In order to attract business back to America the people’s representatives seem willing to dismantle the structures that the people have set up to defuse the rapacious greed of corporate owners, CEO’s, boards, stockholders, and even some employers who run mid-size businesses. After events like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City when employees (mostly women) could not leave the burning building because the doors were locked and exposure in the news of some of the horrors of child labor, and after a number of accidents and diseases which resulted from the lack of labor protections, people stood up and demanded regulations, they bled and died to win the right to set up unions. The unions helped win other benefits such as health care and set hours, vacations and weekends, pensions and higher wages.
There is no guarantee that our corporations will leave the East and return to the West. This is just a theory some people, mostly Republicans, hold to be true. They want us to gamble away our unions and the rules and regulations that tame capitalism and they have no interest in pleasing America workers; they are interested in pleasing the stockholders who dictate to these corporations because they invest in them.
It seems useless to protect unions when there are no jobs to bargain about or employers to bargain with. Unions were hard won though and we should not be so quick to let wealthy businessmen end these brother/ sisterhoods that stood between employees and employer abuse. If unions prove to be obsolete somewhere down the line because we no longer have to work at all then that would be the time to turn them into museums. As long as we adhere to economic capitalism we will continue to need unions.
It is also sad to see what has happened to the unions of those who work in the public sector (government). Obviously plans to make government smaller and to privatize everything (get rid of civil service) and teachers who get paid by federal, state, or local governments and force teacher to work for private employers are already being implemented although we have not ever voted on this stuff. Yikes! Doesn’t it sound like someplace we have already been? If unions were necessary once and public service employment didn’t work well without them then why are we going back there? These are issues about power, control, and budget cuts (meaning lower salaries).
And suppose our corporations are tempted to return and put us back to work once more; how low will salaries have to fall to be competitive and to earn profits large enough to please those stockholders who want to see their portfolios gain value every day?
I guess the point I am trying to make, and that I make over and over again, is that we should not let these extremists take away the things we fought so hard to win like unions, both public and private. But the middle class is not yet ready to turn into a bloc of activists. Some of you are still doing well. Some are not. Some are caught in a kind of shock at how quickly and completely life can change.
If we are not activists yet it is because so many have not lost the gains they worked a lifetime for. Perhaps ordinary citizen’s losses will reach a critical mass and we will all become courageous like those brave green activists in Oregon – the ones who lived for a few days at the end of bungee cords hanging from a bridge in order to block an ice breaker that was leaving to help Shell Oil rape the Arctic. (Oil always spills.)
By Nancy Brisson