- Ronald Reagan was right saying:
- "Government is not a solution to our problem, government
is the problem."
- His type governance, that is, and from administrations
that followed, Democrats as ruthless as Republicans.
- For decades, bipartisan consensus governed lawlessly,
waging imperial wars, trashing human rights and civil liberty protections,
unabashedly backing monied interests, letting them loot the federal treasury,
fleecing working Americans, and targeting organized labor for destruction.
- Washington is ground zero for government's assault. Outside
the beltway, it's Wisconsin, but spreading fast to other states and cities.
An unfair fight pits major media-supported federal, state and local governments
allied with union bosses against American workers, largely on their own,
relying on their grit and resourcefulness to survive in a very hostile
- Threatened are hard-won worker rights, including secure
jobs, a living wage, essential benefits, and the right to bargain collectively
with management to protect them. They're going, going, and soon gone unless
mass grassroots activism saves them, what's so far absent. Wisconsin worker
heroics are impressive, but not enough.
- Much more is needed - there and across America, because
workers in all states and communities are threatened, their rights being
trashed and have been for decades, especially since the Carter administration
drafted plans Reagan implemented:
- Firing over 11,000 PATCO workers, jailing its leaders,
fining the union millions of dollars, and effectively busting it for monied
interests. It was a shot across organized labor's bow, a clear message
to Wall Street and other corporate favorites - supported by then AFL-CIO
president Lane Kirkland, one of many labor bosses who betrayed rank and
file trust. They still do for their own self-interest. No wonder organized
labor is a shadow of its former self, headed for extinction unless stopped.
- Reagan's administration set the pattern. Union bosses
conspired with management against their own membership. During bitter coal
miner, steel worker, bus driver, airline worker, copper miner, auto worker,
and meatpacking worker strikes, they denied rank and file support, assuring
them defeat. At decade's end, trade unionism in America was decimated and
kept declining since, heading for oblivion with little pressure to stop
- Obama's war on labor shows he matches Republican harshness.
He abandoned US auto workers for management forcing:
- -- plant closures;
- -- jobs shipped abroad;
- -- permanent ones lost;
- -- lower wages;
- -- gutted work rules, including on-the-job health and
safety protections; and
- -- forfeited security through lost benefits and pensions,
including for retirees, besides everything lost in 2007 under Bush.
- Obama also abandoned the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)
after promising support. If enacted, it would have been labor's most impressive
triumph since passage of the landmark 1935 Wagner Act, letting labor bargain
collectively for the first time with management on even terms.
- It would have mandated good faith bargaining as a fundamental
right, protected from management or government interference.
- It also would have strengthened Wagner Act provisions
to unionize, bargain collectively through chosen representatives, and provide
other worker protections. It would have leveled the playing field to empower
them more than since Taft-Hartley weakened them significantly.
- It would have affirmed the 1937 Supreme Court Virginia
Railway Co. v. Railway Employees decision that "employees (have) the
right to organize and bargain collectively through a representative of
their own selection, doing away with company interference and 'company
- Also, the Courts 1937 National Labor Relations Board
v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation ruling that J & L engaged
in unfair labor practices by "discriminating against members of the
union with regard to hire and tenure of employment, and was coercing and
intimidating its employees in order to interfere with their self-organization."
It said union representation "was essential (to) give laborers opportunity
to deal (equally) with their employer," public workers afforded the
same rights as private ones.
- No longer. We've come a long way from New Deal policies
and fair Justices. Today's Democrats, Republicans, and courts are supremely
pro-business, especially the Roberts Court, selected to be anti-labor,
in the tank for monied interests, and it shows.
- Big Media Bashes Labor
- On February 17, Media Matters headlined, "Right-Wing
Media Freak Out Over Union Protests," quoting Fox News hosts and guests
- -- Glenn Beck calls union protests "riots"
and "uprisings," adding that "Evil (is) spreading around
- -- Hard-right commentator Michelle Malkin said protesters
"stormed" the Capitol, using students as "kiddie human shields....sacrificial
lambs," also calling demonstrators "union thugs;"
- -- Republican strategist Kate Obenshain told Sean Hannity:
"We see something that's going on, say, in Wisconsin, where they have
the rallies for the teachers, where teachers are yanking kids out of the
classrooms and calling in sick - totally lying...;" and
- -- Fox's Tracy Byrnes called Wisconsin protests "actually,
borderline gonna get violent, it sounds like" when, in fact, they've
been remarkably peaceful unlike how extremist right-wingers agitate.
- CNN is just as bad, competing with Fox for bottom-of-the-barrel
honors, but nothing on corporate TV or radio has merit. Nor in print; to
wit, Time magazine's Joe Klein in his February 18 article headlined, "Wisconsin:
The Hemlock Revolution," saying:
- In the Middle East, "protesters are marching for
democracy; in the middle west, they're protesting against it....trying
to prevent a vote....(trying) to stymie majority rule...."
- Republicans won, said Klein. "In a democracy, there
are consequences to elections and no one, not even the public employees
union, are exempt from that." Even labor contacts aren't sacrosanct
he believes. "We hold elections to decide" those things. "And
it seems to me that Governor Scott Walker's basic requests are modest ones...."
- If Time prints this anti-labor screed and similar op-eds,
why should Fox surprise? America's entire corporate establishment, including
big media, is united against labor rights, targeting them for destruction.
- Even the New York Times opposes closed schools and public
services blocked for any reason, no matter how important doing it is to
force change, what's never possible without it and much more. Timidity
yields nothing but tears.
- Like other Wall Street Journal writers and its editorial
staff, Steven Malanga is no friend of labor, his February 22 WSJ article
headlined, "The Showdown Over Public Union Power," saying:
- "Public unions (are) among the biggest players in
national politics," contributing millions compared to billions from
corporate donors way out-muscling them. "If Gov. Walker succeeds....other
reformers will follow (to) restrict public-sector" union power. It
"would give opponents around the country a new playbook to follow
in countering the rich resources and deep influence of public unions over
taxes and spending."
- No wonder observers call WJS opinion writers the print
version of Fox News, both Murdoch owned, his editorial policy rigorously
- In spring 2009, the corporate media enthusiastically
embraced Obama's assault on auto worker rights for decent jobs, a living
wage and essential benefits, including pensions. The New York Times took
the lead, supporting General Motors' "government-backed bankruptcy
process," saying it would let GM "discard (its) liabilities and
unwanted assets and produce a profitable, albeit smaller, car company,"
with thousands fewer employees.
- The Financial Times agreed, listing preferred "liabilities"
to be shed, including "legacy" ones, meaning pensions and healthcare
benefits. The Washington Post said it's "important that the president
did not flinch in demanding even deeper concessions from workers."
The Wall Street Journal said it was "glad the Administration is at
least talking a tougher line on bankruptcy than Mr. Bush (to) force the
companies and their unions to make the hard decisions that politics may
still let them avoid."
- The unanimity of corporate managed news offered support
then and now against worker rights they disdain, and why not. They're giants
with large workforces they want without rights, beyond minimal ones too
little to matter.
- On August 20, 1999, New York Times writer Tom Friedman
headlined, "Foreign Affairs; An American in Paris," saying:
- "The most important thing (Ronald) Reagan did was
break the 1981 air traffic controllers' strike, which helped break the
hold of organized labor over the US economy." Crushing workers gave
US corporations greater flexibility to invest in new labor-saving equipment,
technology and methods to cut staff, pay less, and achieve great cost savings,
said Friedman. He practically gloated about the collapse of labor rights,
weaker now after a decade under Bush and Obama.
- More recently on May 8, 2010, Friedman headlined, "Root
Canal Politics," denouncing workers for believing in the "tooth
fairy," expecting government services without paying for them. Baby
boomers, he said, had "eaten through all that abundance like hungry
locusts." After getting their way for decades, "it's now going
to be, mostly, about taking things away. Goodbye Tooth Fairy politics,
hello Root Canal politics." He barely concealed joy, crowing over
worker pain like all pro-business columnists, even ones claiming progressive
- On February 21, The Times featured commentaries from
anti-union advocates like Professor Daniel DiSalvo headlining, "Hitting
the Unions Where It Hurts," saying:
- Walker wants "to dismantle (the) dysfunctional,
circular relationship between unionized government employees, the politicians
they help elect, and the rising wages and benefits to which they commit
government." In fact, wages have stagnated for over three decades,
and essential benefits have eroded.
- Nonetheless, DiSalvo took sides, saying, "If successful,
Walker's plan may (make) Wisconsin (more) like Texas or Virginia (where)
most collective bargaining in the public sector is illegal and the percentage
of unionized public employees is paltry." He hopes Wisconsin "will
have as bright a fiscal outlook" as those states, affording workers
there few or no rights.
- Christian Schneider also got space headlining, "Fiscally
Modest, Politically Bold," saying:
- Walker only asks workers to "accept modest changes
to their benefits, or face losing their jobs." False, layoffs are
coming and without collective bargaining power no job or essential benefit
is safe. "Public employee unions will continue to protest," said
Schneider, "even though (Walker) is the first politician who has told
them the truth in ages." In fact, Obama backs the same policies, enforcing
them since taking office.
- Even the hard-right Heritage Foundation got space, James
Sherk headlining "FDR Warned Us," saying:
- "Government workers....don't generate profits. They
merely negotiate for more tax money." In fact, like private sector
ones, they deserve similar rights. Moreover, unlike corporate predators,
they earn, not steal what they get, what Sherk noticeably side-stepped.
Instead, he hailed Walker's plan, saying it "reasserts voter control
over government policy," perhaps forgetting public workers also vote
and deserve officials treating them equitably.
- A Final Comment
- Mass protests in Wisconsin continue. Tuesday was day
eight. Involved are over 200,000 state workers and supporters, including
students and teachers. Key is preserving collective bargaining rights without
which no others are safe. Neither side so far is budging, Walker ordered
by Republican leaders to hold fast. Other states are watching, governors
there to grab all Walker gets, or more like in Ohio where Governor Kasich's
bill is even more draconian.
- Though major demonstrations continue, the Wisconsin Education
Association Council (WEAC), representing 98,000 teachers, told its members
to return to work. Other unions also expect the bill's passage, perhaps
before week's end. So far, absent Democrat senators remain secluded in
neighboring Illinois, denying Republicans a quorum. They continue being
hardline. Sooner or later expect Democrats to concede. When they return,
Walker can declare victory.
- Nonetheless, rank and file opposition remains strong,
including among teachers, students and supporters traveling long distances
to march and protest in Madison. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Teaching
Assistants Association (TAA) called for a "teach-out," replacing
a walkout saying, "We are calling for instructors to use their discretion
to cancel classes, reschedule them or hold them off campus."
- Demonstrations around the country support them from Maryland
and New Hampshire to Nevada and Olympia, Washington, knowing workers there
can expect their own moment of truth. It's spreading everywhere, pitting
bought-and-paid-for-pols allied with union bosses against working Americans.
They're fighting for hard-won rights fast eroding toward elimination unless
mass activism draws the line and holds it, no matter what. Their choice
now is fight or lose. There's no middle ground against forces unwilling
- 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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