On May 2nd, 1933, Nazi groups occupied union halls and labor leaders were arrested. Trade unions were outlawed by Adolf Hitler, collective bargaining and the right to strike was abolished. This was the beginning of a consolidation of power which systematically wiped out all opposition groups, starting with unions. Decimating unions has long been an objective of the rich and powerful. The banning started in 1349 with the Ordinance of Labourers and Statute of Labourers in England. Collective bargaining in the US was finally legalized for the private sector on a countrywide scale in 1935 with the National Labor Relations Act, extended to the public sector in 1962.
Every little gain for the rights of workers was hard fought and bitterly resisted by the rich and powerful. Over time, organized labor managed to abolish child labor*, as well as institute an 8 hour work day, 40 hour work week, mandatory breaks, safety guidelines, grievance procedures, a minimum wage, the concept of a work free weekend, workers comp, pensions, health safeguards, and paid sick days, vacation days, and holidays. If you enjoy any of these things, thank the unions.
Although Governor Walker’s bill being sped through the Wisconsin legislature will not outlaw unions, it will effectively neuter them. Public sector unions will lose their freedom to negotiate against the state together. This is a deliberate tactic effectively lessen the rights of working Americans everywhere for the benefit of the rich and multinational corporations.
Wall Street and the financial sector have been allowed to reap incredible profits after crashing the economy, and throwing people out of jobs and out of their homes. The only culprit that has yet to face any sort of justice for their actions is Bernie Madoff, who made the mistake of stealing from the rich rather than robbing the working-class like the rest of his peers. The very same individuals that wiped out the pensions of American workers and threw them out of their homes are now reporting record profits, bonuses, and throwing fund-raising dinners for their favorite bought politicians. Millions of Americans are still unemployed and millions more still stand to lose their homes but the trading floor on Wall Street is looking better. The economy has been turned upside down. Rather than serve the needs of society we’ve allowed ourselves to be convinced that society serves the needs of the economy that benefits only a few, to be funded on the backs of the poor and the working class.
Non-union workers are being led to believe that unionized workers are the evil ones soaking the American budget. Public service union benefits are nothing compared to the tax breaks reserved for the corporations and wealthy individuals that have profited from the pain of the American working class. Rather than fight against the unions that have brought us the benefits of the 8-hour work days, paid sick leave, worker safety protections, and an end to child labor exploitation, we should be working with them to extend those benefits and more, to the entire American workforce. Unionized workers are accused of being wrong if their labor is valued higher or if their benefits are greater instead of saying that employers are wrong for devaluing private sector labor in order to increase their profits. Why are private sector employees not seen as deserving more pay, or better working conditions, or collective bargaining power? Why have they allowed themselves to be convinced that the measure of their worth is in the bank accounts of their corporate masters rather than the quality of their own lives? Steal from the poor to give to the rich…. from Wall Street, to Washington, to Madison Wisconsin, this is what is happening.
When will Americans realize that they are nothing more than a resource to be exploited for profit? Union leadership has been no less corrupted by corporate money and political power than any other part of the system. The workers themselves need to discover the solidarity required to protect what previous generations fought, bled, and died for.
In response to calls for austerity and greater sacrifice by the vast majority of Americans, rallies are to be held this Saturday, Feb 26th. The common theme of these protests is the same: workers being told to work longer, harder, and faster for less pay, less benefits, and less job security. Things are already pretty dire for the American worker, who gets on average one half to one quarter the vacation days per year of other developed nations, with none legally guaranteed. 50 million Americans have no health insurance, and those that do are often severely underinsured. Wages have been stagnant for the most of the country since 1979. The richest 400 people in America now have wealth that is equal to the poorest entire half of the nation combined (155 million people). It is no wonder the people are rising up in protest. Enough is enough!
* All reforms are capable of being rolled back and even restrictions on exploiting children in the work-place is now under threat. Jane Cunningham a Missouri State Senator has proposed a law for the wholesale repeal of child-labor laws in that state. see here
Article adapted from here and here