Sunday, December 21, 2014

#193 December 21, 2014- Organizing for Labor

Do as I say, not as I do, is a leadership mantra that is ineffective, disingenuous and laden with hypocrisy.  Yet, this is exactly what we are getting from the Conservative leadership in Wisconsin around issues involving organized labor and the turmoil around the potential introduction of "Right to Work" legislation.  This potential attack on private sector labor unions comes on the heels of Act 10, an anti-union bill that was designed to cripple Wisconsin's public sector unions.  Clearly those who control the Republican Party both locally, and on a national scale, have a significant problem with workers organizing in their workplaces. 

While the real reasons behind their attacks on organized labor are relatively clear and center around gaining and maintaining political power, they mask their anti-union rhetoric in the language of freedom, choice and economic equity.  Essentially, the message is that America's workforce should be made up of individuals who are in a constant state of competition that leads to supposedly improved outcomes.  We constantly hear that unions are outdated, unnecessary, and even anti-American in nature.  In short, workers should be more like businessmen/job-creators who operate independently and are able to compete as individuals in whatever marketplace they are operating in.  Workers shouldn't need to organize if they were more competent, assertive and skilled.

However, if this is the case then why do we see so many efforts by business to organize.  Whether it is through a local Chamber of Commerce, or an organization like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, we see businesses joining together to advance their interests.  There is strength in numbers for businesses and ownership, just as there is strength in numbers for employees.  While the parallels between unions and business organizations are not perfect, the concept behind them is the same.

Another anti-union argument takes the perspective that management is able to look out for workers better than the "big union bosses."  The message is that unions are somehow exploiting their members in ways that management never would.  If  only workers would "wake up" and see that they are being manipulated in order to pad the pockets of the bosses, then we could avoid the entire problem of unions. 

Of course, there are many examples of just how false this argument is.  One of the most glaring is the manipulation of voters who are part of the Tea Party movement.  If unions are the product of a mislead and misguided workforce, then what exactly does that mean for the voters who cast ballots for Tea Party candidates?  The idea that union bosses are corrupt, but big business isn't is one that rings hollow upon any reflection.     

A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the...

We can leave the world of politics and see just how the American worker has fared economically and socially as unions have lost their influence and employees have been left without significant protections.  Workers are more productive, and although they earn 23% more than they did in 1973, they work 26% more hours.  In other words, for more production, with more time on the job, workers are barely keeping up with the costs of living. 

As workers are devalued, many need multiple jobs to make a middle-class wage

More than 60 million people in U.S. households depend on the earnings of a low-wage worker, according to a new report released on Tuesday.|By Vicki Needham

The attacks on the middle class, working class and the working poor isn't just about destroying unions.  It's also about attacking benefits and safety nets in an effort to profit from the shrinking of our public services.  Welfare recipients make an easy target for politicians, but Social Security, tax breaks and other things that benefit middle class families are also facing cuts or even elimination. 
Once it became clear that Wisconsin Republican Glenn Grothman would win a U.S. House seat in the November 2014 elections, his penchant for making...

The climate may not be favorable for organized labor, but the need for unions is just as great now as it ever was.  We are seeing the disparity in incomes increase and more and more people falling out of the middle class.  Poverty is rising, and we are seeing the futures' of our children negatively impacted by the policies of the anti-labor, anti-government, pro-big business movement that the Tea Party and other Conservative movements represent.  The time is now for the labor movement to regain its status in American politics and in our society as a whole.  We can't shrink from the conflicts and assume that our elected officials will adequately represent our interests.  Our nation is built on rules that allow for us to organize, associate with organizations and use the system to protect our interests. 

In writing the majority court decision in the Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc. vs. Busk decision, Justice Thomas may have just killed Right-To-Work and anti-Union laws.

It is important to look for connections beyond those traditionally accessed by labor.  There are many places where the interests of workers, management and ownership can intersect. 

More than 300 construction-related businesses are part of the coalition.

At the same time organized labor can't simply continue with the tried and true tactics of the past.  Here in Wisconsin we've seen the impact that money can have on all aspects of our political, economic and legal systems.  There needs to be a concerted effort made by unions to expand their influence beyond the limited scope of the workplace or industry they represent.  Organizing in 21st Century America means building a broad base around issues that can unite large numbers of people.  Social justice issues like the minimum wage can provide these opportunities, and unions need to step up and regain their status as representatives of all workers, not just a select few. 

The new labor movement is beginning to advance workers’ interests through legislation, writes guest columnist

In doing so, unions can work to shed the baggage of the past and embrace a future that includes diversity in membership, and diversity in issues that are addressed by unions.  We know that unions have a history that is both positive and negative when it comes to issues of equity.  However, no matter what the past may have been the potential of collective action outweighs the historical shortcomings.  We have huge problems around equity and race in America.  Unions can work to create workplace rules and climates that can serve to level the playing field. 

Analysis: The racial wealth divide is a persistent fact of American life and getting worse

We also need to recognize that a united group of people, working together to achieve common goals can have a powerful impact on small and large scale issues.  In fact, collective action is the cornerstone of our nation and is vital to the continued success of our society.  We know that the wealthiest and most powerful are organizing and acting, it seems obvious that the rest of us should be doing what they do, not what they say. 

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . . Sticking with Cold War policies that have proven harmful to the entire region makes very little sense.  It is time that we rethink how we interact with our neighbors. 

It would take real leadership to change course and adopt a more sensible policy towards Cuba. President Obama offered that leadership today.

The Bad . . . The fact that Walker is considered a viable candidate to be President of the United States points to the polarization of our nation.

Iowa political insiders say participation in the state's straw poll and caucuses could push Gov. Scott Walker into the top tier of presidential candidates.|By Jessie Opoien | The Capital Times

The Ugly . . .  Considering that 4 of the members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court have benefited from political spending by Wisconsin Club for Growth (one of the defendants), this decision appears to be fairly predictable.  Our justice system in Wisconsin is severely lacking in credibility at its highest level.    

The cases stem from a long-running secret investigation into fundraising and spending by the Republican governor’s campaign and conservative groups backing him.|By Patrick Marley

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