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COOL AND CLOUDY conditions will be accompanied by multiple rounds of rainfall today through early next week. In addition, periods of high elevation snowfall will occur across the mountains of Trinity County during the next seven days. Thunderstorms and small hail will also be possible along the coast this afternoon and evening, and again during Friday and Saturday. Otherwise, snow levels will range from 1000 to 2000 feet across northwest California this weekend into early next week, which will result in substantial impacts to travel across mountain roadways and highway passes during the Christmas holiday period. (NWS)
YESTERDAY'S RAINFALL: Yorkville 1.4", Laytonville 1.4", Leggett 1.0", Willits 0.9", Hopland 0.8", Covelo 0.8", Boonville 0.7", Ukiah 0.6"
19 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
THE SKUNK’S BIG PLANS
An interview with Robert Pinoli
by Chris Calder
When Mendocino Railways announced in October that it had bought the remaining land on the Fort Bragg millsite and along the banks of the Pudding Creek estuary for about $1.2 million via an unchallenged eminent domain claim against Georgia-Pacific in October, it was a jolt to what had been a long, quiet discussion.
For nearly all of the previous 20 years, Georgia-Pacific had held onto the land, at first as an active participant in planning the future of the site. Then, after a complicated lawsuit involving G-P, the city, and G-P’s predecessor company, Boise-Cascade, now OfficeMax, that partly involved responsibility for environmental cleanup of the site, G-P largely fell silent. Planning went on — years of community meetings that set priorities and general areas for a mix of developments on the site — but the actual zoning of the land remains what it was 19 years ago: Industrial. Since June 2020, the City of Fort Bragg held its own talks with G-P to try to work out a public acquisition.
All that time, or at least since 2004 when it bought the Skunk out of bankruptcy, said Mendocino Railways President and CEO Robert Pinoli, Mendocino Railways has been working on G-P to sell it the millsite. The ultimate purchase of the south end of the site, via an eminent domain claim that G-P did not challenge, came as a surprise to many, but Pinoli said it was the result of years of negotiation, and that Mendocino Railway resorted to eminent domain simply as a way to hurry completion of the deal. Taking that route relies on the Skunk Train’s status as a freight railroad, a status that is being challenged by the City of Fort Bragg in Superior Court.
But the outcome of that case, both city and railroad officials agree, won’t affect who owns the property — the purchase of 271 acres on the south side of the millsite and approximately 70 acres along the banks of Pudding Creek, is a done deal. The outcome of the city’s case, however, could affect how development and environmental remediation of the site proceeds.
Pinoli was emphatic that any millsite development that is not directly related to railroad operations — although that could include workforce housing — would be subject to state and local land use laws.
“Anything that’s railroad related,” he said, “a depot, railroad tracks, a repair facility, a maintenance facility, that’s specific to the railroad, doesn’t go through the standard process. Anything else? Absolutely (state and local rules apply). Now, when I say it doesn’t go through the standard process, it doesn’t mean we’re exempt from following the code. But we don’t get the building permit. The bulk of what’s happening out here — a hotel, housing, visitor serving commercial, all of that, is subject to all the rules and regulations anyone is subject to.”
So, if there was a Skunk Train Hotel, would that be a railroad operation?
“No. If it were flagged the Skunk Train Hotel or California Western Lodge or whatever, no. That is an absolute absurd use of power. Now if it was housing, workforce housing specific, like you go to a national park and there are cabins or houses or a housing complex and it’s specifically for workers, that’s a different story.”
Pinoli made clear that Mendocino Railway’s prime goal is railroad-focused.
“Now keep in mind,” he said about the 2019 plan combining retail, hotels and housing on the west side of Main Street, “we didn’t want this. This plan is what the community decided through the process. We didn’t come in and say we want houses and a hotel. This is what the community process decided. Now that there is a property owner intent on seeing something happening, now the conversations will be far better focused.”
The Skunk Train is operated by the Mendocino Railway Company, of which Pinoli — an Anderson Valley native who first started working at the Skunk at age 15 — is President and CEO. Mendocino Railway is in turn owned by the Sierra Railroad Company, which bought the Skunk Train out of bankruptcy in 2004 and also operates the Sierra Northern Railroad, a line with both freight and excursion operations on the Central Valley. Mike Hart is CEO of Sierra Railroad Company. Chris Hart, his brother, is Vice President of Sierra Railroad in charge of business development.
Mike Hart is also CEO of Sierra Energy a waste-to-energy company that has received grants from the Department of Defense and California Energy Commission, as well as millions in private investment funds, to develop its FastOx gasification technology. It currently operates a prototype gasification plant at Hunter-Liggett Army base in Monterey County.
Pinoli said the two companies are separate, but he also made clear that he views gasification as having a potential role in the millsite’s future.
Whether on the millsite or not, Pinoli talked about energy, waste disposal and possibly desalination as part of a much larger role for the railroad in the region’s economy.
Sierra Energy’s FastOx gasification method is one of a number of such technologies that has drawn large-scale private and government backing in recent years. The process heats non-recyclable waste to thousands of degrees to produce reusable byproducts and fuels. The company’s website states “Sierra Energy’s FastOx gasification eliminates the need for landfills. Household trash, hazardous waste, tires, medical waste, construction and demolition materials can be converted into energy safely, responsibly, and without burning.”
A small but growing number of gasification plants have been built in the U.S. and Nova Scotia over the past few years. The U.K. brought its first municipal gasification plant online in 2019. Sierra Energy’s plant at the Hunter-Liggett base near Monterey was installed in 2017. Pinoli did not rule out a role for that type of technology at the millsite, or at least in Fort Bragg.
“The layperson would call it burning, but it’s a completely different process, that creates syngas. You can put just about anything into the gasifier and not be emitting harmful particulate matter into the environment because of the temperatures used, and create a number of beneficial byproducts.”
“And,” he continued, “it would give us the ability to control our own trash. There is nothing worse than a community that touts to be environmental champions of the world, but exports all their garbage to some other place. It’s kind of hypocritical really."
“If you have this machine that has the capability of doing something so that you don’t put trucks on roads, so that you don’t ship your garbage for someone else to deal with, well then you actually are a responsible community.”
Pinoli batted away talk that the remaining Koch brother, whose company still owns Georgia-Pacific, or other outside investment groups have been associated with the millsite purchase:
“There has been some discussion that the Koch Brothers are investors or shareholders or are in control of Mendocino Railway...But the Koch Brothers have no association with us whatsoever.
There have been rumors about an Oak Investment or Brookfield — those entities have nothing to do with Mendocino Railway, Sierra Energy, Sierra Railroad Company, any of the associated companies.”
The same goes, Pinoli said, for any association with the ‘Coal Train’, a proposal that came to light in September to ship coal by rail from the northern Rockies to Eureka. Proponents of the plan acted to delay the “railbanking” of the tracks between Willits and Eureka, a key step in creating the Great Redwood Trail, which is the latest plan for the future of the line that was abandoned in the 1980s.
Mendocino Railways also filed an objection to the abandonment procedure, but Pinoli said that had nothing to do with shipping coal through northwest California, an idea he said he firmly opposes:
“Coal. No. Absolutely not. I don’t even know who this group is. As the President and CEO of Mendocino Railway, I have not spoken with anybody who has associated themselves with ‘The Coal Train.’ In fact, one of the very first calls I made when this whole coal thing exploded was to Congressman Huffman and we spoke about strategies. Because we do not support coal. We are not associated with coal. No...We’re not touching it.”
The railroad’s objection had more to do with expanding the railroad’s overall role in the region’s economy, he said.
“We also have to think differently about the future of rail transport, particularly in rural areas. We almost have to go back to the way it was in the early 1900s when boxcars would come into the coast.
“There was something called a railroad express agency, a post office on wheels if you will. A boxcar didn’t have one commodity in it. It wasn’t just full of oranges or lumber. That’s what we’ve gone to, because it’s more efficient. Or, is it more convenient for the big railroads? You’ve got somebody who wants to bring something to the coast. They don’t need an entire boxcar...So we have to go back to this kind of cooperative idea.”
Before any millsite development occurs, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control has to OK what is likely the final stage of cleanup there, including the mill ponds just west of Redwood Avenue that are known to contain dioxins and other chemicals left over from more than a century of mill operations. DTSC is expected to hold public hearings in Fort Bragg next year to finalize the last cleanup phase, known as Operating Unit E. Pinoli said he expects to come to an agreement on remediation “that everyone can live with”, and that can also be limited in cost to about $3.5 million. Mendocino Railways has also inherited Georgia-Pacific’s responsibility for monitoring groundwater quality on the site at a cost Pinoli estimated at about $150,000 a year.
As far as what’s next on the site, Pinoli said, “The first thing is that the remediation work needs to happen. Oftentimes that is the unappreciated work, but it’s the most important work. People just want to see something happen, but in order for that something to happen, you’ve got to take care of what’s underneath the ground. In order to do any development outside of railroad tracks, remediation, where it’s needed, must happen.”
MARSHALL NEWMAN PASSES ALONG: Another old photograph from Ebay – Covelo, 1920
GREEN CHAIN WARRIORS IN THE EARLY 70s
I thoroughly enjoyed Brad Wiley's article about the caves beyond Navarro, the Floodgate store, planting trees and finally coming to the gyppo mill around two years after we began the gyppo with five men. Brad became our sixth man after five men who went to war made up the five men gyppo mill:
Brad was a lean six footer and the job was considered much easier with six men.
With only five men we were paid $2.87 per hour. We got $1.40 per hour added to our pay for any hours over 40 hours.
I worked for Jack Davis because he ran the mill. Jack could tell me in advance how much lumber would probably roll out. Jack would tell Bill Witherell what kind of logs to get ready to produce how much lumber.
I remember working 12 days straight, 10 straight hours each day. We occasionally made $15 per shift.
After more than two years never missing a day I left to go hiking on the eastern side out of Bishop on Highway 395 Southlake. When I came back after seven days I asked Sam Prather what happened? He said, “Morgan tried to close gyppo so we called a strike. Logging trucks had blocked the highway until trucks were stretched between the Philo mill all the way to the Grange Hall.
Morgan started the gyppo mill. Then a union from Fort Bragg lumber came to try to unionize the mill workers.
I asked who called the union members? They all said probably Brad Wiley because he was slobbering and hugging all over them. But nobody knew for sure.
Anyway it was a good system for about two and half years. Brad did well while he was on the job.
COLLISION & FATALITY ON TALMAGE ROAD
WHO IS SHE? (Coast Listserve)
Q: The woman who seems to be living at glass beach and environs... What is her story? She’s a tall gaunt-looking woman who is usually wearing a cloak w/ a hood, and until recently she had a shopping cart, but now it seems gone and she’s been sitting on the sidewalk w/ her back propped up by the Holmes Lumber Co. fence. I see her when I go for walks out to the tressle. Does she at least have some place under a roof to spend the night? Does anyone on this list know? I’m pretty sure I gave her a lift to the Hospitality House once but that was years ago. I’ve never engaged her in conversation, as she has a radio w/ earplugs that’s on, or it seems asleep.
* * *
A: Common story in Ft Bragg. I've staked her to dinner a few times. I was told by the folks at the lumber yard behind the fence that she used to stay between the stacks of lumber but she smokes so they had to put a stop to it. With collaboration maybe the city can be convinced that there is a real homeless problem in our town. The heavily funded solutions don't seem to be doing the trick.
BANQUO'S GHOST, his cough halfway between a cough and a death rattle, warned the unvaccinated that they had an enhanced shot at dying. “You have an obligation to yourselves, to your family and quite frankly, I know I’ll get criticized for this, to your country. Omicron is serious, potentially deadly business for unvaccinated people. I got my booster shot as soon as they were available,” he said, throwing a bouquet to Trump for announcing his own booster shot.
SO MANY CATS out of so many bags, but the one that seems to most disturb our apprehensive population is crime. A typical comment: “We are reaping what we have sown. Allow ‘protestors’ to riot with impunity. Allow shoplifting as long as it's below $950. Decline to prosecute serious crime. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will allow concealed carry in our state as it seems we are going to need to be our own police if this continues. We are watching the decline of our society.”
YEAH, we're watching the decline of society. On television. As it declines in certain long-declined areas. Most of us are affected only tangentially and mostly by the visuals we see on television.
I'D GUESS that the large majority of Americans are more worried by the ever higher prices they're paying for everything at the market and at the pump.
HEY! Some nice writing by Phil Barber at the Press Democrat as he described the Rio Nido redwood dwellers: “When the damp comes to the North Bay, and the redwood canopy of the Russian River area grabs clouds from the sky and clutches them like babies, life here becomes a pitched battle against an ecosystem that seems intent on reclaiming the upper hand. Roofs grow pelts of moss, and untreated exterior walls become slick with green-black muck. Ferns and succulents bloom so aggressively from balconies, it’s hard to tell if they are sprouting from pots or straight out of the deck boards…”
AS OF TUESDAY MORNING, the atmospheric river was still dry, although the national psychic atmosphere remains turbulent and anxious.
THE FIRST Omicron death was an unvaccinated Texan in his fifties. He died Monday and had “underlying health problems.”
POOR OLD JOE, our symbolic president, and walking symbol of elder abuse, was shoved out in front of the teleprompters Tuesday to announce a long list of measures his cynical handlers say will slow down the spread of the Omicron mutation of the covid virus. They include a half-billion at-home, rapid tests mailed to Americans for free starting in January, that and testing sites plus “1,000 military medical professionals to help at overburdened hospitals, and six emergency-response teams” dispatched to Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
CATCH OF THE DAY, December 21, 2021
DELBERT ALFORD, Covelo. Battery with serious injury, domestic battery, parole violation.
JOSEPH BUCKINGHAM, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
LUIS HERNANDEZ-GODOY, Laytonville. DUI.
LAUREN HILDRETH, Ukiah. DUI, child cruelty-infliction of injury.
TROY JACK, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
SHEENA MONDRAGON, Covelo. Attempted burglary, appropriation of lost property without trying to return it.
LEE RUPERT, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery, probation revocation.
JENNIFER WILKINSON, Laytonville. DUI-alcohol&drugs, bringing controlled substance into jail.
FOR THOSE CONVINCED that it is impossible to circumvent politics, either by direct action or through a state of emergency, the task remains to construct from the imperfect tools available a viable ecological platform. In its most optimistic form this might be a politics of public affluence and civic mindedness; of green urbanization and the economies of scale permitted by city living; of vast public projects; of cutting edge decarbonization technology combined with re-wilding and reforestation; of unstinting international effort to decouple the promise of human flourishing from dependence on the infrastructure of death. Most pressing is a matter of organization: any such program would need to garner the support not only of metropolitan liberals and the young, but to penetrate and revive the atrophied organizations of the old working-class, to appeal ruthlessly to the desire of parents to hand on a better world for their children, and to recruit one pillar of the community for every activist or street prophet. It will need many foreign leaders and allies, interpreters and defenders at every level of culture. Such a movement would require a bonfire of pieties and the willingness to use the state as never before. The obstacles are formidable, above all the fossil funded oligarchy lodged at the center of Western politics. Andreas Malm’s book ‘White Skin, Black Fuel’ charts many of the risks facing progressive politics in a post-carbon era, but it would be foolish to dismiss such a politics as utopian. It is on utopia that we now depend.
— James Butler
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Once upon a time, there were fewer growers, and county drug cops, along with CAMP, were able to at least put a dent in the “problem”. People went to jail for what would now be considered small grows. People I knew. Plants that weren’t hidden under the trees were likely to be detected by aircraft and raided. There came a tipping point, when the odds of getting caught became almost nil, due to the sheer number of growers. The Greenrush was on, people poured in from the cities, prices plummeted. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle now.
I heard a guy on KMUD, he was a distributor, and had traveled to Oklahoma and met a guy who had just harvested 350,000 lbs.
And that’s just one guy…..
MAPMAKERS before the invention of AutoCAD or GIS software, 1950s.
‘THE FLORIDA APPROACH’ TO COVID
by Dave Zirin
In March 2020, one positive Covid-19 case, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, put the NBA season on hold. The league canceled games, and entered a “bubble” alongside the WNBA at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. The move sent an unmistakable message to the United States that the “normal” world was over, that we would need to reimagine our lives to minimize contagion and death.
Now, after a period of relative relief, we have Delta and Omicron raging through the population. The sports world is again sending a message to the broader populace about how we should respond to this devastating moment—and this one could be even more influential than the one from March, because it is something that people are desperate to hear. The NBA, NFL, and other sports leagues have decided that no matter how contagious these new variants of Covid-19 appear to be and no matter how little we know about its effects, the show will go on.
The new playbook is geared toward making sure the games, each one a potential super-spreader event, are played in stadiums and arenas filled with fans. The rules are aimed at keeping the season moving, no matter the risk to fans, players, club employees, and the rest of the world. The NBA has canceled or rescheduled a few games because of Covid-19 outbreaks among multiple teams. (Right now more than 70 players are in the NBA’s Covid-19 health and safety protocols!) In the face of this, the league has decided that someone will be taking the court even if a team has to play a fifth-string guard pulled off the street. It is not discussing limiting seating in arenas or retreating back to the bubble. It has decided that the television money and gate receipts are worth not only a probable increased spread of the contagion but also the possible devaluing of their product. Seeing G-League backbenchers at LeBron James prices could get old for fans fast. Yet the league is saying, “Credibility to the season, be damned!”
In the NFL, it is even more dystopian. It is announcing a stricter policy on masking in team headquarters and other preventive moves on the margins, but this is a league desperate to finish its season. Billions hang in the balance. It has decided therefore to reduce the frequency with which vaccinated asymptomatic players and personnel are tested. This looks to be what sportscaster Corey Erdmann calls wryly, “The Florida approach: If we don’t test, we won’t know. Crisis averted.”
The NFL has also now put the onus on players to alert medical staff if they are feeling symptomatic. In other words, a league in which players routinely mask injuries—Get tough! Man up!—in order to be able to take the field, is now asking them to voluntarily report themselves. The league is betting—even depending—on that code of macho quiet suffering to hold sway. If it doesn’t and players report their Covid symptoms, the playoffs collapse. If it does, everyone will just play through it and deal with the aftermath in February. (This testing method is, of course, also saying that if you are asymptomatic, we’d rather not know.)
Another aspect of this coming disaster that is that this move toward viral barbarism is not being exclusively pushed by ownership and the offices of the various commissioners. Everything mentioned above was negotiated with the players associations, which, according to people to whom I have spoken, is less about coziness with management than pressure from players to actually play. This is especially the case in the NFL, where careers are short and contracts are not guaranteed. There’s also, and everyone is feeling it, pressure coming from fans. Nobody wants to go back to the way things were last March 2020, no matter how necessary it may be. The desire by fans to be in the stands and feel like everything is going back to normal is a powerful narcotic.
What is needed is vaccine mandates, constant testing of all personnel, and a pause in the action. Then, perhaps in a month, we can see where we’re at. (We don’t even know anything yet about the extent of the burden Omicron will place upon hospitalization. That might be nice to have a sense of, before having potential super-spreader events every night!) To take care of this damn virus, we need to break our addiction to distraction, something I certainly suffer from, and at least for a moment, stop playing games.
VAXX & THE CONSTITUTION
When anti-vaxxers challenged the smallpox vaccine mandates in the early 20th century, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected any notion that the Constitution recognizes a right to refuse a mandated vaccine. In Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the court stated:
“Real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own … regardless of the injury that may be done to others.”
Using the Constitution to rationalize selfish beliefs is unpatriotic. If you want real liberty for all, go get vaccinated.
NEW IMPROVED MODEL
In her semi-sultry voice
Responds to flirting
We need her so much
In these days of disconnect
Need her now so much
Don’t want her to go
Please come here and stay awhile
Please don’t ever go
Can you believe it
After all we’ve had of life
We’d want Alexa
— Jim Luther
WHAT COULD HAPPEN if the USA rejects the Russian ultimatum?
The power of the Russian ultimatum is precisely in the fact that the Russians have promised to do “something” military and/or military-technical, but have not spelled out what that “something” might be. I bet you that, in reality, we are not dealing with one single “something”, but a succession of gradual steps which will bring more and more pressure to bear on the US and NATO/EU.
LET'S BE CLEAR. The Build Back Better plan is not a "Let's give people a bunch of money" to be popular, bill.. that was the multi-trillion dollar golden enema that Donald Trump gave billionaires during his regime. There isn't a penny in the Build Back Better plan, that doesn't support people getting back to work, getting trained to do the necessary work of the 21st century if we're going to compete with the rest of the world, or empower the health and financial well being of the middle class to power our nation's economic engine (it is the health of the middle class that moves our economy).
The vast majority of this bill is paid for by simply repealing the obscene give-away pushed on the backs of the American taxpayers by Donald Trump..Of course this has the billionaires of the nation howling like wounded animals... "How will I ever be able to move up from my 150 foot yacht to a 250 foot yacht, I'll be the laughing stock of Martha's Vineyard?!!!" Y'all will just have to make do...
The nation has been in dire straights... under the mismanagement of a clueless self serving parasite. Between crashing the economy, causing the worst health crisis in over a century, attempting sedition and still attempting it, committed serial crimes worthy of being impeached twice, and pushing tens of thousands of highly skilled professionals out of Federal and State Governments, so they could be replaced with rubber stamps and boot-licking lackies, our country is in tough shape. Joe had been nose deep in sewage, and now folks are making waves and tossing sharks in the cesspit. Joe's already accomplished some pretty impressive things, but nobody is talking about any of that. The things happening right now, are happening because we're coming out of 4 years of grotesque mismanagement, and we will have to endure the pain of healing from that injury to our soul, our economy, our global standing, and our international relationships.
Joe is trying to function, against a Republican Party that is stonewalling him, unwilling to even pass a budget extension on debt their guy ran up in the previous administration. A party still paying lip service to the loud cries from that guy that the election was a fraud. The Democratic Party itself, on the verge of splintering because of the tremendous pressure those self same corporations and billionaires are using to block any progress in moving our country forward.
Our Republic is 1 minute to midnight, as State Government after State Government is being replaced with new members who promised to give elections to whomever the party wants, regardless of who wins the votes. That would be the end of Democracy. That would be the start of America the Puppet Oligarchy. This has long stopped being a political conversation. Now it's simply existential. Will we continue to be a Democratic Republic or not? The lines are drawn, and the coup is happening in plain sight. All the more shocking. Are we going to take back our birthright, or just watch it die like a reality show where we're all the losers.
— Marie Tobias
RARE UNIONIZING OPPORTUNITY IN BIG BOX & RETAIL CHAIN
by Ralph Nader
This is the most opportune time for millions of workers in Big Box retail stores and fast-food outlets to form unions. McDonald’s, Walmart, Amazon, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, and other giant chains are having trouble finding enough workers. Some of these companies are even paying signing bonuses and upping low pay.
Chalk it up to the pandemic’s dislocations when millions of workers left their jobs, and many have not yet returned. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) see the opportunity of a lifetime, but are they putting enough organizing resources into this effort?
For over four decades, unions of all kinds in the corporate economy have been in decline. Only six percent of private sector workers are now in unions. However, polls are showing a high favorability level for unions, following worker heroics on behalf of Covid-19 victims.
The House of Representatives has passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act – opposed by the Republican corporatists – but Senate prospects are dim due to the same GOP corporatists. Why the Senate Democrats are not regularly holding hearings on the plights of non-union working families can only be answered by Majority Leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York.
Since Reagan took office in January 1981, organized labor has been battered by numerous forces. These include (1) the eight years of Ronald Reagan, Union-buster-in-chief, owning the White House, (2) ever greater exportation of jobs propelled by large companies abandoning the U.S. for communist and fascist dictatorships abroad with their legions of serf labor, and (3) growing automations of the workplace. Mediocre leadership of many unions has not helped either.
Younger people in these giant retail outlets have little knowledge of how unions saved the working classes in the 20th century from many of the cruelest treatments by corporate capitalism. Current union educational efforts are filling some of this gap of why, how, and where to form a union – though not with the intensity of the late union leaders Tony Mazzocchi and Harry Kelber. Mr. Kelber was the greatest writer of popular “how to” pamphlets for workers seeking unions. (See: laboreducator.org).
While the big retailers may sporadically fill worker gaps with one-time economic incentives, they are still run by the same old union busting bosses with their union busting, pricey law firms and consultants.
Their mantra – crush any tiny unionizing effort at any store, no matter its costs. A few weeks ago, Dollar General, with over 7,000 stores nationwide, crushed such an effort in a Dollar General store in Winsted, Connecticut. They sent in five “consultants” to stay in the store at a stunning $2700 each a day, according to a long page-one article in the Washington Post. These and other corporate intimidators sometimes outnumbered the six employees during the unionizing drive, until the unionists narrowly lost the vote to the other frightened employees. One employee was dismissed for being pro-union but reinstated for the vote.
There are major strikes by workers at John Deere, Kellogg, and some other large manufacturing firms. Right now, however, the big battle that should be joined is with Big Retail, where the jobs making burgers or coffee cannot be exported.
The takeaway from all this is threefold.
First, the Democratic Party should scale up its enthusiasm and backing of these valiant workers, right down to the local Democratic Party committees.
Second, same is true for the AFL-CIO which can provide stronger backup of the federation’s member unions and press the Biden Administration to strongly enforce labor laws that are routinely, says the AFL-CIO website, violated by companies with impunity.
Third, consumers and their organizations should elevate their support for paid sick leave, adequate healthcare, safe working conditions, and fair wages; if not for solidarity, then for safely served food. Consumers should not want to see hard-pressed, sick workers having to serve them, to pay bills.
For labor, this is a briefly open window in history. Robotics and surplus labor will soon be closing it. Unions need to move at unaccustomed and rapid speeds now!
MARMON'S DREAM BIKE
TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
— Shakespeare (Macbeth)