Thursday, November 10, 2011

Union Made

Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union 'til the day I die

--Union Maid
, Woody Guthrie

Juliet, the dice was loaded from the start

--Romeo and Juliet
, Dire Straits

You've gotta have heart

All you really need is heart

When the odds are sayin' you'll never win

That's when the grin should start

--Heart (Damn Yankees)


Life in America lately is contradictory and painful.

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters represent a popular agitation with the powers who have bribed bought the privilege to profit out of proportion to their risk, and yet they lack cohesive representation or platform.
They are not getting the respect from much of the media or anyone else because they lack cohesion of purpose.

This is what collective bargaining units or unions used to provide for the worker. It was a way for the common man to speak to power and have a seat at the same table. Sans unions, it is easy to conjure an image of Dickensian sweat shops exploiting the lean lives of its workers. Ranger grew up in the 50's and 60's amidst United Mine Workers (UMW) and United Auto Workers (UAW) who were able to live solidly middle-class lives due to their union representation.

The unions have been marginalized today, and foreign companies are moving their manufacturing here as
the U.S. is now the cheap labor pool of choice if a company wishes to produce a product with quality control. Remember Ford's Quality is Job 1? You might not have believed it if you drove a Fiesta, but America does know how to produce a product with consistent tolerances, something which cannot be said of the multitudinous amounts of Chinese junk that we buy.

Our priorities are such a mish-mash.
NBA players in bargaining last month staged a two-week preemption of season due to salary disputes; these players are far from hurting financially. When was the last time you saw a McDonald's closed for two weeks due to the minimum wage earners staging a collective bargaining event?
Yet, most of us who care us just upset that the game is suspended, not outraged at the display.

Why do the wealthy rejoice at the disappearance of unions? The immediate losers are the American workers, that fast-dying breed that used to be the foundation of our national wealth and health.
But without those contributors, you have a sick society. Do the wealthy think they can be safe from their countryman's misery behind the gates of their communities? That sounds like feudalism to us.

Recent reports are verifying the idea that America is no longer the great land of opportunity for its native inhabitants, and it ranks 23rd among industrial nations in terms of upward mobility, despite what Rep. Paul Ryan (R) and his ilk claim (The Downward Path of Upward Mobility.)

The people are learning the game is fixed, and their country is becoming a meaner and harsher place.
The mean-spirited say to the struggling,
"Quit yer bitchin' -- be glad you were weren't born in Bangladesh. Get out and work for it if you want more."

Only, the jobs aren't there, and we have forgotten how to organize.

Who represents the common man today?

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Blogger BadTux said...

Unions died because of what they did in the 50's and 60's. Unions died because the powers that be opened up the tent door and brought them into the tent and patted them on the back and let them play with the training wheels of power. In exchange for being on the inside looking out, unions tacitly agreed not to do the sort of direct action that had obtained power for unions in the first place -- the direct action against employers who refused to accept unionization of their workers, the general strikes against unjust laws that suppressed the rights of workers, and so on and so forth. But those were really the only thing that the power of unions were based on -- the ability of unions to interfere with the wheels of capitalism in a *major* way, not just some pinprick against a single employer -- and the final bankruptcy of that strategy was seen in 1981 when President Reagan fired every single PATCO member -- and the AFL-CIO did *NOTHING*, just stayed safe in their comfort zone of bland non-entityness. After that, it was open season on unions.

Could we have a real union movement with balls in America again? I don't think so. Unions arose in an era prior to today's security state and today's all-enveloping propaganda cloud. Even before the slide into corporate fascism creating a real union movement was *hard*, it was close to forty years of struggle from the start of the union movement to the point where unions were finally made legal, and there was a lot of blood shed during those years. But that was before sneak-and-peak's, GPS trackers, all our communications being listened in on by keyword trackers, "non-lethal weapons", and so forth. Today's national security state is *nasty*, and very experienced at imprisoning anybody that threatens its monopoly on violence, thus why the only nation in human history that has ever had more people in prison than the United States is Stalin's Soviet Union. "The USA -- not quite as bad as Stalin's Soviet Union" doesn't seem like a very rousing statement, but so it goes.

But at least we're free to express our discontent. As long as we do it in socially acceptable ways rather than by inconveniencing people in power. And don't do it in an organized way that could effect any possible change, that could in any way reign in the system of "crony capitalism" that now runs our country. But we're free to grumble here on our blogs that only a few hundred like-minded souls will read. Yessiree, FREEDOM(TM)! For some definition that probably includes fries with that.

- Badtux the Bitter Penguin

Friday, November 11, 2011 at 12:51:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Good analysis.

Friday, November 11, 2011 at 9:42:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Rez Dog said...

The motto "strength in union" is most certainly true. As is the opposite. That's why unions had to be destroyed. And they were destroyed. First by co-option, then by outright war.

Bad Tux correctly notes that re-creating that kind of strength will not be easy, maybe impossible.

Friday, November 11, 2011 at 11:06:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous CholoAzul said...

Too many union leaderships went from social gadflys to ticks and leeches on the workers. Great analysis BT.

Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 12:18:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Grung_e_Gene said...

"But at least we're free to express our discontent."

Errr, don't be so quick on that one BadTux.

The reason the Rich hate Unions was because Unions were succeeding in stopping the awful income disparity in the Nation. It's the reason Carter is hated by the Right so much. Inceome Inequality was at it's lowest under Jimmy Carter. Now, after 30 years of rightwing war it's at it's highest ever.

But, since you referenced the NBA, it's much easier for a group which should (theoretically) have a large cash surplus saved and is comprised of a relatively small number continue the battle for income distribution. The players make more the 50% and the Owners want that reversed.

Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 8:30:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Grung, like I said, "as long as we don't do it in an organized manner" that might somehow threaten the power of the oligarchs.

The main question right now is when the security state that the oligarchs have created in order to protect their wealth decides that it no longer needs the oligarchs and takes their place. Vladimir Putin, ex-KGB, creator of their modern security state after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is now the wealthiest man in Russia. Just sayin'.

Frankly, "not as bad as Russia" is as weak a tea as "not as bad as Stalin". Just sayin'. Nowhere is freedom in the traditional sense of the word found there, other than freedom to express your opinion pseudonomynously on the Internet. (Pseudonomynously because the security state of course knows who I am, and doesn't care).

- Badtux the Prognosticating Penguin

Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 12:16:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

To all,
today driving down the interstate it dawned on me that all the korean/german/jap were made in non-union shops here in the good ole homeland.
Who really won the wars that we say we won????!!!???

Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 1:16:00 PM GMT-5  

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