Once again we at Here and Sphere celebrate Labor Day. It’s a holiday honoring not just work but labor unions : their successes and their significance. Simply put ; without unions, workers would face conditions that shock the conscience. Child labor, unsafe workplaces, company towns, pittance wages, withheld wages, 70 hour work weeks, early death by industrial disease. Every society with strong labor unions has put paid to these mortal exploitations.

Thus we honor and thank the men and women of organized Labor.  Last year we wrote an editorial for Labor Day that still matters much :

Labor unions are not perfect. They’re often not great t reform. But today is not the proper time to discuss Labor’s failings. Today is for celebrating its successes :

1.the forty hour work week, with overtime pay for working more hours than 40. in the workplace and Federal Laws that mandate it.

3.benefits : paid vacation, sick days, personal days, retirement plans, grievance procedures

4.collective bargaining of wage and work rules

5.the power, collectively, to iunfluence elections and thereby shape public policy for the workplace

6.the Federal NLRB, which oversees union certification elections and also unfair labor practices of many kinds. Also the Norris-LaGuardia Anti-injunction Act.

7.most importantly, wages sufficient to permit workers and their families to participate in the discretionary economy, even to prosper.

Labor people are not only employees. They’re also consumers. By earning strong paychecks, labor’s men and women are able to spend significant money — and they do that, boosting the economy. Today the disconnect between executive pay and employee wages threatens the greater economy. 10,000 workers earning $ 75,000 each can and do spend a lot more into the economy than 100 CEOs earning $ 7,500,000. Most of a seven-figure salary goes to savings. It doesn’t become customer purchases. The opposite is true of a worker’s $ 75,000 yearly income. Nearly all of it gets spent.

When ordinary workers don’t earn enough to be big spenders, the firms whose CEOs want a $ 10 million pay check can’t sell enough stuff to support it. This isn’t rocket science. It’s a fact.

Thank Labor unions for accomplishing all of the above. Service workers and industrial employees should almost always form, unions and work their collective market power. Today we celebrate all of that.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere





9th CD : O’Malley versus Alliegro


^ Massachusetts’s South Shore and South Coast : the nation’s most Portuguese Congressional District

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Two years ago we wrote about the Republican Primary in the 9th Congressional District, which covers the South Coast and the shoreline communities of Plymouth County south of Scituate. This link takes you what we wrote back then :

Then, it was four candidates vying to face the District’s Congressman, Bill Keating. This time there’s but two Republicans on offer : Tom O’Malley of Marshfield, and Mark Alliegro, who was one of 2014’s four. Alliegro finished second last time to the winner, John Chapman.

We called the 2014 GOP primary “a campaign that is no campaign at all.” We so opined because it seemed to us that none of the four men addressed the major concerns of the 9th Congress District, nor did they have much chance of winning. They seemed more interested in each other than in Mr. Keating.

I don’t see much difference this time, except that the followers of O’Malley and of Alliegro don’t seem particularly to like one another, or the opposing candidate. That happens in primaries.

Sometimes the bad blood has to do with issues. This time it seems more a matter of temperament. Mr. Alliegro — who blocked this writer on facebook two years ago — appears comfortable running a Trumpist candidacy replete with insult and confrontation. Mr. O’Malley, meanwhile, hews to the graciousness one saw in John Kasich. This writer prefers the Kasich approach. Yet on the issue tops in the Trump world — immigration — Mr. O’Malley’s position reads a whole lot more like Trump than does Alliegro’s :

As the “9th CD” is the nation’s most Portuguese, including all of New Bedford and the south half of Fall River, not to overlook Wareham, Plymouth, and the Outer Cape, a candidate who talks, as does O’Malley, of “illegals’ and decries that today’s immigrants do not “assimilate” seems ill suited to represent it. the “9th CD” is alive with Azorean culture, Madeiran food, Cape Verdean commerce, and fishermen from all over the world of Portugal and its diaspora. The “Festa” on Madeira Avenue in New Bedford draws tens of thousands from all over the South Coast; and Fall River offers authentic Azorean and Madeiran cuisine all over town as well as Portuguese-American dance music in its many nightclubs. Mr. Alliegro, one expects to not care much about it; but O’Malley, you would think, would espouse sort version of the Dream Act, if not Jeb Bush’s all embracing welcome f or immigrants who come here as “an act of love.”

Embracing the vibrant immigrant society of the “9th CD” would seem a first principle for Mr. O’Malley. Nor does the challenge to his candidacy stop there. Read, for example, what O’Malley has to say about the opioid addiction problem, highlighted for Cape Cod in a documentary movie sponsored last year by Governor Baker:

O’Malley doesn’t mention the Cape Cod heroin movie, nor does he talk in any way about the significant opioid addiction legislation enacted by our legislature this year. The South Coast hosts one of our state’s most effective drug addiction response organizations, not to mention being home to the Chris Herren Initiative (Herren is a Fall River native). Has O’Malley visited either ? Does he know of them ? Has he spoken to advocates in District Attorney Quinn’s office ? His brief and superficial statement suggests he has not.

Mark Alliegro’s response to the opiate addiction crisis is actually much, much more detailed and better informed than O’Malley’s :

On the other hand, Alliegro’s only comment about immigration is that we need “a rational immigration system.” Nor does he do much to bring me aboard when he says about President Obama that “During this Administration’s time in office, we have seen inaction, deception, and missteps all of which weaken us at home and abroad. We give aid and comfort to our enemies, while our military, our allies and our foreign service professionals get little of each.” He is mistaken. Not to mention that the President whom he insults carried the “9th CD” by almost 20 points both times. Whoever wins the GOP Primary will need a ton of pro-Obama voters if he is to come close to defeating Mr. Keating. I do not see how Mr. Alliegro’s sweeping dismissal helps his cause.

O’Malley does address the jobs issue that everybody tells pollsters is their top concern. His focus of national infrastructure repair is a wise one. His solution — use people on welfare — may not be so wise. Much road, bridge, and rail lineconstruction work is skilled and is often done by union labor. I doubt that unions will find O’Malley’s “workfare” suggestion a friendly one. Says he : “One way to get on the road to fixing the economy is a program to undertake the repairs necessary to upgrade our national infrastructure.  Roads and bridges in this country, and even right here in this district, are crumbling before our very eyes.  They have been mostly ignored for too long and I have a plan to reverse that trend and a by-product would be an economic stimulus that actually works.  Using a system of workfare, people on welfare will receive government assistance in return  for their labor on public works projects i.e. bridges, roads, dams, highways The by-product will be a real economic stimulus.This project will include non welfare recipients and will require the development of additional well paying jobs both in the district and nationwide. It is a win-win and a solution to an issue.  This would get people off the rolls of the un-employed and get our roads and bridges fixed!  It worked after the Great Depression.”

That said, Mr. Alliegro’s “Jobs” discussion, on his campaign website, insists that taxes and government regulations are the problem. This sounds tiresomely familiar. Alliegro also ( 1 ) opposes the Common Core Curriculum that the nation’s 50 governors adopted 20 years ago in order to assure that every child, no matter her zip code, graduated with the same basic knowledge vital to securing real employment ( 2 ) opposes women’s reproductive choice  and ( 3 ) voices the gun absolutists’  view that the Second Amendment gives individuals an unlimitable right to carry loaded weapons wherever and whenever they choose.

Lastly, Alliegro opposes the 1954 “Johnson Amendment whereby organizations seeking tax-exempt status cannot engage in political campaigns on behalf of a particular candidate. Most of you may not know the “Johnson Amendment.” It is the basis of the now fully accepted notion that one cannot enjoy exemption from the taxes we all must pay and then use that exempt money to support a politician. Despite the huge exceptions enabled by the Citizens United decision, the Johnson Amendment prevents campaign organizations from abusing their protected income. Mr. Alliegro’s opposition on this matter alone would be sufficient reason to reject his candidacy.

O’Malley also lists as a key issue support for Israel. Unfortunately, his Israel policy is instead an Iran policy : “The Iran nuclear deal is just horrible. According to 2015 report card, the incumbent voted in favor of the deal where we get nothing and they get everything they want, including a path to nuclear weapons.”

Support for Israel is certainly a significant foreign policy obligation. It may interest O’Malley to know that Israeli intelligence and military leaders say that Iran is not an existential threat to Israel (of course it isn’t. the mullahs know very well would happen were they to attempt all out war on Israel); but the nation’s internal divisions, say these experts, are existential indeed. One Israeli intelligence chief only recently opined that the nation is so divided it verges on civil war. A diligent perusal of Israeli media reports over the past two years supports this view. The Netanyahu government is marginalizing Israeli Arabs; pursuing an entirely colonialist settlement policy in the West bank; and legitimizing an ultra-Orthodox Judaism not much different from Saudi Wah’habism or Iran’s Guardian Council.

So much for the two candidates’ pluses or minuses. John Chapman, who won the 2014 GOP primary, lost to Congressman Keating by ten (10) points in a very good GOP year. This time will be anything but a  good GOP year. The winner of Thursday’s primary might easily lose by 20 points. In which case, what is the point ? Just this : the GOP needs badly to recover its competence, its policy realism, its recognition of who are the voters and who will soon be voters. It needs not to disparage the President but to explain what it might do better, as well as congratulate Obama on what he has succeeded at. A political party cannot move forward, or free itself from self imposed shackles, if it disputes everything the other party does or says. No party gets it right all the time, nor wrong. Congratulate the right, and you win some legitimacy for criticizing the wrong.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere





^ Taunton’s State Representative Shaunna O’Connell (middle) : The #MAGOP’s top diva has a serious opponent now

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Republican members of our state’s legislature face a huge challenge. His name is Donald Trump.

We all know, in this depressing election year, what Donald Trump means. Most of us despise it. In Massachusetts, he seems on track to win barely 33 percent of the vote. Hillary Clinton polls 55 to 58 percent. That’s an awfully large disparity. In order to win re election, our state’s 40 Republican legislators probably must win a momentous number of Hillary Clinton  voters or they’re out of a job.

Their challenge isn’t as steep as it might be, however. Most of the 40 (34 House members, 6 Senators) represent districts where Trump won’t be beaten by 25 to 30 points. Yet I can’t think of ANY legislative district that Trump can win; and given the virulence and amateurism of his campaign, many voters who are not aboard Trump’s train seem to be washing their hands of all things Republican. I cannot blame them for wanting the GOP gone; but  they are making a mistake. In this editorial I will try to explain why non-Trump voters should reconsider dismissing down-ballot Republicans out of hand.

In Massachusetts, Republican legislators often have positive reforms to offer: budget discipline, administrative efficiency, local control of local matters. GOP legislators also sometimes support social issue reforms, providing them bipartisan legitimacy. For example : the “TransBill” passed in this year’s session would be on shaky ground had its 117 House supporters not included 9 of that chamber’s 34 GOP members. I give special credit to those nine — Shawn Dooley, Kim Ferguson, Paul Frost, Sheila Harrington, Randy Hunt, Hannah Kane, Jim Kelcourse, David Muradian, and Susannah Whipps lee — but by no means does that leave the other 25 GOP House members begging. In particular, Keiko Orrall, newly elected as the state’s Republican national Committeewoman, has dramatically improved that office’s influence in party affairs. And most of the other 24 matter a lot to Governor Baker’s state house clout.

Likewise in the Senate, where members Patrick O’Connor and Richard Ross have supported major reforms, both men thinking “outside the box.”

Several of the state’s best GOP legislators have no November opponent : Shawn Dooley, Hannah Kane, Randy Hunt, Kevin Kuros, Joe McKenna, Kim Ferguson, Tim Whalen, Elizabeth Poirier, Keiko Orrall among them. (Trump state chairman Geoff Diehl also has no opponent.) But Sheila Harrington, Jim Kelcourse, Susannah Whipps Lee, and Kate Campanale all face significant opponents. So does Saugus’s House member, Donald Wong. And Taunton’s sometimes controversial House member, Shaunna O’Connell, has now acquired her own serious opponent: City Councillor Estele Borges.

Challengers also face Andover’s Jim Lyons, Bristol County House members Jay Barrows and Steve Howitt, Marc Lombardo of Billerica, Plymouth’s Matt Muratore, Susan Gifford, and David DeCoste.

While I differ with the legislative records of many who face Democratic opponents, the most important component of almost any Republican legislator is support for Governor Baker’s agenda. So far, almost all of his major legislation has been adopted unanimously; but there have been occasions, including the “TransBill” and the FY 2017 Budget, when support for the Governor’s position has depended on all or at least some of the 34 Republican House members. It would reduce Governor Baker’s ability to work an independent course on state reforms were the number of Republican legislators to decline by much. (I speak chiefly of the House because State Senators are almost impossible to defeat. Of the six GOP Senators, only Donald Humason of Westfield faces a serious opponent.)

It’s also important to re-elect as many of the 40 as feasible because elected Republicans provide realism to a party whose activists have not always resisted the inflammatory cry of Trump, or the pressure of social issue anti’s. It is crucial that the GOP going forward retain, maybe even grow, its electoral realists. Too much of the GOP in Massachusetts has chased chimeras and issues positions rejected by an overwhelming majority. That sort of unrealism threatens Governor baker’s effectiveness and renders future Governor hopefuls underdogs from the get-go. And that is bad not only for Republicans but for all our voters; because a Governor free of the special interest pressures that control the Democratic primary is a boon to objective good governance.

And now to my ratings of who is most at risk in November. Read my estimate of what percentage of Hillary Clinton voters each major opposed GOP House member needs to win to be re-elected:

Sheila Harrington : 33 to 35 percent of her area’s Clinton  voters; Jim Kelcourse: 35 to 38 percent of his district’s Clinton voters; Susannah Whipps Lee : 30 to 33 percent of her western Massachusetts Clinton voters; Kate Campanale: 38 to 42 percent of her Worcester City’s Clinton voters; Donald Wong : 33 to 35 percent of Saugus and Revere’s Clinton voters; Shaunna O’Connell : 38 to 42 percent of Taunton and maybe 15 percent of Easton Precinct 6’s Clinton voters; Jim Lyons: 30 to 33 percent of his conservative Essex County district’s Clinton voters; Jay Barrows and Steve Howitt, 28 to 32 percent of their Clinton voters; Marc Lombardo: 20 to 22 percent of Billerica’s Clinton voters (if there’s a Trump-leaning town inside Route 495, Billerica is it); David DeCoste: 35 to 38 percent of his Northern Plymouth’s Clinton voters; Matt Muratore and Susan Gifford : 30 to 33 percent of their districts’ Clinton voters.

Who of these are most at risk ? Some House members face more spirited opponents, some less. From less to more, I’d rate the GOP risk this way :  Lombardo, Gifford, Howitt, Barrows, Whipps Lee, Muratore, Lyons — all at moderate risk; Wong, DeCoste, Kelcourse and Campanale — high risk. Both Kelcourse and Campanale won their 2014 races by less than 100 votes. Campanale’s district includes her home town of Leicester, yes; but its Worcester component reaches into some of that city’s most Democratic precincts, areas southwest of City Center that you’d expect to find in Mary Keefe’s adjacent district. For 30 prior years the seat had been John Binienda’s. Campanale will have all she can handle if Moses Dixon wins the Democratic primary.

Kate Campanale

^ the 17th Worcester’s Kate Campanale

Please note that the above figures are not unusual for GOP legislators in Massachusetts. They always need, in a Presidential election, to appeal to voters favoring a Democratic President. This is a major reason why our state’s GOP legislators tend to bipartisanship rather than obstruction. But this year their appeal will be more difficult, maybe much more difficult. I doubt that all will survive. But I do ask my readers to consider the advantage of “ticket splitting” upon the prospects for state government  reforms.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere