Are Unions the Enemy?

February 27, 2011

According to government data, unionized workers, public and private, make about $ 250 more a month than non-union workers. You would think that working class Americans would seize upon this difference and begin organizing their workplaces so they can reap the benefits of collective bargaining and the power that comes with a united front. But union membership is slipping badly as Americans would rather complain than do something that is just about guaranteed to enhance their bottom line.

On the other hand,Wall Street traders, bankers, hedge fund managers and corporate honchos are giving themselves billions and billions of dollars in bonuses, and don’t seem to be bothered by the excess, even though they were responsible for the great meltdown and in some cases were propped up the federal government. All those Tea Partiers seem to have forgotten who the enemy is as they blame public employees for our national economic malaise.

But in a strange twist what happened at the polls last November was that American voters sent to Washington and state capitals a gaggle of right-wing anti-unionists and apologists for the business elite. Not surprisingly, they are  beginning to strip away collective bargaining rights and say little about the obscene bonuses handed out to people who are continuing the same reckless behavior that got us into this mess. Is this the change that they voted for?

So where is the social revolution against the real enemies of the middle class? Where is even the faintest sign of class warfare against those who are squeezing the working men and women of this country? Sadly, it seems that too many Americans have been hoodwinked into thinking that teachers, policemen and firemen, public health professionals and all those so-called union “goons” are the culprits in our national economic decline. Give credit to the right, they have become experts in demonizing their political competitors and painting them as the problem. And give a grade of F to liberal democrats for allowing this to happen.

Sure the unions need to make concessions on a range of economic and workplace issues, and many have already said that they would. Sure unions have hung on to outdated practices that need to be ended, and many have agreed to make changes. But without support from the Democratic leadership in Congress and a strangely silent White House, the argument is only about all those union “goons” feeding at the public trough.

I remain puzzled that Main Street Americans just can’t come to the realization that the people who are crippling this nation are not the unions but the economic elites who continue to get a free and profitable ride. This is probably the biggest example in the history of this country of blaming the victim.

Workers of the World Unite

September 16, 2010

A few numbers to help you understand the winners and losers in this time of great economic distress. Pre-tax corporate profits increased $388 billion from the second to the third quarter this year, while wages increased $68 billion. Also employee health premiums rose 13.7%, while employers’ contributions to workers health care programs dropped by .9%. Add an unemployment rate that will not budge because businesses won’t bump up hiring and the only conclusion that can be reached is that the rich get richer and the middle class gets the shaft.

Now there are many ways to look at why the middle class is getting the shaft; it could be the failed policies of Obama, or the refusal of the Republicans to cooperate with the White House, or the capitalist system is rigged in favor of big business and big banks, while the workers  struggle.

But there is another answer out there and it involves a possible solution to this economic distress in the middle class. Unfortunately, most Americans have no interest in this solution. In a word it is unions.

In Europecountries like Germany, France and England have had recessionary problems but unemployment rates that are not so intractable and entitlement programs that provide a more secure safety net.  But what these countries have are strong and active labor unions that challenge the government, take on big business, and demonstrate for better working conditions and better pay.

Right now 93% of the American work force is non-unionized, and proudly so. Americans often see unions as a goon squad that takes dues money and weakens the free market.Yes, there are examples of hard knock union bosses and annoying attacks on the free market, but what the unions do is fight for the working class and even the professional middle class.

Many fair-minded analysts of the European situation credit the unions for the far better conditions experienced in the labor force than that found in the U.S.It’s not rocket science that when people organize, speak with one voice, demand better pay and benefits and threaten their bosses with a strike, the result is often times some sort of economic victory.

So the growing gap between the haves and the have nots in this country is really not a mystery. It is the result of the organized power of big corporations and big banks and the lack of organization and power of the rest of us. Workers of the US unite.