Meister, Dick

Dick Meister is a San Francisco-based freelance writer whose columns and articles on labor, politics, international affairs, the media, sports, historical events, foreign and domestic travel and other matters have been used over a half-century by more than 350 print, broadcast and online outlets. He also co-authored a history of farm labor, "A Long Time Coming," published by Macmillan.

Oh What Fun It is to Kill Our Fellow Creatures

By Dick Meister

"When a man wantonly destroys one of the works of man, we call him a vandal. When he destroys one of the works of God, we call him a sportsman." - Joseph Wood Krutch

In the matter of gun control, our main concern is rightly for the human victims of mass shootings. But what of the other defenseless animals that die at the hands of humans?

Of course it's tragic that so many young people and others have been slain by wielders of military-style assault weapons. And it's certain that such weapons should be limited to military uses and recreational target shooting.

But what of the hunting rifles that are cited as legitimate simply because they are not rapid-fire weapons, the guns that are used by hunters to kill so many of our fellow beings in the name of sport?

Good News for Our Neediest Workers

By Dick Meister

Here's some good news for the new year: Ten states are set to raise their minimum wage rates on January first.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) calculates that the increased rates will boost the pay of more than 850,000 low-income workers in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

The rates, raised in accord with state laws requiring automatic adjustments to keep pace with the rising cost of living, will go up by 10 to 35 cents an hour depending on the state. NELP figures that will mean $190 to $510 more a year for the four million workers who are paid at the minimum in those states.

Michigan is Just the Beginning

By Dick Meister

Be alert, American workers: The passage of right-to-work legislation in Michigan means serious trouble for unions and their supporters everywhere. Yet there's legitimate hope that it also could lead to a revitalized labor movement.

You can be sure the action by Michigan, long one of the country's most heavily unionized states, home of the pioneering and pace-setting United Auto Workers and iconic labor leader Walter Reuther, will inspire anti-labor forces in other states to try to enact right-to-work laws.

Prop 32: The Billionaires' Bill of Rights

By Dick Meister

Billionaire corporate interests and other well financed anti-labor forces are waging a major drive to stifle the political voice of workers and their unions in California that is certain to spread nationwide if not stopped ­ and stopped now.

At issue is a highly deceptive measure, Proposition 32, on the November election ballot, that its anti-labor sponsors label as an even-handed attempt to limit campaign spending. But actually, it would limit ­ and severely ­ only the spending of unions while leaving corporations and other moneyed special interests free to spend as much as they like.

Unions would be prohibited from making political contributions with money collected from voluntary paycheck deductions authorized by their members, which is the main source of union political funds.

Obama Needs Labor - Again

By Dick Meister

Organized labor, which played a major role in President Obama's 2008 election campaign, thankfully has launched what seems certain to become an even greater and perhaps decisive effort in behalf of Obama's re-election this year.

We should all be thankful for that, given the reactionary policies Mitt Romney and his Republican cohorts promise to put in place should they win, and the positive reforms Obama and the Democrats promise.

Four years ago, 250,000 AFL-CIO activists campaigned for Obama's election. But the AFL-CIO says the number of union volunteers campaigning for Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress this year will reach at least 400,000, and be waged among union and non-union members alike.

That's not an unrealistic expectation, considering what happened in 2008.
One-fifth of all voters that year were union members or in union households, and fully two-thirds of them supported Obama, and the ratio was even higher in so-called battleground states.

Union Rights Are Civil Rights

By Dick Meister

The right of U.S. workers to organize and bargain collectively with their employers unhindered by employer or government interference has been a legal right since the 1930s.  Yet there are workers who are unaware of that, and employers who aim to keep them unaware, meanwhile doing their utmost to keep them from exercising what is a basic civil right.

Many employers often claim working people are in any case not much interested in unionization, noting that less than 15 percent of workers currently belong to unions.

But as anyone who has looked beneath the employer claims has discovered, it's the illegal opposition of employers and the failure of government regulatory agencies to curtail the opposition that's the basic cause of the low rate of unionization.

Cesar Chavez: A True American Hero

By Dick Meister

I hope we can all pause and reflect on the extraordinary life of a true American hero on Saturday (March 31). It's Cesar Chavez Day, proclaimed by President Obama and observed throughout the country on the 85th birth date
of the late founder of the United Farm Workers union. In California, it's an official state holiday.

As President Obama noted, Chavez was a leader in launching "one of our nation's most inspiring movements." He taught us, Obama added, "that social justice takes action, selflessness and commitment. As we face the challenges of the day, let us do so with the hope and determination of Cesar Chavez."

Like another American hero, Martin Luther King Jr., Chavez inspired and energized millions of people worldwide to seek and win basic human rights that had long been denied them, and inspired millions of others to join the struggle.

It's Not True, What They Say About Pensions

By Dick Meister

So, what are we going to do about those big fat pensions collected by public employees? You know, those retirement benefits that supposedly are threatening to bankrupt governments in California and just about everywhere else.

What to do? That's easy. We can make that problem disappear quickly just like that! We need only realize that the problem simply does not exist, despite the claims by rabid anti-union forces and the many people who they've duped.

Here's the basic situation: Anti-union forces are attempting to weaken the public employee defined pension plans that  provide employees a specific monthly payment on retirement. The plans cover about five million older Americans, providing money that many drawing benefits very much need to escape poverty and stay off government assistance.

Apple's Unethical Innovation

By Dick Meister

Apple's position as a worldwide leader in technological innovation has brought huge rewards to those who run the company or own stock in it, and has raised co-founder Steve Jobs to demigod status. But the men and women who manufacture Apple's highly profitable products are not doing well – and the AFL-CIO wants very much for that to change.

"When it comes to technology," notes AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, " Apple has revolutionized its industry and set a standard other companies aspire to meet .  It is now the biggest publicly traded company in the world, worth a whopping $465 billion."

But, adds Trumka, "Apple's record-breaking success comes at a back-breaking price."

The Farm Workers' Filipino American Champion

By Dick Meister
Author, Journalist

The birth date of Cesar Chavez, the late farm workers' leader, will be celebrated next month, and rightly so.  But it's well past time we also celebrated the life of probably the most important of the other leaders who played a major role in winning union rights for farm workers and otherwise helping them combat serious exploitation.

That's Larry Itliong. He died 35 years ago this month at age 63. Itliong got involved in the farm workers' struggle very early in life, not long after he arrived as a 15-year-old immigrant from the Philippine Islands. He was among some 31,000 Filipino men who came to California in the late 1920s.