Washington, DC



Washington, DC

Katha Pollitt is right in her August 16/23 “Subject to Debate” column that small states have more electoral votes than they “should” according to a strict population count, owing to the constitutional malapportionment of the Senate. However, she overlooks the complicating factor that the population advantage to small states is largely canceled by the fact that all states, by law or custom, still award their Electoral College (EC) votes winner take all, which benefits large states. To wit, if a presidential candidate wins North Dakota by 537 votes this year, he gets three EC votes. But if the candidate wins Florida by that number, as Bush did (by the official tally) in 2000, he gets twenty-seven.

That is why Gore almost won the 2000 election, even as Bush carried thirty states, including most small states. Gore carried such large states as New York, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Michigan, with their big blocks of electoral votes, which brought him within one EC vote of victory.

Presidential candidates don’t campaign in small or large states particularly anymore. You won’t see either of them in Wyoming or New York this year. They campaign in close states, again owing to the winner-take-all feature of the Electoral College. West Virginia has only five electoral votes. But polls indicate that it is closely divided, and its votes could be decisive. So you will find Bush and Kerry there, plenty.

Historically, the winner-take-all feature benefited Democrats, because if they were going to win at all, they would win in the big Northeastern and Midwestern “industrial” states. But now conservative big states like Georgia and Texas are gaining people and EC votes and the old industrial states are losing them, which will help the GOP, unless the Democrats can break the Republican hold on the Sun Belt. In any case, by these strange balancing anomalies, the EC vote count still usually agrees with the popular vote. The 2000 EC vote did not. But it should be noted that the popular vote was also essentially a tie in 2000 and thus that either result in the EC would have been regarded as unfair by the losers. But Pollitt is right that misguided small states continue to love the Electoral College, and thus that it is likely to be with us forever.



Vancouver, BC

True to form, Naomi Klein provides a refreshing perspective when she points out the fundamental similarity between Bush and Kerry [“Lookout,” Aug 16/23]. She also deserves props for developing a thought-provoking scenario whereby the left under a Kerry administration becomes more receptive to systemic analysis. But I take a more pessimistic view.

Klein points out that a majority of Nation readers are loath to see Kerry and Bush merely as different chapters in the same book. Where we differ is that she believes this will change if Kerry is elected. But American voters’ capacity for self-delusion will not diminish after the election. It is as easy to delude yourself about what a President is doing as to delude yourself about what a candidate will do if elected. In this instance, the capacity for delusion is strengthened as it becomes a self-defense measure.

The fact is that antiwar activists are campaigning for a candidate who is promising to escalate the war, in part because of the Bush blindness Klein describes. Therefore, if Kerry is elected, and fulfills his promises, which I predict will involve an application of the Chechen solution to Iraq, antiwar Kerry voters will have no recourse to the “he misled us” argument to justify their vote. The record will be unambiguous, and Kerry will be clearly fulfilling his mandate. Faced with this, antiwar Kerry voters will have two choices: Accept the truth and their own complicity in the atrocities that will continue in Iraq for years to come or protect their conscience and deny reality by maintaining that Kerry’s actions in Iraq somehow represent a progressive break from Bush, and that it is all Bush’s fault anyway for getting Kerry stuck in Iraq in the first place.

I predict, against my hopes, that a large percentage of the left, Michael Moore included, would choose the latter, thereby sealing their complicity with the war. If this all comes to pass, it will constitute a disaster for the left, not only by creating deep internal divisions, but by revealing an intellectual and moral bankruptcy from which it will be difficult to recover. Such are the dangers of opportunism and lowest-common-denominator politics.



In “SweatX Closes Up Shop” [July 19/26], Peter Dreier and Richard Appelbaum stated that because of a “vicious intimidation effort” directed against UNITE and employees supporting that union, Los Angeles-based American Apparel was required to enter into a settlement agreement by the National Labor Relations Board. American Apparel’s settlement was voluntary and contains no admission of wrongdoing. American Apparel further responds:

Los Angeles

American Apparel never engaged in any anti-union campaign, let alone one involving “vicious intimidation.” This can be verified by our workers employed during UNITE’s September 2003 membership drive. We have always supported our workers’ fundamental civil right to unionize or be free of a union.

The union was trying to politically force American Apparel into embracing it, regardless of worker interest. They claimed they would make us their poster child and help us obtain financial support if we cooperated. We refused to go along with this conspiracy against our work force and the public.

On the strong advice of antisweatshop advocates in Los Angeles, we offered UNITE an election–even when the union had not demonstrated the proper show of interest required by federal law for an official election. The union refused. The antiunion sentiment at American Apparel stemmed from a grassroots effort by workers themselves, who realized that the union was attempting to use them and the company to gain a California foothold. The workers were infuriated when they learned: (1) the union falsely stated that I personally endorsed their effort; (2) the union failed to inform them about dues; (3) of UNITE’s long history of corruption and nearly empty California membership.

Workers organized other workers to write letters to the union, sign a petition and demonstrate against the union in front of our building, demanding that they did not want to be represented by UNITE. Shamed by its unpopularity, UNITE manufactured charges against the company to generate publicity.

We settled the charges on the advice of the NLRB, which highly discouraged litigation in a letter claiming it would be “costly and time consuming.” Under the terms of the settlement, we put up posters and made announcements assuring that workers had the right to unionize without company interference.

For a century, unions have argued that worker well-being is good business. We have made this principle a central tenet of our company. With more than 2,000 employees, our factory is now the largest cut-and-sew facility in the United States. Our garment workers are some of the highest paid in the world, some earning as much as $18 an hour (versus the less than $0.25 sweatshop workers often earn). Ironically, because we refuse to outsource to factories domestically or internationally, our company is one of the most “unionizable” operations in our industry. Our workers have access to affordable healthcare, paid time off and other benefits. Our formula is simple: We make products that improve people’s lives, both those buying and those making them.

Years ago, Dreier asked that I embrace UNITE; I refused. Were these false accusations an act of retaliation? Is he not in a conflict of interest? For years, Dreier has religiously championed SweatX while continuously dismissing the legitimacy of American Apparel. Both authors have deep intellectual ties to the union movement and staunchly claim “only an independent, democratic labor union can guarantee that a sewing factory is sweat-free, whether in the United States or overseas.” Perhaps Dreier wrote so favorably about SweatX to justify the intellectual support he had provided them at numerous lectures and to the media. In the end, the article is clearly self-serving for the authors’ academic agendas.

Senior partner, American Apparel

San Francisco

Richard Appelbaum and Peter Dreier’s article may have given readers the impression that Global Exchange produces No Sweat brand sneakers. Global Exchange is proud to carry the No Sweat sneaker in our “fair trade” stores, but it is not our brand or our product. The union-made shoes are produced by No Sweat Apparel (www.nosweatapparel.com).

Global Exchange


Santa Barbara; Los Angeles

American Apparel senior partner Dov Charney’s concerns are centered around two sentences in our article that referred to his company. We wrote about SweatX, not American Apparel, but we wish to set the record straight.

Against overwhelming odds, UNITE has been working hard to improve the working and living conditions of vulnerable low-wage immigrant workers. In September 2003, UNITE launched a unionization drive at American Apparel, leafleting the factory and visiting with workers off-site. The drive, in which workers were asked to sign cards authorizing a union election, proved to be short-lived. Within a week, according to sworn affidavits filed by nonunion American Apparel workers as well as union organizers, the company allegedly engaged in a number of unlawful activities aimed at thwarting the election. Specifically, UNITE charged that American Apparel had

§ excluded union organizers from the company parking lot, threatening them with arrest if they didn’t leave;

§ threatened to shut down the factory if organizers entered;

§ questioned employees about their support for the union, including asking those who had signed authorization cards to withdraw them;

§ surveilled employee union activities.

In addition, according to the affidavits, management put enormous pressure on workers to reject the union, which management portrayed as ineffective, dishonest, costly and counter to the workers’ interests. A common claim, as alleged in the affidavits, was that if the factory unionized it might be forced to close. Although workers were initially receptive to the union (more than a hundred election authorization cards were reportedly handed out the first day of the drive), the affidavits claim that a well-orchestrated program of antiunion activity quickly turned workers sour through false claims and thinly veiled intimidation.

The NLRB determined that the allegations were sufficiently serious “that injunctive relief under Section 10(j) of the [National Labor Relations] Act may be warranted” (letter from NLRB to UNITE, October 15, 2003). In effect, the NLRB was prepared to take American Apparel to court. American Apparel then settled the matter by agreeing to read and post an NLRB notice laying out its workers’ legal rights and pledging to refrain from engaging in the activities that UNITE claimed the company used to thwart the union drive. As is customary in such cases, the agreement also contained a clause stipulating that there was no admission of guilt on the part of American Apparel.

On one point, however, Charney is correct: We are indeed pro-union. Workers who depend on the good graces of their employers (regardless of their claims to be well intentioned) are ultimately vulnerable to economic downswings, global competition and outright exploitation. The best way to know if a garment factory is “sweat free” is still to look for the union label.


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