Labor Unions

Show Details for the week of September 5th, 2016

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On The Monitor this week:

  • Are we allergic to food or what’s been done to it? An interview with Robyn O’Brien
  • Turkey’s invasion of Syria. An interview with Michael Beer

More about this week’s guests:

robynspeaking-300x165Robyn O’Brien is a former financial and food industry analyst. She has been called “food’s Erin Brockovich” by Bloomberg and the New York Times. She is the author of The Unhealthy Truth published in May 2009 by Random House, which reveals the alarming relationship between the manipulation of our food and both the increase in dangerous allergies in our children as well as the increase in cancers in our families—and offers a road map to healthy living.

From a conservative Texas family, Robyn earned an MBA on a full scholarship, graduating as the top woman in her class before going to work as a financial analyst that covered the food industry. For ten years, she has led a food awakening among consumers, corporations and political leaders. Armed with data and analytics, food companies now responding to Robyn’s work include Bloomberg, Compass Food Group, Kraft, Coca Cola, Burger King, Chipotle, Nestle, Target and others. She sheds light on how the changing landscape of food and health are impacting the food industry and our economy. You can follow her on Twitter here: @foodawakenings

Michael BeerMichael Beer has been the Executive Director of Nonviolence International since 1998. Michael is a global activist for human rights, minority rights and against war and casino capitalism.  He has trained activists in many countries, including Burma, Kosovo, Tibet, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, India, USA and Zimbabwe.  He is a frequent public speaker on nonviolence and has been broadcast on CSPAN, CNN,  and other major media. Michael is the co-parent of two children along with his life partner, Latanja.s the director of Nonviolence International.

Quote: “Turkey has invaded Syria without the support of the Assad government nor the United Nations nor the Arab League. This is another damaging blow to international laws meant to prevent war. Given hundreds of years of Turkish/Ottoman dominion over Arabs, this Turkish invasion is unlikely to gain much support in Syria or the Arab world. The timing is remarkable just as the vice president of the U.S. arrived in Turkey. The U.S. cooperated, in part, because the U.S. already has troops in Syria in violation of international law and the U.S. constitution and has no credible platform to protest. International protest has been slow to emerge: No attempt to bring this to the UN; the media refusing to label this an invasion/violation of international law. European governments support it, and the Iranians refuse to release a public statement. We are seeing more and more countries follow the U.S. and Russia’s example of using military force outside of international law. This is a dangerous direction for the future security of planet earth.”

Show Details for the week of January 18th, 2016

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On The Monitor this week:

  • The misconstrued relationship between automation and wage inequality, with John Schmitt
  • The gap between rhetoric and reality in Hillary Clinton’s assessments of Bernie Sanders’ healthcare plan, with Gerald Friedman

More about this week’s guests:

john-schmitt-web-photoJohn Schmitt is research director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and co-author of the piece, “Don’t Blame the Robots: Assessing the Job Polarization Explanation of Growing Wage Inequality.” (co-authored with Heidi Shierholz — who is now the chief economist at the Labor Department — and Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute). You can follow John on Twitter here.

Background: President Obama said in his State of the Union address: “Now, what is true — and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious — is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit; changes that have not let up. Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and they face tougher competition. As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.”

Schmitt Quote: “Technological change is not the force behind rising inequality. Technological change has been a constant feature of the economy throughout the entire 20th century, with no obvious associated increase in wage or income inequality for much of that period. As many researchers have also noted, the timing of the microcomputer revolution doesn’t match well with the jump in inequality. The largest increase in wage inequality took place in the few years between 1979 and 1982, well before personal computers, let alone the Internet, had transformed workplaces. And, the pace of growth in wage inequality slowed somewhat even as computerization spread steadily in the late 1980s and 1990s. Technology is also not well suited to explain important dimensions of wage inequality by gender, race, and age.

gerald_friedman Gerald Friedman is a Professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Friedman’s work was cited by the Wall Street Journal about Bernie Sanders’ proposals for government spending. Last year he was featured in an news release: “How WSJ is off by $18 Trillion on Sanders’ Proposals.”
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Thursday night on MSNBC claimed regarding Sen. Bernie Sanders’ healthcare proposals: “The bulk of what he is advocating for is a single payer health care system, which would probably cost about $15 trillion. … it would basically end all the kinds of health care we know, Medicare, Medicaid, the CHIP program, children’s health insurance, TRICARE for the National Guard, military, Affordable Care Act exchange policies, employer-based policies. … It would take all that and hand it over to the states.” Clinton is apparently echoing a Wall Street Journal piece from last year: “Price Tag of Bernie Sanders’ Proposals: $18 Trillion,” which relies on the analysis of Professor Gerald Friedman, quoted below. In under 24 hours, a petition, “Tell Hillary Clinton to Stop Lying About Single-Payer,” has gained nearly 10,000 signers. “A single-payer health plan covers everyone and lowers costs. It does not deprive anyone of health coverage or empower any governor to do so. Unless you’re in the top 5 percent for income, you save more by tearing up your health insurance bills than you pay in higher taxes under single-payer.”
See Politifact debunking of similar claims from the Clinton camp: “Chelsea Clinton mischaracterizes Bernie Sanders’ health care plan.”
Friedman Quote: “The statement that Sanders ‘would take all that and hand it over to the states’ is wrong. What Clinton is doing is shameful. Sanders’ plan would end or transform those programs, but more importantly end employer based healthcare — and that’s good. The gold standard of single payer plans is HR 676, Medicare for All, which actually enhances Medicare and covers everybody. What Sanders has done is take that proposal and — in an apparent attempt to make it palatable to some Republicans — let the states administer the new, comprehensive program. Obamacare allowed coverage for 15 to 20 million people, and that was a good step. But it’s by no means what is really needed. We have 30 million people who are still uninsured and tens of millions who are under insured. The insurance companies still dominate how healthcare is done and that adds tons of overhead costs. Even Medicare now leaves people having to cover 20 percent of hospitalization. Sanders’ proposal solves all those problems — and it also adds pharmaceutical coverage. It does let the states administer it under strict guidelines. That’s not control — it has provisions in place that if they don’t administer it properly, the federal government can move in. It would in effect move administrative functions from private federal contractors to states. The $15 trillion figure is my old number from 2013 for the 10-year cost of a single payer program (HR 676) over and above current federal spending. (The exact number was $14.6 trillion.) That was based on projections from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid statistics from 2009. Later projections have lowered spending and my current estimate of the ten-year cost of a single-payer program would be $13 trillion. I have proposed several alternative ways to finance such a program — all have payroll taxes well under what people pay now for health care, on the order of 3 to 7 percent.”

Show Details for the week of October 21st, 2013

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KPFT is in Pledge Drive and this is the final time you can support The Monitor during the drive. Our goal this week is $1200.

Please help us get there by calling 713-526-5738 or going online at during the show.

We have one guest this week: Richard Wolff. We will be talking with him about the American economy in broad terms but we will get specific on the shutdown, the debt ceiling and the cost of healthcare.

Richard Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City. He also teaches classes regularly at the Brecht Forum in Manhattan.

Earlier he taught economics at Yale University (1967-1969) and at the City College of the City University of New York (1969-1973). In 1994, he was a Visiting Professor of Economics at the University of Paris (France), I (Sorbonne).

You can visit his website for recent articles and interviews as well as more information about his books. You can also hear visit and listen to Richard’s show on WBAI every Saturday at Noon Eastern time (To listen in live on Saturdays at noon, visit WBAI’s Live Stream)

We will have some great thank you gifts for you donation during the show this week. Please call 713-526-5738 during the show and thank you for your support!

Show Details for the week of December 24th, 2012

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Guns and the 2nd Amendment, Iran and Social Security – on this week’s Monitor

Our show this week features interviews from previous shows about topics that just won’t go away.

  • The first interview is with veteran foreign correspondent Reese Erlich from the week of December 12, 2011in which we discuss Iran and drones. Again, this interview is still important.
  • The second interview is from last week when Otis Maclay was holding down the fort in my absence. It is with Nancy Altman and discusses social security. Given all the continuing talk of fiscal cliffs I thought it was worth replaying…and I haven’t had a chance to hear it yet.
  • The third interview is with Ladd Everitt of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence We had him on the show back in the week of August 6th and recent events make the interview just as relevant now as it was then.

More about our guests:


Reese Erlich

Reese Erlich is a veteran foreign correspondent. Erlich’s books include “The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis” and  “Conversations with Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence and Empire.”

Reese Erlich‘s history in journalism goes back 42 years. He first worked as a staff writer and research editor for Ramparts, an investigative reporting magazine published in San Francisco from 1963 to 1975. Today he works as a full-time print and broadcast, freelance reporter. He reports regularly for National Public Radio, CBC, ABC (Australia), Radio Deutche Welle and Market Place Radio. His articles appear in the SF Chronicle and Dallas Morning News. His television documentaries have aired on PBS stations nationwide.

Erlich’s book, Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You co-authored with Norman Solomon, became a best seller in 2003. The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of US Policy and the Middle East Crisis was published in 2007. Dateline Havana: The Real Story of US Policy and the Future of Cuba was published in 2009. His latest book, Conversations with Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence and Empire, was published in 2010.

Erlich shared a Peabody Award in 2006 as a segment producer for Crossing East, a radio documentary on the history of Asians in the US. In 2004 Erlich’s radio special “Children of War: Fighting, Dying, Surviving,” won a Clarion Award presented by the Alliance for Women in Communication and second and third place from the National Headlines Awards.


“The CIA has now acknowledged that a spy drone went down in Iran. Iranian authorities say their military shot it down; the U.S. maintains there were mechanical problems. The incident has forced the U.S. government to admit for the first time that it is conducting regular spying on Iran. Officials claim that the U.S. uses drones to look for an Iranian nuclear weapons program. More likely, the U.S. seeks information about existing conventional weapons and potential responses to a U.S. or Israeli military attack. The recent incident reveals that the U.S., not Iran, is the aggressor. The U.S. has used the excuse of a supposed nuclear weapons program to engage in spying, arming of ethnic guerrillas and targeted assassinations against Iranian scientists. Yet even the CIA and other intelligence agencies admit that Iran has no nuclear weapons program and is years away from developing an atomic bomb.”



Nancy Altman

Social Security Facts: Doesn’t Add to the Debt; Is a Bigger Creditor than China. As many continue to call for cuts to Social Security around the so-called “fiscal cliff” talks, a leading analyst on Social Security joins us to comment. Nancy Altman is Co-director of Social Security Works, Altman said today: “There is much confusion about Social Security’s relationship to the federal debt of the United States. The issue is not one of opinion or point of view, but fact. The debt of the United States is subject to a statutory limit, which must be raised from time to time in order for the government to issue additional bonds, which in turn is necessary to ensure that the government can continue to function and does not come to a grinding halt. The fact is that cutting Social Security’s benefits does not create any additional room under the debt limit; it does not change by a single day how soon the nation hits that limit. This is counterintuitive and different from cuts to military, agriculture or other federal spending. But it is hard, cold fact. Social Security has no borrowing authority. It is a creditor, not a debtor. The United States has a total debt of around $16 trillion, $2.7 trillion of which is owed to Social Security, that is, to the workers of this nation and their families.”
Background: China is commonly referred to as “the largest lender to the United States” as in this layout by the New York Times “Who Is Owed by the United States.” But China holds about $1.2 trillion of U.S. debt — less than half that of Social Security.


Ladd Everitt

Ladd Everitt is the Director of Communications of Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. He has served as the Director of Communications of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence since May 2006.  In this position, he is responsible for developing and managing a wide range of communications activities in support of the organization’s overall mission.

Mr. Everitt has served in a volunteer capacity with the D.C. Crisis Response Team, a group which offers comfort, support and referral services to victims and survivors of homicide in the District of Columbia. From 2002-2007, he served as the volunteer President of the D.C. Chapter of the Million Mom March. Under his direction, the chapter conducted events for victims and survivors of gun violence, published letters and editorials in local and national periodicals, participated in press conferences and demonstrations calling for sensible gun laws, networked with other community groups who are interested in stemming the tide of gun violence, and authored a comprehensive resource book for victims and survivors, which was used by the Metropolitan Police Department.

Ladd relocated to the District of Columbia from New York in September of 1993 to pursue a Masters degree in U.S. Foreign Policy at American University.  After completing his degree, he worked as a Research Associate with the U.S.‑Saudi Arabian Business Council in Washington, DC, and as a Chief of Policy Development for the Air Force Association in Arlington, Virginia.

A statement from Coalition to Stop Gun Violence issued in the wake of the incident in Colorado read in part: “Reports indicate that the shooter, 24-year-old James Holmes wore body armor and was armed with two Glock handguns, a tactical shotgun, and an AR-15 style assault rifle. He also released some type of chemical gas into the theater during the massacre. Twelve fatalities have been reported so far, with approximately 38 moviegoers injured, including 16 critically.  “Sadly, there is nothing novel about this tragedy. It is yet another massacre perpetuated by a homicidal maniac who was given easy access to lethal, military-style firepower.     “The pro-gun movement has told us that bloodbaths like Aurora are the price we must pay to guarantee freedom and individual liberty in the United States. Rational Americans should reject such radical ideology and demand immediate reform of our gun laws.  “The truth is that there is no greater threat to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ than the wanton gun violence that continues to destroy American families and communities. Until our legislators stand up to the extreme leadership of the National Rifle Association and enact laws to assure the thorough screening of gun buyers, tragedies like Aurora will continue to haunt America. It is long past time to put public safety back on the agenda in the U.S. Congress, and in our state legislatures.”

The  Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has also released a statement about the shooting in Wisconsin. You can read it here.

ladd callout

Show Details for the week of December 5th, 2011

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  • American Jobs going overseas – Civil Defense Attorney James Otto Files Lawsuit So Americans Can have Equal Access to American Jobs
  • The attack on the British Embassy in Iran – an interview with Trita Parsi
James Otto
James Otto

 James Otto served as an Officer in the United States Marine Corp. from 1976 to 1980. In 1981, Mr. Otto earned a Masters of Business Administration (M.B.A.) with an emphasis in finance, from National University in San Diego, California. He practiced financial analysis throughout Asia before returning to the United States in 1984.

While preparing to enter law school, Jim Otto worked for Dillingham Construction Company in Pleasanton, California as a database manger. He created database software to be placed on job sites (such as the Golden Gate Bridge restructuring and the BART project) to assist in the management of the projects.

In 1986, Mr. Otto entered Southwestern School of Law in Los Angeles, California. He graduated in 1989 becoming a member of the California State Bar licensed to practice in federal and state courts. Over the past 24 years, he handled over 1,000 cases acquiring extensive experience in litigation in various areas such as accounting, appeals, business, corporations, employment practices, financing, housing, personal injuries, mediation, and trials.
From 1996 to 2003, James Otto worked for the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing prosecuting violators of California’s civil rights laws in both employment and housing.In 2003, Mr. Otto opened his own law office in Northridge, California, and since then has emphasized cases involving civil rights and the Fair Employment and Housing Act.Presently, Mr. Otto is developing new legal theories to protect American workers and green card holders from national origin discrimination.
Trita Parsi
Trita Parsi

Trita Parsi is the 2010 recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. He is the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council and an expert on US-Iranian relations, Iranian foreign policy, and the geopoliitcs of the Middle East.  He is the author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States (Yale University Press 2007), for which he conducted more than 130 interviews with senior Israeli, Iranian and American decision-makers.  Treacherous Alliance is the silver medal winner of the 2008 Arthur Ross Book Award from the Council on Foreign Relations.

Parsi’s upcoming book A Single Roll of the Dice – Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press), is set to be released early 2012.


Show Details for the week of September 9th, 2011

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This Labor Day week we look at Labor, Pensions and Debt. Our guests are Steve Early and David Graeber.

Steve Early
Steve Early is a labor journalist and lawyer who has written for numerous publications. He is the author of Embedded With Organized Labor: Journalistic Reflections on the Class War at Home and The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor. Early was a Boston-based international representative or organizer for the Communications Workers of America for 27 years, and is a member of the editorial advisory committees of three independent labor publications: Labor Notes, New Labor Forum and Working USA.

He just wrote the piece “Pension Changes Create Labor Strife.”

David Graeber
david-graeberDavid Graeber
is an American anthropologist and anarchist who currently holds the position of Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. He was an associate professor of anthropology at Yale University, although Yale controversially declined to rehire him, and his term there ended in June 2007. Graeber has a history of social and political activism, including his role in protests against the World Economic Forum in New York City (2002) and membership in the labor union Industrial Workers of the World. His father, Kenneth Graeber, participated in the Spanish Revolution in Barcelona and fought in the Spanish Civil War and his mother, then Ruth Rubinstein, was part of the original cast of the 1930s labor stage review Pins & Needles, performed entirely by garment workers. Graeber’s father ultimately found work as a plate stripper and Graeber has sometimes suggested his working class upbringing might have played at least as large a role in the problems he later encountered in academic life as his political activities.

Book: Debt: The First 5,000 Years

Article:“To Have Is to Owe” – An illustrated essay in Triple Canopy (online magazine) on the history of debt, which contains excerpts from his forthcoming book, Debt: The First 5,000 Years.

Show Details for Monday February 28th, 2011

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The Monitor – Uprising Edition

Protests continue across the Middle East and The Monitor expands its coverage and in-depth analysis. We revisit Libya this week with our 1st guest, Ali Ahmida. Our 2nd guest, Bill Fletcher, will discuss events in Wisconsin and the topic of labor unions.


Ali Ahmida

Ali Ahmida was born in Waddan, Libya and educated at Cairo University in Egypt and The University of Washington, Seattle.  He is a professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of New England, Biddeford, Maine. He is also the author of The Making of Modern Libya: State Formation, Colonialization and Resistance and Forgotten Voices: Power and Agency in Colonial and Postcolonial Libya.


Bill Fletcher

Bill Fletcher is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and the co-author of Solidarity Divided:The Crisis in Organized Labor and A New Path Toward Social Justice. Fletcher is also co-founder of the Center for Labor Renewal. He just wrote the piece “Modern-day Pirates: the Republicans vs. the Public Sector.”

Fletcher has been a critic of unions as well, see this interview: