Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Real Enemy of the People

I know the importance most of our community's contributors place on union reform. And the majority of the people, once they are allowed to hear and view the truth, have come to know how the business union model of representation has failed the working people. But I'm afraid there can be no complete reform of organized labor as long as we continue to allow the growth of the cancer that has been instrumental in the destruction of our labor organizations. The disease which is destroying the very fabric of life for the people is corporatism!

In a very short time here in the U.S. we have seen health insurers transform from non-profit organizations into corporate run for-profit businesses. Our hospitals and most of the healthcare industry, pharmaceuticals included, have been deregulated and their profit margins rather than the health of our people, are now the most important aspect of the industry. Since deregulation, pharmaceutical companies are now the most profitable business within the U.S. This deregulation was/is being done all in the name of our Corporate God, capital, and it's gospel, The Free Market! Corporate interests have been celebrating ever since our government turned it's passion towards the free market concept through this deregulation. Hallelujahs to free markets have been shouted from corporate offices and the halls of congress ever since the presidential debut of the once host of Death Valley Days. DVDs was a long running television series and I'm thinking the name is an appropriate one considering what this degregulation and free market fiasco has done to the common people's quality of life.

Don't be fooled by the constant shouts for smaller government! What you won't hear them say is the truth that is most important to the people. And that is the fact that as the government bureaucracies shrink and loosen controls, our economy is being placed in the hands of a few CEOs of huge multinational corporations. And believe me, corporations don't believe in the "We the People" thinking whatsoever. There is no place for democracy in the daily business of the free market. This is why it is so difficult to reform biz unions...democracy doesn't fit within the structure. This symbiosis between the corporate host and organized labor will not be reformed without completely breaking this commensalism between the two.

I don't mean we shouldn't try to reform our organizations, but we should realize exactly where the problem with organized labor lies. We should learn to identify the face of the working people's enemies and we should learn to recognize the beast's footprint! Any reform will come from a people driven surge which must be free from the current structures in place. That means the people must design, plan, and construct a new form of worker cooperative/organization which is free from the beast that is intent on annihilating any worker empowerment. Having faith in the market and letting it decide our fate robs the people of any power. When we allow the market to make decisions that effect our healthcare, housing, education, and livelihood...we forfeit any chance of power and we become submissive, roll over...soft underbelly exposed, and take what scraps we're offered. Once we submit to the corporatist principles, we are expected to be good corporate citizens and support the beast! This is what has turned our country into a pro-business, anti-worker,corporatocracy.

The Gilded Age of U.S. history shows us how the power of an aristocracy and their ownership of a few companies can control the entire country's transportation, communication, and energy through monopolization. Franklin Roosevelt fought the destructive nature of corporations which grew in the Gilded Age with the Sherman Antitrust Act and also with the Wagner Act or what we normally call the National Labor Relations Act. But over the last two decades we have went backwards.

First we had Reagan who began dismantling our labor laws. Of course the firing of 13,000 striking air traffic controllers and the destruction of their union (PATCO) is what most of us remember. This step was instrumental in the fatal blow that would sever organized labor's main artery and leave them bleeding with no tourniquet in site. But he also placed three dedicated union enemies in controlling positions within the five member NLRB. The very NLRB which was originally designed to fight for worker's rights and their unions. The most destructive of the three appointees was Donald Dotson, a corporate lawyer appointed to chair the NLRB by Reagan, who had ties to the National Right to Work Committee and who was quoted as saying:
Unionized labor relations have been the major contributors to the decline and failure of once-healthy industries and have caused destruction of individual freedom.

Dotson's record stands for public review and it stands for corporate interests.
Under Dotson's leadership, the Board produced a string of decisions in 1984
that went a long way toward reducing labour's ability to find redress through the law. Some, such as Myers Industries, Rossmore House and St. Francis Hospital, adversely affected the already dubious ability of the Board to grant labour its statutory right to organise. Others took aim at
the ability of an existing union to protect its members' jobs. Otis Elevator, for example, ruled that an employer did not have to bargain over the closing of a plant. Milwaukee Spring gave management the right to transfer work to a non-union facility without bargaining with the union. Bohemia, Inc. stated that unions had no right to information about a firm's nonunion
facilities. Clear Pine Moldings allowed an employer to fire a union member for verbal conduct, even during a strike. At the purely administrative level, Dotson's NLRB routinely found in favour of the employer more often than any previous Board.

A House subcommittee found, the board, under Dotson's chairmanship, had abandoned its legal obligation to promote collective bargaining, in what amounted to "a betrayal of American workers."

While the NLRB worked in the corporate interests, the Department of Labor during the Reagan administration also ignored the fact union-busting consultants were being hired by employers to fight off unionization. The consultants and employers were never asked to disclose their financial statements as the law supposedly required. While the DOL cut it's overall budget by 10%, it increased it's budget for union busting activities by 40%.

Add to these increasing anti-worker initiatives the dismantling of affirmative action, the closing of one third of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, attempts to lower minimum wage, easement of the child labor and anti-sweatshop laws, and the cut backs on training programs for the unemployed, and it is easy to see the destructive nature of a government who places corporate interests way above the people themselves.

After Reagan, George Bush Sr. continued on the Reagan format and also continued to push the fast track trade authority, which pools power within the executive branch of our government and allows the president to negotiate a trade agreement without the possibility of amendments. Congress can either vote it up...or vote it down. George was instrumental in spearheading NAFTA, which has been called by a former foreign minister of Mexico, "an agreement for the rich and powerful in the United States, Mexico, and Canada...an agreement effectively excluding ordinary people in all three societies."

Then came Bill Clinton, our conservative democrat who broke with organized labor and was instrumental in tearing down trade protections, promoting free trade agreements and lower tariffs on imports. The jobs began to disappear and the remaining working people who were fortunate to have a job, were being forced to make concessions. But the big box stores began to flourish while the average wages went down and organized labor continued to bleed.

And now we have George Bush Jr., who has continually placed corporate executives in positions of power within our government. This policy has led to accusations that our current administration with it's corporate leaning pundits have created a crony capitalism state.

So it seems we are steadily returning to another Gilded Age. In 2005, the net worth of the U.S. wealthiest climbed $125 billion to a whopping $1.13 trillion. A total that surpasses the gross domestic product of either Spain or Canada! While these few wealthy elite's worth grew, the median household income fell for the fifth year in a row...down to $44,389! The competition that these proponents claim will save us is actually destroyed by the unregulated growth of corporate interests. Corporate interests claim the government is the enemy...and they are not exaggerating in the least. Because "WE" are the government and they have declared war on the people, our constitution, and democracy itself.

Reforming our labor unions is a worthwhile endeavor...but we will never accomplish any meaningful victories until we recognize the real enemy of the working people and begin an earnest effort to expose and erradicate the undemocratic principles of our so-called corporate citizens!

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