Unionism Is Feminism

I was honored when Ti-Grace Atkinson, the brilliant college professor, dedicated rabble-rouser, and acknowledged co-founder of “Radical Feminism,” generously agreed (after reading the manuscript) to write a blurb for my first book.

Although Ti-Grace, like most academics, had little firsthand experience with the labor movement or union politics, she was nonetheless hyper-aware of the fact that for genuine progressive change to occur, “resistance” (rather than rhetoric) is required. Eloquence and irresistible logic don’t lead to change. Muscle does.

And despite what Republican congressmen, talk radio hosts, anti-labor propagandists, revisionist historians, and mainstream media puppets would have you believe, it was union muscle that almost single-handedly created the American Middle-Class.

It’s a fact. Of course, because “muscle” tends to be blunt-edged and direct and impervious to seminar-speak and mission statements, the Establishment likes to pretend that anything that falls outside the bounds of civil discussion is undignified and “unsavory.”

But consider: By all accounts, the middle-class coalesced in the post-war decade of the 1950s. And this bountiful decade happened to be the identical period in which organized labor reached its all-time peak, with close to 35% of all workers belonging to unions.

Given the pitiful state of affairs we find today, with barely 6% of private sector jobs unionized, one can only imagine the tremendous influence that labor was able to exert, fully half a century ago (even after passage of the toxic Taft-Hartley Act, in 1947). In truth, working men and women had never possessed so much muscle….and, alas, would likely never possess it again.

During the 1950s America’s labor unions not only commanded the full attention of a very skittish U.S. Congress, they were able to drive home the point that this country’s elected representatives were beholden to its working men and woman—and not the other way around.

As hard as it is to comprehend such a dynamic, it was a fact. Instead of groveling for the few crumbs that today’s sorry excuse for “economic progressives” deign to hand out to working folks, America’s unions more or less had the economy by the balls.

Which brings us to Feminism. In the history of the U.S., going back, if we like, to 1920, the year that adult females were finally given the right to vote, the only jobs that absolutely, positively guaranteed that women doing the same work as men would receive the same pay as men were union jobs. It was true then and it’s true today.

Instead of sending petitions to Congress, or enlisting in Sisterhood buzz-groups, or writing scathingly clever op-eds for the New York Times, women need to get scary. They need to muscle up. In short, they need to become union members.

If they rightly think it’s unfair for women to make 77-cents on the dollar, compared to what men make, feminists need to abandon the rhetoric, and embrace the muscle. This is no pipe dream. Some of the strongest and most effective kick-ass union members I’ve ever known have been women.

All of which makes Hillary Clinton’s “cosmetic Feminism” so frustrating. She can’t have it both ways. She can’t be the glorified shill for Wall Street that she undoubtedly is, and simultaneously insist that she favors “wage equality,” because those two views are contradictory. Wall Street is vehemently anti-union. And, sad to say, so is Hillary Clinton.

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