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Quite the World, Isn't It?

Two actions, two setbacks for working people

I'm still traveling, so not as tuned into news stories as usual, but two actions on Tuesday jumped out at me, and both are bad news for working people.

First, the Obama Administration finally struck a deal with recalcitrant Republicans over new trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Though Congress may still kill the proposals. So what did Obama get for agreeing to pacts that would send more American jobs overseas to benefit corporate bottom lines? Some pennies sent to programs to retrain U.S. workers displaced by those newly off-shored jobs. Retrain to do what, is the question, since unemployment has been one of our most dogged problems for more than two years now.

So again, the U.S. government is picking corporations over people.

The second action was a veto by California Jerry Brown of legislation that would give farm workers the right to "card check" union organizing drives, which would make it easier for workers to join together to improve wages and working conditions in one of the most brutal industries in the country (you try working in a farm field in the triple-digit heat of the Central Valley). Brown's reason? He says the reforms contained in the bill aren't justified.

Agricultural jobs are some of the few that can't be readily sent overseas - hard to pick strawberries from Bangalore. Yet working conditions are horrific, and wages embarrassingly low. In part because low-income wage-earners have little clout in standing up for themselves; unions help balance out that power a bit. What's unjustified is Brown's vetoing this bill for reasons that are murky, at best (it seems he did it to appease Republicans angry over a budget deal passed by the Democrats).

The losers? The powerless. Again.

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