Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Power Of Unions

It is no deep dark secret that the plutocrats, oligarchs and corporationists have been attacking unions for decades.  It started with a slow and gradual chipping away of workers' rights, but in recent years has become a full frontal assault with the ramming through of the misleadingly named "right to work" laws, and more locally,  laws like Scott Walker's Act 10 and Chris Abele's Crosswalk scheme.

It is not coincidental that as they have tried to hamstring the unions, we have also seen an increase in attacks on many of the other issues that unions have traditionally fought for, such as women's rights, voter's rights, minimum wage laws, immigration reform and social justice.

The reason that the plutocrats, oligarchs and corporationists are pushing for all of this suppression of people's rights is simply that it is a power grab.  They want to stack the deck against anyone and everyone who might stand in their way.

And the reason they are doing the power grab is so that they can have legislatures that will pass the laws that will benefit them and increase their already overflowing coffers.  In Wisconsin, this is obvious by the way they are ramming through bills written by the education profiteers, the iron mining companies, the frack mining companies and any other special interest that wants to clean us out of our natural resources, including our workforce.

Don't believe me? Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post clearly lays out the difference in what happened to workers as the unions' power was eroded away:
In recent decades, they’ve reaped precious little. Between 1947 and 1973 — roughly the one period of union strength in U.S. history — productivity increased by 97 percent and workers’ compensation (that’s wages plus benefits) by 95 percent. Since 1973, however, as unions have weakened, productivity has increased by 80 percent and compensation by just 11 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

If no longer to workers, where have those gains from productivity gone? According to economists Robert Gordon and Ian Dew-Becker, they have gone entirely to the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans — increasingly in the form of capital gains and dividends. Wages today account for the lowest share of the nation’s economy, and profits the highest, since World War II.
The tired and worn out standard of the Big Money special interests say that if they paid workers more money, such as by raising the minimum wage or passing living wage laws, it would kills jobs.  However, as reported at, the State of Washington is living proof that their fear mongering is nothing but empty threats in an effort to maintain the status quo:
When Washington residents voted in 1998 to raise the state’s minimum wage and link it to the cost of living, opponents warned the measure would be a job-killer. The prediction hasn’t been borne out.

In the 15 years that followed, the state’s minimum wage climbed to $9.32 -- the highest in the country. Meanwhile job growth continued at an average 0.8 percent annual pace, 0.3 percentage point above the national rate. Payrolls at Washington’s restaurants and bars, portrayed as particularly vulnerable to higher wage costs, expanded by 21 percent. Poverty has trailed the U.S. level for at least seven years.
It would be extremely difficult to overestimate how much the wealthy want to hold on to and increase their wealth.

The laws that I mentioned above - the ones attacking workers, the working poor and the poor - have, for the most part, been done on a state or a federal level.  Many of these laws - ranging from right to work to the privatization of schools and prisons - come straight from the American Legislation Exchange Council (ALEC).

But due to a series of setbacks, the money behind those that support ALEC is starting to dwindle.  Companies are bailing out due to the backlash from such laws like "Stand Your Ground" and the "Castle Doctrine."   They were also suffering from a series of setbacks brought on by grassroots groups and unions at the local level.

To overcome these issues, ALEC is rolling out a smaller brother version which they call American City County Exchange (ACCE).  The purpose of this group is to buy influence at the local levels, much as they have done in the state legislatures.  They want to take over county boards, municipal common councils and school boards in order to tighten their grips on all of us and suppress any level of resistance.

From the Guardian:
Now the council is looking to take its blueprint for influence over statewide lawmaking and drill it down to the local level. It has already quietly set up, and is making plans for the public launch of, an offshoot called the American City County Exchange (ACCE) that will target policymakers from “villages, towns, cities and counties”.

The new organisation will offer corporate America a direct conduit into the policy making process of city councils and municipalities. Lobbyists acting on behalf of major businesses will be able to propose resolutions and argue for new profit-enhancing legislation in front of elected city officials, who will then return to their council chambers and seek to implement the proposals.

In its early publicity material, Alec says the new network will be “America’s only free market forum for village, town, city and county policymakers”. Jon Russell, ACCE’s director, declined to comment on the initiative.

Alec spokesman Wilhelm Meierling also declined to say how many corporate and city council members ACCE has attracted so far, or to say when the new initiative would be formally unveiled. But he confirmed that its structure would mirror that of Alec’s work in state legislatures by bringing together city, county and municipal elected officials with corporate lobbyists.

“As a group that focuses on limited government, free markets and federalism, we believe our message rings true at the municipal level just as it does in state legislatures,” he said.
To some, this might seem a little intimidating.  And it should.  This is the modern day equivalent of the Roman Empire sending its troops into our villages and cities to be either assimilated or conquered.

But even as intimidating as it might seem, it is far from a given that these would-be overlords will get their way.

In 2012, the Big Money powers went full out to make Barack Obama a one-term president and install their boy prince, Mitt Romney.  The went so whole hog that the Koch Brothers alone spent more than twice what the top ten unions spent combined:

And this doesn't include what the other plutocrats, oligarchs and special interests has spent that year.  Yet Barack Obama won reelection.  Tammy Baldwin toppled Tommy Thompson.  Across the nation, unions, grassroots groups and other progressives won many races.

Granted, we lost some big ones, such as the recall of Scott Walker. But that doesn't change the fact that we were so outgunned we held our own.

Imagine what the unions and affiliated groups could do if we grew larger.  And therein lies the not so secret truth.

While the Koch Brothers, the Bradley Foundation and other such groups have a vast horde of wealth and can buy all sorts of mercenaries to spread their lies and to fight their battles, that is really all they have.

But unions are not ruled by "union bosses" the way that corporations are ruled by CEOs.  Unions are made of their members, who also serve as their officers and board members.  Where CEOs issue decrees that their underlings jump to follow, unions put their issues to a vote by the membership, after a thorough, open discussion.  Where CEO's get their wealth from exploiting workers, union members voluntarily pay their dues to support the union and thus, themselves.

If you are like me, you are more than sick and tired of the assaults on our rights and the rights of our loved ones, our coworkers and our friends.  Things have simply gone too far and its time and beyond that we not only take back our states and our nation, but also draw the line in the sand in defense of our local government, the ones where our voices are still the loudest.

And as I have shown, the best way to do that is to join a union.  But it's not enough to just pay your dues.  You need to get involved and take an active role in the union.  Participate in meetings, take trainings, help support people-friendly candidates.

And if your workplace is not organized, consider organizing it.  Alternatively, join a grassroots group in your community.  After all, these groups are really unions of citizens, forming so that they can stand together and fight the corporate influences that are a threat to us all.

What I'm trying to say is that the power of unions - the thing that means they can successfully stand up to the Big Money Goliath - are the people.  People like you and me.

Now think about that a minute.

If the power of the unions are people like you and me, and the corporate special interests like ALEC, ACCE and their Big Money backers are at war of the unions, who are they really trying to hurt?

These groups aren't at war with the unions.

They have declared war on us.

Now, let's do this.  See ya at the union hall.


  1. It is with great sadness that I say that organized labor has already lost. I think it would be prudent for progressives to point out that, when "conservative" candidates say they are fighting "union thugs", that the other candidate point out that there are no more union thugs, there are no more powerful unions, and that what is left is merely a remnant of a time when employees could organized and lobby for their interests. I think point out that the deconstruction of organized labor has also coincided with the downfall of middle-class jobs, the decrease in employee compensation, and the loss of a robust economy. I believe the first step is admitting that organized labor has been defeated. Only then can an argument be made that, if folks think it is bad now, it isn't because of unions (because they've already been beaten), it is because they've all gone away.

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  3. Yes, unions are under attack. But the solution is not to give up and accept defeat. The solution is real clear, "Don't mourn, organize." It is your right to join an organize a union. It is you right under the National Labor Relations Act to not only join or form a union, but if you and only one other fellow employee, collectively approach your boss or employer to complain about a problem or working condition, your job is protected under this law upheld under the US Constitution. If employers and corporations were so benevolent to their employees, and not just seen as costs to be cut or expendable, there would be no need for labor unions. What ever wages and benefits that have been gained in the workplace can be taken away by legislation. Unions have had to lobby to protect the gains that they have made at the bargaining table. Workers who don't have the wages and benefits from collective bargain agreements at other workplaces, have benefited because employers have had to offer them competitive wages and benefits to keep and attract employees. Unions still have a vital role to play. Giving up is not the solution, organizing and fighting back is the solution.