Monday, September 28, 2009



Tuesday, September 29th, 4:30pm – 7pm, outside MTA Headquarters, 44th Street & Madison Avenue

No Contract No Peace! Stand Up for Equal Rights and Justice!


Tuesday, September 29th, 2pm at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South (at West 4th Street)

Local 802 AFM and the Jazz Community Kick Off Justice for Jazz Artists! a campaign addressing the plight of NYC’s Jazz musicians, who receive no benefits from the clubs they perform in. New York City jazz musicians deserve a retirement like anyone else.

Sign our petition to help them earn pension payments from NYC jazz clubs — at no cost to the clubs or musicians.

Momentum is growing — we now have well over 2,000 signatures on our petition — but we still need your help to make Tuesday’s rally a overwhelming success! We need you to be there – and we need you to spread the word by personal contact, email, blogs, Facebook and Twitter.


As we all are aware, this past August, Julius Margolin, former CLC delegate and IATSE Local 52 member, passed away.

A memorial service is being planned for Julius on October 16th in NYC. For more information, please email

A scholarship fund has been set up in memory of Julius. This fund was created to help bring young unionists to labor cultural events, most notably the Great Labor Arts Exchange and the Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival.

Checks or money orders should be made out to:

“Local 52 Julius Margolin Scholarship Fund”

Donations can be mailed to:

George Mann
P.O. Box 697
New York, NY 10033

The New York City Central Labor Council (NYCCLC) is a non-profit labor membership organization devoted to supporting, advancing and advocating for the working people of New York City. The NYCCLC brings together 400 local unions from every trade, occupation, public and private sector of the New York economy. We represent 1.3 million workers, including teachers, truck drivers, operating engineers, nurses, construction workers, electricians, firefighters, retail workers, janitors, train operators, bakers, and many more who are the face of today’s workforce.

Our mission is to improve the lives of workers, their families, and our communities, and to bring economic justice to the workplace and social justice to our city.

To accomplish this mission the NYCCLC works to build worker power through political education and action, supporting economic development in New York City, being an active partner with business and government leaders, organizing workers who choose to be in a union, providing community service and job training, and conducting educational programs for working people.

The following information is available:
CLC Officers
Executive Board

Here Comes Trumka

By Andrew R. McIlvaine

NOTE: Andrew McIlvaine's article from Human Resources Online gives an interesting corporate HR perspective on the new AFL-CIO President, I thought it was worth sharing. BD

The AFL-CIO's new boss, Richard Trumka, has made organizing young workers one of his top priorities. Regardless of his ultimate success in that goal, observers say HR needs to be alert.

He put himself through Penn State while working in the very same southwestern Pennsylvania coal mine where his father labored for 44 years. He's built like a linebacker and has a law degree from Villanova University. He gives fiery, inspirational speeches that bring audiences to their feet.

He's Richard L. Trumka, the AFL-CIO's newest president, and his admirers say HR leaders had better be on their toes.

"You need to have done your homework and have your facts straight if you're going to have a meeting with Rich Trumka," says Susan J. Schurman, a professor of labor studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., who's worked closely with Trumka in the past. "He's someone who's as comfortable in the corporate boardroom as he is rallying coal miners."

In his previous position as the AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer, Trumka, 60, mastered the intricacies of corporate finance and pension law, she says.

"He decided he was going to master not only taking care of the AFL-CIO's finances -- a challenge in of itself -- but also the world of corporate finance, and he's done it," says Schurman. "I doubt there's any labor leader -- past or present -- who can master his understanding of corporate and public finance."
Dan Yager, chief policy officer and general counsel for the HR Policy Association in Washington, says Trumka is "very charismatic and articulate. He's been a very effective labor leader. HR leaders need to pay attention and be ready for a new world, because things will be different with Trumka at the AFL-CIO's helm."

Already, the federation has brought back the 250,000 member UNITE HERE faction that left in 2005 to form a new labor group. The re-affiliation was announced during the AFL-CIO annual convention.
Even so, Trumka has his work cut out for him.

Organized labor has suffered a steep decline in membership over the past three decades, with barely 8 percent of private-sector workers belonging to a union today, compared to 17 percent in 1980, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While the AFL-CIO's new boss is working for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which has proven a difficult sell despite Democratic control of Congress, and building support for health care reform, one of his major goals is getting young workers to join unions.

According to the BLS, union membership is highest among workers 55 to 64 years old and lowest among workers 16 to 24 years old.

At its annual convention in Pittsburgh this Sept., where Trumka was formally named president after running for the position unopposed, the AFL-CIO provided some details on its push to attract younger members.

The AFL-CIO's new secretary-treasurer, 39-year-old Liz Shuler, will head the federation's youth-outreach efforts.

Those efforts will include regular visits to college campuses by Trumka and Shuler, postings on Twitter and Facebook, and "strike forces" of 1,000 young organizers to serve as "rapid response teams" during organizing drives.

"[Young people] don't hate us, they don't like us, they just don't know us," Shuler told the Associated Press.

Even so, Yager says, unions hold little appeal for younger workers.
"Labor has a big challenge in talking to the younger generation and the professionals they'd like to attract," he says. "They tend to question whether joining a union is in the best interest of their long-term careers."
Trumka himself could be an obstacle to attracting younger members, adds Yager.

"Young people were among Barack Obama's most enthusiastic backers, and I think a lot of his appeal for them came from this calm, post-partisan aura he projected, a 'Let's all work together' approach," he says. "Trumka can be very confrontational, and that could be a big turn-off."
"In the eyes of the young people he wants to recruit, Trumka represents what many of them don't want to become," says Justin Wilson, managing director of the Center for Union Facts, a Washington-based organization that consistently criticizes unions. "When you survey young American workers, they're looking for merit pay and the ability to climb the ladder, and that's not represented by old-line unions like the AFL-CIO."

In its campaign to present itself as a viable option for young workers, the federation has cited surveys it's commissioned that reveal 1 out of 3 workers younger than 35 live at home with their parents, 31 percent say they have no health insurance and one-third say they cannot pay their bills.

"[Young workers] need us," Shuler told the AP. "They just don't know we're the answer to their problems."

NOTE: I met Liz Shuler at a CUNY Murphy Institute reception where Liz spoke with graduate students in the Labor Studies MA program and undergraduates in the CUNY Union Semester Program. As the youngest, and first female to reach the highest levels of power in the AFL/CIO, it was no surprise that the new secretary-treasurer presented an upbeat, sharp, intelligent, and engaging persona.

Ms. Shuler asked each of the students what they felt were the most important issues facing young people coming into the workforce and what the AFL/CIO could do to attract young people to the labor movement.

The answers were all similar, essentially: What labor movement? What AFL/CIO?

Young people by and large are unaware of labor history and the AFL/CIO doesn't enter their thoughts at all.

On the plus side, there is a great interest in social justice on the part of America's youth that is encouraging. These Union Semester students are well aware of the issues facing workers in the global economy and many are engaged in the effort to improve the lives of working people.

The disconnect is that they are not sure if the AFL/CIO and its' member unions are part of the solution.

The clear message is that unions need to rebrand themselves and reach out at all levels of the educational system to educate and inspire the next generation of labor leaders. There should be an AFL/CIO booth at every job fair and career day in communities across America. School boards need to be lobbied to include labor history in their social studies curriculum. Colleges need more labor studies programs.

Ms. Shuler recently commented regarding how unions are perceived by America's youth; "They don't hate us, they don't like us, they just don't know us. They just speak a different language and I think the labor movement has been a bit behind in how they communicate with those young workers."

When Liz asked the students if "the term 'worker' may be something that younger people may not identify with as much," she was surprised that the vast majority of students at the CUNY reception believed that there is nothing wrong with being called a 'worker' and that there were not any negative connotations to the word.

One young student responded "Everyone who works is a 'worker' and anyone should be proud to be counted as one."

Ms Shuler has said "They need us," speaking of young workers. "They just don't know we're the answer to their problems."

We need to let America's young people know unions exist, what they do, and how they've made a difference before we can convince young workers that they need us.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Screen Actors (SAG) Elects Ken Howard President

Actor Ken Howard was elected as SAG’s president in a mail ballot, with results announced yesterday. Amy Aquino was elected secretary-treasurer. Howard and Aquino succeed Alan Rosenberg and Connie Stevens, respectively, and begin their two-year terms immediately.

Howard pledged to strengthen the union’s bargaining power:

“I campaigned on the promise that I’d do everything in my power to strengthen our position at the bargaining table by building a greater unity with [American Federation of Television and Radio Artists] AFTRA and the other entertainment unions, and that’s exactly what I intend to do."

"Despite the sharp differences that those of us active in Guild affairs sometimes have over strategy and tactics, we need to continually remind ourselves that we’re all on the same team, fighting for the same thing—and by pulling together, we’ll only grow stronger.

WGAE Re-Elects Incumbents

WGAE members re-elected all their incumbent officers. Michael Winship, senior writer for “Bill Moyers Journal,” was re-elected to a second term as president, along with Vice President Bob Schneider and Secretary-Treasurer Gail Lee. Their two-year terms begin immediately.

Winship said:

"Many of the issues and problems we have addressed over the past two years continue, but within them are opportunities to continue growing our union and to further the interests of Guild East members and writers everywhere. Working with our Council, staff and members, I look forward to the challenge."
There were 427 valid ballots cast. New vp Schneider received 230 votes (53.9%), while opposing candidate Tom Phillips received 118 votes (27.6%) and Ambrose J. Raftery received 39 votes (9.1%).

The election also filled nine council seats. Re-elected as freelance members of the Council were Susan Kim (273, 63.9%), Pippin Parker (264, 61.8%), Tim Carvell (263, 61.6%), Adam Brooks (257, 60.2%), Melissa Salmons (246, 57.6%) and Courtney Simon (229, 53.6%).

Re-elected as staff members of the Council were Phil Pilato (265, 62.1%), Sue Brown (263, 61.6%) and Duane Tollison (260, 60.1%).

Winship is senior writer for "Bill Moyers Journal," Schneider is a TV and film writer, and Lee is a writer-producer at CBS News.

Tribune Co. CFO Defends Millions in Bonuses for Top Managers

WILMINGTON, Del. Still mired in Chapter 11 protection, the Tribune Co. said Friday it needs authority to dole out up to $70 million in bonuses as motivation for top managers working in a difficult environment for the media industry.

Testifying before a federal bankruptcy judge, Chief Financial Officer Chandler Bigelow III said the bonuses would help "incentivize our key managers to battle all of the intense challenges that unfortunately our local media businesses are facing."

He noted that Tribune's advertising revenue in publishing is down 29 percent compared with last year, and broadcasting revenue is off 23 percent.

Tribune, which owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Sun of Baltimore and other dailies, along with 23 TV stations, filed for bankruptcy protection in December because of dwindling advertising revenues and a crushing debt load of $13 billion. Much of that debt was amassed when real estate mogul Sam Zell took the company private in 2007.

Tribune properties across the country have undergone cost cuts, including layoffs.

The Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, which represents employees of the Sun, considers the bonuses unwarranted. The Guild is joined in its objection by two Baltimore-based Teamsters locals and by the Newspaper Guild of New York, which represents 29 employees at television station WPIX.

IBEW Local 1212, which represents 83 broadcast engineers at WPIX, also protested the bonus plan.

At the start of what was expected to be an all-day hearing, Judge Kevin Carey suggested that credible arguments could be made for and against the bonuses."In a troubled industry as this one, the argument could be made that bonuses should not be paid, or certainly not of this magnitude," the judge said.

On the other hand, he noted, companies working to survive in a troubled industry can reasonably be expected to try to attract and retain the top-level talent needed to improve their business.

Bigelow noted that Tribune's committee of unsecured creditors, as well as a steering committee of senior lenders, have signed off on the bonuses, which also were approved by the board's compensation committee.

Bigelow said the bonuses were designed using operating cash flow as the key metric and a 2009 target of $212 million, less than a third of last year's $789 million. The company already has exceeded the 2009 target, with operating cash flow of about $255 million through August and a projected year-end figure of between $350 million and $400 million.

Bigelow rejected Guild claims that the target was set too low."The plan was developed in good faith, with integrity," he said.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bankrupt Tribune Seeks between $66 and $70 Million in Manager Bonuses (Update1)

By Steven Church

Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Tribune Co., the bankrupt newspaper publisher, is seeking court permission to pay as much as $66 million in bonuses to its managers based on operating cash flow predicted to be the lowest in at least 10 years.

The money would be paid to the 720 top editors, television station managers and executives should the company end the year with $424 million in operating cash flow, company attorney Jonathan D. Lotsoff said during a hearing today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

About half of the bonuses, $32 million, would go to the top 21 corporate officers.

“In such a challenging environment, it is absolutely critical,” to pay the bonuses, Lotsoff told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey.

Chicago-based Tribune filed for bankruptcy court protection in December, about a year after real-estate billionaire Sam Zell’s $8.3 billion purchased the publishing and television company. Tribune owns the Los Angeles Times and the namesake Chicago newspaper among other properties.

Judge Carey said he would issue a decision on the bonus request later.

The proposed bonuses are opposed by company unions representing some of Tribune’s reporters and other employees.

Union officials say the maximum bonus amount is almost $70 million when smaller, discretionary bonuses are added.

Union lawyer Chris Simon said the cash payments were the highest ever paid to Tribune managers at a time the company had the lowest cash flow in at least 10 years.

“It just doesn’t seem justified,” Simon said.

In the past, cash bonuses were supplemented with stock, Company Chief Financial Officer Chandler Bigelow said in court.

Union accountant Edward Phillips said that the managers would take home more than 15.5 percent of the operating cash for 2009. The company employed about 12,000 when it filed for bankruptcy in December.

Bigelow claimed in court that the bonuses would keep executives focused on cost-cutting and the effort to reorganize Tribune’s newspapers and television stations.

“We’re literally trying to tackle every single business aspect of the company,” he said.

This year, the company expects to save as much as $150 million in salaries and $150 million in newsprint costs, Chandler said.

The bankruptcy costs the company $7 million to $8 million a month.
In 2006 the company had cash flow of $1.5 billion. That fell to $789 million last year and is projected to be from $350 million to $400 million, Chandler said. This year the company expects total revenue to fall about $800 million.

The case is In re Tribune Co., 08-13141, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven Church in Wilmington, Delaware, at

Friday, September 25, 2009

You’ve Been Laid Off…Now What?

The article which follows was written specifically for members of the Society of Broadcast Engineers by Ken and Daria Dolan of the WOR Radio Network. The Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) expresses its sincere thanks to Ken and Daria for preparing this timely article.

Manufacturing, newspapers, magazines, the auto industry, airlines, retail, financial services firms and just about any other American business sector you can think of…all have had heavy layoffs…so you’re not alone.

Nearly 2,000,000 Americans lost their jobs during 2008.
Especially hard-hit last year was the field of broadcasting…on-air, support, sales, engineering, etc. – with little relief expected in 2009 as radio and television struggle to maintain their share of an ever-expanding list of venues to deliver news and entertainment.

Also…in 2009, many more pink slips will be handed out across America in many other sectors of our economy.

That said…let’s turn lemons into lemonade by talking with you about what to do if you’ve been laid off.

If you are currently employed…but are fearful that a certain colored slip may be in your future…listen up and be prepared.

If you’ve been laid off…don’t bury your head in the sand…be an adult…take immediate action to minimize the impact of that layoff on yourself and your family.

Get on a schedule: It’s hard work…not a hobby…to find a new job. Treat it as a 9 to 5, nose-to-the-grindstone effort.

The most successful job hunts are a combination of hard work, maintaining some balance in your life during a difficult time and taking maximum advantage of your family’s and friend’s support.

Evaluate your financial situation: Assume that your job search will take at least three months. If you don’t have an emergency fund to tide you over that long a period (or longer)…where can you cut back on your daily, weekly/monthly expenses…and – do you need to work part-time while you’re job searching ? (be realistic!)

Check your health coverage: A quick step to a financial catastrophe - an unforeseen major medical emergency…and the bills to follow.

First shot…if your spouse is employed - see if you qualify to be covered in his/her employer-sponsored plan.

Under the Heath Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you and your dependents should do this ASAP without waiting until the next enrollment period but you MUST request this special enrollment within 30 days of losing your previous health benefits.

If you’re single or can’t get covered by your spouse...sign up for a COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) extension…up to 18 months of health coverage for you and your family. If your employer had fewer than 20 employees, you may not be eligible for COBRA coverage which is, by no means, cheap…but it usually is much less expensive than personal coverage. You have 60 days to sign up for COBRA coverage from the date your former company’s insurer sends you notice of your COBRA benefits.

Under HIPAA, if you go more than 63 days or more without health insurance, you will be subject to a “pre-existing condition exclusion.” That is…when you enroll in a new plan…the insurer can exclude from coverage any health condition for which you received treatment in the six months leading up to your enrollment.

Contact Your Contacts:

Some people hesitate to reach out to contacts in their industry (including trade associations and friends) thinking that it’s inappropriate, embarrassing and troublesome for those whom you contact. Wouldn’t you help them if they asked ? Of course, you would…so…REACH OUT !!

E-mail/send a note to all of your friends and contacts…especially those former associates in your former company and other firms in your chosen field. Those still working may know of unadvertised job opportunities.

Immediately join networking opportunities such as local business and community organizations.Take this opportunity to re-assess your career path.

Tough questions for all of us in the broadcasting business…

Are you in an industry that is growing or shrinking ?
Is another layoff likely when you do get back to work ?
Is now the time to change careers by taking the necessary courses/training to get into an industry that you think that you’d enjoy and can do well in ?

Or…if you are committed to your current career…what courses/training should you consider taking now to expand your worth to your next possible employer ? Being qualified at only ONE job doesn’t cut in any more in corporate America as workforces shrink without any let up in workloads and priorities.

The rules have changed: Here is a fact of “employment” life - we don’t like it…but it’s true.

An in-person interview as the first step in the interview process has gone the way of the Edsel. Now you apply online for many, many jobs these days…the submitted resumes are then screened…and, if your resume passes muster, you’ll probably get an e-mail inviting you to participate in an initial phone interview, or, maybe even, an in-person interview.

What’s our point ? Write and keep updated – an ONLINE resume…and be ready to fine-tune that resume to better fit a particular job opportunity.

Hit the web: The internet is loaded with job opportunities in hundreds of fields…and it doesn’t take much effort to locate job information.

Check out - -,,,, and http://www.retirement/…among many.

Job hunting tax breaks:

Although the IRS won’t find a new job for you…it will help you defray some of the costs.

Among them:

55 cents per mile (for 2009)…fees to employment and out-placement agencies…travel expenses if the trip is primarily to find a new job…cost of printing and mailing resumes…and others.
See your tax preparer for more details.

We are very impressed with all the various types of assistance and information available on the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE)website @ - - such as:

* a resume service
* a job bank with job listings – free for SBE members to peruse
* the possibility of having the yearly membership fee waived for
hardship (i.e., you’re out
of work and looking – this will allow you to access the job bank)
* discounts on books to help members keep current
* offer of certification which makes you look more attractive to
potential employers

For more help:

Our website has hundreds of pages of timely and actionable information at your fingertips. You can also sign up for our free newsletter there.

The Department of Labor’s website ( and national toll-free hotline at 800 - US2 – JOBS is an incredible source of information for laid-off Americans…USE IT !!

Excellent book:

Fired, Laid Off or Forced Out: A Complete Guide to Severance, Benefits and Your Rights When You're Starting Over by Richard C. Busse (paperback – Feb/05, $10.17 on

Bottom Line: Getting laid off is tough…for you and your family. But – get real – it happens. Take control…outwork your competition for that new job.

Finding a job during very difficult times is not easy.
But it won’t happen if you don’t work HARD and SMART to get re-settled.

The Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE)
9102 North Meridian Street, Suite 150
Indianapolis, IN 46260
Phone: (317) 846-9000
Fax: (317) 846-9120
Contact us by e-mail
SBE Board of Directors
SBE staff


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Michael Moore on ABC's Permalancers

By Chris Ariens

Michael Moore was on "Good Morning America" today plugging his new movie "Capitalism: A Love Story" when he used ABC as an example of "what's wrong here."

"People backstage here, they don't get to be real employees here because they don't get the benefits, so they're freelancers," said Moore. "And I said 'I was here two years ago and you were a freelancer' a guy backstage here at ABC. He says, 'we call ourselves permalancers now.' And that's just because they don't get to share in the basic benefits an employee had, who used to work here."

Chris Cuomo thanked Moore, saying "You demonstrate the question very well in the movie, in lots of different ways. People will get where you're coming from, that's for sure." And the segment came to an end.

See the video at

If only Mr. Moore would hire union crews to shoot his videos and movies. I'd feel a lot better.


Destined to Fail? Bondholders Will Get Tribune Buyout Documents

By Mark Fitzgerald

CHICAGO Just ahead of a now-cancelled court hearing Thursday, bankrupt Tribune Co. agreed to provide legal documents to bondholders who contend the deal that took the Chicago media giant private was set up to fail.

Tribune and the official committee of unsecured creditors agreed to give access to documents to the Law Debenture Trust Company, which represents 18% of investors holding bonds issued long before the newspaper and broadcast company was taken private in December 2007 in a deal engineered by Chicago real estate billionaire Sam Zell. The agreement was first reported by Rita K. Farrell of The New York Times.

The bondholders allege the going-private deal -- financed by banks who are ahead of them in the line for access to Tribune's post-bankruptcy assets -- was a "fraudulent conveyance," a legal term meaning the banks financed the transaction knowing it would lead to an unsustainable business operation. After the heavily leveraged transaction, Tribune was left with about $13 billion in debt. When it filed for bankruptcy reorganization last December, it listed assets of $7.6 billion.

The bondholders had asked for a separate investigation into the deal, which the official committee of unsecured creditors said it has already undertaken. If successful in arguing the deal was a fraudulent conveyance, the claims of the bondholders might have a better chance of being paid. Alleging fraudulent conveyance has also frequently been used as a negotiating tactic in bankruptcy settlements.

A separate hearing on Tribune's proposed sale of the Chicago Cubs to the Ricketts family is scheduled to take place Thursday.

The case is in Re: Tribune Company et al, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 08-13141.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sam Zell Trying to Dodge Cubbies Taxes


Sam Zell just might be the Worst Person in Chicago.

He's already under investigation by screwed creditors examining the details of his kinky and highly leveraged purchase of the Tribune Company, which he restructured in such a way as to avoid paying taxes.

Now he's working on an arrangement to sell the Cubs that would do something similar, costing the U.S. Treasury about $300 million -- or 10 times Milton Bradley's outlandish salary.
At least one prominent tax expert says the IRS will probably challenge the Cubs deal.

Will it never end?

In addition to the Grave Dancer, which references Zell's knack for spotting undervalued assets given up for dead, Zell's tax avoidance schemes have led master business journalist Allan Sloan to give him a new nickname : the Artful Dodger.

That's for his ability to dodge taxes.

But it's not funny.

Zell finds ways to stretch provisions in the law beyond anything comprehended by tax code writers to pad his already obscenely bulging wallet - and leaves the rest of us holding the bag.

Sam Zell doesn't just hate taxes; he seems to hate people as well.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

IRS Challenge To Cubs Sale Might Add To Tribune Co. Liability


The Sam Zell-orchestrated sale of the Chicago Cubs probably will be challenged by the IRS, a prominent tax expert said Tuesday.

Robert Willens said an IRS probe should not upset Tribune Co.'s plan to sell the team and related broadcasting assets for $845 million to the Ricketts family. That's because any IRS action would follow an audit that might not occur until 2011, long after the team is expected to change hands.

But a fight with the IRS could expose Tribune, which is trying to emerge from bankruptcy, to a tax liability of $300 million.

The Cubs sale was structured to save about $300 million in capital gains taxes. It is set up as a partnership with Tribune keeping a 5 percent stake.
"The IRS is not favorably disposed to leveraged partnerships and this is about the highest profile leveraged partnership we've had," said Willens, who runs a consulting firm and publishes a tax newsletter.

In response, Tribune issued a statement saying, "The Cubs transaction, while not yet concluded, meets both the letter and the spirit of the tax law."

Tribune's lawyers are expected to point to the company's guarantee to the Ricketts' debt from the deal as evidence of a true partnership. But Willens said a guarantee from a bankrupt company is meaningless.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Real "Norma Rae" Dies of Cancer After Insurer Delayed Treatment

by: Sue Sturgis Facing South

The North Carolina union organizer who was the inspiration for the movie "Norma Rae" died on Friday of brain cancer after a battle with her insurance company, which delayed her treatment. She was 68.

Crystal Lee Sutton, formerly Crystal Lee Jordan, was fired from her job folding towels at the J.P. Stevens textile plant in her hometown of Roanoke Rapids, N.C. for trying to organize a union in the early 1970s. Her last action at the plant -- writing the word "UNION" on a piece of cardboard and standing on her work table, leading her co-workers to turn off their machines in solidarity -- was memorialized in the 1979 film by actress Sally Field. The police physically removed Sutton from the plant for her action.

But her efforts ultimately succeeded, as the Amalgamated Clothing Workers won the right to represent the plant's employees on Aug. 28, 1974. Sutton later became a paid organizer for the union, which through a series of mergers became part of UNITE HERE before splitting off this year to form Workers United, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union.

Several years ago, Sutton was diagnosed with meningioma, a type of cancer of the nervous system. While such cancers are typically slow-growing, Sutton's was not -- and she went two months without potentially life-saving medication because her insurance wouldn't cover it initially.

Sutton told the Burlington (N.C.) Times-News last year that the insurer's behavior was an example of abuse of the working poor:

"How in the world can it take so long to find out [whether they would cover the medicine or not] when it could be a matter of life or death," she said. "It is almost like, in a way, committing murder."

Though Sutton eventually received the medication, the cancer had already taken hold. She passed away on Friday, Sept. 11 in a Burlington, N.C. hospice.

"Crystal Lee Sutton was a remarkable woman whose brave struggles have left a lasting impact on this country and without doubt, on me personally," Field said in a statement released Friday. "Portraying Crystal Lee in 'Norma Rae,' however loosely based, not only elevated me as an actress, but as a human being."

Field won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her portrayal of the character based on Sutton. The film in turn was based on the 1975 book "Crystal Lee: A Woman of Inheritance" by New York Times reporter Henry P. "Hank" Leiferman.

Sutton was only 17 when she began working at the J.P. Stevens plant in northeastern North Carolina, where conditions were poor and the pay was low. A Massachusetts-based company that for many years was listed on the Fortune 500, J.P. Stevens is now part of the West Point Home conglomerate.

In 1973, Sutton, by then a mother of three, was earning only $2.65 an hour. That same year, Eli Zivkovich, a former coal miner from West Virginia, came to Roanoke Rapids to organize the plant and began working with Sutton, who was fired after she copied a flyer posted by management warning that blacks would run the union. It was that incident which led Sutton to stand up with her "UNION" sign.

"It is not necessary I be remembered as anything, but I would like to be remembered as a woman who deeply cared for the working poor and the poor people of the U.S. and the world," she said in a newspaper interview last year. "That my family and children and children like mine will have a fair share and equality."

For more on Sutton's life and work, visit the website of the Alamance Community College's Crystal Sutton Collection.


Bill Moyers talks with experts Bill Fletcher, co-author of SOLIDARITY DIVIDED: THE CRISIS IN ORGANIZED LABOR AND A NEW PATH TOWARD SOCIAL JUSTICE and Michael Zweig, director of the Center for the Study of Working Class Life at SUNY Stony Brook, about the state of organized labor.


The AFL-CIO held its convention the week of September 14, 2009, in a time of uncertainty. A new Gallup poll showed support for unions at the lowest level since they began posing the question in 1936. And, although there was an up tick in membership in 2008, the percentage of American workers represented by a union is down to about 12 percent from more than 25 percent in 1950. But, there is also a new AFL-CIO leader, a new president in the White House and a Secretary of Labor who support some of organized labor's priorities like the Employee Free Choice Act.

Bill Moyers talked with experts Bill Fletcher, co-author of SOLIDARITY DIVIDED: THE CRISIS IN ORGANIZED LABOR AND A NEW PATH TOWARD SOCIAL JUSTICE and Michael Zweig, director of the Center for the Study of Working Class Life at SUNY Stony Brook, about the state of organized labor and what it needs to do face the challenges of the 21st-century economy.

"Organized labor remains in a crisis...Right now the question for organized labor is whether or not it actually can become a class movement. A movement of workers. And not simply unions representing people in different workplaces." -Bill Fletcher

"I don't think that the labor movement can successfully organize in particular places without a context of a broad social movement that addresses the power of capital. Not just in the particular workplace, but in the society as a whole." -Michael Zweig

As World War II came to an end, more than a quarter of the American workforce belonged to unions. Labor leaders wielded major clout in Democratic Party politics. They had the ear of the White House and Congress. That power plummeted as states adopted right-to-work laws, jobs moved overseas, and union-busting campaigns by corporate America became commonplace. For many, the benefits of union membership — job and wage security, workplace safety, health and pension benefits — evaporated.

>Learn more about and contemporary issues facing America's workers and about American labor history. >

What do you think unions can offer America today? Tell Bill on the Blog.

Michael Zweig is professor of economics and Director of the Center for Study of Working Class Life at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he has received the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching.

His most recent books are WHAT'S CLASS GOT TO DO WITH IT?: AMERICAN SOCIETY IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY (2004) and THE WORKING CLASS MAJORITY: AMERICA'S BEST KEPT SECRET (2000). He was executive producer and co-writer of the documentary MEETING FACE TO FACE: THE IRAQ-U.S.LABOR SOLIDARITY TOUR (Center for Study of Working Class Life, 2006).

Professor Zweig received his PhD in economics in 1967 from the University of Michigan where, as an undergraduate, he was a founding member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and as a graduate student helped found the Union for Radical Political Economics (URPE).
Zweig has a long history of social activism combined with scholarly work and has published widely in professional and general circulation journals, including THE AMERICAN ECONOMIC REVIEW, THE AMERICAN ECONOMIST, THE REVIEW OF BLACK POLITICAL ECONOMY, THE REVIEW OF RADICAL POLITICAL ECONOMICS, and TIKKUN. His earlier books include RELIGION AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE and THE IDEA OF A WORLD UNIVERSITY.

Professor Zweig is active in his union, United University Professions (Local 2190, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO), representing 29,000 faculty and professional staff throughout SUNY; has served two terms on its state executive board; and represents UUP on the national steering committee of U.S. Labor Against the War. He lives with his wife in New York City and on the North Fork of eastern Long Island, where he has been named "Citizen of the Year" by THE SUFFOLK TIMES for his writing and community organizing around issues of planning, zoning, and land use.

Bill Fletcher, Jr., is the executive editor of THE BLACK COMMENTATOR and founder of the Center for Labor Renewal. A longtime labor, racial justice and international activist, he is the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, a national non-profit organization organizing, educating and advocating for policies in favor of the peoples of Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. Fletcher is also a founder of the Black Radical Congress and is a Senior Scholar for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC.

Fletcher is the co-author (with Fernando Gapasin) of SOLIDARITY DIVIDED: THE CRISIS IN ORGANIZED LABOR AND A NEW PATH TOWARD SOCIAL JUSTICE. He was formerly the vice president for International Trade Union Development Programs for the George Meany Center of the AFL-CIO. Prior the George Meany Center, Fletcher served as Education Director and later Assistant to the President of the AFL-CIO.

Fletcher got his start in the labor movement as a rank and file member of the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America. Combining labor and community work, he was also involved in ongoing efforts to desegregate the Boston building trades. He later served in leadership and staff positions in District 65-United Auto Workers, National Postal Mail Handlers Union and Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Published September 18, 2009.

For more:

Michael ZweigCenter for Study of Working Class Life, Stony Brook University

MEETING FACE TO FACEOfficial Web site for documentary produced and co-written by Prof. Zweig.

"The War and the Working Class"by Michael Zweig, THE NATION, March 13, 2008.

Michael Zweig on NOW WITH BILL MOYERSWatch Bill Moyers interview with Prof. Zweig from 2004.

"Working Class Majority?" on NOW WITH BILL MOYERSExplore some of the numbers about workers and unions in the United States.

Bill FletcherSolidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path Toward Social Justice

Read a selection of Bill Fletcher's speeches and articles.THE BLACK COMMENTATORThe Center for Labor Renewal

Monday, September 21, 2009

TV News Writing Course Available

With Wendy Gillette

Learn how to write newscasts and find work in television news

WHEN 4 weeks, October 5 - November 9 Chats Mondays, 9-10 pm ET WHERE Online.

Click here for more information.


PRICE$350 ($325 for )more info

Course Details

There's a lot more to television news than an attractive anchor and eye-catching video. A great TV news story can only come together with effective writing, video, research, and a solid script.

Even if you have prior writing experience, writing for television news is a different animal, meant to be understood by the ear, not the eye. Competition for TV news jobs is high, but there is a constant demand for TV news writers, producers, reporters, and anchors. All of these jobs require you to be a solid writer using broadcast style.

This class will give you the inside scoop on how to write effective and attention-getting TV news copy. You'll learn why a conversational tone is key, and why -- when it comes to broadcast news -- everything your grammar teacher taught you can pretty much be thrown out the window.

Whether you're just breaking in or already have some experience writing news copy, this class will help you sharpen your TV news writing skills.

In this class, you will learn:

The differences between a reader, anchor intro, voiceover, and package -- and how to write all of them.

How to write for the ear.

The differences between writing for print and television.

What should be included in stories and what should be left out.

How to write to video.

How to devise a compelling first line that will get viewers to pay attention.

Which jobs in the industry you are best suited for.

How to get a job interview and ace a TV news writing test.

By the end of the course you will have:At least eight samples of your television news writing (including a reader, several voiceovers, and numerous packages that follow the format for TV news stories)

Admission Requirements:Please submit a letter of interest (including a brief work history).

The online classroom has several interactive components:

Instructors post lectures once a week. You can read them online, print them, or download them at your convenience.

Students post completed assignments for feedback and discussion by the instructor and class.

Weekly chats allow your class to get together via instant message.

Transcripts are available for review if you can't attend.

Technical support is available from mediabistro staff.

Course Syllabus

TV News Writing (PDF) View a sample syllabus for this class here.

TV Writing: Spec Script – ONLINE (Class starts October 6)
Writing Comedy for TV – ONLINE (Class starts September 15)
Produce Your Own Internet Series (Video) – ONLINE

Wendy Gillette is a television reporter, producer and anchor with more than 12 years experience. She currently produces and reports for CBS NewsPath, providing reports for all the CBS affiliates in the country. She previously worked as a reporter and anchor in five local markets including New York's WCBS. She received her bachelor's degree from Rutgers College and her master's degree from Boston University.

Where Is That Online-Powered "Movement" Now?

By Chris Hughes
Co-founder of Facebook

If you paid any attention to the Obama campaign in the 2008 election, you heard a lot about building a movement. To the ears of the politically cynical, calling the campaign a "movement" was just a messaging maneuver to make it sound like Barack Obama had a broad base of support.

But for the politically hopeful -- and I'd say that term would encompass just about all of the campaign's staff and volunteers -- building a movement meant something more. We weren't just organizing for a particular candidate or a particular moment in time, but instead, we shared a set of values and a vision for what America could be.

Nothing could have embodied this approach to campaigning more than the technology that we built at the heart of the campaign. We chose to build and refine tools that helped everyday people tell their own stories, talk about their passions, and then take up the banner of the cause in their local community.

We had our own tools on My.BarackObama to help us. But fortunately for the campaign, the Internet in general was transforming into a network where the majority of content was created by individuals rather than institutions. Structurally, it was becoming easier and easier for individuals to talk about their passions and then to use technology to self-organize. Even though they were resolutely non-partisan, sites like Facebook and YouTube made it easier for passionate people to share and self-organize, which greatly benefited our campaign founded on these values.

But contrary to what a lot of people may think, it wasn't the technology that made the Obama movement possible. What went hand in hand with the technology was a resolute and unyielding focus on good-old-fashioned political organizing. As a movement, we measured our success by the number of doors knocked on, phone calls made, and dollars raised. The array of technology platforms that we used simply helped us extend our organizing capacity and refine our work.

So where is this movement now?

It's alive and well. The people who organized and fought so hard last year to elect Barack Obama as president still care just as much, if not more, about the issues that were central to the campaign. The values that we shared in common -- a commitment to rethinking politics, to transparency and openness, to personal responsibility, to a socially and economically just society -- are just as vibrant as they were a year ago.

What's missing is the organizing leadership.

To be clear, I don't believe it's up to Organizing for America -- the organization that emerged from the Obama campaign that continues to run -- to permanently employ thousands of organizers as the campaign did. An organization of that size inside the DNC would not be sustainable or desirable.

But I do believe progressive organizations of all stripes have a responsibility to understand what happened in the Obama campaign in 2008 and adopt a similar strategy. Regardless of the issue that a given progressive group is organizing for, there is much to be learned.
Some guidelines to start:

People are your biggest asset. They are not to be treated as a loose network of piggy banks spread across the country. Each person has her own passions, her own story, her own reason for caring. Listen to these stories, help these individual tell them, and make it easier for others to listen to them as well.

Give your supporters not just a cause, but a moment to rally around. Events are what galvanize people to action. Even for the causes that require long-term commitments, set a date and a goal to organize toward.

Embrace networking technology. The Internet is not just a platform to help you blast your carefully crafted and rigorously tested message as widely as possible. Whether it's on your own site, on Facebook, or on any other network, think about how you can use technology to encourage your supporters to speak and to spread their passion. Setting up a page and calling it a day is not enough.

Building support for a cause requires human contact. A slick online events platform will do you no good unless you have people on staff who know key people in key places who can get more people to host more events and turn out more attendees. State-of-the-art technology can only go so far. A good-old-fashioned conversation can take you the rest of the way.

Invest in technology and organizing. Neither of these things comes cheap, but when they have the proper budget, they can yield enormous returns.

There are tens of millions of Americans who care about progressive issues that affect all of us. If progressive groups fail to take advantage of this energy and demonstrated capacity, they will waste a uniquely potent moment in American history.

Barack Obama
Democratic Convention

Read more at:

No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing

In case you are wondering why we need the Employee Free Choice Act, a 2009 study by Cornell University researcher, Dr. Kate Bronfenbrenner, explains why.

New findings from Dr. Kate Bronfenbrenner provide a comprehensive, independent analysis of employer behavior in union representation elections supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Her research identifies the range and incidence of legal and illegal coercive tactics used by employers NLRB elections and the ineffectiveness of current labor law to protect and enforce workers’ rights during the process.

Dr. Bronfenbrenner’s report also compares employer behavior in this study’s period to previous studies that she and her research teams have conducted over the last 20 years.

By Kate Bronfenbrenner, Ph.D.American Rights at Work Education Fund and Economic Policy Institute May 2009

» Full Report (PDF: 33 pages, 366kb)» Read the related press release »


Overall, 12.4% of U.S. workers are represented by unions, a density far below what would be the case if all workers who wanted to belong to a union could freely do so. In fact, studies have shown that if workers’ preferences were realized, as much as 58% of the workforce would have union representation. Yet, this low overall unionization rate obscures a striking imbalance – while almost 37% of public-sector workers belong to unions, less than 8% of private-sector workers do.

Dr. Kate Bronfenbrenner's study, offers a detailed look at why.

Employers continue to punish workers for supporting a union.

In the last two decades, private-sector employer opposition to workers seeking their legal right to union representation has intensified. Compared to the 1990s, employers are more than twice as likely to use 10 or more tactics in their anti-union campaigns, with a greater focus on more coercive and punitive tactics designed to intensely monitor and punish union activity.

It has become standard practice for workers to be subjected by corporations to threats, interrogation, harassment, surveillance, and retaliation for supporting a union.

An analysis of the 1999-2003 data on NLRB election campaigns finds that:

63%of employers interrogate workers in mandatory one-on-one meetings with their supervisors about support for the union;
54% of employers threaten workers in such meetings;
57% of employers threaten to close the worksite;
47% of employers threaten to cut wages and benefits; and
34% of employers fire workers.

Employers have increased their use of more punitive tactics (“sticks”) such as plant closing threats and actual plant closings, discharges, harassment, disciplinary actions, surveillance, and alteration of benefits and conditions. While at the same time, employers are less likely to offer “carrots,” such as granting of unscheduled raises, positive personnel changes, bribes, special favors, social events, promises of improvement, and employee involvement programs.

These private-sector campaigns differ markedly from public-sector campaigns. Survey data from the public sector describe an atmosphere in which workers organize relatively free from the kind of coercion, intimidation, and retaliation that so dominates in the private sector. Most of the states in the public-sector sample have laws allowing workers to choose a union through the majority sign-up process.

Punitive behaviors lead to charges of unfair labor practices

Workers filed Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges in about 40% of elections, and the highest percentage of allegations were threats, discharges, interrogation, surveillance, and wages-and-benefits cuts for supporting a union.

These findings and previous research suggest that workers file ULPs in fewer than half of elections for three main reasons:

1. Filing charges where the election is likely to be won could delay the election for months if not years;

2. Workers fear retaliation for filing charges, especially where the election is likely to be lost;

3. The weak remedies, lengthy delays, and the numerous rulings where ALJ recommendations and NLRB rulings for reinstatement, second elections, and bargaining orders have been overturned, delayed, or never enforced, have diminished trust that the system will produce a remedy.

23% all ULP charges and 24% of serious charges—such as discharges for union activity, interrogation, and surveillance—were filed before the petition for an election was filed; confirming that employer campaigning begins even before a formal election campaign kicks into effect.

45% of the cases where ULPs are filed result in “wins” for the union: the charges are either settled by the employer or found meritorious by the NLRB and courts.

Employers tend to appeal most NLRB Administrative Law Judge decisions, and in the most egregious cases the employer can count on a final decision being delayed by three to five years. Of the few cases in the sample where a penalty was imposed, the heaviest penalty was backpay, minus the worker’s interim wages.

Many employers resist collective bargaining long after workers form their union

One year after a successful election, 52% of newly formed unions had no collective bargaining agreement.

Two years after an election, 37% of newly formed unions still had no labor agreement.

Dr. Bronfenbrenner’s study reaffirms the glaring problems that block workers from exercising their freedom to organize and bargain for a better life, with serious repercussions for our entire economy.

Robert Daraio, Broadcast Union News: "Sweeping changes in labor law at the federal and state levels are needed to stop this ongoing abuse of American working people's right to organize and bargain collectively with employers. But even powerful legislation such as The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is meaningless if it is not both utilized by the labor movement effectively and strictly enforced by the government."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tribune Co. creditors plan to join forces to investigate possible 'fraudulent conveyance'

By Michael Oneal
Tribune reporter
Single probe likely of Sam Zell's 2007 deal to take Tribune Co. private

A scuffle that erupted last month among Tribune Co. creditors over who gets to investigate real estate billionaire Sam Zell's 2007 leveraged buyout appears likely to end with both sides joining forces, people involved in the dispute said Thursday.

What's important, said David Rosner, an attorney representing a bondholder group that instigated the fight, is that the controversial LBO get ample scrutiny as subordinated creditors seek evidence to build a case of "fraudulent conveyance" against the company and senior lenders that financed the deal."I don't think anybody is disputing the importance of fraudulent conveyance to the case," Rosner said.

The tussle broke out in late August when bondholders led by New York private-equity firm Centerbridge Partners filed a motion accusing the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors of "doing nothing of substance" to press an investigation into whether Zell's $8.2 billion bid to take Tribune Co. private was doomed from the start.

The committee had launched an investigation, but it had been ineffectual, the bondholders said. So they asked the bankruptcy court to grant the group approval to launch its own inquiry or appoint a special investigator.

Several parties, including Chicago-based Tribune Co., which owns this newspaper, and the creditors committee, filed objections Thursday to a separate investigation, saying it would be expensive and redundant. But most agreed that Law Debenture Trust Co., the trustee for the bondholder group, should get access to the information uncovered by the committee's investigation as long as adequate confidentiality agreements could be worked out."There's no sense having a duplication of effort," said Howard Seife, lead attorney for the committee."As long as we are getting the documents, we can work with the committee," Rosner said.

The matter will be resolved at a hearing Thursday before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

At issue is the outline of a reorganization plan that would give lenders to Zell's deal, such as JPMorgan Chase and Merrill Lynch, a large majority ownership stake in the reorganized company. That would leave subordinated creditors like Centerbridge with what the original complaint called a "sliver of equity" in return for their claims.

The goal of an investigation is to ferret out documents showing evidence of fraudulent conveyance, a legal term meaning the heavily leveraged transaction left the company insolvent from day one, leading to an inevitable Chapter 11 filing.

That could potentially negate the claims of senior lenders to the deal, leaving more assets to be divided among the other creditors. Such tactics are common in Chapter 11 cases that follow a leveraged buyout, bankruptcy experts said. Fraudulent-conveyance claims rarely get far in big cases, said University of Chicago law professor Douglas Baird. But they can be an effective negotiating tactic to give subordinated creditors like Centerbridge more leverage in negotiating with senior lenders for a bigger piece of the recovery.

Tribune Co., which filed for Chapter 11 protection in December, declined to comment but in its response to the bondholder's original motion said it favors Law Debenture getting the information provided to the creditor's committee and is seeking a "consensual global resolution" to the case.

Questions: What is the position of the Newspaper Guild, who has a seat on the creditor committee in this regard. What is the status of Tribune's motion for $70 Million Dollars in executive bonuses? What is the plan for Tribune's employees under Tribune's proposed reorganization plan?


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Baucus Debacle Shows Why Democrats Have to Stop Trying to Woo Republican Lawmakers

By Michell Bard

When it comes to policy positions, I certainly agree with the Democrats far more than the Republicans. (Do the Republicans still have policy positions? Does really, really hating the president, making decisions based primarily on hurting the president politically instead of what is good for the American people, and lying about the president's programs in an attempt to scare people qualify as a policy position? I'd say not. But I digress ...)

But when it comes to how to wield power in Washington once you've won an election, give me the Republicans over the Democrats any day of the week. I was reminded of the Democrats' seeming inability to govern when I read about the health care bill that finally emerged from Max Baucus's Senate Finance Committee, after months of negotiations with three Republicans on the committee.

(To be absolutely clear here, so there are no misunderstandings: When I say that Republicans govern better than Democrats do, I am strictly speaking about how effectively they turn their policy positions into law. I am not saying I want the Republicans to retake the House and Senate, and I do not support the Republican positions on issues, which generally look to protect corporations and the wealthiest Americans at the expense of everyone else, and seek to instill an extreme, religion-based morals agenda on the country. What I'm saying is that I wish the Democrats would act like Republicans once they find themselves in power.)

For most of George W. Bush's two terms in office, especially during the key period from 2002 to 2006, he had a solidly Republican Congress with which to work. So, despite a razor-thin win in 2000 (losing the popular vote and, in the minds of many, only winning the electoral vote thanks to a flawed, partisan Supreme Court decision), and another narrow victory in 2004, as president, Bush made no effort to moderate his agenda and pursue bipartisan legislation.

His party allies in Congress loyally backed nearly all of his proposals, and Bush gleefully rammed through his far-right conservative agenda (massive tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, etc.), which was well to the right of his campaign rhetoric (remember, he was a "compassionate conservative"), without thinking twice about what Democrats thought of what he was doing.

His razor-thin margin of victory (and even the fact that fewer people voted for him than his opponent in 2000) didn't stop him (or his allies in Congress) from moving full-speed ahead with legislation he supported.

Flash forward to 2008. The American people, via their votes, absolutely and unquestionably repudiated the Republican policies of the previous eight years.

After giving Democrats narrow advantages in the House and Senate in 2006, voters really "threw the bums out" in 2008, leaving Democrats with a 60-40 majority in the Senate (once Al Franken was seated) and an even more commanding 256-178 lead in the House.

The American people also overwhelmingly elected a Democrat to the presidency, handing Barack Obama 365 electoral votes (to 173 for John McCain), with 53 percent of the popular vote going to Obama and only 46 percent to McCain.

In two elections, Bush never came close to these kinds of numbers. And Obama managed to win red states like North Carolina and Indiana that few commentators thought the Democrats could even have a chance of taking just a couple of years earlier.

In short, the American people said to the Democrats: We want you to do your thing.

And yet, that isn't what has happened. Instead, the Democrats in Congress have been timid, looking for Republican support (and making concessions to get it) even though they didn't need it. At first, it was an admirable pursuit, an effort to leave partisan bickering behind and concentrate on solving the massive problems the current administration and Congress inherited from the disastrous presidency that preceded them. And it was something the president not only supported, but actively pursued.

But in the first big legislative test of the bipartisan approach, the stimulus bill, not a single Republican House member voted for the legislation, and only a pair of Republicans in the Senate signed on (it was three, but Arlen Specter later became a Democrat, leaving just Maine's two senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, as current Republicans who voted for the bill).

The result was weaker stimulus legislation (to try and lure Republicans), but no Republican support. That is a lose-lose for the Democrats (and those suffering from the recession), and a win-win for the Republicans.
The stimulus bill should have been a wake-up call for Democrats in Congress. The way the Republicans stood united in opposition despite Democratic efforts at bipartisanship should have announced loud and clear that the Republicans had no intention of acting reasonably.

They had successfully closed ranks, ensuring that not one single Republican in the House voted for the bill and that they didn't help the president succeed on something that might be viewed as a "win" for him.

It should have been a "fool me once" moment from which the Democrats emerged wiser, going forward with the knowledge that the Republicans were only out to obstruct (it was the moment of birth for the Party of No).

It should have emboldened Democrats to say, "We won 256 House seats, 60 Senate seats and the presidency. We get to make the rules now. Your guy pushed through his agenda after losing the popular vote. We tried to be nice, and you kicked crap in our faces. We're done. Have fun on the sidelines watching us enact our agenda."

But that's not what happened.

Yes, I understand that you need 60 votes in the Senate to invoke cloture, and yes I know that there is a good size contingent of Blue Dog Democrats in the House and more conservative Democrats in the Senate who would be reluctant to sign off on some of the president's initiatives. Certainly, compromises would have to be made to ensure that enough Democrats supported a given piece of legislation. But those negotiations should have been handled internally.

After the stimulus fiasco, the Democrats should have ensured that when they emerged from a caucus meeting on an issue, they had enough votes to pass it without Republican help, just as Bush and his Republican followers did when they were in power.

And yet, instead, the Democrats keep playing the fool.

Which brings us back to the Baucus debacle. He spent months -- months! -- negotiating with three Republicans (Olympia Snowe, Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi) to try and get a bipartisan health care reform bill through his finance committee.

Anybody with an IQ above 75 and access to a major daily newspaper knew that there was no meaningful health care reform bill that Enzi and Grassley were going to get behind. Did Baucus listen to and/or read the kinds of things Grassley was saying in interviews and on talk shows? (Two words: death panels.) The Republicans weren't going to give the president a win (remember Jim DeMint's famous health care will be Obama's "Waterloo" remark), and they were too beholden to their corporate interests to support anything that would have any real impact on the status quo.

The Republicans were obviously stalling, trying to do anything they could to keep the health care reform process from moving forward. Again, this was all obvious to everyone watching ... except Baucus.

So what ended up happening? Baucus announced today that he was going forward with a bill and ... surprise! ... no Republicans are backing it (not even Snowe). But, thanks to Baucus bending over backwards to try and lure Republicans, the Finance Committee bill is weaker than any of the other versions to get through committees in the House and Senate. Enzi, Grassley and Snowe managed to stall the process for months and ensure a weaker bill emerged from the Finance Committee, and they did so without having to actually do anything or give up anything (or support the legislation).

Who won that battle, Baucus or the Republicans? If it was a boxing match, Baucus would be bloody and unconscious, and Enzi, Grassley and Snowe would be dancing around the ring, triumphantly holding their hands up in victory.

What Baucus (and the rest of the Democrats in Congress) have to realize is some exceptionally simple math: 60 seats in the Senate + 256 seats in the House + 365 electoral votes = They get to do what they said they would do during the campaign.

It really is that simple.

Make the Republicans vote against the bills. Make them filibuster what they oppose. Expose them for what they are: the Party of No that puts political games and corporate interests ahead of what is best for the American people.

But no, to Baucus, 60 + 256 + 365 = He has to get on his knees and kiss Republican butt. Sorry, Senator, you get an F in math.

The Democrats won overwhelmingly last November. Now they have to govern. Especially after the way Republicans played them for fools on the stimulus legislation, Democrats don't have to kowtow to Republicans.

They need to get in a room and come up with health care legislation that the 59 Democratic senators (after Ted Kennedy's passing) -- or 51 of them if they go the reconciliation route --and 218 House members can get behind (and that the president will sign) and get it done.

If Republicans want to filibuster, vote no, complain, spew lies, hold rallies, go on talk shows, call Obama a socialist, and throw temper tantrums, let them. I am not saying the Democrats shouldn't fight the public relations battle and shoot down the lies slopped to the public by health care reform opponents, I'm just saying they should do it while passing legislation on their own.

To the Democrats I say: Forget Baucus's bill. Don't give the Republicans another victory (one which represents a defeat for the American people). Pass meaningful health care reform, even if not a single Republican votes for it.

60 + 256 + 365. The math is so easy. If only the Democrats could figure it out. I'm happy to email them a link to the election returns every day if it will help.

Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer taught the Democrats how to win elections, which is great. I just wish someone would teach Democrats in Congress how to govern.

Read more at:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NBC Universal Seeking Another Round of Voluntary Buyouts from News Staff

By Felix Gillette

Looks like the buyout offers are coming early this year at 30 Rock.
The Observer has learned that in recent days NBC Universal executives have approached a large number of employees across its news divisions and bureaus, announcing that the company is looking for unspecified number of staffers to take voluntary buyouts.

In a series of meetings with human resource managers, staffers at NBC News and MSNBC were told that if targets weren't met voluntarily, employment challenges lurked ahead. Employees at the Nightly News were told the grim news on Friday, September 11.

This is the second time in less than a year that NBC has sought voluntary buyouts, as part of broader cost reduction measures.

According to our sources, NBC has even offered the buyout package to a number of "freelance" employees who do work for NBC but have limited contracts through General Electric's alternate, private billing vendor, Yoh.

"They want to be able to say that they've tried everything they can, and tried to see if there are people who want to go, before forcing anyone to go," said one source with knowledge of the situation. "Given the state of the media, it's hard to imagine they'll have too many takers. Look for another round of layoffs during the annual NBC Christmas holiday layoff season."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp Launches Global Service To Link All Its Outlets

By Stephen Brook

NewsCore system will make content from all company's TV stations, papers and sites instantly available to the rest.

News Corporation is launching a global service that will make all its news stories and videos instantly available to its entire network of TV, print and online news outlets.

The service, called NewsCore, will operate like a global wire service for all the company's newspapers, TV networks and websites.

News Corp is describing the venture as a "21st-century multi-media information service that will draw on the worldwide news and sports resources within News Corporation and make them available to other News properties everywhere".

"When Sky News reports that Gordon Brown has called an election, everyone in the NWS family can run with it. When TG24 learns that Vesuvius has blown its top again, everyone in NewsCorp will have it. Immediately. And from a source we can trust – us," said an internal briefing obtained by

The NewsCore service, approved by the News Corp chairman and chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, will scan the company's electronic story queues, satellite feeds and websites and make all the content available to company newsrooms around the planet. NewsCore will distribute text, video, audio and citizen journalism around the world in real time.

NewsCore will be based in New York and is hiring journalists for that city, London and Asia.

The UK operation will be based at BSkyB's headquarters in Osterley. understands that a launch date for the project has not been set.

News Corp is one of the largest media companies in the world, with a network of more than 30 TV and cable networks, including Sky News, Fox News and Star TV and more than 20 newspapers including the Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and the Australian, as well as 18 web-only properties.

In April News Corp moved John Moody, the former executive vice president of news editorial for Fox News, to head a new unit that would help "coordinate editorial assets".

Joining Moody in the venture are Mike Gutch, a former vice president finance at News America; Adam Birnbaum, technology and data executive; and Scott Norvell, formerly the Europe bureau chief for the Fox News.

News Corp declined to comment.

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Robert Reich Explains The Public Option In 70 Seconds

Former Labor Secretary and Huffington Post contributor Robert Reich has been a clear and outspoken supporter of the public option and, in a video that's been bouncing around the Internet this week, Reich states the case for the public option in a very clear in succinct fashion. As many have pointed out, it takes Reich only 70 seconds to fully explain what the public option is and does. (He spend the rest of the video explaining the pernicious effects of health care lobbyists and urging the public to act.) It can be done!

See the video here:

Robert Reich Explains The Public Option In 70 Seconds

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

TV Stations' Pact Draws Fire

By Erika Engle

Officials say dwindling revenue prompted a sharing agreement

The shared-services agreement between KGMB-TV and KHNL/KFVE-TV to keep all three stations operating in the throes of the revenue-crippling recession was met with fear and loathing yesterday.

Advertising revenue for Honolulu's five major TV stations, which is projected to plummet to $48 million this year from $68 million in 2006, prompted the stations to find a creative solution to keep operating, officials said at a news conference.

KGMB is owned by Virginia-based MCG Capital Corp. and is its only TV station, while KHNL/KFVE is owned by Alabama-based Raycom Media Inc., which owns or operates stations in 36 markets in 18 states.
KGMB is a CBS affiliate, while KHNL is an NBC affiliate and KFVE is an independent station that airs University of Hawaii sports.

The programming arrangements will remain in place, though the KGMB and KFVE call letters will be swapped by MCG and Raycom in a pending filing with the Federal Communications Commission. KGMB and KHNL will be led by Rick Blangiardi, and John Fink will head KFVE, each as vice president and general manager.

When KGMB, which sold its property at 1534 Kapiolani Blvd. in January 2008, moves in to KHNL/KFVE's facility at 420 Waiakamilo Road in two months, the stations' news, marketing, engineering and possibly other departments will be consolidated, leading to layoffs of 68 people, up to 34 percent of the stations' combined work force of 198 full-time employees.

Paul McTear, Raycom president and chief executive officer, would not discuss layoff numbers at the news conference and later disputed the figure that was reported by KGMB and other news outlets, saying there was no official layoff tally.

KGMB employees received 60-day termination notices yesterday, and those who remain will become Raycom employees.

All employees will be interviewed to determine both the faces that viewers will see delivering the news and the employees who will keep their off-camera jobs. "Layoffs are possible at all three stations," said McTear, adding that Raycom will honor all contracts.

A KHNL reporter, who asked not to be identified, said a staff meeting confirmed rumors that had been swirling for months.

"For me personally, I'm single," the reporter said. "I can go back home, live with my parents. I'm really worried for people who have made their lives here."

The KHNL reporter said fellow employees are worried that KGMB management is calling the shots.

"We're going to be one team, but it's going to be a divided team," the reporter said.

McTear said in a meeting with the Star-Bulletin that the stations had "done some research."

"We're going to base a lot of our (employee retention) decisions based on what people want," McTear said.

The consolidation is "a sign of the times," said Joe McNamara, president and general manager of KHON-TV, Honolulu's Fox affiliate. "It gives us more of an opportunity, with one less voice in the marketplace. ... I'm sure we stand to gain from this."

KHON parent NV Broadcasting LLC, based in Atlanta, is in the process of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding.

It is too early to tell how the arrangement will affect the competitive environment, said Mike Rosenberg, president and general manager of KITV, an ABC affiliate.

Its owner, Hearst Corp., has declined to enter news-sharing agreements in several mainland markets, because "we want to be an independent voice in our community, and we're strong enough that we don't have to do that."

"When the economy rebounds, we'll be in a better position," Rosenberg said.

The agreement and the melding of two newsrooms into one to supply newscasts, some to be simulcast across multiple stations, is troublesome to Media Council Hawaii, formerly the Honolulu Community-Media Council.

"It just seems intentionally to avoid the FCC's ... ownership rules, and the consequences are already becoming clear," said President Chris Conybeare. "There are layoffs and less people covering the news, so diversity of opinion is lost."

He added, "I think the holders of (broadcast licenses) are supposed to serve the local market and not offshore corporate interests. There might very well be antitrust implications."

Star-Bulletin reporter Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.