Max Fraser on Republic Windows & Doors, John Nichols on the FCC and on Obama’s pick for commerce secretary, Loren Lynch on carbon caps



Things are turning out remarkably well for more than 200 former employees of

Republic Windows & Doors

, whose factory occupation in December drew national media attention and public support from

Barack Obama

. The laid-off workers ended their six-day sit-in victoriously, after negotiations with

Bank of America

, Republic’s largest creditor, secured each a $6,000 severance package. Then on February 26, the California-based firm

Serious Materials

, which had reached out to the workers and their union, the

United Electrical Workers

(UE), announced plans to buy the plant and put everyone back to work making energy-efficient windows. Serious will reopen with a smaller workforce until business is up and running, but the company has agreed to rehire all the former employees, at the same pay and seniority levels they had before the plant closed.

“Serious has been a real beacon in the night to us,” says

Ricky Maclin

, who started at Republic seven years ago and is vice president of

UE Local 1110

. Meanwhile, the happy ending for Maclin and his fellow workers has made them beacons in the night to workers across the country. Credit is due the careful planning and creative thinking of the Republic workers’ union, which spent years developing collaborative relationships with labor groups around the world and drew particular inspiration from factory occupations in Latin America and Canada. “The UE has been trying to figure out innovative ways to stop plant closings for decades,” says

Mark Meinster

, the union’s international representative. “When people are really concerned about an economic crisis, you can win broad support for some pretty militant tactics, and that gave us the confidence to go forward with this.”   MAX FRASER


When the


‘s fairness doctrine was in place from 1949 to 1987, it was often criticized by journalists who felt that it constrained debate. Overly cautious broadcasters steered discussion away from topics that might stir public outcry and bring an FCC rebuke. Still, most Americans liked the idea of fairness, and since the doctrine was ditched, honest players on the left and right have proposed its restoration. Unfortunately, the debate about bringing the fairness doctrine back was not driven by those honest players. It became a distraction, designed to create the fantasy that a Democratic Congress–faced with daily radio attacks from

Rush Limbaugh

and the conservative amen corner–would use its newfound authority to censor critics.

Ben Scott

, the policy director of the media reform network

Free Press

, put it best when he said, “An uncharitable interpretation is that they [Republicans]need an issue that unites their base and is an easy talking point for conservative radio.”

When the issue came before the Senate in late February, most Democrats joined all the Republicans in an 87-11 vote telling the FCC not to restore the doctrine. The GOP claimed a victory. But the truth is that the media reform movement has seldom made the fairness doctrine its focus. Reformers want competition, diversity of ownership and voices, and a commitment to localism and community coverage. Where to begin? Make sure that Obama’s investment of $7.2 billion to expand broadband access prohibits grant recipients from selling any service that violates open Internet principles, and require recipients to offer interconnection on a reasonable and nondiscriminatory basis. And pass the bipartisan

Local Community Radio Act

, which will make it easier to establish many more low-power, noncommercial radio stations.   JOHN NICHOLS


A new report from the

Center for Public Integrity

offers dramatic illustration of what is sure to be a contentious battle over President Obama’s proposed “market-based cap on carbon pollution.” The study found that last year more than 750 businesses and interest groups hired 2,340 lobbyists to influence federal policy on climate change–a whopping 300 percent increase since 2003, when the

Climate Stewardship Act

, the first to propose a cap on carbon emissions, was killed in the Senate. There are now four lobbyists on climate change for every Congress member.

According to the report, the

Chamber of Commerce

and the

National Association of Manufacturers

are the most heavily invested opponents of a carbon cap. But an increasing number of environmental groups, municipal governments and mass transit agencies have hired lobbyists to push back. Some corporations with alternative energy interests, like

Johnson & Johnson





, are now lobbying in support of an emissions cap. Even private equity firms and banks like

Goldman Sachs


JPMorgan Chase

have joined the melee, hoping to cash in on what could be a $2 trillion market in cap-and-trade emissions permits.   LOREN LYNCH


After being forced to give up on his initial picks for

secretary of commerce


secretary of health and human services

, President Obama has come up with new nominees–one pretty good, one pretty bad. Kansas Governor

Kathleen Sebelius

is a dramatically better prospect for the HHS post than

Tom Daschle

. As the Democratic governor of a red state, Sebelius battled to expand access to healthcare and organized the

Kansas Health Policy Authority

, which recommended the development of a single-payer system as one of four reform options. Unfortunately, neither the HHS nominee nor Obama is doing much to push single-payer federally. But Sebelius’s record as the insurance commissioner of Kansas is rich with examples of her willingness to take on insurance giants and the healthcare industry. Let’s hope she’ll bring some of that spirit to the healthcare reform debate.

Obama’s nominee for commerce secretary, former Washington Governor

Gary Locke

, has less to recommend him. An over-the-top advocate for free trade agreements, he was at the forefront of the push to get Democrats to implement permanent normalization of trade with China, over the concerns of human rights groups. Locke claimed that easing trade rules “will strengthen the rule of law and accelerate domestic reforms in China.” He was wrong. A State Department review, released the same week that Locke was nominated, observed, “The [Chinese] government’s human rights record remained poor and worsened in some areas.” Locke might be a little better than discarded commerce pick

Judd Gregg

on some domestic issues. But on international trade, his record is as bad or worse.   JOHN NICHOLS

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