FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

They’re Called “Scabs” for a Reason

by DAVID MACARAY

Legendary political satirist Mort Sahl (whom I’ve interviewed) used to tell this joke:  “If President Nixon saw a drowning man 20-feet from shore, he would throw him a 15-foot rope.  Then Henry Kissinger would go on television and solemnly announce that the president had met him more than halfway.”

If you substitute “Democrats” for “Nixon,” “organized labor” for “drowning man,” and “Obama” for “Kissinger,” you get an idea of how the Democratic Party has treated labor.  They pound their fists, they utter platitudes, they ask for donations, and they regularly remind the AFL-CIO that they have, indeed, met them more than halfway.

Unfortunately, halfway isn’t enough, not with the struggles labor is facing.  It’s no secret that there are plenty of things organized labor could use right now, starting with passage of the EFCA (which would give workers the right to card check).  Other things include closure of loopholes in federal labor laws, modification of Taft-Hartley, more NLRB field agents, fewer right-to-work states; and more creative minds running the AFL-CIO.

But the most important thing, undeniably, would be passage of a law prohibiting the permanent replacement of strikers. That piece of legislation would change everything.  When Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, “Labor cannot, on my terms, surrender the right to strike,” he acknowledged that working people have only one weapon at their disposal—i.e., withholding their labor.  Workers can scream and argue all they like, but without the threat of withholding their labor, they have no leverage.

Strikes are perfectly legal; they’ve been around for a couple hundred years and are recognized all over the Western world.  But if hitting the bricks is tantamount to economic suicide, it not only negates Brandeis’ central point about labor maintaining its right to strike, it practically gives businesses free rein, which, with the middle-class melting away like the earth’s glaciers, is the last thing we need.

Striker replacement legislation would make a tremendous difference.  It would unshackle the American worker.  It would liberate him, energize, inspire him.  Guaranteeing workers the right to return to their jobs would not only level the playing field, it would change the whole ballgame.

When I talk about this to other men, they either miss the point or smugly suggest that strikers deserve every bad thing that happens to them.  And I hear this from tough guys, men who view themselves as radicals of a sort, as rugged individualists, as rebellious free-thinkers.  Yet these “armchair revolutionaries” are so gutless, when they hear about working people rising up in protest, their first reaction is to side with the bosses.

Then there are those who miss the point entirely.  I’ve met people who think organized labor insists that businesses be shut down during a strike, that companies be deprived of their constitutional right to engage in commerce.  One person actually thought the referees union was demanding that the NFL not play any football games while the refs were on strike—that the whole football season come to a screeching halt.

If that weren’t so pathetic, it would be funny.  For openers, those refs weren’t on strike; they were locked out.  Moreover, if the NFL or any other business in America wants to use replacement workers (“scabs,” as they’ve been properly called), they are welcome to use all the untrained, inexperienced, unqualified workers they like.  (By the way, how’d that NFL experiment turn out?)

The critical thing here is that once a strike is settled—win, lose, or draw—the full-time, invested workers get their jobs back, and the temporary workers leave.  The jobs they’ve been poaching don’t belong to them.  They belong to the working men and women who made the sacrifice.  Just as we don’t allow squatters to take over our homes when we’re out of town, we shouldn’t allow scabs to take our jobs.

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:
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail