Monday, November 28, 2005

NYT: "Janitors' Drive in Texas Gives Hope to Unions" (Steven Greenhouse)

Union organizers have obtained what they say is majority support in one of the biggest unionization drives in the South in decades, collecting the signatures of thousands of Houston janitors.
In an era when unions typically face frustration and failure in attracting workers in the private sector, the Service Employees International Union is bringing in 5,000 janitors from several companies at once. With work force experts saying that unions face a slow death unless they can figure out how to organize private-sector workers in big bunches, labor leaders are looking to the Houston campaign as a model.
The service employees, which led a breakaway of four unions from the A.F.L.-C.I.O. last summer, has used several unusual tactics in Houston, among them lining up the support of religious leaders, pension funds and the city's mayor, Bill White, a Democrat. Making the effort even more unusual has been the union's success in a state that has long been hostile to labor.
"It's the largest unionization campaign in the South in years," said Julius Getman, a labor law professor at the University of Texas. "Other unions will say, 'Yes, it can be done here.' "

The above is from Steven Greenhouse's "Janitors' Drive in Texas Gives Hope to Unions" in this morning's New York Times. This is the spotlight story selected by members this morning. (There are twenty-seven e-mails on this and I may be missing more.)

From unions to Ralph Nader, Cody e-mails to note Nader's "Dumbing Down the Audience" (Common Dreams):

The debate between progressives and corporatists over the state of the mass media goes like this-the former say fewer and fewer giant media conglomerates control more of the print and electronic outlets while the latter respond by saying there has never been more choices for listeners (radio), viewers (television) and readers (magazines, newsletters and newspapers combined).
Progressives add that half a dozen big companies, which control so many media, lead to a sameness of entertainment, news and advertisement overload. Corporatists counter by saying that there are more and more specialized media available for just about every taste in the audience.
I want to take a different approach here from my personal experience with the fourth estate and appearing before national audiences. There has been a non-stop decline in access for serious subjects of contemporary importance, especially those topics that challenge corporate power.
Starting in the mid-Sixties until the nineteen eighties, the major daytime television entertainment shows were open to people with causes and authors with books. The Mike Douglas Show had me and my associates on during programs that featured high-profile entertainers such as John Lennon and the Jacksons. So did the Merv Griffin Show and others of a lesser note.
The Phil Donahue Show opened to national debate one controversial issue after another-women's liberation, consumer labor, environmental, gay-lesbian, anti-war, education, race and verboten diseases. Still Phil managed his share of titillating breakthroughs, including male strippers, along with the staples of fashion shows and celebrities.
No more. Replacing these shows are the sado-masochistic bizzaro shows like Jerry Springer's show or the warm and cuddly Oprah presentations or the middle ground parade of entertainment and celebrity performances such as Montel Williams' Show. There is virtually no chance of even getting one's calls returned; the producers have their formulae for shows on a revolving turnstile and need no further suggestions.

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