Category Archives: racism

Hopes, Fears, and History: Immigration Policy Redux

Saturday. January 27, 2018. Holocaust Memorial Day.  Please hold this in mind as we look at the administration’s proposed immigration legislation.  Now, please notice the immigration restrictions in the latest White House immigration proposal:

“In addition to the citizenship path that would take up to 12 years, the White House framework includes a $25 billion “trust fund” for a border wall and additional security upgrades on the southwestern and northern U.S. borders. And the president is proposing terminating the ability of U.S. citizens to petition for permanent legal residency “green cards” for parents and siblings, limiting the family visas to spouses and minor children.”[WaPo]

The petitions mentioned in the proposals are meant to reunify families, or in the pejorative “chain immigration.”  Family visas are to be limited to spouses and minor children.

A Trip Down A Dark Memory Alley 

Flashback: We are in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, the pogrom in November 1938 in Nazi Germany.  Nazi policy is now obvious, if it wasn’t before.  Unfortunately, so was US immigration policy:

“Anti-Semitism fueled by the Depression and by demagogues like the radio priest Charles Coughlin influenced immigration policy. In 1939 pollsters found that 53 percent of those interviewed agreed with the statement “Jews are different and should be restricted.” Between 1933 and 1945 the United States took in only 132,000 Jewish refugees, only ten percent of the quota allowed by law.

Reflecting a nasty strain of anti-Semitism, Congress in 1939 refused to raise immigration quotas to admit 20,000 Jewish children fleeing Nazi oppression. As the wife of the U.S. Commissioner of Immigration remarked at a cocktail party, “20,000 children would all too soon grow up to be 20,000 ugly adults.”  []

The 1939 refugee children’s immigration bill was bi-partisan, sponsored by Senator Robert Wagner (D-NY) and on the House side by Rep. Edith Norse Rogers (R-MA), and it garnered significant support from national leaders.  However, then as now it didn’t have the support of the America First crowd.

“…the opposition struck back with calls to, yes, put America first.

“Protect the youth of America from this foreign invasion,” thundered John Trevor, the head of the American Coalition of Patriotic Societies, a restrictionist organization with a reach of about 2.5 million members. Trevor had built a career for himself by railing against rising immigration and its pernicious effect on America’s national character. He helped shape the 1924 Immigration Act, which established the restrictive quota system that was explicitly designed to curtail Italians and Jews, excluded the Japanese altogether, and stood as U.S. policy for 40 years.” [Slate] (emphasis added)

The bill did manage to get a hearing, but the opposition was active and loud and ultimately successful:

“In April 1939, a joint Senate-House committee held four days of hearings on Wagner-Rogers. Sympathetic witnesses offered moving humanitarian pleas. They also stressed that children would not compete with American citizens for jobs. Nativist opponents presented standard anti-immigration claims as well as innovative assertions such as the claim that the wording of the bill could enable 20,000 Nazi children to come to the U.S. Therefore, they claimed, the effect of the bill would be to tear German families apart. The Senate and House subcommittees both voted unanimously in favor of Wagner-Rogers.” [JVL]

The committee votes weren’t sufficient. By July 1, 1939 the bill was dead, pigeonholed in committee.  The shadow of the 1924 Immigration Act remained a feature of American policy, first expressed in 1790 when the government declared immigration was only acceptable if the applicants for citizenship were “free white persons of good character.” [NYT]  The re-establishment of the KKK, the disillusionment after World War I, the virulent anti-Semitism of Father Coughlin, and the association in the public mind of Jews and the Communist Party (or other efforts for labor organizing) all combined to keep the ugly shadow firmly over American horizons.  The 1930’s were particularly vulgar:

“In the 1930s, even as Americans regularly read news about Jews being attacked on the streets in Nazi Germany, there was no national appetite for increasing immigration. As the waiting lists for U.S. immigration visas swelled, so did anti-Semitism in the United States.  In 1939, Sen. Robert Reynolds of North Carolina (who ran his own anti-Semitic newspaper, the American Vindicator), proposed bills to end all immigration for five years, declaring in a June 1939 speech that the time had come to “save America for Americans.” [The Hill]

Decision Time 

Sound familiar?   Substitute Jewish, Italian, and Eastern European for Mexican and Muslim, and the similarities are obvious. “They” were anarchists (the terrorists of the day), agitators (the labor organizers, protesters, of the day) and worse still some of them were active in Civil Rights organizing (read: improving the status of women and  African Americans).

So, consider for a moment on this Holocaust Memorial Day how the Temple B’nai Israel in Victoria, Texas handed over the keys to its building to the congregation of the Victoria Islamic Center in the wake of an arson attack on the Center, February 2017. [CNN] Or how in that same month a Muslim organization launched a fund raising campaign to help pay for the damage done by anti-Semitic vandals to a Jewish cemetery. [NYDN]

At this point it’s appropriate to ask:  Which voices are we heeding?  The voices of Muslims and Jews in Victoria. Texas? Or the virulent rantings of the hateful vestiges of the short-lived Vindicator?

Are we to exclude family members from dangerous territories because they aren’t “family?” Because they are adult siblings of US residents and citizens? Because we don’t want to allow US residents/citizens to rescue their parents or their grandparents? Because we might be “flooded by the ‘ugly adults'” if we allow the rescue of little nieces and nephews?   Are we hardened against allowing a US citizen from sponsoring a family member who wants to come to this City on a Hill to work hard and follow the American Dream?

We have some choices to make in 2018, not the least of which is whether we are to be that City on the Hill or the stockade of anti-Semitism of years past transformed into an over-sized gated community of anti-immigrant sentiment opposed to allowing anyone not “free white of good character” to share in the creation of the country in the 21st century?

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Filed under Immigration, Politics, racism

I’m Watching a Basketball Game (Instead of the DACA drama)

Yes, in the midst of the Soap Opera that is the Federal Government of these United States this political junkie is watching a basketball game I recorded yesterday. Why? Because I received just about all the news I need for the next couple of days in perhaps less than 15 minutes this morning.   The rest will be noise.

Every pundit ever hired by every cable broadcast network will expend altogether too much energy “explaining” what the machinations of the past week “mean.”  Since I’ve come to believe they aren’t significantly better at prognostication than your average ground hog, octopus, or other member of the animal kingdom, I’ll stick to my own interpretation.

The Republicans are eventually going to own the mess they’ve made.  The DACA program was working in September 2017 when the Big Dealer in Chief stuck his foot in it.  Why? I’m going to go with the explanation that it was in support of the rather egregious House version of a Bridge Act introduced on January 12, 2017.  (HR 496 for those keeping score) There is no path to citizenship in the House version, and the bill essentially treats Dreamers as cheap labor, to be exploited by both employers and the federal government in terms of an endless assessment of fees.  It would also cover precious few Dreamers.

In today’s dispatches from delusion-ville, the White House wants an immigration bill that is “good for America.”  I think we can safely assume this means no path to citizenship for young people who’ve known no other country but this one, a “merit-based” immigration plan (which really isn’t similar to Canada’s any more than it’s similar to the Canadian health care system the Republicans were quick to malign), and it eliminates family reconciliation.   A miserable, un-American plan though it may be, I am of the opinion the House “Bridge Act” [text] is what Stephen Miller and the other racists in the West Wing have in mind.  The timing looks a bit suspicious to me, Trump signed the executive order eliminating the DACA program on September 5th, the same day there was a discharge petition in the House — which promptly went nowhere.

And now we do have a major mess.   The Big Dealer in Chief doesn’t have a position on much of anything, much less immigration.  However, that state of affairs doesn’t mean he won’t attach himself to whatever buzzwords and banners will help keep his radical base in line.  Thus we can assume he will order another Diet Coke while twittering on about “immigrants and crime” (a truly faulty proposition) or “immigrants versus citizens” (without bothering to notice the connection between immigrants and their contributions to the American economy — the economy benefiting citizens; and, giving us all to understand that the Norwegians (82.3% white) are preferable to those from those **hole places which send us an in-ordinary number of people with advanced degrees.

So, the herd on Capitol Hill has until February 8, 2018 to clean up.  Senate Majority Leader McConnell is now without one of his more important hostages — CHIP beneficiaries, and Senator McCaskill knocked the legs out from under his Military hostages when she offered an measure to pay members of the Armed Forces and Sen. McConnell objected.  What McConnell did secure was the capacity to put House Speaker Ryan into a soup largely of his own concoction.

Speaker Ryan, has a problem — he has to come up with a DACA fix acceptable to the Senate, a solution not currently available in legislative language on his side of the building.  If the House does move toward a compromise bill his Freedom (for us but not anyone else) Caucus will scream to the heavens.  If the House stays put with its current version, the Senate Democrats can shut down the government funding for round two, and this time on more solid ground.  A compromise bill will likely not please either side of the divide, however the House alternative will cement the reputation of Republicans as the Party of Racists.

Thus, the Party which has promulgated the notion that allowing anyone at any time to march down the road to full citizenship is “amnesty,”  is now fettered with a label they’ve sought to avoid since the sainted Ronald Reagan gave his “state’s rights” speech at the Neshoba County Fair on August 3, 1980 giving voice and heft to the Southern Strategy.

Popcorn anyone?

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Filed under anti-immigration, Immigration, Politics, racism

Contempt for the Great Generality: Hatch, Grassley, and the Great Unwashed

Every once in a while a Republican is caught being honest.  Consider the commentary from Iowa Senator Charles Grassley on the value of eliminating most of the inheritance tax because “they” invest, but the rest of the country…not so much. So, what to do when the comments create a social media fire storm?  Backtrack:

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday said his comments that the estate tax rewards those who don’t spend “every darn penny” on “booze or women or movies” were taken out of context, saying he meant that the government shouldn’t punish investment.

“My point regarding the estate tax, which has been taken out of context, is that the government shouldn’t seize the fruits of someone’s lifetime of labor after they die,” Grassley said in a statement.”

Nice try, but the “out of context” excuse has gotten thinner than the roast beef at the deli counter.  Senator Hatch (R-UT) was a bit more subtle when discussing the children’s health insurance funding, but not by much:

“In his speech, Hatch also said he thinks CHIP has done a “terrific job for people who really need the help” and noted that he had advocated for helping those who can’t help themselves throughout his Senate career. But, he continued, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything.” He blamed a “liberal philosophy” for creating millions of people “who believe everything they are or ever hope to be depend upon the federal government rather than the opportunities that this great country grants them.”

There they go again.  Oh, those Undeserving Poors who just Want Stuff, and won’t work for it.   The median household income in Nevada is $52,421, meaning half the families in Nevada have annual income below that figure.   So, what does it cost to get the kid’s tonsils removed?  ($4,153 to $6,381, with an average cost of $5,442)  How about that common childhood injury — the broken arm?  Expect this to carve out some $2,500 from the family budget.   It the youngster has a chronic condition — asthma, heart problems,  diabetes,etc. the price, of course goes up, and up and up.   We’re not talking here about “people who won’t lift a finger.”  we’re discussing families — working families who are hard pressed to find the resources to pay for medical treatment for their children.  And now we come to the place where Hatch and Grassley’s perspectives merge in a miserable view of humanity.

What these members of the US Senate are doing is using the old Reagan Era “Welfare Queen” mythology to camouflage their contempt for their fellow Americans.

“They” just want everything done for them.   “They” won’t lift a finger.  “They” are cheating me out of my money.  It’s never something like the single mother of a six year old who has asthma having to maintain a family budget while keeping up with the costs of inhaler medication.  Nor, do we hear much about the family in which both parents are working two jobs to keep close to that $52,421 number, and who are coping with a youngster with diabetes.  Well, well, sputter the solons, we weren’t speaking of Them.  Of course not.  And, I’m assured they weren’t talking about children suffering with cerebral palsy or other chronic conditions with serious financial implications for the family.  So, who are they talking about?  The hard truth is that they aren’t talking about anyone!

They aren’t talking about real people.  They are talking about that imaginary Great Unwashed, who are Welfare Queens, who are urban — and probably African American.  The subject of the Hatch-Grassley fears are highly generalized, mostly mythological, nearly always racist, ideas about the Undeserving Poor, who don’t “lift a finger.”  People, whose stories would touch our hearts and stir our empathy, are ignored in favor of painting with the broadest spray can nozzle possible a picture of urban, black, moral decay from which white America may safely distance itself.

They can (almost) manage some sympathy for the poor white families in remote areas of  America.  However, mention cities, and the racism kicks in.  It’s a hard and tragic thing to see the loss of employment in mining regions but no such sympathy is extended to the members of minority communities who languish in the Rust Belt.   However, even that small instance of empathy is victim to Republican ideas of virtue.  Those afflicted with opioid addition in those former mining regions may be unemployable because of their addictions, but by Republican lights must be employed in order to qualify for treatment.  In short, they can’t win for losing.

The Republican Party, once the party of progressive legislation, and even later of fiscal conservatism, has devolved into the party of racists, radicals, and unreasonable shills for corporate interests.  It’s a sad state of affairs. And, a sadder commentary on the political discourse of contempt.

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Filed under Health Care, Politics, racism, Republicans

Just Plain Insulting

The President’s performance during the White House ceremony for Navajo Code Talkers is rightly the subject of scorn and derision.   Worse still have been the efforts by GOP surrogates to excuse or minimize the President’s comments and use of a racial slur.  Among the least appealing was the comment that “it was a harmless remark.”  Here’s a clue:  You don’t get to decide if your comments are offensive.

He was “making a joke?” Really, during a ceremony for those few who are still with us, whose contributions in WWII are almost immeasurable?  That’s bad enough, but you, Mr. President, don’t get to decide what’s funny.  However, we were treated to a lovely demonstration of white male privilege mindsets which have informed racial slurs since time out of mind.

The Intention ExcuseHe meant it to be harmless… I don’t care if he meant it as a compliment — the person making the comment isn’t the one who gets to decide if the wording is insulting.  She gets to decide if the wolf whistle is annoying.  He gets to decide if the N-word is offensive when applied to him.  She gets to decide if the word is pejorative, he doesn’t.

They’re just being too politically correct:  BS. Being politically correct is a slur in itself, meaning that being polite is just entirely too difficult for some ageist, sexist, racists and they should be allowed to express themselves freely in polite society.  No.  We don’t tolerate children tossing food around at the dinner table, and never in a restaurant, nor should we tolerate racist comments — in public or private.

The Code Talkers deserve an apology, not apologists for the inept, insensitive, racist President.  They served their country with honor, the same cannot be said for their host.

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Filed under Politics, racism

It’s Different When Black People Do It: Sessions and the Black Identity Extremists Report

Deflection and distraction seem to be the order of the day. Republican members of the House Committee on the Judiciary appear to be riding some hobby horses which raise issues long resolved, or long justifiably ignored.  .  However, setting aside the Russian issues for a moment, Representative Karen Bass (CA-37) inserted an extremely important question about “extremist groups.” That would be African American “extremist groups.” 

Has the Department of Justice compiled a report on White Identity extremists? It certainly had prepared a report on Black Identity Extremists, but Representative Bass wanted to know if Black Lives Matter was to be target of Justice Department investigations.   The Attorney General asserted that he had not read the report.

One thing about the report that is immediately apparent is how short the report is, inserting six instances of highly dissatisfied persons attacking police and law enforcement officers.  There is a relatively lengthy section on the old BLA of the 1970s.  Not to put too fine a point to it, the August 2017 report is a wet dream for white supremacists.   What renders this a nightmare is that the Attorney General of the US can’t define what a “black identity extremist” is, and wasn’t all that clear about what a white identity extremist might be — at least until he was prompted by Representative Bass who brought up the ubiquitous Sovereign Citizens and the KKK.

The report provides a definition:

“The FBI defines sovereign citizen extremists as individuals who openly reject their US citizenship status, believe that most forms of established government, authority, and institutions are illegitimate, and seek, wholly or in part, through unlawful acts of force or violence, to further their claim to be immune from government authority. The mere advocacy of political or social positions, political activism, use of strong rhetoric, or generalized philosophic embrace of violent tactics may not constitute extremism, and may be constitutionally protected.”

This adequately describes the overall “sovereign” citizens — black and white, but doesn’t define precisely what a black identity extremist might be. We’re left with this vague description:

“The FBI assesses it is very likely some BIEs are influenced by a mix of anti-authoritarian, Moorish sovereign citizen ideology, and BIE ideology. The FBI has high confidence in these assessments, based on a history of violent incidents attributed to individuals who acted on behalf of their ideological beliefs, documented in FBI investigations and other law enforcement and open source reporting.”

BIE “ideology” is apparently predicated on being upset by the use of excessive force and unjustified killings by law enforcement personnel by African Americans.   “The FBI assesses it is very likely a Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.” Evidently, African Americans can be “radicalized” by anti-authoritarian sources.  Who’s an anti-authoritarian?  ACLU?  Black Lives Matter? Anti-Defamation League?  Libertarians? The League of Women Voters?

What makes this report, and its reception, so disturbingly important is that when the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on White (right wing) Extremists in April 2009 the Republicans were “outraged” at the prospect of labeling “patriots” as extremists, and the Secretary had to defend the report from none other than the American Legion which bellowed “Americans are not the enemy.”  By April 16, 2009 the Department had to issue an apology!

But when African Americans get outraged about police use of deadly force, or when law enforcement officers shoot first and answer questions much later and community members express grief and agony, then they are “BIEs” and are properly the subject of FBI scrutiny?

This issue deserves at least the same investigation as the initial 2009 report incurred, and at least the comment the 2009 report initiated.  Until the day the Department of Justice is called upon to defend this report we’d have to conclude that it “really is different when black people do it.”

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Filed under Politics, racism, Republicans

Yes, It’s About Race Relations

No matter how much the current president and his supporters want to make #TakeAKnee about “the flag,” and “the military,” it’s not about those two sacrosanct topics — it is all about the tendency of white controlled police departments to shoot first and take questions later when an African American is shot and killed.

In 2017 there have been 721 individuals shot and killed by police officers.  Certainly, not all of these people have been black, and not all have been unarmed.  However, there’s another layer to these numbers: justification.  In several highly publicized incidents (witness Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford III, Walter Scott) few officers have been held accountable for their actions; Walter Slager’s guilty plea in the Walter Scott case being a notable exception.  Philando Castile, was recorded in his dying moments, and yet the officer was acquitted on all counts.   It appears, and appearances are important in the cases, that all an officer must do is to testify that he or she feared for her safety.  Shoot first, and take questions later.

Police apologists cry “Blue Lives Matter,” and the more radical among them shout “All Lives Matter,” but then that’s the point of “Black Lives Matter;”  the slogan Black Lives Should Matter Just As Much As Any Other Lives is entirely too long to fit on a T-shirt.

And #TakeAKnee is about Black Lives Matter.  There’s an interesting thing about African American protests — by white lights there’s never been an appropriate way for them to protest.  When a crowd is predominantly white the media describes it as a protest as they did during the Women’s March, however when the crowd is predominantly black media contributors seem to be on edge waiting for the first rock or bottle to be thrown.  Some police departments, like the St. Louis PD, helpfully provide photos of the bottles they’ve collected and tweet the number of officers injured — no mention is made of the types of injuries incurred.

When the crowd is predominantly African American if they move then they must be blocking traffic, or impeding commerce.  If they don’t move (such as in a sit-in) then they must be an “unauthorized” gathering.  If they boycott businesses then media commentators often find it necessary to observe they “are hurting themselves.”  Only recently have cable news outlets invited non-white commentators to opine on the activities of black activists.   It’s encouraging to find at least a few broadcasts willing to engage commentators who do more than wag their heads and fingers at protests.

The entire idea of a protest is to gather attention, thus no one should be surprised when NFL players seek to capitalize on TV coverage of #TakeAKnee.  However, the current administration appears to believe that African American players and their allies should only do this on their “own time.”   Worse still is the willingness of the President to politicize and re-imagine the protests into a “counter culture” narrative.  The tweeter-in-chief decided at 3:44 am on September 24th that the #TakeAKnee protests were about “flag and country.”  And some of the commenters duly chimed in.   This technique has a long and rather sordid history.

People who protested Jim Crow laws were derided as Un-American, or as tools of the Communists, those who would desecrate the efforts of the military to defend our freedoms in World War II.  Those who protested the Vietnam War were also disparaged as “unpatriotic,” unworthy of the sacrifices made in the last great War.  The racist technique of choice in contemporary times is to conflate the “anti-racists” with the “anti-military” and the “anti-flag” elements of their imaginations, and first discount and then disparage efforts to improve life in America for all its citizens.

The flag is a very convenient icon, but that’s all it is, an icon.  Yes, it’s flown by those who fought in World War II, Vietnam, and in the Middle East; but it’s not the reason the veterans fought…not to defend The Flag, but to defend American values, their comrades in arms, and not least, the Constitution of the United States.   Perhaps this is the time to remember that President Dwight Eisenhower had another flag flying contingent march into Little Rock, Arkansas, with about a thousand members of the 101st Airborne to put down white inspired riots that Governor Faubus refused to control. Federal marshals assisted in the integration of the University of Mississippi, and the Alabama National Guard was employed by President Kennedy to integrate the University of Alabama.  Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. marched to Montgomery under the protection of federalized National Guard units. [ChiTrib]

Yes, the flag flew over Okinawa and Normandy — but it also flew over Huntsville, Oxford, Little Rock, and Montgomery.  Those attempting to appropriate the flag to promote their own racial and political views would do well to remember the same flag flew to enforce civil rights laws and rulings.  And, racial view are important.

The current occupant of the White House has been quick to condemn any and all attacks by Muslims, both real and fake, however all but silent on the activities of white nationalists.  Remember when he tweeted about the death of Richard Collins III who was stabbed to death in a hate crime in Maryland?  I don’t either.  Recall when Timothy Caughman was killed by a white supremacist in New York City? I don’t remember a tweet-storm after that tragedy.  Then, there was a firebomb tossed into a mosque in Minnesota, a member of the administration described this as a fake attack.   And then there was Charlottesville.

Who on this earth, who sentient enough to recall that World War II was fought against Nazis and white supremacists in Europe, could possibly say there were “some fine people” marching near a Virginia synagogue in a replication of a Nazi torch parade?

So, whatever the Tweeter-In-Chief might have to say, the current #TakeAKnee protests aren’t about the flag — they are about a system that minimizes the accountability for the deaths of African Americans.  They aren’t about the U.S. Military — they are about policing systems and institutions that give every appearance of disparaging the lives and rights of those for whom the flags flew in Huntsville, Oxford, Little Rock, and Montgomery.

We can only hope the Tweeter-in-Chief gets the message from the National Football League this weekend.  However, I’m not holding my breath.

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Filed under media, Politics, racism

Police Union Actions Imperil Public Sector Unions

I wrote a post on the subject of police union conduct and public relations last July, and it seems to be an appropriate time now to link back to it.  There was also a post on police accountability.

I’ll repeat for those who haven’t read those posts that I am a former public sector union member and former office holder in a public sector union.  I am not an opponent of public sector unions, and I am not fond of those who pile on the criticism when there’s bad publicity.  However, I am concerned that police union leaders are treading a fine line, which if crossed too often or too far will cause more harm to their associations than good.

We now have two more unfortunate examples of union leaders who are jeopardizing the effectiveness of their organizations:

(1) Philadelphia, PA — police union president calls members of Black Lives Matter a “rabid pack of animals,” after previously asserting a police officer’s Fatherland tattoo with an eagle was just a picture of a bird.

(2) Cleveland, OH — the police union doesn’t want to hold the flag because Cleveland Browns’ management supported players’ protest.

Why do these actions and announcements imperil public sector unions? Let me count the ways:

(1) There are those who don’t support public sector unions and these people would be ever so pleased to remove your capacity to negotiate wages, hours, and working conditions.  Police and Firefighters have been lucky thus far that many anti-union pieces of legislation have carved out exceptions for first responders — but make no mistake, if the criticism gets too vehement and too prolonged those exceptions will be more difficult to maintain.

(2) One of the most common arguments against public sector unions is that they “protect bad apples.”  This contention has been widely employed against teachers and other public sector employees.  By focusing on protecting individuals who have behaved badly instead of on the provisions of the contract the union leadership gives credence to these voices.  A pro-tip might be: If someone is about to hit you don’t hand them a bat.  There are times you might have to say, “We will defend the rights of Officer X, and help him present the best possible defense.”  Unspoken in this context is “we’ll help him present a defense if he can dream one up.” The less the personnel issue is “personalized” the more likely a positive outcome in the long run.

(3) Focus on what’s important.  Every union needs to focus on wages, hours, and working conditions.  The more the focus is extended into politics, social issues, religious controversies and other realms the less effective the union can be in improving those three basic elements.  Getting involved in local (or national) political controversies, such as the one in Cleveland, creates distractions and distractions create eventual problems at the bargaining table.

(4) Don’t forget you do work for the public.  That would be all the public, even the ones who don’t like or trust you. I once had a prolonged dialog with a person who offered an initial disparagement of public sector unions with a common generalization about “they are in it for themselves and not the public.”  My admission that I was a former public sector union member who agreed with some of the criticism and yet could provide a rationale for some rules and contract provisions was met with “you’re different.”  The more members of the general public can be convinced that “we” are mostly “different” and do not fit the convenient generalizations parroted by opponents the better.  However, taking sides isn’t helpful.

Another point should be emphasized.  No one would dream of allowing a nurse to refuse to treat a person because of the patient’s nation of origin.  That would be unconstitutional and a deprivation of the patient’s rights.  No one wants a teacher to refuse to assist a student who is a member of an ethnic minority, that too would be unconstitutional and a deprivation of rights.  No one wants a county clerk to register only members of one political party — that would be unconstitutional and a deprivation of rights. No one could imagine a firefighter refusing to rescue a person because the individual was a member of a particular religious faith.   So, how is it not unconstitutional and a deprivation of rights to refuse service to a group because members of that organization, team, or party hold views not in accordance with your own?

(5)  Don’t let management off the hook.  There are, in any organization of any size, some individuals who cannot or will not perform up to expectations and standards.  The reason that some “bad apples” are in the barrel is that someone hired them and put them there.  And, that someone isn’t the union.  A shop steward’s or union rep’s job is made much easier when management is encouraged to maintain or increase its hiring and performance standards.  Speaking of performance standards, a union representative’s life is smoother when those standards are mutually agreed upon after thorough discussions concerning the most appropriate elements to incorporate into the standards and practices, and how performance is to be measured.  For example, if a person’s performance involving interaction with the public is jeopardized by personal tattoos which seem to align that individual with Neo-Nazi or other white racist elements  then that’s something the union and the management need to discuss.  A standard should be agreed upon and mutually enforced.  To do otherwise is to invite all the criticism upon the union and its representatives and let the management off the hook.

Perhaps it’s time for a gentle reminder that to be elected to union leadership means not only do you represent your union members to the management, but that you represent your union to the public?

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Filed under football, labor, Politics, public safety, racism