FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

If Obama Were Serious

by

Even President Obama’s most vociferous enemies would grudgingly admit that the man is a brilliant orator. His speech yesterday (April 8) on the subject of women being paid the same rate as men was nothing short of inspirational. His remarks included everything: steel-trap logic, a sense of fair play, the historical imperative.

But if Obama were serious about giving women advice on how to obtain equal pay for equal work—and wasn’t simply trying to convince eligible females to vote for the Democrats in the 2014 mid-term elections—he would have told them the truth. He would have told them that the only sure-fire way of being guaranteed the same rate of pay as a man is to work at a union job.

Unfortunately, given the success of the anti-union propaganda sweeping the country, Obama would very likely lose votes if he dared mention the virtues of organized labor, and no politician, even an orator as gifted as Obama, is going to utter a word that risks losing votes. So with women earning 77-cents for every dollar a man earns, Obama is forced to pretend that it’s the job of U.S. Congress to remedy the situation.

The truth of the matter is, without a union contract stipulating precisely how much each job pays (regardless of who’s working the job), management will try to finesse the word “equal” until it is practically drained of all meaning. They will always find a way to prove that the jobs being done by a man and woman are not “equal,” and that what the man is doing is worthy of more pay.

I have mentioned the following example before, but it bears repeating. There was an African-American woman who worked in a big-time factory, a paper mill. I shall call her “Lisa.” Lisa was a heavy-set woman in her mid-thirties, who struck everyone—union and management alike—as being “surly.” She took no guff off anyone, and was quick to remind you of that fact. Had she been a man, she would be considered single-minded and resolute. But because she was a woman, she was considered a “bitch.”

If this hadn’t been a union shop, they never would have allowed Lisa her shot at the top machine operator job, and they would have had a dozen reasons to back them up. They would’ve said she was too overweight to move about fluidly; they would have cited her “grouchiness”; they would have insisted that she didn’t have the mechanical aptitude; and they would have said she wasn’t “open-minded” enough to be taught new things. They would use any excuse to deny her the job.

But because it was a union shop, when it came Lisa’s turn (via her relative seniority) to be promoted to first operator, she was given that promotion. And wonder of wonders, Lisa proved to be the second-best (of 24 operators) tissue operator in the whole department. More surprisingly, she was put in charge of an all-woman machine crew, and this machine crew, with Lisa leading the way, out-performed 23 or the 24 other crews. In short, she was recognized as an exceedingly valuable production worker.

To the company’s credit, they admitted that Lisa’s demonstrable ability blew their minds. No one dreamed she could be that good. Again, if this hadn’t been a union shop, this overweight African-American woman “with an attitude” would never have been given the opportunity to prove herself. And prove herself she did. It ain’t Congress that’s the answer, Mr. President. It’s organized labor.

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd edition), is a former 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

January 24, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Reflections on DC: Promises and Pitfalls in the Anti-Trump Uprising
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Developer Welfare: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
Melvin Goodman
Trump at the CIA: the Orwellian World of Alternative Facts
Sam Mitrani – Chad Pearson
A Short History of Liberal Myths and Anti-Labor Politics
Kristine Mattis
Democracy is Not a Team Sport
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Mexico, Neo-Nationalism and the Capitalist World-System
Ted Rall
The Women’s March Was a Dismal Failure and a Hopeful Sign
Norman Pollack
Woman’s March: Halt at the Water’s Edge
Pepe Escobar
Will Trump Hop on an American Silk Road?
Franklin Lamb
Trump’s “Syria “Minus Iran” Overture to Putin and Assad May Restore Washington-Damascus Relations
Kenneth R. Culton
Violence By Any Other Name
David Swanson
Why Impeach Donald Trump
Christopher Brauchli
Trump’s Contempt
January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail