Category Archives: Labor & workforce

Buy Bacon’s Book

By Peter Galuszka

This is a shameless advertisement. Jim has written an excellent book and you should buy it and review it.

While some of Jim’s focus is at odds with a similar book I wrote eight years ago, “Maverick Miner” is a really well put together effort at research and writing.

In my reporting, I asked many people, mostly miners, what they thought about E. Morgan Massey. The response: tough on unions but good guy. I heard this over and over. I was told that if rank and file miners had a serious problem, they could call Morgan and he’d come to the mountains to work things out. I heard this a lot and it gives credence to Jim’s book.

You should buy the book, read it, and like it or not, post something on Amazon. Here’s something I did:

“In this book, Jim Bacon, a Richmond journalist, tells a fascinating story about 94-year-old E. Morgan Massey, the former head of coal company that would become highly controversial. Massey paid Bacon to write a private narrative about the Massey family and agreed to let Bacon write his own unabridged account. Taken as a biography and while understanding that this is from Massey’s viewpoint, the result works very well. Massey explains why he hired Donald L. Blankenship, who achieved remarkable notoriety as the boss of Massey Energy, a company spinoff. He ended up in federal prison. The book underestimates the human and environmental cost of coal mining in the Central Appalachians. It also takes Massey’s side in dissecting what caused the April 5, 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners – the worst such U.S. coal disaster in 40 years. Even so, Bacon’s access to internal sources and records is a welcome contribution to understanding a great story.

Peter Galuszka is author of “Thunder on the Mountain: Death At Massey and the Dirty Secrets Behind Big Coal.” (St. Martin’s Press, 2012)

What Texas’s Crisis Means for Virginia

by Peter Galuszka

The Texas freeze and ensuing energy disaster has clear lessons for Virginia as it sorts out its energy future.

Yet much of the media coverage in Virginia and certainly on Bacon’s Rebellion conveniently leaves out pertinent observations.

The statewide freeze in Texas completely fouled up the entire energy infrastructure as natural gas pipelines and oil wells stopped working, coal at generating plants iced over and wind turbines stopped working.

Making matters much worse, Texas opted not to have power links with other states. Its “free market” system of purchasing power meant utilities skimped on maintenance and adding weather-relative preventive measures such as making sure key generation components were weatherproof.

The result? Scores dead and millions without electricity. Here are more points worth considering in Virginia:

Climate Change is For Real

It is a shame that so much comment in Bacon’s Rebellion is propaganda from people who are or were paid, either directly or indirectly, by the fossil fuel industry. Thus, the blog diminishes the importance of dealing with climate change in a progressive way.  Continue reading

Mandate Teacher Vaccinations in Virginia

Louise Lucas, Chair, Senate Education and Health Committee photo credit: Virginian-Pilot

by James C. Sherlock

I wrote this morning about Virginia SENATE BILL NO. 1303 (Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute) Local school divisions; availability of virtual and in-person learning to all students.

The lengthy Democratic substitute to a one-sentence Republican bill was written over the weekend to provide political cover to the Democrats. Unfortunately, it did much more than that, all of it bad.

One provision states:

“Prior to the start of the 2021–2022 school year, all teachers and school staff shall be offered access to receive an approved COVID-19 vaccination through their relevant local health district.”

“Offered access.” I was asked by a reader whether I would recommend mandating teacher vaccinations.

My answer is yes. Continue reading

The Latest Lunacy: Face Masks for Fishermen

by Kerry Dougherty

Ever wonder what would happen if feminists, man buns and smoked salmon socialists crafted federal policy?

You’d get moronic rules like this one from the Biden administration:

One of Joe’s latest executive orders requires all commercial fishermen to wear face masks – including while asleep in their cramped berths – and the Coast Guard is charged with enforcing the regulation. Continue reading

Where Is the Outrage?

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and House Clerk Suzette Denslow
Photo Credit: Ned Oliver, Virginia Mercury

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

I have waited all day for the howls of protest on this blog concerning the high-handed action of a House committee chairman who would not allow a bill even to be considered and voted on in committee. She just sat on it. Shades of Ed Willey! And we thought these Democrats were going to be transparent, but there has been no complaint from those who are usually so quick to condemn the legislature and its “plantation elite” ways.

Oh, wait. That was Lee Carter’s bill (HB 1755) that would have repealed the right-to-work law. I guess the conservatives on this blog are OK with such dictatorial behavior when it comes to bills they hate. And we thought those Democrats were going to be so liberal and wreck one of the state’s business-friendly pillars. Heck, they don’t even want to talk about it.

If a Delegate or Senator introduces a bill, he or she deserves the courtesy of at least a subcommittee presentation and vote. Chairmen should not be allowed to protect members from having to “go on the board.”

Here is the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s account of the Democratic leadership squelching Delegate Carter. You have to give him credit—he went down fighting and did not hesitate to take on his party’s leaders

Paid Leave and Paid Sick Days

by Chris Saxman

In a recent column called Hitting the Cutoff Man, I explained the need to work with the business community if you want to solve problems in our economy. I used the famous “There’s no crying in baseball!” scene from A League of Their Own.

The lesson was, if you have a goal in mind, the business community can be a strong ally in getting done in policy and politics what you are trying to achieve. We are here, like the cutoff man in baseball, to relay the throw home.

The Richmond Times Dispatch recently published two editorials that deal with issues relating to employment policies in Virginia — paid sick days and paid leave — that are being considered in legislation currently before the Virginia General Assembly. While certainly well intended, both op-eds fail to make their point. In doing so, they will likely unite business leaders and various trade associations to oppose their objectives.

It doesn’t have to be this way if they would just hit the cutoff. Successful politicians learn that politics is not about what you want, but rather what you are willing to give up to get what you want. Continue reading

Unintended Consequences of Minimum Wage Hikes

Credit: prescottenews

by James C. Sherlock

Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, and Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, contributed an op-ed titled Home health workers at risk without legislative action this morning in the Virginian-Pilot. They will be surprised to read that I agree with every word.

And that I would go farther.

Unintended consequences in the government economy

Lucas and Aird have authored a compelling, well-written narrative of the problems faced by home health workers and their employers under two Virginia programs that have not been reconciled:

  • the rise of the Virginia minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9.50 an hour, a 31% increase; and
  • the lack of a corresponding raise of the Medicaid reimbursement rate for home care workers.

As the legislators point out: Continue reading

There Is a God and He Has a Sense of Humor

President Biden. Credit: deadline.com

by James C. Sherlock

The Left won control of government in the most recent elections nationally and in Virginia. Elections indeed have consequences.

The focus on race instead of class by the newly victorious left will have major consequences here.

A combination of (1) Biden policies requiring antiracism training for federal workers and contractors; and (2) state requirements for biannual antiracism training for teachers and rewriting of syllabi to achieve antiracism together will be felt more heavily in Virginia, especially dark blue Northern Virginia, than anywhere else in the nation.

Virginia, because of its massive concentration of federal workers and contractors in Northern Virginia and military and contractors in Hampton Roads, will be the state most heavily effected by the new Biden administration policies.

Virginia’s education system is already in the midst of an antiracism transformation at the hands of the Governor, the General Assembly, the Department of Education, left-leaning school boards in districts like Albemarle County and left-wing schools of education in Virginia such as those of UVa and VCU.

I am going to use this essay primarily to offer commentary from the Left on what this means and whether it will work. Continue reading

Transdev Employees Seek to Reverse NLRB Ruling, Decertify OPEIU

Fairfax Connector bus

by James A. Bacon

Office workers with the Fairfax Connector are represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 2. This fall some employees wanted to hold an election to decertify the union, and they gathered the number of signatures required by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), but an NLRB director in Baltimore blocked the petition. Now the National Right to Work Foundation (NRW) has taken up the cause of the dissident employees.

Employee Amir Daoud is asking the NLRB to overturn the so-called “contract bar,” the non-statutory NLRB policy cited to halt the election. The contract bar forbids employees from ousting a union for up to three years after their employer and union finalize a bargaining contract.

Whatever the outcome of this particular petition, Virginia workers are likely to see more incidents like it. With Democrats in control of the General Assembly and all three statewide offices, organized labor is targeting the state’s Right to Work law, which allows employees of a bargaining unit to opt out of union membership. Continue reading

Confusing “Workplace Harassment” Bill is Back

by Hans Bader

“Old bills never die, they just wait for votes,” notes the East Bay Times. A bad bill can die in one legislative session, only to come back with a vengeance in the next session, and get passed due to more intense lobbying, or the death or retirement of opposing lawmakers.

That may happen this year in Virginia. One example is the resurrection of a complicated and confusing workplace harassment bill I discussed last year. It died in March 2020 on a 23-to-17 vote, apparently after legislators became concerned about the strange way it defined “workplace harassment.” That bill, HB 1418, banned both “sexual harassment” and “workplace harassment” at workplaces with five or more workers. It also redefined what “harassment” means.

That bill has now come back from the dead. It has been re-introduced in the House of Delegates as HB 2155. And a more extreme version of the bill was introduced in the state senate as SB 1360.

These bills say “conduct may be workplace harassment regardless of whether” the “conduct occurred outside of the workplace.” And they omit the requirement that conduct be “unwelcome” before it can constitute harassment. That requirement is found in federal sexual harassment laws and court rulings. Continue reading

Virginia Pay Bill Will Be a Nightmare for Some Small Employers

by Hans Bader

Pay regulations that are a manageable hassle for the biggest employers can be a nightmare for small employers. One example is SB 1228, a bill pending in the Virginia legislature. If enacted, it would keep employers from setting employee pay based on employees’ past wages, even though wages are usually a sign of what an employee is worth, and often reveal more about an employee’s role in a company than the employee’s mere job title reveals. It would forbid any employer in Virginia, regardless of size, to “rely on the wage history of a prospective employee” in determining the employee’s wage. It would also forbid them from seeking “the wage history of a prospective employee.”

Since federal law permits such wage-setting, and small businesses often don’t have lawyers, some small businesses will likely get sued for violating it, before they even learn about the existence of this law.

SB 1228 also defines certain pay differences as discrimination even when they are unlikely to be due to bias — especially when they occur at small employers, where such pay differences affect only an isolated number of employees, and thus are statistically insignificant. SB 1228 requires pay equity for businesses of all sizes, for all protected classifications — not just sex, but also marital status, religion, race, disability, etc. Continue reading

Employer COVID Mandates Might Outlive Pandemic

by Steve Haner

Virginia’s emergency temporary workplace standards on COVID-19 are one step closer to becoming permanent, over the continuing loud objections from employers that they are duplicative, expensive, and not making anybody any safer than existing health and safety protections already do.

UPDATE:  The text of the final permanent standard approved Wednesday was finally posted publicly Jan. 15.    Continue reading

The Lies in “Hillbilly Elegy”

By Peter Galuszka

A 2016 memoir by J.D. Vance, a former Ohio resident, drew praise from conservatives for its laud of self-reliance and disciple and criticism from others for its long string of debunked clichés about people from the Central Appalachians.

The book, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” was held up as being a great explainer as to why so many in the White lower classes voted for Trump.

Vance exalts the strength of self-discipline, family values and hard work. He complains that when he worked as a store clerk he resented it when people on welfare had cell phones but Vance couldn’t afford one. He ended up going to Yale Law School.

Vance also spends a lot of time complaining about his dysfunctional family including a nasty grandmother, a mother constantly stoned on alcohol and opioids and lots of divorce – in other words the “social rot” of the hillbilly lifestyle he so disdains.

His tie to Appalachia is a bit thin. He grew up in a suburb of Cincinnati but spent summers in Jackson in the mountains of East Kentucky.

Now director and child actor Ron Howard has made a feel-good movie from the book that stars Glenn Close and Amy Adams. It is getting lousy reviews. Continue reading

Behind Dominion’s Shift to Renewables

Image credit: Style Weekly

By Peter Galuszka

Ever wonder why Dominion Energy found religion and announced a major shift to renewable energy?

The answer is that modern, high technology businesses want it and the Richmond-based utility wants to respond to their desires.

This one of the themes in this recent cover story I did for Style Weekly that explores how Dominion’s major shift in direction is part of several dynamics that are pushing solar wind and other renewables instead of keeping on with fossil fuel.

Here’s the reporting in a nutshell:

  • Virginia’s economy is being driven more by data centers, giant box-like warehouses loaded with servers that can handle tremendous amounts of data. Northern Virginia, the incubator of the Internet, already handles about 70% to 80% of the global Net traffic and has a mature and still growing network of data centers.
  • The Northern Virginia experience is shifting downstate. Henrico County now has a partially construction data center run by social media giant Facebook. Centers have been announced or are being planned in Southside and Southwest Virginia.

Continue reading

Unemployment of Blacks Exceed that of Whites at Every Level of Educational Attainment

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Here is another salvo in the culture wars that have been reflected on this blog. An article in a newspaper today begins with this sentence: “From advanced-degree holders to high-school dropouts, Black workers have substantially higher unemployment rates at every level of educational attainment than white workers….”

And which woke newspaper with a critical race theory bias ran this article? Why, the Wall Street Journal, of course!

The article goes on to say that the disparity between Blacks and whites increased this year during the pandemic. (Black unemployment levels exceed those of Hispanics at every educational level, as well.) Finally, not only are Blacks more likely than whites to be unemployed, they are more likely to be underemployed. “Black employees with full-time jobs also earn less than similarly educated white workers.”  The article quotes one economist as saying, “Frequently, Black workers need to send additional signals about their qualifications to get the same job. That’s why you’ll see a Black person with a master’s degree in a job that only requires a bachelor’s.”

The article suggests several reasons for these discrepancies:

  • “Black Americans more frequently attend lower-quality elementary and high schools in racially segregated neighborhoods, which may leave them less prepared to succeed in college or at their first jobs.”
  • “Black workers also can lack access to better, more stable jobs because they may not have the network of contacts to know about them.”
  • “They may face challenges like lack of access to transportation or child care.”
  • Finally, the economists interviewed in the article suggest that old fashioned discrimination plays a part. “There are negative penalties in the labor market associated with gender and race that can’t be explained by anything else,” they contend.