Dick Meister

The martyrdom of Mooney and Billings

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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.

It was an unusually hot July day in San Francisco.   There was a parade on that day in 1916 – a “Preparedness Day” parade organized by local Republican businessmen. It was intended to drum up support for U.S. entry into World War I and embarrass Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, who was running for re-election on a platform that stressed,  “He kept us out of war!”

A lot of people supported neither the war nor the parade, however. The opponents particularly included the union organizers who were the radicals of that period – “reds” who were trying to establish the right of unionization in the face of often violent opposition from the business interests who controlled the city and who most assuredly supported the war. Read more »

Closing the wealth gap

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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.


Although the wage gap between white and African-American workers remains wide, it has been shrinking. But that's not so for the more significant black and white wealth gap.

A new study by researchers at Brandeis University shows that the wealth gap has been growing steadily, leaving African-American families with increasingly fewer resources than white families to cope with serious economic problems such as many families face today.

The Brandeis study found that in the quarter-century from 1984 to 2007, the African-American and white wealth gap more than quadrupled, from $20,000 to $95,000. Read more »

God's not on the side of the union busters

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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.


God may or may not be on the side of unions, but a Catholic scholars group says that being on the other side, that is being against unions, is a "grave violation" of the church's social doctrine. Opposing unions is, in fact, a mortal sin. And should be.

Anti-union actions violate both the letter and spirit of Catholic social doctrine, declared the Massachusetts- based Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice in a document distributed recently by the Catholic News Service. Read more »

Labor's small business friends

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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 U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other outspoken foes of organized labor like to claim that small business owners are as anti-union as the notoriously anti-union Chamber and its big business members. But don't you believe it.

Unfortunately, plenty of people do believe it. They accept the conventional wisdom that employers, large or small, don't like unions in general and especially don't like their employees joining or organizing unions to represent them in determining their working conditions.

Read more »

An extraordinarily good man

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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 Web site, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 250 of his recent columns.

It was 40 years ago this month that Walter Reuther died in a plane crash. Forty years. Yet the auto workers leader remains an important inspirational figure - a man whose life holds crucial lessons for those who are today seeking to revitalize the American labor movement.
 
I came upon him late in his career, and to me he seemed verbose, distant and a bit pompous: a do-gooder who didn't smoke, didn't drink, didn't wench; who did only good things, and always in the artfully arranged glare of publicity.
  Read more »

The Governor and the condemned man

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Dick Meister, a San Francisco-based columnist, covered the Caryl Chessman case as a reporter for The Associated Press, correspondent for The Nation
magazine, and commentator for Pacifica Radio, which won a Peabody Award for its coverage. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com.

It's February 19, 1960. Caryl Chessman, tall, broad-shouldered, hawk nosed, sits on the edge of a hard, narrow bed. Clenching his fists and biting his lips, he stares at the bare walls of Cell 2455, Death Row, then out through a small, barred window and across the dark waters of San Francisco Bay – from San Quentin Prison to the lights of the city.

One-hundred miles north, Edmund G. (Pat) Brown, the pudgy, owlish 32nd governor of California, also sits alone, perched on the edge of an overstuffed arm chair. Puffing incessantly on a cigar, he studies the ornate design in the pale green wallpaper that covers the walls of the Victorian parlor of the governor's mansion in Sacramento, as he agonizes over whether to spare Caryl Chessman from execution the next morning.  Outside, I and a half-dozen other reporters, chilling in the harsh night air, anxiously await his decision.

Read more »

An environmental and worker disaster

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Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half-century


It‘s coming up on 10 o’clock in the evening aboard a massive oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon, 130 miles off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s Tuesday, April 20. The rig sways gently in the calm waters. Then, suddenly . . . BOOM!

A huge explosion rocks the rig, releasing tons of oil that soon will spread over an area of at least 2,500 square miles. Of course it’s an environmental disaster, probably the worst oil spill ever. That’s what draws massive attention from the media. But what of the workers aboard the rig, who suffered terrible trauma, serious injury and death? Read more »

The invaluable legacy of Willard Wirtz

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Dick Meister, formerly labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half –century.Read more »

A fitting memorial to labor's dead and injured

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Dick Meister, formerly labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for a half-century.

We’re coming up on another Workers Memorial Day April 28 - a day when organized labor and its allies honor the millions of men and women who’ve needlessly suffered and died because of workplace hazards and to demand that the government act to lessen the hazards. Read more »

Cheating U.S. workers

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The drive to strengthen workers' rights is one of the most important ever undertaken by an American administration

Hundreds of thousands of workers are being cheated by U.S. employers who blatantly violate the laws that are supposed to guarantee workers decent wages, hours and working conditions.

That’s been going on for a long time, but rarely as extensively as it was during the administration of George W. Bush. Thankfully, Bush is gone. And thankfully, President Obama and his outstanding Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, have this month launched a major campaign to try to overcome the very serious damage of the past.

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