Wisconsin State House 2011. Gov. Scott Walker bans union bargaining rights. Not since the 1842 Commonwealth V Hunt landmark ruling by the Massachesetts Supreme Court that the formation of a union was not a criminal conspiracy (and that trade unions were legal and had the right to strike or take other steps of peaceful coercion to raise wages) has there been such an attack on organized labor. Where is the fairness that says workers must lose their rights to pay for the excesses of the privileged few? And there we were thinking we had advanced into the 21st century.
Amy Goodman wrote here recently about how mainstream media fails our citizens. In a lot of the talk about attacks on organized labor – in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Maine, you name it – the focus has been on electoral politics and cash. But attacks on unions have an information impact too. Think the American public is mis-informed by its money media? Just wait til you see what happens if unions are driven off the block.
Defunding unions will defund the Democratic Party and progressive candidates who might fight for working folks. That’s not in question. But Jane McAlevey made the point in a recent issue of The Nation that doing away with unions does away with much more than a partisan pocket book.
Doing away with unions does away with one of the only forms of effective popular education we Americans have left. Take your average voter. No factor is a better determinant of Democratic party affiliation than whether or not he or she is a union member. Despite sagging union membership, labor remains the one player in the Democratic coaltion with the money, membership, staff and discipline to guarantee even a political long-shot a chance. Of the delegates at your average DNC, close to a quarter typically carry a union card, far more belong to union households.
It’s not just schoolteachers that teach in the USA – unions have a long history as face-to-face educators, keeping history and even songs alive, passing them generation to generation.
You don’t have to dig back in history for evidence of impact. In 2008, when the question on everyone’s lips was “Will working-class white voters pull the lever for a black man,” the voice that answered that question wasn’t in the mass media. It was AFL/CIO President Richard Trumka, whose powerful words to the United Steelworkers convention might not have been celebrated the way Obama’s “race speech” was, but combined with groundwork by union organizers, helped tip the balance for the Democrats.
It’s no surprise, then, that the Right is going after unions in the states where unions helped fight ignorance and fear.
What happens without unions? We’ve seen what damage FOX can do, and the Tea Party may seem quiet now as pro-labor, anti-bankster protest swells, but they’ve not stopped organizing – a group in Queens, New York, just held its opening meeting this month.
We can’t count on money media to do our education for us. Those of us in the independent media do what we can, but we still scramble for funds while the behemoths merge and tighten their grip. No wonder they love the Tea Party – they certainly don’t want regulation of their own power.
It’s far better for the profiteers if Americans gulp down inequality without too much critical thinking. Better that American voters – and workers – see inequality as more or less inevitable and natural, a function of the weather, or God. It’s not of course: inequality is political. It was the result of long-term, systematic organization in defense of the interests of big business and the wealthiest segment of the society.
No Murdoch media is going to give much time to that particular story, nor are they about to offer equal time to anyone that’s engaged in a systematic, long-term effort to make the US a more egalitarian place.
No, until we have some Murdochs on our side, that part of the story won’t get told. Why would it? It’s independent media, and person-to-person education that will save us. Organizing. And we need the unions for that. (1842), American legal case in which the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the common-law doctrine of criminal conspiracy did not apply to labour unions. Until then, workers’ attempts to establish closed shops had been subject to prosecution. Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw asserted, however, that trade unions were legal and that they had the right to strike or take other steps of peaceful coercion to raise wages and ban non-union workers.