Addressing the labor issue

Leonard Pitts, jr’s column discussed the history of labor and labor unions as republished in the Spokesman-Review 4 April 2011. He wrote this in light of anti-labor Republicans who as Governors or members of state legislatures work to curtail collective bargaining rights for state employees and seek to outlaw unions altogether.  No, I am not going to call the GOP in this case “conservative.”  For a political persuasion that whined about “class warfare” when it came to holding major corporations accountable for being greedy, the GOP have no problem engaging in class warfare when attacking unions for being greedy.  I don’t equate the ultimate in hypocrisy with conservatism.

For myself, I have never been a member of a union, but I am not going to use this column to defend or attack unions.  I live in a right to work state (one that did outlaw union organizing) and indeed voted for that particular legislative act.  I happen to agree that people who belonged to unions were assured of being protected from their own worst behavior and incompetency as long as they had the back of their fellow laborers.  For that, right to work laws would put an end to businesses having to keep workers on the employment rolls who had no business being on the job at all if they couldn’t do the work or had no desire to be responsible for their behavior.  On the other hand, there is such a thing as the favored employee, supervisor, manager.  People who, no matter how incompetent, etc. aren’t likely to get relieved of their duties just because they have all the right connections.  So, I certainly wouldn’t blame a “union” for what people are capable of under any circumstances. In any case, your organization, at the corporate level down to the workforce, is only as good as the people who actually run it.

Yes, I actually would be surprised that the Reverend Martin Luther King was actually in his time a labor leader.  Because this, I had not heard about.  However, it begins to make a bit more sense why the federal government and especially the FBI were quite prepared to put the “communist” label on any of King’s speeches and general activities.  If you support labor, that makes you ultimately suspect.

But quite beyond Pitts own brief history of labor, certainly it was quite informative in what he had to say; I’d like to now address something that I think a lot of people don’t consider as they engage in political clashes over what amounts to symbols.  “The union” being but the latest symbol.  Back in the colonial period and post the Revolutionary War, we had a system of landed gentry.  People who had been given land grants by the king of England himself when settling in this nation in its colonial period.  Among those people who received land grants, would have been Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.  People who could literally make their wealth without having to work for it because the land grants that they possessed helped them to attain a wealthy and important status.  That such men also risked the loss of wealth through these land grants once they turned on the British government that provided the grants in the first place, should not be lightly dismissed.  Not just the loss of wealth, but also the risk of imprisonment, torture, and execution.  Post the colonial period, being a member of the landed gentry also formed the core basis of federalism and the basis of some of what the U.S. Constitution currently says.  Yes, the idea of federalism was to in fact favor the landed gentry over shop keepers and those of the middling classes.  Precisely, people who actually had to work in order to gain ownership of anything.  Does anyone actually think of a landed gentry as the core of [new] federalism today?  Of course not.  The emphasis for [new] federalism is on the shop keepers.  Precisely, those who had to work to establish a business and ultimately to make it a success.  And that quite often in this “free market” society, those who established a business were at one time also members of the labor force.  That’s right.  Steve Jobs, head of Apple, Inc. once was a member of the working class before he started his own successful computer technology company.  So, when you have anti-labor GOP who make it a central platform to attack the American work force and their symbol “the union,” they just as assuredly attack the entire structure of what makes a business, a company, a corporation possible—its work force.  No matter where you find them, from the factory floor to the corporate office, 9/10ths of that company or corporation will be comprised of a work force.  No business of any size can exist without it. Nor is the company or corporate CEO going to have his assured perks, bonuses, etc. without a work force.  Which reminds me of a biblical quote attributed to Jesus Christ:  “A house divided against itself can not stand.”  Yet, in today’s political climate, anti-labor Republicans seem to think that they can make this work.  What it really boils down to is this:  love of the money!  Corporate CEOs will dump tons of cash from their company’s profits on politicians such as the Koch brothers did on the behalf of now Governor Scott Walker.  With the idea that he would favor them and their generosity in future legislation.  But, in order to do that, Governor Walker made the symbol of “the union” a target in order to go after public sector employees such as teachers to effectively outlaw their guarantees of secure wages, health care, and pensions by stripping them of their collective bargaining rights.  The subject of Pitts’ column.  But, for all of the Koch brothers’ wealth, they are not and never will be the landed gentry that formed the basis of federalism at the beginning of this nation.  They are still among the shop keepers whom the historical landed gentry, that also became our founding fathers, had little use for.

It is only because we moved away from historical federalism toward a more democratic society that today’s idea of capitalism and the “free market” could take root.  Only because of our democratic impulse could some fellow from the “mob” (Adams); with an idea for a new treat (mixing the chilling of milk with other ingredients and producing ice cream) and become a millionaire in a matter of a few years.  But, who did that guy work for long before he came up with a new taste sensation?  Think about it.   Because you can be sure that the anti-labor Republicans certainly won’t.  Oh, they love the fact that Tom and Jerry could (as a hypothesis) put millions into GOP campaign coffers.  But, were the makers of Tom and Jerry ice cream homeless bums before they started a business?  Or had they worked for a company or corporation when they decided to start a business?  Quite frankly, I’d suggest that my readers do some real research here to discover that in a majority of cases, people were in fact working for “the shop keepers” long before they put their own business together.  If it takes a work force to make a business possible, it would also take to a degree being in a work force to understand the nuts and bolts of making your own business more successful.  Not just a business degree, but also getting your hands dirty, by actually doing the job.  So, under the circumstances, what does being ant-labor truly accomplish?  Let’s put it bluntly that self-proclaimed “free market” political philosophers who don’t take labor into consideration; can only be responsible for the catastrophic failure of the “free market” system.  As they can only cripple the potential for innovation and new discoveries as well as the development of new business start ups that ultimately like Steve Jobs and his Apple, Inc.; first you had to have the knowledge and skills to come up with a new idea, and then the wherewithal to bring it to fruition.

Closing thoughts:  Just like Ebeneezer Scrooge, the politicians and corporate heads forget where their roots actually begin.  [New]federalism?  No, sorry.


2 Responses to “Addressing the labor issue”

  1. business review Says:

    In mill towns in New England New York Pennsylvania and New Jersey women could learn a skill that yielded sufficient income to support themselves in minimal comfort and that often provided an environment with companions as well. Less able to defend themselves than the earlier factory workers these women found themselves caught in a process of immiserization that continued well into the twentieth century.

  2. avto Says:

    Thanks – where is article source?

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