Let me check in on a few things to clean the plate here.
On the deal made to allow chapters of the National Education Association (NEA) to affiliate directly with local AFL-CIO bodies even though the NEA as a whole remains outside of the AFL-CIO, sure, this is a harmless and potentially good thing. I applaud the AFL-CIO for allowing this. If it means more effective coordination, particularly in politics, that would benefit everyone.
And you can call me a Change To Win shill if you like, but does anyone believe this would have happened without the debate over the future of the labor movement and the creation of two federations? The fact is that the debate has forced everyone to think about how to do things differently. At the same time, I've maintained from the very beginning of the debate that the issue of where the chairs are arranged--whether we have one or more federations and who belongs to which one--is secondary to the question of how to actually make progress in reversing the downward slide of organized labor.
And my friends in both federations, when they talk to me honestly, agree that no one has the magic bullet to that question.
On China. Check out the front-page story today in The New York Times about China's auto industry:
China is pursuing a novel way to catapult its automaking into a global force: buy one of the world's most sophisticated engine plants, take it apart, piece by piece, transport it halfway around the globe and put it back together again at home.
The key piece of information that is buried at the end of the story is the most revealing in terms of the challenge that China poses to workers here and in other countries:
Wages of less than $100 a month have helped control the cost. The assembly plant is better organized than many Chinese factories, although it still maintains large inventories of parts and materials awaiting assembly, incurring interest charges to finance these supplies. Mr. Yin has no doubts that China can also compete with the United States. "Americans work 5 days a week, we in China work 7 days," he said. "Americans work 8 hours a day, and we work 16 hours."
I point this out to just clear the air about the issue of "China-bashing." I have consistently said that hundreds of millions of Chinese workers deserve better pay and benefits, and they must rise out of the poverty they live in today. They have to have the right to organize unions. That is in the interest of American workers and workers in other countries. My criticism of China, if there is one, is entirely aimed at the government which, though still calling itself communist, is perhaps the most important ally of global business in providing a workforce whose wages are controlled by the government (interesting how you never hear Wal-Mart et al call for the free market to reign in China when it comes to wages). Not to mention a countrywide system of repression of free speech and union rights.
Speaking of Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart's CEO Lee Scott is competing with yours truly: darn, he has his own blog. And it turns out he can get a bit mean and nasty in his postings--welcome to the blog world! Check out the story in today's New York Times. I'm going to get the full blog excerpts and post them here today or perhaps tomorrow.