Anti-Labor Bias Hurts Workers
By Joel Connelly
Posted by Bulatlat
In what I hope
was an early-morning miscue, the weekend KPLU newsreader recently told
listeners that "labor bosses" were gathering in Wenatchee for the
Washington State Labor Council's annual convention.
terminology, on the airwaves and deftly inserted in mainstream media, has
been one of the right wing's small triumphs in forging America's new
protests social injustice is a "bleeding heart." Those who commit
themselves to its prevention are "do-gooders." "Liberal" is practically a
curse word. Anybody who preaches reconciliation is "soft" - on crime, on
communism, on "Islamic fascism."
get labeled as "bosses," while executives who slash corporate payrolls or
dump employee pension plans get celebrated as "cost cutters" and "downsizers."
ago, Sen. Robert Kennedy was joining Cesar Chavez as the leader of
California's impoverished farm workers broke a fast by taking communion.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was checking into a Memphis motel to continue
his support of striking sanitation workers.
vulgar billionaire Donald Trump gets feted on a TV show where his function
is to say, "You're fired!"
are lucky to get one network talk show invite a year - on the Labor Day
weekend. Talking heads from conservative think tanks get to tell us who
counts, and who does not, in the new Gilded Age.
book, "Epitaph for American Labor," published by the American Enterprise
Institute, actually argued that the free market has removed the need for
workers to organize and assert their rights.
is more than ever an equal-opportunity society where individuals can rise
on their merits, a condition that makes unions irrelevant," wrote author
Unions are in
decline. In 1960, organized labor spoke for one-third of America's work
force. John F. Kennedy formally launched his fall campaign before a huge
Labor Day crowd in Detroit's Cadillac Square.
movement lifted up working people - not just union members, all working
men and women," the late Monsignor George Higgins, longtime adviser to the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote shortly before his death.
represents less than 15 percent of the nation's workers: As a union
member, I am part of only about 10 percent of workers in private industry
who remain organized.
In the Puget
Sound area, labor still counts - at times, in places.
barrels that go up periodically outside Boeing's Everett assembly plant
signal a union - the aerospace Machinists - that can still sustain a
strike, win a fair contract and turn back management's demands for
the 2000-01 Seattle newspaper strike was an unmitigated disaster in its
impact on employees and employers alike.
A well led,
focused organization - the King County Labor Council - was pivotal in
electing Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.
sponsored by the State Labor Council is responsible for Washington having
a $7.63-an-hour minimum wage, compared with the pitiful $5.15-an-hour
On the minus
side, the Service Employees International Union spent more than $250,000
on an unsuccessful 2004 primary challenge to state Rep. Helen Sommers. The
Democrats' budget brain in Olympia fought back, and won.
the SEIU's big purple phone bank trailer - parked off Denny Way - a
question often came to mind: Why don't you go pick on a reactionary
But the value
of unions goes far beyond political clout.
If you work in
a corner office atop a glass skyscraper, these are the best of times.
market is up. Executive salaries are way up. Even though we are at war,
the Bush administration has cut taxes for the wealthy - and wants to cut
But if you wash
windows or floors in that skyscraper, life is a struggle. It involves
taking a second, even a third job.
Even if you are
a midlevel employee, chances are that your income has lately gone flat.
"The problem we
face is not only a loss of living standards, but a loss of moral standards
as well," Monsignor Higgins wrote. "Increasingly our economy is sending
the message that it values accumulated wealth over honest work. In this
economy it seems that everything is going up - except the earnings of
In the new
Gilded Age, and the new global economy, demeaning people does not matter.
Enron employees who believed reassurances from company brass, only to lose
jobs and retirement savings.
retirees who have seen companies file for bankruptcy protection and dump
workers who watch the downsizing boss reap millions in salary and
A few years
back, a retired Philadelphia laborer told an AFL-CIO-sponsored discussion:
"There is no longer the relationship that once did exist between company
and employee, where there was a bond, a family type of feeling. Today,
it's a 'me' feeling: What's the bottom line? What am I going to get out of
"I think that
this situation is ugly, not only for us as workers but for us as a
© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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