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

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 08, 2016
John W. Whitehead
Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On
Mike Whitney
Rolling Back the Empire: Washington’s Proxy-Army Faces Decisive Defeat in Aleppo
Ellen Brown
“We’ll Look at Everything:” More Thoughts on Trump’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
John Stauber
The Rise and Fall of Obamacare: Will the Inside Story Ever be Told?
Ted Rall
Ameri-Splaining
Michael J. Sainato
Mainstream Media Continues Absolving Itself From Clinton, Trump Election Failures
Ralph Nader – Mark Green
Divest or Face Impeachment: an Open Letter to Donald Trump
Gareth Porter
US Airstrikes on Syrian Troops: Report Data Undermine Claim of “Mistake”
Martha Burke
What Trumponomics Means for Women
Ramzy Baroud
Fatah, Hold Your Applause: Palestinian Body Politic Rotten to the Core
Steve Horn
Jeff Sessions, Trump’s Attorney General Pick, Introduced First Bill Exempting Fracking from Drinking Water Rules
Joe Ware
The Big Shift: Why Banks Need to Stop Investing Our Money Into Fossil Fuels
Juliana Barnet
On the Ground at Standing Rock
Franklin Lamb
Aleppo Update: An Inspiring Return to the Bombed Out National Museum
Steve Kelly
Hidden Harmony: on the Perfection of Forests
December 07, 2016
Michael Schwalbe
What We Talk About When We Talk About Class
Karl Grossman
The Next Frontier: Trump and Space Weapons
Kenneth Surin
On Being Caught Speeding in Rural America
Chris Floyd
In Like Flynn: Blowback for Filth-Peddling Fascists
Serge Halimi
Trump, the Know-Nothing Victor
Paul DeRienzo
Flynn Flam: Neocon Ex-General to Be Trump’s National Security Advisor
Binoy Kampmark
Troubled Waters: Trump, Taiwan and Beijing
Tom Clifford
Trump and China: a Note From Beijing
Arnold August
Fidel’s Legacy to the World on Theory and Practice
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix a ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
John Kirk
Cuba After Fidel
Jess Guh
Repeal of Affordable Care Act is Politics Playing with the Wellbeing of Americans
Eric Sommer
Team Trump: a Government of Generals and Billionaires
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Reactions to the Death of Fidel Castro
John Garvey - Noel Ignatiev
Abolitionism: a Study Guide
Clancy Sigal
Caution: Conspiracy Theory Ahead!
December 06, 2016
Anthony DiMaggio
Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda
Richard Moser
Standing Rock: Challenge to the Establishment, School for the Social Movements
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
Warmongering 99 – Common Sense 0: the Senate’s Unanimous Renewal of Iran Sanctions Act
Norman Solomon
Media Complicity is Key to Blacklisting Websites
Michael J. Sainato
Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory
David Rosen
State Power and Terror: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock
Kim Ives
Deconstructing Another Right-Wing Victory in Haiti
Nile Bowie
South Korea’s Presidency On A Knife-Edge
Mateo Pimentel
Some Notes and a Song for Standing Rock
CJ Hopkins
Manufacturing Normality
Bill Fletcher Jr – Bob Wing
Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016
Peter Lee
Is America Ready for a War on White Privilege?
Pepe Escobar
The Rules of the (Trump) Game
W. T. Whitney
No Peace Yet in Colombia Despite War’s End
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail