Billionaire Tea Party financiers to lobby Alberta government: Koch Industries owned by billionaire brothers who fund Tea Party, climate change denial
Edmonton - An American energy conglomerate owned by two powerful billionaire brothers who help fund the Tea Party and climate change denial movements in the U.S. has registered to lobby the Alberta government.
Alberta's lobbyist registry shows that on March 15, Koch Industries signed up to lobby the province on energy and resource development policy issues, as well as taxation and economic development.
The company is run by Charles and David Koch, two of the richest men in the world.
Koch Industries spokeswoman Melissa Cohlmia did not respond to interview requests Wednesday but released a one-sentence statement.
"Koch companies want to add value by providing quality services and products our customers desire and value in a way that is compliant with all laws and regulations," she wrote.
She did not say what the company hopes to achieve by lobbying the government.
The registry shows the company's lobbying activities started March 3, and there is no fixed end date.
The federal lobbyist registry has no record of Koch Industries.
Calgary-based lobbyist David Keto of Global Public Affairs has been hired to arrange meetings and conduct grassroots and informal communications on behalf of the company.
Keto was executive assistant to cabinet minister David Coutts for two years ending in 2003. His company biography says he most recently worked in Alberta Finance as the project manager for the Alberta royalty review secretariat.
The extent of Koch Industries' holdings in Alberta is not known.
The company website says subsidiary Flint Hills Resources is among Canada's largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters. The company operates a crude oil terminal in Hardisty, 200 kilometres southeast of Edmonton. It also has offices in Calgary.
Flint Hills' Pine Bend Refinery in Minnesota was specifically designed to process Alberta's bitumen. Some reports suggest that refinery processes 325,000 barrels of crude oil a day and that 260,000 of those barrels come from Alberta. Cohlmia did not respond to a request to confirm those numbers.
Forbes magazine says Koch Industries is the second-largest private corporation in the United States with interests in pipelines, refineries and a host of other businesses.
The magazine's ranks Charles and David Koch at 24th in the list of the world's richest people, with an estimated net worth of $17.5 billion.
The company came to public attention in 2010 when New Yorker investigative reporter Jane Mayer published an article titled Covert Operations, in which she characterized the brothers as "primary underwriters of hard-line libertarian politics in America."
The brothers help fund the Tea Party organization, a right-wing political movement in the United States.
Mayer reviewed tax records that showed the pair poured more than a $100 million into dozens of "seemingly independent organizations," which Mayer says amount to the "subsidization of a pro-corporate movements."
"Many of the organizations funded by the Kochs employ specialists who write position papers that are subsequently quoted by politicians and pundits," Mayer wrote.
In 2010, a University of Massachusetts research institute named Koch Industries one of the top 10 air polluters in the United States.
The same year, Greenpeace reported that foundations controlled by Koch Industries contributed nearly $25 million to organizations that oppose clean energy and climate policy. The environmental advocates called the company "a financial kingpin of climate science denial."
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan worries the company's lobbying efforts will undermine the province's relationship with unions.
The New York Times has reported the Koch brothers were among the largest contributors to Wisconsin Senator Scott Walker's campaign. After weeks of rancorous protests, Walker on March 11 signed into law a bill that limits bargaining rights for most government workers in that state.
"The Koch brothers are the drivers behind the attacks on working Americans. We're concerned that they're going to start peddling the same kind of divisive and destructive policies here," McGowan said.
Premier Ed Stelmach said the province has good relationships with unions and has no plans to change its practices.
"We have the least days of labour disruption in this province. We are doing quite well, we have a good working relationship," he said. "Why would we change?"
Calgary Herald, Thurs Mar 24 2011
Byline: Karen Kleiss
In December, the Bank of Montreal (BMO) announced it was buying Marshall & Ilsley (M&I) Bank for $4.1 billion, even though the bank has underperformed by nearly 40 percent during the past four years compared with regional banks of a similar size, according to a report from the CtW Investment Group. In addition, it has yet to repay $1.3 billion in taxpayer bailout money through the TARP program.
But BMO has agreed to pay $18 million in severance payments to Mark Furlong, M&I chairman and CEO, along with $65 million in severance to 15 other M&I executives. BMO also has agreed to pay for the executives' taxes that are generated by these huge payments.
According to election records, Furlong and other M&I executives were the largest non-party donors to Walker's campaign.
After the march and rally, organized by British Columbia Federation of Labor (BCFED), Wisconsin workers-including members of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) and Sheet Metal Workers (SMWIA)-entered the shareholder meeting to challenge the the multimillion-dollar payouts to the M&I executives. BMO directors are up for re-election. In a statement, the BCFED says:
Today, the BC and Canadian labor movements join with our sisters and brothers in Wisconsin and the United States to condemn the attack on workers and demand that BMO end their support of union busters like Mark Furlong and Scott Walker.
Furlong's payout is awful big for someone who "tanked" M&I's profits writes Capital Times business reporter Mike Ivey.
Furlong joined M&I in 2001 as chief financial officer and became M&I bank president in 2005. He was named CEO in 2007, replacing Dennis Kuester, who is now retired and living in a mansion in Florida.
Both Kuester and Furlong were behind M&I's strategy to get rich by making real estate loans in red hot markets like Arizona and Florida. When the bubble burst, M&I's profits tanked, taking its stock price along down. M&I shares are now worth about $7.70 today, down some 85 percent from the $50 peak back in June 2008.
AFL-CIO Now Blog, Tues Mar 22, 2011
Byline: Mike Hall
Here's why Snyder lost favor so fast. According to a new Public Policy Polling survey released today, his financial martial law bill is hugely unpopular in the state with 50 percent of voters opposing it and only 32 percent supporting it.
Even more Michigan voters (59 percent-32 percent) believe public employees should have the right to collective bargaining and 49 percent would favor a state constitutional amendment to guarantee it and 37 percent would not. Even nonunion households understand the value of collective bargaining with 53 percent saying they support bargaining rights.
Snyder has fallen out of favor with his state's voters even more than his fellow Republicans Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have lost favor with their state's residents.
Just 33 percent of Michigan voters approve of Snyder's job performance, and 50 percent disapprove. The survey respondents also said if they could vote all over again, they'd pick Bernero over Snyder by 47 percent- 45 percent margin.
The poll summary says:
Snyder's ability to win big in a blue state was due to his successfully presenting himself to the voters as a centrist but he's lost that image with a lot of folks over the last few months.
For full poll, click here.
AFL-CIO now, Tues Mar 22 2011
Byline: James Parks
MEXICO: The parliamentary members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) presented a labour reform bill on March 10, which has gained full support of the ruling National Action Party (Partido de Accion Nacional, PAN) and, if introduced, will substantially erode workers' rights in Mexico.
The proposed bill, which has the open support of leading industrialists, is set to be fast-tracked in the Mexican parliament for adoption possibly as early as this week.
If introduced, the fundamental effects of the proposed changes to Mexico's labour laws will be to lower the cost of labour, maintain widespread corporate control of labour relations, destroy job security and increase poverty and violate worker and human rights in Mexico.
Some of the features of the changes include:
•Giving preference in law to an employers' right to enter into individual contracts with workers over collective or union contracts,
•Reducing the burden and costs on the employer in the case of unfair dismissals for instance by limiting the payment of loss of wages to no more than 12 months, when currently the delay of Labour Boards hearing cases is frequently up to four or five years,
•Giving extensive and unilateral rights for the outsourcing and subcontracting of work with no protection for workers. The proposals on subcontracting will enable employers to hide and evade their responsibilities, preventing workers from employment security, the right to join a union, the possibility to negotiate fair wages and access to social security provisions,
•Maintaining the status of "protection contracts" and enabling further fragmentation of unions through the use of outsourcing, subcontracting, temporary and conditional contracts for young workers,
•Directly violating the right to freedom of association by establishing in law the principle of enterprise-only based unions by cancelling the legal existence of cross-sectoral affiliations to national union structures, which contravenes international labour rights conventions and the Mexican constitution,
•Allowing for unilateral setting of wages to the detriment of workers, including effectively abolishing the concept of a minimum wage and allowing for the employer to impose work conditions with no possibility for review,
•Freedom to adjust working hours, regardless of whether stipulated in a contract, enabling employers to make changes daily based on the needs of production, and
•Removing from the labour code to a purely administrative classification the right to access social security on the basis of ill-health or permanent injury at work.
The PRI initiative will severely undermine the establishment of democratic unions and strengthens the corporate control over workers. For example, the additional requirements placed on workers when demanding a collective agreement or when taking strike action will expose them even further to retaliation before their representative legitimacy can be established.
The International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF) strongly opposes the proposals put forward by the PRI and is currently consulting with all trade union partners in Mexico and elsewhere on what action to take in opposition to this bill and will soon call for international solidarity support on this basis.
For more information about the situation in Mexico and recent international action in defence of trade union rights in Mexico go to: http://www.imfmetal.org/mexico2011
imfmetal.org, Mon Mar 21 2011
The union has called on the government of Bahrain to take "more active responsibility in protecting the people of Bahrain" regardless of their national status. However, the government has chosen to repress all forms of political democracy in Bahrain by using tanks and live ammunition to conduct a violent crackdown against peaceful demonstrators at Pearl roundabout.
In addition, it appears that the government is now blaming pro-democracy activists for the killing of migrant workers much to the amazement of trade unionists. Thus, there have been calls by trade unionists for an impartial investigation to these murders.
BWI Connect, Mon Mar 21 2011
Attorney general appeals restraining order on labor law: Van Hollen asks appeals court to lift judge's temporary order
The Court of Appeals panel in Madison quickly responded Monday by asking for information from the prosecutor on the other side of the case by the end of Tuesday, but didn't explicitly say it would take the appeal.
Justice Department lawyers argued that Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi's ruling was an overreach against the Legislature as a separate branch of government. "In the interests of the administration of justice, it is necessary - nay, it is imperative - that this court step forward and undo this inappropriate action," the request reads.
Last week, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne asked Sumi to block the law because he said the legislative conference committee that voted on the measure violated the state's open meetings law by failing to provide adequate public notice. The conference committee voted for the bill earlier this month, allowing the Legislature to pass it amid raucous demonstrations and Walker to sign it into law.
On Friday, Sumi issued a temporary restraining order blocking Secretary of State Doug La Follette from publishing the budget-repair law until she can rule on the merits of the case. The law, which repeals nearly all collective bargaining for public workers in the state, can't become effective until one day after it is published.
Before Sumi's action, La Follette had been planning to publish the measure in the official state newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal, on March 25, the date required by law. La Follette, a Democrat and an opponent of the law, says he can't remember being ordered to not publish a law in some three decades in office.
Hearings on the injunction before Sumi are scheduled for March 29 and April 1.
Technically, Monday's filing by Van Hollen is asking for permission to appeal the restraining order, since the case in Dane County is continuing and the appeals court doesn't have to take up any appeal until the case is finished.
The case is before Court of Appeals Judges Paul Higginbotham, Paul Lundsten and Brian Blanchard. Blanchard served as the Democratic district attorney in Dane County before Ozanne.
The order from the judges Monday gave Ozanne until 4 p.m. Tuesday to provide part of his response to the state and until 4 p.m. Wednesday to provide the rest.
Ozanne didn't return messages seeking comment on the appeal.
In its appeal Monday, the state made several main arguments. First, the state argued that the court has no jurisdiction over GOP legislative leaders being sued or over La Follette because they all enjoy legal immunity.
The state constitution gives legislators immunity from lawsuits during the legislative session. La Follette, the state said, can't be the subject of a legal action because he wasn't involved in the committee vote in question.
Hold called interference
Second, the state argued that the court can't block a bill that hasn't yet been published into law because that amounts to interfering with the Legislature in its area of responsibility of passing laws. The appeal cited a 1943 Supreme Court decision that it said forbids courts to block a legislative measure from being published.
The order from the appeals court directed Ozanne to respond to this specific argument from the state by Tuesday.
Last, the state argues that the courts can't block or strike down a law passed by the Legislature purely on the basis of lawmakers failing to follow legislative rules or the open meetings law. Citing a 1983 state Supreme Court ruling, the appeal said that courts can strike down laws only if lawmakers failed to follow the state constitution.
Howard Schweber, a professor of political science and legal studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, agreed that laws can't be struck down because the Legislature didn't follow its rules in passing them. But Schweber noted that Sumi hadn't struck down the law, only restrained a state official from publishing it.
"They're trying to make this an argument about the authority to strike down a law. But that's not what's going on here," he said.
Likely to go to high court
Schweber said he assumed the case would end up before the Supreme Court. In its appeal, the Department of Justice had asked the appeals court to send the case to the Supreme Court if it doesn't take the case.
Robert Dreps is an attorney who handles open meetings and open records cases for media organizations including the Journal Sentinel. He noted that even if the law stands, the court might still have the authority to seek a financial penalty for lawmakers who violated the open meetings law.
Ozanne is seeking a $300 fine plus court costs and attorney's fees from the four GOP legislative leaders on the committee. They are: Senate President Mike Ellis of Neenah, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald of Horicon and Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder of Abbotsford. The Fitzgeralds are brothers.
In temporarily blocking the law from being published, Sumi said Friday she believed that Ozanne was likely to succeed in his action. But she also said the Legislature would be free to pass the law again with adequate public notice.
Sumi said Friday that the importance of enforcing the open meetings law outweighed the interest, at least for now, of sustaining the collective bargaining law.
Dispute over notice needed
Wisconsin's open meetings law requires 24 hours' public notice of meetings, or two hours in emergencies. Ozanne on Friday argued that the emergency standard did not apply and that even if it did, the meeting didn't follow the law because the conference committee met with less than two hours' notice.
Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar said Friday that a notice for the meeting was posted on a bulletin board about two hours in advance and that there was no way to know exactly when it was posted.
In its appeal Monday, the state also argued that there was an exception in the open meetings law for legislative rules. GOP lawmakers say that their legislative rules didn't require the same advance notice and that they followed those rules.
Ozanne also argued that the meeting violated the law because the public had difficulty getting into the Capitol amid tight security and because it was held in a small room that could not accommodate the large crowd trying to get in. Sumi on Friday took note of that, pointing out the state constitution requires the doors of the Legislature to be open when lawmakers are in session.
The Republican lawmakers have said there was adequate public access to the meeting.
The budget-repair measure was meant to shore up the state's finances through June 30 but drew widespread opposition because of the collective bargaining changes. It stalled when Senate Democrats left the state Feb. 17 to block action on the measure. The state constitution requires 20 of 33 senators to be present to vote on bills with certain fiscal elements, and Republicans hold just 19 seats.
After three weeks, Republicans quickly convened a conference committee March 9 to strip appropriations out of the bill. They said the changes to the bill meant they no longer needed 20 senators to be present.
The four Republicans on the conference committee voted for the bill as they ignored shouts by the lone Democrat at the meeting, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha, that they were violating the open meetings law. The Senate passed it minutes later with no Democrats present as protesters jammed the halls of the Capitol.
JS online, Mon Mar 21 2011
Byline: Jason Stein and Lee Bergquist
Republicans in Wisconsin are seeking to reverse civic traditions that for more than a century have been among the most celebrated achievements not just of their state, but of their own party as well.
Wisconsin was at the forefront of the progressive reform movement in the early 20th century, when the policies of Gov. Robert M. La Follette prompted a fellow Republican, Theodore Roosevelt, to call the state a "laboratory of democracy." The state pioneered many social reforms: It was the first to introduce workers' compensation, in 1911; unemployment insurance, in 1932; and public employee bargaining, in 1959.
University of Wisconsin professors helped design Social Security and were responsible for founding the union that eventually became the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Wisconsin reformers were equally active in promoting workplace safety, and often led the nation in natural resource conservation and environmental protection.
But while Americans are aware of this progressive tradition, they probably don't know that many of the innovations on behalf of working people were at least as much the work of Republicans as of Democrats.
Although Wisconsin has a Democratic reputation these days - it backed the party's presidential candidates in 2000, 2004 and 2008 - the state was dominated by Republicans for a full century after the Civil War. The Democratic Party was so ineffective that Wisconsin politics were largely conducted as debates between the progressive and conservative wings of the Republican Party.
When the Wisconsin Democratic Party finally revived itself in the 1950s, it did so in a context where members of both parties were unusually open to bipartisan policy approaches. Many of the new Democrats had in fact been progressive Republicans just a few years earlier, having left the party in revulsion against the reactionary politics of their own senator, Joseph R. McCarthy, and in sympathy with postwar liberalizing forces like the growing civil rights movement.
The demonizing of government at all levels that has become such a reflexive impulse for conservatives in the early 21st century would have mystified most elected officials in Wisconsin just a few decades ago.
When Gov. Gaylord A. Nelson, a Democrat, sought to extend collective bargaining rights to municipal workers in 1959, he did so in partnership with a Legislature in which one house was controlled by the Republicans. Both sides believed the normalization of labor-management relations would increase efficiency and avoid crippling strikes like those of the Milwaukee garbage collectors during the 1950s. Later, in 1967, when collective bargaining was extended to state workers for the same reasons, the reform was promoted by a Republican governor, Warren P. Knowles, with a Republican Legislature.
The policies that the current governor, Scott Walker, has sought to overturn, in other words, are legacies of his own party.
But Mr. Walker's assault on collective bargaining rights breaks with Wisconsin history in two much deeper ways as well. Among the state's proudest traditions is a passion for transparent government that often strikes outsiders as extreme. Its open meetings law, open records law and public comment procedures are among the strongest in the nation. Indeed, the basis for the restraining order blocking the collective bargaining law is that Republicans may have violated open meetings rules in passing it. The legislation they have enacted turns out to be radical not just in its content, but in its blunt ends-justify-the-means disregard for openness and transparency.
This in turn points to what is perhaps Mr. Walker's greatest break from the political traditions of his state. Wisconsinites have long believed that common problems deserve common solutions, and that when something needs fixing, we should roll up our sleeves and work together - no matter what our politics - to achieve the common good.
Mr. Walker's conduct has provoked a level of divisiveness and bitter partisan hostility the likes of which have not been seen in this state since at least the Vietnam War. Many citizens are furious at their governor and his party, not only because of profound policy differences, but because these particular Republicans have exercised power in abusively nontransparent ways that represent such a radical break from the state's tradition of open government.
Perhaps that is why - as a centrist and a lifelong independent - I have found myself returning over the past few weeks to the question posed by the lawyer Joseph N. Welch during the hearings that finally helped bring down another Wisconsin Republican, Joe McCarthy, in 1954: "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"
Scott Walker is not Joe McCarthy. Their political convictions and the two moments in history are quite different. But there is something about the style of the two men - their aggressiveness, their self-certainty, their seeming indifference to contrary views - that may help explain the extreme partisan reactions they triggered. McCarthy helped create the modern Democratic Party in Wisconsin by infuriating progressive Republicans, imagining that he could build a national platform by cultivating an image as a sternly uncompromising leader willing to attack anyone who stood in his way. Mr. Walker appears to be provoking some of the same ire from adversaries and from advocates of good government by acting with a similar contempt for those who disagree with him.
The turmoil in Wisconsin is not only about bargaining rights or the pension payments of public employees. It is about transparency and openness. It is about neighborliness, decency and mutual respect. Joe McCarthy forgot these lessons of good government, and so, I fear, has Mr. Walker. Wisconsin's citizens have not.
New York Times, Mon Mar 21 2011
Byline: William Cronon
But independent unions are not allowed, and those workers are all members of the state-sponsored All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which panelists said functions more like a government agency and includes board members and other representatives of employers among its leadership. "It's all top-down," said Hao.
Exploitative and dangerous working conditions, wage theft, child labor and other abuses in China have received much attention in the past decade, especially regarding the millions of farmers who have streamed to cities for migrant work, where they don't have the same rights or access to social services as local residents.
The four Chinese professors and analysts on the Left Forum panel cited the rash of suicides at factories including Foxconn and murders and attacks by frustrated workers - including a farmer-turned-migrant worker who killed three people after being denied his wages in 2000; and the 18-year-old migrant worker Wang Binyu, who in 2005 killed four people "because he got only 1/100 of his salary and was abused by his boss," in the words of Gao Xinjun, a senior researcher at the China Center for Comparative Politics and Economics.
But the panelists said a growing labor shortage has given workers more power and slowly increased protections of workers' rights, as the labor situation has switched from "a seller's market to a buyer's market," - with workers being the "buyers" of jobs-as Xinjun said.
Xinjun said the military has been unable to even get enough soldiers because they are competing with the labor needs of private enterprise.
"The labor pool is much smaller because of the one child policy...so policies are coming up requiring better protections for women and children, [and] quality employment" is becoming more common, said Quinwen Xu, chair of the Graduate School of Social Work at Boston College.
But workers protections on paper and in reality are a different thing. Guo "Sunny" Zhengyang described the high numbers of fatalities in coal mines, despite the fact that the government does have regulations on coal mines.
She noted that Shanxi province in 2009 moved to nationalize and consolidate most mines, reducing the number of private mines more than ten-fold, from more than 2,000 to less than 200.
Coal mines are among the places migrant workers labor after fleeing the countryside in droves in search of economic survival. Zhengyang said these jobs are relatively well-paying, with more dangerous jobs paying more, and salaries "guaranteed" since coal has been in high demand to fuel electricity generation needed for China's booming industry.
"Although it's dangerous, the migrant workers still want to do this job," she said.
Zhengyang said that private coal companies rarely have contracts with migrant workers, which is how both parties usually prefer it. At state-owned mines workers do have contracts, "but a contract is just a piece of paper."
She noted that private companies don't formally provide any benefits or social welfare programs for workers, and from the government these workers get much less social welfare than full-time residents. She said safety conditions in state-run mines have improved markedly, but conditions are still very dangerous in private mines.
"And the mental and cultural life of migrant workers is ignored by both private and state-run enterprises," she said. The development of migrant coal workers organizations and more government regulation of private mines would go a long way in improving workers' lives. "But that's easy to say and much harder to do."
Labor law violations are rampant across the country, the presenters said, including involving unpaid wages, overtime violations, abuse and other charges.
Hao summed up the primary labor complaints:
Employers closed factories and disappeared without paying workers, factory owners delayed paying workers for one to 14 months - that happens very often...laid-off workers from state factories felt shortchanged by the terms of leaving a factory where they had worked their whole life.
Even though independent unions are illegal, there is some space for regional centers and other quasi-independent institutions that can help protect workers rights. Xinjun said that since its founding in 2000, the Yiwu Center for Workers Legal Rights-Defending (the name sometimes described differently depending on the translation) had a 93 percent success rate in litigating, arbitrating and otherwise dealing with more than 4,700 labor complaints. He said labor complaints have also gone down exponentially in that time period, he thinks because the organization has preemptively protected rights and helped prevent labor abuses.
The presenters said there is still rampant corruption and lack of transparency within the government, including in the ACFTU and state-owned enterprises.
"If you want to get a document, they'll say ‘Why do you want that? You don't need that,'" said Xinjun.
Hao called for greater activity by "critical intellectuals" in Chinese labor reform. He described an overall hopeful view of recent labor and economic trends, highlighting a recent news photo of business suit-clad bosses bowing as a line of blue-collar workers marched into their factory.
Globalization makes labor and capital more moveable, but capital has more advantage to move more freely. The interest of the workers in developed countries to protect their work may not coincide with the interests of workers in developing countries (where companies are off-shoring their production). But globalization also makes the world more integrated -- so international trade unions can recommend labor standards, mobilize civil society...and theoretically as wages increase (in China), maybe some factories would go back to the U.S.
Hao asked for more support and collaboration from U.S. labor unions, including aid in reforming the ACFTU even though there aren't independent unions. He said:
Rather than focusing on one country's interests, why don't we focus on the interests of humanity?
In These Times, Mon Mar 21 2011
Byline: Kari Lydersen
In it's decision, the ILO called on the Wall government to (amongst other things):
- Hold full and specific consultations with unions at an early stage of considering any labour legislation...
- Take the necessary measures in consultations with unions to amend the Public Service Essential Services Act and Regulations...
- Consult with unions to ensure that a process is put into place to ensure that all social partners have confidence restored in the Labour Relations Board (LRB)...
To date, the government has complied with none of the recommendations and it's inaction continues to sully Saskatchewan's reputation on the international stage.
Recently, the government responded to a number of written questions about the ILO's recommendations which were tabled by the NDP opposition in the spring session. A summary of those questions and responses is reproduced below:
Question 1648: Has the Premier read the International Labour Organization decision?
Response: The Premier and cabinet have been briefed by the Minister responsible for Labour on the ILO Recommendations.
Question 1649: Has the Government of Saskatchewan been contacted by the federal government regarding the ILO decision and the request for the Government of Saskatchewan to report on its progress torwards implementing the recommendation?
Response: The Government of Saskatchewan will respond to the International Labour Organization through the Government of Canada in due course.
Question 1650: Has the Government of Saskatchewan informed the federal government of its intention to comply with the ILO decision?
Response: The Government of Saskatchewan is considering the non-binding recommendations of the International Labour Organization and will prepare a response in due course.
Question 1651: Will the Government of Saskatchewan comply with the ILO decision?
Response: The Government of Saskatchewan will reply to the non-binding recommendations of the International Labour Organization in due course.
Question 1652: Has the Government of Saskatchewan contacted the ILO to inform them of the government's intentions regarding the ILO decision?
Response: No. The Government of Saskatchewan will reply to the non-binding recommendations of the International Labour Organization through the Government of Canada in due course.
Question 1653: Has the Government of Saskatchewan contacted the union complainants to invite them to work with the government in complying with the ILO?
Question 1654: (1) Has the Premier given instructions to the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General to comply with the ILO decision? (2) If so, when? (3) If not, why not?Response: (1) No. (2) N/A. (3) The Government of Saskatchewan remains confident that the various challenges now before the Labour Relations Board and the Courts will result in decisions that will confirm the Government has acted in a lawful manner.
Question 1655: What is your advice to this Legislative Assembly on whether we are going to be complying with the rule of law and international law as decided by the United Nations' ILO governing body?
Response: The Government of Saskatchewan is considering the non-binding recommendations of the International Labour Organization and will prepare a response in due course.
Would the Sask. Party government be ignoring a decision of a NAFTA panel, or the WTO if Saskatchewan was found guilty of violating an international trade agreement? I doubt it. So why the double standard when it comes to our international obligations respecting worker rights and human rights?
Larry Hubich's Blog, Mon Mar 21 2011
Why is what's going on in Wisconsin and beyond important?
For the first time in years, we have a real opportunity to educate citizens on the importance of collective bargaining and unions. Many people didn't know, and still don't know, what collective bargaining is. But when they see it being debated on television, on the radio and in streets, and they see people who look just like them standing up for the right to have a voice at work, that is a tremendous education.
What was the mood like at the AFL-CIO executive council meeting in early March?
There was greater unity than I've seen in the 10 years I've been on the Council. There was a determination by everyone that an injury to one was an injury to all. If they win round one in Ohio, that doesn't mean the battle is over. We're going to look at doing recalls on every Republican that is subject to recalls. We're going to engage every one of our members and fight.
The labor movement can't be wiped out of existence. You know, when there were no rules about creating unions, we still created unions. If you look at countries where workers have been isolated whether its Poland or whether its Egypt or whether it was Brazil during the military dictatorship-they form unions. They may be trying to wipe us out, but it's brought us closer together.
We've had people who are our members who simply went to work at the start of their shift and the union was there. They were just members. Now they are phoning us and asking, "What can I do?" It's created an awakening because people understand that for the last 12 years, we've been coddling the rich at the expense of the rest of us. People are pissed off.
Was there any agreement at the AFL-CIO executive council meeting on short- and longer-term plans?
The commitment that we made is that we're in this for the long run. It's not about six days, six weeks, six months. It's whatever it takes. That's the commitment we made to each other.
What's really fascinating is that you watch the debates going on in each state, and in each state, it's not about the economy. It's about Republicans trying to defund the labor movement, because they see the labor movement as one of the last organized resistance to total Republican/corporate dominance of the political agenda. So that's the fight.
Is this an opportunity to stiffen the backbone of Democrats and the president? How well do you think they've responded?
I think the president and [his] cabinet have been very good in speaking out. There are some who say he ought to show up [at the demonstrations]. I don't think he ought to show up. This can't be an issue of Republicans versus Democrats. This is an issue of basic fairness and justice. This is an issue of whether or not this is a country where people have a say in their economic destiny and how their work is done. Americans believe in that.
Unions are instruments of social and economic justice, and they're instruments of democracy. When you go to these rallies, what you see are young people, more than older people, calling out, ‘This is what democracy looks like.' There's a cross-section in these rallies-businessmen, lawyers, policemen, firemen. When was the last time you saw policemen, who were told to evict protesters from the Wisconsin capitol, say, "No, we're going to sleep in there with them tonight and protect the protestors"?
Is there a way to turn this into an organizing opportunity?
Yes. People are getting to see a labor movement that's on their side, not just the side of members. [W]hile we worry about our members, we worry about the greater society, because if the society doesn't do well, our members can't do well.
As one of the kids said when I was in Wisconsin and I asked him if he was enjoying the protest, "My dad was a union member, and my job is to make unions cool again." Something is happening.
In These Times, Mon Mar 21 2011
Byline: David Moberg