Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Collapse of Strikes in America

The Collapse of Strikes
as found on Progressive Review's blog.

Is it any wonder that American workers feel powerless?  More than anything, right now America needs a strong and vibrant labor movement.  The hard sad truth is that no one else is going to fight for workers in this country these days.

You can look right now at Washington and watch the Democrats making deals for the phony 'fiscal cliff' crisis that are going to dump the bill for a decades worth of tax cuts for the rich, a huge 'defense' budget, and a series of Terror Wars around the world squarely on the back of workers.  Did you get billions in federal banker bailout money to help you out when you were down? Have you made profits as a war profiteer?  Have you only been paying a pittance in taxes?  Well, guess what, the millionaire Republicans financed by the wealthy and the millionaire Democrats financed by the wealthy are about to 'compromise' and agree to stick you with the bill.

That's the political reality of today.  Maybe once upon a time, back in the days of FDR, and maybe even in Tip O'Neill's day, the workers of America might have once had a seat at the political table in D.C. as a part of the FDR Democratic coalition.  But not any more.  The Democrats sold labor down the river decades ago.

Workers have to organize.  Its become a matter of pure survival.  There aren't any other options left.

By organizing, I don't mean following all the rules and regulations and jumping through all the hoops that have been constructed in this country to strangle labor unions.  I don't mean following a bunch of millionaire labor bosses who cut deals with billionaire CEOs.  I mean workers talking to workers.  That's the basis of a union.  Workers talking to each other.  Invite each other over for dinner, then talk about what you can start to do to help each other out at work.

Some day, you'll have to stand together.  Someone will get fired.  Or the Boss will walk in and tell you that everyone has to take a cut in pay, or a cut in hours or generally less money and less benefits so the Boss can get his bonus and the owners can spend the winter in Tahiti on their yacht.  Some day, you'll have to stand together.

On that day, you can stand there alone, mad at what is happening, but powerless to do anything about it.  Or, you can look at your friends and co-workers with whom you've already been talking and by a look and a clenched fist know that everyone knows now is the time to stand together and fight back.  The difference between being in those two positions on that day is simply talking to each other.  Find ways to meet away from work.  Sit at a bar, invite each other over for dinner, meet in a park on a rare day off.  Find ways to talk.  Find ways to work together.  Figure out that together, you have a strength that you didn't have standing alone.

We have to climb back up to get to square one.  We have to do this again.  Americans once stood tall to build a labor movement.  Americans once beat off bosses and scabs and thugs and the national guard to win the right to have a union.  To win the right to a 40 hour week and overtime pay and paid days off and decent health care that didn't bankrupt them.  These things weren't just given to Americans on a silver platter with a note from the Boss saying that he was thinking of us and thought we should have these things.  These things were won in tough fights by tough American workers standing strong and demanding that these things were the bare basic minimum of a fair deal.

It may seem dark.  It may seem impossible.  But, we know that this has been done before.  Americans have come together before and won a decent life and some dignity in the workplace for themselves.  Its easier the second time, because we know it can be done.  We have to do it.  If we don't, then we just hand more of a messed up country and a truly awful work place on to our children and tell them to deal with it.  The least we can do is to fight for now for a better day tomorrow.  And try to teach them well the lesson that they'll have to fight themselves if they want to keep what we win, or if they want to do better than we can do.

Because, that's surely the lesson of the last 30 years or so.  American workers stopped fighting.  They rested on their laurels and the victories they won.  They stopped fighting.  That's what that chart shows.  American workers have stopped fighting.  And look where its gotten us.

It begins by you talking to the person who works next to you.

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