Column: The Organized Attack on Organized Labor
Liberals can decide for themselves whether crumpling this bill because of a technicality is actually a victory for labor. Either way, in this political system, a loss for Republicans is always perceived as a victory for Democrats.
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the Democrats who control the State House of Representatives voted to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights. Go ahead and reread the previous sentence, in case you think you missed something.
Massachusetts Democrats, who are usually portrayed as the leftiest leftists in the mainstream political left and who hold the majority of seats in the state government, initiated a bill that robs public workers of their ability to bargain collectively, which passed by a vote of 157 to 1. The bill enables city officials to make unilateral changes to public employee contracts without consulting the public employee union.
According to the Democrats, this anti-union bill will “protect jobs.” Apparently, vulnerability is the new security.
The Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Robert J. Haynes complained that, “These are the same Democrats that all these labor unions elected… The same Democrats who we contributed to in their campaigns. The same Democrats who tell us over and over again that they’re with us, that they believe in collective bargaining, that they believe in unions.”
Haynes made a mistake that liberals often make, namely, believing what politicians say. For some reason, the mainstream political left hasn’t matured enough to distrust politicians, despite being routinely fooled and swindled.
For example, when Obama campaigned for the presidency he promised to walk the picket line with workers if collective bargaining rights were attacked. Now he wants to raise $1 billion for his 2012 campaign. Most of that money will come from the corporate world, which has always opposed labor unions.
The recent flurry of anti-labor legislation has positioned politicians as people who are allowed to take other people’s rights away.
As everybody should know, rights aren’t real. They’re a cultural custom that lacks a solid metaphysical status. However, the denial of rights is experienced by people who previously “had” them as a real political loss that threatens their physical well-being. Plus, the culture of rights demands that once rights are won, they can’t be recalled. But Massachusetts Democrats are claiming the authority to revoke rights on a whim.
Viewed from another angle, it’s not that workers have the right to join together; it’s that nobody has the right to stop them.
People who are politically weak as individuals should be able to combine their forces to protect themselves from politically powerful individuals. Anti-union laws disempower workers and therefore intensify the power of economic monarchs and their political henchmen.
If workers are being attacked as a group, they should be able to defend themselves as a group. Also, people should be able to participate in decisions to the degree that they’re affected by those decisions. But Massachusetts Democrats evidently disagree with these basic principles. And when it’s fat cats versus wildcats, chubbiness prevails.
Joe Hill, the great labor activist, would’ve been less memorable if he died yelling, “Don’t mourn for me: Vote Democrat!” before a firing squad filled him full of lead. As U.S. workers used to know, politicians have been bought by big business, and so labor unions are key. Admittedly, the AFL-CIO is a lousy outfit. The workers it represents deserve better. But until those workers organize themselves, as they should, the AFL-CIO will do.
People often forget that labor unions are to thank for reducing the workday from 16 hours down to eight hours, overtime pay, weekends off, the minimum wage guarantee, work breaks, sick pay, pensions, health benefits, equal pay for women and non-whites, abolishing the exploitation of child labor, worker’s compensation for workplace injury, health and safety regulations, family leave, wage increases and unemployment insurance. These benefits were won by bitter, bloody struggle, not by bootlicking or the benevolence of bosses and politicians.
This bipartisan battery of anti-worker legislation will simultaneously depoliticize the public sphere and make the political system less public.
Criminalizing the association of workers is a step toward insuring that the only time people legally gather in public for political action will be on Election Day when they’re allowed to vote for backstabbing representatives. These voters would be well-advised to ask themselves the question that puzzled Edward Abbey when he wondered, “Why do such good people have such godawful politicians?”Share