FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Solidarity in the New Gilded Age

by DAVID MACARAY

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

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
W. T. Whitney
The Fate of Prisoner Simón Trinidad, as Seen by His U. S. Lawyer
Brian Platt
Don’t Just Oppose ICE Raids, Tear Down the Whole Racist Immigration Enforcement Regime
Paul Cantor
Refugee: the Compassionate Mind of Egon Schwartz
Norman Richmond
The Black Radical Tradition in Canada
Barton Kunstler
Rallying Against the Totalitarian Specter
Judith Deutsch
Militarism:  Revolutionary Mothering and Rosie the Riveter
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir Evoked a Lot More International Attention in the 1950s Than It Does Now
Adam Phillips
There Isn’t Any There There
Louis Proyect
Steinbeck’s Red Devils
Randy Shields
Left Coast Date: the Dating Site for the ORWACA Tribe
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bill Hayes’ “Insomniac City”
David Yearsley
White Supremacy and Music Theory
February 16, 2017
Peter Gaffney
The Rage of Caliban: Identity Politics, the Travel Ban, and the Shifting Ideological Framework of the Resistance
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Doublespeak: Israel’s Terrifying Vision for the Future
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail