FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Thinking the Unthinkable

by DAVID MACARAY

Even though union membership hovers at about a 12-percent (down from a high of 35-percent in the 1940s and 1950s), there’s a way of looking at these figures that gives us cheer.  With the U.S. population at more than 300 million, that 12-percent figure converts to about 14.7 million members—which is pretty close to the total number of union workers you had back in the 1950s.

And because there is, undeniably, strength in numbers, let’s consider a tantalizing hypothetical.  What if America’s 14 million union members went on a spontaneous one-day strike to remind the country of just how important working people are, and how skewed and weird and mind-numbing our priorities have become?  Let’s take a moment to consider that.

Admittedly, right out of the chute there will be skeptics and naysayers who will argue that such a thing couldn’t happen—that it’s illegal, that it’s too ambitious to pull off, that it would be a logistical nightmare, that it could only end badly, etc.  But instead of jumping to conclusions, let’s examine these objections.

First, yes, it is illegal—particularly when you begin including people like police, firemen, nurses, postal workers, etc.  So maybe we’d have to consider making some exceptions.  Yes, federal workers could be fired for going on a wildcat strike.  Everyone still remembers 1981, when Reagan fired the Air Traffic Controllers for going out on what was technically an illegal strike.

But let’s look at it carefully.  First, we have Obama in office, not Reagan.  Second, unlike actual strikes, which can last for weeks or months, this is one-day strike.  And the fact that it’s a one-day deal will be made known in advance, which means employers won’t hire replacement workers and, very likely, won’t fire anyone.

Of course, America’s bosses will raise bloody hell and threaten to fire everybody—that’s what bosses do when they’re cornered—but because such a move would be utterly self-destructive (the costs associated with recruiting and retraining an entire workforce would be staggering), they won’t do anything….except simmer.

Let’s also remember that these aren’t lone wolves who can be picked off one by one.  These strikers will have a union to represent them.  Consider what happened in China and India a couple years ago when workers went out on spontaneous wildcat strikes.  When management fired the ringleaders, the workers threatened to call another wildcat unless they were hired back—which they were.  The same would happen here.  The message:  If you fire anyone, we’ll turn around and shut you down again.

In the worst case scenario, if there turned out to be some fines that had to be paid, let the union pay them.  After all, if there’s one thing organized labor has plenty of, it’s money.  Labor spent an estimated $400 million dollars on Democratic campaigns during the 2008 elections.

There’s another a advantage to a one-day strike.  While it’s difficult getting people to engage in explicitly political or time-consuming stuff—marching in parades, attending rallies, carrying placards, making phone calls or writing chain letters—all they have to do to pull off this protest is stay home.  Their very absence assures its success.

As for being a logistical nightmare, nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, given that we live in the Internet Age, and given that this would be a union-organized, union-administered event (i.e., working off up-to-date membership rosters), it would be a logistical piece of cake.

But what would a one-day strike achieve?  What good would it do?  At the very least it would get the nation’s attention and demonstrate the heretofore unrecognized and unappreciated fact that working people (the country’s largest voting bloc) possess a tremendous amount of leverage.

As a society, we’re more or less numbed-out.  There’s a huge disconnect between what’s going on around us and what’s being done in response.  Even though we’re involved in three wars, still recovering from the second-greatest financial crash in our history, and are watching the middle-class being systematically dismantled—you wouldn’t know it from the public’s response.  Nothing (or very little) is happening in the streets.

We need to react.  The public needs to be reminded that Wall Street ain’t the only entity with muscle.  History has shown that social movements have muscle.  And because the only bona fide social movement in place is the labor movement, it’s time for organized labor to lead the charge.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of “It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 01, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Hillary: Ordinarily Awful or Uncommonly Awful?
Rob Urie
Liberal Pragmatism and the End of Political Possibility
Pam Martens
Clinton Says Wall Street Banks Aren’t the Threat, But Her Platform Writers Think They are
Michael Hudson
The Silence of the Left: Brexit, Euro-Austerity and the T-TIP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Marx on Financial Bubbles: Much Keener Insights Than Contemporary Economists
Evan Jones
Ancillary Lessons from Brexit
Jason Hirthler
Washington’s Not-So-Invisible Hand: It’s Not Economics, It’s Empire
Mike Whitney
Another Fed Fiasco: U.S. Bond Yields Fall to Record Lows
Aidan O'Brien
Brexit: the English and Welsh Enlightenment
Jeremy R. Hammond
How Turkey’s Reconciliation Deal with Israel Harms the Palestinians
Margaret Kimberley
Beneficial Chaos: the Good News About Brexit
Phyllis Bennis
From Paris to Istanbul, More ‘War on Terror’ Means More Terrorist Attacks
Dan Bacher
Ventura Oil Spill Highlights Big Oil Regulatory Capture
Ishmael Reed
OJ and Jeffrey Toobin: Black Bogeyman Auctioneer
Ron Jacobs
Let There Be Rock
Ajamu Baraka
Paris, Orlando and Turkey: Displacing the Narrative of Western Innocence
Pete Dolack
Brexit Will Only Count If Everybody Leaves the EU
Robert Fantina
The First Amendment, BDS and Third-Party Candidates
Julian Vigo
Xenophobia in the UK
David Rosen
Whatever Happened to Utopia?
Andre Vltchek
Brexit – Let the UK Screw Itself!
Jonathan Latham
107 Nobel Laureate Attack on Greenpeace Traced Back to Biotech PR Operators
Steve Horn
Fracked Gas LNG Exports Were Centerpiece In Promotion of Panama Canal Expansion, Documents Reveal
Robert Koehler
The Right to Bear Courage
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Spin Masquerading as Science Courtesy of “Shameful White Men of Privilege”
Eoin Higgins
Running on Empty: Sanders’s Influence on the Democratic Party Platform
Binoy Kampmark
Who is Special Now? The Mythology Behind the US-British Relationship
Mark B. Baldwin
Russia to the Grexit?
Andrew Wimmer
Killer Grief
Manuel E. Yepe
Sanders, Socialism and the New Times
Franklin Lamb
ISIS is Gone, But Its Barbarity Still Haunts Palmyra
Mark Weisbrot
A Policy of Non-Intervention in Venezuela Would be a Welcome Change
Matthew Stevenson
Larry Cameron Explains Brexit
Cesar Chelala
How Tobacco Became the Opium War of the 21st Century
Joseph Natoli
How We Reached the Point Where We Can’t Hear Each Other
Andrew Stewart
Skip “Hamilton” and Read Gore Vidal’s “Burr”
George Wuerthner
Ranching and the Future of the Sage Grouse
Thomas Knapp
Yes, a GOP Delegate Revolt is Possible
Gilbert Mercier
Democracy Is Dead
Missy Comley Beattie
A Big F#*K You to Voters
Charles R. Larson
Mychal Denzel Smith’s “Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: a Young Black Man’s Education”
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Four Morning Ducks
David Yearsley
Where the Sidewalk Ends: Walking the Bad Streets of Houston’s Super-Elites
Christopher Brauchli
Educating Kansas
Andy Piascik
The Hills of Connecticut: Where Theatre and Life Became One
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail