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Who Says It’s Not About Destroying Unions?

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Posted on Mar 31, 2011
Flickr / David Berkowitz (CC-BY)

Concerned citizens of Wisconsin make their feelings about Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union bill known at the state Capitol in Madison on March 12.

By Stanley Kutler

The centennial commemoration of the Triangle Shirtwaist Co. fire in New York City, with the loss of 146 young women trapped in a factory that had blatantly ignored the meager safety legislation of the time, paradoxically raises the question of whether we are doomed to forget the past. The sight in 1911 of people leaping to their deaths from nine stories up made an indelible impression upon Frances Perkins, later Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secretary of labor. As secretary of the National Consumers League, Perkins led the drive for reform. She later recalled that “the Triangle fire was a torch that lighted up the whole industrial scene.” Certainly, the tragedy spurred the growth of labor unions, and progressive work and safety legislation designed to protect and advance the rights of working people.

For those with a historical animus against the organizating and advancement of labor, the current strife in Wisconsin and other states offers a happy prospect for the resurrection of a dismal past of exploitation and the re-creation of a downtrodden working class. In Maine, the Republican governor ordered the removal of a mural depicting Maine’s labor history, as well as the renaming of the Frances Perkins Meeting Room in the state’s Labor Department building. Gov. Paul LePage, who supports a right-to-work bill, apparently heard some complaints from a few business organizations. In ordering the removal, the governor said he feared the mural “sends a message that we’re one-sided.” Perhaps on a national level, the Republicans will further rewrite history and remove Perkins’ name from the U.S. Department of Labor building in Washington.

Champions of Wisconsin’s progressive tradition—and much of what is called the “Wisconsin Idea”—are now reeling as the governor and Legislature seem determined to overthrow the past. Whether in polite country club conversation or in the angry voices of barroom exchanges, we have an atavistic, ugly strain of hostility toward public workers, and even the idea of unions, that arouses some of our most divisive political dialogue. U.S. House Republicans, by way of example, have proposed legislation that would deny food stamps to the children or relatives of any worker who strikes. Real budget hawks, those people.

Yet where and when have any candidates for public office declared and advocated such hostility and promised to destroy unions? Neither Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker nor his dutiful followers in the Legislature ever, ever openly called for the actions they are now taking. Theirs was a stealth campaign, one of calculated deceit.

Walker’s so-called “budget repair” legislation targeted and crippled the public employees’ unions, but none of the fiscal provisions have yet been passed—exposing the governor’s false flag. It is teachers unions that most arouse anti-union hostility. The idea that teachers should have any kind of equal bargaining status with public officials is simply unpalatable and unacceptable to many. Michelle Rhee, the darling of conservatives (for numerous odd reasons), enthusiastically has backed the right of collective bargaining for teachers.

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For those who regard teachers as only glorified baby sitters who must be content with contracts as handed down and must not cost them too much in taxes, the current assault must be pleasing. Indeed, the new state legislation has bestowed a cloak of legitimacy to local officials anxious to circumscribe any notion of teachers’ rights. The school board of Middleton-Cross Plains, a Madison, Wis., suburb, offers a case in point. 

At the height of the large-scale public protests against the governor’s anti-union measure, that board very publicly expressed solidarity and comfort with its teachers—specifically, endorsing the teachers’ right to collective bargaining. In a letter to the teachers (addressed as “staff”), the board noted the “unsettling” times but nevertheless stressed its appreciation of teachers, particularly “for the work you continue to do on behalf of our students.” They recognized the teachers as “highly trained, motivated, and essential,” and said that as such “[w]e want to work collaboratively with you.” A “respectful and cooperative relationship” is necessary, noted the board, whose closing message could not have been clearer: “We look forward to bargaining in good faith with you. We support the right of our staff to actively bargain.”


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By omygodnotagain, April 6, 2011 at 7:50 am Link to this comment

“Ending Collective Bargaining does not end a union’s ability to negotiate wages, benefits and working conditions”

Yes it does.. I have belonged to unions NABET and others, because of their ability to negotiate for their members, there are minimum wage, hours over which overtime at certain minimum rates have to be paid, job descriptions that mean you are not given other people’s jobs to do. For example I wasn’t allowed to touch lighting equipment, if you needed someone to move a light you had to have a lighting technician do it etc

Those are exactly the protections that come as part of Collective Bargaining, along with seniority and other benefits such as health care.

When I was not in a union I had a hard time getting any benefits, I had to rely on State laws such in NJ where someone was allowed to work for a year without benefits, but then the company had to give them health benefits. You know what companies did, they laid off the people for three months, then hired them back for another year without benefits

That is what you approve of…

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By Go Right Young Man, April 6, 2011 at 7:36 am Link to this comment

omygodnotagain,

I think you misunderstand Collective Bargaining.

Ending Collective Bargaining does not end a union’s ability to negotiate wages, benefits and working conditions.

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By bodhidharma, April 5, 2011 at 7:34 pm Link to this comment

Another point I would like to make, the output of service sector jobs is not very exportable, either. A country can’t forever afford to import more than it exports. Allowing our markets to be flooded with cheap imports from foreign sweatshops where people are working under slave labor conditions only benefits the importers of said goods, I don’t care how good a deal you think you got at Walmarts last night. This is why countries used to have tariffs to protect their native industries from cheap imports.  Otherwise, the whole world is in a race to the bottom, with only a handful of the uber-rich who are the better for it.
“Elites of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your workforce!”- How is it that the neoconservatives have managed to sell the idea that it is the left that are elitist, when they represent the oligarchy that has all the wealth and control the government? Up is down and black is white. Apparently, if you say it enough times, that makes it true.

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By bodhidharma, April 5, 2011 at 7:11 pm Link to this comment

MarthaA,
Even better, let him read The Grapes of Wrath, and then check out A Peoples History of the United States by Howard Zinn to get a real historical perspective of what this is all about and what’s at stake here. To understand the forces and ideology of what’s happening in the present, The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Kline is the best thing I have read in ages. The big problem is that too many regular folks are being manipulated and indoctrinated by the propaganda of the wealthy neoconservatives and acting against their own best interests. In a country where the wealthy and most corporations pay little or no taxes, the jobs are all being shipped overseas and 400 people own more than the bottom HALF of the population, something is VERY WRONG, and cannot be sustained for long.
Short lesson in economics: When the goods a country needs are not being produced by that country, then the people will not be able to afford those goods for long.

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By berniem, April 5, 2011 at 5:35 pm Link to this comment

The subjugation of labor to the vagaries and unmitigated demands of corporate power is just another ingredient in the recipe for a fascist overthrow of democracy! The republican party and their libertarian and t-bagger cohorts constitute a greater threat to this nation’s idea of liberty and equality than any external enemies be they communist, socialist, or islamist! These so called conservatives are nothing more than reactionaries bent on returning this nation a 19th century model of class distinction and rule by the rich with the toxic twist of belligerent militarism and nationalism in pursuance of global hegemony! Our current system is broken beyond repair and must be replaced! Unfortunately, the ballot process has been so corrupted that I despair of our future course!

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By MarthaA, April 5, 2011 at 1:05 pm Link to this comment

DieDaily, April 5 at 11:41 am,

Die, unions of the Left should never be on a list to be gone after
and disposed of by the Right, because unions are a solution to the
problem of working class America having living wage jobs.  Unions
are the last line of defense against slavery for the working class.

The reason unions are on the Right’s Denigration List is because
the wealthy Right doesn’t do work, all they do is think, and use
the working class as tools to accomplish whatever they think they
want to do or have done; unions are the only wall left that the
Right hasn’t broken down between the working class and the
wealthy only having to pay slave wages and keep all the profit.
  Without union defense, the Republican Right’s wealthy capitalists
will have no mercy on the human tools of the Left, which is why
unions of the Left must be preserved.

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By DieDaily, April 5, 2011 at 7:41 am Link to this comment

Even if going after unions is the right thing to do, it
would HAVE to be, like, 20th on the list. How about the
multi-trillion wall st. bailouts, the multi-trillion
“defense” expenditures, the multi-trillion costing
health-terrorism of big pharma…and the list goes on.
Unions? Not even in the top ten.

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By MarthaA, April 4, 2011 at 11:09 pm Link to this comment

omygodnotagain, April 5 at 12:33 am,

Really, GRYM should know better it would seem,
perhaps GRYM’s performance is an act of deliberate
ignorance to obfuscate legitimate political dialog.

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By omygodnotagain, April 4, 2011 at 8:33 pm Link to this comment

Go Right Young man
Your idealized idea that a single person has equal negotiating power as the State is nonsense. Where do you get these ideas from.  Have you ever been in a negotiation for a contract with a large corporation,
they bury you, threaten you, and to make sure that you get the message they have a half a dozen others outside the door waiting for the same fate.
Since when did you become the water carrier for rich greedy uncaring corporate plunderers. I have a suggestion read pretty much any novel by Charles Dickens, and savor the stench of neo liberal capitalism.

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By FRTothus, April 4, 2011 at 7:18 pm Link to this comment

Our schools and press have failed us.  They have kept
from us our own history against the war on the
majority by a small group of predatory capitalists,
who, like the rich, slave-holding elite that created
laws to protect their class and wealth from the
majority.  It was once understood that the slave
differed from the wage slave only insofar as the wage
slave was merely rented. At least with slaves, the
owner might be more protective of his “property”, but
as wage-slaves, we are on our own (or so the owners
would like).  That there are so many who would defend
the slave-holder’s “right” to own or rent slaves
speaks to the lamentable effect of concentrated
propaganda efforts undertaken by organizations
created and funded by the aristocracy, and the moral
depths to which any “society” that would take such
outrages seriously has descended. 

Victims of business funding, schools have been
reduced to dullard factories producing obedient, tv-
watching dullards, interchangeable prols, eager to
take orders, willing to cross any picket line to work
for a penny a day less than their fellow.  So
deluded, man accepts the pitting of one against the
other. the strategy of illegitimacy for millennia, as
“natural”, textbooks relate mythology. The real
history, however, is one of class war, the idle rich
against the majority, continual exploitation and
“laws” the rich pass to make the crime ”legal”.

It is Labor that creates all wealth, and the theft of
that from the workers to the owners is what creates
rich and poor. Deprivation creates wealth.  Wealth
creates poverty, and cannot exist without it.  Show
me a great fortune, I will show you a great theft.

We are not told of the hardships people have gone
through, because it doesn’t sell stuff when these
things are told in the newspapers.  We are not told
about how lies and deceptions have been used and
perfected to manipulate opinion to the benefit of a
wealthy few at the expense of everyone else.  Our
economics classes do not teach what Adam Smith and
others pointed out long ago, that the “architects of
policy” ignore the “grievous effects” that their
activities necessarily produce.

The schools teach a fairy-tale version of government,
and talk of fictions like checks and balances, but at
root, democracy is despised, the peoples’ will
dismissed. 

Collective bargaining is democracy in the workplace. 
The eight-hour work day, the minimum wage, Social
Security, the weekend, and end to child labor, the
right to form unions, the right to strike… just a
few of the things fought for and won for the common
people by unions.  Fought for and won against every
sort of violence the State and their hired and
uniformed goons were capable of.  Regular people who
got their heads beat in and their children killed and
went hungry and homeless, because they had the
temerity to demand that they were human beings and
had dignity, and they might have the freedom to enjoy
the wealth of their own creation, of their own labor. 
While the US elites are out shopping in Europe for
high-speed rail with our tax money, and firms that
enjoy the right to do business here get huge bail-
outs and tax refunds, American workers are
experiencing at home the class war Western elites
have been waging on working people for centuries. 
The battle-lines are being drawn out, and we all, as
ever, have a choice to make.  Are you on the side of
the wealthy, whose ranks most of us will never join,
or the billions of the rest of us?  I stand with
labor.  I stand with worker solidarity.  I stand with
democracy.  I stand with union.

Become part of the solution.  Join the IWW.  One Big
Union.  All workers are welcome.  Contact me or go to
the IWW web site.

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By Inherit The Wind, April 3, 2011 at 9:10 am Link to this comment

Isn’t it funny that the same people who are against unions and collective bargaining have also weakened the anti-trust laws against monopoly.  Now we face AT&T absorbing T-Mobile and killing the last reasonable-cost cell phone service, and the ONLY other GSM service in the US.

It should be a no-brainer that AT&T acquiring T-Mobile gives them a monopoly on GSM, and since T-Mobile is doing well, they can’t even claim a “failing firm” exception.  Yet there seems to be no organized opposition to the plan despite its clear-cut violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

That’s OK, but workers trying to form some kind of org with negotiating clout is somehow a sin.

I just can’t wrap my head around that logic that says the wealthy getting an even bigger piece of the pie is “good” but the actual workers trying to protect themselves is “bad”.  The world is upside-down.

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By Go Right Young Man, April 3, 2011 at 8:53 am Link to this comment

Here is just one example of how today’s public employee unions prove to be of harm everyone:  Let’s not employ the best teachers, let’s employ those who have paid their union dues the longest.

  Milwaukee Public Schools teacher Megan Sampson was laid off less than one week after being named Outstanding First Year Teacher by the Wisconsin Council of English Teachers. She lost her job because the collective bargaining agreement requires layoffs to be made based on seniority rather than merit.

  Informed that her union had rejected a lower-cost health care plan, that still would have required zero contribution from teachers, Sampson said, “Given the opportunity, of course I would switch to a different plan to save my job, or the jobs of 10 other teachers.”

  Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6/14/10

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By RayLan, April 3, 2011 at 8:11 am Link to this comment

Collective bargaining is democratic by definition - the uh—- people—-(collectively)—- negotiate with their employers - instead of the employers dictating everything - such as wages and work methodologies.
Those who like corporate dictatorship - who want to sell out the nation to an elite of moneyed interests - hate collective bargaining.

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By Go Right Young Man, April 3, 2011 at 7:34 am Link to this comment

Unions destroy unions.

Collective bargaining destroys a teachers ability to innovate.  It destroys a fire department’s ability to hire and promote the best.  It destroys an employers full ability to change with the times and compete in a global market.

Ending collective bargaining minimizes a unions ability to extort from all Americans for union profit.

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By MarthaA, April 3, 2011 at 1:13 am Link to this comment

faultroy, April 3 at 5:05 am,

Restricting collective bargaining destroys unions.

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By faultroy, April 3, 2011 at 1:05 am Link to this comment

This article is filled with inacuracies. It says that the country is trying to destroy Unions and utilizes the Wi imbroglio as an example. In WI this is patently false. For the WI Legislature, there is no interest in destroying the Unions, but rather to restrict Collective Bargaining. Gov Walker has clearly stated that there would be no layoffs, and no paycuts, and wages would be tied into the inflation rate. To me that sounds like the Unions will still be there. The Author fails to mention that the organization in the pic, “Concerned Citizens for WI,” is actually the Union’s political action front group.And while the author waxes poetically about Unions, he does not mention that it is the Teacher’s Unions that have steadfastly resisted any changes in allowing minority children to obtain the same quality of education that their white counterparts have in suburban schools. How? By keeping these disadvantaged black children in dysfunctional schools and utilizing their Big Labor/Democratic bought politicians to prevent Charter Schools and School Vouchers. So Whites are allowed the opportunity of choice, but Minorities are not? He also fails to mention that collective bargaining precludes any school districts from customizing their districts to their own individual needs since decisions are made both on a national and state level. What’s the point of having an independent school district if all decisions will be made in Washington and in the State Capital? This is contrary to the original intent of individualized school districts. Under collective bargaining, a person is mandated to joining the Union as a condition to obaining a job—funny—again the Union wants the opportunity of choice for their Union members but curiously does not believe in giving the same courtesy to every other employee. Districts cannot compensate school teachers with bonuses for doing quality work. How would you like to work for a company that thinks very highly of your work would like to give you a bonus—but can’t—because your Union won’t let them? Conversely, if you have a coworker consistenly screw up and when the company attempts to fire them, they can’t because of tenure and they literally have to go to court and prove this person is useless—which makes you have to do more to pick up the slack—would you be happy with that? And lastly, shame on all the hundreds of thousands of words written and their inept bigoted writers because in the end, no one has bothered to talk to the individual school disctricts—those directly responsible for paying the money on these contracts—and letting their voices be heard. If Collective Bargaining is such a good deal for the communities that have to deal with it, how come we have heard nothing, read nothing and seen nothing from the communities in the media?...Funny, if Gov Walker is such a bad person; why are the Unions not going to the individual towns, communities and school districts to ask them to advocate for the Unions? I mean if this is such a good thing for all these communities—why not get their representatives to give voice and advocate for the Unions? Of course we know the answer to these questions: 1)The communities are drowning in exhorbitant benefits and sweetheart deals for Union members. 2)The media is clearly biased in favor of the Unions and refuse to properly and professionally report on real issues.

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By aacme88, April 2, 2011 at 8:42 pm Link to this comment

“The centennial commemoration of the Triangle Shirtwaist Co. fire in New York City,.... raises the question of whether we are doomed to forget the past.”

The past? A country that considers Fox it’s most reliable news outlet is doomed to never even know the present, and certainly to never understand that the present occurs in a context of the past.
A necessary condition for domination and control.

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By Go Right Young Man, April 2, 2011 at 7:23 pm Link to this comment

WSJ * APRIL 1, 2011

Wisconsin Unions Get Ugly
Now they’re threatening businesses that stay neutral in the state’s budget battle.

A letter we’ve seen that was sent to businesses in southeastern Wisconsin shows that Big Labor’s latest strategy is to threaten small businesses with boycotts if they don’t publicly declare their support for government union monopoly power.

Dated March 28, 2011, the letter is addressed to “DEAR UNION GROVE AREA BUSINESS OWNER/MANAGER,” in Racine County. And it begins with this warm greeting: “It is unfortunate that you have chosen ‘not’ to support public workers rights in Wisconsin. In recent past weeks you have been offered a sign(s) by a public employee(s) who works in one of the state facilities in the Union Grove area. These signs simply said ‘This Business Supports Workers Rights,’ a simple, subtle and we feel non-controversial statement given the facts at this time.”

The letter is signed by Jim Parrett, the “Field Rep.” for Council 24 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which is the most powerful union in the AFL-CIO. The letter presents a litany of objections to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s changes to benefits and public union collective bargaining power, describing them as “things that make life working in a 24-7 facility tolerable.”

The missive concludes by noting that, “With that we’d ask that you reconsider taking a sign and stance to support public employees in this community. Failure to do so will leave us no choice but do [sic] a public boycott of your business. And sorry, neutral means ‘no’ to those who work for the largest employer in the area and are union members.”

Thugs

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By MarthaA, April 2, 2011 at 6:34 pm Link to this comment

Jim Yell, April 2 at 5:37 pm,

The United States needs to switch to socialized
capitalism, instead of private capitalism, and use
the Bank of North Dakota as the example.

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By Karl Marques, April 2, 2011 at 2:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Elites of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your workforce!”

~ Karl Marques, The Con-unist Manifesto

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By Jim Yell, April 2, 2011 at 1:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Libertarianism & what passes for Conservatism added together will end in one of two places totalitarianism or gangsterism.

The reason behind “closed shops” are the practice of businesses bringing in union busting employees to avoid having to deal fairly with the workers. Considering that all workers where ever their labor comes from create the employers profits upon their backs and suffer because of it, I do not believe that they can call their profits “THEIR” profits.

The jobs being created in this country are inadequate to replace the wages that have been lost and meanwhile the rich are certainly becoming so rich that they believe the laws have nothing to do with them, but should be wholly on their side against the people. If they continue in this behavior, than the people may want to rethink the need for socialism.

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By Lafayette, April 2, 2011 at 8:45 am Link to this comment

SAT SCORES BY STATE

Makes one wonder if the new Governor of Wisconsin got his HS diploma in Wisconsin ...

Look also at the info-graphic of Cumulative Change in scores in the decade 1998/2008.

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By Lafayette, April 2, 2011 at 2:25 am Link to this comment

THE RETURN ON LABOR INPUT

MK: It’s about more than the unions which are being used to drive a stake thru the heart of the working class

Harebrained nonsense.

Unionized members as a percentage of the total US workforce is in the low teens. Whilst public support of unions is significantly higher - around 50%. See here.

Both have declined over the past decades, which is why American labor is in such a plight.

If there is any stake-driving, it is being done by Management that refuses adamantly to increase the Return on Labor Input, preferring to maintain the Return on Capital; of which they are the major beneficiaries.

This is the heart of Income Unfairness in America, which leads to the very large cleavage between the social classes. And the only way to correct that unfairness is by much higher taxation (both on compensation and capital gains) with redistribution on social expenditures. Like a Health Care Public Option. Or subsidizing education up to and through the postsecondary level.

MY POINT

Besides, about 70% of the American GDP is in the services sector, which is exportable with only great difficulty. We are transiting from the Industrial to the Information Age and our workforce skills must do likewise.

Either that or we all end up flipping hamburgers at Macdonald’s.

POST SCRIPTUM: Job Offshoring

As for job-offshoring, there is not much that can be done - if the labor component of a manufactured product is too high, that product cannot be sold in any market. So, the days of American shop-floor employees earning good salaries and spending it on low-cost products imported from the Far East are gone.

What can be done, however, in many sectors is to employ high-level automated manufacturing, which requires less labor-input but at least some high-tech people to run it. It would help if industry were allowed higher levels of amortization of such processes.

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By bodhidharma, April 2, 2011 at 1:21 am Link to this comment

I wonder if he would be for changing the name of anything with Ronald Reagan on it?  Just not to appear one-sided.
Tea partiers should google “right wing authoritarian followers”. Sociologists have written some excellent articles on the subject, and even have tests to see if you match the profile.

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By MK Ultra, April 1, 2011 at 4:12 pm Link to this comment

It’s about more than the unions which are being used to drive a stake thru the heart of the working class.  It’s about destroying the labor force and turning the country into a third world superpower.

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By RayLan, April 1, 2011 at 4:10 pm Link to this comment

When it comes to anything labor or in Marxist rhethoric , ‘ploteriat’, all that you need to do is to breathe ‘socialism’ and everybody runs for cover like they said ‘ghost’ or the ghost said ‘Boo’.
Government for the person-corps by the person-corps.

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By TheBrix57, April 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm Link to this comment

Exactly where have the unions been since the 1960’s, when the numbers first started to decline in their membership? I mention the 1960’s as that was when the wages began to hit the peaks and have been declining ever since.
The unions sat back and watched as the country grew in prosperity, content with the fat dues being paid them by workers that had no say. By the 1980’s, the unions suddenly noticed that many of the ones forced to pay the dues were retiring and that they had better think of something to keep that money flowing in. The unions fell back on the thinking of looking for the oppressed workers. With all the “rights” of the the new workers, those oppressed workers were hard to find. The unions declined more and more. The unions then turned to the last large group of workers, those working for the government. Their previous dues paying members were largely forgotten, with this huge number of captive workers.
Fast forward to today with the unions very public display. Where were those very public displays of the union’s members the last 20 years? Sure didn’t see them too much, did anyone? Perhaps they would drive up in their new Cadillacs and watch the last workers leaving a plant, already late for an appointment with that new politician.

We have had many changes in the majority of either stripe of politicians the last 50 years. Trying to place the blame on one or the other certainly shows that not a single person cares about history. If we did, politicians would respect the voters.

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By Comrade Phi, April 1, 2011 at 2:56 pm Link to this comment

Analysis via deductive and/or inductive reasoning must be taught.  In the 50s & 60s when I was taught analysis I learned it as part of the Scientific Method.  Our educational system has been euchred by thirty years of preparation for the emergence of the Tea Party.  In the past, we felt awkward allowing others to see our educational inadequacies.  Now we have a cultural decline which revels in them.

Hence; the attack on teachers and on education. If we accept the status quo, we will see ourselves as being the wide open frontier society of the 19th. century, with 19th century values expressed in all of its aspects.  The rights of worker, women, non-whites, free thinkers et al will be dim memories rapidly receding into mythologized past, which will have been classified as the dark old days before the conservative enlightenment.

We have made great strides toward that state.  We no longer discuss ‘great’ social theories.  We have a managerial class replacing our Leadership Corps.  And that managerial class are employees of the plunderers who were encumbered but not excised during the first half of the twentieth century.

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By felicity, April 1, 2011 at 1:40 pm Link to this comment

Lafayette - Great post, thanks.  Would that the UN
could issue a statement of worker’s rights, universal
and binding.  For one thing, if just wages were paid
world-wide, it might be less attractive for US
corporations to ship their work overseas.

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By Lafayette, April 1, 2011 at 12:57 pm Link to this comment

FOR A BILL OF LABOR RIGHTS

The right to work should incorporate the right to unionize.  It should be a personal choice to join or not a union, meaning the concept of a “closed shop” should not exist.

What is missing in America is a Bill of Worker Rights. The right to negotiate one’s labor is as inherent a right as that of religious belief or free speech. The state should not be interfering to constrain any of them as stipulated by the existing Bill of Rights.

But that legislation is antiquated, having been established as amendments to the Constitution in the 18th century, just after the birth of the nation. It is showing its age and needs adaptation to a modern world where the definition of rights has changed morphology greatly. Our founding fathers could not imagine the impact of the Industrial Age that would begin to happen just a half a century later.

A Bill of Worker Rights will take national legislation to happen, that is, Constitutional amendments that must be ratified by the states. Which is alway an arduous process - meaning a drastic change of American mentality that continues to favor narrow Management perquisites over fundamental Labor Rights. 

Which means further that any change will require grassroots support across the nation. Frankly, I suspect Americans are not up to the task - given that the predominance of the notion that labor is purely a contractual matter and has nothing to do with basic human rights.

Let’s not forget also, at present, America’s fascination with equity values (rather than savings) and thus the primacy of business profit above other social or economic criteria.

A larger definition of rights does exist - one given either by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or that existing in other developed countries. For instance, the right to strike is written into the French constitution.

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By felicity, April 1, 2011 at 12:15 pm Link to this comment

“...doomed to forget the past…”?  It’s not a matter
of forgetting, it’s a matter of disregarding/ignoring. 
How often do politicians use the phrase “it’s time to
move on”? Constantly.  And we’re moving on - like
clueless lemmings, right off the cliff to our deaths.

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By Inherit The Wind, March 31, 2011 at 10:21 pm Link to this comment

In “Inherit the Wind”, the HL Mencken character tells the Clarence Darrow character, whom the right-wing bible-thumpers have described as a devil:
“Hello, Devil. Welcome to Hell!”

You voted these bastards into power. Didn’t you think they meant to destroy everything they promised to destroy?

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Queenie's avatar

By Queenie, March 31, 2011 at 8:42 pm Link to this comment

Here in Maine, when you cross over from New Hampshire, there is a new sign that says, “Open for Business” which is a way of telling business that they will not have to worry about environmental laws, land use codes, or any regulation that would hamper their greed for profit.

With the removal of the mural in our Dept. of Labor LePage (teabagger) has given organized labor the middle finger. We await the outcome of the legality of that removal. And most of us here stand with and support our teachers. We are not all idiots here in Maine even though LePage insists we are.

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MarthaA's avatar

By MarthaA, March 31, 2011 at 8:34 pm Link to this comment

It is about destroying unions and nearly all unions have been destroyed, or reduced to little or no help for the workers at all, with the workers still having to pay union dues.

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By Dale Headley, March 31, 2011 at 6:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There are two complementary ideologies driving the current attacks on
unions, particularly teachers’ unions.  One is fairly obvious: the long held desire
of Republicans to destroy, or at least marginalize the middle class   The other is
more indirect and subtle: the elimination of the public school system in favor of
one dominated by a Judaeo-Christian perspective - exactly what the founding
fathers feared and explicitly tried to prevent in the very first amendment to
their Constitution.
  What Republicans yearn for is an America you can see in any movie from pre-
depression days - where everyone appears to be rich and have black servants. 
The reason you see so few films from that period that depict the middle class is
that there WAS none, to speak of - not in the sense that we think of it today. 
The central goal of the Grover Norquist wing of the G.O.P. is a return to their
halcyon days, when the masses were too disenfranchised to do be able to
anything other than labor for the enrichment of their masters; that is, until the
despised Franklin Delano Roosevelt betrayed his class and sided with common
folk.  Unionism has been a thorn in their side ever since.
  Less obvious is the agenda of fundamentalist Christians, who, along with
racists, form the core of the tea party movement.  It sees the public (secular)
school system in America as antithetical to its religious beliefs.  They bristle at
the notion that their children may be exposed to that ungodly paradigm -
science!  And despite what many apologists try to claim, science and religion
are totally incompatible views of the world, and have been for the last 400
years.  The Jesus freaks are particularly fearful of the specter of EVOLUTION
rendering their magic man in the sky irrelevant.  Ironically, though, religious
zealots who rage against the teaching of evolution are barking up the wrong
straw man, because evolution is NOT being taught in any meaningful sense
most American classrooms - even science classrooms - anyhow.  Nonetheless,
you can be sure that many of those angry faces at tea party rallies are directed
at what they see as evil, secular, atheist TEACHERS!

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