Sunday, October 17, 2021

Nothing runs their workers over like a Deere

By Labor Correspondent Joseph Hill with
Harold Hill in Ottumwa, Iowa

They manufacture expensive agricultural equipment for one of the world’s largest and wealthiest corporations. The current boom market in the commodities harvested by the company’s products has led to robust sales of the company’s products and healthy profits of $5,440,000,000 for the first nine months of this year. The company’s CEO compensation doubled year-over-year.

How much would you pay the workers who are keeping this gravy train on the tracks? The answer, at least the one provided by the John Deere company, is a little over $40,000 a year, which includes plenty of exhausting over time.

And when John Deere’s workers asked the company to share some of its lush profits with them, the company offered a 2% increase a year for six years. That’s an $800 annual raise. At historical inflation rates, that equals no raise at all. At the current inflation rate of 5.4%, that’s a real wage cut of over 3% a year.

Although it sounds incredible, the unionized workers of John Deere hit the bricks.

The strike is presented in the media as part of a growing yet inexplicable labor “unrest,” which has also seen restaurant workers leave their grueling $2.13 a hour positions and notoriously s****y employers like Jeff “Space Penis” Bezos scrambling to replace their quitting warehouse workers with fresh cannon fodder.

But when the details are filled in, the wonder is that American workers put up with this crap for years, not that they are suddenly discontented with their ‘umble lot. Workers have been getting screwed for decades even as the compensation of their bosses, and the financial finaglers who manipulate and rubbish their companies, has skyrocketed.

The John Deere workers pulling down $40,000 a year, hardly a lavish living even around their Illinois and Iowa factories, were a generation ago well-paid union workers able to afford a comfortable middle class life and send their children off to war, like Ottumwa’s Radar O’Reilly.


 
But never fear — the benevolent bosses have graced their workers with a lavish bonus plan known as GIPP [Surely, CIPP? – Ed.] 


In other words, it's a scam right out of The Jungle.  If your boss keeps raising the number of hogs you have to slaughter to get a bonus, then there's no reason to think you'll get a bonus at all.  You'll just be sweated more.

Maybe things are tough at John Deere. Is it able to pay decent wages? Let’s ask Wall Street:

Deere has exposure to end markets that have attractive tailwinds. In agriculture, we think demand for corn and soybeans will be strong in the near term, largely due to robust demand from China and tight global supplies. On the construction side, we believe the company will benefit from legislation aimed at increasing infrastructure spending in the U.S. The country’s roads are in poor condition, which has led to pent-up road construction demand.

Note that none of this sunny outlook is due to Deere management, although revenue growth is a key determinant of long-term compensation for the CEO and his lucky lackeys. The revenue growth was due to high commodity prices, which gave farmers bucks to drop on fancy new farm equipment, and the possibility of a Democratic-led revival in infrastructure spending.

Also the stuff Deere builds enjoys a good reputation:

Deere’s intense brand loyalty among farmers and strong competitive positioning leads to pricing power. For decades, the company has consistently produced best-in-class agricultural equipment, leading to the largest installed base in the industry.

We’ll be generous here and say that if a company’s products have a reputation for quality, that’s likely due to good management and good workers, so it would be only fair to split the resulting profits, right?

Here’s how that’s worked out. As John Deere workers were expected to scrape by on $40K (plus, to be fair, 100% company-provided health insurance, a benefit enjoyed by everyone in every other industrialized country), its CEO got $15,588,000, more than double the measly $6,000,000 he was paid in 2019.  The cynical might ask if any Deere workers saw their pay double in just one year. 

And by the way if you were interested in investing only in highly ethical businesses, here’s Morningstar’s verdict:

We do not think Deere’s wide economic moat faces any substantial threats from environmental, social, and governance, or ESG, risks.


Screwing your workers is apparently not an ESG risk, so DE remains on the list of investment options for ethical investors, or at least those who are less offended by profits gained from the sweat of workers than from natural gas.

Deere responded to the strike by sending its nonunion workers into the assembly lines, which should do wonders for Deere’s reputation for quality, not to mention ambulance calls to evacuate scabs who have injured themselves operating the massive and dangerous equipment used to fashion 20-ton combines, while their flacks assure the public that the suits are “working day and night to understand our employees' priorities.” We can help.  Their priority is more f***in' money.

In short, after seventy years of Republican anti-worker policies, John Deere workers, like pretty much all other private-sector wage slaves, are barely hanging on as their bosses have reaped all of the benefits of a generation of economic growth. There's an ocean of data on this but here's one chart comparing trends in the wealth of middle class workers and rich people:

 


Of course, the Republican war on American workers wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without the crucial support it got from — those same American workers.

We can turn the clock back to 1948, when Republicans, over Harry Truman’s veto, passed the Taft-Hartley Act, which among other things allowed states to screw unions by giving workers the right to benefit from union-negotiated wages and benefits without paying union dues. This free riding is known as “right to work,” by which Republicans mean the right to get union benefits without paying union dues. Next thing you know, Republicans will be advocating “right to infect” laws based on the alleged freedom to transmit lethal diseases to coworkers in a time of pandemic.

Old Chuck Grassley has been screwing
Iowa workers for years

As suggested earlier, many Deere plants are located in Eastern Iowa and many Deere employees work there. The late [Surely, senior but alive and well? — Ed.] Chuck Grassley represents those workers. Last year he warned that voting for Democrats would lead to, wait for it, repeal of Taft-Hartley.

And more generally, Iowa was carried by the Former Loser Grifter by nine points.  The FLG's commitment to paying his workers fairly is well-known, at least if you’re a sex worker who’s got the goods on him.

How’d the Tangerine-Faced Traitor do in Deere Country? In Wapello County, home to Ottumwa, the FLG's margin was 24 points (61-37).  Real President Biden won Polk County (Ankenny) 57-41 and Black Hawk County (Waterloo) by 54-45.  But in Scott County (Davenport), Biden won by only four points (51-47).  Not good enough.

Now it’s possible that Deere workers all voted Democratic as a recognition of which party supported them and all other workers. We doubt it, as the defection of white factory workers form the Democratic Party has been the factoid that has launched a thousand idiotic reports from rural diners.   And 11% of the Iowa electorate who voted for Obama twice didn't come through for Biden.

We’re happy to support Deere workers (and Kellogg workers and restaurant workers) but at the same time wouldn’t it be great for them, for us, and for the country, if when they went to the polls they supported themselves?

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Law and Order: We're-the-Real-Victims Unit

By Scott V. Sandford
Justice Correspondent with Bart Vanzetti in Boston

A thousand years ago in America [Actually, 2020 – Ed.], an unarmed manacled Black man was murdered in cold blood by a white Minneapolis policemen.  The outrage sparked a national movement to call the police to account for its centuries of unrestrained violence principally directed at people of color.  

After a year of struggle and effort, what do we have to show for it?  If you guessed a commitment to restructure the police, you lost!  Here's the summary, courtesy of The Washington Post:

How'd that happen?

At least 35 state qualified-immunity bills have died in the past 18 months, according to an analysis by The Washington Post....The efforts failed amid multifaceted lobbying campaigns by police officers and their unions targeting legislators, many of whom feared public backlash if the dire predictions by police came true. Officers said they would go bankrupt and lose their homes. They said their colleagues would leave the profession in droves.

Qualified immunity is the doctrine that keeps cops from being sued when they violate the law, as long as they can claim that their exact form of misconduct had not already been found illegal.  It's just as ridiculous as that:

Qualified immunity in action

There’s the 2019 federal court ruling granting immunity to a Georgia deputy who shot a 10-year-old boy lying face down on the ground while aiming at a nonthreatening family dog. Or the ruling that same year protecting California police who had been accused of stealing $101,380 in cash and $125,000 in rare coins in 2013 as they searched a local business and the owners’ homes. While the police may have been “morally wrong,” they were still protected from lawsuits by qualified immunity, the court found. 

We're actually dubious about repeal of qualified immunity as a cure-all for police misbehavior. The actual damages are paid not by Officer Bang-Bang but by the government he works for. Already millions of dollars a year are spent to settle police misconduct claims, but that just leaves less money available for stuff like schools and health care. And the payouts don't seem to be deterring police violence.

A more promising path, in our view, is repeal of the web of legal provisions that paralyze efforts to discipline or fire officers who aim at the dog but hit the boy.  Those efforts have gone nowhere, thanks to insanely powerful police unions, craven pols, and public apathy.  It's amazing to us that the same legal system and power structure that crushes private sector workers seeking to unionize so they can someday get a bathroom break from Jeff “Spaceman” Bezos is exquisitely protective of police unions.

Fortunately, the police unions repay their privileged position by resolutely putting their members first:

The incendiary and confrontational president of one of New York City’s main police unions resigned on Tuesday evening, hours after federal investigators raided the union’s Manhattan headquarters and his Long Island home. In a statement, the board of the union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said that its president, Edward D. Mullins, was “apparently the target of the federal investigation.”  

Your border patrol at work

Light-Fingered Eddie, when not apparently stealing, was known for his outspoken racism and hatemongering, including illegally Tweeting out pictures of Mayor de Blasio's multiracial daughter after her arrest during the wave of protests following the police murder of George Floyd (remember him?).

But of course the police's contempt for the rights of persons of color and their own belief that they can break the law with impunity are but two sides of the same racist coin.

The results of this undeserved white impunity are as plain as the 700,000 Americans who died of COVID-19.  Speaking of unnecessary pandemic deaths, police are defying laws requiring them to be vaccinated before inflicting themselves on the disease-ravaged populace.  In other words they are failing to do their duty to protect the public while violating the law they swore to upheld.

The nation's largest police force, fresh from their success flogging Haitian refugees at the Battle of Del Rio, are now complaining that (1) the aliens they are hunting are infecting them with COVID (demonstrably untrue), but (2) they shouldn't be forced to take the safe, effective vaccine to protect themselves from these supposed on the job risks.

Even the conventional wisdom-lovin' Washington Post is having trouble with that one:

In recent weeks, leaders at the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) have joined Republican lawmakers who allege the Biden administration is allowing migrants to spread the coronavirus in the United States and placing the CBP workforce at greater risk, while also opposing his vaccination order.

Pick a lane, buddies.

To the Long Beach School PD,
it's a target-rich environment

The Sheriff of Los Angeles County has already said he won't insist that his thousands of deputies do what they have no trouble making the public do — obey the law. If his deputies threaten public safety by violating the vaccine mandate law, well, that's OK with this zealous public guardian.  We wonder what Justice Jeannie “I didn't know the tax returns I signed were fraudulent” Pirro would say to that.

But police impunity does more than threaten the public's health and well being.  It also kills.  In Long Beach, California, a high school “safety” officer, which is a gun-toting cop who pads around schools until a mass shooting starts, shot and killed an 18-year-old unarmed mother driving away from school for the capital offense of not stopping when he told her to.

While authorities are “investigating,” the shooter remains on the loose, as so often happens when an unbadged perpetrator is caught in the act of killing an unarmed woman who was no threat to him or anyone else.

And although this outrage happened in 2016, it so perfectly illuminates what happens when an unconstrained white racist law enforcement system meets powerless Black children that we had to quote it (via ProPublica.org):

If anything, the headline undersells the horror:  Four black kids were arrested and sent to jail in exurban Murfreesboro, Tennessee for the non-existent crime of watching a schoolyard fight at which no one was hurt.  They were rousted, arrested, and sent to a juvenile jail operated by an ignorant white racist, where they were held for days until the unqualified rednecks who immured them were overruled by a combination of public outcry and real lawyers.

The punchline: the tortured kids got a modest settlement, and the ignorant white bigots remain in full control of the juvenile justice system.  The insufferable white Church Lady who intones about the value of discipline while running an illegal scheme to brutalize children “still runs juvenile court, making $176,000 a year.” 

By the way, Murfreesboro is not some hamlet up in Butcher Holler.  It's a city of over 150,000 within commuting distance of Nashville in a state which was carried by the Former Loser Grifter with 61% of the vote.  They know better but just can't quit locking up Black children. 

In fact, their kiddie jail is so enormous they rent out cells to similarly-minded bigots in the South.  The jailers have produced a marketing video touting their lockup featuring “saxophone music and b-roll of children in black-and-white striped uniforms.”

But before you conclude that the police are utterly out of control, check out this story from that capital of racial harmony, Boston, Mass.  A BPD sergeant is paying a heavy price for boasting about driving his unit into a peaceful crowd of George Floyd demonstrators.  According to WBUR,

A Boston Police Department sergeant faces a 10-day suspension after he was caught on video boasting about driving into protestors during last year's demonstrations over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis....Clifton McHale will serve eight days of the suspension starting Monday, the department announced Friday. McHale need not serve the other two days if he stays out of trouble for six months.

Eight whole days?  Who's the victim here?

Acting Mayor Kim Janey and candidate Michelle Wu both expressed the view that this loudmouth should no longer be roaming the streets of Boston with a gun and a badge.  Fortunately for him, he's protected by the legal and contractual web of police union red tape that keep interlopers like the current and likely future Mayor from interfering in police-generated whitewashes.  

Which is why, “The Boston Police Superior Officers Federation did not respond to requests for comment.”

Why should they? Under the rules they wrote, the members of the Real Victims Unit don't owe the people who pay them to keep us safe a g*****n thing.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Yale's Grand Strategy: He Who Has the Gold Makes the Rules

 By J. Humperdinck Stover
New Haven Correspondent

The news from South of Here has grown alarming; specifically, there's a dustup in New Haven at that beacon of Southern Connecticut erudition, Quinnipiac [Surely, Yale? – Ed.] University.

No, we're not talking about the news that notorious Yale Law Professors Jed “Hello, Ladies” Rubinfeld and his beloved spouse Amy “If You Got It,  Flaunt It” Chua have put their Tudor pile in New Haven on the market, with the intent of moving to New York, the better to avoid their students.

There's even bigger news:  a Yale History Professor has had the effrontery to stand up to the plutocrats who contributed over $250,000,000 for the advancement of knowledge in New Haven.

The news made page one of The New York Times:

Henry's Grand Strategy in action in Cambodia

The Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy is one of Yale University’s most celebrated and prestigious programs. Over the course of a year, it allows a select group of about two dozen students to immerse themselves in classic texts of history and statecraft, while also rubbing shoulders with guest instructors drawn from the worlds of government, politics, military affairs and the media.

But now, a program created to train future leaders how to steer through the turbulent waters of history is facing a crisis of its own.

Beverly Gage, a historian of 20th-century politics who has led the program since 2017, has resigned, saying the university failed to stand up for academic freedom amid inappropriate efforts by its donors to influence its curriculum and faculty hiring. 

Before we dig any deeper into this juicy academic scandal, can we ask just one question? 

What the fuck is Grand Strategy?  

The phrase has a musty 19th Century imperial or manifest-destiny quality to it, bringing to mind Bismarck's Grand Strategy to dominate Europe or Polk's Grand Strategy to steal the West from Mexico.

Fortunately there's a distinguished Yale Professor of History to explain it to us proles:

“Grand Strategy” is a capacious but slippery concept, one that has generated continuing debates about its meaning. In his 2018 book “On Grand Strategy,” Professor Gaddis defined it as “the alignment of unlimited aspirations with necessarily limited capabilities.”

We seem to recall our old friend Tommy Hobbes writing this down 350 years ago, but he didn't have the advantages of a Yale education.

Anyone else have any idea what tf Grand Strategy is as an area of erudition?

In 2006, it was formally endowed with a combined gift of $17.5 million from Mr. Johnson and Mr. Brady. In a 2013 article in The Yale Daily News, Professor Gaddis said Mr. Brady had given a single directive: “Teach common sense.”

Sure, what could go wrong with delving deeply into what a rich white man calls “common sense?” Let's find out!

According to a pretty thorough piece in the Yalie Daily:

But after the 2020 presidential election, a Times op-ed by professor of political science and humanities Bryan Garsten, who previously co-taught Grand Strategy with Gage, prompted Brady to begin pushing for changes to the program. The Times reported that Brady told Gage that she had not been teaching it “the way Henry Kissinger would.” “That’s absolutely right,” she responded. “I am not teaching Grand Strategy the way Henry Kissinger would.” 

You might think that was a good thing, but you aren't writing the checks.  In fact, the white men who were decided that tenured faculty at Yale couldn't be trusted to teach stuff without some guidance:

In the months following the publication of Garsten’s op-ed, ...Yale seized on a previously unused measure in the bylaws of the 2006 gift agreement allowing for an external five-member “board of visitors” to advise on practitioner appointments. Brady and Johnson suggested several members who were ultimately chosen to join the advisory board. These people included Kissinger, who served under former President Richard Nixon, as well as Stephen J. Hadley, former national security adviser to George W. Bush. . .

And if there's anyone who knows what not to do in the pursuit of a Grand Strategy, it would have to be one of the geniuses behind the Iraq War.

But it was that old war criminal Henry Kissinger who tore it.  Can you imagine not wanting to take advice on Grand Strategy from the guy whose previous efforts in that area included advocating nuclear war for fun and profit (hey, he got tenure for it!) and illegally bombing Cambodia to promote Tricky Dick's peace with, um, honor plan for Vietnam.

Whereupon Professor Gage resigned (although she does get to keep her job as a tenured Professor of History).

Like most exercises of Grand Strategy, this one appears to have blown up in the faces of the white men who planned and executed it.  Professor Gaddis himself was not amused:

Yale tells its students: no lunch for you!

History professor John Lewis Gaddis, one of the co-founders of the Grand Strategy program, told the [Yale Daily] News that “the Yale administration could have made it unambiguously clear to the donors that the faculty shape the curriculum. The administration should now, equally unambiguously, commit itself and recommit this institution to this fundamental principle.” 

As with every failure of a white man's Grand Strategy, the debacle was followed by a Grand Parade of Ass-Covering:

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate has promised a full investigation, while University President Peter Salovey has publicly pledged Yale’s commitment to ideological diversity.

“The Senate is highly concerned regarding the news that Professor Gage has resigned as Grand Strategy Director due to pressure from donors to control the curriculum of the program,” a Friday morning statement from FAS Senate Chair Valerie Horsley reads. “The Senate will investigate this situation and will issue a plan for further action in the coming weeks.”

Don't hold your breath. In fact, the Yale Daily News has reported yet another case of the University sacrificing core principles to attract bucks from donors. In this case, the core principle is not starving the undergraduates:

What are hungry undergrads to do, especially those who don't have a lot of spare cash to eat in local greasy-spoons, while the dining hall is being appropriately outfitted to delight the palates of wealthy potential donors?  

We're beginning to think that maybe Yale's commitment to diversity, intellectual and otherwise, hasn't changed all that much since 1912, when your correspondent had the following exchange:

"Here's three new scalps," continued McCarthy, producing some cushions. "Had to vow eternal love, and keep the dear girls separated—a blonde and two brunettes—but I got the pillows, my boy, I got 'em. And now sit back and hold on."

He made a third trip to the trunk, unaware of Stover's distracted mood, and came back chuckling, his arms heaped with photographs to his chin.

"One thousand and one Caucasian beauties, the pride of every State, the only girls who ever loved me. Look at 'em!"

The good news: a century later, thanks to rich white men and cowardly money-hungry functionaries, Yale is still celebrating Caucasian beauties.  Like Henry Kissinger.