FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The War on Labor

by JACK RANDOM

“When you are approaching poverty, you make one discovery which outweighs some of the others.  You discover boredom and mean complications and the beginnings of hunger, but you also discover the great redeeming feature of poverty: the fact that it annihilates the future.  Within certain limits, it is actually true that the less money you have, the less you worry.”

 

George Orwell, Down and Out in London and Paris

As a fan of George Orwell I have grown to wonder if too many of our political geniuses misinterpreted his classic work 1984 as a how-to book on controlling the masses.  Had they read his earlier autobiographical work Down and Out in London and Paris, they would have understood that Orwell was a man of the people and his sympathy was planted firmly with the poor, the outcast and the working class.

Of all the Orwellian phrases in common use these days one of the most egregious is the Right to Work.  Adopted in twenty-three states, right-to-work laws effectively ban labor unions by prohibiting workers from gaining union representation by a majority vote.  The Right to Work is the right of a worker to refuse to pay union dues.  Because unions gain power by representing workers as a united front in negotiations with management, right-to-work laws negate that power.

As a result of these union-busting laws, unions have ceased to function and workers earn less.  The average worker in a right-to-work state earns anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 less per year than workers in other states.  They receive less in health benefits, less in pension benefits and less protection from unsafe conditions or unfair dismissal.

Studies have been inconclusive on the decline of union representation as a result of right-to-work laws because unions must already have declined in order for such laws to be adopted.  The law therefore serves as a substantial roadblock to rebuilding a union movement.

The war on labor does not end with Right to Work.  Having decimated labor in the private sector (as of January 2011, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of union workers in the private sector fell to a 100-plus-year low of 6.9 percent), anti-labor forces have taken aim at the public sector.  The tactic of choice against police, firefighters, teachers and other government employees is attacking the right to collective bargaining and binding arbitration.

To fully comprehend this attack, you need to understand that government employees are often prohibited by law from striking to achieve fair treatment in negotiations with their employers.  In those cases where it is legal to strike, conscientious employees are loath to do so because of the harm it would do to students and communities.  Binding arbitration by an impartial body is an alternative to the strike.

When you take away the right to fair arbitration, you leave workers at the mercy of their employers and you cut the union off at its knees.

These same politicians who yearn for yesteryear when the middle class was strong and the American dream of upward mobility was still alive, neglect to tell you that those were the days when unions were on the rise.

The peak rate of union workers in this nation was the mid 1950’s.  After the experience of the Great Depression and the Second World War, Americans understood that if workers were to achieve financial security they needed representation to counter the power of corporations and bankers.  Combined with the GI Bill, enabling veterans to gain a college education, the union movement more than any other single phenomenon created the working middle class.

The statistics are staggering.  From a high of 35% of workers represented by a union to a low of 11.9 % today, if you wonder why wages have stagnated while corporate profits have exploded, look no further.

Both of the key strategies in the war on labor operate on the same principle:  divide and conquer.

The right-to-work laws divide the workforce into those who support the union, who feel a sense of responsibility to fellow workers, who recognize the need for unity in representation against the powerful, against those who will not sacrifice a red penny of their paycheck for the common good.

The assault on collective bargaining is an attempt to divide private workers, who have already lost their union rights, against public workers, who earn more and claim greater benefits because they have retained union representation.

We are all in this fight together.  If we wish to push back the most powerful force the world has ever encountered, corporate greed, we must unite against the tide.  The right to organize the workplace, the right to unionize, must be fought for and defended.

We are under siege.  We are the victims of a devastating fifty-year war against workers that is relentless and without mercy.  The corporations have taken control of our government with unlimited sponsorship of elected officials.  They have moved our industries to China, Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere, without any concern for the welfare of our nation or its people.  They have outsourced our technology service, drafting and infrastructure planning jobs to India.  They have reduced their share of tax responsibility to a minimum with offshore accounts and favorable legislation, forcing a beleaguered workforce to pick up the tab.  And they have done all this with a sense of entitlement.

We are just beginning to fight back.  We are beginning to understand that if we speak out in one voice, the 99 against the one, our politicians will begin to listen.  We are beginning to understand that fighting for labor rights overseas will bring the jobs that are rightfully ours back home.

China does not own America.

The low point in this war on labor was in 2010 when the anti-labor forces took control of our legislatures but they overplayed their hand.  In 2012 we must take back control and reverse the course of the nation.

The corporations do not own us.

The first part of the labor agenda must be to strike down right-to-work laws in the 23 states that now embrace them.  The most efficient means is a federal law affirming the principle of majority rule as fundamental to the rights of labor.  Barring that, states that uphold the rights of labor should establish a policy of preference to those states that do the same.  Right-to-work states should be held to account.  States that fail to acknowledge the basic right to organize the workplace should pay a price.

The second part of the labor agenda should be an affirmation of the right to collective bargaining and binding arbitration as an alternative to the general strike.  Again, federal law is the most efficient means to this end but state alternatives should serve to provide motivation should the federal government fail.

The corporations that have taken control of our government will cry foul.  They will accuse us of class warfare to which we will reply:  yes, but now we are fighting back.

Jack Random is the author of Jazzman Chronicles (Crow Dog Press) and Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press.)

Jack Random is the author of Jazzman Chronicles (Crow Dog Press) and Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press.)

More articles by:
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail