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Just When We Thought They Had Tormented Us Enough

My Lebanese air-conditioner technician (the guy who installed and regularly services our residential A/C unit) once confided to my wife and me that the only “problem” he had with Israel was that “they think they always have to win.” That was a trenchant observation from someone whom we had never heard discuss politics or international relations. I feel the same way toward corporate America. They think they always have to win.

Even though only 11.3-percent of American workers currently belong to labor unions (the lowest density since 1916, when it was 11.2-percent), corporate America and their Republican minions aren’t satisfied. They want more. And despite a miniscule 6.6-percent of private sector workers being unionized, it’s still not good enough for them. They want more. Clearly, these greedy bastards won’t be happy until their boot is firmly planted on organized labor’s neck.

The latest effrontery to be served up was courtesy of Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee (once George H. W. Bush’s Secretary of Education), in what he calls the “NLRB Reform Act.” Alexander proposes that the NLRB expand its board from five members to six members—three Democrats and three Republicans—and that four Yes votes be required to pass any measure. Give Alexander credit for being able to keep a straight face while suggesting this.

With the intractable, almost toxic, partisanship we’ve come to expect from Washington, it’s abundantly clear why Alexander wants these changes. In a word, it’s “gridlock.” Aware that the board will vote along strict party lines, he wants the NLRB to be mired in one highly partisan 3-3 vote after another, unable to put into effect any measures that will benefit working people. For the Republicans, a tie is as good as a win, because it results in nothing getting done.

Fortunately, Alexander’s attempt to neutralize the Labor Board has no chance of being passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate. As weak and squirrelly as the Democrats have been on labor issues, they can be counted upon to block it. Even with the vocal support of the Senate’s Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the NLRB Reform Act hasn’t got a prayer. But that could all change if the Republicans regain control of the Senate in November.

And if that happens, it’s going to be a sorry day for the American working class. The NLRB was established (in 1935) for the sole purpose of representing the needs and interests of working men and women. If the Republicans succeed in marginalizing the Board to the point where it’s no longer a viable agency, this becomes a whole other deal.

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@yahoo.com

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