FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Solidarity in the New Gilded Age

Assuming that the polls and surveys are correct, and Barack Obama earns himself a second term as president, what are the odds that he will evolve into the kind of pro-union Democrat organized labor always hoped he would be?

Given what we’ve seen so far, the odds are slim.  After all, Obama and his attack dog Rahm Emanuel didn’t exactly go to the mat for the EFCA (Employee Free Choice Act), arguably one of the most important pieces of labor legislation since Taft-Hartley (1947).  After promising the AFL-CIO during the campaign that EFCA would be a priority item, the White House more or less ignored it.  So much for campaign rhetoric.

Still, as timid and naïve and untrustworthy as Obama may be, he isn’t stupid.  He has to know—both intellectually and emotionally—that without a system of checks and balances, this country is flirting with a version of corporate hegemony as lopsided as anything seen since the Gilded Age.  And with the exception of strong, militant labor unions acting as buffers, there is no force on earth capable of resisting corporate muscle, not on the global scale we’re now seeing.

Unless working people have some entity to represent their interests, they will be subject to any draconian measures Corporate America wishes to enact.  Without the perceived capability to fight back—without the means to offer genuine resistance—America’s workers are not only vulnerable, they’re virtually defenseless.

Anyone who thinks public opinion or natural selection or federal labor laws or the U.S. Supreme Court will stop the onslaught hasn’t been paying attention.  This is a war of economic aggression.  And if you want to see who’s winning that war, just take a look around.  The correlation between union membership and a thriving middle-class is clear:  the more people earning union wages and benefits, the stronger the American consumer class.

As bleak as it appears, there’s always hope.  Things are capable of changing radically and suddenly.  Consider Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring.  Neither phenomenon was predicted by anyone.  One could make the case that, if the middle-class continues to shrink at the rate it’s shrinking, we’ll be faced with three alternatives:  continuing our downward spiral, engaging in spontaneous “street revolutions” that will lead nowhere, or embracing a pro-worker institution already in place and ready to roll—labor unions.

Something sobering to contemplate.  Barack Obama could wake up the morning of January 21, 2013, with the brain of Walter Reuther, the heart of Harry Bridges, and the guts of Jimmy Hoffa, and still not be able to do a damned thing for working people.  Why not?  Because unless the Democrats gain control of the House, and a minimum of 60 seats in the Senate, he is powerless to get any labor legislation passed.

But wresting control of the House and Senate is a tall order.  And even if the Democrats were able, nominally, to gain control of both bodies (it’s been done before), there’s no guarantee these Democrats would behave like the proper, pro-labor Democrats we’d like them to be.  Indeed, we’ve had enough finks and phonies in Congress to last us a lifetime.

This all points to solidarity.  American workers need to take care of themselves rather than rely on politicians or public opinion to do it for them.  And taking care of themselves means banding together collectively.  Until they band together and appear threatening, no one is going to take them seriously.

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

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
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail