The Catch-22 for labor unions enjoying newfound public support – By Dylan Scott Aug 28, 2019, 5:55pm EDT

Public support for unions is high. But that doesn’t necessarily help unions grow.

McDonald’s workers hold a Fight for 15 banner.Scott Olson/Getty Images

The American public is feeling warmly toward labor unions again, after souring on them badly during the start of the Great Recession.

A new Gallup poll finds support for unions is about as high as it’s been in 50 years, but while that is surely welcome news for labor leaders, that favorable opinion hasn’t necessarily translated into any expansion in their ranks.

It can be remarkably difficult to form a labor union in the United States, particularly in places like the Republican-led states that have sought to restrict collective bargaining rights with “right to work” laws in recent years; corporations are also inherently hostile toward them. And a new economy veering toward monopoly and individual contracting has helped stifle labor growth.

Still, politically, labor has clout and goodwill in an era defined by income inequality. The leading Democratic presidential candidates — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and former Vice President Joe Biden — foreground the value of work and workers in their messages.

In doing so, they are picking up on something real: The public’s approval of labor unions had fallen below 50 percent in 2009, but Gallup has found it now sits at a healthy 64 percent following the worst crisis of confidence for the labor movement in a generation.


Why Americans might be feeling better about unions

American workers typically feel best about unions when unemployment has been low for a while, as it has been for the past few years. The unemployment rate has settled now under 4 percent after topping 10 percent in 2010.

“People feel better about unions when labor markets are tighter and there is less fear of being laid off,” Rich Yeselson, a longtime labor activist and contributing editor at Dissent, told Vox.

Another likely driver of positive union sentiment is young workers who are more open to social democratic ideas, Jake Rosenfeld, a sociology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, explained. And very public gains won by recent union actions at young media companies, like Vox, as well as strikes by teachers and corporate employees that have put the labor movement back in the news could also help explain the spike in support. The corporate strikes, like the one by Stop & Shop employees, and teacher strikes, like this January’s in LA, have also generally enjoyed public approval.

The question is if the good feelings are going to last, particularly given the recent talk about whether the US economy is currently at risk of recession. Historically speaking, that would not bode well for labor. Support for unions fell during the Great Recession and in the economic downturn during the 1980s.

“When unemployment spikes, many blame businesses (understandably) but also organized labor,” Rosenfeld said. “It seems clear that non-union workers look to their unionized peers with resentment during tough economic times (aided by enterprising anti-union politicians). And some may blame unions for part of the economic mess — this was a clear narrative about the auto industry in the debates about whether to bail it out, for example.”

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Republicans grow anxious about the Trump economy – BURGESS EVERETT 08/29/2019 05:09 AM EDT

Trump’s trade war with China could undermine GOP chances of holding the White House and Senate in 2020.

Pat Toomey
Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey fears that trade uncertainty is contributing to an economic slowdown. | Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

Republicans have sat patiently with President Donald Trump on his tariff roller-coaster ride with China. Now they’re starting to feel queasy.

Trump argues his escalating trade war will force China to the table for a deal. But his ever-rising tariffs — and his market-rattling tweets — are increasingly alarming the GOP.

“There’s no question that trade uncertainty is contributing to the slowdown,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), a leading free-trader. “We’re in a very good place. The danger is: Where are we going to be a year from now if concerns about trade continue to be an irritant to growth?”

Particularly as the global economy cools, key Republicans say new levies on almost all Chinese goods threaten to step on the president’s good news story: A growing economy, rising wages and low unemployment. And that could have outsize effects on Republicans’ tough task of defending the Senate and the White House in 2020.

“The biggest risk to the economy is the whole trade situation,” added Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in an interview. “I think the president did a great job, we stopped doing the regulatory burden, we have a fairer tax system … and the whole trade war has injected a huge dose of uncertainty and instability.”

Most Republicans have resisted Trump’s protectionist tendencies for ideological reasons as well as for the hit to the economy and their own political fortunes. But they’ve made an exception on China given its economic rivalry with the United States. Now his tariff regime on Chinese, European and North American imports have reduced economic growth and increased household costs, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Amid some talk by Trump of new tax cuts to juice the economy, his own political party is cool to the idea. Instead GOP senators are urging the president to conclude new trade deals with Japan and the United Kingdom and intensify the effort to push the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement through Congress.

Republicans like Toomey are also advising the White House to embrace modest renewals of expiring tax provisions to counteract a slowdown in business investment.

And, however delicately, they are urging Trump to show more flexibility on China.

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Immigration in America Is Increasingly Asian, Female, and Middle-Class. Why Don’t We Talk About It? – Laura Thompson

A conversation with New York Times reporter Jason DeParle about his new book.

The Villanueva kids outside their suburban Houston homeCourtesy of Jason DeParle

In the late 1980s, a young journalist named Jason DeParle moved in with a Filipino family in Manila to learn more about global poverty. Now a veteran New York Times reporter and author of the 2004 book, American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation’s Drive to End Welfare, DeParle followed the family he met as they have grown to include more than four dozen people over three generations, spread across the globe as migrant workers.

His latest book, A Good Provider is One Who Leaves, follows Rosalie Comodas Villanueva, who was 15 when DeParle was living in Manila, from her childhood in a shantytown in the Philippines through college and eventually to a career as a nurse. She worked in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates before finally moving her husband and three children to a large home in the Houston suburbs. Through it all, she supports her family back in that Manila shack.

“Migration has become the defining story of the twenty-first century,” DeParle writes. “By the accident of an old friendship, I had an intimate view.”

We caught up with DeParle to learn more about this story, where Rosalie’s family fits into the kaleidoscope of the American immigrant experience, and how her story resonates in the time of Trump’s draconian immigration policies.

Let’s start with the title. What does it mean and why is migration such a way of life for the Comodas and other families like them?

The title comes from the main character’s aunt, who was watching the men in her generation go abroad and then be able to build their families nicer houses. She lived in a straw house and saw that when people went abroad, they could come back and build cement block homes. So she encouraged her husband to go to Saudi Arabia and told him “a good provider is one who leaves.” It serves as an informal motto for the family, because it’s a family of 11 siblings who then grew up and had 45 children. And out of the first generation, nine of the 11 went abroad and in the second generation, something like 24 out of the 45 have gone abroad. So they’ve taken it to heart. They do leave. And most of them are good providers.

One of the things that really jumped out at me was your discussion of the feminization of migration. Why did you choose to tell this story primarily through women?

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US opioid crisis: experts say payouts from drug makers ‘highly questionable’ – Edward Helmore Thu 29 Aug 2019 02.00 EDT

Two potential payouts from Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma have provoked varied responses

Two multimillion dollar drug manufacturers will pay for their role in the US opioids crisis.
Two multimillion dollar drug manufacturers will pay for their role in the US opioids crisis. Photograph: BackyardProduction/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Efforts to get compensation for the US opioid crisis with two multimillion-dollar drug manufacturer payouts have been met by leading activists and addiction experts with a range of responses from incredulity to cautious optimism.

On Tuesday, the wealthy Sackler family and their embattled drugmaker, Purdue Pharma, makers of two opioids that triggered the crisis, Oxycontin and MSContin, reportedly backed a proposal to resolve all opioid lawsuits against themselves and the company for more than $11bn.

The potential settlement, if agreed by attorneys general across the US, would be the largest to date in the complex litigation over addictive painkillers, which have caused the deaths of about 400,000 people since 1999.

The proposal, first reported by NBC, came a day after a judge in a different case in Oklahoma found that drug firm Johnson & Johnson created a “temporary” public nuisance by tricking doctors into overprescribing its opioid-based medications.

Judge Thad Balkman ordered the company to pay $572m to Oklahoma as reimbursement for costs it incurred dealing with the surge in addiction and overdoses.

Shares in the company rose more than 5.4%, reflecting investors relief that the payout was far less than the $17.5bn the state sought and likely to bring down the liabilities facing drug companies and distributors that by some estimates could reach $100bn.

But the two potential payouts – one a pre-trial settlement and the other a court judgement – have brought widely different reactions.

Nan Goldin, the photographer whose PAIN campaign has triggered widespread protests at Sackler-supported art institutions and forced the family to abandon philanthropic donations, told the Guardian the reported Purdue settlement would be “highly questionable” and that the Sacklers would still walk away as billionaires and experience no judicial judgement.

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When Ilhan Omar Is Accused of Anti-Semitism, It’s News. When a Republican Smears Muslims, There’s Silence. – Mehdi Hasan August 28 2019, 12:57 p.m.

Rep. Ilhan Omar participates in a panel discussion during the Muslim Collective for Equitable Democracy Conference and Presidential Forum at the National Housing Center in Washington, D.C., on July 23, 2019. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“IT’S ALL ABOUT the Benjamins, baby.”

That is, of course, what Rep. Ilhan Omar famously tweeted on February 10, in response to a tweet from my colleague Glenn Greenwald decrying “how much time U.S. political leaders spend defending a foreign nation” — namely, the state of Israel. Then, when a journalist followed up by asking Omar who she believed was “paying American politicians to be pro-Israel,” the congresswoman tweeted: “AIPAC!”

The freshman Democrat from Minnesota “unequivocally” apologized the very next day, saying that she was grateful to Jewish allies and colleagues who were educating her “on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes” and insisting that she never intended to “offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole.”

But it was too late. With those two (since-deleted) tweets, Omar kicked off a political and media firestorm that lasted for weeks and saw her condemned and castigated by, among others, cable news pundits, newspaper op-ed columnists, Jewish community groups, Donald Trump, congressional Republicans, and even the leaders and members of her own party.

Now, fast forward to last week, specifically August 21. Rep. Mo Brooks, a right-wing Republican congressperson from Alabama with a long history of controversial and offensive remarks, was interviewed on WVNN, a radio station in Huntsville, about the decision by Israel’s government to deny entry to Omar and her fellow Muslim Democrat Rashida Tlaib.

“Usually, there is not much controversy with respect to Israel,” Brooks told host Jeff Poor. “Usually, the United States Congress is overwhelmingly close to 100%, if not 100%, in support of recognizing Israel as a long-term American ally, and that we have a mutual defense relationship. Unfortunately, we now have people in the United States Congress who view Israel as an enemy, and that makes for an entirely different mix of conversation.”

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