FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Organized Labor in the Crosshairs

First you had a French company, Roquette Freres, announcing to its Keokuk, Iowa, employees that management had decided to unilaterally cut benefits and slash wages by $4 per hours, despite the fact that its Keokuk corn milling plant was profitable and its workers loyal and efficient.

When the BCTGM (Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers) Local 48G’s 240 members balked at what they saw as plain, old-fashioned extortion, the immediately company locked them out.  No talking, no compromising, no willingness to move.  They locked the doors on them.

I’ve corresponded by telephone and e-mail with Local 48G’s intrepid president, Steve Underwood, and while the stress level in Keokuk is understandably sky-high, Steve and his fellow members continue to hang in there—which is remarkable when you consider that these good people have been on the street since September 28, 2010.

Unfortunately, the scabs that Roquette Freres hired as replacement workers are now doing the very jobs that these union members developed and had been competently performing since the plant opened its doors, some 20 years ago.

Summarizing:  A French company moves to the Great Midwest—to Iowa, right smack in the middle of America’s heartland—and after setting up shop and getting the lay of the land, proceeds to assault the workers by putting a gun their heads and issuing an ultimatum:  Accept this contract or be prepared to lose your jobs.  It doesn’t get much more basic than that.

So much for France.  Now let’s do Germany.  A German-based company (Jamestown Properties, with headquarters in Cologne) purchases the landmark Madison Hotel in Washington D.C.—right smack in the middle of the nation’s capital, home to its monuments and hallowed institutions, the seat of American government—and, after taking over, on January 19, 2011, proceeds to assault its workforce.

The company announces, on January 31, that it has decided not only to refuse to recognize the existing contract between the previous owners and UNITE-HERE, the union representing 150 workers, but to more or less “fire” everybody and require them to re-apply for their jobs.  Simple as that.  No talking, no compromising, no willingness to move.  The decision was unilateral and final.  And it was done in the shadow of the Capitol Dome

Of course the irony here is staggering.  Indeed, if it weren’t so tragic, it would be comical.  As U.S. companies scan the globe for Third World workers willing to assemble products for near slave labor wages, European companies move to the U.S. because they know they can pull stunts here that they could never get away with at home.

And why couldn’t they get away with this stuff at home?   Answer:  Because there is too much muscle resisting them….muscle in the form of federal labor laws and muscle in the form of union credibility.  Not only do France and Germany have stronger labor laws than ours, they have a significantly larger proportion of unionized workers, and these workers are more respected by the public and more militant than ours.

The U.S. and Europe are engaged is a sort of economic danse macabre, with us looking to the Third World because their labor laws are weak and inviting, and Europe looking at us….for the exact same reasons.  Welcome to America, folks, where everything’s for sale, including workers’ dignity.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of “It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

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

September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
Kenn Orphan
The Power of Language in the Anthropocene
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
Puerto Rico’s Unnatural Disaster Rolls on Into Year Two
Rajan Menon
Yemen’s Descent Into Hell: a Saudi-American War of Terror
Russell Mokhiber
Nick Brana Says Dems Will Again Deny Sanders Presidential Nomination
Nicholas Levis
Three Lessons of Occupy Wall Street, With a Fair Dose of Memory
Steve Martinot
The Constitutionality of Homeless Encampments
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The Aftershocks of the Economic Collapse Are Still Being Felt
Jesse Jackson
By Enforcing Climate Change Denial, Trump Puts Us All in Peril
George Wuerthner
Coyote Killing is Counter Productive
Mel Gurtov
On Dealing with China
Dean Baker
How to Reduce Corruption in Medicine: Remove the Money
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail