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 “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 31, 2016
NEVE GORDON - NICOLA PERUGINI
Human Shields as Preemptive Legal Defense for Killing Civilians
Jim Kavanagh
Turkey Invades Syria, America Spins The Bottle
Dave Lindorff
Ukraine and the Dumbed-Down New York Times Columnist
Pepe Escobar
Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, a Woman of Honor, Confronts Senate of Scoundrels
Jeff Mackler
Playing the Lesser Evil Game to the Hilt
Steve Horn
Dakota Access Pipeline Tribal Liaison Formerly Worked For Agency Issuing Permit
Patrick Cockburn
Has Turkey Overplayed Its Hand in Syria?
John Chuckman
Why Hillary is the Perfect Person to Secure Obama’s Legacy
Manuel E. Yepe
The New Cold War Between the US and China
Stephen Cooper
Ending California’s Machinery of Death
Stacy Keltner - Ashley McFarland
Women, Party Politics, and the Power of the Naked Body
Hiroyuki Hamada - Ikuko Isa
A Letter from Takae, Okinawa
Aidan O'Brien
How Did Syria and the Rest Do in the Olympics?
David Swanson
Arms Dealing Is Subject of Hollywood Comedy
Jesse Jackson
The Politics of Bigotry: Trump and the Black Voter
August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Sam Husseini
Why We Should All Remain Seated: the Anti-Muslim Origins of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
Dmitry Kovalevich
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus as Fear and Loathing Grip Europe
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
Paul Messersmith-Glavin
100 in Anarchist Years
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail