Thinking the Unthinkable

Even though union membership hovers at about a 12-percent (down from a high of 35-percent in the 1940s and 1950s), there’s a way of looking at these figures that gives us cheer.  With the U.S. population at more than 300 million, that 12-percent figure converts to about 14.7 million members—which is pretty close to the total number of union workers you had back in the 1950s.

And because there is, undeniably, strength in numbers, let’s consider a tantalizing hypothetical.  What if America’s 14 million union members went on a spontaneous one-day strike to remind the country of just how important working people are, and how skewed and weird and mind-numbing our priorities have become?  Let’s take a moment to consider that.

Admittedly, right out of the chute there will be skeptics and naysayers who will argue that such a thing couldn’t happen—that it’s illegal, that it’s too ambitious to pull off, that it would be a logistical nightmare, that it could only end badly, etc.  But instead of jumping to conclusions, let’s examine these objections.

First, yes, it is illegal—particularly when you begin including people like police, firemen, nurses, postal workers, etc.  So maybe we’d have to consider making some exceptions.  Yes, federal workers could be fired for going on a wildcat strike.  Everyone still remembers 1981, when Reagan fired the Air Traffic Controllers for going out on what was technically an illegal strike.

But let’s look at it carefully.  First, we have Obama in office, not Reagan.  Second, unlike actual strikes, which can last for weeks or months, this is one-day strike.  And the fact that it’s a one-day deal will be made known in advance, which means employers won’t hire replacement workers and, very likely, won’t fire anyone.

Of course, America’s bosses will raise bloody hell and threaten to fire everybody—that’s what bosses do when they’re cornered—but because such a move would be utterly self-destructive (the costs associated with recruiting and retraining an entire workforce would be staggering), they won’t do anything….except simmer.

Let’s also remember that these aren’t lone wolves who can be picked off one by one.  These strikers will have a union to represent them.  Consider what happened in China and India a couple years ago when workers went out on spontaneous wildcat strikes.  When management fired the ringleaders, the workers threatened to call another wildcat unless they were hired back—which they were.  The same would happen here.  The message:  If you fire anyone, we’ll turn around and shut you down again.

In the worst case scenario, if there turned out to be some fines that had to be paid, let the union pay them.  After all, if there’s one thing organized labor has plenty of, it’s money.  Labor spent an estimated $400 million dollars on Democratic campaigns during the 2008 elections.

There’s another a advantage to a one-day strike.  While it’s difficult getting people to engage in explicitly political or time-consuming stuff—marching in parades, attending rallies, carrying placards, making phone calls or writing chain letters—all they have to do to pull off this protest is stay home.  Their very absence assures its success.

As for being a logistical nightmare, nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, given that we live in the Internet Age, and given that this would be a union-organized, union-administered event (i.e., working off up-to-date membership rosters), it would be a logistical piece of cake.

But what would a one-day strike achieve?  What good would it do?  At the very least it would get the nation’s attention and demonstrate the heretofore unrecognized and unappreciated fact that working people (the country’s largest voting bloc) possess a tremendous amount of leverage.

As a society, we’re more or less numbed-out.  There’s a huge disconnect between what’s going on around us and what’s being done in response.  Even though we’re involved in three wars, still recovering from the second-greatest financial crash in our history, and are watching the middle-class being systematically dismantled—you wouldn’t know it from the public’s response.  Nothing (or very little) is happening in the streets.

We need to react.  The public needs to be reminded that Wall Street ain’t the only entity with muscle.  History has shown that social movements have muscle.  And because the only bona fide social movement in place is the labor movement, it’s time for organized labor to lead the charge.

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

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South