Before Trump hired him in August, Stephen Bannon hosted a daily radio show where many of his guests demonized Islam.
Josh HarkinsonSep. 15, 2016 6:00 AM
Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's antipathy for Islam is well known, including his repeated calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States. So it may not be surprising that Trump's new campaign CEO, Stephen Bannon, has long been a champion of the most ardent anti-Muslim extremists.
For nearly a year before Trump hired Bannon to run his campaign, Bannon hosted a daily radio show where many of his guests instigated fear and loathing of Muslims in America. According to research by Mother Jones and the Nation Institute's Investigative Fund, Bannon conducted dozens of interviews on his SiriusXM show, Breitbart News Daily, with leading anti-Muslim extremists. The collective interviews, steeped in unfounded claims and conspiracy theories, paint a dark and paranoid picture of America's 3.3 million Muslims and the world's second-largest faith.
A top Trump surrogate warned on Bannon's show about a future America "where hordes of Islamic madmen are raping, killing, pillaging, defecating in public fountains, harassing private citizens, elderly people—that's what's coming."
One of Bannon's guests on the show, the high-profile Trump surrogate Roger Stone, warned of a future America "where hordes of Islamic madmen are raping, killing, pillaging, defecating in public fountains, harassing private citizens, elderly people—that's what's coming."
Bannon often bookended these interviews with full-throated praise for his guests, describing them as "top experts" and urging his listeners to click on their websites and support them. Bannon also occasionally offered his own comments demonizing Muslim Americans, such as when he referred to a moderate Muslim advocacy group as a "front group" and "a bunch of lies," and when he warned about the threat of "Shariah courts" taking over Texas.
What follows are excerpts and select audio clips (edited for length) from Bannon's radio interviews, dating from fall 2015. The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
ROGER STONE, Trump surrogate and former campaign adviser
Number of interviews on Bannon's show: 18
Praise from Bannon: "One of the top political thinkers, strategists, practitioners of the dark arts of politics…a gentleman who, as we've gotten to know him over the last couple of years, has been so right on so many topics time and time again."
On the danger facing America: "The rise of Trump is a repudiation of 30 years of bipartisan treason and failure. Bush equals Clinton equals Bush equals Obama equals Clinton. It's the same policies…immigration policies that may turn us into Europe, where hordes of Islamic madmen are raping, killing, pillaging, defecating in public fountains, harassing private citizens, elderly people—that's what's coming. That wave is coming this way. Only one guy can stop it."
On Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin: "Look, I also think now that Islamic terrorism is going to be front and center, there is going to be a new focus on whether this administration, the administration of Hillary Clinton at State, was permeated at the highest levels by Saudi intelligence and others who are not loyal Americans. I speak specifically of Huma Abedin."
PAMELA GELLER, president of Stop Islamization of America
Number of interviews on Bannon's show: 7
Praise from Bannon: "Pamela Geller is one of the top word experts in radical Islam and Shariah law and Islamic supremacism…the top leading expert in this field…one of the great American patriots. She has been a voice in the wilderness, and now her time has come."
On George W. Bush's post-9/11 speech at a mosque: "Bush may have said it's a 'religion of peace,' which, you know, we all deplore, because it was a teachable moment."
On radical Muslim "infiltration" of the US government: "There was some of this under Bush, but nothing like with President Obama. The infiltration of the Department of State, the Department of Defense, you know, even 1600 [Pennsylvania Avenue, i.e., the White House]. It's been a drip, drip, drip. We've reached critical mass now…you know, Obama has stacked these agencies. And that's why the next president, it's not enough for us to elect the right guy, I mean we need someone who is going to do a major purge…The Department of Justice has become a de-facto legal arm for Muslim Brotherhood groups. I mean, they are suing towns, they are suing schools, they are suing prisons, really to impose the Shariah."
On CIA Director John Brennan's religion:
Geller: Look, I am weary of John Brennan. Here is a man who said that jihad is a legitimate tenant of Islam.
Bannon: He was station chief in Saudi Arabia for many years, was he not, ma'am?
Geller: Yes he was. And of course, one FBI agent had said that he had converted to Islam at that time. Like I said, I don't trust John Brennan.
On the Boston Marathon bombing:
Geller: Every mosque that is tied to jihad-related activity should be shut. The Islamic Society of Boston mosque…
Bannon: One of the great partners of President Obama's campaign, correct?
Geller: Correct, and the mosque behind the Boston bombing. A number of terror-related activity. We have to get serious.
On the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the media:
Bannon: The Muslim Brotherhood, CAIR, all of it, is a bunch of spin, it's a bunch of lies. Why does the mainstream media bite the hook so hard, Pamela Geller?
Geller: They don't only bite it, they serve as almost dictation for terror-tied groups like CAIR…The first ISIS-directed attack, which was Garland, Texas, was a year ago, and look where we are. You still have the media running to these terror groups like CAIR. They don't question them…
Bannon: The mainstream media, all of it, including the Washington Post and the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, are all basically going along the lines of being Shariah-compliant on blasphemy laws.
FRANK GAFFNEY, president and founder of the Center for Security Policy
Number of interviews on Bannon's show: 29
Praise from Bannon: "He is one of the senior thought leaders and men of action in this whole war against Islamic radical jihad…doing amazing work, doing God's work, sir. Just fantastic."
On the mainstream groups that represent Muslims in the United States: "These Muslim Brotherhood fronts—the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Islamic Society of North America—we need accountability for what these groups are doing and need to understand that in many ways they are as toxic and dangerous for America as are their violent counterparts, which have exactly the same goal that they do, which is imposing the Shariah doctrine on all of us."
On Huma Abedin: "Huma Abedin is almost certainly going to be at the very right hand of Hillary Clinton should she become president, and Huma Abedin is tied as Peter and you know to the Muslim Brotherhood. I believe she has been involved in all of the decisions that have affected America's vital national security interest, imperiled by our ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and the accommodation of its demand by, again, cross-subordination to Islamic supremacism.
On President Obama's alleged sympathies: "I'm afraid that Donald Trump is right, that the president has exhibited sympathy, if not for the terrorists, then certainly for the Islamic supremacists."
On Khizr Khan, the father of an American soldier killed in Iraq: "This fellow, Khizr Kahn, absolutely embraces, supports, and is seeking to promote Shariah."
On Benghazi: "We have a fifth column in the form of the Shariah-adherent part of the Muslim community. And whether it's in the government, whether it's in our churches, whether it's in our financial sector, with Shariah-compliant finances. You know, Steve, whether it's in the media, whether it's in, you know, all of our other civic society institutions—it is at work and part of this particular government. And to some extent, we saw it in the whole Benghazi scandal."
ROSEMARY JENKS, director of government relations for NumbersUSA
Number of interviews on Bannon's show: 3
Praise from Bannon: "One of the great experts… the NumbersUSA people, just unbelievable what they accomplish in this area of immigration reform…You've gotta support them. You've gotta go to the website."
"I mean one of the issues we have in Garland, Texas," Bannon said, "is trying to stop these Shariah courts."
On Shariah in the United States:
Jenks: Muslims who are Shariah-compliant believe that Shariah should be the law of the land. That's where we have a problem. I don't know that there is a way to…
Bannon: I think most people in the Middle East are at least Arab—or believe in being Shariah-compliant. I mean one of the issues we have in Garland, Texas, is trying to stop these Shariah courts. We started Breitbart London—one of the big reasons we did it was all these Shariah courts were starting under British law. You know, they're allowing it [to] happen and it was causing massive problems.
ROBERT SPENCER, director of Jihad Watch and co-founder of Stop Islamization of America Number of interviews on Bannon's show: 2
Praise from Bannon: "He's…one of the top two or three experts in the world on this great war we are fighting against fundamental Islam."
On the Iran nuclear deal:
Bannon: Is there anybody or any pattern of evidence in the history of Persia or the history of Iran since it became Islamic that showing them an olive branch has ever worked?
Spencer: Never. Not once.
Bannon: Never? Not one shred of evidence?
Spencer: Not one bit…When they get a nuclear weapon they will probably try to use it. They don't care.
Bannon: Why? No one's used one since the end of WWII.
Spencer: They want to get nuked back. That sounds crazy, but its not; it's Shiite eschatology. Because the 12th Imam, their savior figure, is going to come back when the Muslims are more persecuted.
Bannon: Do you believe that? Do they believe that?
Spencer: They believe that. In the book, I have a former president of Iran saying, "We can sustain 10 or 15 million casualties if we're nuked." And they want that because the 12th Imam is going to come back when the Muslims are persecuted more than they've ever been before so they can bring about their persecution and then their God comes.
Bannon: That makes them actually rulers of the Islamic world by doing that.
Spencer: Right, when the 12th Imam comes back he goes to war.
Bannon: It's a purifying fire, which they come through and then take on the Judeo-Christian West and conquer.
Spencer: And conquer and Islamize the entire world. That's the idea.
This article was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Reporting contributed by Kalen Goodluck, with additional research assistance provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
I saw suicides mopped up with kitty litter, racist paranoia—and three rampage shooters.
Kyle Taylor (as told to Josh Harkinson)Sep. 9, 2016 6:00 AM
Editor's note: Americans today aren't just stockpiling guns in record numbers; they are also shooting them at upward of 2,100 gun ranges across the country. In February, the pseudonymous author of this piece—a former employee at a gun range in Orange County, California—contacted Mother Jones reporter Josh Harkinson, who interviewed the author and corroborated his account (as told to Harkinson below) through official documents, news reports, and interviews with two other former employees of the gun range. The management and owner of the gun range did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
I've worked in the firearms industry for decades, including at a range in Orange County, California. It's inside an industrial park, in your standard warehouse type of building. People come in and say, "Oh, I never knew this place existed." Once you check in, there are two entryways and 16 lanes. The lanes are monitored by video cameras, and there are also large double-paned windows, which, it turns out, are not made of bulletproof glass.
I later worked as a contractor at ranges all over the region. I've seen a lot. I've witnessed multiple suicides. Three rampage shooters practiced at the Orange County range. The general vibe at the ranges has gotten much more extreme and paranoid. I don't think this is unique to where I worked. The gun industry is really changing for the worse.
After I turned my back to her, she put the gun behind her ear and blew a nice, clean, round hole through the center of her head.
I was attracted to guns as a teenager because my family had been victims of violent crime. My dad had been mugged and my family has been held up in their store at least a couple of times at gunpoint. I guess you could say it's a way of reclaiming some sense of power over a powerless situation.
My first gun was a military surplus bolt-action, a Lee Enfield. The ATF has a category for these things: curio and relic weapons. It was the only gun that at 18 years old I could legally purchase and walk out the door with. It was fully capable of punching through a car or a cinder block. I started buying and fixing up other relic firearms. At the time I was a college student; I'd sell a gun and use the money to pay for my books. I can't even remember all the guns I've owned. That's part of what attracted me to working at the range. You would see all sorts of different guns come through. I also came to enjoy the camaraderie. In some ways it's not just a range so much as a gathering place for a certain type of crotchety old man. You sit there on the bench and drink your nasty cup of coffee and trade lies and war stories. For me, it was something that I kind of didn't have growing up, because my dad wasn't always there.
But there were certain people who were difficult. At some point during the day, you would have a gun pointed at you. I had a guy with Parkinson's, and he had severe muscle tremors. He can't hold the gun properly, and it jams. He walks off the range, he's pointing the gun at me, and he's saying, "Hey, hey, my gun is jammed!" I sidestep the muzzle and say, "Let's have a look, shall we?" All the while that I am handling it I am saying, "You really shouldn't be doing that." And the guy, without missing a beat, says, "It's all right, the safety's on the gun." I pull the slide back and there's a live round that ejects from the chamber. And I'm thinking, okay, I was a three-pound trigger pull away from getting shot.
Eventually the range started paying a service to come pick up the bodies and scrub everything.
The ranges make a lot of their money from renting guns to people—those are the people you really have to watch out for. Like the time we rented a Ruger handgun to this woman. After I turned my back to her, she put the gun behind her ear and blew a nice, clean, round hole through the center of her head. I didn't really feel anything at the time. At first it was disbelief, and then I thought, "Oh, I've got to take care of stuff." Different guys handle it differently. I know a guy who quit right after something like this happened.
Our standard operating procedure when this happens is to call a cease-fire. Then we clear the range so that nobody is in any danger. Then sometimes you'd go up and, if it's safe to do so, you'd kick the gun out. I still remember this: The manager at the time wound up putting gloves on and plugging the side of her head with his fingers. I'm thinking, "This isn't going to do a whole lot. She's toast, dude." Not to be callous about it, but she was dead. Her eyes were flapping, there was nothing there.
Gun ranges often have policies that require anyone who rents a gun to be accompanied by a friend. It's supposed to be a way to prevent suicides, but it doesn't always work very well. Eventually the range started paying a service to come pick up the bodies and scrub everything. But before that happened, Christ, what was it? Bleach and kitty litter. I remember one time I had come in for a shift change and there was a pool of blood. We didn't have any bleach but we did have some kitty litter. I remember using that to soak up the blood. And because we didn't have the bleach, some of my members were kind enough to go across the street to the grocery store and buy some. In hindsight, we had no protocols, we had no protective suits. I could have exposed myself to blood-borne pathogens.
A few months later, I turn on the TV and I see this guy's face. He'd shot up a ticket counter at LAX.
Another one was a father who was getting divorced. He was a pretty big guy. I felt the impact, and when I turned around there was pandemonium. Some of my members came rushing out the door yelling at me to call the police, and we did. The guy had sent suicidal text messages to his family. It made the paper because he was a beloved figure in the community, big into Little League. He was totally normal acting. And the next thing you know, you have 300 pounds hitting the floor.
I feel sorry for the families. Anybody who is that depressed for the most part has my sympathy. I do get a little bit irritated that they have to do it while I'm on duty. I think it's kind of—I don't know if you'd say inconsiderate—but almost that. You can't really ask these people, "Hey, if you are going to kill yourself, why don't you do it out in the desert or something like that?"
Around 2002, a middle-aged guy named Hesham Hadayet came into the range. He'd purchased a gun at a store. He asked me, "Hey, can you show me how to load and operate this gun?" I am thinking, "Wait a minute, didn't you just take a class?" I'm like, "Fine, not a problem." I think he came in two or three more times. I didn't pay any attention to it. Well, a few months later, I turn on the TV and I see this guy's face. He'd shot up a ticket counter at LAX. He killed two people and injured two more before being fatally shot by a security guard.
The second guy, Phong Thuc Tran, also shot at the range. He worked for the gas company and had been forced to resign. After he killed his supervisor and his co-worker, he was running around for like a day or two before he parked his car in front of a police station. That's where he shot himself. We only found out about it when the local cops walked in. The guy, he was a little off, but he was very quiet, respectful. No outward signs of anger. You never would've known.
The third one, Scott Dekraai, practiced at the range in 2011 and after that he goes on a shooting rampage. He shot nine people at the Salon Meritage hair salon in Seal Beach, including his ex-wife. Only one of them survived.
I was contacted by the California Department of Public Health, and the guy said, "Uh, why is your lead level so high?"
We talked about them amongst ourselves, but if a member of the shooting public comes in and wants to, we pretty much dummy up. Because who wants to say, "Hey, yeah, there was a mass murderer here at the range?"
There are some good bosses that run these ranges, but for the most part they willingly overlook the fact that this stuff is dangerous. And I'm not just talking about the guns. They're supposed to properly train people for handling lead, which gets released in large quantities by spent bullets. There's not really a safe level for lead in your body once you get above five micrograms per deciliter of blood. At the end of the day, you've got various things that you have to clean up: the brass shells, paper from the targets, un-burnt powder from the ammunition, little bits of atomized lead. Anything with high enough concentrations of lead is supposed to be put into a canister and treated as hazardous material, but that didn't always happen.
We'd get tested for lead in our bodies maybe once or twice a year. They would kind of look sideways at you if you asked for the test results. I knew better than that. I just said, "The hell with it." But the last test that I had, it came back high. I was contacted by the California Department of Public Health, and the guy said, "Uh, why is your lead level so high?"
I started noticing a difference in the type of people coming to the range when Bill Clinton was president. It was the first time I had actually seen somebody post a picture of the president as a target. I told them, "Look, you can't do that." Now there's a company that sells targets with images of Obama, and they put apelike features on him.
I've had people come up to me and say, "I don't like it that you show these ragheads how to shoot."
You never would have seen something like that 20 years ago when I started. It's an echo chamber. It's a place where people feel safe because they feel that people are of like mind. A few months ago, this woman wanted to know about getting her license. I asked her, "What do you need the gun for, if you don't mind my asking? Was there a crime?" She said, "No, I think there's going to be an influx of Muslims coming in from our southern border and then they are going to start killing people." I've had people come up to me and say, "I don't like it that you show these ragheads how to shoot."
Paranoid? What would you call it when people have six months worth of food? What would you call it when people have 30-plus guns? What would you call it when they are stockpiling ammunition? The gun industry is making a killing, and it's doing its best to fan the flames. You see stuff in internet gun forums like, "Hey, FEMA is purchasing a million and a half rounds of ammunition." It's supposedly because the government is preparing to come around and knock on your door and round you up into camps.
It all plays into people's paranoid fantasies, and guns are always the solution. They give people a sense of control in a world that is out of control. You go into the NRA convention and look around at the sea of faces— I'm sorry, it's a bunch of paranoid white guys who see their country slipping away from them. They think people like Trump, or the gun industry, are the "real" Americans. The gun industry could give a rat's ass. They are laughing all the way to the bank.
I'm leaving the industry to make better money. Dude, I will still be into guns. I like working on 'em. My friends and I still shoot. But the other motivation, just as strong perhaps, is that I don't want to have to be around a bunch of crazy people.
"Don't blame me if I say I hope that Donald J. Trump will win," says Dutch ethno-nationalist leader Geert Wilders.
Josh HarkinsonAug. 25, 2016 1:40 PM
Former UK Independence Party Leader Nigel Farage compared Trump's campaign to the vote for Brexit.
Last night, Donald Trump took his "America First" message global. Appearing at a rally in Mississippi alongside British Member of European Parliament Nigel Farage, the architect of the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union, the GOP nominee sought to re-energize his struggling campaign by hitching his star to Europe's resurgent right-wing populism. "On June 23, the people of Britain voted to declare their independence," Trump said, "which is what we are going to do also, folks."
"If I was an American citizen," Brexit architect Nigel Farage told Trump fans, "I wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton if you paid me."
On a conservative Mississippi talk radio show earlier in the day, Farage compared himself to Trump, touting how he had won the Brexit vote against all predictions by the political establishment—despite being accused of xenophobia and "neo-nazism…There are huge similarities between what made Brexit happen and what can help Trump to win," said Farage, the former leader of the anti-immigration UK Independence Party. "The same thing can happen here." At the evening rally, Farage added, "If I was an American citizen, I wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton if you paid me."
Trump's appearance alongside Farage is the latest example of his campaign making common cause with ethno-nationalist political parties across the Atlantic. In June, Trump, while in Scotland to promote his golf resort there, proclaimed Brexit "a great thing," and his affinity with Europe's far-right runs deeper than their mutual dislike of the European Union. Farage shares Trump's penchant for racially charged rhetoric, such as when he told an interviewer he would feel "concerned" if a group of Romanian men moved next door but suggested that he would have no problem if they were Germans. Trump has received glowing endorsements from many of continental Europe's most controversial nativists and xenophobes—politicians championed by some of Trump's most prominent supporters.
Trump has at times rubbed shoulders with some of his controversial European supporters. In April, leading Italian right-wing politician Matteo Salvini, who has praised the "good work" of fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, tweeted a photo of himself posing with the candidate at a Trump campaign rally. Farage and Wilders, the Dutch nationalist, traveled to Cleveland in July to attend the Republican National Convention's Trumpalooza.
"We shall win, we must win, and we will win this war," said Trump booster and Dutch nationalist leader Geert Wilders.
Wilders, who has called for outlawing the Koran and taxing Hijab-wearing Muslims, was called "a friend to freedom" by Breitbart News editor and self-described "Trump surrogate" Milo Yiannopoulos at a party he hosted during the RNC. "He is the hope for Western civilization."
"I'm not American, but don't blame me if I say I hope that Donald J. Trump will win the election in November!" Wilders responded. He went on to decry the influence of Islam in the Western world, before concluding, "for everyone that might have some doubts, we shall win, we must win, and we will win this war."
Stephen Bannon, Trump's new campaign director, has been a champion of European ethno-nationalists. In 2014, Bannon, then the publisher of Breitbart News, announced the launch of Breitbart London, a vertical dedicated to supporting a European version of the tea party. It quickly emerged as one of the most vocal champions of Brexit; Farage has written dozens of op-eds for the site. Last month, after Farage resigned as the leader of the UK Independence Party, Breitbart London editor-in-chief Raheem Kassam (and Farage's former chief of staff) told the BBC he was considering a bid for the party's leadership.
Under Bannon's direction, Breitbart News has written hundreds of fawning stories about ethno-nationalist leaders. "I have a political crush, but one I couldn't vote for today, because she ran for office in France," Trump surrogate Sarah Palin wrote on Breitbart News in December. "Marion Marechal-Le Pen is the new deserved 'It Girl' of French politics." Marechal-Le Pen is the granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen and a member of his right-wing National Front. Since early last year, Breitbart News has published 75 stories about the Le Pens.
On a Mississippi radio show, Farage spoke of his shock at riding trains where none of the passengers spoke English.
The flirtation with European ethno-nationalists by Trump and his preferred media outlet may help to legitimize their nationalism in the eyes of voters by casting it as part of a global revolt against elites. And by reinforcing the similarities between his campaign and Brexit, Trump gives his supporters hope that, as Brexit proponents did in the United Kingdom, he can overcome a seemingly insurmountable disadvantage in the polls.
Farage drove home that very point during his morning radio interview on SuperTalk Mississippi, contending that voters in the United Kingdom are secretly appalled at how their country has been overrun with foreigners. He spoke of his own shock at riding trains where none of the passengers spoke English. "There was an unease about this that had been building up," he told host JT Williamson. "For years, people said to me, 'Nigel, I listened to what you've got to say. I think you're right, but I dare not tell anybody because they might think I am some awful, dreadful person.' And what the Brexit vote did was give people an opportunity to express that."
Williamson shot back appreciatively: "The similarities between that and Donald Trump are just amazing."
This article was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Additional reporting was done by Sarah Posner, Kalen Goodluck, and Jaime Longoria.
"When I am teaching, there is no doubt in my mind that I am a worker."
Josh HarkinsonAug. 23, 2016 4:17 PM
Reversing a landmark ruling from the George W. Bush era, the National Labor Relations Board ruled today that graduate students who work as teaching and research assistants at private universities have the right to form labor unions.
"This is a historic moment," said Julie Kushner, director of the northeast chapter of the United Auto Workers, which challenged the Bush-era NLRB ruling on behalf of graduate student workers at Columbia University. "There are tens of thousands of workers at private universities across the United States that will reap the benefits of unionization."
In 2004, the NLRB barred grad students at Brown University from engaging in collective bargaining, contending that their status as students constrained their right to unionize. Yet in a 3-1 vote along partisan lines today, the Democratic-controlled NLRB reversed the prior board's decision, arguing that graduate workers can be students and workers at the same time. The students' right to organize "is not foreclosed by the existence of some other, additional relationship," the decision says.
Columbia grad students cheered the decision. "When I am working on my own research I clearly am a student," said Paul Katz, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Latin American history, "but when I am at the front of the room teaching 15 students about, say, the history of ancient Greece, there is no doubt in my mind that I am a worker, doing work that makes Columbia University great."
Columbia University released a statement objecting to the ruling. "Columbia—along with many of our peer institutions—disagrees with this outcome because we believe the academic relationship students have with faculty members and departments as part of their studies is not the same as between employer and employee," the statement said. "First and foremost, students serving as research or teaching assistants come to Columbia to gain knowledge and expertise, and we believe there are legitimate concerns about the impact of involving a non-academic third-party in this scholarly training."
"When it comes to stipends or healthcare or housing, it is clear that those are labor issues."
Columbia and other Ivy League universities have long argued that granting collective bargaining rights to graduate students could impinge on academic freedom by, for example, allowing unions to negotiate over whether tests should consist of multiple-choice questions or essays. But the American Association of University Professors disagreed, telling the NLRB that giving unionization rights to grad workers would actually improve academic freedom by making it legally protected in labor contracts.
Today's decision applies only to private universities. Grad students at public universities are already considered employees by many states. The United Auto Workers, for example, represents student workers at the University of Massachusetts, the University of Washington, the University of California, and California State University. It also represents grad workers at New York University, which is private but in 2002 voluntarily recognized a UAW union.
Columbia graduate students point to NYU as evidence that collective bargaining makes a difference. The NYU contract eliminated health care premiums and increased graduate student stipends from $12,500 to $22,000 a year—still a pittance, given the cost of living in New York and the amount of time many grad students spend teaching classes and grading papers.
The Columbia students also aim to push for a grievance procedure for sexual harassment and more certainty about pay and benefits. Similar unionization efforts are underway at Harvard and New York's New School.
"I don't think anybody expects unions to figure out what grade a student gets in a class," says Eric Foner, a Columbia history professor who supports the union efforts, "but when it comes to stipends or health care or housing, it is clear that those are labor issues."
Anti-TPP signs were fixtures at July's Democratic National Convention.
Until very recently, grousing about the pitfalls of global trade was seen as akin to complaining about the weather. One could no more stop China from dumping cheap imports than outlaw El Niño. And besides, the deluge of foreign goods would in the long run lift all boats. Or so we were told—before Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump begged to differ.
In a year of seething resentment toward the political establishment, support for "free trade" is no longer a given within either party. Even Hillary Clinton, whose husband famously signed NAFTA into law, has come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a sweeping trade deal she helped set up as secretary of state.
Larry Cohen has a pretty good idea why that happened. As the president of the Communications Workers of America, and more recently a senior adviser to Bernie Sanders, he has probably done more than anyone to elevate the issue. I reached out to Cohen to ask how he managed to make trade a big deal again.
Mother Jones: How has global trade affected your union members?
Larry Cohen: Call center jobs are tradable—more tradable than the production of steel or auto parts. Tens of thousands of CWA jobs are now in South Asia with English speakers. But that's not all. The United States is the biggest consumer of telecom products in the world and almost none of them are made here. Other countries that don't have this kind of trade regime have held onto those jobs. So Germany with Siemens and France with Alcatel—the French government puts huge penalties on shutdowns. We don't put any.
MJ: The Democratic Party has been divided on trade since the 1990s, when Bill Clinton pushed through NAFTA with Republican support. President Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement with 12 Pacific Rim countries was supposed to win over the liberal wing of the Democratic Party by better protecting workers and the environment. What happened?
Obama said to me, "Larry, you must admit, the language is a lot better in here." I said, "Yeah…but the problem is with enforcement."
LC: A year ago, President Obama said to me, "Larry, you must admit, the language is a lot better in here." And I said, "Yeah, the language is a lot better, but the problem is with enforcement."
MJ: Give me an example.
LC: I worked on a case in Honduras involving the murder of labor organizers and the collapse of bargaining rights. When there's complaints, the International Labor Affairs Bureau does an investigation. It takes them at least two years. Then you get a report eventually, and then it goes to the US Trade Representative. This is the guy who is gung ho for all these deals in the first place. When he gets to it, he meets with his foreign counterpart. They had one meeting on Honduras. It can move, after years and years, to a loss of some trade preferences. TPP enumerates that a little bit more clearly. But that's years and years, and by that point, you know?
MJ: The jobs are long gone?
LC: It's not just the jobs. It was people being butchered! The bottom line is: Multinational corporations get reparations. We get reports.
MJ: In other words, companies get to sue to protect their interests but workers and environmental groups do not?
LC: Right. Companies get to sue under what's known as "investor state dispute settlement." TransUnion is suing the US over Keystone: $15 billion. Vattenfall, which is a Swedish energy company, is suing Germany for $5 billion euros because [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel, a conservative, said we're going to shut down nuclear after Fukushima. These are examples. That has been the history of 25 years of so-called improvements in side agreements in trade.
"Chapter after chapter [of the TPP] was written by corporate lobbyists. Nothing was written by people like me."
MJ: And you don't think TPP fixes those problems?
LC: Chapter after chapter was written by corporate lobbyists. Nothing was written by people like me. There was a little side panel on labor and the environment and they didn't do a single thing we wanted.
MJ: Obama has framed the TPP as part of his "pivot to Asia," arguing basically that this is really a diplomatic mission aimed at counteracting the influence of China.
LC: That's what they wrap this in. But what it really is about is all the multinational corporations that are cheering this deal because they will reign supreme in all 12 countries. That is the core of our foreign policy. Just look at our embassies around the word. In Honduras they throw in one person on human rights. This person says, "I am totally overwhelmed. People are killed here, killed there—it's a police state." And then the Commerce Department has 15, 20 people in Honduras promoting US multinationals there, from Fruit of the Loom to you name it. It's way off.
MJ: How did your meeting with Obama come about?
LC: It was May of 2015. I'd been criticizing TPP at the time and they said, "He'd like to talk to you." What he told me was: "I am too far down the road to change." He repeated it over and over.
MJ: So you got a sense that he kind of agreed with you?
LC: No, he never agreed with me. His point of view was that this was significantly better than any other trade agreement on the things that I cared about. He did most of the talking. The joke I made at the end was: I grew up as the only kid. There were five adults in my great grandmother's rural house in North Philadelphia. These were big talkers. Once in a while, I got to talk, and they never listened to a thing I said. And I told the president, "I love you very much anyway."
MJ: What did he say?
LC: He laughed. They all laughed.
MJ: So after that meeting you kept fighting against TPP—and you almost derailed it.
LC: Right, June 27. They needed 60 votes to pass fast-track authority for the deal. We lost in the Senate by one vote.
MJ: And that's when you decided to do something different.
LC: In September I said, "I am not going to run again [for CWA president]. I feel like we are in a box. I want to go back to movement building."
MJ: So you joined the Sanders campaign as a senior advisor.
LC: Yeah, I worked full time, unpaid.
"We call it trade, but it really isn't trade. It's how we rig it."
MJ: On the trade issue?
LC: Yeah, that was my job.
MJ: What did you do, specifically?
LC: In Lansing, Michigan, we set up a trade forum with Bernie and the media and brought in a whole bunch of people who gave firsthand reports about what they had experienced.
We did a nonpartisan march through Indianapolis. Carrier, which is owned by United Technologies, announced a shutdown of their heating and furnaces plant—1,900 jobs moving to Monterrey, Mexico, at $3 an hour. Bernie spoke at the march and it was 100 percent about trade.
On the South Side of Chicago, we did a big event in front of the Nabisco plant in the middle of winter with the workers there, mostly black. They had announced they are moving the Oreo cookie line, over 1,000 jobs out of that plant, to Mexico.
Bernie wrote op-eds on trade. He did a thing in Pittsburgh, We had a thing called "Labor for Bernie" that I helped organize, bringing in tens of thousands of active union members.
MJ: Can you point to any particular moment in the campaign when it became clear that the trade issue was really resonating with voters?
LC: Definitely Michigan.
MJ: Sanders' primary victory there was a big upset.
LC: There were dramatic results there from what we believed was, in part, that work. I would give the credit to Bernie. He really thinks that the way the global economy is working is at the center of what's wrong. We call it trade, but it really isn't trade. It's how we rig it.
MJ: As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton helped set up the negotiations for TPP, so it was surprising when she came out against it in October. Did you see that coming?
"I think Hillary made a very careful calculation: If she had not come out against TPP, she would have lost to Bernie Sanders."
LC: Gradually. The pressure was enormous. I think she made a very careful calculation: If she had not come out against TPP, she would have lost to Bernie Sanders. She never could have provided enough cover to the national labor unions that endorsed her campaign without that flip.
MJ: Did you then start to see other prominent Democrats follow her lead?
LC: No. Tim Kaine would be the next prominent Democrat, and that was only when it was announced that he would be vice president.
MJ: Interesting. So what were you doing heading into the Democratic convention?
LC: Bernie put trade right at the top of his list. We had five people on the platform drafting committee out of 16. There was a meeting in St. Louis where the draft got finalized. The language had said that Democrats are "divided" on the TPP. The platform committee itself had I think 188 people, of which we had 72. They realized they had a problem. They took out "Democrats are divided" and instead they listed a bunch of standards that are actually pretty decent. The document concludes by saying, "Trade deals must meet this standard." We had an amendment that said, "Therefore, we oppose the TPP." It lost 106 to 74. So we got 2 votes from the Clinton appointees and our 72.
MJ: If Clinton really opposes the TPP, why would most of her platform committee reps oppose that language?
LC: The reason is, I think, that the White House said, "This is a total embarrassment to us. You are our secretary of state. We are not going to put up with that. We don't want any opposition to the TPP in the platform."
MJ: Why didn't you take it to a floor vote?
LC: We could have, because you only need 25 percent of the platform committee to go to the floor, but Bernie's view was that we would get the same thing. We would lose, and then it would look like the Democratic Party doesn't oppose the TPP.
"On Monday night [at the DNC] we had the giant TPP forum with 800 delegates. We actually practiced the chants of 'No TPP!'"
MJ: So you orchestrated a protest instead. People who watched the convention on TV may still remember all the anti-TPP signs. How did that come about?
LC: On Monday night we had the giant TPP forum with 800 delegates. That's where we sort of revved up the signs and the stickers and the chants of "No TPP!" We actually practiced that in the room.
MJ: Whose idea was it to do that?
LC: Me and others who organized the forum. We knew we had to use it as a springboard. That is what a political convention is supposed to be. It's not just about falling in line. In my opinion, Hillary Clinton is opposed to TPP, so we should be saying it publicly so we don't give ground to Trump.
MJ: What is your take on how the trade backlash happened within the GOP?
LC: It's voters. Hillary Clinton would say the same thing. "I listened to voters." People get it. They look at the numbers about jobs or incomes or the trade deficit, and they see the results.
MJ: Trade might be the only thing Trump and Sanders agree on.
LC: At an ideological level, we don't have the same views of fair trade at all. Our view would be that workers rights and the environment need to count as much as corporate profits, and Trump's view would be just that it's "a bad deal."
MJ: Do you think you can build an effective bipartisan coalition on trade?
LC: With regular people we can do that. But it's not like our part of the movement can unite with whatever that part is in the Republican Party. There's some acknowledgement of each other. That's about it. I just got off a call earlier making a plan for the next few months. We don't have any of them to make a plan with.
MJ: Do you think TPP will be addressed in the lame duck session?
LC: Only once can TPP be sent to Congress by any president. If it is sent before the election, it's really gonna get attacked. Anyone who is in a vulnerable district, that issue is gonna go way to the top. The White House could send it after the election but they are not even guaranteed the vote. So they are caught here. They can't send it unless they think they have the best chance they possibly have to pass it. That's why you have [House Speaker Paul] Ryan doubting it for lame duck.
MJ: So they might just wait until the next administration?
LC: Yeah, but we're not going to give on that. We are going to mobilize constantly on it.
MJ: And beyond the TPP?
LC: The only thing that the president really controls is trade policy. Congress reacts, the president acts. I do think there is a ground swell for not bringing Wall Street people into the US Trade Representative's office and taking it over. That has been going on either directly or indirectly for decades.
MJ: What should the overarching principles be?
"We need to have plain, simple language where we count just as much as the richest corporations."
LC: Balanced trade should be a major factor: The net effect on jobs. Consequences about manufacturing. What happens to different employment sectors in our country. But also, ending the investor state dispute settlement. There should be issues about the environment or workers rights or human rights that can trump national courts in the same way that investment rights do now.
MJ: This stuff is obviously important, yet when politicians talk about it, people's eyes often glaze over. How do you keep voters engaged?
LC: Only by saying to people quite bluntly, "This is not about trade, it is fundamentally about the way in which large foreign corporations rig the global economy." We need to have plain, simple language that regulates the global economy where we count just as much as the richest corporations in the world. That's what people react to.