Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Obama Goes To Bat For Banks

Posted in Barack Obama, Economy, politics by allisonkilkenny on January 25, 2009

Open Left

bankster-chessTen days ago, we reported on Open Left that bankruptcy “cram-down” mortgage relief would not appear in the stimulus, but would appear in a different piece of legislation later this year. Despite our reports, the fight over bankruptcy “cram-down” legislation in the stimulus did not actually end ten days ago. As recently as Thursday, House Democrats will still fighting in to include the measure in the stimulus, and Senator Dick Durbin, the leading proponent of the measure in the Senate, was denying that President Obama was opposed to including the measure in the stimulus.

However, any lingering doubt about the fate of bankruptcy “cram-down” reform in the stimulus can now be put to rest. Senator Durbin has confirmed that President Obama opposes including the measure in the stimulus, and favors including it in later legislation instead (more in the extended entry):

Chris Bowers :: Tough Road Ahead for Bankruptcy Reform

The key to passage of the bankruptcy bill is the Senate, where Democrats need 60 votes to stop a possible filibuster. Ten Democrats — all still in the Senate — would not back the plan in a vote a year ago.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the chief Senate sponsor of the bill, said Obama persuaded him in a White House meeting Friday to remove the bankruptcy proposal from an economic recovery package — to ensure it doesn’t jeopardize the stimulus bill. But Obama pledged his support for the bankruptcy solution, Durbin said.

Obama said he would work with Durbin to attach the proposal to other ”must pass” legislation — with the hope that supporters of the overall bill would not vote against it because of the bankruptcy provisions.

There will definitely be no cram-down in the stimulus now. Further, with ten Senate Democrats opposed to the measure last year, we can also expect a big fight over the measure when the home foreclosure mitigation bill comes up later this year. In fact, The ten Democrats in question are actually eleven, now that Lieberman is back in the caucus. Baucus (MT), Byrd (WV), Carper (DE), Johnson (SD), Landrieu (LA), Lieberman (CT), Lincoln (AR), McCaskill (MO), Nelson (NE), Pryor (AR) and Tester (MT). Without a single Republican defector, this will be a difficult bill to pass at any point.

However, there are rays of hope. First, the economic crisis might actually be changing votes. For example, Mike Thompson, one of the sixteen House Blue Dogs who in 2007 sent out a letter opposing cram-down legislation, offered a promising response to Open Left commenter kaleidescope when s/he called Thompson’s office about cram-down legislation in the stimulus:

I called my Representative, Mike Thompson (CA-1), a blue dog, about HR 225.  My experience is that you get better results if you call the local (as opposed to the D.C.) office.  You get to talk to a career staffer instead of an intern. Thompson’s Eureka staffer told me Thompson is starting to edge away from his blue dog affiliations.  She noted that he is fiscally conservative, but that “everything has changed in the economy” since 2007.

Second, there is always the hope of working a deal where the Democrats who are opposed agree to not filibuster, but then vote “no” on an up-or-down, simple majority vote for the legislation.

It is pretty sad that, even with the Democratic trifecta and even with the collapse of the credibility of the banking industry, that the banking lobby can still delay, and possibly even stop, good legislation like this. They can twist Congressional arms into forking over trillions of dollars on their behalf, all the while twisting those arms to make sure homeowners facing foreclosure get nothing. At least it makes it clear who is actually running the country.

Canadian Walmart Employees Win Right to Unionize

Posted in Uncategorized by allisonkilkenny on December 11, 2008

Daniel De Groot, Open Left

blogimage_walmartimage_1229012771jpg_thumbs_600x598_thumbs_200x199Per this DailyKos diary, a Wal-Mart store in Saskatchewan has won a 4-year battle with the company and is certified as unionized:

A Wal-Mart store in Weyburn, Saskatchewan has been granted union certification by the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board (SLRB) after years of Wal-Mart legal wrangling and delays, including two Wal-Mart applications to the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn the process. 

This isn’t in Pepsi-drinking, poutine manging, socialisté Q-bec either, but rural Saskatchewan (which just elected 13 Conservatives to its 14 ridings).

Wal-Mart, naturally is not taking this in stride.

Wal-Mart Canada spokesman Andrew Pelletier said the decision is unjust because some employees didn’t get to vote on whether to unionize.

“We’re disappointed,” he said. “Clearly, you know, our associates have been denied here a vote. They’ve been denied a democratic process. And we believe they should have that process.

Rhetoric sound familiar?  It should:

Wal-Mart Canada said it will appeal the ruling to unionize, pointing out that many of the employees who signed union cards no longer work at the Weyburn store.

“The fact that you’ve got a store now with 104 associates … and only 29 of them were even there at the time of the union’s application, really speaks to the fact that it would be a bit of a stretch to assume that there is widespread support for that store for this union,” said Andrew Pelletier, spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada.

Changes to Saskatchewan’s Trade Union Act this year made it a requirement that a secret ballot vote be held, open to all employees in the proposed bargaining unit, before a union can be certified.

Paul Meneima, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1400, said the decision to unionize the Weyburn store fits with the pre-2008 act,which allowed for union certifications when 50 per cent of employees, plus one, signed union cards.

Yup, Saskatchewan, in better times when it had an NDP government, had its own EFCA, which allowed a Wal-Mart in a conservative part of a fairly conservative province to unionize.  Now that it has a conservative government, bye bye card-check.  

Anyway, the company’s position seems to be “Since we fought to delay this so long that many of the original employees have moved on, we demand a new election under the new us-favouring rules.”  Nice.  I wonder how many of those departing employees left voluntarily?

The town’s mayor is worried Wal-Mart will close the store, which is a real risk, but unlike many other places, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of other places they could put a Wal-Mart nearby.  If they close, they’re likely abandoning this region of the province (and of course other retailers could move in).

A sad follow up on the 8 lube-shop workers who unionized at a store in Québec, Wal-Mart closed the garage in that store, saying it was losing money.  They apparently did keep the workers at least, though.

As for the Union (UFCW) they have pending cases with the Sask Labour Board to unionize two other stores in the Province.  Strength in numbers.  Wal-Mart can’t close every store down.  

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