Dick Meister

Labor's promise

|
()

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 250 of his columns.


The AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions know what they must do to grow and strengthen the labor movement for the benefit of all Americans. They must recruit and train millions of young workers, particularly young women and minority workers.  It is they who will join with others to shape our future.

Union organizers are already focusing clearly on reaching out to young would-be members who are often skeptical of union promises to help them win, not only better pay and working conditions, but also a meaningful voice in community affairs. Read more »

A trio of great Hispanic leaders

|
()

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 250 of his columns.

It's Hispanic Heritage Month, an excellent time to remember three of the most important Hispanic labor leaders in U.S. history. All three were engaged in the much needed and very tough job of organizing and improving the generally poor conditions of the nation's largely Latino farm labor force.

Cesar Chavez, of course, is one of the farm worker leaders we should particularly honor. Another is Dolores Huerta, who joined Chavez in founding the United Farm Workers union – and who, in fact, is still organizing and otherwise helping Latino workers, particularly women.

The third leader who's especially deserving of honor is the lesser known but no less important t pioneer farm labor organizer, Ernesto Galarza. Despite his important work, Galarza has been largely forgotten – though certainly not by me.  He's been dead now for a quarter-century, but I recall him well from my days as a reporter covering farm labor: Read more »

Brown or Whitman? No contest

|
()

Sidebar to The pummeling of SF Labor

Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman? Barbara Boxer or Carly Fiorina? For labor voters, the choice should be obvious.

All too often, we're faced with choosing between the lesser of two political evils, but not this time. Democrat Jerry Brown has proven throughout his long political career to be one of the best friends labor has ever had, and shows no sign that he'd be anything else if returned to the governorship in November.

I particularly recall the great political skill Brown demonstrated in convincing the State Legislature to enact what is still the only law outside Hawaii guaranteeing farm workers the collective bargaining rights granted most non-agricultural workers in the 1930s. Read more »

The pummeling of SF Labor

|
()

Click to read sidebar, Brown or Whitman? No contest

With five supervisorial seats open and only one incumbent running, the Labor Council has had a tough time picking the right pro-labor candidates. The easy choices were incumbent Carmen Chu in District 4, with no opposition, and Raphael Mandelman, an exceptionally promising newcomer in District 8. But Janet Reilly in District 2 opposes the Labor Council's revenue measures. In District 6, where long-time activist Deborah Walker has been endorsed, and in District 8, where Malia Cohen and Chris Jackson are #1 and #2, there are a multitude of candidates, many of them labor friendly.

It's not an easy year.

Prop. B on San Francisco's November election ballot confronts the city's working people and their unions with an unprecedented challenge. The measure, sponsored by Public Defender Jeff Adachi, would severely weaken public employee unions and undoubtedly lead to other serious attacks on workers and unions in private as well as public employment nationwide.

The proposition is by no means the only dangerously anti-labor measure on the ballot, but it 's the worst from labor's point of view, as it very well should be. It's a prime example of the public-employee bashing that's become a favorite theme in election campaigns everywhere and, if passed, would set a clear national precedent.

Actually, Prop. B might better be described as a pummeling rather than bashing - and one coming, furthermore, just a few months after city employees took a voluntary $250 million pay cut. Prop. B would steeply raise the employees' contributions to their pensions unilaterally and prohibit bargaining on the issue in the future as well. Read more »

9/11 rescuers need rescuing

|
()

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 250 of his columns.

A new AFL-CIO report shows that more than 13,000 of the truly heroic firefighters, police and other rescuers who were the first to rush to the scene of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001 are still being treated for the serious injuries they received.

They were exposed to a highly toxic mix of chemicals, jet fuel, asbestos, lead, glass fragments and other debris that caused a wide range of respiratory, intestinal and mental health problems. Also exposed were nearly 53,000 other first responders who are being monitored for signs of 9/11 related illness. Yet another 71,000 are being watched closely because they also were exposed to the extremely harmful toxins while helping clear debris.

The number of reported victims continues to grow. For example, another new study, from the Mount Sinai Medical Center, shows that some 70 percent of the 10,000 workers involved in the cleanup who were tested between 2000 and 2004, now say they have new or more serious respiratory illnesses.

In addition to firefighters and police, the victims include construction workers, residents of the area and school children, among others. The new report, by the AFL-CIO's James Parks and Mike Hall, focuses in part on one of the first to reach Ground Zero -- Vito Friscia, a Brooklyn homicide detective.  He was only a block away when the second of the Twin Towers fell. He rushed to the site through a dense cloud of toxins to seek – and to rescue – survivors.  Friscia spent a week helping with the rescue efforts. Read more »

Labor Day heroes

|
()

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 250 of his recent columns.

Let's pause for a moment this Labor Day to recognize some of our most important, yet most maligned workers.

They're teachers and librarians, police officers and firefighters.  They're bus drivers, doctors and nurses. Judges and lawyers, landscape gardeners and arborists. They're laborers and other maintenance and construction workers . . .

They are, of course, public employees. There are millions of them, who every day perform many thousands of the essential tasks that keep our country going.

It is they who keep our streets and highways, our parks and playgrounds safe and clean, who help educate our children, provide emergency health care, convey us to our jobs and back home, who sometimes risk their very lives to protect us from harm. Read more »

Hands off social security!

|
()

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 250 of his recent columns.

Republican leaders in Congress would have us believe that most Americans support cutting Social Security and Medicare payments as a way to cut the federal budget deficit. But don't you believe it.

As the AFL-CIO and other labor sources have discovered, that's at best a figment of the Republican imagination. Or, as is most likely, it's a bald-faced political lie.

The proof came in a poll marking the 75th anniversary of Social Security this year. It was conducted by a prominent research organization, Greenberg Quilan Rosner, and commissioned by the nation's leading public employee unions, the Service Employees International and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, joined by MoveOn.org and the Campaign for America's Future. Read more »

Historic election for labor

|
()

Labor and Democratic Party leaders are concerned – and rightly so – that labor's rank-and-file may not turn out in November to support labor-friendly Democrats in the massive numbers that played a major role in the election of President Obama and Democratic congressional majorities in 2008. Read more »

Safety first!

|
()

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 250 of his recent columns.

The number of serious on-the-job accidents this year have yet again made very clear the urgent need for expanded and tightened government safety regulation. The toll on workers has been high, as President Cecil Roberts of the United Mine Workers union told the House Education and Labor Committee in mid-July.

Roberts noted the explosion at a mine in West Virginia that killed 29 coal miners, a blast at a refinery in Washington State that killed seven workers, the BP oil rig blast in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11, an explosion that killed six workers at an Energy Systems facility in Connecticut. Read more »

Congress is acting stupidly

|
()

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 250 of his recent columns.

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka has it right. It's not the heat in Washington, D.C., that's bothering him and many other advocates of working people. It's the stupidity - the economic stupidity of Congress refusing to give financial aid to states that badly need help in order t o save the jobs of some 300,000 teachers, nurses, firefighters, police and other public service workers who are facing layoffs because of budget deficits.

The possible remedy is at hand – a pending $100 billion jobs bill.  Most of the money would go to states for quickly creating or saving up to one million jobs in public and private employment, restoring government services that have been cut, and averting other planned cuts, mostly in education, public safety and job training. Read more »