On the News With Thom Hartmann: Apple Supplier and Human Rights Abuser FoxConn to Raise Wages, and More

In today's On the News segment: Hundreds of thousands demonstrated against austerity measures in Spain over the weekend, US Supreme Court suspends Montana court's prohibition against corporate spending in state elections, T-Mobile's German parent company will discuss hostile US working conditions, and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. From Greece to the U.K. to now Spain. Hundreds of thousands of workers took to the streets in 57 cities across Spain over the weekend to protest the Conservative government’s new austerity package and labor reforms. As many as a half-million people demonstrated in Madrid alone according to reports. Alongside new spending cuts – the Conservative government is slashing severance pay for workers and making it easier for companies to opt out of union contracts. Before the European debt crisis – Spain’s unemployment rate stood at just below 8% – but today it’s above 22% – which is the highest in the developed world. And as we’ve seen elsewhere across Europe – and in the United States – slashing government spending and taking money out of working people’s pockets only makes the situation worse.

The state of Montana is screwed like the rest of us. The unelected justices on the U.S. Supreme Court decided last week that the citizens of Montana have to give up their elections to deep-pocketed corporations like the rest of America. Choosing the side of three Montana corporations – the high court suspended a recent Montana state Supreme Court decision that upheld a 100-year old law banning corporate spending in state elections. By issuing the suspension – corporations will now have free rein to spend unlimited amounts of money in Montana elections – just as they can in every other state in America. On the bright side – since the high court merely suspended the ruling and has not yet overturned it – the door is open for a possible second hearing on Citizens United in the future. And now that we know just how damaging this radical ruling 2 years ago is to our democracy – maybe the court will be forced to reconsider it. But our best hope to overturning Citizens United will be through a constitutional amendment that says corporations are not people and money is not speech. Go to MoveToAmend.org to join the movement.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Like a giant boulder standing in the way of what the people of New Jersey want and what the state legislature passed – Governor Chris Christie vetoed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey on Friday. The veto comes despite a large majority of people in New Jersey approving the law – and wide majorities in both chambers of the state legislature passing the law. Unfortunately – the state legislature is a few votes shy of being able to override Governor Christie’s veto. The strike-down of equal rights in New Jersey comes just days after Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire in Washington State signed into law same-sex marriage – making her state the seventh in the nation to grant gays and lesbians equal marriage rights. American history is one of bringing more and more Americans into the fold – and not excluding them. But if Governor Christie wants to run for President on the Republican ticket in 4 years – he knows he can’t appear sympathetic to equal rights.

The plight of American T-Mobile workers is now getting some attention from overseas. A delegation of Deutsche Telekom workers – which is the German parent company of T-Mobile – and a member of the German Parliament are meeting with workers in the United States this week to discuss hostile work conditions within T-Mobile US. Unlike in the United States – workers at Deutsche Telekom are unionized and sit on the corporate board – giving them a meaningful voice in the company’s decisions. The purpose of the meeting is to call on the German government – which partially owns T-Mobile – to force the company to treat American workers better. Thanks to 30 years of Reaganomics – the United States has now become Germany’s cheap labor source.

Speaking of mistreated workers – Apple’s main supplier – and habitual human rights abuser – FoxConn announced plans to give their employees a pay raise. The move comes after more than a quarter-million people signed a petition on MoveOn.org demanding that Apple crack down on its suppliers who are engaging in abusive labor practices. Recent reports out of Chinese-based FoxConn describe a factory where workers toil for 14-hour shifts, collecting abysmally low pay, and share cramped dormitories with other workers. Suicides are so prevalent at the factory that nets were installed to catch people who jumped off the roof. Apple is one of the largest and most powerful corporations in the world – achieving its success through modern-day slave labor. And while a 25% pay increase for its supply workers in China is a step in the right direction, it’s time for American consumers to demand the company bring manufacturing back to the USA.

Move over climate change – could antibiotic-resistant diseases be the new biggest threat to mankind? Experts working with the British government have published a new study citing a “massive” increase in antibiotic resistance, which poses a tremendous risk to global health. The Chairman of the study – Professor Peter Hawkey described the rise in resistance as medicine’s equivalent of climate change. The study points to a 30% increase in cases of a resistant strain of E. coli. Already – 25,000 people die a year in the European Union as a result of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. And in a globalized world – diseases travel across oceans with ease.

Billionaire media tycoon Rupert Murdoch is back with a new weekend tabloid in the U.K. This week – Murdoch plans to launch The Sun on Sunday – a new Sunday paper to replace The News of the World, a paper which was forced to shut down amid the phone-hacking scandal last year that led to dozens of people being arrested and resigning. We’ll see if Murdoch intends to bring the same sort of journalistic integrity to The Sun on Sunday as he brought to the United States with Fox so-called News.

And finally – the first test-tube hamburger is expected to be created in a lab this year. Speaking at a science conference on Sunday – Dutch Scientist Mark Post announced his plans to create muscle tissue in the laboratory that is grown from meat stem cells. Post believes his lab meat will one day replace the entire animal-meat industry. Unclear what position PETA is taking on the test-tube meat.

And that’s the way it is today – Monday, February 20th, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.