FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex

If it were possible for Donald Trump to surgically remove a tiny fragment of his monumental ego, and graft the little bugger onto the personality of organized labor, we would see a dramatic change in the way America’s labor unions handled themselves. Instead of behaving clumsily and timidly—instead of looking all frightened and nervous—they would comport themselves with confidence and dignity.

Next month, Hollywood is set to release the motion picture “Sully,” directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks in the title role. It’s the “true life” account of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s successful ditching, on January 15, 2009, of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, after the plane was laid low by a flock of Canada geese.

By single-handedly saving the lives of 155 passengers and crew, Sully became an instant hero. He appeared on half a dozen TV shows, he had a parade, he wrote a book, and he won a drawer full of awards and medals, including a “Key to the City of New York.” It’s no exaggeration to say that if he hadn’t responded the way he had, 155 people very likely would have died.

A month after his feat, I wrote a letter to Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, imploring his federation to buy up some national television ads promoting the fact that Captain Sullenberger was a union man. In addition to being a member in good standing of the Air Line Pilots Association, he was also the chairman of the union’s safety committee. A true union man.

And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. After years (decades!) of hearing people—pundits, politicians, academics, media hacks, regular working people—mindlessly criticize America’s unions for being stupid or ineffective or anachronistic or corrupt, organized labor finally had an honest-to-goodness hero that we could wheel out on a dolly and show off to a proud nation.

Of course, the House of Labor did nothing. Indeed, even after receiving three e-mails from me, the AFL-CIO (“inertia” is its middle name) didn’t even bother to respond. It was as if my suggestion was so absurd, it didn’t warrant a reply. No big surprise really, because something similar occurred fifteen years ago, following the attack on the World Trade Center, on 9-11-01.

During their many television appearances, neither NYC mayor Rudolph Giuliani nor President George W. Bush mentioned so much as one syllable in recognition of the fact that the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on that fateful day were union members. Not a word.

All the cops, all the firefighters, all the paramedics. Proud union members. Because Giuliani and Bush were so opposed to workers’ collectives, and because they were so politically cautious and gutless, they couldn’t bring themselves to utter a single word of praise for unions, not even on the occasion when these brave men and women were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

But when I mentioned to the International vice-president of another union (which must remain nameless, as I still deal with them) that the AFL-CIO should publicize the fact that those heroic firefighters were union members, he dismissed the idea as “morbid,” as if I were somehow suggesting we exploit the dead.

Even though I made it clear that this wouldn’t be an ad, that it would be more of a “memorial” or testament than a “promotion,” he remained critical of the idea. He actually said that because labor was so much “in the crosshairs,” we needed to maintain a “low profile.” Low profile??? It boggles the mind how spineless unions have become.

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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
April 08, 2020
Melvin Goodman
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Body Politic
Eve Ottenberg
Amid Plague, Sanctions are Genocide
Vijay Prashad, Du Xiaojun – Weiyan Zhu
How China Learned About SARS-CoV-2 in the Weeks Before the Global Pandemic
Bill Quigley
Seven Disturbing Facts About COVID-19 in Louisiana
Joyce Nelson
BlackRock Takes Command
Geoff Dutton
Coronavirus as Metaphor: It’s Not Peanuts
Richard Moser
From Strike Wave to General Strike
Gary Leupp
Could COVID-19 Kill Capitalism?
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
Corona, Capital and Class in Germany
Tom Crofton
Aspirational vs Pragmatic: Why My Radicalness is Getting More Radical
Steve Kelly
Montana Ballot Access Decision Suppresses Green Party Voters
Jacob Hornberger
Muhammad Ali’s Fight Against the Pentagon
Phil Mattera
The Rap Sheets of the Big Ventilator Producers
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19?
Rick Baum
When “Moderate” Democrats Lead the Ticket and Win, Down-Ballot Candidates Soon Suffer Losses
Jake Johnston
Tens of Millions Will Be Pushed into Poverty Amid COVID-Induced Recession
Kim C. Domenico
Healthy and Unhealthy Fear in the Age of Coronavirus
John W. Whitehead
Draconian Lockdown Powers and Civil Liberties
Binoy Kampmark
University Bailouts, Funding and Coronavirus
Luke Ruediger
BLM Timber Sale Increases Fire Risk, Reduces Climate Resilience and Harms Recreation
John Kendall Hawkins
Slavoj Žižek’s Virulent Polemic Against Covid-19, and Stuff!
Nyla Ali Khan
Finding Meaning and Purpose in Adversity
April 07, 2020
Joel McCleary – Mark Medish
Paradigm Shift by Pandemic
Matt Smith
Amazon Retaliation: Workers Striking Back
Kenneth Surin
What The President Said (About The Plague)
Patrick Cockburn
The Chaotic Government Response to COVID-19 Resembles the Failures of 1914
Marshall Auerback
The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Opened the Curtains on the World’s Next Economic Model
Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
Trump Sends Gun Boats to Venezuela While the World Partners to Fight a Deadly Pandemic
Jeremy Lent
Coronavirus Spells the End of the Neoliberal Era. What’s Next?
Dean Baker
The Big Hit: COVID-19 and the Economy
Nino Pagliccia
A Simple Democratic Transition Framework for Venezuela: End All “Sanctions”
Colin Todhunter
Locked Down and Locking in the New Global Order
Robert Fisk
Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Enough Information’ on Iran to Have a Vew. How Odd, He Negotiated the Nuclear Deal
Wim Laven
GOP’s Achievement is Now on Display
Binoy Kampmark
Boastful Pay Cuts: the Coronavirus Incentive
Dave Lindorff
It’s Spring and I’ve Turned 71 in a Pandemic-Induced Recession
Steve Brown
FLASH! Trump Just Endorsed Bernie’s Medicare-For-All Health Plan
Marc Haggerty
Class and COVID-19: Those Who Can and Those Who Can’t
Manuel García, Jr.
A Reply to Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Strange Things Happening Every Day”
George Wuerthner
How Fuel Breaks Fuel Fires
Marshall Sahlins
Election 2020
April 06, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 and the Failures of Capitalism
W. T. Whitney
Donald Trump, Capitalism, and Letting Them Die
Cesar Chelala
Cuba’s Promising Approach to Cancer
David A. Schultz
Camus and Kübler-Ross in a Time of COVID-19 and Trump
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail