and 4 years ago

Bernie Sanders and Labor Unions Descend on Mississippi—Will Alabama Be Next?

The United Auto Workers have recently petitioned for an election to unionize the Nissan plant in neighboring Mississippi, and Alabama is likely next their list. According to Nissan and UAW officials, the vote is scheduled for August 3 and 4. This move is significant because the overarching strategy of labor unions is to gain a foothold in one Southeastern auto plant. If they’re able to do so, it’s far more likely that the dominoes will fall, allowing them to expand their reach to other automakers in the southeast, including those here in Alabama—Mercedes, Hyundai, Honda, and Toyota.

Alabama’s Governor, Kay Ivey, does not want that to happen. As she told Yellowhammer today,

Businesses and employees have a mutually-beneficial relationship. That’s why I’m working to ensure our businesses thrive, our people succeed, and the economy grows.

As a right-to-work state, we are putting all workers on an even playing field. This gives companies confidence they can hire the best available workers regardless of affiliation.

Our common-sense approach has enabled Alabama to become a leader in both the automobile and aerospace industries and hopefully the biotech and computer science industries in the future.

Alabama business leaders concur. “We don’t need unions in Alabama, and they are not welcome. Alabama is among the least unionized states in the country, and that is a powerful economic development tool. Being a right to work state is a badge of honor. Alabama workers and employers value loyalty, and they take tremendous pride in the quality of their work and have a strong work ethic,” said William Canary, President & CEO of the Business Council of Alabama.

The hastily scheduled vote over in Mississippi is likely the result of the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) “ambush election rules” that took effect in April of 2015, under the Obama administration. Under the old rules, votes were held 42 days after a petition was filed. The new “ambush” rules shortened the time between petition and vote to 24 days. This allows unions to spend months building momentum for their position before filing a petition, while those who may oppose it only have 24 days to organize their voters in response.

The so-called ambush votes are only one of the NRLB rule changes under Obama that heavily tipped the scales in favor of the labor unions. Others include:

  • • Expanding the scope of employment to allow collective bargaining negotiations to be held with workers that were originally hired as contract workers, and holding employers liable for any labor violations committed against them
  • • Allowing temp workers hired by a third party to be grouped into the same union agreements as company employees
  • • Requiring employers to publicly disclose agreements with their consultants that have long been exempt from the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act
  • • Dictating how employers develop their employee handbooks as a way to regulate rules and policies that employers develop for their workers

In addition to these rule changes, the General Counsel for the NLRB under Obama published a memorandum informing union officials that they may accept electronic signatures as proof of interest required to file a unionization petition. Right-to-work advocates cite this as another biased move that makes it easier for labor unions to gain control in the country’s 28 right-to-work states.

Nevertheless, the path for unions has not been an easy one south of the Mason Dixon Line. Failed attempts at unionizing autoworkers include a botched campaign at Volkswagen AG in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This failure led the UAW to abandon its campaign at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama.

Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee all have a robust auto manufacturing industry, and many cite their strong right-to-work laws as the driving force behind its thriving presence in the region. In each of these states, high-wage, high-skilled workers benefit from the presence of these foreign automakers. In South Carolina, many BMW factory workers qualify for a low-cost lease of a new BMW as an additional perk to their high-wage job in a safe, positive, and professional work environment.

Touting Mississippi’s similar economic expansion, Governor Phil Bryant said: “As a right to work state, we have assured workers the freedom from intimidation and interference in their desire to seek economic security by helping them establish not just a job, but a career.”

Despite the tangible economic benefits seen across the Southland, the unions continue to push. Recently, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, actor Danny Glover, and the NAACP have thrown their support behind the UAW campaign in Mississippi. They claim the unions will improve the quality of life for African Americans. This race-focused tactic is new, as union attempts based solely on poor work conditions and low pay have failed to gain traction in the New South, where modernized automobile plants offer highly-coveted jobs to everyone in the community, black and white alike.

Another reason this Mississippi vote is so critical is that if unions do you gain a foothold, the automakers will be less likely to expand operations at their existing U.S. locations. They know that the unionization of their facilities will impede productivity and profitability, making them more likely to move new product lines to other countries, just as Ford recently moved to China. Conversely, the absence of unions provides a strong incentive for the automakers to add new lines to existing plants, and build new plants in Alabama.

Canary agrees, stating: “Over the last two decades, many businesses that were located in heavily unionized states have moved their operations here, choosing to locate their facilities in the right-to-work Alabama due to the ability to compete in the global market place.”

Noting UAW’s obstinance and the NLRB rule changes that have made their efforts easier, many are closely monitoring the UAW’s attempts to unionize the Nissan plant in Mississippi. While the Tennessee loss temporarily slowed their momentum, the UAW has regrouped, and they seem determined to capture the South. Many speculate that a victory in Mississippi could be just the spark they need to set up shop in Alabama.


About the authors: Chris Simmons is a graduate of the University of Alabama and a law student at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. Larry Huff is Yellowhammer’s Executive Editor, and you can follow him on Twitter @LHYellowhammer

23 mins ago

Britt: Border crisis ‘a result of the weakness of the Biden administration’

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Katie Britt on Thursday appeared on News Talk 93.1’s “Dan Morris Show,” where she was interviewed by guest host Apryl Marie Fogel.

During the interview, she was asked by Fogel whether some of the recent turmoil overseas and at the border was attributable to the transition in the executive branch.

“There is no doubt that this is a result of the weakness of the Biden administration,” Britt outlined. “You mentioned the border — it is a total disaster. If you look at the number of people coming over the border, both in May and June we hit 20-year highs. President Trump placed policies and enacted policies that showed strength and got the border under control. I mean, the first thing that we need to do is seal and secure the border. If you look at the safety and security of our nation, but also the humanitarian crisis that is occurring there. We are seeing so many drugs being trafficked over the border. They said they are catching over 3,000 pounds a day, but Apryl Marie, what China is sending over in fentanyl to Mexico, to then come over our border, they said could kill every American four times over.”

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“And every bit of this, it’s interesting, when Vice President Harris said, ‘Oh, I’m going go to the border to see what the issue is,’ which obviously took her, how many days did it take her? – How many months? It was absurd. But I thought, ‘You don’t need to go down there to see (the problem), just look in the mirror.’ It’s you, it’s your administration, the Biden administration’s policies. It’s the weakness that you’re showing,” Britt concluded. “We’ve got to put back Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy. We’ve also got to make sure that, as President Trump did, when people came over the border, they knew that they weren’t going to be placed on our welfare system. Those types of policies, that type of strength, that deters people from coming. Same thing in Cuba. Same thing in Israel. I mean, they see weakness in the Biden Administration, and they see that the Democrats are starting to undermine that relationship, and they are taking advantage of it. Make no mistake: this is why we have to have strength in D.C. and in the White House. We must have strength in the Senate, and we must have strength in the House.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 hours ago

A new-look Alabama Crimson Tide, the same old Nick Saban

Nick Saban knows you want to know what he thinks. About the prospect of COVID-19 disrupting another college football season. Name, image and likeness rights for college athletes. The revolving door on the transfer portal thanks to the one-time free transfer rule.

Winning a poll-era record seven national championships, six of the past 12, including the 2020 title, has earned the Alabama football coach a bully pulpit. It’s also earned him the right to admit he knows what he doesn’t know.

“I know there’s a lot of interest in a lot of those things,” Saban said Wednesday at SEC Media Days at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel. “I almost feel that anything that I say will probably be wrong because there’s no precedent for the consequences that some of the things that we are creating, whether they’re good opportunities, even if they’re good opportunities, there’s no precedent for the consequences that some of these things are going to create, whether they’re good or bad.”

Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban talks NIL, vacationing, sustaining success and a past SEC Media Days memory from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The more college football changes, the more Saban and Alabama adapt to those changes and keep winning. They went undefeated to capture the 2020 national championship despite COVID disruptions such as Saban himself missing the Iron Bowl because he tested positive for the virus, and two games being rescheduled.

Saban explained how Alabama has handled the subject of vaccinations for the disease with its players heading into this season. He broke it down into “a personal decision” for each player and “a competitive decision” on how that choice could affect the team.

How has that approach worked to date?

“I think that we’re pretty close to 90 percent maybe of our players who have gotten the vaccine,” Saban said, “and I’m hopeful that more players make that decision – but it is their decision.”

Speaking a day earlier at a Texas high school coaching convention, Saban weighed in on the newest phenomenon affecting college athletics, NIL rights. He dropped a nugget that Alabama’s heir apparent at quarterback, sophomore Bryce Young, has earned almost a million dollars in endorsements. Saban didn’t expound on Young’s earning power Wednesday but applauded the opportunity for players to make money.

He also questioned the impact that a disparity in NIL earnings could have on the roster “because it’s not going to be equal, and everything that we’ve done in college athletics in the past has always been equal. Everybody’s had an equal scholarship, equal opportunity.”

“Now that’s probably not going to be the case. Some positions, some players will have more opportunities than others. And how that’s going to impact your team, our team, the players on the team, I really can’t answer because we don’t have any precedent for it.

“I know that we’re doing the best we can to try to get our players to understand the circumstance they’re in, the opportunity they have, and how those opportunities are not going to be equal for everybody, and it will be important for our team’s success that people are not looking over their shoulder at what somebody else does or doesn’t do.”

What Alabama does in trying to compete for another championship without 10 NFL draft picks from last year’s team, six of whom were selected in the first round, including Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, will reflect the program’s ability to adapt to the new era of college football “free agency.” Tennessee transfer linebacker Henry To’oTo’o, a potential “quarterback-type guy on defense” in Saban’s words, is one of the newcomers expected to make an immediate impact on a team that will start the season in a much different place than last season.

With eight new starters on offense and a new offensive coordinator and play-caller in former NFL head coach Bill O’Brien, the experience this time around is on defense. Just the same, Saban said, after setting school records last season with 48.5 points and 541.6 yards a game, “we’re not changing offenses.”

“We’ve got a good offense,” he said. “We’ve got a good system. We’ve got a good philosophy. Bill has certainly added to that in a positive way, and we’ll probably continue to make some changes. But from a terminology standpoint, from a player standpoint in our building, our offense was very, very productive, and we want to continue to run the same type of offense and feature the players that we have who are playmakers who can make plays, and I think Bill will do a good job of that.”

So as a new season awaits, Saban and Alabama find themselves in a familiar place in a new world, trying to defend a national championship with a new cast of featured players and assistant coaches. Saban called it “the penalty for success.”

“The challenge is you’ve got to rebuild with a lot of new players who will be younger, have new roles, less experience, and how do they respond to these new roles? That’s why rebuilding is a tremendous challenge,” Saban said. “That’s why it’s very difficult to repeat.”

Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban speaks at SEC Media Days 2021 from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Saban, who has won back-to-back national championships just once in 2011 and 2012, is heading into his 15th season at Alabama, his 20th in the SEC, including his five years at LSU. The SEC coach next in line in seniority is Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, who’s entering his ninth year. Eight of the league’s head coaches are in their first or second year.

Someone asked Saban the secret to his longevity.

“I think that’s simple,” he said. “You’ve got to win.”

Mission accomplished. Again and again and again.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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3 hours ago

In Alabama, conservation is for the birds

Whether it’s the Yellowhammer State or the Cotton State, whatever you call the state of Alabama, an abundance of birds call it home. “Yellowhammer” in fact refers to the common name for the northern flicker woodpecker — which just happens to be the state bird of Alabama.

Specifically, coastal Alabama is home to a treasure trove of avian species that nest on the beach and use the area for stopover on their migratory journeys around the world. Coastal Alabama is a particularly vulnerable area, as well as the other four Gulf state coasts. The Gulf’s coast is subject to battering from hurricanes and storm surge, land loss from a lack of sediment transfers, and increased development — making coastal restoration projects all that more important.

The incredible amount of bird habitat in the Yellowhammer State is good news for outdoors enthusiasts. Birding trails and hunting opportunities are prevalent, and per Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism, birding as a sector of tourism is huge. Roughly $17.3 billion is spent on wildlife-watching trips and related expenses, with an estimated 20 million Americans traveling for birding.

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“While our 32-mile stretch of sugar-white sand beaches is what draws people to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach for their vacations, the broader nature and outdoors are part of our core marketing focus, especially in the last year with the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Beth Gendler, Chief Operating Officer of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism. “The Tourism Office learned during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill just how vital it is that we protect our special environment for residents and visitors to enjoy and appreciate in the future. Birding and bird conservation efforts are a key component of this because our area is part of the winter and spring migration routes.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Gulf Restoration Office is working to implement projects ensuring these opportunities continue to exist far into the future. Within these efforts, some Service biologists are focused on land restoration, while others are looking to the sky — literally — as they track birds’ migration patterns.

Dauphin Island’s West End

Amid settlement negotiations and cleanup efforts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which occurred in April 2010, one spit of land remained in focus for some Service biologists. Roughly 840 acres of coastal habitat, which until recently was privately owned, is known as the West End of Dauphin Island. Located near the mouth of Mobile Bay, Dauphin Island is a 15-mile long barrier island. The U.S. Census Bureau has designated the area as 166-square-miles, which includes about 96% open water. It offers invaluable habitat for coastal bird populations.

A major milestone on the path to restoring the Gulf of Mexico was marked recently as the state of Alabama acquired the West End of Dauphin Island. The acquisition conserves habitat for coastal bird populations that are dependent on the area. The Dauphin Island West End Acquisition project was approved as part of the Alabama Restoration Plan III and Environmental Assessment in December 2019. The 840 acres is a diverse coastal habitat made up of dunes, marshes, and beaches. Sea turtle and several bird species use these habitats for nesting. Migratory birds use the area as a prime resting spot during migrations. The Service’s team will work in close coordination with the State of Alabama and Mobile County to restore this valuable property.

“Public ownership of the West End of Dauphin Island will allow for the protection and management of its habitats,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Through the collaborative work of the Alabama Trustee Implementation Group, and the local stakeholders, the acquisition of this land will have a tremendous benefit for coastal and water birds injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

Among the bird species present at the West End are the piping plover and red knot. These two shorebirds are a threatened species within their Alabama range, and are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Piping plovers frequent Alabama’s quiet shoreline throughout fall, winter and spring. Red knots are known for their more than 9,300-mile annual migration, one of the longest-distance migrants in the animal kingdom. Conserving this parcel of land will ensure that the sensitive coastal habitat is protected for years to come.

Tracking birds on the go

Conserving bird habitat is vital for species conservation, but so is knowing where Alabama’s coastal birds are going and staying. A project to track seasonal movements and habitat use of two species of colonial wading birds is providing valuable information for future planning to restore wading bird species in Alabama still recovering from the Deepwater Horizon spill. The project relies on the use of electronic transmitters attached to captured birds.

The Colonial Nesting Wading Bird Tracking and Habitat Use Assessment project has been underway since last July. Biologists will use the information to better understand important colonial wading bird foraging, resting and nesting areas in coastal Alabama which will allow for more efficient and effective restoration.

“This project gives us an important way to understand the many impacts that affect colonial nesting wading bird populations, including human disturbances such as the Deepwater Horizon spill. The data provided through this project will help us to more effectively restore bird species injured by the spill,” said Kate Healy, a Service biologist who works in the Gulf restoration office.

6 hours ago

Coach Bryan Harsin ready to make himself at home at Auburn

Fun fact about new Auburn football coach Bryan Harsin: He is one of only two head coaches in the Southeastern Conference who never spent a day in the SEC as a player or a coach before taking his current job.

The other, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, didn’t travel quite as far to get here. He prepped for three years as the defensive coordinator at Florida State, which is as SEC as it gets despite living in the ACC. Stoops, heading into his ninth season with UK, has made himself at home. He’s second in the conference in longevity behind Alabama’s Nick Saban. So there’s long-range hope for Harsin heading into his first game on the Plains.

Scratch that. He has been here before. When Akron visits Auburn to open the 2021 season Sept. 4, it won’t be the first time Harsin has experienced a game day in Jordan-Hare Stadium. It will be the first time he’s done it while stalking the home sideline.

On his initial visit, Harsin led Arkansas State into the Tigers’ den to kick off the 2013 season. It was Gus Malzahn’s opening game as the Auburn head coach. Harsin’s first impression of the place: “You can’t hear a thing. It’s shaking on the field. It’s difficult. I experienced that in a bad way at Arkansas State. Now those folks are going to be on our side.”

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Auburn football coach Bryan Harsin talks culture change, NIL and moving South from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

In a strange and perhaps unprecedented twist of fate, Harsin is following in Malzahn’s footsteps for the second time. When Malzahn left Arkansas State to return to Auburn as head coach, State hired Harsin. When Auburn decided to pay Malzahn’s $21 million-plus buyout to coach there no more, the Tigers turned to Harsin.

There are other more conventional ties between them, but as Harsin said, “The weirdness of Gus Malzahn and Bryan Harsin, I can’t explain that.”

He can explain the motivation behind what seemed like a head-scratcher of a personal and professional decision to leave his hometown and his alma mater at Boise State after seven successful seasons as the head coach there to live and compete in the same state as the Alabama program that’s won six of the past 12 national titles. Harsin went on at length on that subject Thursday as the final head coach to take the podium in the main room at SEC Media Days.

Sure, he was as comfortable as a Football Bowl Subdivision head coach can be at Boise, where he went 69-19 with three Mountain West championships, six division titles, five 10-win seasons and seven bowl trips. He and his family had just built a new home there, and “our mindset was this is what we want, this is where we want to be, where we want to stay, and this is what we’re going to do.”

When Auburn Athletics Director Allen Greene called, Harsin said, “It piqued my interest more than any other place.”

“As far as what you’re getting into, here’s what I think,” Harsin said. “For me as a coach and as a competitor, everything I do, I want to win. So the preparation and all the things that go into that, it doesn’t matter if I’m at (Boise’s) Capital High School or I’m at Auburn and coaching the football team there. It all matters.

“So the importance of it, what surrounds it, is definitely different. Definitely different. There’s a lot more attention that goes into being the head coach at Auburn University.

“As far as the importance of my job and how I view it, I’ve always felt like I’ve tried to prepare and find ways to win, and every little thing has mattered to me. I try to work that way and try to develop myself that way. So what we did today in our workouts, it matters. What we do tomorrow and so on. I’m going to continue that.

“I know that the microscope is a lot different at Auburn, but that was part of it, too. As a competitor, and I said this, this is why you come to Auburn. This is why you want to be in the SEC. You want to play against the best.”

Wish granted. This season Auburn has added a road trip to Penn State for its annual White Out game to a loaded schedule that includes the Alabama, LSU and Georgia programs that have won 10 of the past 12 SEC titles and seven of the past 12 national championships.

Then again, only one SEC program other than Alabama, LSU and Georgia has won either of those trophies in that time. Auburn owns the 2010 and 2013 SEC banners and the 2010 BCS crystal football.

That recent history helps explain why the confidence within the Auburn program hasn’t suffered since Harsin arrived. Tony Fair, a graduate transfer defensive tackle from UAB, tweeted Sunday, “We comin to take the head off the ELEPHANT” in a direct challenge to Alabama. During his SEC Media Days visit Thursday, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix stood behind his very large teammate’s very bold words.

“I think that actually I like the quote,” Nix said. “I think it’s important because we’re not scared of Alabama. I know that a lot of people want us to be scared, but we’re really not.”

Nix knows what it means to knock off Alabama because he and the Tigers did exactly that in his first start against the Crimson Tide as a freshman in 2019. It was Alabama’s last defeat.

A few things have changed for both programs since. Nix will be playing more under center in his first season in Harsin’s offense. Harsin will feel the love from thousands of Auburn supporters during the pregame Tiger Walks.

The new coach can’t wait to feel at home on the Plains.

“I’m excited about Tiger Walk,” Harsin said. “I want to walk from South Donahue all the way down into Jordan-Hare Stadium, and I want to see all those people yelling, ‘War Eagle!’ I want to be able to be part of a program that, when you win, your fans go crazy and go downtown and we toilet-paper trees. I mean, how awesome is that?”

Auburn football coach Bryan Harsin speaks at SEC Media Days 2021 from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

15 hours ago

WBRC’s James-Paul Dice signing off after 26-year career in television

One of the most familiar faces on Alabama television is signing off the air tonight.

WBRC-TV’s James-Paul Dice has been the chief meteorologist at the Birmingham TV powerhouse for 13 of his 26-year career in television.

The beloved weatherman is starting a new career as a corporate pilot, flying Gulfstream IV business jets for Birmingham-based Drummond Company.

Dice will deliver his final weather forecast Friday night at 10 p.m. on WBRC TV Fox-6.

In a tweet, WBRC thanked Dice and wished him well on his new journey.

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