David Moberg – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.13 Government by sound bite http://www.newstips.org/2011/07/government-by-sound-bite/ Thu, 21 Jul 2011 20:32:19 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4617 “This is about sound bites, not good public policy,” AFSCME’s Henry Bayer tells David Moberg at Working In These Times, discussing Mayor Emanuel’s campaign against city workers.

A couple other things it’s not about: actually negotiating with unions over work rule issues, and actually collaborating with city workers on increasing efficiency.

What it does seem to be about, besides bashing unions, is generating headlines; that’s the area where Mayor Emanuel has proven himself particularly adept in his first months in office.

The headlines don’t always correspond to reality.  Take Emanuel’s vaunted ideas for “reforming outdate and inefficient work rules.”  These were issued in a press release but never presented to city unions.

Most of them involve contractual matters.  There’s only one way to address such items:  provide the unions with written proposals, and sit down and negotiate.

That never happened.  The ideas were shown to CFL’s Jorge Ramirez and Chicago Building Trades Council’s Tom Villanova in a meeting with Emanuel last month, but they weren’t even given a copy to take with them.  (They’re not in a position to negotiate, in any case – only the actual unions are.)

The first time AFSCME heard from the city was  an after-hours phone call in the middle of last week – a couple days before the mayor’s big press conference — when they were told they had 48 hours to respond to his proposals, Anders Lindall tells Newstips.  “We asked, what proposals? They said, the ones you’ve been reading in the papers.”

The very first meeting with city unions came Monday morning — three days after Emanuel announced layoffs, claiming the unions had missed his “deadline.”

Chicago’s city workers have not been oblivious to the city’s financial situation.  Most of them (not including AFSCME members) have been working with a pay freeze and furlough days amounting to a 10 percent wage cut for a couple of years.

And the CFL is preparing a report encompassing front-line city workers’ ideas about how to increase efficiency.  It’s likely to be a lot more serious than the mayor’s proposals, some of which seem to be for effect, and some of which don’t make sense at all.

For effect:  Emanuel proclaims that city workers should be paid time-and-a-half for overtime, not double time.  But the vast majority already are.  Only a small bargaining unit of a couple hundred workers gets double time.

A headscratcher:  require city workers to put in 40 hours rather than 35.  (City workers currently work from 9 to 5 with an hour off, unpaid, for lunch.)  As Lindall points out, it’s not clear how this saves money, even if you manage to get folks to come in at 8 or stay till 6 without paying them more; you’re still paying them the same, and saving nothing.

Unless you follow this up with layoffs – but Emanuel presented the work rule changes as a way to avoid layoffs.

It’s also not clear, as Moberg points out, how the privatization schemes Emanuel announced Friday will save money.

“I think he wants to put unions on the defensive,” Bayer tells Moberg.   (Moberg himself comments that, rather than working on real fixes for the city’s problems, “Emanuel seems more interested in bashing workers.”)

It may be working.  “If you stop someone on the street and ask them what’s the cause of the city’s budget crisis, they’re liable to say it’s that work rules are unreasonable and unions refuse to negotiate,” Lindall said.  Which simply isn’t true.

But it’s working as a p.r. campaign.  It’s doing very little to solve the city’s problems.  And it’s setting up a confrontation with unions which are inclined to collaborate, and which are in a position to help.

You’ll be forgiven if you’ve started to suspect that Emanuel views the city’s crisis as an grand opportunity to weaken our unions.

Chicago In These Times http://www.newstips.org/2011/06/chicago-in-these-times/ Wed, 22 Jun 2011 20:38:10 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4039 As a national publication based in Chicago, In These Times often provides better coverage of the local scene than its rivals – but this week’s issue seems particularly noteworthy on that account.

There’s an interview with Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence on why she’s joining the flotilla challenging the Israeli blockade of Gaza later this month; she also shares her views on Libya, Afghanistan, and the proliferation of drone technology.

There’s Kari Lydersen’s article (not yet online) on the growing relationship between steelworkers here and in Mexico, boosted by connections between the century-old Mexican community around Chicago mills and workers in Mexico. Blanca Morales came here from Monterrey when she was five and ended up working at Inland Steel for 25 years; now she’s part of Women of Steel, providing support for Mexican strikers who face brutal retaliation.

Steelworkers here point out that supporting steelworkers in Mexico – where the average manufacturing wage is under $4 an hour – will help “level the playing field” and reduce pressure on wages and working conditions here.

Yana Kunichoff reports on the Unemployed Action Center organized by Chicago Jobs With Justice, which is planning a partnership with the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign to fight foreclosures and evictions.

Theo Anderson highlights the work of Protestants for the Common Good, lobbying for legislation to help ex-offenders, and Interfaith Workers Justice, fighting wage theft, as examples of “the re-emergence of the religious left as a powerful political force.”

Stephanie Shonekan of Columbia College shares her reflections on living in Naperville: “We found great neighbors and formed lifelong friendships with people whom I would never have known in my other walks of life.  And the greatest lesson learned has come from the reflections on race inspired by the very acute experience of being a black person in a privileged white neighborhood.”

There are offerings from two of Chicago’s journalistic greats: David Moberg with another go at how unions can save America, and Salim Muwakkil on the controversy over Manning Marable’s new biography of Malcolm X.

Finally there’s Chris Lehmann writing about the depature of Oprah Winfrey from daytime television, and why “the grinding spectacle of Oprah’s farewell felt much more like an infomercial for feeling something, anything, rather than an actual outpouring of human emotion.”

Fact check: Emanuel, Brizard, Pritzker http://www.newstips.org/2011/04/fact-check-emanuel-brizard-pritzker/ http://www.newstips.org/2011/04/fact-check-emanuel-brizard-pritzker/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2011 00:01:39 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=3656 UPDATED – “We will have to come together as one” to solve Chicago’s school problems, said mayor-to-be Rahm Emanuel.

Then he announced the selection of a new schools chief who got a 95 percent disapproval vote from teachers at his current post. Catalyst cites sources in Rochester who say schools chief Jean Claude Brizard talks about collaboration but operates as an autocrat.

The rhetoric continues to outpace the reality: Emanuel praised Brizard for raising the graduation rate in Rochester schools. In fact, though, the 12 percent increase claimed by Brizard occurred before he took his post, according to his predecessor.

Chicago News Cooperative reports that Rochester’s graduation rate has actually declined over four years. A Rochester reporter notes that Brizard seems to confuse graduation rates with absolute numbers – not a good sign in a top executive, whether he’s spinning or not. (PURE points out the Tribune seems to have the same problem.)

On Emanuel’s part, his false claim continues a reign of error, with repeated misstatements regarding performance and graduation rates at charter schools.

Brizard is a product of the Broad Foundation’s superintendent training program, which has recently placed trainees at the top of schools systems in Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Denver.  (Eli Broad donated $25,000 to Emanuel’s campaign, Ramsin Canon points out.) Broad trainees have also been run out of several towns, according to a new guide from Parents Across America:

“A hallmark of the Broad-style leadership is closing existing schools rather than attempting to improve them, increasing class size, opening charter schools, imposing high-stakes test-based accountability systems on teachers and students, and implementing of pay-for-performance schemes. The brusque and often punitive management style of Broad-trained leaders has frequently alienated parents and teachers and sparked protests.”

[Eric Zorn offers corroboration from several Rochester parents, who say Brizard “lacks people skills,” “didn’t listen to parents and doesn’t like being challenged,” is “arrogant and autocratic.”]

“Parents Across America considers Broad’s influence to be inherently undemocratic, as it disenfranchises parents and other stakeholders in an effort to privatize our public schools and imposes corporate-style policies without our consent.”

Broad has published a guide to closing schools; Brizard closed half the city’s high schools without consulting communities. Broad came up with the idea of the “parent trigger,” which Emanuel has praised.  Its philosophy of management is to “invest in disruption,” to promote instability in a system in order to generate “innovation.”

Exciting times ahead.

Brizard clashed not only with teachers and parents but with Rochester’s board of education, which unfortunately for him was elected by Rochester voters. He won’t have that problem in Chicago.

Perhaps Emanuel’s most noteworthy appointment to the board of education is Penny Pritzker, scion of the Hyatt hotel family that’s currently under pressure from religious and community leaders for mistreating its workers.

It’s worth recalling Pritzker’s recent notoriety as a subprime lender, which was probably a factor in her withdrawal from consideration as President Obama’s commerce secretary, after chairing his campaign’s finance committee. After the Pritzkers took over Superior Bank, she headed the board as they plunged into the subprime mortgage market, which eventually swamped the bank.  And under her lead, the bank played signal role in developing the mortage-backed securitization instruments which eventually swamped the nation’s economy.

These securities were call “innovations” at the time.

David Moberg’s 2002 piece has the best overview of Superior’s collapse, which he says was “tainted with all the hallmarks of a mini-Enron scandal.” Accounting tricks were used to turn growing losses into steady profits, allowing dividends to continue to flow to the banks owners.  Maybe Pritzker can help “fix” the CPS budget.

When she was getting bad press a couple years ago, her lawyer said the bank did subprime lending but not the “predatory” kind. According to Moberg, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition accused the bank of “engaging in a variety of predatory practices.”

It’s particularly worth recalling because, as the Tribune recently reported (thanks to PURE for the link), Penny Pritzker is now founding a private equity firm that will focus on buying distressed property.

It’s nice to have money.

In other management feats, Pritzker chaired the Olympic Village subcommittee in the city’s ill-fated bid for the 2016 games.  She bears some responsibility for the $100 million debt incurred in that disaster, which Emanuel is going to have to start paying off in a couple of years.

Pritzker is a major backer of Stand For Children, which pushed union-busting legislation in Springfield. While serving on Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, she split from the president by opposing card-check labor reform he backed. Add Hyatt to the mix and her anti-union record is complete.

It’s highly unlikely that these people will “bring us together as one.”

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