Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Shrinking Middle-Class; Shrinking Labor

There has been much talk lately about the state of the middle-class, the insecurity of workers, and the flat-lining of wages in America. Much of the debate has revolved around the changes in the make-up of our labor force today. It has been erroneously reported that the shrinking of wages and of the middle-class is due to our no longer being a manufacturing society and due to out-sourcing. While this provides a convenient foe, it does not accurately depict the situation. There is a direct correlation between the flat-lining wages and the shrinking middle-class with the reduction of the labor movement in America. The only groups who have seen real growth in wages the past few decades are groups who are represented by unions. If this is true, then why are unions and the labor movement not more powerful and vibrant?

The reason is simple, corporate America and their Washington whores have gutted the labor movement in America. The only defense that middle-income folks had against the big money lobbyists and government thieves were the unions. The unions allowed the workers to pool their resources to be able to fight against the influence of corporate America. They provided cover for and contributions to politicians with the courage to stand up to corporate America. Unions for many years were the driving force behind the increase in the standard of living for all working Americans, not just their union members. Unions allowed the development of a strong middle-class which is essential to a thriving economy and a vibrant democracy. It was the unions that guaranteed their workers an honest wage and a secure job environment. How many of today’s workers cite job insecurity as a major concern with the economy?

While the unions provided many positives for their members, they also provided excesses for their leaders. I would be remiss and disingenuous if I only extolled the positive without the negative, there were many instances of abuse of power in many unions by leaders. However, that abuse of power is not because of unionism, isn’t it more because of a human frailty; greed? The problem is that corporate America began a campaign decades ago to destroy the labor movement in America, the labor movement through unions offered the only protection of the American workers against the type of abuse that they are suffering today. With the help of their “political allies” in Washington, corporate America has used the broad brush of union corruption and legal defeats to cripple the unions and the labor movement in America as a whole.

The great sit-down strikes and labor uprisings in the 30s and 40s brought our nation close to real democracy when the voices of the majority, American workers, was heard loud and clear. Corporate thugs, police agencies, and federal troops openly murdered workers and their families. The corporate media supported those actions, even calling for hanging of labor organizers. Unfortunately, labor leaders mistakenly accepted the passing of the National Labor Relations Act [NLRA] as remedy. Nothing more than deception, the Act reaffirmed the Corporation's superiority over the Constitution and made the criminal behavior by employers, labor violations, effectively undermining rights our founders sought to give. Each time labor stood up and mobilized, the Corporation, with the aid of congressional pimps and the corporate media, passed new labor acts to beat down the rights of workers. A prime example was the passage of Taft-Hartley.[1]

Using PR firms and restrictive organizing regulations supported and sponsored by the politicians, corporations have created an atmosphere of appeasement and apathy for today’s workers. Many of today’s “high tech” workers have been brainwashed to believe that the cause of labor no longer applies to their concerns. I have been at many tech jobs where the younger workers have blamed labor for the loss of industry and jobs. Many of today’s workers do not believe that labor is relevant anymore. There is only one small problem with this thinking, as the unions have shrunk the disparity between the salaries of the average worker and the top executives have reached all-time highs. Are we to believe that this is a coincidence? Correspondingly, the wealth of our nation is also being concentrated in to fewer and fewer hands. The American worker has been sold a bill of goods concerning the labor movement and its relevancy to their lives.

Without a strong labor movement including unions the American worker is at the mercy of greedy corporate executives and money grubbing politicians. The call of the union is just as relevant today as it ever was, there is strength in numbers and solidarity. It is foolish for today’s worker to rely on the benevolence of corporations, just as it was foolish for their grandparents to do so. Today’s worker must not buy into the hype that the dynamics of our economy and industries have outgrown the need for labor and unions. If nothing else the proof is in the fact that corporate executive compensation has increased at the same time workers compensation has decreased or flat-lined. Never in our history has there been disparity on the scales we are now witnessing.

These are outcomes of the long, unfolding crisis, not root causes. Despite the novelty, but obvious seriousness, of the current debate, U.S. Labor did not arrive at this point of historic impotence in just the past several years. This downward spiral has been in process for decades. Workers at the base became painfully aware that corporate capital was breaking the so-called "social contract" many years ago. Their initial anticipation that leaders of the nation's unions might devise appropriate strategies to resist or blunt the assault or that, in many instances, their own local determination to fight back would be welcomed and fully supported was one of the first casualties of this new chapter of class warfare being written in America.

Unabated disinvestment, corporate whipsawing of one plant's workers against another's, job blackmail, often with union leadership complicity, and a magician's trunk full of solidarity-busting workplace reorganization schemes had, by the mid-1980s, become the backdrop for the renewed concerted employer aggression. Most labor bureaucrats were either untrained and/or more often unwilling to venture out of their comfort zones to lead struggles against this eviscerating reality.[2]

[1] http://www.labornet.org/news/0106/wvwarzon.htm
[2] http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/tucker210705.html


Publius said...

Unions are as unAmerican as it gets. For more on the evils of unions go to

Forgiven said...

I agree what is pro-American is greed and corporate welfare. Please leave a link for the "gilded age" and the current disparity between executives and wage earners. It is time for the poor and the middle-class to come together and put an end to the corporate influence in our government, our lack of democracy, and our stagnant wages. While you're at it why don't you put up some links for Tyco, Enron, and Health South and explain how un-American those scandals were as well.

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