- For decades, organized labor has been hammered after
painful years of organizing, taking to the streets, going on strike, holding
boycotts, battling police and National Guard forces, and paying with their
blood and lives before real gains were won.
- Important ones included an eight hour day, a living wage,
essential benefits including healthcare and pensions, and the pinnacle
of labor's triumph with passage of the landmark 1935 Wagner Act, establishing
the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It guaranteed labor the right
to bargain collectively with management on equal terms for the first time,
what's now sadly lost.
- After signing it on July 5, 1935, Franklin Roosevelt
- "This Act defines....the right of self-organization
of employees in industry for the purpose of collective bargaining, and
provides methods by which the Government can safeguard that legal right....A
better relationship between labor and management is the high purpose of
this Act....it seeks for every worker within its scope, that freedom of
choice and action which is justly his....it should serve as an important
step toward the achievement of just and peaceful labor relations in industry."
- Grassroots activism won important gains. Management gave
nothing until forced nor did government, siding always with business, yielding
only to stop sustained disruptive work stoppages, street violence or possible
- In 1935, a worried Congress and administration acted.
After WW II, however, organized labor declined. Passage of the 1947 Taft-Hartley
Labor-Management Relations Act was the first major blow. Harry Truman vetoed
it, calling it a "slave labor bill," then hypocritically used
it 10 times, the most ever by a president to this day.
- Under Reagan, labor rights declined precipitously, beginning
in August 1981 by firing 11,000 striking PATCO air traffic controllers,
jailing its leaders, fining the union millions of dollars, effectively
busting and declaring war on organized labor by a president openly contemptuous
of worker rights.
- From then to now, so are Democrats and Republicans, exacting
a devastating toll thereafter. From union membership's post-war 1950s 34.7%
high, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following on January
- In 2010, membership ranks declined from 12.3% in 2009
to 11.9% currently, a shadow of its former self in collapse. "The
number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions declined by 612,000
to 14.7 million." Among public sector workers, 36.7% are organized
compared to 6.9% for private sector ones, down from 30% in 1958, their
- According to 2009 BLS figures, organized public sector
ranks surpassed private ones for the first time, even though commerce and
industry employs five times more workers.
- Today, the US Postal Service has three times more than
auto companies, no thanks to corrupted union bosses colluding with business
and government, betraying their rank and file. As a result, labor historian
Paul Buhle sees organized labor collapsing, and labor author Robert Fitch
compared American workers to "owners of a family car whose wheels
fell off long ago. Each family member (now must rely) on their own two
feet; they scarcely remember what it was like being able to ride together."
They don't recall once having rights long ago stripped and lost.
- Why? Because union bosses sold out, siding with employers,
getting big salaries and fancy perks, and being more concerned with their
own welfare than rank and file members they represent. Or so they claim.
- Continuing where Reagan/Bush, Clinton and Bush II left
off, Obama colluded with union bosses to impose his business-friendly agenda
on working Americans, gutting their rights methodically since taking office.
- Should his gutless response to Wisconsin protesters surprise?
- February 16 Milwaukee WTMJ television interview, he posed
fraudulently as worker-friendly, saying:
- "Everybody's got to make some adjustments to new
fiscal realities," endorsing wage cuts to "save jobs," adding:
- "Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin,
where you're just making it harder for public employees to collectively
bargain, generally seems like more of an assault on unions."
- This by a president who disdains working Americans. Many
thought his election would end Bush era politics. Instead they intensified
by trashing worker rights, including under an appointed Auto Task Force,
eliminating tens of thousands of jobs, ravaging communities, imposing draconian
new hire demands, and appointing a "pay czar" to reward management.
- His administration endorses the "new normal,"
including 22% + unemployment, poverty wages, eroding benefits, and pensions
targeted for elimination to help states and enrich corporate bosses more.
Yet for some, he's a "people's president," a man with a message:
"Change," and "Yes We Can." Yes he did, in fact, serve
corporate interests, not loyal constituents he trashed for big money.
- Feigning support for Wisconsin protesters, he said nothing
about Governor Walker's threat to use National Guard force against them,
a clear constitutional First Amendment assault.
- Protesters so far are undaunted, their ranks growing
and spreading across the state in solidarity, but to what avail. Expected
passage of Walker's bill was only was delayed when Senate Democrats walked
out. They took refuge in neighboring Illinois, ignoring a Republican "call
of the House," sending police off to find them, a shameless political
- Their maneuver, in fact, is delay, negotiate, co-op union
bosses, and reach accommodation with Walker and majority Republicans. As
a result, the fix is in to force first-step draconian measures, more coming
later, including concessions on collective bargaining rights. Activists
know the scheme well, University of Wisconsin-Superior Professor Joel Sipress
- "We all know that this is part of a broader assault
on the ability of working people in this state and this country to have
decent, humane lives. The same people who want to strip public workers
of their rights - they're the same (ones) who want to say to all of us
'it is a sink-or-swim society.' We will not allow Wisconsin to become a
state where the working people live off the scraps that are thrown to them
by the economic elite."
- Protests Spread to Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Perhaps
- Building on Middle East and Wisconsin momentum, over
1,000 people rallied in Ohio's Columbus Statehouse on February 15, opposing
Senate Bill 5 (SB5), a measure eliminating collective bargaining rights
for 40,000 state workers, reducing it for firefighters, police, teachers,
and others, as well as facilitating other draconian measures when existing
contracts expire. They include wage and benefit cuts, elimination of seniority-based
pay increases and job security, heading toward ending all worker rights,
including empowering government to abrogate worker contracts in case of
- Similar anti-worker schemes are proceeding in other states,
including California, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire,
Tennessee, and eventually perhaps most, if not all, unless sustained Wisconsin
momentum intervenes everywhere.
- In Ohio, Republican legislators and Governor John Kasich
(a former congressional Republican stalwart), support SB5. The bill's author,
Senator Shannon Jones, backed it "to give the government flexibility
and control over its workforce," leaving no doubt where she, Kasich
and most state lawmakers stand - united against worker equity, job security,
wages, benefits, and pension rights to make Ohio more "competitive"
- Angry workers responded, knowing their hard-won gains
will be lost if SB5 passes which seems likely. Lashing out, a firefighter
told AP: "When you take away collective bargaining, we have no rights
at all." At a Columbus press conference, a retired state employee
- "We're not going back to the 20th century. We're
going back to the 19th century. These are the stories that Charles Dickens
wrote about, those kind of employers. If you allow this to happen, what
- Kasich said he's committed to SB5, regardless of public
sentiment, adding that if passage fails, he'll prohibit state worker strikes
in his upcoming budget proposal. In mid-February, addressing the Ohio Newspaper
Association, he said:
- "I can promise you that big-city mayors favor what
I'm doing. They want this. They're not going to tell you that, but they
want this," meaning, of course, he'll assure they get it and more.
- Indiana workers take note. On January 27, AP's Deanna
Martin headlined, "Indiana panel OKs bill limiting teacher bargaining,"
- "A Republican-controlled Senate committee advanced
a contentious proposal....critics contend would strip Indiana teachers
of their collective bargaining rights." It's a measure Republican
Governor Mitch Daniels supports as part of his sweeping education agenda.
- If enacted, only wage and benefits negotiating will be
permitted. Local contracts henceforth will exclude the right to bargain
on evaluation and dismissal procedures, working conditions, and other related
issues. Special education teacher Diana Koger told lawmakers that proposed
measures strip teachers of all rights, giving school boards full authority.
- Nonetheless, passage by Indiana's Republican seems likely,
step one before targeting all state workers.
- On February 18, Michigan's WILX television reported state
worker protests over cuts, saying their message is "Enough is enough,"
rallying in the Lansing capital to make lawmakers and Republican Governor
Rick Snyder listen.
- Chanting "Legislators get the gold mine, workers
get the shaft," they rallied outside the Capitol building against
Snyder's budget proposal, wanting public workers to absorb $180 million
dollars in cuts, including hundreds of eliminated jobs.
- One worker had it right saying:
- "They can fire every state employee....but you're
not going to fix the budget cause you're not generating revenue. Everyone....is
responsible for this debt, not just state employees, not just the poor,
not just kids trying to get an education."
- According to Ken Moore, president of the Michigan State
Employees Association, "Let's close up the corporate loopholes where
come of the big money's at. Let's close those up so we can get back to
a reasonable budget." He wants workers to be part of the solution,
not a casualty they're becoming as in other states across the country.
As a result, Main Street America is becoming a wasteland, a backwater,
facing inhumane third world harshness.
- Dismissive Major Media Responses
- On February 17, New York Times writer Monica Davey headlined,
"Democrats Missing, Wisconsin Vote on Cuts Is Delayed," saying:
- They walked out, "Republicans fumed," and Senator
Michael Ellis called it "disgraceful that people who are paid to be
here have decided to skip town." He's right because they're coming
back to support a marginally changed bill too little to matter. The fix
is in, worker rights are being trashed. It's disgraceful in Wisconsin and
- A same day Times editorial headlined, "Gov. Walker's
Pretext," feigning worker sympathy clearly evident in shameless concluding
- "Keeping schools closed and blocking certain public
services is not a strategy we support and could alienate public opinion
and play into the governor's hand."
- Times management one-sidedly supports wealth and power
interests, not populist ones it disdains.
- So do Wall Street Journal op-ed and editorial writers,
producing the print version of Fox News, Murdock, of course, owning both.
- On February 18, the lead editorial headlined, "Athens
in Mad Town (Mad for Madison)," saying:
- Thousands of Wisconsin workers "swarmed the state
capitol and airwaves to intimidate lawmakers and disrupt Governor Scott
Walker's plan to level the playing field between taxpayers and government
- "Mr. Walker's very modest proposal would take away
the ability of most government employees to collectively bargain for benefits,"
except for wages no greater than annual CPI increases.
- Saying Mr. Walker has no other choice to close his budget
gap, comments entirely omitted what's absent in all major media reports
- making corporations and America's aristocracy pay their fair share. Nothing
in The New York Times, Washington Post, WSJ, other major broadsheets or
on corporate TV, backing monied interests, not worker rights they disdain.
- On February 18, Washington Post writers Brady Dennis
and Peter Wallsten lied headlining, "Obama joins Wisconsin's budget
battle, opposing Republican anti-union bill," when, in fact, his rhetoric
- "The battle in the states underscores the deep philosophical
political divisions between Obama and Republicans over how to control spending
and who should bear the costs," they said, when, in fact, they only
disagree on timing, united in supporting monied, not populist, interests.
- On February 18, Financial Times writer Hal Weitzman also
ducked real issues headlining, "Wisconsin deadlock as Democrats flee
budget vote," quoting Republican Senate leader Scott Fitzgerald saying:
- Democrats were "not showing up for work....That's
not democracy. That's not what this chamber is about."
- What's not democracy, of course, is trashing worker rights,
supporting wealth and power interests only, and mocking worker courage
to confront power no matter how daunting the challenge.
- Today, working Americans face losing more of their hard-won
rights because bipartisan collusion intends to trash them. Unless mass
activism erupts, America indeed is becoming a wasteland, a backwater on
a fast track toward tyranny and ruin, a bleak future no one should accept.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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