Solidarity in the New Gilded Age


Assuming that the polls and surveys are correct, and Barack Obama earns himself a second term as president, what are the odds that he will evolve into the kind of pro-union Democrat organized labor always hoped he would be?

Given what we’ve seen so far, the odds are slim.  After all, Obama and his attack dog Rahm Emanuel didn’t exactly go to the mat for the EFCA (Employee Free Choice Act), arguably one of the most important pieces of labor legislation since Taft-Hartley (1947).  After promising the AFL-CIO during the campaign that EFCA would be a priority item, the White House more or less ignored it.  So much for campaign rhetoric.

Still, as timid and naïve and untrustworthy as Obama may be, he isn’t stupid.  He has to know—both intellectually and emotionally—that without a system of checks and balances, this country is flirting with a version of corporate hegemony as lopsided as anything seen since the Gilded Age.  And with the exception of strong, militant labor unions acting as buffers, there is no force on earth capable of resisting corporate muscle, not on the global scale we’re now seeing.

Unless working people have some entity to represent their interests, they will be subject to any draconian measures Corporate America wishes to enact.  Without the perceived capability to fight back—without the means to offer genuine resistance—America’s workers are not only vulnerable, they’re virtually defenseless.

Anyone who thinks public opinion or natural selection or federal labor laws or the U.S. Supreme Court will stop the onslaught hasn’t been paying attention.  This is a war of economic aggression.  And if you want to see who’s winning that war, just take a look around.  The correlation between union membership and a thriving middle-class is clear:  the more people earning union wages and benefits, the stronger the American consumer class.

As bleak as it appears, there’s always hope.  Things are capable of changing radically and suddenly.  Consider Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring.  Neither phenomenon was predicted by anyone.  One could make the case that, if the middle-class continues to shrink at the rate it’s shrinking, we’ll be faced with three alternatives:  continuing our downward spiral, engaging in spontaneous “street revolutions” that will lead nowhere, or embracing a pro-worker institution already in place and ready to roll—labor unions.

Something sobering to contemplate.  Barack Obama could wake up the morning of January 21, 2013, with the brain of Walter Reuther, the heart of Harry Bridges, and the guts of Jimmy Hoffa, and still not be able to do a damned thing for working people.  Why not?  Because unless the Democrats gain control of the House, and a minimum of 60 seats in the Senate, he is powerless to get any labor legislation passed.

But wresting control of the House and Senate is a tall order.  And even if the Democrats were able, nominally, to gain control of both bodies (it’s been done before), there’s no guarantee these Democrats would behave like the proper, pro-labor Democrats we’d like them to be.  Indeed, we’ve had enough finks and phonies in Congress to last us a lifetime.

This all points to solidarity.  American workers need to take care of themselves rather than rely on politicians or public opinion to do it for them.  And taking care of themselves means banding together collectively.  Until they band together and appear threatening, no one is going to take them seriously.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Uri Avnery
There is No Such Thing as International Terrorism
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Patrick Cockburn
Nasty Surprises: the Problem With Bombing ISIS
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Bill Blunden
Glenn Greenwald Stands by the Official Narrative
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Karen Lee Wald
Inside the Colombia Peace Deal
Geoff Dutton
War in Our Time
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai Park: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability