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Wal-Mart Surrounded: Community Alliances and Labor Politics in Chicago

By Dorian T. Warren

One vote. One City Council vote is all it took to defeat a proposed Wal-Mart on the South Side of Chicago. Granted, a West Side Wal-Mart was approved by the Chicago City Council in May 2004, minutes before it rejected the South Side store. But the larger point is this: in the midst of the current debate within the labor movement about its future, the necessity of organizing Wal-Mart highlights the futility of an either-or dichotomy between organizing and politics. It also indicates the need to focus on the local level, and the ways in which labor can successfully wield its geographic political power in long-term comprehensive organizing campaigns.

This local focus is in addition to, not to the exclusion of, a simultaneous national and global strategy. At the turn of the 21st century, scholars and organizers are beginning to realize that local political contexts and the strategic choices local political actors make are vital to advancing workers rights and economic justice. Indeed, like the more than two hundred local municipalities who have rejected proposed Wal-Mart stores across the country, the Chicago City Council had the sole power to approve Wal-Mart’s entry, and it also has the power to regulate the conditions under which Wal-Mart will operate in its jurisdiction. Labor’s political clout, along with political alliances with communities of color, is instrumental in this regard, as evidenced by successful campaigns waged in Inglewood, CA, and Chicago. However, these kinds of labor-community alliances are fraught with conflicts and tensions. I will discuss some of these obstacles facing the campaign to organize Wal-Mart in Chicago, drawing out some broader lessons and implications. How unions and community groups resolve these tensions, specifically around issues of race, will determine how successful we will be at organizing Wal-Mart and the entire retail industry.

But simply excluding Wal-Mart from entering these urban markets is not a long-term winning strategy. Government regulation—setting the terms and conditions under which Wal-Mart and all big box retailers can operate within city limits—is the more sustainable and achievable goal. What the Chicago effort to organize Wal-Mart highlights is the potential leverage provided by the institutions of local and regional government.



Community Unionism: A Strategy for Organizing in the New Economy

By Simon J. Black

While the labor movement’s current focus on “the global,” and on large-scale efforts to reverse the decline are a welcome turn from the business-as-usual unionism of old, a number of unique organizations and activists are already reshaping the labor movement from below. Community unionism is a particularly ‘local’ response to the global processes that challenge working people today. In these times of renewal, community unionism demands the labor movement’s attention.

Since the 1970s, urban labor markets in North America have undergone profound restructuring. Immigration, deindustrialization, and the expansion of service sector employment have significantly altered the urban landscape. The growth of contingent work and forms of nonstandard employment combined with the decline of the welfare state has had a deleterious effect on the working poor and unemployed. Furthermore, neoliberal globalization has negatively affected the capacity of trade unions to organize the unorganized. The rise of contingent work, or precarious employment, challenges traditional forms of trade unionism, and has opened the way for new initiatives, including community unionism.

The model of community unionism which is the focus of this article is that of an autonomous community-based labor group. These community unions may vary by tactics (legalistic, direct-action such as civil disobedience, or lobbying); membership structure (dues collecting or not); sources of funding (union support, individual donations, or foundations); and their organizing geography (focus on an ethnic group within a community, or on a community defined solely by geographical boundaries). Many of these community unions use workers centers as the hub of their organizational activity.

Unlike trade unions, most community unions seek to organize the employed, unemployed, and underemployed; they press for change in the workplace and beyond.



Trouble in Paradise: Organizing Condominium Workers in the Sunshine State

By Bruce Nissen

Greater Miami is an important site for examining organized labor’s future prospects in this country. In important respects, south Florida foreshadows the future of the United States. It features a large immigrant population, has a heavily service-oriented economy, and displays an extremely diverse workforce. The United States will move in the same direction in the coming years, so what unions can or cannot do here is likely to foretell future prospects for other locations. For that reason, attempts to revitalize the labor movement in the Miami area can teach us a lot about how to go about this task.

Progressive unions and allies in south Florida are undertaking a variety of measures to build power for workers and their families in the region. Many of these consist of efforts to build up a supportive environment (a “social justice infrastructure”) for union organizing, and for labor-community and working-class community organizing. Thus, the last decade has seen modestly successful efforts to win living wage ordinances, build a local Jobs with Justice chapter, create leadership development programs for immigrant workers, improve research capacity, build a more unified and cohesive political presence, and create faith-based mechanisms to support workers rights. Today, there are institutions in place in all these areas, something relatively absent a decade earlier.

The appearance of a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) “Justice for Janitors” organizing effort among condominium workers in Miami-Dade County adds a new dimension. The newly created SEIU Local 11 began organizing efforts in this sector in March 2004. Its efforts reveal what unions run up against as they try to organize low- wage, service sector, primarily immigrant workers. It also illuminates the strategic resources necessary if labor is to prevail. The ultimate success or failure of this effort will reveal much about the prospects for worker power in Florida, the south, and even the entire nation in the years ahead.



Warriors for Christ: The Electoral Politics of the Religious Right

By Tanya Erzen

On an April morning in 2005 at World Harvest church in Canal Winchester, Ohio, Pastor Rod Parsley declared to the four thousand people assembled in his tabernacle, “The idea of the separation of church and state is the biggest lie that was ever perpetrated in America.” During the service, Pastor Parsley warned members to be vigilant about the issue of judicial tyranny, reminding them there would be a special service to educate them in two weeks. Former chief justice Roy Moore of Alabama, who defied an order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the state courthouse in Alabama, would be speaking at the same event. Standing under a banner that read “Let the Reformation Begin,” Parsley implored the audience to pray and support a book tour for Silent No More, in which he speaks out about Christians entering the realm of politics. “And simply put, it’s time for us to speak up for an America based on the foundation our fathers established—a foundation of faith and of commitment to moral boundaries. We’ve lost that America. But we can get it back! …Our times demand it. Our history compels it. Our future requires it. And God is watching.”

Paisley is one of the leaders of Reformation Ohio, a plan to elect conservative Christians to school boards and local legislatures throughout the state by registering two million new Christian voters. He is also a member of the nationwide Patriot Pastors movement, led by Pastor Rick Scarborough, which urges pastors “to promote their congregation's citizenship responsibilities in addition to their spiritual growth.” Churches like World Harvest are the institutional basis for a wider conservative political agenda that is increasingly blurring the boundaries between the pulpit and the arena of partisan politics.

At World Harvest, politics is slipped in between sermons and singing, making the segue from the spiritual to the political appear seamless to the predominantly young and racially mixed audience. On the church website, it is easier to sign an online petition calling for “judicial integrity” or register for a church-sponsored prepaid Mastercard than it is to find out about the Sunday services for that week.



Should the Left Get Religion?

By Peter Laarman and Alexia Salvatierra

We begin by noting that there are really two questions at issue, one cultural and one practical. The less important is the oil and water question: Can the secular Left ever be comfortable in conversation, let alone in active alliance, with people whose worldviews are strongly shaped by religious belief? (And should the answer be “no,” does that mean the secular Left is “arrogant” or beset with an “orthodoxy” of its own?)

Although we are well aware of the simmering debate on this question, we choose instead in this article to deal with the urgent practical matter, the one that confronted Tocqueville and just about everyone else who has looked closely at the stark reality that, like it or not, this is a God-besotted country. We ourselves are believers—ordained ministers at that—but we write here primarily as movement strategists. We offer five theses about the relationship between movements for social justice and communities of faith.



Iraq and the Labor Movement: The Remarkable Story of USLAW

By Michael Zweig

Even as the labor movement suffers deep division over the steps it needs to take to turn around the decades-long decline in its organized strength, major unions on both sides of the divide, notably SEIU, CWA, and AFSCME, have passed resolutions condemning the war in Iraq and the continued U.S. occupation of that country. While the disagreements over organizing strategies and structural changes in the Federation have dominated the labor world, another profound upheaval is underway, concerning labor’s foreign policy.

In a budget-driven retrenchment that also reflects political choices, the AFL-CIO has disbanded its International Affairs Department and transferred to the Solidarity Center all responsibility for organized labor’s relations with workers and unions in other countries. While the AFL-CIO will continue to provide some funding to the Solidarity Center, the great majority of financial backing for labor’s international connections will come from U.S. government grants, particularly from the National Endowment for Democracy. With the loss of its International Affairs Department the Federation’s leadership has abandoned the possibility of an independent labor voice on foreign policy issues.

However, unions, central labor councils, and state federations representing more than four million workers have passed resolutions since 2003 opposing the war in Iraq and calling for an end to the occupation, withdrawal of U.S. troops, and redirection of resources to domestic social needs. Spearheading this initiative has been U.S. Labor Against the War. The growth and influence of USLAW stand in sharp contrast with organized labor’s role in the Vietnam era. The political factors that account for this difference will be discussed momentarily. But first of all, labor’s current opposition begins with the fact that the war is an abomination that was perpetrated through lies and deceit. Workers are offended by this as much as anyone. Almost every resolution condemning the Iraq war starts with the observation that it was based on lies, whether concerning WMDs or the supposed links between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11.



Social Insecurity: Wall Street Eyes Your Golden Years

By Joel Solomon

If we take the financial services industry at its word, investment managers have no stake in the creation of Social Security private accounts. But their professed neutrality is as dubious as it is damaging to retirees and working women and men.

On one level, controversy about private accounts revolves around the hundreds of billions of dollars in fees that investment managers are likely to reap from privatization. But deeper concerns relate to the ideological thrust of the privatization plan, which is the Bush administration’s boldest effort to kill the New Deal and the Great Society. The creation of private accounts within Social Security has been a goal of the ideological right for decades.

The interests of the ideologues, corporate America and Wall Street, coincide on the creation of private accounts. However, many pension funds have urged their money managers to promote the interests of plan participants and beneficiaries by advocating for the protection of Social Security, or at least by ending their direct and indirect support for private accounts. An AFL-CIO-coordinated, labor-initiated campaign has pressed financial services firms to stop funding organizations and think tanks that support privatization.

The pension funds and unions involved in these debates suggest that financial services firms risk their integrity by supporting privatization, but at its heart the fight is about the integrity of the Social Security system itself.

Wall Street’s Links to Social Security Privatization

On June 18, 2001, then-Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill spoke at a luncheon for the newly formed Coalition for American Financial Security (CAFS), a group established by Wall Street executives. The Coalition was not the only pro-privatization group around, but it was poised to play a prominent role in promoting private accounts. The Secretary’s message—that the administration would promote the privatization of Social Security—was tailor-made for the Coalition. Based on financial services firms’ prior support for private accounts, the Bush administration undoubtedly expected the Coalition to effectively bankroll the privatization push.

Yet, the Coalition disbanded the next year, after a high-profile coalition member, State Street Global Advisors (SSgA), pulled out following intense pressure from clients. Unions and pension funds had expressed their deep displeasure that SSgA, the largest custodian of pension and mutual fund assets in the country, was so closely identified with such a public, pro-privatization stance.



Social Security Privatized: The Case of Chile

By Ruth Needleman

Conservative cheerleaders for Bush hold up the so-called “Chilean miracle” to support their arguments for social security privatization. However, for the majority of Chilean workers, retirement remains illusory because their coverage evaporated with the privatization. Nearly half of all working Chileans cannot even afford to contribute to private pension funds, because so many lack adequate earnings, working part-time, seasonal, and temporary jobs. Women, in particular, come out losers, scrounging for marginal work, never able to reach the contribution level required to qualify for the government’s poverty pension supplement. Under Chile’s system employers pay nothing towards employee retirement accounts, and workers who manage to maintain private accounts have no say over how their funds are invested.

The “Chilean economic miracle” exists primarily for the private entrepreneur, financier, and professional. Only after crushing unions, and civic and religious organizations in the 1970s, could the military dictatorship introduce privatized retirement accounts in 1981. Needless to say, the change passed without public discussion or political oversight. Not deluded by the promised “benefits” of the new system, the military and police shrewdly opted out and kept their government-controlled “pay as you go” pensions.



Where Have All the Benefits Gone? The Crisis in Union Pension and Health Care Plans

By Christian E. Weller and Jeffrey B. Wenger

In recent years, falling interest rates and stock prices left defined benefit (DB) plans with substantially fewer funds than they need to cover all promised retirement benefits. In extreme cases, these traditional pension plans were terminated, contributing to shortfalls at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), which insures DB pensions.

Even when plans were not terminated, many employees, especially in unionized plans, saw reductions in retirement and other benefits. Companies demanded concessions from their unionized workforces, as contributions to their pension plans increased due to severe funding shortfalls. In addition, as long as retirement plans were well-funded, they were allowed to transfer some of the surplus, to finance increasingly costly retiree health insurance. With underfunding becoming the norm for many DB plans, this transfer to retiree health insurance was no longer possible, and retiree health insurance became harder to maintain, hastening a decline in this benefit as well.

Not only have employers demanded concessions from their employees in response to the underfunding crisis, but this crisis has also been used to push for policy measures that would shift the risks from the employer to the employee. Proposed changes to the pension plan funding rules will likely accelerate the demise of DB plans. Changes in the retiree health insurance realm introduced with the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) in 2003 make it easier for wealthy and healthy individuals to save for some forms of health insurance, while not addressing the cost problems underlying the decline in employer-sponsored retiree health insurance (ESI). Because union workers are more likely than non-union workers to have DB pensions and ESI, shifts towards riskier benefits would disproportionately affect union workers.

In contrast to DB plans, defined contribution (DC) plans, such as a 401(k) plan, offer no guaranteed level of benefits, and retirement income is uninsured. Here, the employee bears the financial risks of saving for retirement. Typically, employees contribute a share of their pre-tax income to an individual account, possibly matched by employer contribution. Employees generally are responsible for making investment choices. There has been a gradual shift from DB plans to DC plans.



The Price of Love

By Amber Hollibaugh

I knew I was a lesbian by the time I was 19 or 20, working as a waitress at a lunch counter inside a Safeway supermarket in the town I had come to while running from all the dead-end trailer courts of my childhood. It was a lousy job, but the paycheck was regular. I had been a waitress since I was thirteen; working as a car hop in the drive-in hamburger joints that speckled the growing valleys of southern and northern California. I had also worked sporadically as a dancer and stripper in Las Vegas, and in the border towns between Nevada and California, at different points during high school. But those jobs were hard and temporary, and I learned they cost a lot to do. Costumes and props were never included; you had to buy all of that yourself. Such expenses quickly shrank a paycheck. So I was mostly a waitress, living on tips and the free food I got at work.

I am a high femme lesbian. This means I’m a queer woman who can pass for straight, like traditional, feminine, heterosexual women. But I desire women who are butch, who sometimes pass as men. This is my need, my erotic heart. It is also my grief. I first saw the kinds of women I desired in the small towns I grew up in and fled. It has never been clear to me which I was fleeing more: the harsh, bone-breaking lives that surrounded me, or the fate of the butch and femme women I saw in those towns. They were ridiculed, harassed, fired from their jobs, routinely beaten up during drunken Saturday night pranks by my brothers and cousins and all their male friends. Beating them up was a hoot for the guys I knew, a lark; it filled time, and made them feel powerful in the midst of social and economic circumstances that rarely offered that assurance. It was regular, ugly, a part of how I grew up. As soon as I could, I ran away. But it turns out to be impossible to run away far enough to escape your own passions, needs, and desires.

So I ended up in Oakland, California, at a Safeway supermarket. It was the 1960s. I went to demonstrations in Berkeley before heading for my shift, arrived at work smelling like tear gas and wired by adrenalin generated from running through the streets of that town protesting a war I believed was criminal. And as I participated in both work and revolution, I tried again and again to deny the creeping suspicion inside suggesting to me that I might be queer, that everything my half brother had screamed at me in a drunken rage might be true: I was a dyke, a lesbian, a queer, a homo. He said what others were saying behind my back. I left.

In this new town, I was alive with politics. I joined the union at Safeway, joined radical political groups in the area, learned about class and race and resistance. I used all the work, all the grand political study, to numb my own undeniable desires for the dangerous kind of masculine butch woman I wanted as my lover; and to numb my growing realization about the femme, queer type of woman I feared myself to be.

These stories are common among working-class women: your supervisor tries to hit on you and, when you say no, he fires you. In my case, he just couldn’t believe it when I said I wasn’t interested in sleeping with him because I was a lesbian. I couldn’t believe I’d said it either. It was the first time I had used the word out loud to another human being, speaking my desire and identity publicly. I was let go the next day. So I went to my union rep, said those words once again, and watched as he laughed. Then he told me the union could do nothing about it; this kind of thing wasn’t what a union was for. I wasn’t surprised.

I hadn’t even slept with a woman yet, but already I’d been fired for it! This working life carried with it resonances of a history I already knew too well.



Revolution and Counter-revolution in Venezuela: Assessing the Role of the AFL-CIO

By Lee Sustar

There is a history of union corruption in Venezuela—overwhelmingly within the CTV. In her book The Failure of Political Reform in Venezuela, the British academic Julia Buxton describes it as one of the “richest and most powerful union confederations in the world” in its heyday. The CTV’s intimate ties with the political establishment allowed “for the illicit enrichment of union leaders, who acquired a personal interest for maintaining the model of [political] party control,” she wrote. In fact, the Venezuelan state provided 90 percent of the funding for the CTV in the 1960s and 1970s. The AFL-CIO’s ties to the CTV, moreover, have been among its closest with any foreign labor federation. This relationship has continued despite the CTV’s alliance with the forces that mounted the April 2002 coup—of which the CIA had foreknowledge—that was embraced by the Bush administration. The AFL-CIO’s support for the CTV continued through the devastating oil industry lockout, and the strike that followed.

There are in fact serious criticisms to be made about the Chávez government from a trade union standpoint. Yet, by rejecting the legitimacy of the UNT out of hand, and backing the CTV, the AFL-CIO has lent political credibility to the conservative Venezuelan opposition. This, in turn, has revived debate over the AFL-CIO’s involvement in U.S. foreign policy. Indeed, a look at the AFL-CIO’s past and present in Venezuela points to two conclusions: that the files on organized labor’s collaboration with U.S. foreign policy should be opened, and that the AFL-CIO’s reliance on government funds for international work should end.



A Rejoinder to “Revolution and Counter-revolution”

By Stan Gacek

Lee Sustar draws his conclusions about the AFL-CIO’s current role in Venezuela from unfounded premises. Regrettably, he is not alone in this exercise, if we look at other articles accusing us of supporting the opprobrious coup attempt of April 2002.

Sustar refers to an “AIFLD Caracas operative” cultivating a “CTV-AIFLD-CIA connection” in the 1970s. And in the paragraph immediately following this assertion, the author mentions the current Solidarity Center representative for the Andean region, leaving the impression of an unbroken historical chain linking us to what AIFLD allegedly did in the past. Such innuendo might otherwise be defamatory if it were not so patently ludicrous.

Although I certainly was not involved in AIFLD’s hiring practices, part of my modest contribution to the AFL-CIO’s relations with Latin America since 1997 has been to recommend candidates for Solidarity Center field positions who have genuine and direct experience with the labor movement, along with a truly progressive perspective on Inter-American relations, free of cold war baggage. All of our current staff in Latin America, including the representative for the Andean region, meets these standards.



Lee Sustar Responds to Stan Gacek

Stan Gacek systematically avoids addressing the central thrust of my article: that social polarization and class conflict in Venezuela has led to the revival of militancy in that country’s labor movement, expressed through the creation of the UNT.

First, let’s dispense with Gacek’s mischaracterizations of my article. I do not argue that “the entire CTV” was behind the coup. In fact, I wrote, “what is indisputable…is that [CTV head] Ortega joined with FEDECAMARAS to call the strike and march that set the stage for the coup.” And far from lining up “100 percent for Chávez,” I summarize the reasons why trade unionists have criticized his policies.

Nowhere did I write that the Solidarity Center provided “unconditional assistance to the CTV,” as Gacek would have it. Indeed, I cited the Solidarity Center representative’s claim to have suspended his programs prior to the coup. I use the word “claim,” because the Solidarity Center has not publicly released documentation of such of a decision. If there is “confusion” about the timing of the Solidarity Center’s Venezuela programs, it’s because the only details accessible to the public are in the Solidarity Center’s opaque reports to the NED, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.



This Sporting Life

The “American Dream” played out in Million Dollar Baby relies upon some old assumptions about the order of social relations. Class and race are captured in an array of images. In that sense, they are evident in virtually every scene of the film. But they appear as basic demographic data: Most boxers are African American or Latino. They come from poor or immigrant working-class backgrounds. Poverty is a barrier to achievement. Race and class, then, are circumstantial. There is little else in the way of social commentary. Likewise, the film does not grapple with the question of gender—though the central character is a woman trying to compete in the male world of boxing. And the question of sexual identity? It’s simply not an issue. Despite these evasions, the images we see are telling. Million Dollar Baby is racially coded and marked by stereotypes of gender, sexuality, and class.

If Scrap represents the deserving (and tolerable) Black man, Maggie is the film’s oddball vision of white womanhood. She doesn’t fit any of the historical or empirical criteria for that designation. She isn’t dainty or fragile; she’s stronger than most men and more physically fit. She isn’t cloistered in the domestic sphere; she inhabits a nether world of hustlers and thugs; she takes violent punishment and gives it right back. But through it all, she’s sweet, pretty, and vulnerable—she has that innocent “girl next door” quality. And, like the ideal woman, she seeks the protection of a strong man; then tries her damndest to please him. Maggie carries her whiteness and her essential femininity into the boxing ring, where they are routinely assaulted.

With one exception, Maggie’s opponents are women of color. They are menacing and super-butch. This is not unintentional as the screenplay demonstrates.



Of Human Bondage

By Malini Cadambi

Born Into Brothels

Directed by Ross Kaufman and Zana Briski

Stolen Childhoods

Directed by Len Morris and Robin Romano

It is easy to see why Born into Brothels won the Oscar. It succeeds as a visually engaging documentary that weaves a compelling narrative around the problems of the poor and the socially outcast. Unfortunately, the filmmakers’ well-meaning project of helping these children escape life in the brothels is undermined by glossing over serious political problems, despite its contrived Hollywood ending.

The children are exceptionally charming and it is their onscreen eloquence and exceptional proficiency as young photographers that captivate. The children’s photographs are interspersed throughout the film. These images add further visual perspectives of life “as it is” in Sonagachi. They also underscore the capacity these children have to lyrically capture their environment, and how important it is to provide such opportunities to every child.

Their youth and limited education belie the critical and self-aware way the children describe each other, their families, and their own lives. “Nobody lives as filthy as we do in our country,” says one child, Gour, without a trace of innocence or apology, echoing the complaints of many fellow citizens who see their country as a second-rate alternative to Singapore. The children seem to have no illusions that they will not spend their lives in Sonagachi or some place similar, and this comes across in the candor with which they narrate their lives. They understand that life is unfair and they have drawn the short end of the proverbial stick. Yet, even while they live in a world not made by them, they harbor dreams of being more than someone who sells liquor to johns or “walks the line,” as prostituting is referred to.

Briski’s solution is to get the children out of Sonagachi and away from their families, many of whom have lived there for generations. This means getting the children into boarding schools. Her solution is not an unreasonable one, but in the end it betrays a remarkable naiveté for someone like Briski who has been in Sonagachi since 1997.



The Triumph of Conservatism

By Peter Goldberger

The Right Nation – Conservative Power in America

By John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge

The Penguin Press, 2004

In November of 2000, as count after recount left the outcome of the presidential election in doubt, I found myself in numerous conversations with hardcore liberal Democrats, all bemoaning what a Bush presidency would mean for our country. In one such conversation, a longtime Democratic party activist turned to me and said, “Bush is going to be a disaster as president. Thank God we still have Alan Greenspan to protect us.” At that moment I realized that the Democrats, and liberalism itself, were in big trouble, even if we won the recount in Florida.

A former disciple of libertarian icon Ayn Rand, Alan Greenspan spent much of his tenure as Federal Reserve Chair warning of the dangers of low unemployment and rising incomes for middle- and lower-income Americans. An outspoken opponent of even the weakest regulations for business, and fearful that declining joblessness and higher wages would trigger an inflation tsunami, Greenspan raised interest rates during the first Bush administration, and triggered a recession that turned George H.W. Bush into a one-term president. Democratic activists mistaking Greenspan for a defender of liberal economic policies illustrates just how far the political debate in America has moved to the right, even during the years that a Democrat occupied the White House. As well, it reveals the Democrats’ complete absence of any identifiable progressive economic philosophy. (It should be noted that upon Bush’s eventual inauguration to the White House in January 2001, Greenspan acted quickly to dispel any misconception about his political leanings by publicly endorsing Bush’s entire economic program, including a series of regressive tax cuts.)

The Right Nation, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, thoroughly describes the ascendancy of the unique phenomenon that is modern-day American conservatism. Although the authors fail to recognize the important role that organized labor’s decline played in helping the Right’s rise, they otherwise capture the Right’s brilliance in building a movement that dominates political thinking and policy-making in America today. The book is less satisfying when it comes to discussing the future of American political thought.

Editors of the British magazine The Economist, Micklethwait and Wooldridge measure American conservatism against its cousins in Great Britain and the rest of Europe, and find that nothing compares with America’s brand of conservatism.



Corporate Triage in the Operating Room

By Marilyn Harris

Nursing Against the Odds: How Health Care Cost Cutting, Media Stereotypes, and Medical Hubris Undermine Nurses and Patient Care

By Suzanne Gordon

Cornell University Press, 2005

For both Registered Nurses who are organizing their co-workers and for union organizers who are not themselves nurses, Suzanne Gordon’s Nursing Against the Odds will provide needed background for understanding the working lives of nurses, the causes of what is called the “nursing crisis,” and the union’s role in solving that crisis.

One of the central developments leading nurses to unionize in recent years has been the hospital industry’s restructuring of nursing care. This deskilling of nursing (reassigning patient care tasks to nursing assistants and other less trained personnel) has now been in place for a decade. Corporate consultants, such as Ernst and Young and American Practices Management, were paid between $500,000 and $10,000,000 per restructuring, out of hospital revenues, according to Gordon. As a consequence of restructuring and deskilling, according to the firm of Fingerhut, Granados Opinion Research, 69 percent of RNs worry that patients are not getting the care they need.

In no way is this to say that the nursing workers on whom many tasks have been shifted are at fault. These workers, who may have been given a moderate salary increase (if they were unionized) and a more “professional” job title, are being placed in untenable positions, and are expected to do things they ought not to be doing.. For example, RNs spend less time at the patient’s bedside noting the patient’s condition, and they begin to unwittingly rely on the upgraded nursing assistant (called a Certified Nursing Assistant in many hospitals) to assess changes in the patient’s condition. CNAs are not trained to assess patients. Therefore, a CNA might notice that a patient is pale and sweaty and might conclude the patient’s room is too warm, and wait a long time to report this to the nurse. If the nurse had observed this patient, she might have concluded that the patient was having a heart attack or was going into shock.



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