worker rights just don’t sell today.

By contrast, if Angelina Jolie got thrown in the clinker for protesting conditions in Ethiopia or Sean Penn got hand cuffed for rallying for more Haitian earth quake help it would have been a top story. (CNN’s Anderson Cooper can’t get enough of Penn these days.)

There is a lack of passion in this country when it comes to workers. Even the arrests were supposedly prearranged by the SEIU and police, according to some reports.

Mitch Ackerman, executive vice president of the SEIU, admitted to me that worker right disputes may not be the most “sexy,” but the fact that such stories aren’t on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers, or websites, may have something to do with the companies that own these media outlets. “Rupert Murdock isn’t big on unions,” he quipped.

But the issue of fairness in the workplace goes beyond unions.

We’ve just gone through one of the worst economic downturns in our history where workers saw decades of stagnant wages tank even further and a layoff blood bath that propped up company bottom lines but destroyed the financial lives of so many employees out there. In the midst of these injustices, the only real passion seems to have come from a movement that wants to cut taxes. (Thank you for some passion Tea Party Patriots. Although, if you don’t get paid fairly or have a job, getting taxed too much is sort of a moot point, no?)

Where’s the outrage over working stiffs getting stiffed?

Financial sector obscene profits have begun again? Goldman Sachs, facing government fraud charges, saw it earnings skyrocket 91 percent. Where are the angry masses given a jobless rate still hovering near 10 percent, the death of 29 miners at a plant that was riddled with safety violations, and the continued inequity in pay, especially for women. (The Census reported this week that women are better educated now than men but they still make less money.)

And what about the Sodexo workers who the SEIU claims have been intimidated for trying to organize a union and are paid sub par wages and benefits?

A Sodexo spokesman Thomas Mackall denies such claims: “We can tell you categorically that Sodexo recognizes and respects our workers’ rights to join or not join a union as they choose.”

Outgoing head of the SEIU Andy Stern believes otherwise.

“This campaign raises the question whether global corporations will rule the world or workers of the world will unite,” he said.

That’s a good question. What’s your answer?


Just to be fair, some labor issues do get a lot of media attention, especially when it directly impacts the wealthy. The potential strike of New York city doormen got lots of people up in arms recently. Thank goodness that strike was averted because it would have been a tough go for rich New Yorkers to have to open doors themselves.

In case that had happened, here’s a section from a funny New York Times blog written by Wendell Jamieson on the art of door opening:

While it may seem intimidating to the uninitiated, opening a door is actually a simple act. It can be accomplished safely with advance planning and practice. We are talking here about doors with knobs — anyone who lives in a building with swinging or revolving doors is most likely already proficient in their operation. A door with a knob (or its cousin, the latched handle) is a bit more complicated.

Such doors usually open onto the street, and the knobs can be turned either clockwise or counter-clockwise. Someone leaving his or her building should follow these steps:

1. Approach door.
2. Grasp knob with right hand if right-handed, left hand if left-handed.
3. Turn knob until you hear a clicking sound.
4. Using free hand, push door. You have now created a large vertical opening.
5. Step through opening smartly. Do not delay — to do so could result in physical injury.
6. Continue on your way: the door will close by itself. There is no need to pull it closed.

See, who needs to treat workers fairly? Society doesn’t really need them after all.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [del.icio.us] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]